NY Times poll and commentary by David Leonhardt.
Roughly speaking, we think the deficit is a big problem, but it is always "their" fault. We believe the deficit can be fixed without raising taxes or cutting spending. We are profoundly delusional. When giving talks to community groups on health reform and health care costs audience comments always goes something like this. Taxes are too high. We have to reign in out of control health care spending. Then I talk through several options that could slow health care cost inflation and people hate them all.
One of the worst byproducts of our political culture today is that both parties are able to get away with saying 'we are not as bad as them.' This basic message worked well in 2008 and 2010. This keeps us from directly addressing the big problems like health care costs in a serious manner. We need to go beyond the Affordable Care Act, not have meaningless votes to repeal these first steps with no concrete proposals about what would be better. Conservatives answer 'tax cuts' regardless of the question. Progressives are late arrivers to the issue of the deficit, and this has let the conservatives get away with rank fiscal hypocrisy.
In the end, I think Progressives have more at stake on the deficit than do Conservatives, because Progressives believe that government does have a key role to play in modern life. Conservatives are happy to cut taxes but not spending and then say the inevitable deficit proves government doesn't work. Progressives must take up the cause of developing a long range balanced budget or else there will be no room for government action where it is needed in the years ahead. Hopefully the President will begin making the Progressive case for sensible deficit reduction in the State of the Union.