Health care spending http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/healthcare_spending
A quick look at spending http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/tea_party.php
There are quite a few problems leading to the ignorance of the general public in regards to present day realities of government and policy. I am in no way attempting to excuse anyone from blame, yet the process to which this point has been reached is understandable.
The present political structure is the leading cause of problem.
Regardless of cause, or the idealism behind it- regardless of whether or not it was the 'right' course to take- the sheer amount of power the central govt has amassed over time is the leading cause of the problem today.
Income tax- When the income tax was put into effect, it was for good reason, but now we are paying the unseen consequences. When the income tax was instated, the sheer amount of money that shifted from the people and concentrated into the Fed govt. caused a shift in the balance of powers of the state and Fed govt. The central govt grew exponentially. It is only natural for an organization to protect its own expansion, and natural that those who could potentially benefit from that power to gravitate to the politicians wielding it. Today, from the individual viewpoint, central govt and its decisions seem beyond our control- it is far away and inexorable as the tides. Sure we can vote for our congressmen and senators, but when the fed govt holds the purse strings, the states tend to go with the flow. The people no longer vote for what the govt should be doing, but what the govt can do for them. Fewer politicians run on what they, the state, and the govt should be doing, but on what they can give the people. For decades, politicians have trotted out experts testifying that our current course will be successful in the long run, and ensuing politics are about how to spend the money, not whether or not it should be spent at all.
The result is the public becoming less and less interested in the over all condition of the fed govt. The experts have everything well in hand, and their interest is in what they can get from the govt now. (I love the irony)
Another factor is the prominence of such news in our news sources. Todays news in the US is very sensational, to maximize profit, and the overall state of affairs from an economic view is not popular, even if it may be the most important piece of national news. Again, far more popular is how the money is spent- because the effects are immediate. So our fair, balanced, and unbiased news focuses mainly on news pieces that make them money and fail to report on the most important news in the nation.
In recap- the fed govt is huge and spends billions of dollars as quickly as I drink coffee- so why should I care exactly how they spend it? It isn't my decision. It is enough that I know the general areas it spends money in and that I vote for what affects me and my family today and tomorrow.
This problem can be analyzed all day long, but I think the solution is simple. If the people had more incentive to be informed and to vote conscientiously, they would. I think this could be achieved by returning the balance of central/state power more to the side of the states. The people would immediately be more concerned with the use of that power as they would have a more immediate effect on that power. This would require a restructuring of our current tax structure. A simple solution, but not so simply carried out. I would predict that our current system will have to collapse under its own weight before the people have enough incentive to fix the problems in govt today. (And to educate themselves as to the functioning of govt)