The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll has some very stark findings for budget hawks who want to tackle America’s mounting deficit.
Less than a quarter of Americans support making significant cuts to Social Security or Medicare to tackle the country’s mounting deficit, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, illustrating the challenge facing lawmakers who want voter buy-in to alter entitlement programs.
In the poll, Americans across all age groups and ideologies said by large margins that it was “unacceptable” to make significant cuts in entitlement programs in order to reduce the federal deficit. Even tea party supporters, by a nearly 2-to-1 margin, declared significant cuts to Social Security “unacceptable.”
At the same time, a majority supported two specific measures that lawmakers might employ to shore up the shaky finances of the main entitlement programs.
More than 60% of poll respondents supported reducing Social Security and Medicare payments to wealthier Americans. And more than half favored bumping the retirement age to 69 by 2075. The age to receive full benefits is 66 now and is scheduled to rise to 67 in 2027.
Depending on how they are structured, those two changes could eliminate as much as 60% of Social Security’s underfunding, according to experts. Support for the two ideas in the poll is “impressive,” said Chuck Blahous, one of the program’s public trustees and a former Bush administration official. “I wonder if [public] receptivity is increasing.”
The poll comes as Republican lawmakers, many elected on promises to slash federal spending, have focused mostly so far on cuts to non-defense, discretionary programs. But many political leaders say meaningful deficit reduction cannot be accomplished without making changes to entitlement programs.
Here is a graphic representation of the poll:
Of course, Americans don’t want the bad news and they certainly don’t want to cut their own entitlements. But something will have to be done if we want to reduce the debt we have to foreign nations and to spur economic activity. A bankrupt nation beholden to foreign investors certainly will not pay out ANY benefits.
Means testing is fine and a modest increase in the retirement age is OK. This can be done relatively easily and should be done immediately. If this takes care of 60 per cent of the problem in future years, then the GOP controlled House can move on to other budget cutting issues. 60 per cent is a start – even 40 per cent is good.
Naturally, the Democrats will demonize the Republicans to senior citizens but modest changes now and quickly will force President Obama to act either in a fiscally responsible manner or not.