Just 23% Realize Deficit Largely Due to Commitments Made in 1960s and ‘70s

Rasmussen Reports

Even though the last session of Congress was one of the biggest spending in history, very few voters are aware that most of today’s federal budget deficit is actually the product of congressional decisions made decades ago.

In fact, a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 23% of Likely U.S. Voters are aware that most of the current deficit is the result of spending commitments made by Congress in the 1960s and 1970s. Forty-nine percent (49%) incorrectly believe that’s not the case. Twenty-nine percent (29%) more are not sure. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

Government spending in America has gone up every single year since 1954, the year Elvis Presley recorded his first single. It has grown faster than the combination of population growth and inflation every year but one since 1965, the year the Beatles played at Shea Stadium.

Today, most federal spending goes to just three areas of the budget—national security, Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid—and changes made during the administrations of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon passed on budget challenges to those of us living in the 21st Century. Forty-eight percent (48%) of voters recognize the impact of these programs on the budget.

The Medicare/Medicaid system was established in 1965 while Johnson was in office, creating spending commitments that continue to challenge budget officials to this day. Nixon oversaw a revision in the benefit formula for Social Security recipients that has proven to be unsustainable despite several increases in Social Security taxes since his time in office. A faulty federal budget process allowed both Johnson and Nixon to pass programs with substantial long-term costs but little short-term budgetary pain while they were in office.

While the official debt ceiling is approximately $14 trillion, the total debt is actually in the range of $70 trillion. Fifty percent (50%) of voters recognize that the official figures understate the problem, and 64% think all liabilities should be included in the totals. The current system was set in place by Johnson in an effort to hide the cost of the Vietnam War and his Great Society programs….

…Generally speaking, voters across all demographic categories are largely unaware that financial commitments made by Congress years ago are the primary cause of the country’s staggering debt load. Republicans are even more skeptical: Only 16% think commitments made in the ’60s and ’70s are the reason the federal budget deficit is at record levels, a view shared by 29% of Democrats and 24% of voters not affiliated with either of the major parties…

Read the entire article at Rasmussen Reports.

Related: This article and graphics at FreedomWorks, A Tale of Three Budget Plans (or: A Picture is Worth a Trillion Words):

…Mr. Obama is running for reelection on a platform of permanently higher taxes and spending, with deeper Medicare cuts than Republicans have proposed over 10 years, and trying to pass it all off as “fiscal prudence with compassion.”  …

Update: States face $1.26 trillion shortfall in funds to pay retiree benefits

The state funds that pay pension and health-care benefits to retired teachers, corrections officers and millions of other public workers faced a cumulative shortfall of at least $1.26 trillion at the end of fiscal 2009, according to a new report.

The study, to be released Tuesday by the Pew Center on the States, found that the pension and health-care funding gap increased by 26 percent over the previous year. Pew officials said the growing shortfall was driven by inadequate state contributions, an aging population and market losses that accompanied the recession.

Although investment markets have recovered substantially since the period covered by the report, its authors warn that states still face an increasing burden from retiree costs that are beginning to crowd out critical services…

H/T The Daily Caller

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