Sixty-nine percent of Americans consider balancing the budget a top priority, according to January’s Pew poll, citing a figure that has risen steadily from 53 percent in 2007. For the first time, the budget is now on par with terrorism and trumped only by the economy and jobs in importance to Americans.

And who do Americans trust most to handle these highest of political priorities? Republicans have long dominated Democrats in perceived trustworthiness on national security, while both parties have been in a virtual tie for the last year when it comes to the economy, jobs and balancing the budget.

 

Republicans, however, have begun pulling ahead of Democrats in trustworthiness on the budget, according to a new AP-GfK poll released Thursday. While President Obama and the Republican primary candidates have both promised to balance the budget, Americans seem to find those promises easier to believe when they’re made by Republicans.

 

But Americans’ trust in Republicans is misplaced. According to an analysis by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget comparing the various fiscal proposals of the Republican primary candidates, only Ron Paul has proposed policies that would reduce projected U.S. debt over 10 years, by 9 percent of GDP. Under Newt Gingrich’s plan, debt would actually increase by a whopping 30 percent of GDP, while Rick Santorum would increase the debt by 20 percent of GDP. Mitt Romney’s plan would increase debt by only 1 percent, but remember — the candidates have promised to drastically cut the debt, not merely to increase it by less.

 

What about President Obama? According to CRFB’s analysis of his newly-released 2013 budget, the President’s plan also reduces the debt by 9 percent of GDP — the same as Ron Paul. That’s right — the President and Ron Paul are the only two candidates whose policies have any positive balancing effect on the budget at all. At best, Romney’s plan merely maintains the status quo, while Gingrich and Santorum make things significantly worse.

 

So, to the 69 percent of Americans who care deeply about balancing the budget — don’t be so trusting. Candidates love to run with scissors, but few are willing to put them to good use.

Follow Michael J Frosch on Twitter @michaeljfrosch and @metropolitik

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