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Posted at 2:15 PM ET, 02/10/2011

Americans love government spending -- when you start to talk specifics

By Greg Sargent

The new Pew poll perfectly captures the contradiction at the heart of public attitudes towards government and spending -- and suggests that Dems could have an advantage in the coming battles over these topics, provided they handle it the right way.

The poll finds that in general, more Americans think deficit reduction is a more important priority (49 percent) than spending to help the economy recover (46 percent). But check out what happens when Americans are asked what they think about spending on specific programs:

govtspendingchart.JPG

More favor an increase in spending than a decrease on 15 of 18 issues tested in the poll. Now, these numbers aren't all that clear-cut. There seems to be substantial support for holding spending steady, and in many categories, the combined total of those who want to freeze spending or decrease spending is higher than the total who want to increase it. Also, support for spending decreases has edged up.

But the overall conclusion is clear: Once you start to talk specifics, the public's aversion to government spending rapidly evaporates.

There's no denying that in many ways Republicans have the upper hand in the spending battle. But as E.J. Dionne Jr. notes today, Obama and his advisers have been trying to move the argument beyond one that generically pits big government against small government -- the fight the GOP prefers. Instead, they're trying to reframe Obama's vision as a sensible blend of fiscal discipline in some areas and targeted government investment in others. They believe the public will ultimately find this preferable to the GOP's vision that all government must be downsized or else.

Findings like the above, which are supported by other polls, suggest that if Obama and Dems can keep the fight focused on a battle over specifics, maybe the public will agree.

By Greg Sargent  | February 10, 2011; 2:15 PM ET
Categories:  House GOPers, Senate Republicans, budget, deficit  
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Comments

Sure they do, but they don't want to pay for anything.

The federal government's budget deficit grew by $50 billion in January and is expected to finish the year as the highest in history. The Treasury Department says the deficit was one of the highest ever for the month of January, second only to the $63 billion deficit recorded two years ago...The Congressional Budget Office is projecting a record deficit of $1.5 trillion this budget year, which ends in September. The estimate was revised upward last month based on a tax-cut package brokered between the White House and Republicans that will add $400 billion to this year's red ink." AP

We should cut taxes even more because that way the deficit will get better.

Posted by: shrink2 | February 10, 2011 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Regardless of opinion polls, the GOP is going to have to pass hard spending cuts.

Posted by: clawrence12 | February 10, 2011 2:25 PM | Report abuse

why two categories for Education and Public School? is that an admission that the two are completely unrelated :)

Posted by: NoVAHockey | February 10, 2011 2:29 PM | Report abuse

The Muslim Brotherhood has announced a military coup has taken place, according to my BBC live stream. The MB and the military don't like each other very much, 80 years of enmity. Anyway, back on 1/28, I was speculating here on how the military would take over "in the interim" and how the transition to democracy would be subverted.

Interims last a long time in Egypt, after all, they have had just gone through 30 years of interim; emergency laws that last decades, a bad precedent. Now the protesters want free and fair elections. Too bad there is no such apparatus. Another very long interim period is what comes next.

Posted by: shrink2 | February 10, 2011 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Considering that since the last time we had a balanced budget we have cut taxes and spent much more and not addressed the black holes of med/med or the coming hole in SS, it seems patently obvious to me that we have to swallow the entire Bowles-Simpson package or be doomed to piecemeal cuts and patchwork taxes, not amounting to anything that anyone would notice.

People want services. People don't want to pay. We all know that, liberal, moderate, or conservative. That is why I give Conrad and any other Senator who wants to run with the Commission report credit for realism, and BHO and Congress in general demerits for "heads in sand".

Posted by: mark_in_austin | February 10, 2011 2:33 PM | Report abuse

I suspect it's higher education vs K-12. Student loans, etc. vs teachers. Just a guess.

I'm cautiously encouraged by the numbers on scientific research. . .

Posted by: Michigoose | February 10, 2011 2:33 PM | Report abuse

there's a third category for college financial aid.

