Big Deficits, Bigger Expectations

Doug Pinkham, Public Affairs Council

Americans don’t much like Washington. And they’re not afraid to say so.

Only 1 in 3 has a favorable opinion of the federal government, the lowest rating in the past 15 years, according to a recent Pew Research Center poll. The 2012 Public Affairs Pulse survey says only 4 in 10 have faith in the government to solve the nation’s most important problems.

With federal deficits mounting and public trust eroding, this seems to be a perfect time to downsize the government. That is, in fact, what will happen if Congress doesn’t act to avoid major reductions under the sequestration rules mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011. You can also bet that any deal to avoid sequestration will still reduce the federal budget.

Yet Americans aren’t necessarily ready to live with a smaller government. A Harris poll revealed little support for reductions in the largest government programs, including Social Security, education and health care. In fact, more people wanted to increase spending for those programs rather than cut them. Only 4 in 10 tea party supporters wanted to see federal aid to education reduced.

The public also opposed cuts in highway financing, revenue sharing with states and cities, and federal job training. Only a handful of programs — like foreign economic and military aid — were considered expendable.

I’ll leave it to others to debate the economic impact of massive budget reductions, but there is no denying the fact that some level of cuts is inevitable. How will they occur? And will the public be OK with a government that does “less with less”?

To read the full article on the Public Affairs Council blog, click here.

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