Erskine Bowles Was Wrong: The Era Of "Deficit Denial" Definitely Is Not Over
Remember the "era of deficit denial" that Erskine Bowles, one of the co-chairs of the Bowles-Simpson deficit reduction commission, declared a week ago was over as he introduced the plan he wanted considered?
Well...It may have been a good line that got lots of media attention, but it can now be listed as one of the top overstatements of 2010. As this poll from Bloomberg News (which was taken after the Bowles-Simpson commission's activities were completed last week) shows, Bowles was completely wrong. Here are the three (excuse the obvious pun) money quotes:
The public wants Congress to keep its hands off entitlements such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, a Bloomberg National Poll shows. They oppose cuts in most other major domestic programs and defense. They want to maintain subsidies for farmers and tax breaks like the mortgage-interest deduction. And they’re against an increase in the gasoline tax.
While they say they strongly support balancing the budget over the next 20 years, when offered a list of more than a dozen possible spending cuts or tax increases, majorities opposed every one of them except imposing a bigger burden on the rich.
A freeze on nondefense discretionary spending, which some Republican congressional leaders have proposed, is opposed by 53 percent against 43 percent in favor. Cuts in defense spending are opposed by 51 percent versus 45 percent in favor.
Most of us at CG&G have written about this before and in almost all respects there's nothing new here. Except for one thing: given all the media attention Bowles' statement received (Just search on "deficit denial" and see what comes up), we now have statistical evidence that the commission changed nothing in terms of public attitude towards the deficit. Budget politics are just a difficult now as they were before the commission was created and the debate on the budget is going to be just as intractable now as it was before.