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GOP Candidates and Spending Cuts

August 1, 2015 in Economics

By Chris Edwards, Emily Ekins

Chris Edwards and Emily Ekins

You may remember Texas Governor Rick Perry’s brutal stumble in the November 2011 Republican presidential debate. He launched into a bold statement about his budget-cutting strategy, but then he couldn’t remember the third federal department that he wanted to abolish: “Commerce, Education and the um, what’s the third one there …”

It was a damaging mistake, and we bet Perry will be better prepared this time around. But are the other 2016 presidential candidates ready for budget questions, and do they know what federal spending they want to cut?

It’s a competitive race, so they’d better bone up. Record numbers of Americans think the federal government is too big (64 percent), too powerful (60 percent) and too wasteful (51 cents per dollar of spending). Additionally, more than two-thirds of Republicans and independents think that balancing the budget ought to be a top priority. Tax hikes are out of the question for the GOP, so candidates need to focus on spending cuts and reforms.

Polls show that people have a much more favorable view of state and local governments than the federal government.”

Politicians usually shy away from spending cuts, but polling reveals that getting Washington out of state and local activities is popular across the political spectrum. Reviving federalism is a way for GOP candidates to push common-sense downsizing. A 2013 Cato/YouGov poll showed that large majorities of Americans prefer state rather than federal control over education, housing, transportation, welfare, and health insurance. Just 25 percent of Americans, for example, think that the main decisions over education ought to be made at the federal level.

There is an opportunity here for Republicans in 2016 because there has been a shift in public opinion in favor of federalism or decentralization. More Americans want political decisions that affect their lives to be made closer to where they live—where their voice can be heard. The Cato/YouGov poll asked the same questions as a 1973 Harris poll about which level of government ought to take the lead on different policies. Since 1973, support for federal leadership over state leadership has fallen from 49 to 38 percent for health insurance, 39 to 31 percent for welfare policy, 29 to 22 percent for transportation policy, and 28 to 18 percent for housing policy.

Why do most Americans support shifting power out of Washington? Polls show …read more

Source: OP-EDS