Spending Myths

SPENDING MYTHS….Via The Carpetbagger, the folks at PIPA have an interesting report out about how average citizens would like to reallocate the federal budget. 1,182 adults were given a spreadsheet that showed current spending in a variety of categories and were then asked to either accept the current amounts or move them around in a way that kept total spending constant. As the chart below shows, respondents overwhelmingly wanted to make drastic cuts to defense spending and voted to redirect the money to deficit reduction and a variety of mostly social programs.

But here’s the interesting thing: these results are plainly wrong. People say this kind of stuff to pollsters all the time (and Democrats usually rejoice at the results), but when election day comes around they flatly don’t vote based on these priorities. If John Kerry had proposed cutting the defense budget by $150 billion he wouldn’t have lost the election by 3 percentage points, he would have lost by 10 or 20.

I don’t know quite why these polls always turn out this way, but I suspect they do a lot of harm to liberals, who continue to read them as vindication that Americans really do support liberal issues. There’s some truth to that, but the fact is that most liberal issues aren’t salient election causes and we haven’t succeeded in making them so. Anyone who disagrees should recommend cutting the defense budget by 25% and reallocating the money to education and job training. The very same people who responded to PIPA’s poll will then cheerfully vote you out of office in a huge landslide.