WASHINGTON -- Alarmed by rising national debt and increasingly downbeat about their country's course, Americans are clear about how they want to attack the government's runaway budget deficits: raise taxes on the wealthy and keep hands off of Medicare and Medicaid.

At the same time, they say that the government should not raise the legal debt ceiling, which the government must do soon to borrow more money, despite warnings that failing to do so would force the government into default, credit markets into turmoil and the economy into a tailspin.

Those are among the findings of a national McClatchy-Marist poll taking the country's pulse just as President Barack Obama and Congress launch what could be a multi-year debate on the role of government and how to finance it.

Obama heads to northern Virginia today and California on Wednesday to pitch his long-term budget proposals, as lawmakers from Congress are taking a spring recess, with most in their home districts.

On tackling the deficit, voters by a margin of 2-to-1 support raising taxes on incomes above $250,000, with 64 percent in favor and 33 percent opposed.

Americans clearly don't want the government to cut Medicare, the government health program for the elderly, or Medicaid, the program for the poor. Republicans in the House of Representatives voted last week to drastically restructure and reduce those programs, while Obama calls for trimming their costs but leaving them essentially intact.

Voters oppose cuts to those programs by 80-18 percent.