The Federal Budget: the Public’s Priorities

This past week I’ve been finishing up reading Noam Chomsky‘s latest book, Failed States. I have had to slog through most of the book because it generally tends to be an overwhelmingly depressing read. Such is the nature of reading between the lines of US foreign policy.

The part of the book that really interested me (and kept me reading) was the the last chapter on “Democracy Promotion at Home.” This is definitely the best section of the book. I have often in the past resigned myself to being a hopeless radical leftist; a person whose social and political ideals will probably never even come to fruition in the United States (or perhaps even into popular discourse). There was however one survey of US popular opinion cited by Chomsky that gave me hope. The survey was conducted by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) and titled The Federal Budget: the Public’s Priorities.

In the study, conducted in March 2005, people were asked an array of questions about how they would change the proposed budget allocation. There are several amazing conclusions can be drawn from the survey:

  1. There is a very broad agreement that the military budget should be cut (on average by 31%)
  2. There is a consensus that much more money should be allocated to social programs
  3. The actual budget is essentially the opposite of popular opinion.

The full report in PDF format is available on the website. Here are some illustrative charts culled from the report.

Overall winners and losers in the budget changes:
Pipa Federal Spending Survey Winners Losers

Changes in social spending:
Pipa Federal Spending Survey Social

Changes in environmental spending:
Pipa Federal Spending Survey env sp

That last one astounded me. Here are the surveys finding results on that point:

By far the largest increase in percentage terms was for conserving and developing renewable energy. This amount was increased $24 billion, from $2.2 billion to $26.2 billion, an extraordinary increase of 1090%. This was also the area increased by the largest majority.

Perhaps there is hope after all.