Poll Position: What’s the right balance between taxes, cuts?

One of several interesting moments in Thursday night’s Republican presidential debate was when all eight candidates were asked if they would accept a budget deal that included $10 of spending cuts for every $1 in tax hikes.

All eight of them said their answer was “no.”

What's the right balance between spending cuts and tax hikes?

  • Tax hikes should equal or exceed spending cuts (82 Votes)
  • 1.5 trillion:1 (all cuts) (68 Votes)
  • 4:1 (48 Votes)
  • 2:1 (44 Votes)
  • 3:1 (43 Votes)
  • 10:1 (20 Votes)

Total Voters: 305

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Now, I have a hard time believing all eight of those candidates would really veto such a budget if they were actually sitting in the White House. The question itself, with such a lopsided and unrealistic ratio, seemed designed to lull one or more candidates into thinking they were merely being reasonable by conceding 10:1 — only to see that everyone else knew the real question was, “Do you want to be branded a tax raiser in a Republican primary?” None took the bait.

After all, while I would guess that even most Republicans would see 10:1 as a rout by the spending cutters, there are bound to be others who would say, If you could get ‘em to 10:1, you could surely get ‘em to all cuts, no taxes.

But it does re-raise an important question: What ratio of cuts to increases would be acceptable to most Americans? That’s this week’s Poll Position. Answer in the poll and in the comments thread.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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101 comments Add your comment


August 12th, 2011
10:27 am

I take their doctrinaire answer at face value after all they are pledged to Grover Norquist. I’m interested to know how many don’t believe in evolution, as that theory is not very popular with the Republican base

Tea Party Hobbit

August 12th, 2011
10:35 am

Cut first…show me you are serious about fixing the problem. Then after I see the need for potentially increasing taxes, I may be willing to support. Would have to be part of a comprehensive tax reform – get rid of loopholes and ease things up for the small business owners. The uber-wealthy often wind up paying less in taxes than do these hard workers who are responsible for employing people.


August 12th, 2011
10:46 am

The 10:1 idea is good…just make sure you put in a “kill switch” for the new taxes should the spending cuts disappear or not materialize.


August 12th, 2011
10:48 am

I would say that the real question to be asked is do you really want the budget balanced and the National Debt paid? I see no sign that anyone “in Washington” is really serious about cutting the deficit and paying the debt.

The December 2010 deal to extend the Bush/Obama tax cuts for 2 years reduces revenue $850 billion over the 2 year period. And that adds about $400 + billion to the deficit each year because no serious spending cuts have been made to offset the loss of projected revenue.

If the amount of money involved in the 10 to 1 deal is 10 year spending cuts of $1.5 trillion in a period where scheduled spending for that 10 years is over $35 trillion. then nothing serious is being discussed.

The Republicans seem married to maintaining tax cuts at all costs.

The Democrats seem married to maintaining entitlement programs at all costs.

No one seems married to balancing the budget and paying off the National Debt.

that's goofy

August 12th, 2011
10:51 am

I believe anybody not slurping a political ideology has to know it will require a combination of spending cuts and closing loopholes…. and possible a tax increase.


August 12th, 2011
10:57 am

How many more tax cuts beyond what they already have will the job creators need before they start creating jobs? Or should I say, before they start creating jobs HERE?


August 12th, 2011
10:58 am

Agree with Tea Party Hobbit. Tax increases have to be part of the mix— eventually. But first make some real cuts and show us we can trust you. When the last 80 times spending has increased, a good compromise would be to let spending decrease this one time. In the long run, 4:1 is probably as much as is possible, you can’t do everything at once.

Bad Habit

August 12th, 2011
11:05 am

I agree with Tea Party Hobbit as well. I do not trust them to fulfill their promises of cuts. I would have to see it first. And as a side note, please stop calling it “revenue”, call it what it is, a tax increase.


August 12th, 2011
11:12 am

What is missing from your question is the time parameter. There should be a substantial difference between short-term and long-term measures. For the short-term, most cuts will hurt the economy and therefore make the deficit and debt problem worse. Closing some loopholes would not hurt, but real tax increase is not advisable. For the long-run, a tax reform that would increase the revenue is a must, as is dealing with the most important threat – rising health care costs.


