Public's budget priorities differ dramatically from House and Obama: study

When it comes to the federal budget, the public is on a different page than either the House of Representatives or the Obama Administration – with a different set of priorities and a greater willingness to cut spending and increase taxes – concludes a new analysis by the University of Maryland's Program for Public Consultation (PPC).

This new analysis compares the House and administration budget proposals with those produced by a representative sample of U.S. adults. These public budgets were part of an innovative study released last month.

While there were some partisan differences in the magnitude of spending changes, two thirds of the time, the average Republican, Democrat and Independent in the survey agreed on the items that should be cut or increased.

  • Defense: Public favors deep cuts while the administration and the House propose modest increases.
  • Domestic: Public favors substantially more spending on job training, education and pollution control than either the House or the administration.
  • Level of Cuts: On average the public made a net reduction in spending of $146 billion – far more than either the administration or the House.
  • Taxes: The public also showed readiness to increase taxes by an average of $292 billion – again, far more than either the administration or the House.
"Clearly both the administration and the Republican-led House are out of step with the public's values and priorities in regard to the budget," said University of Maryland School of Public Policy researcher Steven Kull, who conducted the study and directs the Program for Public Consultation (PPC). "Our respondents would more than double funding for job training and cut deeply on defense."

While the time frames of the three budgets are not the same, the comparison still reflects substantial differences in priorities and approaches used by the respondents, the House and the administration, Kull added. The public's response was based on the projected budget for 2015, while the House budget and President Obama's were relative to figures for the current fiscal year.

"The budget allocations represent a clear expression of values and priorities, even if the time frames differ," Kull said.

PPC is a joint program of the Center on Policy Attitudes and the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland.
Unlike conventional polls, PPC research "consults" with the public – presenting respondents information on policy issues, followed by a range of options to address them. In this case respondents were presented the discretionary budget, with descriptions of each program, and allowed to make changes.


  • DEFENSE: On average, the public cut defense spending by 18 percent, reducing it $109 billion. In contrast, the president's proposal increases defense spending by four percent and the House two percent.
  • JOB TRAINING, HIGHER EDUCATION: The public increased job training 130 percent, while the House cut it 47 percent, and the administration cut three percent. For higher education, the House cut 26 percent, the administration increased by nine percent, and the public would nearly double current spending with an increase of 92 percent.
  • ENERGY, ENVIRONMENT: The House bill cut the Department of Energy's work on renewable fuels and efficiency, by 36 percent. This contrasts with the administration's 44 percent increase. The public went even further with a 110 percent increase. While the House cuts the Environmental Protection Agency's by 39 percent, and the administration by 13 percent, the public would increase it by 17 percent.
  • NASA, SCIENCE RESEARCH: On average, the public cut the space program 17 percent, while neither the administration nor the House made significant changes. The administration and the public propose modest increases for scientific research, while the House cuts it by 12 percent.
  • FOREIGN AID: The public cuts spending for foreign aid meant to serve strategic purposes (Economic Support Fund) by 23 percent and military aid 15 percent. The administration cuts the Economic Support Fund nine percent, the House six percent; neither makes significant cuts in military foreign aid.

    For more altruistic forms of aid, the public makes little change overall, but shifts funds around – increasing humanitarian aid by 18 percent, cutting development assistance 14 percent and leaving spending on global health essentially unchanged. The president cuts humanitarian assistance eight percent, while increasing global health funding 11 percent, and increasing development assistance 12 percent. The House cuts humanitarian assistance 17 percent, global health six percent and development assistance 18 percent.

  • TRANSPORTATION: The administration calls for big increases in federal spending on highways (53 percent), air travel and roads (36 percent) and mass transit (109 percent). The House cuts mass transit 27 percent. The public cuts highways nine percent, air travel and roads seven percent, but leaves mass transit essentially unchanged.
  • PUBLIC: On average, respondents increase revenues by $292 billion. The largest portion comes from income taxes: majorities raise taxes on incomes over $100,000 by five percent or more, and for incomes over $500,000, by 10 percent or more. Majorities also increase corporate and other excise taxes. For the estate tax, a majority (77 percent) favors increasing tax rates at least to 2009 levels (taxing estates over $3.5 million at a 45 percent rate). Only 15 percent of respondents support the recently passed estate tax levels ($5 million at a 35 percent rate).
  • ADMINISTRATION, HOUSE: The Obama Administration holds to its position that the Bush-era tax cuts for incomes above $250,000 should be allowed to expire, and now proposes this for after 2012. By 2015 this would generate $97.2 billion in revenues. The House leadership has so far not made any proposal to increase tax revenues and has favored making the Bush tax cuts permanent.

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More information: A complete report on the new analysis is available online:
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Mar 03, 2011
I think neither the government nor the public really gets it.

We do need to tax the wealthy, a LOT. We also need a special "circus clown" tax for actors, singers, atheletes, and other entertainers who make obscene amounts of money. Often the public doesn't even have control over it, because big companies pay advertising which in turn goes to pay these people's salaries and even additional endorsement incomes.

