Almost 90 Percent of People Believe the Government Is Broken

We have yet another poll showing virtually unanimous dissatisfaction with our political system. A CNN poll shows an impressive 86 percent who say that the government is broken. What is fascinating is how the two parties are now moving to join the chorus — to control the debate and prevent serious reforms.

The problem remains directing this anger in a productive direction toward real political reform. Instead, the two parties are moving to convert the mess that they created into a campaign for more power. Sarah Palin is telling tea party members that they must pick between the two parties, here. People like Joe Biden are objecting to the political failure (here despite their role in creating and maintaining the system. Both parties are trying to show that the solution is to give them more power over the other party.

It is a testament to the duopoly that the two parties can use their own failure to their advantage. The theory is that, if you object to the current status, you (and your party) cannot be part of the problem. Evan Bayh even blames it on “testosterone poisoning” while appearing with other politicians who have helped maintain the system, here. You will notice that none of these Republicans or Democrats are speaking of changing the structure of the political system — only the characters and “environment.”

Can you think of one issue that almost 90 percent of Americans agree on in terms of reform? Yet, it is likely that no real change will occur due to the monopoly of power by the two parties.

For the CNN poll result, click here.

56 thoughts on “Almost 90 Percent of People Believe the Government Is Broken

  1. “You will notice that none of these Republicans or Democrats are speaking of changing the structure of the political system — only the characters and “environment.””

    This is the problem. The structure is fine, it is the mass of the structure that is weak. The characters are the ones that make the structure weak. Strengthen the character and you strengthen the structure. I for one and not in favor of totally dismantling the system. The people do need more accountability not polarization.

  2. The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Sunday shows that 22% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. That is the lowest level of strong approval yet recorded for this President.

    Forty-one percent (41%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -19. The Approval Index has been lower only on one day during Barack Obama’s thirteen months in office (see trends). The previous low came on December 22 as the Senate was preparing to approve its version of the proposed health care legislation.

  3. Anonymously Yours

    This is the problem. The structure is fine, it is the mass of the structure that is weak. The characters are the ones that make the structure weak. Strengthen the character and you strengthen the structure. I for one and not in favor of totally dismantling the system. The people do need more accountability not polarization.
    I agree completely but all of those characters are loath to give up their status and power and are firmly in charge of their respective Parties’ nominating and Primary apparatus. That situation limits the voters’ opportunity to make any real change to characters, individually or en masse.

    In my opinion, if we change the Primary rules thus giving new characters an opportunity to approach voters without having to be screened through each Party’s power maze, the citizenry can go about the process of really “throwing out the bums” and truly changing the cast of characters.

    The problem is that each set of Primary rules are controlled by individual states meaning that change would have to come about on a state by state basis. If we could pass a Federal law that mandates the change, it would be great but I don’t know if the Constitution would allow such a move … States’ Rights etc.

  4. Prof Turley,

    Isn’t the current state of government entirely predictable based on Mancur Olson’s theories that you speak about during the start of all of your torts classes?

    Very very briefly, the populace is rationally ignorant, and special interests (i.e. focused interest groups regardless of political leaning) will always be more successful at getting laws that favor them that the undifferentiated populace. The public can only influence congress during particularly potent outrages.

  5. foo,

    Good to see you. The interesting combination is the Major Drug Manufactures. While polluting the world with its various disposal habits they clamor in unison when someone wants to develop the rain forest. This cuts into over 2500 drugs that depend on a single source of contribution. The Rain Forest.

    BTW how is school treating you and those “mini” quiz’s you get?

  6. Just stumbled on this blog and initially was thrilled, thinking I had finally found a group of intelligent, thoughtful posters.
    Then I read the commentary.

    Unfortunately, like most of these unmoderated sites, there’s definitely more heat than light.

    I wonder if Prof. Turley even bothers to wade through the meaningless blather to find the few comments that have any substance or contribute to a meaningful dialogue. What a shame.

    I know I will be blasted with a moronic ad hominem personal attack for making this comment, but I feel compelled to make it. Maybe if the commentators were limited to people with IQ’s in the triple digits or-gasp-lawyers. Okay, blast away.

  7. PS There’s an interesting article in the NYT about the jurors in the Marshall (Brooke Astor) trial. Apparently, there were cat fights going on in the jury room. One juror, a “legal analyst” [whatever that means] for Bloomberg, felt physically threatened by another juror who flashed a “gang sign” at her in the jury room. Only in NY. They’re all giving interviews to Vanity Fair. What a circus.

    So, the whole case is probably going to be thrown out and retried. My question to Prof. Turley is whether limits should be placed on the defense’s ability to dumpster dive the jurors (hiring private eyes) after the verdict to ferret out misconduct. I am not a litigator, but this seems to have really gotten out of hand.

  8. What’s the name of the political theory that states if you have “winner take all” elections you’re almost guaranteed a two party system?

  9. The structure of the government is not fine. Here are three ideas to address the two party lock on government and the growing centralization and unchecked abuses of government power:

    1. Return the Senate to appointment by state legislatures, reasserting state’s rights and limiting centralization of power. This original structure was undone in 1914.

    2. Drop the unconstitutional cap of 435 congressmen instituted by the 70th Congress. There should be upwards of 5000 representatives in Congress today based on population in the US. This would create congressional districts where representatives do not have to be millionaires to afford to run to 750,000 people, and voters actually know their congressman. This would also limit the ability of corporate interests and other lobbies to buy off members of congress, and open the door for third parties to emerge.

    3. Repeal the Federal Reserve Act, ending the third try at a central bank in the history of the United States. The Federal Reserve banking system allows the federal government to issue unlimited debt from the Treasury, since there is always a buyer. Without this feature there would be no ability to fight wars of aggression without taxing the people to pay for them, and no ability to create entitlements that aren’t funded. Closing the Federal Reserve would also allow the markets to set the price of borrowing money rather than central planning of interest rates by government. This would limit inflation and asset bubbles that result from unchecked government expansion of the money supply.