August 12th, 2011
11:25 am

The 900 pound gorilla in the room is the Pentagon’s budget. It was doubled after 9-11 so that we could expand the empire. We need to radically cut the “defense” budget to the point that we only have military defending out country (and no other).

In 2010 the IRS collected 899 billion dollars in income taxes. The Pentagon’s Budget comes entirely from income taxes. The Pentagon’s budget in 2010 was 737 billion, which represents 82% of your income taxes going toward the military. And for what? Defending the USA? Nope, they can’t even control the borders or protect us from terrorists here on student visas from our “allies” Saudi Arabia. Instead we waste all that money in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It’s no wonder we borrow money. After all income taxes were collected in 2010, 82% was used for the Pentagon’s budget. The remaining 18% is for highways, national parks, welfare and food stamps, government administration, The Smithsonian, and more.

I hate to break it to you, but you can cut all welfare, national parks, food stamps and highway spending, but it won’t be enough to cover the difference if we don’t radically cut the Pentagon’s Budget.

Or, we can do what Republicans want. Take the money from Social Security’s separate system (that’s income for senior citizens) and take money from Medicare (health insurance for senior citizens) and give that to the Pentagon instead.

We can call it the Bomb before Bread program.

And when we are in heaven, facing the Lord, we can tell him that executives at Boeing were a bigger priority than our nation’s senior citizens, the poor, the hungry, etc.

Turns out the war against Christianity is being waged by the very people who think they’re Christians.

real john

August 12th, 2011
11:47 am

jconservative…care to add a link to where two years of tax cuts equals $850 billion. That number is simply wrong. All of the tax cuts equal about $1 trillion over 10 years or roughly $100 billion a year.

Even if you just added by the cuts for the wealthy, I think it is about $75 billion a year give or take. We would still have a $1 trillion a year deficit.

real john

August 12th, 2011
11:49 am


While I agree the Pentagon’s budget needs to be cut some (like just about everything), defense makes up about 18% of our budget which is way lower than in many years past. S.S., Medicaid, and Medicare are the 900 lb gorillas. Those are growing rapidly every year and simply must be reformed.


August 12th, 2011
11:53 am

Its just not that simple that you can just throw wild numbers or ratios out there. To balance spending and revenue should balance needs, requirements and the things that make a country great, like research, exploration and the future. It should be thought to benefit the most americans not just the few. A country of haves and have nots will sure fail.

Rafe Hollister

August 12th, 2011
12:07 pm

I agree with the Hobbit, cut, cut, cut, then tell then how things are going and we will discuss raising taxes, although I think we need tax cuts in order to get the economy growing and producing revenue for the government.


August 12th, 2011
12:13 pm

Obama said it would hurt the economy to raise taxes during a recession. We are in a recession with no end in sight.
Obama said that raising tax rates would not increase tax revenues.
Obama has already raised taxes on the wealthy in Obamacare.
After the Bush tax cuts, tax revenues increased to historic numbers in ‘05, ‘06 & ‘07 & only decreased a tad in ‘08.
The top 10% of earners already pay 70% of the fed. income taxes.
Obama said he wanted to increase taxes to be “fair.”
Obama wants to rob Peter for no other reason than to rob Peter, regardless of the economic impact.

Don't Tread

August 12th, 2011
12:17 pm

I will also have to agree with the Hobbit on this one.

The problem with the debt deal is the raising of the debt ceiling in exchange for some promises to do something somewhere down the road, and a committee.

The GOP..........

August 12th, 2011
12:41 pm

<<—We Worship Tax Breaks On The Backs Of The Middle Class!


August 12th, 2011
12:43 pm

Real John: Defense isn’t 18% of the budget.

Social Security has its own funding mechanism separate from income taxes.

Medicare does too (although it’s not as sustainable in its current form).

The Pentagon gets 100% of its funding from income taxes. My statistics were accurate: In 2010 the IRS collected 899 billion in income taxes, and the Pentagon’s budget was 737 billion.

Social Security is not funded through income taxes. It’s a separate program.

Welfare, yes. That’s funded by income taxes, and welfare is abused.

But let’s not make it too political. Let’s make it logical: The Pentagon’s budget is too big.

Put it this way, if we cut the Pentagon’s budget by 85% we would be matched up with China’s level of military spending, and they outnumber us five-to-one.

Our military is a giant money pit, and it’s not doing much for Americans, but the media has us convinced that the military is sacred. They are no more sacred than teachers, cops, or fast food workers. They signed up to do a job.

