As noticed by the gang at Capital Gains and Games, a new Gallup poll shows Americans think half of Federal spending is wasteful. As they point out, “waste” isn’t defined in the survey, and could mean the following:
- Money used for a wasteful purpose?
- Spending on a project that will have a negative economic return?
- Appropriations for something you think is not the government’s responsibility?
- A program that could be implemented more efficiently?
- Benefits paid to people you think aren’t legally eligible?
- Benefits paid to people you think shouldn’t be eligible?
- A program that is working well but you think has outlasted its usefulness?
- Any or all of the above and anything else you can think of?
I think what it means for various individuals is beside the point. The fact that a nation thinks 50% of its spending is wasteful, in whatever sense, shows a profound disconnect between lawmakers and citizens.
In other words, it reveals modern American politics’ unrepresentative (and of course undemocratic) nature. I can’t imagine 50% of ancient Athenians saying their spending was wasteful, since they were the ones allocating the funds. The same goes for the early American colonies.
Some degree of cynicism is expected, but not this much.