When push comes to shove, Americans — including Republicans — oppose significant spending cuts

As a nation, we need to pay for the government services that we want.

But it’s no secret that Americans generally strongly oppose most measures that would reduce the deficit in a serious way. Republicans oppose all of the significant steps under discussion that would reduce the deficit.

According to a recent McClatchy-Marist poll, the only significant deficit reduction measure supported by Americans — a solid 57-40 majority — is the expiration of the Bush tax cuts on individuals on high-income earners.

From Poll: Voters want soft fiscal cliff landing, but offer no net:

A plurality or majority also opposes several other high-profile options to cut government spending:

– Voters oppose, by 59 percent to 40 percent, raising the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 67. There’s a gender gap on that issue, with women more opposed to raising the age, perhaps reflecting their longer life expectancy.

– Voters oppose cutting overall spending for Medicare, by 74 percent to 23 percent.

– They oppose cutting spending for Medicaid, the program for the poor, by 70 percent to 26 percent.

– They oppose reducing the federal tax deduction for home mortgage interest, by 67 percent to 29 percent.

– They oppose eliminating the tax deduction for charitable contributions, by 69 percent to 28 percent.

“None of these things are attractive to a majority,” said Miringoff.

There are partisan differences.

Democrats are the most opposed to raising the age for Medicare, which could make it difficult for Obama to sell that to members of his party.

Republicans oppose every option mentioned in the survey.

“There’s no clear statement of what Republican voters want to happen. There’s opposition to everything,” said Miringoff.

Business Insider breaks down the poll with a closer look at the responses of self-described Republicans:

A look at what Republicans oppose:
By 47-37, letting the Obama payroll tax cut expire.
By 68-26, cutting spending for Medicare.
By 61-33, cutting spending for Medicaid.
By 66-28, eliminating the tax deduction for home mortgage interest.
By 72-25, eliminating the charitable tax deduction.
By 56-44, raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67.

Republicans don’t favor much in any potential deal — they also, of course, are opposed to allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire on any income bracket.

Simply put, House Republicans are now insisting on cuts to entitlement spending that are broadly opposed by their base.

Apparently the poll did not ask about making deep cuts to defense spending — one of the few other options to constrain spending. But it seems certain that Republicans would oppose that too.

We could trim a little from discretionary spending, but it’s simply impossible to eliminate the deficit without significant tax increases and/or serious cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and/or defense.

President Obama and leaders of both parties need to do a better job of educating Americans about the simple realities of the arithmetic.

And the news media needs to do a better job of it too.

As I have been saying more and more lately, we might just want to go over the fiscal cliff and see what happens. The mandatory spending cuts and tax increases will lead to immediate deficit reduction even if they shock the economy into recession.