AP/GfK Poll: Americans Want Gov’t. Shutdown Unless Federal Spending Is Cut

Eric Zuesse

According to the AP/GfK Poll published on October 27th, 50% of Americans agree with the statement, “Congress should ONLY increase the debt ceiling if it makes significant spending cuts at the same time, even if that means there will be considerable reductions in government services and programs.” 35% disagree. 11% marked a third box: “Congress should NOT increase the debt ceiling under any circumstances, even if that means the U.S. defaults on its debt.” (And, it does, in fact, mean that: the government would default on its existing debt.) So: a solid 61% favor the position of congressional Republicans on this matter – the Federal Government should default on its existing debts unless federal spending going forward will be slashed (drastically slashed, as will be explained subsequently here).

However, Americans are confused about the matter: though they strongly favor the Republican position in the abstract, they slightly favor the Democratic position in reality. The 1,027 respondents slightly favored the position of “Democratic leaders in Congress” over that of “Republican leaders in Congress” on the issue. 51% disliked the Democrats on it, but 58% disliked the Republicans on it. 17% liked the Democrats on it, but only 10% liked the Republicans on it. 32% had no opinion on it.

When asked “Do you support, oppose, or neither support nor oppose, raising the federal debt limit in order to avoid defaulting on U.S. government debts?” 24% support, 29% oppose, and 44% neither. So: a massive 44% don’t even care whether the country defaults, but the rest are slightly opposed to such default.

56% say that “Reducing government spending” is “so important that it would be worth shutting down the government to achieve it.”

At present, 54% of discretionary (or non-mandatory) federal spending is for the military. 9% is for Health & Human Services. 7% is for EPA and Energy Departments. 6% is for the Education Department. 5% is for the State Department and foreign aid. 3% is for HUD. Those are 84% of the total; so, all the rest of the government is just 16%. That includes, for examples: VA, Labor Department, DOT, NASA, and Agriculture. 

The lion’s shares of non-discretionary spending goes to HHS, SS, Medicare and Medicaid.

The person who is likely to become the new Speaker of the House, Republican Paul Ryan,  committed himself in 2011 to the goal of eliminating by 2050 all federal spending except for the military. The rest would be privatized – available only on the basis of an individual’s ability-to-pay. As for regulatory agencies, they’d be eliminated: no EPA, no FDA, no laws or regulations at all regarding product-safety or the environment, and nothing to protect workers’ rights. All rights would belong only to owners: stockholders, lenders, and their hired executives who represent their interests. (But no collective bargaining to represent the interests of employees.) Even enforcing any existing laws against slavery could become problematic. Ryan is a libertarian, and libertarians derive their views from the economist Adam Smith. Smith said, in his Wealth of Nations (Book 4, Ch. 7, Part II), that the French system of slavery was superior to the British, because in the former, “the government is in a great measure arbitrary” (i.e., there was no regulation of slavery, at all, by the French government), whereas the latter, the British, system, “intermeddles in some measure in the management of the private property of the master.” The supremacy of private property rights (and slavemasters’ rights) was consistently affirmed. Ryan affirms owners’ rights, over and above the rights of any mere taxpayers (the people who must pay the debts of government), and this position is resoundingly affirmed, even by President Barack Obama. Polling confirms that this view dominates also among the American public, though the public are very confused about it. (The President certainly is not.)

That’s the direction in which Americans are heading, if one is to believe what they tell to pollsters, and if one is to read carefully the statements by Paul Ryan, as the economist Dean Baker has done. This seems to be America’s future. Unless something happens that will place it finally in America’s past.

One could reasonably doubt the findings in the latest AP/GfK poll, especially because no other polling firm has asked these questions or anything close; and a mere single poll on a topic could show nothing but a fluke. However, seeing how lopsided the findings are in this poll in favor of slashing government spending, instead of redirecting it towards the poor after trillions of dollars have already been doled during the past six years in Wall Street bailouts, no one can reasonably doubt that the American public are more anti-government than they are anti-bankster. There’s lots of anger against the government, but the banksters who have benefited from ripping off the American public got off scot-free, and the public aren’t enraged about that. Occupy Wall Street left no mark at all, but the Tea Party and other slash-government freaks took over one Party and constitute also a substantial “DLC” voice in the other Party. Obama even came into office aiming to cut Social Security. Generally speaking, propaganda (or ‘public relations’ – such as that “Adam Smith was a good guy”) works. Especially in a country where that PR is called ‘journalism’ instead. In order to clean one’s mind of an ounce of fake ‘history,’ one needs at least a ton of the real stuff. But what we’ve had all our lives isn’t an ounce of the fake stuff. It’s many many tons of those mental toxins. (For a typical example: “Adam Smith was a good guy.”)

That could explain poll-findings such as these.


Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.