Thursday, May 05, 2011

So Where Do Americans Want More or Less Government Spending?

I like this observation made two weeks ago about the now official Republican budget/deficit reduction proposal from a senior official in President Reagan’s very conservative Republican administration and former Republican member of the House of Representatives:

“Trapped between the religion of low taxes and the reality of huge deficits, the Ryan plan appears to be an attack on the poor in order to coddle the rich.  To the Democrats’ invitation to class war, the Republicans have seemingly sent an R.S.V.P.”

norc_logo_colorPoliticians aside, for anyone actually caring about the spending priorities of the American people, I recommend an annual scientific opinion poll I’ve been following each year since 1973, the year after I graduated from college.

Fielded by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago, the results are formulate by taking the percentage wanting more spent in an area and netting out the percentage thinking too much is spent in that area.

For those who don’t want to read the year to year trends for each spending area from 1973 to 2010, here are the most recent top ten priorities where American people want more government spending:

+68.6% Education (remember, these are ranked by the net of those thinking we spend too little and those who think we spend too much)

+57.6% Assistance to the Poor

+51.2% Crime Reduction

+48.9% Social Security

+48.5% Environment

+46.0% Drug Use

+43.8% Childcare Assistance

+41.4% Healthcare

+39.1% Drug Rehabilitation

+36.4% Law Enforcement

American priorities for more or less spending over time are certainly not on automatic pilot.  But Education has been a top spending priority since 1989.  Improving Healthcare was number one in 2004 and second from 2006-2008 and now following healthcare insurance reform has dropped to eight.

Assistance to the poor was the tenth priority in 1996 and second this year but  Americans think less needs to be spent on welfare.

Republicans at the state and national level are well wide of the mark with current attempts to cut or gut environmental protection which has ranked in the top five priorities for “more” spending each of the last five years.

As for two other areas the Republican caucus has seemed to resist, roads and bridges and mass transportation at the 11th and 12th priorities for more spending, still very high.

If politicians are truly looking for places Americans think less needs to be spent, the survey reveals those as well – beginning with defense, welfare and foreign aid.

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