New Poll: Public Rejects Bush's Budget, Fiscal, And Foreign Policy Priorities
If the American public were allowed to develop a federal budget, would their priorities be the same as the Bush Administration and the GOP?
Definitely not. In a poll by the widely-respected University of Maryland’s Program on International Policy Attitudes released just now, Americans would cut defense spending, specifically on Iraq and new weapons systems (and nuclear weapons in particular), and would spend more on education, job training, development of renewable energy, veterans, military personnel needs, and support for the UN.
And the public wanted deficit reduction also at the top of the list.
But the poll also showed that the American public overwhelmingly does not support the Bush unilateral foreign policy and wars of liberation, and supports anti-terror efforts aimed at self-defense.
First, where does the public want to see cuts?
Defense spending received the deepest cut, being cut on average 31%--equivalent to $133.8 billion-- with 65% of respondents cutting. The second largest area to be cut was the supplemental for Iraq and Afghanistan which suffered an average cut of $29.6 billion or 35%, with two out of three respondents cutting. Also cut were transportation (cut $12.6 billion or 18%), federal administration of justice ($8.7 billion or 21%), and space research and science ($1.2 billion or 5%). Majorities of 53-58% of respondents favored cuts in each of these cases.
As the defense cuts proposed were large, respondents were asked in a separate set of questions what areas they would want to cut. Majorities favored cutting the capability for large-scale nuclear wars, the number of nuclear weapons, and spending on developing new types of nuclear weapons. (Asked how many nuclear weapons the US needs to have on alert, the median response was just 150.) Capabilities for large-scale naval wars and large-scale land wars were both reduced by 58% of respondents. Majorities also favored cutting spending on new types of naval destroyers (55%), bombers (53%), and submarines (52%) and nearly as many cut the inventory for each of these items as well.
Yet respondents weren’t anti-military, they just wanted the budget to focus on the troops and a true anti-terror program, and not a PNAC agenda of using the American military as an army of world liberation.
However respondents particularly preserved spending for troops including for salaries (82%), the overall number of military personnel (61%) and development of new equipment for infantry and Marines (64%). Spending relevant to fighting terrorism was preserved such as for intelligence (62%) troops for special operations (58%) and advanced communications systems (69%). Also preserved was spending on capabilities for conducting peacekeeping (58%) fighting insurgents or guerrillas (56%) and work on new types of high-technology missiles and bombs (55%).
The variation in feelings toward US troops and other parts of the defense establishment were expressed in another pair of questions. Asked to give a rating on a scale of 1 to 10 the average rating for US armed forces was a very warm 8.0, while the Pentagon received a lukewarm 5.4.
And what did the public want increased?
The largest increases were for social spending. Spending on human capital was especially popular including education, which was increased $26.8 billion (39%) and job training and employment, which was up $19 billion or a remarkable 263%. Medical research was upped on average $15.5 billion (53%). Veterans benefits were raised 40% or $12.5 billion and housing went up 31% or $9.3 billion. In most cases clear majorities favored increases (education 57%, job training 67%, medical research 57%, veteran’s benefits 63%), though only 43% of respondents favored increases for housing.
In percentage terms, by far the largest increase was for conserving and developing renewable energy - an extraordinary 1090% or $24 billion—which also had the highest percentage of respondents (70%) favoring an increase. The environment and natural resources received a more modest increase of 32% or $9 billion, with 42% of respondents favoring increases.
Yet the deficit was very important with respondents, who wanted some of these budget savings redirected to deficit reduction, and they were willing to pare back the Bush tax cuts to help.
Sixty-one percent of respondents redirected some funds to reducing the budget deficit with the mean respondent reallocating $36 billion (Democrats $39.4 billion, Republicans $29.6 billion), though they were not told anything about the size of the deficit. Besides reallocating funds to the deficit reduction, a clear majority (63%) favored rolling back the tax cuts for people with incomes over $200,000. However, when the tax revisions were not specifically limited to the wealthy, only 48% favored letting the tax cuts expire and 45% wanted them extended. Those who perceive that the deficit is large (62%) allocated more to lowering the deficit ($48.4 billion), and were more supportive of rolling back the tax cuts (68%) and allowing the tax cuts to expire (57%.
Perhaps even more startling in the survey was the public’s reaction to the Bush foreign policy and attitude to the UN and world community. It appears from this poll that the public wants to work with the world community instead of going it alone in the world, and would even put more money towards the UN and UN peacekeeping.
In contrast to the large cuts to defense spending, in the budget exercise, respondents made substantial increases to forms of soft power. The UN and UN peacekeeping received one of the largest percentage increases—going up an average of 207% or $4.8 billion. Spending on economic and humanitarian aid went up an average of $3.2 billion or 23%, military aid went up $4.7 billion or 58% and the State Department went up an average of $3.2 billion or 53%. However, in all these cases it was an enthusiastic minority (25-39%) that was driving these increases.
When asked how the US should deal with its military commitments to protect other countries, 69% said that “the US should only spend enough to protect itself and to join in efforts to protect countries together with allies or through the UN.” Only 17% thought the US should spend enough to protect other countries on its own and only 11% said the US should only protect itself and not other countries.
When given the chance to put together their own budget, this poll indicates that the American people want more money spent on:
- the troops and veterans, and a true anti-terror effort;
-education and job training;
-developing renewable energy, weaning themselves from oil;
-working with other countries and the UN;
-protecting ourselves and working with allies to protect others.
If given the chance, the American people would:
-cut defense budget and weapons systems;
-cut spending for Iraq and Afghanistan; and
-reduce the deficit with these cuts.
In other words, it is Bush and the GOP, and not the Democrats who are out of touch with the American people. An opposition strategy can be developed from this quite easily, if the Democrats would develop the spine to do so.