Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Confusion, Bad-Faith, or Both - Debts and Puppies

When it comes to reducing government debt, Americans tend to love the idea, but the answers they give when asked detailed questions betray confusion, bad-faith, or both. Kevin Drum:
The Economist asked if they'd rather tackle the federal deficit by cutting spending or raising taxes, and the runaway winner was cutting spending, by a margin of 62% to 5%. So what are we willing to cut? Answer: pretty much nothing.

As you can see, there wasn't one single area that even a third of the country wanted to cut back on. Except ... foreign aid ... [which] "makes up less than 1% of America's total spending."

Beyond that, there were only four areas that even a quarter of the population was willing to cut: mass transit, agriculture, housing, and the environment. At a rough guess, these areas account for about 3% of the federal budget.
By and large, Americans want government debt eliminated, but they don't want to pay more taxes to achieve it. They support "cutting spending" as a rousing slogan, but not "cutting spending" as a definite reality. This betrays confusion, bad-faith, or both.

The last time I posted on this topic, another blogger accused me of bad-faith, but the structure of this poll eliminates the slender thread of plausibility on which he hung his criticisms: note how The Economist poll expressly permits the respondent to indicate a desire for reduced spending in some, none, or all of the categories.

Wanting debts eliminated is fair enough. Wanting debts eliminated without a plan for doing so is akin to wanting a puppy without a plan for feeding or cleaning up after it. It indicates -- shall I repeat myself again? -- confusion, bad-faith, or both, and whichever of these it may be, there are numerous elected figures and paid gas-bags who make careers from exploiting and perpetuating it.

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