Americans’ Budget Priorities

President Bush this week threatened to veto a number of budget bills now before Congress because of some increases in domestic spending that Bush claims will add to the budget deficit. This is breathtaking chutzpah considering who is really responsible for today’s budget deficit after the budget surpluses of the Clinton years. It is also completely arbitrary for the president to single out some domestic spending increases for their effect on the deficit as opposed to, say, the incredibly expensive Iraq war that he continues to insist requires more American blood and treasure.

Moreover, the domestic spending increases that Bush is proposing to veto are in precisely those areas—education, alternative energy, job training, medical research, and veterans’ benefits—where the public would most like to see spending increases, as the Center’s Scott Lilly so pointedly notes in his latest column. Indeed, it’s uncanny how Bush’s veto will hit each and every one of the public’s top areas for increased spending, as demonstrated by the chart below from a budget exercise conducted by Knowledge Networks for the Program on International Policy Attitudes. 

This chart shows the top areas where a national sample of respondents, based on looking at an earlier Bush discretionary budget, wanted to see spending increased and by how much.

Wow. No wonder the most recent data show overwhelmingly that the Democratic Congress, rather than Bush, is trusted on how to handle the budget. As the chart below shows, just 32 percent think Bush can do a better job handling the federal budget, compared to 59 percent who trust the Democrats in Congress. The public is apparently well aware that Bush does not share their budget priorities. The president, however, as in so many other areas, seems unaware he is dramatically out of sync with the public.

 

Read Senior Fellow Scott Lilly’s take on the appropriations process: