Majority still misguided on economic priorities

MAJORITY STILL MISGUIDED ON ECONOMIC PRIORITIES…. The polling has been remarkably consistent on this all year. And it irks me every time.

Americans are more concerned with lowering the massive budget deficit than boosting the ailing economy, according to a new national poll.

Fifty-six percent of people questioned in a CNBC survey released Friday morning say President Barack Obama and Congress should worry more about keeping the budget deficit down even if that means delaying the economic recovery. That’s 23 points higher than the 33 percent who feel boosting the economy should be the top priority, even if that means larger deficits now and in the future.

This continues to be hopelessly backwards. Given the precarious state of the economy and widespread concerns about unemployment, common sense suggests concerns over the deficit should wane. But all of the recent polling suggests a majority of Americans really do care more about deficit reduction than growing the economy and creating jobs.

The majority, then, is completely wrong. I’m not even sure if the majority fully understands what the deficit is, why it’s large, who’s responsible for having created the budget mess, what it would take to make the deficit smaller, and how it fits into the larger economic landscape. For many, it seems the “deficit” is just an amorphous concept that they’ve been trained to viscerally reject.

Which is why it’s important that policymakers not base policy decisions on illiteracy. Americans say they want a stronger job market and a far more robust economy. They also say they want less spending, lower taxes, and an immediate focus on deficit reduction. The inherent contradictions are lost on far too many.

Matt Yglesias recently explained:

A lot of politicians and political operatives in DC are very impressed by polling that shows people concerned about the budget deficit. I think it would be really politically insane for people to take that too literally. If Congress makes the deficit even bigger in a way that helps spur recovery, then come election day people will notice the recovery and be happy. If, by contrast, the labor market is still a disaster then people will be pissed off. It’s true that they might say they’re pissed off at the deficit, but the underlying source of anger is the objective bad conditions.

Once in a while, policymakers have to be responsible enough to ignore polls and do the right thing. If these results are accurate, people care more about the deficit than the economy. But that’s crazy.