Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Public opinion and the deficit

Paul Krugman, Ryan Avent and the folks at Talking Points Memo are all, er, wee-weed up over this poll from CBS News:

Krugman, in fact, flatly states that it is proof that "nobody cares about the deficit." Of course, that's a convenient interpretation as Krugman favors a relentless expansion of government and believes the biggest problem facing the economy is that the gusher of red ink flowing out of Washington isn't sufficiently large.

Using this poll as evidence to support the notion that voters do not favor paring back federal spending, however, is illogical and ridiculous. Look at the question:
Of all the problems facing this country today, which one do you want the new Congress to concentrate on first when it begins in January?
The logic employed by Krugman appears to be that anything not deemed the number one priority for voters means they don't care about it. Think about that. If my highest priority is obtaining food, does that then mean I don't care about shelter, health care or clothing? Is it not possible to be concerned about more than one item? Is it really reasonable to think becuase the deficit plays second fiddle to an economy with high levels of unemployment or a health care system that is being driven towards further incoherence by government policy that no one cares about the deficit?

Another interpretation of the poll data is that the priorities cited by voters, such as health care and the economy, are in direct confliction with a lower deficit. But neither the economy nor health care -- for which we already spend more than any other country -- requires increased spending as part of the solution. Rather, both require structural reforms that unleash the power of the free market.

But hey, Krugman is the one with the Nobel prize, so what do I know right?

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