In presenting the Trump administration’s budget for FY 2018 and beyond, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney claimed that this budget is a ‘taxpayer’s first’ budget, meaning that it was formed to meet the priorities of the American taxpayers, consistent with President Donald J. Trump’s repeated affirmations, during the campaign and in his inaugural speech, that this administration would be directly guided by the people’s priorities.

However, the president’s budget, like his earlier ‘Budget Blueprint,’ is remarkably out of step with the public’s priorities as revealed in various surveys conducted by the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation (PPC) in conjunction with Voice Of the People. Both organizations do not take a position on this issue or lobby on any legislation.

The most dramatic feature of the president’s new budget is the sharp cuts in spending on poverty programs especially to SNAP benefits (more commonly know as food stamps) and Medicaid. Such programs are sometimes presumed to be unpopular with taxpayers because they benefit a minority of Americans.

However, when PPC presented respondents with the average SNAP benefits for the average recipient living alone, 81 percent (including 66 percent of Republicans) proposed raising the benefit, with the majority raising it by 43 percent.

The Medicaid expansion program under the Affordable Care Act is a major target of the Trump budget. However, 64 percent favor Medicaid expansion for their state, including 62 percent in the states that have not accepted it. Support among Republicans was lower, though, at 43 percent.

“It is easy for the Trump administration to assume that, because they were elected, that their budget priorities are consistent with those of the public,” said PPC Director Steven Kull. “However, substantial research shows that a real ‘taxpayers first’ budget would look quite different from the one that they are proposing.”

Proposed spending levels in the Trump budget are equally out of step with the budget that a large representative sample of voters made up when they were presented authorized discretionary spending levels for 2017 and allowed to make their own budget. While majorities did concur with Trump’s proposed cuts to subsidies to agricultural corporations, they did not agree with his cuts to education, medical research, pollution control, public housing, or the size of his cuts to the State Department and AID.

They did not agree with his increases to military spending (preferring a $39 billion cut to a $54 billion increase), or to increases to Veterans affairs and homeland security.

Perhaps most striking is the gap on revenues. Large bipartisan majorities do agree with his proposal to repeal the ‘carried interest’ provision that allows investment fund managers to have their income taxed at a preferential rate. But his proposals to eliminate the estate tax or to give owners of pass-through-entities a preferential rate are rejected by more than six in ten in both parties. While Trump has called for reducing corporate taxes and taxes on capital gains and dividends, majorities (though not a bipartisan ones) favor modest increases.

Trump has called for cuts to income taxes for higher earners. But nearly two thirds of voters (including a slight majority of Republicans) favors at least a five percent increase in the effective tax rate for incomes over $200,000.

The survey on the federal budget was conducted March 8–16, 2017. The sample of 1,817 voters was provided by Nielsen Scarborough from its sample or respondents, recruited by mail and telephone using a random sample of households. The margin of error was (+/-) 2.3 percent.

The survey on federal poverty programs was conducted November 11–December10, 2016. The sample of 7,128 voters was provided by Nielsen Scarborough from its sample or respondents, recruited by mail and telephone using a random sample of households. The margin of error was (+/-) 1.2 percent.

The full report on the PPC budget survey can be found at:
http://vop.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Federal_Budget_2018_Report.pdf

The budget survey questionnaire can be found at:
http://vop.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Federal_Budget_2018_Quaire.pdf

The public release of the full PPC survey results on federal poverty programs is forthcoming.


In Unique Survey, Voters Make Their Own Federal Budget, Cut Deficit Over $200 Billion

As anticipation for President Donald J. Trump’s first budget release in the next few weeks reaches a crescendo, there is much debate about whether cutting the deficit should be a priority for the administration. Apparently most American voters think it should be. In a unique survey in which respondents made up their own Federal budget, majorities proposed a combination of spending cuts and revenue increases that would reduce the deficit for 2018 by at least $211 billion. There were partisan differences, but Republicans and Democrats did agree on $80 billion in deficit reductions.

In the survey, initiated by the non-partisan Voice of the People and conducted by the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation (PPC), a representative sample of 1,817 voters were presented discretionary spending for FY 2017 (broken into 31 line items), and sources of general revenues, actual and proposed. They were then given the opportunity to modify both spending and revenues, getting feedback as they went along about the effect of their choices on the projected deficit. Respondents were not instructed to reduce the deficit, and were able to both increase or decrease spending or revenues.

Overall, majorities cut spending a net of $57 billion. While both Democratic and Republican members of Congress are planning for increases in spending on national defense for 2018, this was the area that received the biggest cut from the public– majorities cut it by $39 billion. Other significant cuts were for subsidies to agricultural corporations ($5 billion), intelligence agencies ($4 billion), homeland security ($2 billion), the State Department ($2 billion) and the space program ($2 billion), plus smaller trims in other areas. The one area to be increased was the development of alternative energy and energy efficiency, which was increased by $2 billion (a 100% increase).