Here’s something else to think about: How many Japanese, German, Iraqi, Afghan, Turkis, Cuban, etc. soldiers are on the streets and in the cities of the United States? How many foreign soldiers are patrolling our neighborhoods?


So why are we in their nations? Why do we continue to patrol the streets of dozens of nations?

For the answer to that question, study the rise and fall of the Roman Empire.

It’s the same thing (and will end the same way).


August 12th, 2011
1:03 pm

defense makes up about 18% of our budget which is way lower than in many years past.

What year? 1942? Besides, it’s the largest discretionary item in the budget. I absolutely agree we need to reform Medicare and SS but defense has no dedicated stream of revenue. Our return is often boxes covered with flags and a bunch of questions.

Also, veteran’s benefits aren’t included under the defense budget. If they were, it would be about equal to Medicare/Medicaid spending. You could drop the entire USPS, Dept. of Agriculture, and Dept. of Education into DOD spending and they’d be swallowed, with plenty of room to spare.

I’m not a cheese-eating surrender monkey, but the money we spend on defense is insane, particularly for what we get.


August 12th, 2011
1:05 pm

You left off no spending cuts for short term and ending tax breaks for wealthy and corps.as option, per the recommendation of many respected economists. So your poll is flawed.

Bill Campbell

August 12th, 2011
1:07 pm

Cut out the Obama vacations and the country could break even!

Lil' Barry Bailout (Revised Downward)

August 12th, 2011
1:15 pm

Until spending is reduced to below 20% of GDP, the problem is entirely on the spending side.

No Sympathy

August 12th, 2011
1:21 pm

How about 15% for everybody. No loopholes, no deductions. 15%. Everyone pays.


August 12th, 2011
1:26 pm

I’m so tired of seeing all the job creators, burdened with massive profits and sitting on tons of cash to dole out to investors, continue to be denied even more government subsidies and tax breaks. We need to subsidize them some more, put grandma on the street instead of in that cushy nursing home, so AT&T can hire more people in Bangalore, so Nike can put more Vietnamese children to work! All you socialists crying and whining, you just need to empty your pockets right now so Exxon-Mobile can give more campaign money to your congressman.

Mr. Holmes

August 12th, 2011
1:31 pm

Post of the Day award goes to Edward. Bravo, sir.

Tea Party Hobbit

August 12th, 2011
1:35 pm

…and the hits keep coming for Obama. Now the 11th circuit court of appeals has ruled health care mandate is unconstitutional.

Tea Party Hobbit

August 12th, 2011
1:36 pm

Word to President Obama – if you want to change your luck, don’t try a goatee. It hasn’t worked for Tiger Woods!

Mr. Holmes

August 12th, 2011
1:37 pm

“Now, I have a hard time believing all eight of those candidates would really veto such a budget if they were actually sitting in the White House.”

Gotta love the U.S. primary system, in which the way to get ahead is to out-loony your opponents. “By god if I’m president I’ll eliminate ALL taxes! We’ll fund the government by grinding the bones of Muslims into beads & shekels, which we can trade for the sylvan isle of Manhattan. And we’ll not only outlaw abortions, we’ll also eliminate the letters A, B, O, R, T, I and N from the alphabet. Church attendance will be mandatory, and every American will be issued a fully automatic firearm upon his or her 18th birthday. God bless the USA.”

Ayn Rant

August 12th, 2011
1:40 pm

In all the political heat, has anyone ever considered that creating jobs and cutting federal spending are contradictory aims? The federal deficit is about 10% of our GDP. Except for an infinitesimal amount of foreign aid, every cent of government spending goes to Americans, and creates or supports jobs.

So, which do you want: a smaller federal deficit and fewer jobs, or more jobs and a bigger deficit? You can’t have both.

Tea Party Hobbit

August 12th, 2011
1:51 pm

Holmes – any different from the Democrat primaries hearing cries of seizing profits from international corporations, eliminating carbon dioxide, and making 1% of the population pay the nation’s entire tax bill? Partisan rhetoric is indeed ridiculous at times, but at least it lets you know we are working with all amateurs, so choose carefully…


August 12th, 2011
2:01 pm

I think much of the conflict over our budget is that it is funded by only half of our citizens. The upper half says “no more”, while lower does not care where it comes from as long as it does not impact them. I think that in order to get everyone interested in lowering our deficit that ALL should pay taxes of some sort beyond SSI. Then, all will be interested in solutions that positively impact the entire country.


