If Congress implements the Panetta-Burns plan, some Americans seem to believe, lawmakers will have only themselves to blame. Luckily, the Panetta-Burns plan doesn’t exist — except as a warning that legislators shouldn’t put too much stock in individual polls on complicated issues.
In a recent survey of 700 voters by Public Policy Polling, 23 percent of respondents said they supported the Bowles-Simpson plan — the broad deficit-reduction framework developed by a commission appointed by President Obama — while 16 percent opposed it. But it’s not clear how deep or sincere these feelings are. For when the polling firm also asked about a fictitious Panetta-Burns plan, 8 percent of voters said they favored it, while 17 percent opposed it. Are one-sixth of voters oddly skeptical of Leon Panetta, President Obama’s defense secretary? Did they think “Burns” referred to C. Montgomery Burns, Homer Simpson’s evilly plutocratic boss?