Nobody on this earth deserves a million dollars per year to sing, act, or play a sport. Nobody. I don't care if you're Michael Jordan, Roger Federer, or anyone.

These people make tens or even scores of millions per year.

Charlie Sheen is a lunatic. He makes an insane 2 million per episode and somehow things he "deserves" 3 million per episode.

The NFL starters are making something like 15 million per year to play a ball game, and now they "demand" even more.

The owners should fire every one of their greedy asses, and make new teams with people who are reasonable.

Mar 03, 2011
Heck, even the second string NFL players often make more money in a year or two than most people make in a decade or more.

I agree with the tax statements above, except I would add a third increase.

All money in excess of the first million for personal income should be taxed at 90%.

If someone needs more than a million dollars per year to live like a GOD then they are just too damn stupid and wasteful to deserve to have it.

Mar 03, 2011
Since >50% of the public pay no income taxes, why shouldn't they support more taxes on the minority that does pay taxes and create wealth?

BTW, no one is FORCED to watch Charlie Sheen's TV show or the NBA or the NFL or the MLB or....

Ever hear of the XFL? They are no longer in business. No one watched.

Mar 03, 2011
BTW, no one is FORCED to watch Charlie Sheen's TV show or the NBA or the NFL or the MLB or.

I don't watch Charlie Sheen's show at all, it's nothing but juvenile perversion most of the time anyway the few times I have accidentally clicked on it to see what it was about, etc.

I also hardly ever watch NFL, and haven't watched an entire MLB or NBA game in a very long time: ten years or more I'm sure.

What we have hear is a basic principle that an entertainer should not have more income than an actual skilled employee or even a laborer.

The actors are making up to 40 years worth of mean income for ONE or two DAYS worth of work? And now demanding a 50% raise... That's absolutely insane.

Most of the cost of your cable bill goes to pay for programs you never watch, and never would watch, so the networks (and consequently the actors, singers, and athletes,) make money off you, directly or indirectly, whether or not you watch that particular show.

Mar 03, 2011
Since >50% of the public pay no income taxes, why shouldn't they support more taxes on the minority that does pay taxes and create wealth?

The wealthy do not create wealth, you fool.

They are wealthy because they "legally" steal from other people on both ends of transactions, by over charging and under paying.

It is also not even true that the lower 50% don't pay taxes. Everyone I know pays taxes except a few people, and I don't even "personally" know anyone above the mean except my sister and her husband.

Anyone above about the lowest 20% pays a net tax due to sales taxes, and all the fees for everything from automobiles to postage, which wealthy people aren't very concerned with, because a $20 or $500 fee is chump change to a millionaire or even a half-millionaire, but to normal people its a week or half week's pay check.

Poor people don't pay income taxes because they don't have enough to afford to pay taxes.

Mar 03, 2011
Even Earned Income Credit for poor families barely covers the costs of the basic taxes and fees that they pay for everything.

Anyone who owns a piece of land, and certainly a slab foundation home, pays property taxes, permit fees(tax).

Then there's "tax title and license" (and inspection stickers,) for owning an automobile.

Then there's postage for sending a check to pay a bill.

Then there's sales tax, etc.

A mean income or sub-mean income family (above the bottom 20%, but below mean,) spends over 30% of their income on taxes, whether you are aware of it or not.

You have:

sales tax: 9%*
Income Tax: 15%
Social Security tax: 6.5%*
Self Employment tax: If applicable
Property Tax: thousand(s) per year, Varies
Other taxes fees: up to a few thousand per year

* since my generation will never see social security money back, it is not a retirement system for us, but a pure TAX which will benefit us not one cent.

Total: 30.5% plus a few thousand dollars per year.

Mar 03, 2011
To the socialist QC, where do you buy the products you need to survive if you believe everyone in business is stealing?

Mar 03, 2011
Small "one or two crew" sub-contractors also have to pay 13% worker compensation tax, the same as the "big boys" who complain so much about this, which is completely devastating for people who are "on the edge" who are somewhere between an "employee" and a "small business" in their own right. All told, these people end up paying around 40% taxes (if they are single an don't have children, and maybe a net of 25% to 30% even if they do have children they can claim for child tax credits and deduction,) and they only make about 40k per year.

It's simply BULLSHIT any time somebody claims the lower 50% in this country doesn't pay taxes.

Mar 03, 2011
To the socialist QC, where do you buy the products you need to survive if you believe everyone in business is stealing?


Everyone who wants some sort of fairness and decency is automatically labelled a "scare word" and dehumanized.

Mar 03, 2011
When you're an anarchist, everyone else is a socialist.

Mar 03, 2011
Since >50% of the public pay no income taxes
Like retirees, homeless, the physically and mentally disabled.
why shouldn't they support more taxes on the minority that does pay taxes and create wealth?
How about because that minority holds 90% of the wealth of the country?
Ever hear of the XFL? They are no longer in business. No one watched.

Yeah, because the socialist NFL was much more well received.

Mar 04, 2011
Poll data should be taken with a heavy dose of caution, as always.

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