Getting spending under control has long been one of the main goals that politicians express, but under united government, bipartisan majorities continually break with this message by supporting massive government expenditures. However, this disconnect is not restricted to Congressmen and Senators. Voters also show support for small government while supporting programs that add its size.

The majority of Republican voters agree with the message of shrinking government, and both want to get debt under control. However, voters in both parties also tend to support high rates of spending for specific programs. A 2017 Pew Research survey shows that voters are more aligned on spending cuts than what they may think.

With the exception of Pentagon spending, Republican voters are slightly more inclined to support program cuts than Democrats are, but the only area a majority wants to cut is foreign aid. Of course, the difference between overall support for spending reform and the general lack of enthusiasm for specific reforms is not new or surprising.

As long as elected officials proclaim one thing and do another when in office, voters will be under the illusion that getting our budget under control is possible without reforming any particular programs. Now more than ever, elected officials must be willing to make tough choices — and voters should know where they stand.