The Post this morning has a sidebar that I can't find on line. It reports results from a Post-ABC poll asking people about government waste. The basic result is that people think half (or more) of the money spent by government is wasted.
Obviously I disagree, but why the result? It's partially the way the question seems to have been worded--just an open-ended question. If the same people had been asked by budget category: i.e., how much of the money spent on education is wasted? how much on defense? how much on social security? and the results weighted by the proportionate share of the category in overall spending the amount of "waste" would be much lower.
It's also a result of multiple definitions of "waste"--is it foolish spending of money on wise objectives or is it wise spending of money on foolish objectives? There's an article today on wasted spending in Katrina relief which would fall in the first definition. An anti-war blogger like George Buddy who posts the cost of the war on his site would say Iraq spending falls in the second definition .
But as an ex-bureaucrat I focus on the first definition and believe that government is much better than people believe. Of course Rummy and Bush say that Iraq is much better than people believe. Why--because the media never reports the good news, just the bad.