So what is it, America: Do you want federal budget cuts or not? Because this new WSJ/NBC poll does not prescribe much in the way of a path going forward:

The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows 63% of Americans think Democrats don't go far enough to reduce federal spending, compared with the 28% who think they go too far.

The same poll shows 52% of the respondents think Republicans, with their plan to slash $61 billion from the budget by the end of September, go too far.

Last we checked, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid was thinking of compromising to about $40 billion in cuts by the end of September. So according to this poll, Americans would be perfectly satisfied with ~$50 billion in cuts. Does that sound right?

This is an extremely important thing that you should tell your uncle and granny and whomever when the topic comes to budget deficits: These cuts have nothing to do with closing the budget deficit or lowering the accumulated federal debt. Nothing! Whether it's $40 billion or $60 billion, that doesn't make much of a dent in the ~$1.3 trillion budget deficit in the 2011 fiscal year. House Republicans are targeting their cuts at things like Planned Parenthood subsidies and health care reform implementation and anything science-related; Senate Democrats will target some Republicans' pet projects. Mostly, poor people will end up getting screwed out of their social services during a period of 9% unemployment.

Congress is having a symbolic fight over "tightening our belts" when what they're really trying to do is weaken the other political party, without giving a shit about reining in long-term spending or, more importantly, getting people jobs at some point. It's a joke. Republican cuts are too harsh and Democratic cuts are too harsh, because both parties have become completely untethered from Planet Earth. Maybe they think these cuts in discretionary spending — which only comprises about 12% of the federal budget — will give them the "momentum" to tackle bigger spending sources, but that's sociopathic. Cutting off someone's winter heating subsidies to come across as serious about deficits in the Beltway media for a few cycles? Please just quit, all of you.

[Image via AP]