As Congress continues to debate the best approach to reducing the federal debt and resolving the “fiscal slope” of looming tax increases and automatic spending scheduled for 2013, it’s critical to recognize that while everyone wants to “fix the debt,” the real questions are how to fix the debt, and who should pay to fix the debt. Do we attempt to reduce the national debt through spending cuts alone, which would require eviscerating key public investments and core safety net programs in order to generate sufficient savings to make deficit reduction work? Or do we take a balanced approach that includes new revenues, along with smart spending cuts that spare programs vital to protecting the most vulnerable among us?
The American public has decisively  answered  this question during the recent election, choosing by overwhelming margins to support President Obama’s proposal to raise new revenues by asking the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share. According to a new survey  by nationally acclaimed pollster Hart Research Associates, 61% of respondents support allowing the Bush Tax Cuts on incomes above $250,000 to expire at the end of the year, while simultaneously extending middle-class tax cuts on incomes below that threshold. This includes 40% who strongly agree. At the same time, a strong majority of respondents (53%) rejected the proposal made by the US House of Representatives to hold the middle class tax cuts hostage to ensure passage of the tax cuts on incomes over $250,000. Only 42% supported blocking passage of the middle class tax cuts in order to secure passage of the tax cuts on incomes over $250,000 per year.
The Hart Associates survey reinforces the very similar findings of the exit polling  conducted during the recent Presidential election—Americans support asking the wealthiest among us to contribute to fixing the national debt. For more details on the survey and its results, see the full polling memo here.