Why We Are Careening Toward Bankruptcy

The United States is, as Mark Steyn says, the brokest nation in history. And yet, as our national debt rises higher and higher, and the cost of servicing that debt begins to drive out essential federal spending–like defense–there is no end in sight. For decades, the fiscal insanity in Washington has been palpable, and yet the political will to do anything about it is lacking.

Why is that? This News Nation/Decision Desk HQ poll of 3,200 registered voters offers some insight. The poll is interesting in many ways, but I want to focus on just one question:

Which of the following statements is closest to your views on how to reduce the federal budget deficit?

There is only one way to regain fiscal sanity: reducing spending, especially on entitlements. That is where the money is. And yet, this is how Americans answered the question:

* Raise taxes on the wealthy to pay our bills: 26.73%

* Lower taxes on the wealthy to stimulate economic growth: 10.82%

* Close tax loopholes for corporations and the wealthy: 40.58%

* Cut social spending programs, like Medicare and Social Security: 3.76%

* Something else: 9.17%

* Not sure: 8.93%

If you aggregate “Raise taxes on the wealthy” and “Close tax loopholes for corporations and the wealthy,” you get two-thirds of Americans’ responses. And 82% of Democrats’ responses. This is magical thinking. Upper-income people already pay vastly more than their fair share of federal taxes, and you can’t steal enough from them to close the deficit. And the idea that trillions of dollars can be raised by closing unspecified “loopholes” is sheer fantasy.

I am in favor of cutting taxes for everyone, especially the “wealthy” who are now overtaxed, but we are long past the point where tax cuts alone can regenerate the economy enough to bring our budget into balance.

Meanwhile, fewer than 4% (2% of Democrats!) advocate the only practical course: cutting spending. No wonder there are few in Congress who are willing to take on the intractable problem of out of control spending. We are heading toward a cliff, and we will need to get a lot closer to driving off it before voters and politicians will be willing to take serious measures. That delay will cause incalculable damage.

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