The enduring unpopularity of spending cuts

The enduring unpopularity of spending cuts
The enduring unpopularity of spending cuts
Pew Research Center

There’s a widely-held assumption in Republican politics about fiscal issues: Americans love spending cuts. It’s why GOP officials have rallied so enthusiastically behind Paul Ryan’s budget plan, and why Republicans claim to be fiscally responsible with a straight face.

But the public’s appetite for slashing public investments may not be as strong as the GOP would like. Indeed, it’s apparently not even close.

Suzy Khimm flagged an interesting report from the Pew Research Center that found a strong majority of Americans consider deficit reduction “a top priority,” but most of the public rejects the GOP solution – massive spending cuts – as the way to go.

As Pew Research Center president Andrew Kohut noted, more Americans actually support increasing spending on key domestic priorities

The results like a sharp repudiation of everything Republicans believe in the 21st century – Americans want more money for education, health care, aid to the poor, Social Security, law enforcement, and infrastructure, while the GOP wants the exact opposite.

The only spending that’s really unpopular is foreign aid, which is a perennial trend, and which represents a tiny fraction of the federal budget. As Travis Waldron explained, “Of course, cutting aid to the world’s needy would do virtually nothing to reduce the deficit. Though Americans think it represents anywhere from 10 percent to one-third of the federal budget, in reality, it makes up less than one percent of federal spending.”

In terms of the larger fiscal debate, it obviously matters that the American mainstream supports deficit reduction in theory, but is not at all comfortable with cuts to cherished domestic priorities.

But in terms of the political considerations, Republicans are gambling that American voters are so fearful of the debt and deficit, they’re prepared to endorse sharp reductions in everything from education to health care to entitlements. The evidence to the contrary is overwhelming.