|"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"
|"The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."
-- Proverbs 11:25
President Obama is pressing congressional leaders to consider a far-reaching debt-reduction plan that would force Democrats to accept major changes to Social Security and Medicare in exchange for Republican support for fresh tax revenue.
At a meeting with top House and Senate leaders set for Thursday morning, Obama plans to argue that a rare consensus has emerged about the size and scope of the nation’s budget problems and that policymakers should seize the moment to take dramatic action.
As part of his pitch, Obama is proposing significant reductions in Medicare spending and for the first time is offering to tackle the rising cost of Social Security, according to people in both parties with knowledge of the proposal. The move marks a major shift for the White House and could present a direct challenge to Democratic lawmakers who have vowed to protect health and retirement benefits from the assault on government spending.
“Obviously, there will be some Democrats who don’t believe we need to do entitlement reform. But there seems to be some hunger to do something of some significance,” said a Democratic official familiar with the administration’s thinking. “These moments come along at most once a decade. And it would be a real mistake if we let it pass us by.”
Rather than roughly $2 trillion in savings, the White House is now seeking a plan that would slash more than $4 trillion from annual budget deficits over the next decade, stabilize borrowing, and defuse the biggest budgetary time bombs that are set to explode as the cost of health care rises and the nation’s population ages.
That would represent a major legislative achievement, but it would also put Obama and GOP leaders at odds with major factions of their own parties. While Democrats would be asked to cut social-safety-net programs, Republicans would be asked to raise taxes, perhaps by letting tax breaks for the nation’s wealthiest households expire on schedule at the end of next year.
The administration argues that lawmakers would also get an important victory to sell to voters in 2012. “The fiscal good has to outweigh the pain,” said a Democratic official familiar with the discussions.
Several polls ask people if taxes should be increased on people who make more than $250,000. Polls show substantial majorities support the idea. We found majorities of 72 percent, 64 percent, and 59 percent. (Those are from April polls by ABC News/Washington Post, McClatchy-Marist, and USA Today/Gallup, respectively.)
On whether corporations pay enough in taxes, Gallup found that 67 percent said they pay too little.
Finally, we should note one area where we found contradictions on tax increases --in polls that ask people if they favor spending cuts, tax increases, or some combination thereof.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted at the beginning of May found that most people, 52 percent, favored a combination of cuts and tax increases. The NBC/Washington Post poll from April found that number was even higher, at 59 percent.
On the other hand, when you don't give people the option of both, they favor spending cuts over tax increases by significant margins. We found a Reuters/Ipsos poll from March that found people favored spending cuts over tax increase by 56 percent to 30, and a CBS News/New York Times poll from January that put it at 62 to 29.
But then we found polls that asked participants if they preferred cuts to benefits such as Social Security and Medicare over tax increases. In those cases, the results favored tax increases. The CBS News/New York Times poll found that 62 percent favored increasing taxes before Medicare benefits are cut.