According to this Boston Globe article, How facts backfire, people are not persuaded by facts, and this does not bode well for the future of democracy as people’s perceptions (and voting decisions) are unaltered by “evidence”. In one experiment researchers ask people to guess how much the government spends on welfare and how much they should spend. One group is told the “correct” answer of 1% ahead of time, while the other one is not …
There are also some cases where directness works. Kuklinski’s welfare study suggested that people will actually update their beliefs if you hit them “between the eyes” with bluntly presented, objective facts that contradict their preconceived ideas. He asked one group of participants what percentage of its budget they believed the federal government spent on welfare, and what percentage they believed the government should spend. Another group was given the same questions, but the second group was immediately told the correct percentage the government spends on welfare (1 percent). They were then asked, with that in mind, what the government should spend. Regardless of how wrong they had been before receiving the information, the second group indeed adjusted their answer to reflect the correct fact.
Apparently some ideologues are unpersuaded by facts, but others manipulate them to justify their agendas. Looking at US Government Spending, lets find out what government welfare spending is …
If one excludes about $987,400,000,000.00 dollars in social security/retirement, and excludes another $1,046,600,000,000.00 dollars in education, and excludes another $1,090,200,000,000.00 dollars in health care expenses, and includes only federal spending leaving out about another $200,000,000,000.00 dollars in state spending. That leaves about $557,000,000,000.00 dollars in the welfare category, which is about 15% of total federal-only spending, and about 8.3% of total government spending including the states.
However, if one digs down into the sub-categories of the welfare category and excludes another $194,000,000,000.00 dollars in unemployment, and excludes another $77,000,000,000.00 dollars in housing, and excludes another $186,000,000,000.00 dollars in “social exclusion” (which sure looks like welfare, but lets give them the benefit of the doubt). That leaves about $99,000,000,000.00 in the “Family and Children” category. Which would be about 2.6% of federal-only spending, and about 1.5% of total government spending including the states, which in theory could be rounded down to 1%.
So in theory it could indeed be argued that the correct amount that government spends on welfare is 1%, but it could be better argued that facts, statistics, and semantics are being manipulated using a pointless definition of “welfare” to associate it with all entitlement spending in general and confound people who correctly and intuitively know we live in a world where entitlements have run amok.
The article is right about one thing. Some people (including the mainstream media) are not persuaded by facts, and the future does not bode well for democracy (not to be confused with liberty).