Americans demand services like socialists and taxes like libertarians. While this sounds anecdotal, there is a new poll out highlighting just how true this seems at this moment in American public life. The Economist and YouGov did a poll from over 1,000 American respondents from April 3-6 asking numerous questions. Some of this wasn’t very interesting (but kudos to a majority of Americans no longer following the Tiger Woods media inanity, progress!). More importantly on a national and social level, a couple of questions highlight just how bad the American public is at putting together budget issues.
When asked if taxes should be increased or government spending reduced to balance the budget, 62% of those polled would prefer decreasing government spending over raising taxes or doing both.
Ok, where would these same 1,000 people prefer cuts? Nowhere that would make any difference – is this answer to this question. Hooray choices!
The options were:
- Social Security
- National Defense
- Aid to the Poor
- Veteran’s Benefits
- Health Research
- Mass Transit
- Foreign Aid
- Unemployment Benefits
- Science and Technology
- The Environment
- None of the above
Besides foreign aid, no issue even makes 30% in support of lower funding. Now combining those who favor raising taxes and those who favor cutting spending and raising taxes, it amounts to 29% of the populace. That’s the same percentage as the next highest percentage of areas for spending cuts, the Environment. Clearly, there are a great deal of people who either don’t believe, when cuts are laid out one-by-one on a table, that government spending should be cut or support budget deficits in the long-term, if they don’t want to raise taxes. That might be extrapolating a bit, because the poll didn’t say ask if people would support tax increases if spending cuts were already maxed out – a hypothetical situation to be sure.
But spending cuts on foreign aid would do very, very little – is by far the funniest facet of this shitty reasoning of our populace. Any politician who says we can cut foreign expenditures as a solution are a lot like politicians who mutter about waste and corruption: they have no solutions and are just trying to come up with something that makes sense to the ignorant. The entire State Dept budget is only 1.46% of the budget, and not all of that even goes to foreign aid. Here’s the US budget for Fiscal Year 2010, in chart form:
And only $16.2 billion of this very small 1.46% of the total budget, $50 billion, State budget is foreign aid as conventionally defined: money to stop malaria outbreaks, food aid, etc, citation. The budget deficits aren’t huge because politicians are being lazy, they’re huge because Americans don’t like making cuts when it comes time to name them and don’t like paying taxes. The exception, foreign aid, is a topic they don’t know anything about the spending levels, which are too small to make any appreciative difference.
Moral of the Story: Americans need to stop deluding themselves about deficits. Deficits exist because there’s no support to reign them in when it comes time to implement specific policies. Stop blaming politicians for actions you don’t want them to take, in reality. Or start making some real choices.