Fuzzy Math on Foreign Aid Shows Why Spending Cuts Are Difficult

According to a new poll, the average American thinks that 25 percent of the federal budget is spent on foreign aid (or, more accurately, government-to-government transfers). They would like it cut to about 10 percent.

The actual figure is under 1 percent.

As Aid Watch’s Laura Freschi points out, that means most Americans want to increase government-to-government transfers ten-fold from current levels while also cutting them in half.

That most people think like this is a major reason why cutting the federal government’s $3.5 trillion budget is so difficult. The issues that people get worked up about tend to be small potatoes, in budgetary terms.

Besides transfer payments to other governments, earmarks are another lightning-rod issue. But even if earmarks were abolished entirely, that’s only about 2 percent of the budget. It would put the smallest of dents in spending.

Entitlement spending is the single largest driver of current and future deficits. That’s where the battle is. Aid spending and earmarks are not threatening to bankrupt the country. Social Security and Medicare are. And those programs are extremely popular. No politician with an eye on 2012 would be willing to cut them.

The government has made promises it can’t possibly keep. But most people refuse to believe that. So they don’t. As a guarding mechanism, they instead make grand assumptions about how much things like transfer payments to other governments and earmarks cost.

3 responses to “Fuzzy Math on Foreign Aid Shows Why Spending Cuts Are Difficult

  1. Joshua Nichols

    I think it goes beyond popular misconception. I think sitting politicians COUNT on voters being driven by emotion about topics they don’t really understand.

    Consider the recent tax cut/not cut/compromise/etc. Republican politicians argued for months about “extending tax cuts for ALL Americans.” Virtually everyone who supported that plan would have kept less of their money under it than the democratic plan:

    Let’s say that 5% of americans make over $200k per year (the number is of course closer to 2%). That would mean that 95% of americans would be better off with the dem plan. Let’s ignore everyone who didn’t support it: If only 30% of the US were republicans who supported this plan, then that STILL would mean that almost 85% of the plan’s supporters would be worse off if it passed.

    I know we can’t all agree on the value of programs like Social Security and Medicare (which my disabled, single-mother-of-two sister is lucky to have), but are you seriously telling me that there are a lot of fiscal conservatives out there who so believe in trickle-down economics that they feel they should pay more taxes AND increase the deficit so that people making much more money than them can pay less in taxes?

  2. FighttheAmericanTaliban

    Social Security and Medicare, one-third of the spending, are completely paid for and do not contribute to the debt. They are full paid for with their own taxes. Do I need to repeat for the right winger nut balls among us?

  3. patrick atonna

    Hello McFly FighttheAmericanTaliban, If Social Security and Medicare were paid for by their own taxes, then why are they both scheduled to go bankrupt, yes both in the next ten years. Because they are not solvent. Which is why the current debate over the presidency needs to focus on the economy. Reagan was popular for believing in the principle that a rising tide raise all ships. With a shrinking economic pool (workers) and shrinking economic base there are less taxes to draw from to pay into these already negative sum equations. Get a clue and look at the WHOLE picture???? It is not that the rich, top 2%, don’t pay their fair share it is that the 55% that doesn’t pay any taxes, take TOO damn much.