How much of your tax dollar do you think the government wastes? According to the results of a Gallup survey issued last week, most Americans think the answer is 51 cents of every dollar. This is the first time since Gallup started asking this question in 1979 that Americans believe more than half of federal spending is wasted. The low point was 38 cents in 1986. And most Americans believe that the federal government is the biggest “waster” compared to state and local governments, where they estimate the waste at 42 cents and 38 cents respectively, reinforcing that most Americans have greater trust in government the closer it is to them.
This Gallup survey correlates with another survey done last year by the Pew Research Center where just 22 percent of Americans said that they can trust the federal government almost always or most of the time. This is among the lowest such measures in half a century. A dismal economy, an unhappy public, partisan-based backlash and discontent with Congress and elected officials in general have created what Pew called "a perfect storm of conditions" associated with distrust of government.
Moving to approval ratings of President Obama and Congress, we don’t see much better results. The president’s latest Gallup job approval numbers are at 41 percent approval and 50 percent disapproval. Congress comes in at an amazing 15 percent approval and 82 percent disapproval.
So this is where we are now. Most people don’t trust their government and they think it’s wasting a significant amount of the money we send it as taxpayers. This is not a good place to be as a country. And I don’t care what party you support. While I don’t have any survey results to back it up, my hunch is that things aren’t a whole lot better in other countries around the globe. From reading the newspaper and watching TV, our European counterparts don’t seem to have a high level of public admiration either, and if you move to other parts of the globe – like the Middle East – outright insurrection and revolution are taking place. So the whole world population is in a funk right now about their governments and the leaders in charge. The current economic mess has a lot to do with it.
Yet, in this dismal environment we still have people who are willing to run for office in this country. Look at what’s happening with the race for the Republican nomination for president. It’s a huge field of candidates. (I personally hope it will get narrowed soon as it is difficult to keep them all straight. You almost need a scorecard!) It shows that no matter how bad it gets in America, there are always some men and women who believe things can get better, and who want to try and make it happen by serving in leadership positions. And that includes the current president. Let’s hope they are right and it happens soon. It can’t get much worse.