Today the New York Times reports on the debate over spending, deficits and the State of the Union (1/24/11):
The public itself seems split, or perhaps confused. Americans overwhelmingly say that in general, they prefer cutting government spending to paying higher taxes, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll published last week. Yet their preference for spending cuts, even in programs that benefit them, dissolves when they are presented with specific options related to Medicare and Social Security, the programs that directly touch millions of lives and are the biggest drivers of the long-term deficit.
Social Security is not a big 'driver of the long-term deficit,' especially when compared with Medicare, which is a far more serious concern.
More to the point: In the poll cited (which was reported by the Times last week), the public was asked about cuts to Social Security, Medicare or the military. Opposition to cutting spending did not "dissolve"; the public picked cuts to the military by, as the Times put it, "a large margin."
If the public is indeed "confused" by anything, it could be the fact that, in the debate over cutting government spending, their preferred option– cutting the miltary budget– finds little support in official Washington, and is mostly ignored by a media more focused on the apparent necessity of cutting Social Security.