Tuesday, May 2, 2017

What Americans Want From Their Government and What They Are Getting

With the Trump Administration boosting spending on defense and cutting spending on other discretionary line items and the fact that Washington has once again hit the latest debt ceiling, a recent poll by Morning Consult and Politico provides us with an interesting snapshot of where American taxpayers want their hard-earned dollars spent.  The poll was conducted on March 16 to 19, 2017 with a national sample of 1927 registered voters and the results were weighted to correct for race/ethnicity, gender, educational level and region.

Let's open with this question to give us a sense of what issues are most important to American voters:

"Thinking about your vote, what would you say is the top set of issues on your mind when you cast your vote for federal offices such as the U.S. Senate or Congress".

Among all voters, the result was as follows:

Economic Issues - 29 percent
Security Issues - 20 percent
Health Care Issues - 18 percent
Senior's Issues - 14 percent
Education Issues - 7 percent
Women's Issues - 5 percent
Energy Issues - 3 percent

Obviously, the current economic situation in the United States is quite important to American voters, particularly given the long-term joblessness of millions of former workers followed by security and health care issues.  

With that in mind, let's skip to the section of the poll that covers government spending options and look at the areas that are of greatest concern to American voters.  Here is the question asked by Morning Consult:

"Please indicate if you think the government should be spending more, spending less or spending about the same amount as it currently does for each of the following:"

1.) National Defense/Military:

More - 51%
Less - 18%
About the same - 22 percent
Don't know/No opinion - 9%

A slight majority of those polled believed that the U.S. government should be spending more on the military and national defense.   Here is a screen capture showing how Donald Trump is doing just that:

It is interesting to see that, in Donald Trump's proposed discretionary budget for fiscal 2018, defense spending will consume 56.6 percent of the total budget. 

2.) Military Aid to Other Nations:

More - 16 percent
Less - 52 percent
About the same - 21 percent
Don't know/No opinion - 11 percent

The United States actually invests significantly in military operations in other nations; in fiscal 2015, a total of $5.647 billion was spent on foreign military financing, over half of which was spent on funding Israel's military machine ($3.1 billion).  That said, the $5.6 billion in foreign military aid is rather insignificant compared to the total Department of Defence proposed budget of $582.7 billion for fiscal 2017.

3.) Health Care:

More - 58 percent
Less - 15 percent
About the same - 16 percent
Don't know/No opinion - 11 percent

Let's start by looking at the Trump budget's proposed spending on Health and Human Services as shown here:

An overwhelming majority of Americans believe that more needs to be spent on health care; despite that, Donald Trump proposes to cut spending on Health and Human Services by $15.1 billion or 17.9 percent to $69 billion.  

Now, let's look at non-discretionary spending on health care in America.  According to the Centres for Medicare and Medicare Services (CMS), National Health Expenditures (NHE) grew to $3.2 trillion in 2015, up 5.8 percent from the previous year, accounting for a whopping 17.8 percent of GDP.  Medicare spending totalled $646.2 billion and Medicaid spending grew to $545.1 billion.  NHE is expected to grow at an average rate of 5.6 percent per year over the decade from 2016 to 2025, rising to 19.9 percent of GDP by 2025.  Here is a graphic showing proposed spending on Medicare and Medicaid for the period between 2015 and 2017:

According to the CMS, Medicare outlays will grow from $695 billion in fiscal 2016 to $1.3 trillion in fiscal 2026 and the average monthly enrolment will expand from 57 million beneficiaries in fiscal 2016 to 75 million in fiscal 2026.  Congress and the Oval Office will have little choice in the matter with an aging population; either spending will have to rise or services will have to be cut. 

4.) Education:

More - 60 percent
Less - 13 percent
About the same - 17 percent
Don't know/No opinion - 9 percent

Again, an overwhelming majority of Americans believe that the government needs to spend more on education.  That said, Donald Trump's budget proposes that $9 billion or 13 percent be cut from the Department of Education, bringing the budget down to $59 billion as shown here:

Obviously, there is a significant difference in priorities between Donald Trump and American voters when it comes to education unless, of course, you want your child to attend a charter school. 

Both Donald Trump and American voters have made their priorities quite clear; while they both generally agree on the big ticket item, defense, there is significant disagreement on education and at least one aspect of health care.  As well, with rising spending on mandatory Medicare and Medicaid required over the coming decade at the same time as the debt passes the $20 trillion mark like it doesn't even matter, American voters will soon find that they cannot have their cake and eat it too.  Something will have to give.

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