Reason-Rupe Public Opinion Survey

Poll: Americans Oppose Raising the Debt Ceiling Even If U.S. Defaults and Say Government Wastes 60 Cents of Every Tax Dollar

The public says Obama disappoints on transparency and that Congress passes too many laws. It's split on Snowden, trusts Facebook less than the IRS on privacy, and opposes a bailout for Detroit.

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With the federal government expected to hit its debt limit in mid-October, 70 percent of Americans oppose raising the debt ceiling, the latest Reason-Rupe poll finds. In fact, 55 percent of Americans say they do not support raising the debt ceiling even if it causes the U.S. to default on its debt.

If equal spending cuts accompany an increase in the debt ceiling, 45 percent say they'd support raising it and 46 percent would oppose. Thirty-five percent favor raising the debt ceiling in exchange for cutting off funding to the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, with 56 percent opposed.

Nearly two-thirds, 63 percent, of Americans feel members of Congress are out of touch with their constituents when it comes to federal spending.  Seventy-six percent of Americans believe the federal government spends too much money, 11 percent say it spends the right amount, and seven percent say it spends too little.

In response to open-ended questions, Americans told Reason-Rupe the government wastes 60 cents out of every dollar they pay in federal taxes and they'd cut federal spending by 30 percent across the board.

Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) 2013 budget plan aims to balance the federal budget over 10 years, but Reason-Rupe finds the public wants it done sooner than that. In fact, 40 percent of Americans say Congress should balance the budget immediately, 32 percent say the budget should be balanced over five years, 16 percent feel it should be balanced over 10 years, and seven percent say Congress should not worry about balancing the budget.

FULL REASON-RUPE POLL RESULTS HERE

Congress

Sixty-four percent of Americans say if a member of Congress does not agree with them on federal spending they'd describe that member as "extreme."

A majority of Americans, 56 percent, believe Congress passes too many laws. And more than two-thirds of Americans, 67 percent, say Congress passes the "wrong kinds of laws." Yet, 69 percent also say partisan gridlock is preventing Congress from getting  more things done and 67 percent would like Congress to compromise more, even if they don't like the resulting legislation.

NSA Spying and the Obama Administration's Transparency

President Obama has said, "This is the most transparent administration in history." However, 63 percent of Americans say they disagree with the president's transparency claim. Furthermore, 61 percent say the Obama administration has not lived up to their expectations on transparency. Three in 10 say the administration has met their transparency expectations, and seven percent say the administration has exceeded their expectations on transparency.

However, a majority of Americans, 55 percent, say the steady stream of government surveillance stories coming from Edward Snowden's leaks have not changed the way they view the federal government. Thirty-four percent say the National Security Agency surveillance revelations have decreased their trust in the government and eight percent say it has increased their trust in government.

The public is split on whether or not Mr. Snowden is a hero or a traitor. Thirty-nine percent say Snowden is a "traitor for leaking government secrets" and 35 percent say he is a "patriot" for letting the public know about the government's surveillance programs.

More Americans say the NSA data collection program is a violation of privacy (55 percent) than say it is needed to fight terrorism (33 percent). Nevertheless, the public is mixed on whether other government agencies should have access to the data the NSA collects, and they are selective about which agencies should get the data. Forty-five percent of Americans say the NSA should share private information with the Drug Enforcement Administration in non-terrorism related cases, while the same number say it should not share the information. 

The numbers change dramatically for agencies searching for a missing child. In that case, 68 percent of Americans say the NSA should share any information it may have collected with other government agencies. Only a quarter of Americans say the NSA should not share information in the case of a missing child. However, when it comes to sharing information with the Internal Revenue Service, only 28 percent think the NSA should be allowed to share its information, while 65 percent say sharing with the IRS should not be allowed. 

Trusting Facebook, Google and the IRS

It's not all bad news for the IRS, however. More people trust the IRS to protect their privacy than trust Facebook or Google to do the same.

Over six in 10 Americans, 61 percent, say they do not trust Facebook "at all" to protect their privacy and another 15 percent say they only trust Facebook "a little." Google has similar trust problems with 48 percent saying they do not trust the company  to protect their privacy at all and 19 percent say they trust Google a little. For comparison, 45 percent of Americans say they do not trust the IRS to protect their privacy at all and 18 percent trust the IRS a little. Four in 10 Americans do not trust the NSA to protect their privacy and 19 percent trust the agency a little.

Pensions and Detroit

With Detroit's recent bankruptcy filing, 31 percent of Americans say the federal government should help bail out Detroit, while 65 percent say the federal government should not.

Part of Detroit's fiscal problems stem from pension and retiree health care costs. When asked what their city should do in a similar budget situation, 73 percent of Americans oppose raising taxes to fund government workers' retirements. However, 78 percent of Americans support requiring government workers to contribute more towards their own pensions and benefits, and 63 percent favor cutting the benefits government workers receive.

As more cities grapple with pension problems, Reason-Rupe finds 70 percent of Americans support switching future government employees, who have not been promised benefits yet, from guaranteed pensions to 401(k) retirement plans.

FULL REASON-RUPE POLL RESULTS HERE

About the Poll

The Reason-Rupe poll, executed by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, conducted live interviews with 1,013  adults on mobile [509] and landline [504] phones from September 4-8, 2013. The poll's margin of error is plus or minus 3.7  percent. The poll's sample was made up of 38 percent independents, 29 percent Democrats, and 23 percent Republicans (10 percent said "other" or did not know).

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  1. “In a related poll, 70% of Americans said they favored a new spending program that provides every American with a free Xbox One.”

  2. Proof that for democracy to work, it requires a populace educated on the issues.

    Obama should just ignore the debt ceiling law as it clearly violates the constitutional requirement that “[t]he validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.”

    1. No, he is obligated to shut down portions of the government and pay the debts out of revenue if congress does not raise the debt ceiling. Congress does have the right to have a debt ceiling, that is settled law.

      1. Actually, there it’s not clear this is what happens, because it’s also settled law that the President can’t impound money Congress has appropriated and not spend it.

        SCOTUS basically has issued too mutually inconsistent rulings, and it’s not automatically clear which wins.

        1. Basically Congress has in effect said:

          1. You must spend $100 on widgets
          2. You can only have $50 to buy widgets
          3. You can’t go into debt for widgets.

          SCOTUS has held that all three of these are things congress has the power to decree. The porblem is only two of them are possible simultaneously, and there’s no guidance on how you determine which of the three is the oddman out.

          Traditional statutory construction is that the oldest of the three is considered to have been implicitly overruled by the two newest orders, but current SCOTUS doesn’t really seem to care about traditional statutory construction.

    2. Existing debt though, right? So how can we be on the hook for debts we haven’t incurred or promised yet? This is about new debt, not existing debt. The whole debt limit debate is a little gimmicky I think, given that the expenditures have already been authorized by Congress. It’s really just a chance for pork belly Republicans to moan in front of their constituents. The day after they can go right back to eating that pork. There are a few people who genuinely use it to leverage “cuts” in spending, but they are the minority.

      1. If the raising the debt ceiling is part of the Congressional authorization for spending (I don’t know the specifics of the law), then Congress NOT raising the debt ceiling means Congress has in actuality only authorized what will fit under the debt ceiling. The debt ceiling is a way to pass the decision as to what gets funded to the President. I’d prefer Congress make these decisions, but it’s better than the alternative: spending as much as politicians want on anything that helps get them re-elected, which tends to even more debt.

        1. I see what you’re saying, and I’m not clear on the specifics either. I still think a lot of politicians use the debt limit to pump up their street cred. Voting to spend the money one day (knowing we can’t afford it), and then refusing to pull out the credit card when it comes time to pay seems a little silly. The only politicians who should be able to press the issue are those who voted against the spending in the first place IMO.

  3. yessszzz – more pollsies

  4. The government is obligate to pay debts first. I would have to shut down all its other functions first. Not raising the debt ceiling would shut down most government functions, but our income is high enough to pay our debts. Medicare, and military functions, and social security would shut down, but not payment of our debt.

    1. Medicare, and military functions, and social security would shut down, but not payment of our debt.

      There’s enough revenue to pay those tabs in addition to servicing our debt as long as all discretionary spending is cut. Unfortunately, when asked to prioritize which federal programs they want to cut or eliminate, Americans opt for the “cut nothing that affects me!” option. 200 years in and they still haven’t snapped to the idea that you can’t have libertarian taxation and Marxist social spending.

