Updated 4:09 pm
With Social Security and Medicare reform apparently in the debt ceiling talks mix, the Pew Research Center has just released a poll showing that the public indeed supports major changes to the programs – but not cuts in benefits.
This is approximately like saying you want to lose weight, but on the Kentucky Fried Chicken diet designed by Col. Sanders.
According to the poll, 54 percent of Americans say Medicare – where the deficit reduction big bucks are – needs major changes or should be completely rebuilt, while 38 percent think it’s working pretty well. However, when asked which is more important, taking steps to reduce the deficit or keeping Medicare and Social Security benefits the way they are, only 32 percent choose reducing the deficit, while 60 percent say leave the benefits untouched.
According to Pew:
The public’s desire for fundamental change does not mean it supports reductions in the benefits provided by Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. Relatively few are willing to see benefit cuts as part of the solution, regardless of whether the problem being addressed is the federal budget deficit, state budget shortfalls or the financial viability of the entitlement programs.
So here’s the question: Will our political leaders over the coming days take a political risk to actually reduce the deficit? Anyone who has studied the problem knows the money is in the entitlements.
Leadership on such a fundamental matter must come from the president, and the top Republicans must be close behind. So far we’ve gotten general statements from Obama on wanting to address entitlements. We’ll see if he backs up the words with real, politically risky proposals.
UPDATE: One of our readers, Susan, made a statement in the comments section that I think should be part of the actual story:
It all depends on how the question is asked. Pollsters know how to manipulate a question to get the answer they want. The question I would like to see asked: Do you favor a overhaul of Medicare, which may result in reduced benefits, as long as current beneficiaries and people 55 and older are not impacted by the reform? Bet you would get an overwhelmingly positive response if the question were posed that way.
This, in fact, is the only kind of reform being considered, and indeed, pollsters who leave this qualification out are not being responsible.