Posted by: NoVAHockey | February 10, 2011 2:36 PM | Report abuse

"The BBC's Wyre Davies in Jerusalem says the worst-case scenario for Israel would be if Mr Mubarak resigns, new elections are held and the subsequent government is hostile to Israel."

Well no worries on this, military has been in charge since 1952, some say since 1929.

"July 1952, a military coup occurred in Egypt, carried out by The "Free Officers" and led by General Naguib, but the real power behind the military coup was Gamal Abdel Nasser. Aided by intelligence provided by the two super-powers and their own network, the Free Officers Movement targeted command, control, and communications posts of the Army and Internal Ministry."

The police state is not going away because of some protesters.

Posted by: shrink2 | February 10, 2011 2:38 PM | Report abuse

why two categories for Education and Public School? is that an admission that the two are completely unrelated :)

Posted by: NoVAHockey | February 10, 2011 2:29 PM |
....................

Yes; by President Pew Pollster!

Posted by: Liam-still | February 10, 2011 2:39 PM | Report abuse

There's a third category of "College Financial Aid" too. The FEDERAL government should not be in the education business.

Posted by: clawrence12 | February 10, 2011 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Interesting how low unemployment aid rates relative to the other categories.

Pity they didn't have a category:

"Supporting the financial system"

so that it could be rated.

Posted by: jnc4p | February 10, 2011 2:41 PM | Report abuse

claw-

Tell it the folks in Bush's Education Dept...

Posted by: ChuckinDenton | February 10, 2011 2:46 PM | Report abuse

Pity they didn't have a category:

Maintaining the White House and flying Michelle Obama everywhere on Air Force One.

Posted by: clawrence12 | February 10, 2011 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Is it any wonder then that Reagan tripled the debt and Bush doubled it?

Posted by: AMviennaVA | February 10, 2011 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Some policy-makers on both sides of the aisle realize that getting our financial house in order is going to require a combination of increased tax revenue, reduced spending (even on the things each side considers untouchable), and a continuation of economic recovery. That people in this country are attached to the benefits they receive from government is an understatement. Anyone who is committed to actually tackling these issues needs to get to work on the serious business of informing the American public that we're all going to have to share in the pain (and yes, that should include those who need public benefits and those who can afford to live without them)

Posted by: mobrien83 | February 10, 2011 2:52 PM | Report abuse

ChuckinDenton, unfortunately Ronald Reagan wasn't able to abolish the Dept. of Education -- no President gets 100% of want he wants accomplished -- as Obama is about to find out.

Posted by: clawrence12 | February 10, 2011 2:53 PM | Report abuse

A protest leader says they will remain in the streets until free elections take place, knowing that no such apparatus exists; there are not even any political parties apart from Mubarak's NDP and the banned MB. She says they will not accept military rule. Uh oh.

8 minutes until the Mubarak stepping 'aside not down' speech.

Posted by: shrink2 | February 10, 2011 2:55 PM | Report abuse

Abolishing the Dept. of Education will also require informing the American public as to why State and local control / funding is better in the long run.

Posted by: clawrence12 | February 10, 2011 2:59 PM | Report abuse

Considering that the average IQ of Tea Party members is lower than that of A Turnip; I would say that Republicans have done a great job, with cutting back on education.

China is going all in with government education of their children, as is South Korea, and American Manufacturers are going all in, with those countries.

Tea Party members suffer from Joe The Plunger Syndrome.

Posted by: Liam-still | February 10, 2011 3:00 PM | Report abuse

"...we're all going to have to share in the pain..."

Well, not all, rich people do not share in pain; after all, they have to have plenty of money to "create" wealth by doing God's work.

Posted by: shrink2 | February 10, 2011 3:00 PM | Report abuse

"It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

Except when Scalia, Thomas, Kennedy, Roberts, and Alito are assigned to guard The Pearly Gates!

