FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:
Early Saturday morning, the House of Representatives approved more than $60 billion in cuts in federal spending. It was the first sign Republicans are trying to make good on campaign promises to close deficits and slash government spending.
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But before they break their arms patting themselves on the back, it's worth pointing out that $60 billion is less than 3 percent of this year's deficit, projected at more than $1.6 trillion.
The bill cuts federal funds to Planned Parenthood, the Environmental Protection Agency, and education programs like Pell Grants and Head Start. What it doesn't touch is Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid which account for 57 percent of the federal budget this year. So far, not a single dime has been cut from any of those programs.
According to a recent CNN/Opinion Research Poll, more than half of Americans think the deficit is "extremely important" for the President and Congress to tackle. However, when asked what was more important: reducing the deficit or preventing cuts in Medicare, 81 percent said preventing cuts to Medicare while just 18 percent said reducing the deficit. When asked about Social Security, 78 percent said preventing cuts to that program was more important than lowering the deficit. And when asked about Medicaid, 70 percent said avoiding cuts to the public health insurance program for low-income families was more important, compared to 29 percent who said closing the deficit was more important.
So at the end of the day it's not just the federal government that's at fault here. As the line in Pogo went, "We have met the enemy and it is us." Politicians know senior citizens are among the most consistent, reliable voters in this country, and it's a real risk to propose cuts to programs many of them depend on... especially as we approach the 2012 presidential election.
Here’s my question to you: Should the government cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in order to attack the deficit?
Interested to know which ones made it on air?
David in Herndon, Virginia:
Sure, as long as you also cut defense, cut oil subsidies, cut farm subsidies, and raise taxes on the rich. Everybody has to bail out the boat or we're all sunk. You can't have 2% of the passengers drinking margaritas and watching everybody else doing the work - otherwise the other 98% is going to toss them overboard.
Yes, those programs should be on the operating table, and it can be done without hurting anyone with simple means testing. The wealthy should have these entitlements cut. It won't hurt them. It is right and good for the government to provide safety nets for those who need them, but ridiculous to provide them for those who don't.
Tom in Atlanta, Georgia:
It depends on how you ask the question. "Cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid" is an ugly way of saying it, and polls clearly say people are not in favor of it. But if you substitute "reform" for "cutting" you will get broad agreement. I believe people are beginning to understand, that the level of our nation's entitlements are not sustainable.
Joe in Houston, Texas:
Your question presumes there's an option. There isn't.
No. There is only one solution to fix the deficit: raise taxes on all of us. That is the only way to get rich people to pay their fair share. My family makes well below Obama's magic $250K, but we are willing to tighten our belts and pay an additional 3-5% in taxes if it will get us out of this crushing deficit and stifling debt.
Arlene in Illinois:
Isn't it ironic that the people who are shaping our future are not covered by Social Security, but know what’s best for us? I receive $ 500 a month and my husband gets $ 1150. and boy do we live high on the hog. Come on over tonight Jack for supper as we're having beans and wienies.
Jack Cafferty sounds off hourly on the Situation Room on the stories crossing his radar. Now, you can check in with Jack online to see what he's thinking and weigh in with your own comments online and on TV.