Why do USA citizens constantly misunderstand government budgets?

A 2011 CNN Opinion Research survey demonstrated how inaccurate Americans are in estimating what percentage of the federal budget is spent in various programs. Some politicians pretend that cutting funding to public broadcasting could significantly decrease federal expenditures. Chad Stone wrote in US News and World Report in 2012:

At the federal level, most of the budget goes toward defense, Social Security, and major health programs, as the chart below shows. Programs that most Americans oppose cutting—Social Security, defense, education and Medicare (which accounts for almost two-thirds of the Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP slice of the pie)—plus interest on the debt account for about three out of every five federal dollars. Only about 1 percent of the budget goes toward foreign aid. Knowing these facts, would Americans still think that more than half the federal budget is waste that could be cut away without seriously harming government programs they value?

The Friends Committee on National Legislation estimates that 40% of the federal budget in 2014 was devoted to militarism.

On Sunday, October 18, the Augusta Chronicle, in two good articles, nevertheless partially contributed to this national misunderstanding. It placed an article about members of Augusta’s Board of Commissioners using $4,300 in gas allowance money on the front page, and it placed an article about the military contractor running nearby Fort Gordon going more than $104 million over budget on the first page of Section B.

It seems as if the magnitude of the spending was in inverse relationship to the position of the article in the paper.


Preventing Pandemic Influenza and Moral Responsibility for Good Government

I’ve been listening to The Fatal Strain by Alan Sipress. He claims that public health professionals believe that an outbreak of influenza will become a pandemic unless very specific measures are implemented. These include (my layman’s summary) effective isolation of the sick, quarantine of those with whom they have come into contact, delivery of TAMIFLU doses to everyone in the area of the outbreak, strict control of entry and exit from the region, provision of public health workers, lab personnel and equipment to process the samples necessary to plan and calibrate these interventions and building a reservoir of trust among the general population which would engender cooperation. You can read scientific articles on this subject.[1][2] Continue reading