Despite the vote in November, it is clear that when Americans are not in an abject panic, we dislike government fiscal promiscuity. The president's sinking approval ratings are due precisely to his administration's free-spending ways. In a July 2009 Gallup poll, the No. 1 reason for disapproval of the president's economic policies was, literally, "spending too much." In second place was the worry that the president is "leading the nation toward socialism" through government takeovers and bailouts.
What exactly is our problem with government spending? It is not just that we think it is wasteful and ineffective (although most recognize this to be true). Americans actually think the government makes it harder for people to get ahead in life.
In January 2009, the Pew Research Center asked about 2,000 Americans, "Do you think the government does more to help or more to hurt people trying to move up the economic ladder?" Amid the most frightening economic crisis in decades, more Americans still said the government would hurt than the number who thought it would help (50% versus 39%). Independent surveys from roughly the same period found that only one in five Americans believed he or she could trust the government.
Citizens will put up with a lot—but not with anyone who imperils our future. There is practically nothing that lowers American happiness more than taking away our faith in a better tomorrow. Data from the National Opinion Research Center's General Social Survey in 2004 show that, even if two people have the same income, education, race, sex, family status and political views, a lack of optimism about the future lowers the likelihood by nearly 50% of one saying he or she is "very happy" about the present.
Most Americans see their best future in the free enterprise system when (as a March 2009 Pew Research Center poll found) 70% of respondents agree that, "people are better off in a free market economy, even though there may be severe ups and downs from time to time." There is no evidence that more than a minority of Americans accept the idea that a $17 trillion national debt, greater reliance on government for jobs and health, and hyper-progressive taxation offer the hope they deserve for themselves and their children.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
From Arthur Brooks, "Why Obama's Ratings Are Sinking: Americans Will Put Up With a Lot. But Not With Someone Who Imperils Their Future":