Posted by: Liam-still | February 10, 2011 3:07 PM | Report abuse

clawrence12 @ February 10, 2011 2:53 PM wrote "RChuckinDenton, unfortunately Ronald Reagan wasn't able to abolish the Dept. of Education -- no President gets 100% of want he wants accomplished -- as Obama is about to find out."

Correct me if I am wrong, but for all his TALK, I do not recall Reagan actually trying to abolish the Dept. of Education, even when the Republicans controlled the Senate (that is, actually try to get something through Congress). It was just a bone to throw to miscellaneous fanatics to get them to vote for him.

Posted by: AMviennaVA | February 10, 2011 3:12 PM | Report abuse

AMviennaVA, if I had to correct everything you are wrong about, I wouldn't be able to do anything else.

Posted by: clawrence12 | February 10, 2011 3:19 PM | Report abuse

There is an important point that is continually missed in this argument: government is synonymous with waste and the tax payers know it.

Yeah, we can talk about the macro economic issues of deficit, debt, spending and taxation but all of that ignores a fundamental source of taxpayer anger. Giving a significant chunk of our daily bread to gummint employees so they can waste it in obvious ways is a natural source of resentment. If my money is to be wasted, people think, then I should decide what frivolity best appeals to me.

My prediction is that the liberals commenting here will respond in a predictable way: the illegal, immoral, based on lies Bush wars are a waste of money. If you support those, then you have no right to complain.

Oh really?

Yesterday I received a copy of a letter sent by Kathleen (I've never met an abortionist I didn't like) Sebelius to the country's govenors. It is a treasure trove of double talk, but one items struck a chord. Here ya go. The three year weighted average error rate for claims processing by Medicaid is a whopping 9.4%. That means that almost one in ten of the claims paid by the gummint are inappropriate. That, according to Ms Sebelius, translates into a mere 33.7 BILLION that was incorrectly paid.

and yet the liberals here were outraged, outraged I say, when their demand that the "rich" fork over more of their hard earned money to the wastrels in DC and the state capitals.

33.7 BILLION wasted. Sebelius admits it. Would those nasty rapacious profit making insurance companies live with a 9.4% error rate in claims payments? Would the share holders allow that kind of money to be thrown away? Don't you think it might be because a private enterprise can't simply apply coercive force and confiscate more money from tax payers?

So instead of rolling up the sleeves and finding ways to reduce the cost of government many in America are simply demanding more from the citizens.

Why?


Posted by: skipsailing28 | February 10, 2011 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Next week the IBM Super Computer: Watson" is going to be a contestant on Jeopardy against the two best Jeopardy champions of all time.

It should be a lot of fun to watch, but of course not as much fun as the time Claw/AKA JakeD, and STRF appeared on Jeopardy, and got trounced by a head of cabbage.

Posted by: Liam-still | February 10, 2011 3:30 PM | Report abuse

skip-

cause, heaven knows the private sector *never* swindles anyone...

Posted by: ChuckinDenton | February 10, 2011 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Mubarak is finished, that was obvious some time ago. The bad news, the protesters used to just want Mubarak to step down, now they are saying they will settle for nothing less than Democracy.

Since there has never been Democracy in Egypt, it is not possible for Democracy to suddenly just appear. Will the people have the patience for yet another multi-year 'interim' period of police statehood? Who will be the next strongman, or will it be a Junta, like Myanmar? Scary.

Posted by: shrink2 | February 10, 2011 3:39 PM | Report abuse

clawrence12 @ February 10, 2011 3:19 PM wrote "AMviennaVA, if I had to correct everything you are wrong about, I wouldn't be able to do anything else."

In other words, you know I am right, but do not want to admit it. That's OK. I understand.

Posted by: AMviennaVA | February 10, 2011 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Mubarak is speaking to Egypt, "as a father to his sons and daughters." He promises to punish the people he sent to beat up and murder the protesters.

Posted by: shrink2 | February 10, 2011 3:47 PM | Report abuse

He won't quit. He is calling for free and fair elections in September.
What a disaster. He will loot the country for as long as the US of Israel will allow.

