Republican rhetoric aside, most Americans really don’t like cuts in federal spending

One of the many uncomfortable truths facing Republican politicians these days is that the American public generally favors government spending cuts only in the abstract — but not in reality.

I addressed this matter in a post of several months ago (HERE), and now Jonathan Bernstein has an updated take on the issue HERE:

As we get closer to the sequestration deadline, followed a few weeks later by the appropriations deadline that could cause a government shutdown, new polling by Pew reminds everyone why the Republican position is so hard to maintain: people really don’t like spending cuts. In fact, most Americans want to increase spending on most government programs.

That is, people like the idea of spending cuts when they’re discussed generally, in terms of the overall cost of government. But when it gets down to specific programs, suddenly things change.

Here’s what Pew found. When asked about Medicare, 46 percent want to keep spending where it is, but for those wanting a change in spending, those wanting more spending (36 percent) were double the number who wanted less (15). The total who want to keep Medicare spending where it is or increase it: 82 percent.

When asked about spending on environmental protection, 43 percent want to keep spending where it is; 33 percent want more; 22 percent less. The total who want the status quo or more spending: 76 percent.

On education, the total wanting spending the same or higher: 89 percent. The total who want less: 10 percent. On Social Security, the total who want spending the same or higher: 87 percent. The total who want less: 10 percent.



  1. Luke Fredrickson

    Spending is not the core issue here. My view is that people think our current revenue should be spent more efficiently. Haven’t seen a poll on that, but who would argue that we’re getting our money’s worth?

    People of all political persuasions have at least one first-hand account of bureaucratic wastefulness at the VA, Medicare, Soc. Security, DNR, etc. Government itself has a really bad rap, likely deserved. Still, it shouldn’t be so hard to come up with an answer to the question “What does government do right?”

    We’re stockholders, so to speak, in this massive enterprise, and we should demand effective leadership in every gov’t. program. And real accountability for failure. Show us the successes, define the best practices, and tell us how failures will be remedied.

    I’m tired of both stereotypes of today’s national politicians: Republicans who claim the gov’t. can’t possibly do anything right, but still want to get paid to lead it; and Democrats who oppose acknowledging where and why entitlement programs have failed.

    Give me a leader who says government CAN and SHOULD do great things, and how.

  2. I believe that Luke has nailed it.

    I also hear that your average Greek citizen doesn’t really like cuts in federal spending either.

  3. Poor doc seems to think that Greek-style austerity is what we need here.

    Perhaps these facts from Wes Williams will disabuse him of such nonsense:

    In Europe, Greece has instituted the most severe austerity measures, and has seen the biggest decline in GDP. At the other end of the spectrum, Austria, Germany, and France have done very little budget tightening in the name of austerity, and have seen small growth in GDP. Finland, The Netherlands, Belgium, and the Slovak Republic have increased government spending and have seen either an increase in GDP or only a small decline, much smaller than the decline occurring in countries with the harshest austerity measures.

  4. Poor Pat. He doesn’t realize that if nobody is willing to lend you any more money, you have no choice but to spend less.

    People are freaking out over the relatively small sequestration cuts that are about to take effect. How do you think they will react to budgetary measures that will actually balance the budget and begin to cut into our trillions of dollars of debt?

  5. Lets call it what it is ! It is a reduction in the rate of spending growth , not cuts. 85 billion out of 3.8 trillion over ten years is nothing . But then again it would be a shame if the GSA didn’t get to have a vacation in Vegas this year ! What if Obama didn’t get to take Air Force 1 @ 180,000 per hour to fly to Florida to play golf with Tiger woods . There is a long list of things our Government could trim and we wouldn’t even notice without taking away from our sevice men and women in uniform . Maybe our government could cut back on the lavish lifestyle it enjoys at our expense . Maybe congress doesn’t need and on site health club with a pool and spa ? Maybe they don’t need paid drivers , a 5 star cafeteria . the list goes on and on !

  6. If congress would concentrate only on the F-35 we could easily achieve the 85 billion dollar goal. At this point the projected long term cost of this plane through the next decade is close to 400 billion and a trillion by 2030.

  7. What is GOP rhetoric?

    I do see our twice elected drama queen pleading with Congress, do it my way.

    America voted for generational debt and generational debt they shall have

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