Although other polls, like this one from CBS, show that Americans are not particularly concerned (10 percent) about deficit spending and the national debt, a Financial Times/Harris Poll shows support in the United States and the five richest European Union countries for cuts in government spending to reduce deficits. As reported by Tony Barber (subscription only):
Asked if public spending cuts were necessary to help long-term economic recovery, 84 per cent of French people, 71 per cent of Spaniards, 69 per cent of Britons, 67 per cent of Germans and 61 per cent of Italians answered Yes. In the US, 73 per cent of Americans agreed. ...
Asked if they preferred public spending cuts or tax rises as a way to reduce budget deficits and national debts, strong majorities in the five EU countries as well as the US were in favour of spending cuts.
Similarly conservative views on public expenditure emerged when people were asked if EU governments were right to engage in large-scale deficit-spending after the 2008 crisis. In all five EU countries, a majority – ranging from 68 per cent in France and Italy to 54 per cent in the UK – said the governments were wrong to have done so.
But, as can be seen from the chart below, the spending that people want cut most is for foreign aid and the military. There was practically no support for cutting public spending on health care and education.
While Americans and the British seem to want to put the onus for spending cuts on development assistance, with defense a distant second, there's a problem with that approach. The UK spends about one-fourth as much on civilian foreign aid as it does for its military. In the United States, we appropriate a pittance in civilian foreign aid, one of the lowest per capita amounts in the developed world. The total foreign affairs budget, which includes civilian aid and all the administrative costs of diplomatic and consular affairs, is calculated at $52 billion for FY 2011.
That clocks in at 1/20th as much as military spending for fiscal 2011 ($895 billion). This works out to $103 per American for civilian foreign aid, if you figure "aid" generously, and $2896 apiece for the military. Adjusted for inflation, that military budget for the coming year will be the largest the U.S. has seen since World War Two.
In case you're not in that nearly half the U.S. population which believes foreign aid comprises one of the two largest government spending areas, take note. Merely cutting the way overdue, way over-cost fleet of F-35 jet fighters by 13 percent would cover an entire year's budget for foreign affairs. And that would still allow U.S. acquisition of 2100 of the fifth-generation fighters. But that's as likely as trimming away the billions being flushed away in Afghanistan.
Instead, despite what rank-and-file Americans prefer, we'll wind up adopting majorly screwed-up priorities and let teachers and a few hundred thousand other public employees lose their jobs.