In an Aug. 28 letter “Put a ceiling on terms,” Dave Clark rails against the deficit and Congress and suggests cutting foreign aid and congressional salaries. If it were only so simple.
Americans consistently overestimate how much we spend on foreign aid, assuming it’s around 25 percent of the budget. Actually, with a $3.5 trillion annual budget, foreign aid is only around $35 billion or around 1 percent. Given annual deficits in the $600 billion to $1 trillion range, that doesn’t amount to much.
Public broadcasting and Big Bird, that favorite target of Republicans, gets about $450 million, around 0.1 percent, barely latte money.
To actually reduce the deficit without increasing taxes, you would need to go after the big three, each of which gets close to 25 percent of the entire budget: Social Security, defense, and Medicare-Medicaid.
The colossal misunderstanding by Americans about their own budget is a major impediment to rational policies. Simple moral fables, fear mongering and hysteria are getting us nowhere.
Beware politicians who begin with “the government is just like a family.” It isn’t.
As citizens, we owe it to our country to have some minimal understanding of our actual budget. I found the foreign aid numbers on the Internet in under five minutes. Simply Google “U.S. budget” and “pie chart” to get the basics about spending.