  5. The government is obligate to pay debts first. I would have to shut down all its other functions first. Not raising the debt ceiling would shut down most government functions, but our income is high enough to pay our debts. Medicare, and military functions, and social security would shut down, but not payment of our debt.

  6. The government is obligate to pay debts first. I would have to shut down all its other functions first. Not raising the debt ceiling would shut down most government functions, but our income is high enough to pay our debts. Medicare, and military functions, and social security would shut down, but not payment of our debt.

  7. I don’t trust the IRS, Facebook, or Google to protect my privacy. The difference is that I have a very high expectation that the IRS should protect my privacy. With Google and Facebook, i understand that they will sell my info to advertisers and I’m okay with that. But I expect that they should protect my privacy from others (like the government).

  8. Who are the 7% who want more fed spending and the 8% who had an increased trust in the government when they found out they were being spied upon?

    1. Government employees and their families?

  9. We must remember just how silly the debt ceiling debate really is, in an important way — because Congress has already approved and appropriated the spending, and now we’re getting ready to threaten default on ourselves in order to cut spending (that was already approved!).

    I’m fine with having a debate about the efficacy of government spending, but let’s not use the threat of default to do so. That’s entirely irrational and using the threat of default to promote a policy position is an abuse of power that should never be tolerated.

    I say it’s irrational because the U.S. government is a contingent currency issuer.

    The US government cannot “run out of money”. There is really no such thing as defaulting on our obligations which are denominated entirely in a currency we can create. The US government is nothing like you or I who cannot tax to procure funding, sell risk free bonds or print off currency if needed.

    The US government is constrained not by an inability to create money, but by the ability to spend too much or create too much inflation.

    For those of you (and I especially mean Reason staff) that want to learn more about the operational realities of our monetary system, I strongly recommend reading Cullen Roche’s work (from which I borrowed heavily in my comments). See http://www.pragcap.com

    1. How cute, it talks too!

      and now we’re getting ready to threaten default on ourselves in order to cut spending (that was already approved!).

      Well I bought the heroin and stuck the needle in my arm so I might as well push the plunger. Impeccable logic.

      That’s entirely irrational and using the threat of default to promote a policy position is an abuse of power that should never be tolerated.

      But using emotional and irrational arguments about throwing grandma off a cliff is fine, right? I mean Team Blue has demonstrated a consistent commitment to fiscal prudence, hasn’t it? And there certainly was no hyperbolic reaction to Sequestrageddon, was there? Planes dropping out of the sky, roads dropping into burning lava flows, Soylent Green!!

      The US government is constrained not by an inability to create money, but by the ability to spend too much or create too much inflation.

      So I assume you’ve already stocked up on the necessary wheelbarrows, Herr Weimar? And if the debt ceiling isn’t raised then the US gov’t can’t spend more than it takes in. What a lovely concept.

      1. No argument from me that the Federal government is an out-of-control bureaucratic blob with departments and agencies that are rarely, if ever properly audited for effectiveness, or overlap in mission for said departments and agencies. There’s corruption and crony capitalism. We waste money on the war on drugs. You get the idea. I lean heavily Libertarian.

        I point out a few things about the operational realities of our monetary system and you find it amusing. I’m happy to entertain. Take the case of The Weimar Republic. Was it just excessive government spending, or just high inflation? Germany lost WWI. Weimar was unusual set of severe circumstances: war, regime change,foreign denominated debts,fragile psychology,and a massive collapse in production that resulted in excessive money printing, collapse in the tax system – and hyperinflation.

        I suppose some might see this debt ceiling debate as fine, because they weren’t the ones who agreed to spend the money in the first place – so it’s a chance to…change Congress’s behavior the next time? Get them to un-do appropriations already made? Stop programs already started? Okay, I’ll buy that- but I won’t let them off the hook for ignoring the operational realities of our monetary system. When you hear a politician say we’re going to end up like Greece, they are either lying or they don’t understand how our monetary system works. Ignorance and dishonesty are plentiful in Congress and the WH,no matter who’s in power.