Posted by: shrink2 | February 10, 2011 3:51 PM | Report abuse

@chuck - skip's first sentence doesn't represent a thought. It doesn't really even represent an assertion. It's more akin to a tape recording.

It does not matter how often one references the actual figures on, for example, medical delivery and insurance systems in the nations of the western world where the US costs are higher and outcomes worse, the "government equals waste" tape recording comes out and the volume gets put on 11 and that's enough reality for some.

Posted by: bernielatham | February 10, 2011 3:55 PM | Report abuse

The Protesters are right. Getting someone like that Suleiman Psychopath in place of Mubarak, is not acceptable.

The entire Regime has to be removed from power. They are almost a carbon copy of the Baath Party in Iraq.

............................

The Great Day

Hurrah for revolution and more cannon-shot!
A beggar on horseback lashes a beggar on foot.
Hurrah for revolution and cannon come again!
The beggars have changed places, but the lash goes on.

William Butler Yeats.

Posted by: Liam-still | February 10, 2011 3:56 PM | Report abuse

so Mike, that's the best you've got? It is OK for the government to waste our money and demand more of it in turn because sometimes mere civilians "swindle" people? Is that it?

Really?

Let's talk vacuous shall we?

Here's the left's new slogan: Americans must pay more in taxes because Bernie Madoff screwed a bunch of people out of a bunch of money.

It won't fit on a bumpersticker but hey, its got a certain something, wouldn't you say

Posted by: skipsailing28 | February 10, 2011 3:58 PM | Report abuse

Republicans love to waste our money, on the likes of Halliburton, and Big Pharma.

It was Tom Delay that pushed through the law that forbade Medicare from negotiating lower Prescription Drug prices.

Posted by: Liam-still | February 10, 2011 4:02 PM | Report abuse

"The beggars have changed places, but the lash goes on"

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

Posted by: NoVAHockey | February 10, 2011 4:03 PM | Report abuse

How about - "Let's give Bernie Madoff and his friends another tax cut so they can ..."

Posted by: pragmaticagain | February 10, 2011 4:03 PM | Report abuse

No, AMviennaVA, you are wrong (as usual). Reagan tasked Terrel Howard Bell with dismantling the DoE. Legislation was introduced to get that started, but other priorities took over. Look up Simpson's paradox some day.

Posted by: clawrence12 | February 10, 2011 4:11 PM | Report abuse

The Bad News Is:

Hosni Mubarak said that he is going to remain in power.

The Good News Is:

Hosni Mubarak has promised the protesters that he is going to investigate, to find out who sent his Goons to behave like Goons, and go beat up and murder protester and reporters.

Hosni should be writing for The Onion.


Posted by: Liam-still | February 10, 2011 4:14 PM | Report abuse

They are now going to march to Mubarak's palace. This is going to get very ugly very fast. What will the military do now?

Posted by: pragmaticagain | February 10, 2011 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Of course people want more spending -- of other people's money. And only of other people's money. In other news, water is wet, and the Beatles are breaking up.

Polls like this are meaningless for that reason. Ask a question that means something -- how much more of YOUR money do you want to spend on X, Y or Z? Is there any doubt what the results would be?

Also ask whether people know, or even have a clue, how much "we" already spend on all these things. Answer: not hardly. Just like they don't have a clue how much "the rich" pay in taxes.

Posted by: quarterback1 | February 10, 2011 4:38 PM | Report abuse

@skipsailing28

"Yesterday I received a copy of a letter sent by Kathleen (I've never met an abortionist I didn't like) Sebelius to the country's govenors. It is a treasure trove of double talk, but one items struck a chord. Here ya go. The three year weighted average error rate for claims processing by Medicaid is a whopping 9.4%. That means that almost one in ten of the claims paid by the gummint are inappropriate. That, according to Ms Sebelius, translates into a mere 33.7 BILLION that was incorrectly paid."

