Americans Distrust Government, Disapprove of Congress

A recent New York Times/CBS News poll shows that 89 percent of Americans surveyed distrust government to do the right thing, and that 84 percent disapprove of Congress. Interestingly, only 46 percent disapprove of President Obama’s job performance, a potential wedge that the Democratic Party is likely to exploit in the upcoming presidential election. The poll’s results are a warning to the far right fringe that crazy is no longer a viable strategy.

Additionally, Democratic class warfare tactics appear to be working extremely well. 70% of respondents agreed with the assertion that Congressional Republican policies favor the rich. Roughly two-thirds also objected to tax cuts for corporations, even though America’s corporate tax rate is among the highest in the world. Another two-thirds favored the government increasing income taxes on millionaires.

The poll also showed the majority of respondents have fallen for the Democratic Party’s patently false assertion that Republicans have made no effort to pass jobs legislation. Seventy-one percent of respondents believe that Congressional Republicans do not have a clear plan for creating jobs; this is despite the fact that the House has passed 15 bills, all of which  are currently languishing in the Senate.

However, the poll also uncovered some more alarming findings — namely that two-thirds of those polled believe that wealth should be distributed “more evenly in this country”. This finding begs the question of whom they think should be in charge of this redistribution, particularly since so many of them distrust the government.

These poll findings showed sharp ideological divisions, with 90% of Democrats, two-thirds of independents, and just over one-third of Republicans agreeing that the distribution of wealth in the United States should be more balanced.

Expect America’s cognitive dissonance to increase as we head into the next election.

About Sean Patrick Hazlett

Finance executive, engineer, former military officer, and science fiction and horror writer. Editor of the Weird World War III anthology.
This entry was posted in Business, Media, Policy, Politics, Socialism, Taxes, Unions and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Americans Distrust Government, Disapprove of Congress

  1. Scott Erb says:

    Of course, you’re assuming that a belief that taxes and laws unfavor the rich reflect class war. It could in fact be an accurate belief based on reality. Given our millionaires pay the least taxes in the advanced industrialized world, are the best off, and are not suffering from the recession, taxing them more at this time can make sense without it being part of class war. You yourself have even expressed concerned about the GINI index, so wanting a more even distribution of wealth is a view many can have. My view is that markets don’t work right with out adequate state regulation, and markets inherently advantage “winners” by giving them more resources and information, making it more likely that they can win the next round, and ultimately create a class of “winners” for whom the game is tilted in their favor. This leads to inequality of outcomes, but more importantly, of opportunities. To me you don’t try to address unequal outcomes because those are not inherently bad – some people deserve much more than others. However, we can address deficiencies in equal opportunity. Education, health care, legal protections, access to information, transparency, social supports, etc. Moreover, I’ve come to believe that while government must fund this, this is best done at the level of building community and acknowledging social responsibility of anyone benefiting. I think this would be cheaper and more effective. But acknowledging the existence of a problem is not necessarily class warfare — the problem may be real!

    • I definitely agree that it is a problem, but I also think that the increased involvement of government will only make things worse. For all its flaws, capitalism is the least unfair way to allocate resources. The rules of the game are relatively clear, and if you play by them you will eventually win. In contrast, government involvement, in my opinion, results in increased patronage and corruption. The result is far less likely to result in fair outcomes.

      One area where I disagree with conservatives is on the inheritance tax. Why not target that and tax it more aggressively? Providing benefits to the next generation merely because of their birth right does help to perpetuate a skewed wealth distribution.

  2. To some extent this is the same phenomenon we see when people are asked do they support raising taxes on the rich. Even the sort of rich do not see themselves as such, as there just isn’t enough revenue to “make the rich pay” (ignoring the growth killing effects of taxes) to balance the books. More than a few Democrats have seen their careers end raising taxes thinking they were safe, only to face the voter’s wrath because they did not want their own taxes raised. Of course we would all like to see a less lopsided distribution of wealth. It’s how you do it, the more rational being raising the lower end of the curve by wide spread growth, not taxing the rich. I only hope Democrat strategists actually drink this cool-aid.

    • Gordon,

      Great to hear from you again!

      “I only hope Democrat strategists actually drink this cool-aid.”

      I think they will, and I think they will get away with it so long as the Democrats hold off on increasing taxes until after the election.

    • Scott Erb says:

      But an economist will tell you that spending cuts harms growth more than tax increases (since tax increases don’t all come out of money that would go directly to stimulate the domestic economy) so if one criticizes tax increases for that reason, the same criticism must be made about spending cuts. Right now taxes in the US on the wealthiest are at historic lows, and the lowest in the industrialized world. Meanwhile wealth distribution is the most unequal since the 1890s. I think we’re reaching a point where the information is clear enough that the public won’t mindlessly go against any tax increase any any group. Moreover, I think any look at the problems we face make it clear that both sides have to compromise. The great Republican and Democratic compromise in the past was “lower taxes and increase spending.” Now both have to be willing to go the other way:

  3. Alan Scott says:

    Gordon ,

    Class warfare never works economically, but because a large percentage of any population is ignorant, it will always work politically . The problem for Democrats is they have been in charge lately, plus many Democratic politicians are rich . It is a little harder sell this time around, except for the street warriors of OWS .

    • I essentially agree with this. I do think there are three factors that work against the Democrats in 2012.
      1. Polls consistently show strong majorities do not trust government or believe government offers a solution to their problems (essentially a small c conservative view) with is not good for the Dems proposing more government.
      2. The hidden trap in Occupy Wall Street is they are proposing very radical left positions which in time will become public and the Dems who are getting tight with them are exposing themselves to the kind of guilt by association which takes time to solidify.
      3. In presidential election years, regardless of the rhetoric the voters tend to view the party in the white house as the party in power and they get the benefit or blame for the situation.
      Unless I am totally off base the American body politic remains right of center. Indeed part of the Dems 2010 problem was they misread the 2008 election as a left mandate when it really was a mandate to replace George Bush and a Republican Party which had let power over ride its principles. At least that’s my two cents.

  4. dedc79 says:

    I tend to think the polls showing low congressional approval are less significant than they are made out to be. If you’re a democrat you’re probably not all that happy with Congress right now. If you’re a Republican, you’re not all that happy with Congress right now. But the Democrats and Republicans probably couldn’t agree less on what is wrong with Congress. So if you add together dissatisfied Republicans and dissatisfied Democrats that gets you a long way toward an 84% disapproval for Congress

  5. Both distributions, wealth and income, are post hoc, improper, statistical measures entirely inappropriate for developing public policy. Fred’s income is neither diminished nor increased by changes in Sally’s income changes. Perhaps, similarly with wealth, although at least there discrete items of wealth are counted. Over decades, Mike, Mary, Montgomery, Mildred, and Monroe may each migrate to a different percentile. A person’s wealth or income is a dependent variable – dependent on his or her hard work training, ambition, and the content of his moral character. Income and wealth are not “distributed” in the first place. Therefore, “redistribution” is oxymoronic.

    • Scott Erb says:

      You leave out position in society. The best predictor of one’s future wealth is the wealth and status of the parents. If you work hard, are of good moral character, and have ambition your chances of becoming wealthy are less if you are born poor. But you may be a bit lazy and unambitious, but still have a good shot at decent wealth if you are born wealthy. Public policy can affect wealth distribution as well. Sweden, which is considered more competitive than the US (a more friendly business climate) also has policies which greatly reduce wealth disparity, even though some are very rich and other relatively poor.

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