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THE FISCAL MENACE

With a certain 1950s B-movie melodrama, the economy has morphed into a menacing entity in the minds of American voters. "Who or what is the greatest threat to the United States?" demands a new poll released by the interest group Secure America Now, conducted by bipartisan pollsters Pat Caddell, a Democrat, and John McLaughlin, a Republican. In first place as the nation's biggest threat? It's "the economy," say respondents.

Things go downhill or uphill from there, depending on one's politics. In second place: President Obama, followed by terrorists in third, and "ourselves" in fourth place. Moving right along, other scary things loom: In fifth place, it's the budget/federal deficit, followed by the U.S. Congress, unemployment, the tea party, government spending, bureaucratic bickering, China and the federal government. Also appearing on the extensive "threat" list: Liberals, conservatives, Republicans and Democrats.

See more numbers revealing America's hawkish tendencies in today's "Poll du Jour," at column's end. The survey, incidentally, also found that 63 percent of the respondents approved of Rep. Peter T. King's repeat hearings before the Homeland Security Committee, examining potential terrorist threats on American soil.

"While the Council on American Islamic Relations and liberals in Washington and in the media have chosen to ignore the threat and have spent their time lambasting me for holding the hearings, it is clear that the majority of the American public have been thoughtfully paying attention to reality and understand that the threat of radicalization within the Muslim-American community is real," the New York Republican says.

AH-NAWLD ALERT

Yeah, he's an ex-governor with romance troubles and a Hollywood action movie in the works. But he's still got a calling to speechify. On Tuesday, former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will address the United Nations at high noon, during the "Private Sector Forum 2011" for heads of state, global business executives, "civil society" leaders and assorted U.N. officials.

Mr. Schwarzenegger, a spokeswoman says, "will encourage international leaders to address issues related to climate change, explore the benefits of utilizing clean energy and enlist the private sector on building better nations through sustainable investments."

DOING THE MATH

"President Obama says his deficit-reduction plan isn't 'class warfare, it's math.' Well, here's some math: If the federal government were to take every penny of income above $250,000 from the 2 percent of households that earn more than that amount, the total would be $1.4 trillion," says Steve Stanek, budget- and tax-policy fellow at the Heartland Institute.

"If the federal government were to take every penny of net worth from the nation's 400 billionaires — including Warren Buffett — that would total another $1.3 trillion. Combine the two amounts and that totals $2.7 trillion, approximately $1 trillion less than needed to cover this year's federal budget. And once all that money is spent, it's gone. Those billionaires would be paupers with no money to invest and hire people," Mr. Stanek notes.

PONZIFIED

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels is not acting "presidential." But he might be acting vice-presidential. Indeed, Mr. Daniels, who dropped out of the White House derby four months ago, has a new book, "Keeping the Republic: Saving America by Trusting Americans," out on Tuesday. And he provides 40 pages of aggressive economic policy in a chapter titled, "Change that Believes in You."

Mr. Daniels is still very much in touch with his inner Hoosier, all down-to-earth backbone. The governor, in fact, condemns political consultants, calling them "mercenaries" who see the typical voter as a "child ... easily persuaded to shy away from the bogeyman."

And will voters end up with a Romney/Daniels or Perry/Daniels combo at the Republicans National Convention in August? There's a chance. Not much of a chance, but a chance. Meanwhile, Mr. Daniels does stand in agreement with Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Social Security, citing the same point that sent Mr. Perry's critics into derisive finger-pointing mode last week.

"The whole setup is enough to give Mr. Ponzi a bad name — or a legitimate job," Mr. Daniels says in his book. "If old Carlo were around today, he'd have made an ideal Social Security commissioner."

WASTE LINE

Another chorus of "Hey, Big Spender," please. Americans now estimate that the federal government wastes 51 cents of every dollar it spends, reports Gallup analyst Jeffrey Jones, who says this is a new high in a Gallup trend question first asked in 1979. Thirty-two years ago, the number was 40 cents; it was at its lowest 38 cents — in 1986.

"Americans are less likely to believe state and local governments waste money they spend than they are to believe this about the federal government, with the state estimate at 42 cents on the dollar and the local at 38 cents," Mr. Jones says.

POLL DU JOUR

• 96 percent of Americans say concern over national security is an important factor in deciding who they'll vote for in the 2012 presidential election.

• 79 percent believe that if they obtain nuclear weapons, Iran would arm terrorists with them and attack the U.S.

• 77 percent say President Obama's policy toward Iran will not dissuade Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

• 76 percent believe that if they obtain nuclear weapons, Iran would use them to attack Israel.

• 70 percent believe that Iran would use those weapons on U.S. military targets in the Persian Gulf and Middle East.

• 69 percent agree that the U.S. media and "political elite" are so preoccupied with political correctness that they "downplay threats to American security by Islamic terrorists."

• 63 percent agree that if sanctions against Iran don't work, the U.S. should attack and destroy their nuclear facilities.

Source: Secure America Now poll of 1,000 likely U.S. voters conducted Aug. 10 and released Monday.

Numbers, math, security-minded commentary to jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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