In this article, Bruce Bartlett provides facts that portray the ignorance of Americans in matters of government spending, and this ignorance is speculated to lead to more budget deficit. In general, Americans largely agree that the government should reduce its spending on foreign aid but relatively low reductions in spending on other programs. The article displays ignorance in government spending, both at the federal and state level, by either understating or overstating expenditures in certain programs. Bartlett (para 14) also portrays the ignorance among citizens on the sources of revenue for the government.
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The author of this article utilizes data from opinion polls collected by different firms at different times to prove his claims. The various firms include YouGov, Gallup, CNN/Opinion Research, Ipsos/Reuters, Rasmussen, WorldPublicOpinion.org, and Pew. The polls were conducted on different dates between March 15, 2010, and February 1, 2011. Most people with the government spent less on culture and arts other than reducing spending on foreign aid.
Reducing spending on other programs such as education and Social Security, and Medicare among others was highly opposed. Polls indicate plausible divisions on amounts that should be spent on defense. When trying to explain the above observations, the article explains that there is ignorance in what makes up government spending. For instance, it is indicated that only a small number of citizens (40%) know that national defense constitutes much of federal spending.
It is indicated that there are underestimates or overestimates on national defense expenditures, education, interest, and Medicare. A good majority of Americans indicated underestimations in Medicare and Social Security and national defense spending and overestimates in foreign aid spending and education.
This article reports that some Americans are of the view that the government is not spending appropriately, otherwise, it would be able to support all programs and, at the same, reduce the deficit. At the state level (with the case of California), most people are not aware that K-12 education takes up the largest percentage of state revenues. Instead, it is mainly viewed that the highest state spending goes into prisons and corrections.
Such misconceptions are also indicated in state spending on higher education and human services. Regarding the source of state revenue, there is unawareness that personal income tax is the largest source of revenue, with most people thinking that sales tax is a giant contributor to state revenue. There are overestimates on motor vehicle fees as a source of state revenue. Overestimates are also reported in tax burden at the federal level. Most Americans are unaware that only a small percent of income makes federal income taxes. Bartlett (para 16) concludes by stating that having the right information does not necessarily lead to better judgment on government spending, although it appears to be the best way of dealing with deficit reduction.
This article elaborates on the views of Americans regarding government spending. For sure, it is evident that there is a parity of correct information regarding government expenditure and sources of revenue. Most Americans would want to see a reduction in the deficit. However, the opinions of the citizens on which programs should spend less are largely misinformed, and thus following the opinions may not realize a reduction in government spending. This article raises can highlight the factual programs that spend much of government revenue and, thus it can be relied upon to reduce spending and to inform Americans. It is my opinion that the availability of accurate information will lead to more founded decision-making on government spending and hopefully reduce the deficit.
Bartlett, Bruce. Voter ignorance threatens deficit reduction. The Fiscal Times, 2011.