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The public's striking opposition to spending cuts

Despite his woeful lack of popularity, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) loves speaking on behalf of "the American people." And wouldn't you know it, John Boehner is absolutely certain that the electorate agrees wholeheartedly with ... John Boehner.

This is especially true in the fiscal debate, in which the nation's most powerful Republican conveniently ignores all available public opinion data to argue that "getting our spending under control" is "the number one priority for the American people."

There is, however, a quantifiable way of testing Boehner's boasts. Indeed, the Pew Research Center published a report (pdf) late last week that found that, nationwide, there's "little support

for cutting most programs."

In fairness, I'll concede that "spending cuts," in a vague and undefined sense, remain quite popular -- Americans want a smaller deficit, they're not eager to pay more taxes, so cutting public investments is, in the abstract, a preferable remedy.

But it's when we look at the details that the Republican argument falls apart.

Consider the chart that Pew published with its findings -- the only popular spending cut is to foreign aid, which represents less than 1% of the federal budget, and even here, a plurality of Americans want foreign aid to go up or stay the same.

This is not uncommon. On nearly every area included in the survey -- education, infrastructure, health care, national defense, environmental protections, aid to the needy, etc. -- less than a fourth of the population wants to see spending cuts, and a clear majority want spending levels to either increase of remain at current levels.

Now, I suspect Republican readers are thinking, "Well, that may be true, but the results are skewed by irresponsible Democrats who love spending. Take the liberals out of the equation and we'll see dramatically different results."

Except, that's not quite right, either. Even among self-identified Republicans, the only spending cuts that enjoy majority support are cuts to foreign aid and cuts to unemployment benefits. That's literally it. On everything else, GOP voters want spending levels to go up or remain the same.

Someone might want to let Speaker Boehner know. He may be surprised at just how much "the American people" disagree with him.