GUVMINT SPENDING….It’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry about this recent poll from the Washington Post. Jerry Traylor, 58, a retired government worker who lives in Newell, Ala., is aghast that George Bush’s Social Security privatization plan will cost $700 billion. Hah! I’d be inclined to support it if it cost that little. And a majority of Americans think indexing benefits to prices instead of wages is a good idea ? but only because they figure prices have been going up faster than wages. (Can’t blame ’em, really.)

But forget that. I’m tired of Social Security (until I wake up to fresh outrages in the morning, anyway). Instead, here’s question 2 from the poll, showing once again the American public’s obsession with foreign aid:

49% of the country thinks foreign aid is one of our two biggest programs. No wonder they’re convinced their tax dollars are being frittered away. This is no surprise, though, since it fits with this earlier poll result showing that Americans think 24% of the federal budget is spent on foreign aid. (Real number: about 1%.)

I wonder why Americans are convinced we spend such vast sums on this? Whatever the reason, it probably explains why Americans are so frequently taken aback that the rest of world isn’t more grateful toward us. They think we’re spending a couple hundred billion dollars a year on these guys and then wondering why they don’t show a little more gratitude.

On the other hand, at least it’s getting better. Back in 1997, 64% thought foreign aid was one of our two biggest programs and 26% figured food stamps was another. Onward.