August 12th, 2011
2:15 pm

I am a doctrinaire republican. But…
i would support spending cuts of a significant degree…trimming entltlements and escalations.
I would support an overhaul of our tax code to fund reduced rates and deficits with at least half of the money going to reduced tax rates.
I woudl support tax increases at 25% of the above with the constraint that all American’s must pay income taxes if they have income. We have to end systems that allows the rich to not pay taxes or half of the poplulation to be immune from tax increases.

common sense

August 12th, 2011
2:15 pm

We need tax reform. But even politicians who claim that markets need to be free of government interference fight tooth and nail for every special interest tax break that distorts the marketplace.

Cut defense significantly. We could cut the defense budget in half and still be light years ahead of all of our enemies.

Reform Medicare/Medicaid. Health care is a bottomless pit. We can’t afford to put the burden of every illness of every older or poor person on the taxpayer. Repeal Obamacare and the tax on investment income, but let older Americans with the means to do so pay for some of their own healthcare.

This is just common sense, but it won’t happen. Why? The tax benefits for special interests from various loopholes and credits are enormous compared to the little it takes in campaign contributions to keep them in place. Defense contractors pretty much own Washington at this point. And while health care gets played as a liberal bleeding heart issue, the health care lobby is tremendously powerful and has a vested interest in directing taxpayer dollars their way.


August 12th, 2011
2:17 pm

Are creating jobs & cutting federal spending contradictory aims?
These are the lowest unemployment rates under the last 5 presidents & spending as a percentage of GDP:
Reagan ‘88 5.49% 21.3%
GHW Bush ‘89 5.26% 21.2%
Clinton ‘00 3.97% 18.2%
G Bush ‘07 5.26%19.6%
Obama ‘09 9.26% 25%

These are the highest unemployment rates & spending as a percentage of GDP:
Reagan ‘82 9.71% 23.1%
GHW Bush ‘92 7.49% 22.1%
Clinton ‘93 6.91% 21.4%
G Bush ‘03 5.99% 19.7%
Obama ‘10 9.64% 23.8%

It seems that the exact opposite is true. The less we spend as a percentage of GDP, the lower the unemployment rate. The more we spend as a percentage of GDP, the higher the unemployment rate.


August 12th, 2011
2:20 pm

I would never support a tax increase as long as our government funds this kind of sillinesss that the FAA bill supported:

Federal statistics reviewed by The Associated Press show that in 2010, just 227 passengers flew out of Ely while the airline got $1.8 million in subsidies. The travelers paid $70 to $90 for a one-way ticket. The cost to taxpayers for each ticket: $4,107.

Our lawmakers can do better!

Last Word

August 12th, 2011
2:20 pm

Just a quick sidebar here:
The metaphor is “the 800 lb. gorilla” (meaning a formidable foe or task);
“the elephant in the room” (meaning the obvious, being ignored),


August 12th, 2011
2:22 pm

I think much of the conflict over our budget is that it is funded by only half of our citizens. The upper half says “no more”, while lower does not care where it comes from as long as it does not impact them. I think that in order to get everyone interested in lowering our deficit that ALL should pay taxes of some sort beyond SSI. Then, all will be interested in solutions that positively impact the entire country

While I potentially agree with your premise, it is somewhat flawed. The portion of those who don’t pay any income tax(tax liabilty) aren’t all those at the bottom of the economic scale. There were some millionaires in the report from the IRS that paid no taxes. The actual”poor” only amounted to about 23%. So there remainder were those who make enough but pay none. The problem with the tax code is similar to government programs, once you give it out once, everyone thinks it is permanent.


August 12th, 2011
2:31 pm


Your spending post as a percentage of GDP didn’t support your argument.

1. The numbers between spending and unemployment rate are so insinifigant, from a stastical standpoint, you couldn’t really claim it.
2. And from an economic standpoint, wouldn’t it make sense in a time of low unemployment that the government would spend less money.I mean, thinking about the calculation for GDP and all
3. Wouldn’t it make sense that in a period of high unemployment the government would spend more.Government spending is a compnent of GDP, what sense would it make for both the private sector and the government to contract at the same time.