The biggest changes, though, were on the revenue side, which were increased a total of $154.2 billion. The biggest source of revenues ($63.3 billion) arose from increases in personal income taxes for higher earners. Those with incomes over $100,000 saw their taxes go up 5 percent, while those with incomes over $1 million had increases of 10 percent.

“Clearly Americans are concerned about the deficit and are ready to make some tough choices to bring it down—more than Congress is even ready to consider,” said PPC Director Steven Kull.

Other major increases came from an increase in taxes on capital gains and dividends from 23.8 percent to 28 percent ($22 billion), a new transaction fee on financial transactions of 0.01 percent ($20 billion), a 5 percent increase on corporate taxes ($17 billion), a tax on sugary drinks of $.05 an ounce ($9 billion), an increase in the estate tax ($7.8 billion), a fee to banks who have large amounts of uninsured debt ($6 billion), and repeal of the ‘carried interest’ tax break for fund managers ($2.1 billion).

There were significant partisan differences. Republicans only cut $5 billion from defense, while Democrats cut $91 billion. Republicans cut $9 billion from education, while Democrats increased it $3 billion. Republicans cut environmental spending by $6 billion, while Democrats raised it by $1 billion. Most Republicans did not join in on increases to corporate taxes, estate taxes, and taxes on sugary drinks.

Nonetheless, Democrats and Republicans did converge on $80 billion in deficit reductions, including $63.2 billion in revenue increases and $17 billion in spending cuts.

Overall, Democrats made the largest reductions to the deficit of $306.5 billion, with $96 billion in net reductions to spending and $210.5 billion in revenue increases. Republicans made total deficit reduction of $134.2 billion, with $65 billion in spending reductions and $69.2 in revenue increases.

In the survey, respondents went through an online process called a ‘policymaking simulation’ that gives the users information and seeks to put them in the shoes of a policymaker. The content was vetted in advance by Congressional staffers from both parties and other experts to assure accuracy and balance.

The sample was provided by Nielsen Scarborough from its sample or respondents, recruited by mail and telephone using a random sample of households. The margin of error for the sample of 1,817 voters was (+/-) 2.3 percent.

The full report is available online at http://vop.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Federal_Budget_2018_Report.pdf.

The questionnaire is available online at http://vop.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Federal_Budget_2018_Quaire.pdf.


President Donald J. Trump announced that he will make a decision this week on whether to have the United States formally withdraw from the international agreement on climate that the U.S. signed in Paris in 2016. Voice of the People (VOP) President Steven Kull says Mr. Trump should consider the fact that seven-in-ten Americans support U.S. participation in the agreement when making this decision.

“Americans today express great frustration with government because they believe that leaders pay little attention to the public’s views when making important decisions that will affect the lives of citizens. President Trump was elected on a promise that the people would have much more influence in his administration than in previous ones, and the American people are watching to see if he will follow through on that commitment,” said Kull.

VOP is a nonpartisan organization that does not take a position on policy issues, but does encourage policymakers to take public views into account.

American public support for the Paris agreement was revealed in an in-depth study initiated by VOP and conducted by the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation in April 2016. In the national survey, a representative sample of 5,975 voters were given a briefing on the issue, including the fact that the deal involves the United States adopting the goal of reducing greenhouse gases by about 2 percent a year.

Respondents also evaluated strongly-stated arguments for and against U.S. participating in the agreement—the argument in favor was found more convincing. Asked for their final recommendation, 71 percent approved of the United States adopting the 2 percent reduction goal as part of the international agreement. This included a slight majority of Republicans (52 percent) and an overwhelming majority of Democrats (89 percent). 

The survey also included samples in eight different states, ranging from very “red” to very “blue.” Similar majorities approved in all states including Oklahoma (69 percent), Texas (70 percent), Florida (71 percent), Ohio (66 percent), Virginia (72 percent), California (73 percent), Maryland (80 percent), and New York (76 percent).

Other more recent polls have found similar results. A December 2016 poll by Yale University found 69 saying that the United States should participate in the “international agreement in Paris with 196 other countries to limit the pollution that causes global warming.”

A March 2016 Quinnipiac University poll found 63 percent saying that it would be a bad idea to eliminate funding for “international climate change programs.”  And a January 2017 ABC News/Washington Post poll found just one in three supported the idea of “Withdrawing from the main international treaty that tries to address climate change.”

A report on the VOP study can be found at: http://vop.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/EE_Report.pdf




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