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New Poll: People Want Retirement Security Protected, Would Cut Military Budgets

photo: AFL-CIO via Flickr

Another poll has emerged showing the public firmly opposed to any cutbacks in the retirement benefits they paid into all of their lives. It’s an elaboration of a familiar theme – respondents say they prefer spending cuts to tax increases, but then when asked about specific spending cuts, oppose them:

Yet their preference for spending cuts, even in programs that benefit them, dissolves when they are presented with specific options related to Medicare and Social Security, the programs that directly touch the most people and also are the biggest drivers of the government’s projected long-term debt.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans choose higher payroll taxes for Medicare and Social Security over reduced benefits in either program. And asked to choose among cuts to Medicare, Social Security or the nation’s third-largest spending program — the military — a majority by a large margin said cut the Pentagon.

The numbers on the military are quite astounding. 55% said cut the military, as opposed to 21% for Medicare and 13% for Social Security. It’s really not even close. No other area of the budget – be it education, infrastructure, science and research, unemployment benefits – comes close to the solid majority for cutting the Pentagon. The fact that the far-right Republican Study Committee’s spending reduction plan exempts the military is telling in this regard.

In the same poll, a majority thinks it is necessary to take immediate action on reducing the budget deficit. That’s just a failure of messaging economics around a recession. However, other polls have shown that people favor a focus on jobs to a focus on the deficit by huge margins.

As we wait to see what the President will highlight in the State of the Union, the public outcry is clear – create jobs and protect retirement security. But what the President believes on this front is far from clear. I think Douglas Holtz-Eakin really sums it up:

Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former Congressional Budget Office chief who advised Republican John McCain in the 2008 campaign, suggested a coherent strategy still appeared to be lacking.

“There’s no reason to question his intellect or his intentions,” said Holtz-Eakin, who participated in one of Obama’s meetings. “I just can’t figure out literally what his principles are. Where does he draw the lines?”

Can anyone answer this?

UPDATE: Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairs Keith Ellison and Raul Grijalva sent a letter to the President asking him to protect Social Security in the State of the Union and come out against any benefit cuts.

CommunityThe Bullpen

New Poll: People Want Retirement Security Protected, Would Cut Military Budgets

Another poll has emerged showing the public firmly opposed to any cutbacks in the retirement benefits they paid into all of their lives. It’s an elaboration of a familiar theme – respondents say they prefer spending cuts to tax increases, but then when asked about specific spending cuts, oppose them:

Yet their preference for spending cuts, even in programs that benefit them, dissolves when they are presented with specific options related to Medicare and Social Security, the programs that directly touch the most people and also are the biggest drivers of the government’s projected long-term debt.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans choose higher payroll taxes for Medicare and Social Security over reduced benefits in either program. And asked to choose among cuts to Medicare, Social Security or the nation’s third-largest spending program — the military — a majority by a large margin said cut the Pentagon.

The numbers on the military are quite astounding. 55% said cut the military, as opposed to 21% for Medicare and 13% for Social Security. It’s really not even close. No other area of the budget – be it education, infrastructure, science and research, unemployment benefits – comes close to the solid majority for cutting the Pentagon. The fact that the far-right Republican Study Committee’s spending reduction plan exempts the military is telling in this regard.

In the same poll, a majority thinks it is necessary to take immediate action on reducing the budget deficit. That’s just a failure of messaging economics around a recession. However, other polls have shown that people favor a focus on jobs to a focus on the deficit by huge margins.

As we wait to see what the President will highlight in the State of the Union, the public outcry is clear – create jobs and protect retirement security. But what the President believes on this front is far from clear. I think Douglas Holtz-Eakin really sums it up:

Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former Congressional Budget Office chief who advised Republican John McCain in the 2008 campaign, suggested a coherent strategy still appeared to be lacking.

“There’s no reason to question his intellect or his intentions,” said Holtz-Eakin, who participated in one of Obama’s meetings. “I just can’t figure out literally what his principles are. Where does he draw the lines?”

Can anyone answer this?

UPDATE: Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairs Keith Ellison and Raul Grijalva sent a letter to the President asking him to protect Social Security in the State of the Union and come out against any benefit cuts.

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David Dayen

David Dayen