A well-kept fiscal secret: Americans' (mis)percetions about the budget deficit
Bloomberg News published a new round of polling data last night, most of it relating to the economy and the larger fiscal debate. The results are largely in line with expectations -- most Americans prefer President Obama's debt-reduction plans over Republicans', and would like Congress to delay the sequester to avoid hurting the economy.
But there was one question in the poll that struck me as especially important: "Let's turn to the federal budget deficit. This is the amount the government spends that is more than the amount it takes in from taxes and other revenue. Is it your sense that this year the deficit is getting bigger or getting smaller, or is it staying about the same as last year?"
In other words, in the midst of a major national debate over America's finances, 90% of Americans are wrong about the one basic detail that probably matters most in the conversation, while only 6% -- 6%! -- are correct.
For the record, last year, over President Obama's first four years, the deficit shrunk by about $300 billion. This year, the deficit is projected to be about $600 billion smaller than when the president took office. We are, in reality, currently seeing the fastest deficit reduction in several generations.