On Sequestration, Americans Don't Know What They Want

The majority of Americans don't want their life disrupted, and if threatened, they want someone else to pay for it.

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Government by the people, for the people ... but what is it that the people want? In assessing the current polling, it appears that the people are contradictory about what they actually want. According to the Pew Research Center, 72 percent say that some form of a deficit reduction should be a top priority for the president and Congress. Interestingly, it's a priority focus that ranks above terrorism, Social Security, and education. 

[See a collection of political cartoons on the budget and deficit.]

But, when asked, again by the Pew Research Center, which government programs they would like to see cut, suddenly protecting government programs becomes a priority. Of the 19 programs tested, the majority of those surveyed wanted to either increase funding or maintain current funding levels for 18 of those programs—91 percent support increasing or maintaining current levels of veterans' benefits, fore example, 60 percent support increasing or keeping current funding levels for education, and 82 percent support funding for combating crime. 

When asked how to best reduce the deficit, the majority of people offer solutions affecting those Americans earning in the so-called top 2 percent: 69 percent approve of increasing income tax on those individuals making over $250,000, 54 percent approved of limiting the taxpayer claims on deductions, and 52 percent approve of raising the tax rate on investment income.

[Check out editorial cartoons about sequestration and the fiscal cliff.]

It seems the bottom line is that the majority of Americans don't want their life disrupted, and if threatened, they want someone else to pay for it. While the people philosophically support reducing the deficit to address America's economic future, in the immediate, they want to maintain the current level of government that works for them—government contracting jobs, police on the streets, teachers in their schools, aid when disasters strike. 

So, how is a politician supposed to advocate for the people when the American people's priorities are at best inconsistent? Needless to say, sorting through the mixed-messaging is as important for the voters as it is for their elected officials.

  • Read Peter Roff: On Sequestration, Obama Wants to Have His Cake and Eat It, Too
  • Read Boris Epshteyn: Sequestration! So What?
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