Ritholtz has a great survey up via Pew Research on the problem we have with ever really cutting the deficit, or more specifically any benefit/spending program. Almost every conceivable program that could have a material effect on the deficit has a 45% or higher disapproval rating when asked if it should be cut. Only the most vague question "Limit deductions taxpayer can claim" was below that threshold, and even that was at 40%. Of course that's no different than why "cut the deficit" gets great approval…. because it is not specific. One you talk about any singular program everyone wants to protect their turf. The only exception of course being to raise taxes for those over $250,000 because well… once more… that doesn't touch most Americans.
Some of this is due to lack of voter understanding – if you even talk about cutting the defense budget by 1% the cries go out across the nation, even as the U.S. dwarfs the combined spending of the next 16 or whatever it is nations. Heck there are things the Pentagon does not even want but there are so many interested parties (read lobbyists) who are successful in getting funding – what a system.
Ross Perot in his run for President in 91 got on the TV, bought commercial time, and laid out the facts item by item. So at least people had some understanding of the scope of each program. i.e. we can cut every dime out of PBS and it would be the same as cutting two fighter jets. Big deal. And I'd assume if Obama did this it would get slightly higher ratings than what good ole Ross did back in the day. Make it 8 PM on a Wednesday for 30 minutes and dumb it down as simple as possible with a lot of colorful charts and powerpoint slides so people at least know what the situation is. Simply put Medicare/Medicaid, Social Secruity, and defense spending are the only places you are going to go to really cut spending. Everything else can be put in a bucket and combined it really doesn't matter. Of those things, any that can have a material effect – once more as seen below – the majority don't want you to touch. Everyone wants the cake and to eat it too.
Any securities mentioned on this page are not held by the author in his personal portfolio.