In its relentless public relations campaign on behalf of President Obama and the Democratic party, the New York Times offers this lame opposition to Republican plans to put some limits on federal spending.
The public itself seems split, or perhaps confused. Americans overwhelmingly say that in general, they prefer cutting government spending to paying higher taxes, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll published last week. 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 millions of lives and are the biggest drivers of the long-term deficit.
Oh, take me back to the Carter years. In those days mainstream wisdom said it was impossible to cut spending. It simply couldn't be done. Are we there yet? In all the realm of government programs where savings might be found, Times reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg focuses like a laser on Medicare and Social Security.
That Americans would prefer not to cut those programs, particularly after so many have spent a lifetime paying into them, shouldn't come as a huge surprise. But Ms. Stolberg sees schizophrenia and confusion. In fairness to Ms. Stolberg, the bit about the confused American public might be in there at the insistence of editors. The thrust of her article concedes that some spending cuts are in the cards.
It's just a matter of where and how much. Will the budget cuts be be modest, sensible, and fair (Democratic)? Or will they be drastic, cruel, uncaring, and maybe a little stupid (Republican)?
In speeches over the past several months, and especially over the last week, Mr. Obama has outlined an approach that emphasizes growth and competition and a slow easing of government intervention in the economy — as opposed to the quick pullback Republicans want.
“To borrow an analogy, cutting the deficit by cutting investments in areas like education, areas like innovation — that’s like trying to reduce the weight of an overloaded aircraft by removing its engine,” Mr. Obama said in a December speech at a community college in Winston-Salem, N.C. “It’s not a good idea.”
We'll know more after the State of the Union, though one thing seems clear to Ms. Stolberg. The public is deeply confused and should be ignored as this debate goes forward. Americans hardly ever know what's good for them, so often voting against their own best interests. Didn't they just do it again when they put a Republican majority in the House of Representatives last fall? It would hardly do to consider anything so unreliable as American public opinion when government programs may be at stake. If there are any besides Medicare and Social Security.