Americans know how to solve deficits – is Congress listening?

A new University of Maryland study finds that when average Americans are presented the federal budget in some detail, most are able to reduce the budget deficit dramatically and resolve the Social Security shortfall.

Through a combination of spending cuts and tax increases, on average, respondents cut the discretionary budget deficit projected for 2015 by seventy percent. Six in ten solved the problem of the projected Social Security shortfall through adjustments in payroll taxes, premiums, and benefits. The projected Medicare shortfall was also dramatically reduced…

Unlike conventional polls [Program for Public Consultation] PPC consults with the public by first presenting respondents with information on policy issues and a range of options for addressing them. “When given information and a chance to sort through their options, most Americans do a pretty good job of dealing with America’s budget problems – better than most politicians,” says…Steven Kull, who directs PPC…

On average respondents made net spending cuts of $145.7 billion. The largest cuts included those to defense ($109.4 billion), intelligence ($13.1 billion), military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq ($12.8 billion) and the federal highway system ($4.6 billion) – all of which were cut by majorities.

On average respondents increased revenues by $291.6 billion. The largest portion was from income taxes which were raised by an average of $154.8 billion above the levels currently in place. Majorities increased taxes on incomes over $100,000 by five percent or more, and increased them by 10 percent or more for incomes over $500,000.

Majorities also increased corporate and alcohol taxes, and turned to new sources of revenue, including a tax on sugary drinks, treating ‘carried interest’ income as taxable (also known as the hedge fund managers’ tax), and charging a crisis fee to large banks. A plurality (49 percent) favored a tax on carbon dioxide emissions. But a sales tax was rejected by 58 percent of respondents…

Most respondents also successfully dealt with the problem of Social Security. Respondents were presented eight possible steps for dealing with the Social Security shortfall that will occur as the baby boom generation retires.

Six in ten respondents selected enough steps to resolve the problem. This was the case even though many of them also chose to make the problem more difficult by increasing benefits to low income retirees.

This parallels the study done by readers of the NY TIMES a little while ago. Time after time, when Americans are presented with simple objective information about taxes and policies they come up with common sense solutions that escape the petty analyses of our payola politicians.

Meanwhile, if you’re one of those amazing human beings who actually reads stuff, here’s a link to the full report.

The Americans surveyed suggested increased spending on education and social security. The total deficit reduction was over $437 billion.