January 6, 2011

Déjà Vu: Deficit Concerns

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More than three-fourths of Americans saw the federal budget deficit as a threat to the recovering economy … in 1983. Then, as now, there was far less agreement about what to do about it.

The economy has beenin a slump for years. The unemployment rate remains stubbornly high. The American public fears that a growing federal budget deficit will harm a fledgling economic recovery. It is 1983. Growing concerns about deficits in the midst of an economic downturn should not feel new to anyone old enough to remember the Reagan administration. In a September 1983 Gallup poll, taken roughly a year after the official end of a deep recession, three-fourths of Americans agreed that the federal government’s budget deficit was a great threat (42%) or somewhat of a threat (34%) to the continuing recovery. Then, just as now, there was far less agreement about what actually to do about the deficit threat. In the 1983 poll, overwhelming numbers disapproved of raising taxes or making cuts to entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare. American also rejected, though, by a smaller margin, cuts to social programs. There was approval, however, for cuts to defense spending. Read More