In a piece at TheAtlantic.com, Derek Thompson has an illuminating chart about the biggest misconceptions Americans have about the federal budget:
Foreign assistance plays prominently:
1) Americans are famous for overestimating our international aid. One study found that the average American estimates that a quarter of the budget — more than Social Security, or Defense — goes to aid abroad. This is why, when asked about cutting the deficit, an outsized number always suggests that we should immediately start slashing foreign aid to save money. Of course, this would be a bit like wiping your brow with a kerchief to fight a fever. Aid is less than one percent of our total budget, but three-fourths of Americans in the Zogby poll think it’s at least six times higher.