The Washington Post's Greg Sargent is mocking John Boehner for promoting a new Marist/McClatchy poll on the sequester. Boehner focuses on the fact that poll respondents said they prefer budget cuts to tax increases. But Sargent points out that poll respondents actually oppose many specific budget cuts and would prefer tax increases in their place:
* by 65-31 they prefer to raise taxes than cut spending on education;That would be fine if voters really believed that the choices were cut-and-dried. But they don't -- and this is where the evil genius of right-wing propagandists kicks in.
* by 60-33 they prefer to raise taxes than cut Social Security;
* by 57-36 they prefer to raise taxes than cut Medicare;
* by 53-40 they prefer to raise taxes than cut spending for transportation including roads and bridges;
* by 50-42 they prefer to raise taxes than cut Medicaid.
Americans prefer spending cuts to tax hikes in only three areas: energy, jobless benefits, and...defense!
The right has been carefully drawing attention to budget items that haven't been cut, and to recent federal expenditures. Most of these focus very specifically on how the president and his family are living. So last week we were hearing about the salaries of White House calligraphers. We've had Charles Krauthammer complaining on Fox News about the cost of the president's golf outing with Tiger Woods. We've had Fox grumbling about a motorcade for the Obamas' dog and Breitbart's Ben Shapiro expressing outrage at the possibility that Adele and Beyonce will sing for Michelle Obama at her 50th birthday party.
Greg Sargent thinks the public might turn against the GOP gradually, as people learn more and more about how sequester cuts will affect them. But Fox and other Republican propagandists are doing an excellent job of flooding the zone with what seem to be examples of poor spending priorities on the part of the administration.
Now, could you really restore air traffic control at dozens of small airports if you fired the White House calligraphers? Do the dollar amounts even come close to matching up?
The public doesn't know. The public isn't sitting around poring through hundreds of pages' worth of line items in the federal budget. The right knows this, and is taking full advantage. GOP propaganda sounds sensible, so the right is winning this messaging war.
Americans would oppose the big cuts if they thought the cuts happened only because Republicans won't tolerate tax increases on anyone. But if Americans think there's a third alternative, namely, cutting "waste" -- even if what's being portrayed as "waste" has a tiny cost compared to the big cuts being made in vital programs -- then Americans will want "waste" to be cut instead. So Republicans are going to keep portraying the White House as wasteful. And that's going to work until the White House realizes that budget math is hard for normal people, and starts to push back.