Once Again Why Federal Spending Is So Hard To Cut
CG&G alum Bruce Bartlett, whose new book on tax reform -- The Benefit and The Burden -- debuted on the New York Times best seller list last week, forwarded this latest Harris Interactive poll about the budget to me over the weekend.
The money quote tells the same story as virtually every other poll on the budget: cutting "federal spending" is popular until you get to the specific programs. Then, with only a few very small exceptions, it becomes impossible.
While many polls have shown that large numbers of people want to reduce "government spending" and reduce the budget deficit, a new Harris Poll finds that only rather small minorities of the public want to cut most of the biggest federal government programs. Only 12% of the public want to see a cut in Social Security payments, 21% want to cut federal aid to education and 22% want to cut federal health care programs. The only programs of the 20 listed in the poll that majorities of Americans want to cut are foreign economic aid (79%), foreign military aid (74%), subsidies to business (57%), spending by regulatory agencies (56%), the space program (52%) and federal welfare spending (52%).
I was also struck by how popular federal aid to state and local governments appears to be in this poll. Only 26 percent of all those surveyed and only 34 percent of Republicans were in favor of cutting one of the areas of spending that will be hardest if the sequester reductions that were triggered when the anything-but-super-committee failed last November actually go into effect next January.
Take a special look at table 3. "Defense spending" is the only area of federal activity included in the survey that more respondents want to cut today than they did three decades ago in 1980. There's less support, and in some case far less, for cutting every other area including foreign aid and welfare.
This may be one of the reasons why the Aerospace Industries Association has been conducting such an aggressive campaign to prevent the military spending cuts included in the sequester from going into effect. AIA's "Second to None" program has included full-page ads in some of the Capital Hill newspapers.