The popular deficit-reduction idea

THE POPULAR DEFICIT-REDUCTION IDEA…. The problem with most proposals to reduce the deficit is that they carry policy or political costs. Identifying ideas that would be effective and not spur a public backlash is inherently tricky.

But it’s not impossible. Take the idea of raising taxes on the wealthy, for example.

Raising taxes on the rich beats out cuts to defense spending, Medicare or Social Security as U.S. adults’ top preference on how to close the deficit, according to a 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll.

Sixty-one percent of Americans said that increasing taxes to the wealthy should be the first step toward balancing the budget.

By contrast, 20 percent of respondents preferred cuts to defense spending as the first option, while four percent said that cutting Medicare would be the best way to start cutting the deficit. Three percent said they preferred cutting Social Security.

Increased taxes on the wealthy tops those four options even among higher earners who might be most affected by a tax hike, the poll suggested.

So, the single most popular idea for reducing the deficit is the one idea Republicans will fight the hardest to defeat.

Indeed, the political dynamic is almost amusing. The conversation seems to go something like this:

GOP: We must prioritize deficit reduction immediately, and all options must be on the table.

Everyone else: OK, how about a slight increase in the top marginal rate for the wealthy? It won’t hurt the economy; it will lower the deficit; and the idea enjoys broad national support.

GOP: We didn’t mean “all” options must be on the table.