Just 28% of Americans hold a favorable view of the federal government.  Favor in the federal government has sunk to a low water mark since its high of 81% in 2001.  It’s not about government per se, since both state and local government enjoy much higher favorability from both parties.  When President Obama arrived in 2009, government had a 61% favorability from Democrats and a 24% favorability from Republicans.  Those scores fell to 41% and 13% today.  

Several factors may account for the loss of faith in government. 

Government was key in fixing the financial recession.  Much of the repair was done swiftly through an automotive bailout plan, and the Troubled Asset Recovery Program (TARP) – fire hose cash infusions into financial giants, and a round of bank mergers all done in the late days of 2008 and early days of 2009.  Since then the Fed has manipulated the bond and equity market to keep interest rates very low, banks awash in cash, and government borrowing costs very low.   The financial mess has been under control for several years, so despite the public’s predictable carping about market losses, they know market shakeups are common every decade or so.  Government’s positive performance in the financial recovery won’t explain government’s lost favor.

The White House’s central legislative goals for its first term were to regulate global warming and to provide all Americans with access to health care.  It paid lip service to high unemployment (so-called “stimulus” cash went mostly to state and local government union employment that was short lived).  Presumably it hoped the Fed’s actions would restore employment opportunities for the private sector.  The global warming agenda was spiked in Congress and the White House sought payback by spiking the Keystone pipeline project.  Its Frankenstein health care law was not welcomed by many, and once operational it will probably exhibit a runaway cost problems.  The lack of meaningful jobs and a doubtful health care solution can explain some disappointment from both parties.

The rest of the unfavorable attitude toward federal government probably comes from the Hill and White House’s refusal to agree on a practical mix of new taxes and spending restraints.  That lack of wisdom has led to a hideous $16 trillion deficit — imposed on us without our explicit consent.  Our elected officials’ refuse to halt their shop ‘til you drop vote buying, that debt will burden our grandchildren.  Looking at the past few years, I’m surprised as many as 28% of Americans hold a favorable view of Washington.

Alan Daley is a retired businessman who lives in Florida and who writes for The American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research