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Greg Sargent, the Washington Post’s in-house left-wing activist, has a hilarious post up analyzing the latest WaPo poll. (The post was originally entitled, “The pubic agrees with Dems, but they don’t know it,” although eventually someone caught on and fixed the typo.)
Everybody has typos; what’s more enduringly amusing is Sargent’s effort at spin:
A big majority, 64 percent, thinks the best way to reduce the federal budget deficit is through a combination of spending cuts and tax hikes, while only 31 percent think the best way is through only spending cuts. The former position is the one held by most Dems, while the latter is the one held by many Republicans.
…Democrats can plausibly conclude that the public agrees with them at least as much as with Republicans on how to handle our fiscal matters. Yet Dems are not proceeding as if this is the case.
(Italics in original; bold added). If you are keeping score at home, you just heard a left-wing activist admit that 95% of the public believes spending cuts are the best way to reduce the deficit, whether or not that plan also includes tax hikes. Going to the poll itself, only 3% believe the best way to cut the deficit is simply raising taxes. And what’s more, that’s the public – not likely voters or even registered voters, but all adults. Which is one reason why the entire poll is garbage (“all adults” don’t vote for issues; voters vote for candidates). Another, of course, is that Sargent is, as usual, mouthing talking points here in claiming that the Democrats want serious spending cuts (this narrative doesn’t even last the whole piece, as later on he cites support for “the Democratic argument that budget cuts will cause job loss,” which is more like what Democrats usually argue when these issues come to a head. But notice that the Post didn’t ask whether tax hikes would cost jobs, the answer to that one being painfully obvious). And as noted, even with all the poll’s flaws, there’s only 3% public support for closing the budget gap by soaking the taxpayer.
As I’ve explained previously, the real argument worth having isn’t about the deficit at all, it’s about what the ratio of public spending should be to private sector income, with the deficit being only a symptom of the problem of public spending crowding out the private sector. Sargent is trying to frame the debate as one about closing the deficit in a way that reduces the focus on spending cuts, and using an essentially worthless poll to do so. But when even that poll shows respondents by a 95-3 margin saying you have to cut spending to cut the deficit, the Democrats should think long and hard about choosing that hill to die on.