84 Percent Say Middle Class Will Have to Suffer to Reduce Federal Budget Deficit

By | March 29, 2010 | 6:51 PM EDT

New $20 currency notes roll off the presses at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington. (AP File Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

(CNSNews.com) -- A new poll shows that 49 percent of Americans support spending cuts to reduce the federal budget deficit. At the same time, around 75 percent oppose any limits on entitlements from Social Security and Medicare, two of the largest contributors to the deficit.
The poll conducted by Quinnipiac University showed while nearly half (49%) of all likely voters want spending cuts to bring down the deficit, 42 percent favor a combination of spending cuts and tax increases, with 29 percent saying those cuts vs. tax increases should be equal.
The poll further showed that 84 percent of Americans say the middle class will have to make financial sacrifices to reduce the federal budget deficit. More than three-quarters of those polled oppose raising income taxes on the middle class or limiting the growth on Social Security or Medicare.
The U.S. Treasury Department estimates that the total amount owed just for Social Security and Medicare, in today’s dollars, equals about $45 trillion.  “This means the government would need to have $45 trillion in the bank today to fulfill the promises made in these two programs,” reported Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) for the House Committee on the Budget on Mar. 5.
Among the 84 percent of Americans who think the middle class will “suffer” in order to pay for the deficit, 92 percent identify themselves as Republicans, 78 percent as Democrats, and 85 percent as Independents.
Republicans are most opposed to tax increases at 83 percent, followed by 81 percent of Independents and 75 percent of Democrats.
All three groups were strongly opposed to limiting Social Security – Republicans, 73 percent; Democrats, 84 percent; and Independents, 75 percent.  These numbers were nearly the same in opposition to limiting Medicare.
The Quinnipiac University Poll was conducted March 16-21, of 1,907 likely voters with a margin of error +/- 2.2 percentage points. 
Earlier this month, Rep. Ryan said  on MSNBC’s Hardball regarding entitlement programs: “Both parties are at fault for this. Both parties have to come together and fix this mess, because our debt is going to catastrophic levels, we will have a debt crisis in this country.”
“And just so you know, the main programs of government: Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security -- they’re all going bankrupt, they’re growing themselves into extinction,” said Ryan.  “You’ve got to reform these programs for future generations, if you’re going to save these programs. The sooner we get on to talking about how we’re going to do that, the better off we’re all going to be.”
The U.S. Treasury Department report, highlighted by Representative Ryan, further reported: 
“Beginning in 2016, Social Security . . . will need to raise taxes, reduce benefits, increase borrowing from the public, and/or cut spending for other programs to meet its obligations to the trust fund. By 2037, the trust fund reserves (and thus reserve spending authority) are projected to be exhausted.
“The gap between total . . . Medicare income (including general revenue contributions) and expenditures begins around 2009 and then steadily continues to widen, reaching 3.4 percent of GDP by 2083.”
As of September, 2009, the federal government’s known liabilities equaled $14.5 trillion, according to the non-partisan Peter G. Peterson Foundation. Add in the cost of what the government has promised to pay in Social Security and Medicare and several other programs and the total debt is $62.3 trillion. That’s about $200,000 per person now living in the United States.