A poll shows the source of America’s problems

Summary:  More evidence that I’m wrong, that greater public participation will not by itself benefit America.  Decades of learned ignorance (aka intense propaganda) have left us too ignorant.  We’re living in dreamland.  Only a crash will restore our awareness of the real world.  China’s leaders probably read such articles and smile (or laugh).

Fascinating but depressing data about America from the Economist/YouGov poll, 8 April 2010.  These are not the results of a people who can act together to govern themselves.

#17:  How about the federal budget deficit? When deciding whom to support in the 2010 elections, how important will the candidate’s position on the deficit be in your decision?  Percent answering “very important” or “most important”:

  • Liberals:  39%
  • Moderates:  59%
  • Conservatives:  83%

#21:  How concerned are you about the size of the federal budget deficit?  Percent answering “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned”:

  • Liberals:  78%
  • Moderates:  90%
  • Conservatives:  95%

FM:  Count me among the very concerned.  The Federal government’s public debt declined through the Clinton and early Bush Sr years to a cycle low of $3.3 trillion in mid-2001.  It rose to $5.2 trillion at the start of the recession in December 2007.  It’s now $8.4 trillion.   Source:  US Treasury.

#19:  How much responsibility do you think President Barack Obama has for the current size of the federal budget deficit?  Percent answering “most”:

  • Liberals:  4%
  • Moderates:  19%
  • Conservatives:  64%

FM:  note that Bush’s last budget, which ran through the end of September 2009.  Mandatory spending and discretionary spending on 2 year appropriations continue from the Bush Adminstration.  The biggest discretionary items, the military and economic polices, broadly continue Bush’s policies.   So far Obama has had a small effect on the budget.

From this point on the poll gets very interesting!  #22:  When, if ever, do you think the federal budget should be balanced?   Percent answering “immediately” or next year”:

  • Liberals: 26%
  • Moderates:  38%
  • Conservatives:  61%

FM:   Let’s look at the most recent normal Federal budget, before the recession slashed revenues and the sparked the Bush/Obama stimulus programs.  Balancing the budget would have required cutting 20% of the non-defense, non-medical/SS spending (“other”).  Balancing the budget in 2010 or 2011 would require cutting most (or perhaps all) of the “other” spending.  Source:  “Fiscal Policy Choices“, Doug Elmendorf (Director, Congressional Budget Office), 8 March 2010

  • Cost of social  security, medicare, and Medicaid:  8.2% of GDP
  • Cost of Defense (not including Homeland Security):  3.9%
  • Net interest:  1.7%
  • Other:  5.8%
  • Deficit:  1.2%

#24:  If you had to choose, which of the following measures would you prefer in order to balance the federal budget deficit?  Results for liberals, moderates, conservatives.

  • Increase taxes:  16% – 2% – 2%
  • Decrease government spending:  31% – 51% – 87%
  • Both:  48% – 29% – 8%
  • Neither:  6% – 9% – 3%

FM:  personal taxes are at a post-WWII low as a fraction of GDP.  For more about this see Are Americans over-taxed?

#27:  If government spending is reduced in order to balance the budget, which of the following government programs should receive lower federal funding than they currently do?  This is only of the 17 listed.  Results for liberals, moderates, conservatives.

  • Social Security:  6% – 6% – 10%
  • National Defense:47% – 23% – 9%
  • Medicare:  6% – 5% – 11%
  • Aid to the Poor:  4% – 15% – 33%
  • Education:  3% – 9% – 25%
  • Mass transit:  12% – 25% – 50%
  • Foreign Aid:  66% – 72% – 82%
  • Unemployment benefits:  9% – 17% – 34%
  • Science and technology:  17% – 20% – 31%
  • The Environment:  8% – 22% – 59%

Update:  to see where our tax dollars are going read “Tax Day and America’s Wars – What the Mayor of One Community Hard Hit by War Spending Is Doing“, Jo Comerford, TomDispatch, 11 April 2010.

Mirror, mirror on the wall.  Show us America as we are.


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