We Love Our Government Spending

Posted by | February 13, 2011 20:29 | Filed under: Top Stories

by Stuart Shapiro

Greg Sargent highlights one of the fundamental paradoxes in American politics.  While the American public is concerned about budget deficits and government spending, there are few or no government programs they actually want to see cut.

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.

This paradox has never been more important than it will be in the next two months.  As the House GOP prepares to cave to its extreme elements and force a government shutdown over decreasing spending by tens of billions of dollars, the job for the Democrats is clear.  The message the public needs to hear is how each program that people value is being affected.  This isn’t an abstract discussion about economics.  The GOP cuts will have real victims and there will be millions of them.  The trick is making sure these millions know that they are victims.

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Copyright 2011 Liberaland
By: Stuart Shapiro

Stuart is a professor and the Director of the Public Policy
program at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers
University. He teaches economics and cost-benefit analysis and studies
regulation in the United States at both the federal and state levels.
Prior to coming to Rutgers, Stuart worked for five years at the Office
of Management and Budget in Washington under Presidents Clinton and
George W. Bush.

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