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Americans Want Government Services, But Don't Want to Pay for Them

This poll highlights the problem we face in trying to balance the budget:
Poll shows Americans oppose entitlement cuts to deal with debt problem, by Jon Cohen and Dan Balz: Despite growing concerns about the country's long-term fiscal problems and an intensifying debate in Washington about how to deal with them, Americans strongly oppose some of the major remedies under consideration, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. ...
The Post-ABC poll finds that 78 percent oppose cutting spending on Medicare as a way to chip away at the debt. On Medicaid -- the government insurance program for the poor -- 69 percent disapprove of cuts.
There is also broad opposition to cuts in military spending to reduce the debt, but at somewhat lower levels (56 percent).
In his speech last week, the president renewed his call to raise tax rates on family income over $250,000... At this point, 72 percent support raising taxes along those lines, with 54 percent strongly backing this approach. ... An across-the-board tax increase is decidedly less popular, at least when coupled with benefit reductions. ...
I think it's important to remember that the main source of our long-run budget problem is escalating health care costs. Essentially, if we don't get the health care cost problem under control, the cuts required in the rest of the budget to solve the long-run budget problem would be far, far too large to be acceptable. Increasing taxes and making adjustments to spending will help, but the outcome depends upon getting health costs under control. Unfortunately, because the solution to this problem will cause strenuous objections no matter what is done, politicians are avoiding the conversation we need to have on this issue (in fact, the Ryan plan undoes some of the cost control measures put in place with health care reform).

We can hope that costs can be reduced without sacrificing services or quality, and thus avoid a public outcry. Many health care systems around the world, for example, deliver similar quality for much lower costs to a wider swath of the population -- my first choice would be to move toward a similar system. But in the end we aren't going to be able to avoid hard choices, and the sooner we begin having a serious discussion about how to solve this problem, the better.

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