Published by the Concord Coalition, there is a timeline for the federal budget process. Already, the Senate Budget Committee missed its April 1st deadline:
While the good news is that all of us want less spending, the bad news is what we think we should cut.
Shown as the blue line, 60 percent of us would tell our Congress that overall we spend too much:
Looking at the specifics, though, takes us to a problem. Asked to consider specific spending categories, most people–69 percent–are most worried about “huge” amounts spent on assistance to other countries. However, the amounts are not huge. Representing less than one percent of federal spending, foreign aid could be entirely erased and it would not make a difference:
Our Bottom Line: Public Choice Theory
The Congress has an education problem. If it wants spending cuts, and they care about the politics, it appears that their alternatives are foreign aid and the space program.
This pickle facing the Congress takes us straight to public choice theory. Explaining the behavior of our lawmakers, public choice theory applies economic basics to legislative decision making. It uses incentive, cost, and tradeoffs to show how our elected representatives’ quest to maximize utility results in votes that perpetuate their self-interest. As a result, how they vote can depend on reelection rather than wisdom. It can be calamitous when their constituents are misinformed about federal spending.
We could say that federal spending is a “political challenge” and a “math problem.” Each has a different correct answer. Each is the reason for the delay in the federal budget procress with which we began.
My sources and more: Thanks to the Conversable Economist for alerting me to the APNORC survey. It reminded me of recent budget blogs from the Concerd Coalition. Then, the AP had a survey summary and Econlib, more on public choice.