Poll: Best way to fight deficits: Raise taxes on the rich
By Steven Thomma | McClatchy Newspapers
WASHINGTON — Alarmed by rising national debt and increasingly downbeat about their country's course, Americans are clear about how they want to attack the government's runway budget deficits: raise taxes on the wealthy and keep hands off of Medicare and Medicaid.
At the same time, they say that the government should not raise the legal debt ceiling, which the government must do soon to borrow more money, despite warnings that failing to do so would force the government into default, credit markets into turmoil and the economy into a tailspin.
Those are among the findings of a national McClatchy-Marist poll taking the country's pulse just as President Barack Obama and Congress launch what could be a multi-year debate on the role of government and how to finance it.
Obama heads to northern Virginia on Tuesday and California on Wednesday to pitch his long-term budget proposals, as lawmakers from Congress are taking a spring recess, with most in their home districts.
On tackling the deficit, voters by a margin of 2-to-1 support raising taxes on incomes above $250,000, with 64 percent in favor and 33 percent opposed.
Independents supported higher taxes on the wealthy by 63-34 percent; Democrats by 83-15 percent; and Republicans opposed by 43-54 percent.
Support for higher taxes rose by 5 percentage points after Obama called for that as one element of his deficit-reduction strategy last week. Opposition dropped by 6 points. The poll was conducted before and after the speech.
Americans clearly don't want the government to cut Medicare, the government health program for the elderly, or Medicaid, the program for the poor. Republicans in the House of Representatives voted last week to drastically restructure and reduce those programs, while Obama calls for trimming their costs but leaving them essentially intact.
Voters oppose cuts to those programs by 80-18 percent. Even among conservatives, only 29 percent supported cuts, and 68 percent opposed them.
Public views are more mixed on cutting defense spending, with 44 percent supporting cuts and 54 percent opposed.
One dividing line is education: College graduates want to cut defense spending by 63-36 percent. Non-college graduates oppose cutting the Pentagon by 61-36 percent.
No matter how the government tackles its deficits and debt, Americans don't want it to borrow any more. By 69-24 percent, voters oppose raising the legal ceiling for debt. That includes Democrats, who oppose it by 53-36 percent, independents, who oppose it by 74-22 percent, and Republicans, who oppose it by 79-16 percent.
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