In my last post, I discussed how Romney’s proposed cutting of funding for NPR is a drop in the bucket. You could eliminate all federal funding for NPR for a year, and it wouldn’t balance the budget for one day. I also wrote about my surprise that, in a poll last year, only 27% of Americans knew that federal funding for public broadcasting was less than 1% of the total federal budget.
In poll after poll, one of the issues that concerns Americans the most is the federal debt. It keeps increasing each year by leaps and bounds. For the last several years, the yearly deficit has exceeded $1 trillion. This means that the government is spending over $1 trillion more each year than it takes in from tax collections.
So Americans say they want a balanced budget. But unfortunately, most Americans do not really understand what that would entail. Most Americans do not really know what makes up the federal budget. It makes it easy for people like Romney and Obama to demagogue the issue (Romney probably more so).
Here is a pie chart of a breakdown of federal spending for FY 2011. The numbers can vary slightly depending on the source you use. There are some items in the budget that can get grouped in different categories. Also, as any libertarian in his right mind knows, the amount listed for defense is really military spending. It has little to do with defense, as a large portion of military spending is spent on making war and empire building. But although there are slight variations between sources, the following is a reasonable summary of the breakdown.
Medicare and Medicaid made up 23% of the budget. Social Security was 20%. So-called defense spending was 19%. Interest was 6%. So between just these things, that is about two-thirds of the entire federal budget. If none of these things are touched, then you would basically have to eliminate the rest of the entire budget to get somewhere close to a balanced budget.
This means that everything else would have to be eliminated. This would include federal funding for food stamps, unemployment checks, foreign aid, education, energy, agriculture subsidies, roads, airports, housing, government employees, the Post Office, and thousands of other things. While much of this might seem appealing to libertarians, how many Americans are going to agree to a balanced budget if it means getting rid of almost the entire federal government, aside from the military, healthcare spending, and Social Security?