A majority of Americans would rather see higher taxes on the wealthy before cuts are made to public services such as food safety and border security, according to a survey released Monday by a major federal employee union.
“Some political rhetoric would have you believe that Americans today have an ‘austerity at any cost’ view of the federal budget,” Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said in a statement. “The fact is that most Americans, when asked about specific services, believe the government should invest more in providing such services.”
Two-thirds of the respondents in the survey by the polling firm Ipsos Public Affairs said they agreed with the statement, “Congress should raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans before cutting funding for public services such as food and drug safety and border security.”
Kelley acknowledged that naming popular programs may have generated more public support than a more generic phrase such as “cutting federal government.”
But she said naming programs that many Americans depend upon reminds the public about what could be lost by major cuts to the federal budget. “We want people to make that connection,” Kelley said in a conference call with reporters after the poll was released. She said many other federal programs would garner similar support.
According to the survey, 86 percent of respondents want to see more federal resources committed to veterans assistance, 72 percent supported more funding for border security, 69 percent wanted more resources for food safety and 58 percent wanted more money for nuclear safety programs.
“Regardless of party affiliation, respondents believe in the importance of adequate resources and manpower for vital public services and the need for the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share to retain those services,” Kelley said.
The survey was done as part of an NTEU public education campaign to bolster the image of federal employees at a time when budget cuts loom as Congress and the administration grapple with the deficit.
Only 40 percent of survey participants were aware that federal employees have already contributed to deficit reduction through a two-year pay freeze and increases in retirement contributions by new hires.
The cuts already amount to $75 billion, according to the NTEU. “Federal employees are looked at too often as the piggy bank,” Kelley said.
The survey was conducted during the first week of August with a randomly selected sample of 1,000 adults 18 and older across the country who were interviewed by telephone using land lines and cellphones. The margin of error was plus or minus three percentage points.
The NTEU represents 150,000 employees in 31 agencies and departments.