Priorities: Yours, Mine, and the President's

Yesterday the team at National Priorities Project unveiled President Obama’s new budget on our all-new website. I had an interesting discovery while combing through those budget numbers. I found that the president’s spending priorities match pretty closely with the things Americans say they want. Of course the budget is complicated. But let’s say for a moment that it’s as simple as a public opinion polling question.



The Pew Research Center found that 62 percent of Americans want the president to spend more on education, despite concern over deficits. That was the strongest support for increasing any type of spending. And in a year of cuts, the president’s budget accomplishes it, increasing education spending in his discretionary budget by 2 percent relative to fiscal 2012. It’s one of the few items slated for an increase. Still, education only comprises around 2 percent of all federal spending, as it has for decades—but for now at least it’s moving in the direction most Americans want.

Two of the most costly federal programs are overwhelmingly popular. North of 60 percent of Americans want to protect Social Security and Medicare from any cuts, according to a Gallup poll. Together those programs comprise 37 percent of the president’s new budget. That means the vast majority of Americans at minimum are on board with more than a third of the president’s spending plan, even if they don’t realize it.

Two-thirds of Americans think we should raise tax rates on high-income earners to help reduce budget deficits, according to another Gallup poll, and the president thinks so too. His new budget lets the Bush tax cuts expire for families making more than $250,000, plus raises the tax rate on dividends from investment.

Americans also said they want the government to cut spending. The budget does that, too. Back in August President Obama and Congress agreed to cut spending in 2013 as part of the big debt deal. The president’s new budget reduces the overall federal budget in fiscal 2013 by 3.7 percent as compared to 2012. Certainly there are ways that the president's budget will disappoint many people. But it stands up remarkably well next to the priorities of most Americans.