OK, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit (maybe the pie chart above doesn’t really do it for you), but sexy is a relative concept, and at least compared with a few months, a year, or even several years ago, the federal budget deficit is getting a lot more attention from the American public lately. A few questions in an NBC/Wall Street Journal Survey and a CBS/New York Times poll (both released yesterday) highlight the issue.
In the NBC/WSJ survey (link to full survey here), 24 percent of respondents list the federal budget deficit as the single “most important economic issue facing the country” today (question #23)–second only to unemployment (at 35 percent) and double what the response was just half a year ago (Dec. 2008). The “cost of health care” drew only an 11 percent share, and “federal taxes” (presumably if people think they’re too high) was selected by just 4 percent. At 24 percent, the vote for the federal budget deficit was the highest it’s been since the mid 1990s, when we were in full swing of the Clinton Administration’s deficit reduction policies.
In the CBS/NYTimes poll, when asked “How serious a problem is the deficit?”, 52 percent said “very serious” and 38 percent “somewhat serious.” In other words, 90 percent think the deficit is a somewhat or very serious problem.
Question 24 of the NBC/WSJ survey asks (emphasis added):
Which of the following two statements comes closer to your point of view?
Statement A: The President and the Congress should worry more about boosting the economy even though it may mean larger budget deficits now and in the future.
Statement B: The President and the Congress should worry more about keeping the budget deficit down, even though it may mean it will take longer for the economy to recover.
On this, 58 percent of respondents chose statement B, and just 35 percent chose statement A. This is quite consistent with the result from the CBS/NYTimes poll (illustrated in that “sexy” chart above), that by 52 to 41 percent, Americans would prefer the federal government focus on reducing the budget deficit rather than spending to stimulate the economy.
Question 25a of the NBC/WSJ survey shows that about three-fourths of the American public blames the Bush Administration for current economic conditions (including the deficit situation)…
25a. When you think about the current economic conditions, do you feel that this is a situation that Barack Obama has inherited or is this a situation his policies are mostly responsible for?
Situation Obama inherited………………………………………. 72
Situation Obama’s policies mostly responsible for ………. 14
…even though the bulk of the worsening ten-year budget outlook under the Obama budget is due to the extension of (most of) the Bush tax cuts, and even though 60 percent of respondents to the CBS/NYTimes poll complain that President Obama “does not have a clear plan for dealing with the budget deficit.”
There will be more hot stuff to talk about next week, as the hearing on statutory PAYGO was postponed from this Thursday to next. Bet you can’t wait!