With negotiations on a “grand bargain” that would dramatically reduce the federal budget deficit, through some combination of spending cuts and tax increases, breaking down in an ugly fashion—and with an August 2nd deadline looming to raise the debt ceiling before the U.S. starts to default—the blame game is on. Congressional Republicans blame President Obama, and not just for the failure to reach a compromise, but on the lousy overall state of the economy, the huge $14 trillion deficit and for playing class warfare politics. President Obama blames Republicans for refusing to consider new tax increase on the wealthy even as he is offering up broad cuts in entitlement programs, like Social Security and Medicare, that Democrats hold sacred. Who do you blame? According to a new Quinnipiac poll, you blame just about everyone and a political ghost from our not too distant past. The country is in a recession, 71% of American voters say in the poll, but by 54 – 27% they blame former President George W. Bush more than President Obama. President Obama’s approval ratings are still languishing at 47% but Congress fares much worse. Voters say by 67 – 25% that an agreement to raise the debt ceiling should include tax hikes for the wealthy and corporations, not just spending cuts.
In Washington, not surprisingly, each group is blaming the other. Senate Majority leader Harry Reid called House Majority leader Eric Cantor, who reportedly had a blow up with the president during negotiations yesterday, “childish.” Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell declared that no real solution to the deficit was possible as long as President Obama was in office. These criticisms are predictable, but what remains unpredictable is the ultimate outcome of this showdown and which side voters will punish in 2012. Who do you blame?
Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute