We all have opinions about the federal budget and how it should be spent. Infrequently, those opinions are informed by some knowledge about where the money actually goes. It turns out that most people don’t have a clue. What about you? Here, take this poll/quiz and then compare your answers to (1) what other people said, in a CNN poll that asked about these same items and (2) compare your answers to the real answers.
Quiz is below the fold.
The questions below are from a CNN poll.
Think about all the money that the federal government spent last year. I’m going to name a few federal programs and for each one, I’d like you to estimate what percentage of the federal government’s budget last year was spent on each of those programs.
- Medicare — the federal health program for the elderly
- Medicaid — the federal health program for the poor
- Social Security
- Military spending by the Department of Defense
- Aid to foreign countries for international development and humanitarian assistance
- Pensions and benefits for retired government workers
- Food and nutrition assistance for the poor, including the program that used to be known as food stamps
- Housing assistance for the poor
- Corporation for Public Broadcasting funding for public television and public radio stations
- Federal funding for elementary, secondary and higher education
Go ahead and make your selections. Answers are below (as best I could determine them by spending 15 minutes Googling), scrambled around to help you avoid looking at them until you’re ready to compare them to yours.
6) 3.5%; 8) 1.5%; 5) 1%; 2) 7%; 3) 20%; 1) 14%; 10) 2%; 7) 2%; 9) 0.1%; 4) 20%
Some of these questions don’t seem ideal for me, for the purpose of determining whether people know enough to have an informed opinion about whether various parts of the federal budget should be cut or increased or whatever. For instance, people might have an informed opinion about the total amount of government aid to the poor, without knowing the breakdown of how much goes to food assistance, how much to housing, and how much to direct payments. Similarly, it seems less than ideal to ask about only the Department of Defense component of the defense budget, where it might be more relevant to ask about the whole ball o’ wax (including the Veterans’ Administration, and the defense-related parts of the Department of Energy, and the Department of Homeland Security, which together add a non-negligible amount).
At any rate, it is clear that most people in the U.S. have really ridiculous ideas about where the government spends its money. I hope this blog’s readers do a lot better; or, if you do worse, that you stay out of the debate!