Economics

Americans Not Totally Clueless About Government Spending

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Zogby has a Family Feud-type poll in which respondents are asked to give a factual estimate of known statistics. How well can people guess the spending percentages in the federal budget?

Better than you might have expected. Although there were traditional overestimates such as the foreign aid budget, majorities of the 2,068 people polled were in or near the ballpark on defense and Medicare/Medicaid, and a large minority was close enough for government work on Social Security:

Even one penny on every dollar is too much to spend on international aid.

The large number of respondents overestimating the portion of the budget that goes to debt service may indicate why a fiscal hawk message continues to resonate with voters even as Keynesians say not to worry about deficit spending. And with half of respondents grasping that non-defense discretionary spending is less than 20 percent of the total, it's not surprising that gimmicks like the spending freeze haven't moved many hearts.