Friday, August 13, 2010

Gary Palmer: Who do Americans trust?

  Do Americans trust Congress as a collective institution? Not according to a recent Gallup public opinion poll which showed that Americans rank Congress below Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs), big business and organized labor. In fact, Congress is ranked dead last in the “confidence” category. The polling data shows only 11 percent have a “great deal” or “a lot of” confidence in Congress while half of Americans now say they have “very little” or “no” confidence in Congress.

  On the other hand, the most trusted institutions in the country are the military, the police, small businesses and the church. It must be a bit worrisome to liberals that the most trusted groups are the capitalists and the ones carrying guns or reading the Bible.

  Of the three branches of government, Congress was intended by the Founding Fathers to be the most responsive to the people. As the branch that makes the laws and appropriates our money, it is how the people govern themselves. If people have so little confidence in Congress as an institution, then they surely have little confidence that Congress is performing as it was intended to perform, and that is a reflection of its members.

  Consequently, what these polls reflect is a national disgust with the integrity and character of members of Congress, more so than with Congress as a functioning institution. For instance, a 2008 Gallup poll found that in terms honesty and ethics, only car salesmen, telemarketers and lobbyists ranked lower than Congressmen. Gallup did the survey again in 2009 and for the first time ever, a majority of Americans - 55 percent - gave members of the House of Representatives a “low” or “very low” rating for their honesty and ethical standards. Members of the House were at the very bottom of the ranking, below car salesmen and members of the U.S. Senate who ranked third from the bottom with 49 percent rating their trustworthiness as “low” or “very low.” By the way, the 2009 survey dropped lobbyists and telemarketers.

  A Rasmussen poll conducted July 31-August 1, 2010 verifies the low regard Americans have for members of Congress. Only 23 percent of the adults surveyed have a favorable opinion of members of Congress while 72 percent have an unfavorable view, including 45 percent who have a “very unfavorable” view of them.

  Rasmussen reports that those who start their own businesses are the most respected professionals, with 89 percent of those polled having a favorable impression of entrepreneurs who tied with small business owners for the top ranking. Pastors and religious leaders were third and once again, members of Congress came in last.

  What should we make of such polls? The first thing that comes to mind is that we are sending the wrong people to Congress.

  A good case could be made that if the health care reform bill had been designed by the people Americans trust most—entrepreneurs, small business owners and health care professionals—we would have health care reform that patients can afford, that meets their needs and that will not bankrupt the country. Instead, we have what Congress best creates … a massive bureaucracy that will be perpetually issuing regulations that limit health care services while costing us trillions of dollars.

  Even though public opinion of Congress is at unprecedented lows, members of Congress may not have much to fear in the upcoming elections. The re-election rate for House members over the last 30 years is 94.5 percent. Even in the historic 1994 election in which the Republicans gained control of the House for the first time since 1952, the re-election rate was 90 percent. Only once since 1978 has it dropped below 90 percent and that was in 1992 when 88 percent of House members won re-election. The re-election rate for the U.S. Senate, while considerably lower at 83.3 percent, does not reflect much willingness by voters to change the nation’s course either.

  If the American public is disgusted with Congress, if Americans no longer trust Congress as an institution, and if Congressmen are the least respected professionals in the country, there is only one way to change that. As Plato said, “The punishment which the wise suffer who refuse to take part in the government, is to live under the government of worse men.”

  Most Americans are becoming aware that the only way to change Congress is to elect people with integrity, intelligence and the right ideas and values. Voters can curse the darkness, or in this case the members of Congress, or they can go vote on Election Day to elect candidates who will lead us back from the brink of bankruptcy and national ruin.

  About the author: Gary Palmer is president of the Alabama Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit research and education organization dedicated to the preservation of free markets, limited government and strong families, which are indispensable to a prosperous society.

No comments:

Post a Comment