August 12th, 2011
2:31 pm

Of course they all pledged “cuts only, no new revenue”.

They have boxed themselves in out of fear of the tea party revolutionaries. If they actually said (as more than 60% of Americans believe) that reducing the deficit must include cuts in spending and increases in revenue, the tea party revolutionaries would most likely bolt and put up a third party candidate in 2012.

Do you really believe anyone from the “super 6 republicans” will risk the tea party revolutionaries wrath by agreeing to some ratio of spending cuts and revenue increases? If you do, do you really believe any republican candidate for the presidential nomination will risk the wrath of the tea party revolutionaires by endorsing this type of bipartisan agreement?

So someone will be the republican nominee who has pledged to balance the budget with no increase in revenue. That would mean mind blowing cuts in defense and entitlement programs that would allow democrats to scare the poor and aged. Then that nominee will have to somehow then expand his/her support beyond the republican base/tea party revolutionaries.

As hard as it seems to believe, the republicans are heading “full steam ahead” into blowing quite possibly the best opportunity an opposition party has had to regain the White House, certainly in my lifetime. The “purity of thought” demanded by the tea party revolutionaires will, in the end, doom the republican nominee.

Rev. AL

August 12th, 2011
2:32 pm

We much not cut the Environmental Projection Agency’s budget…they are keeping the air clean…if you cut that the peoples would be able to get a job…and then they couldn’t just get a check from the government..


August 12th, 2011
2:33 pm

@Linda: I think you’re ignoring the role of the economic cycle in those numbers. The ratio of spending to GDP is always going to be higher during bad times, when unemployment also is higher and revenue and gdp growth are negative or flat.


August 12th, 2011
2:35 pm

According to the statistics I posted @ 2:17, to get down to the lowest unemployment rate we had during the last 5 presidents, we need to lower federal spending to 18.2% of GDP, where it was in 2000 during Clinton when it was 3.97%.
After all this spending & this huge national debt, what do we have to show for it? Twenty more Hoover Dams?

Rafe Hollister

August 12th, 2011
2:38 pm

Boortz said today, assuming he is right, that revenues from the top 5% of all income taxpayers exceeds the combined effort of the other 95%. That is an amazing statistic, if correct. So, not all those millionaires and billionaires that are accused of being scofflaws must be paying more than they are accused of.

All those people on here bashing the rich, are probably rich and don’t know it. Obama uses the terms Millionaires and Billionaires for effect, he really means any small business, two income family, or well paid executive. The saps out there fall for the lets get the rich revenge, when many of them are the ones he is after.


August 12th, 2011
2:39 pm


How does extracting money out of an economy help lower unemployment.

You aren’t one of those people who just throw out statistics and have no idea whatthey mean are you?(Serious question)


August 12th, 2011
2:40 pm

Rafe Hollister-

The top 20% pay 97% of all taxes…not real sure how the top 5 can pay 90…me thinks those numbers are coming out of his bum….

Rafe Hollister

August 12th, 2011
2:42 pm

Not all those millionaires and billionaires are paying as little as their critics claim.

Rafe Hollister

August 12th, 2011
2:45 pm

Me thinks the top 5% are paying most of what the top 20% are credited with, if you get my drift. I am too lazy to look it up, because some lib will question the site you looked at or will come up with a different number from a liberal site. I think Boortz is pretty close based on what I have seen before at the IRS site.


August 12th, 2011
2:47 pm

what@2:31, If you don’t like my calculations, submit your own. Prove me wrong.
Govt. spending did not pull us out of the Great Depression. It didn’t help Japan for 20 yrs. It has failed for the last 3 yrs.
All it has done is deepen our debt to the point that we have lost our AAA rating from S&P which will downgrade us even more if we do not reduce it QUICKLY by $4 T for starters.
Has it ever even occurred to you that the reason the private sector is not hiring is govt. spending & regulations? Duh?


August 12th, 2011
2:49 pm


It is kinda open to intepretation. To be in the top 1% you don’t technically have to be a millionaire.
The median income is around 54k so to be in the top 1% you have to make slightly over 200k. In that percentage you have a lot of hedge fund managers that pay at the capital gains rate which is lower than the marginal rate.


August 12th, 2011
2:51 pm

The Tea Party & the Republicans have NEVER said no new tax revenues. What they have said is no tax increases. Do any liberals have a clue what this means?