There’s a new Harris poll out today that illuminates this question. It shows that support for cutting spending is mostly confined to small programs and that people want to increase some of the big ones. But Table 2 is the one that really caught my attention. It shows that there is considerably less appetite for cutting spending today than there was in 1981. Considering how little spending actually got cut in 1981, this suggests that Republicans may have a lot less political capital to play with than they imagine. It also suggests that their strategy of front-loading spending cuts in the fiscal year 2011 is very ill-conceived. They are using up all the political capital they have for cutting spending in a way that is highly unlikely to be successful and that will not yield long-term savings. By the time they get around to doing something about entitlements, they may find that budget cutting exhaustion and frustration has set in and there is no support left for big budget cuts. It may be that they have one bite at the budget-cutting apple and they are squandering it.
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