        1. Get them to un-do appropriations already made? Stop programs already started? Okay, I’ll buy that-

          Congratulations. You can stop right there since you’ve demonstrated that there can be a valid reason for using the debt ceiling.

          When you hear a politician say we’re going to end up like Greece, they are either lying or they don’t understand how our monetary system works.

          Are you serious? OK, let’s see how the US could end up like Greece even with debts denominated in a currency that it can print at will. The Fed continues to buy $100BB of Treasuries indefinitely. China and Japan recognize that while the US dollar is liquid and available in quantity those quantities are growing out of control. Eventually an alternative is available, either the Renminbi or a basket of national currencies and our major creditors no longer purchase US debt. That leaves the purchaser of last resort: the Fed, aka the printing press. But printing this unlimited sum of money is simply chasing the inflationary tiger. Eventually hyperinflation rots the core and collapse forces reform. You may not call that a default like Greece has undergone, but the difference is purely semantic.

          1. Greece is a currency user, not a currency issuer. That’s a key operational difference, not one of semantics. Still — you’re right, if the USA experiences hyperinflation, the impact on our standard of living, employment rates, etc. will be very bad.

            It’s true that the current version of “QE”, wherein the Fed is buying $85 billion per month of Treasury bonds and mortgage backed securities is a new experiment. And yes, the Fed is making those purchases with money it essentially creates out of thin air. The vast majority of that money has not entered the private economy, it’s stuck in reserves. Banks don’t lend reserves to businesses (except other banks) and they don’t lend reserves/excess reserves to individuals. That’s why you have not seen inflation ramping up since QE started. That money that the Fed is “printing” isn’t flooding the private economy. It’s a myth that QE helps to fund the US government.

            I encourage you to read further:

            http://pragcap.com/understandi…..ive-easing

            http://pragcap.com/understanding-hyperinflation

    2. Skippy covered most of it, but this…

      “There is really no such thing as defaulting on our obligations.”

      …is just ignorant. How would our creditors inflating away our debts? I’ll tell you, they’d view it as an effective default.

      1. As I mentioned, “The US government is constrained not by an inability to create money, but by the ability to spend too much or create too much inflation.”

        I think you what you’re really concerned about is hyperinflation. As I look at the history of hyperinflations in the last 100 years, I don’t get too concerned about the risk of the USA experiencing hyperinflation.

        You’re right that if we did experience hyperinflation, it would be viewed as an effective default. With hyperinflation, there’s a full blown rejection of a sovereign currency. If we look at examples in history (like Weimar, Hungary, Argentina, Zimbabwe), we can see that citizens rejected the currency due to other exogenous events — not just excessive government spending or high inflation. Those events were things like losing a war, having foreign denominated debt, a regime change, or a civil war.

        Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying our deficit doesn’t matter and I’m not saying that the federal government does not waste a lot of money and intrude on our freedoms and economic opportunities with bad regulations, inefficient bureaucracies, the stupid war on drugs, etc.

        I’m just trying to make a point on the operational realities of our monetary system.

        1. So your argument basically consists of: even though there’s nothing that physically or economically prevents it, I think hyperinflation can’t happen in the US. Well, that’s convincing.

          1. “This time it’s different”

          2. Actually, I’ve pointed out some important history on instances of hyperinflation. It seems to me that in each case, there was something else (like losing a war) going on besides high government debt. I suggest reading further:

            http://pragcap.com/understanding-hyperinflation

            Apart from that, I’m not arguing, I’m must sharing some facts about the operational realities of our monetary system.

    3. I’m fine with having a debate about the efficacy of government spending, but let’s not use the threat of default to do so.

      Concern troll is concerned.

      Anyone talking about defaulting on our debt is retarded. The government’s revenue far exceeds the cost of servicing its debt. It just can’t spend that extra trillion bucks a year it didn’t collect. That might mean other things need to be cut. But debt payments aren’t one of them.

  10. LOL, did you also tell them that the only way to make meaningful changes is to reduce military, SSN and Medicare spending? How do you think they would answer then?

    1. Every person in America is fully convinced that goring everybody else’s ox is sufficient. They aren’t the problem.

      Quoth Voltaire, “No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.”

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