Does anyone understand the federal budget?

I’m not sure if this is BBQ rant, or mundane & pointless. But I’ll start here.

I have a strong suspicion that the foment and unrest that gave birth to the Tea Party is based on complete & utter ignorance as to how the US government spends its money.

I think if you asked a typical Teapartier to draw up a pie chart allocating federal expenditure, it would look something like:

NPR: 15%
Abortions: 10%
Aid to furreners who hate us anyway: 10%
Grants for pointy-headed intellectuals to do stupid research projects: 10%
Welfare: 10%
Parks 'n highways 'n stuff: 10%
Defense: 10%
Medicare & Social Security: 5%
Waste: 10%

(I purposely didn’t check the math.)

And so it was easy to wind up a Tea Party candidate, and send him to Washington with a “mandate” to fix the mess.

I’d agree it was a mild rant but it is also very much pointless. I’d send it there.

This is high among the general public but may be correct or low for Tea Partiers.

I think Joe Citizen has little clue and I think the government (whtaever side of the aisle they happen to be on) is happy to allow that ignorance to continue. It allows them to make all sorts of assertions (e.g. saying CPB takes a bigger percentage than 0.01% when you look at its share of the discretionary budget).

Joe Citizen could get the information if they want. It is not all that hard to find but I doubt most care enough to bother and are happier with their delusions.

It’s a little frightening that we’ve sent an ignorant army to Washington to clash by night.

It’s encouraging that Paul Ryan has put Medicare on the table. I doubt if I agree with anything he says, but at least he grasps the problem.

His budget proposal (or framework, if you prefer) is actually very interesting and well thought out. I have no doubt it will be demagogued by the usual suspects, which is too bad because it’s a very workable solution to our huge problem.

I’m embarrassed to see that the TPM article linked by whack-a-mole makes the exact same point as my OP. Cross my heart, I thought of this all by myself.

Since tea partiers are likely to be Republicans or independents then Democrats they are more likely to be informed about the issues of the day than the average american See this survey and ones like it
Since political ignorance is rational and the severity of the agency problem with democratic government anti-incumbency movements like the tea party are one of the few means of accountability in the system.

That is an interesting survey.

One of the questions is pertinent here, though: “What percent of the budget is spent on Medicare”. And all parties and independents score equally abysmally on that question. However, only one party makes allocation of federal spending their raison d’etre.

Based on this CNN article I’d say the answer is ‘no’. :stuck_out_tongue:

And here is a perennial favorite on the SD…the military!


“In reality only 19 percent of the 2010 budget went towards military spending, according to 2010 OMB figures.”

Of course it is 58% of discretionary spending.

Lots of ways to spin these things.

Eventually, we’re going to have to renegotiate what is “mandatory” and what is “discretionary”. We’ll never get anywhere if we only discuss discretionary spending. And we’re really wasting time if we discuss tiny slivers of discretionary spending like Planned Parenthood and CPB.

And note that much of that is to Afghanistan and Iraq.

A bizarre level of ignorance. But be aware that many Americans are so innumerate that conceiving of a percentage with a decimal point (“0.5%”) might be beyond them. (It would be nice to see the exact phrasing of poll questions.)

And even allegedly intelligent right-wing Congressmen and Dopers have their blind spots, claiming for example that abolishing the Department of Education would yield a quick $100 billion win. I’m not sure whether they are unaware that much of the Education Dept’s budget is spent on … (are you sitting down? did you guess the answer?) … Education(!) … and would have to be made up by local taxes, or whether they just prefer an uneducated populace.

Sometimes I feel really discouraged. I like to think that people just have a different idea of what the Govt should and shouldn’t be doing, but in reality they have no fucking clue what it does now. Not only that, but things like how marginal tax rates work, the difference between taxes on revenue and profit, what historical tax rates were, and a host of other topics are not understood by the public. That’s why they elect people that say complete crap.

Does the general public know the US spends more than any other country on healthcare but our results are mediocre? Do they know that current tax rates are low versus recent history, or that SS taxes are capped, or that SS and Medicare taxes are only paid by payroll taxes, or that capital gains are taxed at a lower rate than other income? Do they know that rural communities receive more in Federal spending than they pay in taxes?

Sometimes I just want to call their bluff and cut almost all Federal spending on education, roads, healthcare, and agriculture and see how long it takes for the Red States to figure out that they just got fucked. If California could keep the money the residents pay in taxes and use it locally they would not have a budget problem.