Granted, I don't have a bunch of wingnuts sending me email so I haven't seen Sibelius' letter but when one gets Googly with it one finds things like this:

"The 2010 error rate for Medicare claims declined in 2010 and is on track for a 50 percent reduction by 2012, according to CMS. The error rate for Medicare Advantage also declined and a new component measure was developed and reported for the Part D program. CMS has also reported the first three-year review of the Medicaid error rate.

The decline is attributed to the Obama administration’s work to more accurately account for improper payments and a renewed focus on fighting waste, fraud and abuse. "

So yeah, there's still waste and fraud to be corrected but, slowly and surely, it's happening. Which is to say that (as was mentioned above) your knee-jerk "gov't = waste" response is meaningless, a hair-on-fire response common to irrational government haters. As was also mentioned above, it'd be interesting to see your poutrage directed at BigInsurance's wasteful ways - lobbying costs, exorbitant salaries for execs, and the waste inherent in any huge organization shoveling money around just to name a few. But I'm pretty sure that ain't gonna happen.

Posted by: notjenna1 | February 10, 2011 4:39 PM | Report abuse

Yeah Bernie, you may be just fine with the government wasting your money. Tell ya what, since your money means so little to you, why don't you pay my taxes too? I'd really appreciate it if you did.

I provided FACTS. These facts are sourced in the Obama admin itself. You cannot refute that. So instead you go back to plan B, snark.

It seems to me that the two responses I've generated thus far have basically refused to address this issue. Yet focusing on it could make everyone's life easier.

Let's try a little thought here. What if Medicaid actually improved their performance on claims process and saved, oh say 20 billion a year. that would mean that more money would be available for use elsewhere, like oh say paying down the debt and the government would need 20 billion LESS of tax increase.

Or Bernie is it that you just assume that all of our money belongs to the government and therefore we should just shut up, get to work and ignore the way it is wasted?

Shall we learn to sing spirituals? Will there be an underground railroad to free us from that slavery? to where would it lead?

Posted by: skipsailing28 | February 10, 2011 4:44 PM | Report abuse

Oh, the letter is real. I have it as a PDF. It is a matter of public record. I understand your doubt, and your need to engage in name calling but I assure you, the letter is the genuine article.

and I understand the almost visceral reaction to my opening statement. Liberals love government. But the fact remains, instead of demanding more money from the citizens, we should be demanding better performance with the money we've already given the government.

It is really a non partisan issue. The government, all governments waste money. I know that many don't believe that but many do.

Since we're celebrating the occassion of Mr Reagan's 100th, here's a quote;
"Government is like a baby. An alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other."

Yes, I believe that the waste in the medicare and medicaid programs can be solved quite simply: move from defined benefit to defined contribution.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | February 10, 2011 5:33 PM | Report abuse

Pdfs, can be linked to. Post the link.

Posted by: Liam-still | February 10, 2011 5:47 PM | Report abuse

clawrence12 @ February 10, 2011 4:11 PM: Again, I understand that you do not want to admit that I am correct. You posted "Reagan tasked Terrel Howard Bell with dismantling the DoE. Legislation was introduced to get that started, but other priorities took over."

As I said, Reagan used it to keep miscellaneous fanatics and other fools quiet. He did nothing to eliminate the dept. of Education.

Posted by: AMviennaVA | February 10, 2011 7:28 PM | Report abuse

A simple challenge to anyone who says we must reduce the deficit: What programs that are important to YOU are you willing to see cut? What taxes that YOU pay are you willing to see raised?

Everybody is saying that they want to see the deficit cut, but it is always "cut THEIR program, not MINE" and "raise THEIR taxes, not MINE". When everybody says that, the only things that we can get a majority to to agree on are such a tiny portion of the budget that they have no real effect. We have to make painful choices, and I don't mean painful for SOMEONE ELSE.

Posted by: jimwalters1 | February 11, 2011 7:36 AM | Report abuse

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