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December 2, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review March 10, 2011 4 Adar II, 5771

Four pinocchios for the American public on the budget

By Glenn Kessler




http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | "Poll: Americans confused by budget"
--Politico headline, March 2, 2011

The American public appears to be clamoring for a discussion about the size and scope of the federal government. But how can Washington have a serious debate when most Americans are ignorant of what is in the budget?

Yet another depressing survey was released that attests to the failure of most Americans to understand the basics of the federal budget -- and why there is a soaring budget deficit. Respected Republican pollsters Ed Goeas and Nicholas Thompson reported that 63 percent of those surveyed believe the federal government spends more on defense and foreign aid than it does on Medicare and Social Security. (That's wrong.)

A similar majority believes that problems with the federal budget can be fixed by just eliminating "waste, fraud and abuse" -- and that 42 percent of every federal dollar is wasted. "Voters do not casually agree with these untruths -- at least 40 percent strongly agree," the pollsters said.

This survey is broadly reflected by other polls, recently collected by analyst Bruce Bartlett. Among the gems he uncovered:

  • A Nov. 30 poll by WorldPublicOpinion.org found that, when people were asked what percentage of the federal budget goes to foreign aid, the average response was 27 percent. (The real number is about 1 percent.) The estimates were essentially the same for Democrats, Republicans and independents.
  • A Jan. 26 Gallup poll found 59 percent of people favor cuts to foreign aid, but a majority oppose cutting any other programs, including Social Security, Medicare and education.
  • A Jan. 12 Ipsos/Reuters poll found that 75 percent of people say foreign aid should be cut, but the only other programs that a majority of people favor cutting are the budgets of the Internal Revenue Service and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The Facts


Take a good hard look at the chart above. Or go to this nifty interactive web page on washingtonpost.com, which allows you to see what has happened to the budget over the last three decades.

Notice that foreign aid is so small in the above chart that it doesn't even merit a mention. While it's about 1 percent of the overall budget, it amounts to less than 3 percent of the dollars allocated year after year by Congress, known as the discretionary budget. Perhaps some people lump together foreign aid with military spending, since a lot of military dollars go to wars overseas. Certainly the military is a big part of the budget -- about 25 percent -- but that is not foreign aid.

In fact, compared to other wealthy countries, the United States is an absolute miser on foreign aid. The best way to compare budgets is by looking at how much is spent as a percentage of the country's overall economy, or gross domestic product. This 2008 list shows the United States as last among 22 countries, with 0.19 percent of GDP. The United Nations has set a target contribution rate of 0.7 percent, and the average country contribution was 0.45 percent. Some countries come close to donating 1 percent of GDP in foreign aid.

Nevertheless, House Republicans have targeted foreign aid for major cuts this year, with lawmakers even eliminating all funding for the U.S. Institute of Peace, which helps resolve bloody conflicts overseas. (One analyst has noted that the USIP's entire annual budget is equal to the cost of deploying one infantry platoon -- that's about 30 to 40 people -- to Afghanistan for a year.)

To some extent, politicians are to blame for some of the public confusion. The debate in recent weeks has focused on cuts in the discretionary part of the budget -- which is only about one-third of the government's $3.7 trillion budget -- and the tiny sliver of spending on foreign aid was a big part of that debate. For his part, President Obama, in his 2012 budget, highlighted cuts to relatively minor programs and avoided making proposals for reining in the cost of the big-ticket spending programs.

Look again at the chart. Much of the budget -- more than 40 percent -- is spent on social insurance, such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. The interactive graphic shows that spending in those programs have soared in the last 30 years (while foreign aid has essentially stayed flat). Projections show the spending in those programs will only increase, especially as more of the baby boom generation heads into retirement.

That's where the money is. Politicians should be honest about the real sacrifices that will be needed, by all Americans, to deal with the looming sacrifices necessary to bring down budget deficits. Cutting development aid in Africa really will not make much of a difference.

Interestingly, a recent study by the University of Maryland found that when people were actually given the facts about the budget, they could seriously understand and make choices about how to deal with the deficit.

In fact, the results upended some of the usual media stereotypes, with Democrats cutting spending more than Republicans -- and members of both parties agreeing to raise taxes. (Even after the survey, though, the respondents continued to have a misperception of foreign aid, with the median response being that it was about 15 percent of the budget and that it should be about 5 percent -- still much larger than the actual percentage).

The Pinocchio Test

No matter what rhetoric politicians use about the budget, people need to find out the facts in order to understand the costs, the trade-offs and the challenges ahead. Every year, when the president releases his budget, newspapers print pie charts showing how the money is spent. The budget is publicly available on the Web. There should be little excuse for not knowing the basic facts about how the U.S. government spends taxpayers' money.

Four Pinocchios

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in Washington and in the media consider "must reading." Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.


Comment on Glenn Kessler's column by clicking here. >

An award-winning journalism career spanning nearly three decades, Glenn Kessler has covered foreign policy, economic policy, the White House, Congress, politics, airline safety and Wall Street. He was The Washington Post's chief State Department reporter for nine years, traveling around the world with three different Secretaries of State. Before that, he covered tax and budget policy for The Washington Post and also served as the newspaper's national business editor. Kessler has long specialized in digging beyond the conventional wisdom, such as when he earned a "laurel" from the Columbia Journalism Review



Previously:

03/09/11: Obama and the White House's ‘halfway’ fixation with the budget

03/08/11: Foreign policy braggadocio on Libya and AIDS

03/07/11: Democrats keep misleading on claimed budget ‘cuts’

03/01/11: Mike Huckabee is on to something here, but jumped the gun

02/25/11: Harry Reid's illusory $41 billion in budget cuts


© 2011, Washington Post