|Poll: Favorability of States Rise While Feds Fall to Historic Low|
By Ashton Ellis
Wednesday, April 17 2013
With politicians in Washington, D.C., refusing to tackle the most important problems facing Americans, a new poll shows a widening gap between how the public feels toward different levels of government.
The results are not surprising.
When asked whether they hold a favorable view toward separate levels of government, a nationwide survey of Americans found that 63 percent hold a favorable view of local government, while 57 percent are favorable toward their state government.
Interestingly, both Republicans and Democrats rate their state governments favorably, even in states where neither party has complete control.
“In the 13 states with divided government – those in which the governor and a majority of state legislators are from different parties – majorities of both Republicans and Democrats express favorable opinions of their state governments,” according to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.
By contrast, only a scant 28 percent of respondents feel favorable toward the job the federal government is doing.
The poll reports that the 28 percent federal favorability rating is “the lowest percentage ever in a Pew Research Center survey.”
As the Pew survey’s findings show, divided government alone does not affect a respondent’s favorability toward government. Though Pew didn’t ask the reasons for respondents’ views, the fact that partisans from both parties favor the job divided government is doing in their states indicates that the problem with Washington, D.C., isn’t that one party lacks complete control of the policy agenda. More likely, it’s that those in charge at the federal level aren’t focused on fixing the most important problems affecting Americans.
Consider the two causes du jour: gun control and citizenship for illegal immigrants. While both issues are perennial liberal pet projects, neither is a top priority for the millions of Americans facing a sluggish economy with a 7.6 percent unemployment rate. (In a Gallup Poll released on April 15, only 4 percent listed guns/gun control and an equal percentage listed immigration/illegal aliens as the most important U.S. problems.)
If anything, as my colleague Timothy Lee has argued, because of massive lay-offs of police officers at municipalities across the country, now is the wrong time to restrict the right of law-abiding citizens to own guns.
Citizenship status for illegal immigrants is another issue out of left field. If the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants get access to the legal labor pool before the economy expands to need them, the economic effects on native-born, low-skilled workers could be dramatic. This latter group, especially the subset that includes minorities, is one of the hardest hit by the Great Recession. The introduction of millions of new workers into the labor market to compete for a diminishing number of jobs will only drive more of both groups into the arms of lower wages and/or government dependency.
Instead of creating a new, expanded welfare class deprived of the tools best suited to guarantee both physical and economic protection, the federal government should be taking its cue from the states.
Unlike the federal government, 49 states are required to balance their budgets every year. This means that, but for a few serial violators like California, most states take seriously the responsibility to ensure that spending aligns with revenue. Some states may elect to cut spending, while others raise taxes. Still others may do both. All have one thing in common: an annual debate on top priorities that allows the public to see a government working.
Now think about the federal government’s modus operandi under President Barack Obama. Every budget proposed by the president has carried at least a $1 trillion deficit. The Democratic leadership in the U.S. Senate refused even to present a budget proposal for four straight years. When it finally did this year, the plan – just like the president’s – never balances.
There’s a reason American public opinion is so sour on the federal government: Its job performance stinks.
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