Economist poll reveals how fucking clueless Americans are about government spending.

Chart from The Economist on spending cuts.See that chart to the left? It’s from this article at The Economist. It’s about a poll they conducted wherein they asked people if they thought the government should decrease the deficit by raising taxes or cutting spending. Cutting spending was the popular choice at 65% with only 5% saying raising taxes was the way to go. So then they asked the question over there on the left and that chart is the result.

As Kevin Drum over at Mother Jones points out:

As you can see, there wasn’t one single area that even a third of the country wanted to cut back on. Except — hold on there! Down in the middle of the table. There is one area that everyone’s willing to trim: foreign aid. Good ‘ol foreign aid. A category that, as Roger McShane dryly points out, “makes up less than 1% of America’s total spending.”

Beyond that, there were only four areas that even a quarter of the population was willing to cut: mass transit, agriculture, housing, and the environment. At a rough guess, these areas account for about 3% of the federal budget. You could slash their budgets by a third and still barely make a dent in federal spending.

So, yeah, cutting spending would be one way to reduce the deficit… if you were willing to actually cut into the programs that cost the most. It’s a shame that all the really expensive programs are the ones most folks don’t really want to cut.

Perhaps they should spend some time actually learning from this excellent infographic poster about the Federal Budget:

You can zoom in and move it around or go full screen to get a better look. That’s the creation of Jess Bachman and he’s been updating it every year since 2004. It really is worth looking at in detail to see where the money goes and you can buy a 24″ x 36″ posted of it at his WallStats website along with several other excellent infographics he’s made.

The point being: It doesn’t help if everyone thinks we should cut spending, but no one can agree on where those cuts should be made. Nobody likes higher taxes, but the only way to have your cake and eat it too is to pay for it. Even if that means using a credit card to do so, which is more or less what the deficit is tantamount to.

7 comments

  1. Great post Les,

    Looking at that fantastic poster, you can really see the huge, white elephant in the room, can’t you?

  2. Well, that “aid to the poor” was pretty low on the cut-list.. thats a nice thought..

    Of course, “aid to the poor” is an ambiguous term, but I doubt that spending on such accounts for much more then, oh, say .000000001 percent of the budget.

    Remarkable data, thanks for posting this Les..

  3. Same old story. People are more that willing to cut government spending as long as it doesn’t directly effect them, as long as it isn’t one of their pet interests. I suppose military spending might be a noteable exception in the US. If you did this survey by region you’d see some differences, like people in farm coutnry would be far less willing to see agricutlture spending chopped.

  4. Consigliere

    Would you apply that same logic to the food budget of your own family if you lost your job? Like it or not, there are many things a government must spend money on (police, some military), some things it makes economic sense to spend money on (infrastructure, science & technology, schools, medical care) and some things it is simply the right thing to do (veterans aid, helping the poor, charity).

    Libertarians always seem to think that the private sector will be able to do everything that the government can do, but do it more efficiently. In some cases, this is true. In other cases, it is not true. One thing is for sure, Libertarianism is something which would be disproportionately bad for the poorest members of society – we tried it already, and it was called laissez-faire economics. Not a big success. Conversely, if we look at some of the biggest successes we’ve had as a species (going to the moon, eradication of smallpox) have came about because of this high level decision making and high level cooperation.

    Now, I am not trying to say that you are a libertarian, although you may well be one. However, while libertarianism is pretty “honest” in a Darwinian sense, it’s not a society in which I would ever choose to live

  5. the army everywhere is handing out free untaxable money to married soldiers for “HOUSING” In hawaii thats about 2000 extra dollars month per married soldier, While they live with other people or just send their wives to live with family and collect all that untaxable money

Leave a Reply