  10. Puzzling,

    My first impulse whenever I read the words “states rights” is to check and see what ability or right the state is trying to argue it has the right to limit. I realize that’s not always the case (just look at the Medical Marijuana issue in Colorado), but historically States Rights has been the cry of local lords arguing what a tyrant the king is.

    I question the wisdom limiting centralized power by centralizing power. You’re taking a power (the ability to choose Senators) away from a large group (voters) and putting it in the hands of a small group (the state legislator). Seems to me that’s the very definition of centralizing power.

  11. In brief outline this is what has occurred: As the population of the country has grown and communities and states have passed more and more beyond the frontier stage of development, the decentralization of governmental power has constantly increased and the elective principle has been more and more extensively applied. As a consequence the burden placed upon the electorate has become more and more onerous. The voter has been called upon to vote more often and for an increasing number of officers. He must theoretically examine into the qualifications of a large number of candidates at frequent intervals. This has placed upon intelligent voting an enormous educational qualification. The task of the voter to obtain sufficient’ information about candidates long ago passed beyond what even the very intelligent citizen could fulfil and still maintain his place in competitive industry. The result is that the voter, though extremely intelligent in general, comes to the polls in utter ignorance of candidates and their qualifications for office. Nevertheless, he insists, in spite of his political ignorance, upon voting for someone. He takes his voting seriously and endeavors to make a show of voting intelligently. This attitude necessarily requires him to secure advice from someone as to whom to vote for. At once there is created the opportunity for the adviser to the voter. He first appears naturally as a local leader whom the electorate trusts. Soon, however, there arises the man who makes advising the politically ignorant voter his profession. Then this professional adviser becomes more of a director to the politically ignorant voter. This process goes on in every electoral district where the voter is politically ignorant enough to need some advice. It is not long before there is developed a hierarchy of professional advisers and directors to the politically ignorant voter. Sometimes there are competing hierarchies of such advisers and directors. One or the other, however, is the more generally successful, or both by agreement divide the privilege of advising the politically ignorant voter how to vote—each helping the other in its exclusive territory. Those who direct the politically ignorant majority how to vote have filled the state and municipal offices with those who are loyal to them first and to the governed afterward. The leaders of the successful organization of advisers and directors to the politically ignorant electorate have become an extra-legal but none the less real government. A decentralized legal government has been replaced by a centralized extra-legal government. Thus the power of government has again drifted into the hands of the few. These, pursuant to well-known human characteristics, use that power selfishly. The decentralized character of the legal governmental power, the fact that only part of the offices are filled at any time, and the enormous advantage which comes fromhaving a standing army of advisers and directors to guide the mass of politically ignorant voters, make it difficult to replace at the polls with real representatives of the electorate the appointees of this extra-legal government. We have, therefore, come finally to a well-defined extra-legal but none the less real government of the few, by the few, and for the few, at the expense and against the wish of the many. We have, in a word, achieved the establishment of a substantial unpopular government.

    Albert Kales (1914)

  12. Fellow UOC grad:

    I do not actively monitor the comments. I barely have enough time to blog before the kids get up (I get great help from Nal, Elaine and others on editing). However, I believe you are wrong about our merry band. First, this site is committed to first amendment issues, among others. For that reason, I try hard not to delete comments or bar commentators. It is an open forum. Second, we have some of the brightest and funniest people on the Internet. We also have a civility rule that (while some corrective measures are needed from time to time) is largely respected. Besides, any IQ test I imposed would likely result in my being banished.

  13. Thanks for answering. I guess we will have to agree to disagree re the level of discourse evidenced by some people, particularly one poster who will remain Anonymous, if you know what I mean.

  14. Fellow UofC Grad–

    How unfortunate for you to have stumbled upon the Turley Blawg. If I had your address I’d send you a sympathy card. Maybe you should cruise the Internet in search of a blog for mensa members who lack a sense of humor.

  15. Some body actually graduated from a California school? And is actually going to admit it? This beats the hypothesis that had been established by any other person claiming to have graduated from a school in California?

    The things you learn on this site, Wayne is posting as another. Billy too.

  16. Correction: If I had your address, I’d send you a sympathy card. I had forgotten the comma. Please forgive. I wouldn’t want to be accused of having a two-digit IQ!

  17. Ay–

    “expressionless excitement”

    Are you trying to have a little fun with words? You wouldn’t want one of the folks commenting here to accuse you of being oxyMORONic, would you?

  18. Elaine,

    A little known fact is that the author of “How To Make Friends and Influence People” was a UofC graduate. Coincidence?

  19. That none of the regulars on this blog have double digit IQ’s (trolls excepted) is evidenced by the fact that none of us bear the dubious titles of “United States Senator” and/or “Lobbyist”. While having a triple digit IQ is not requisite for posting here, it is a bar from either of the aforementioned professions which seem to have a maximum threshold of about 80 on the Stanford-Binet.

  20. Gyges-

    You wrote: I question the wisdom limiting centralized power by centralizing power. You’re taking a power (the ability to choose Senators) away from a large group (voters) and putting it in the hands of a small group (the state legislator). Seems to me that’s the very definition of centralizing power.

    So would democracy be served if Supreme Court members were elected like we do the President?

    We already have a body of democratically elected representatives that has a say in all legislation and spending: the House of Representatives.

    The 17th Amendment shifted the Senate to direct elections and silenced the voice of the States. It shifted the qualities necessary for those who could attain office. How many unfunded state mandates from the federal government would pass a Senate comprised of individuals sent by state legislatures? How much good would lobbying by big pharma do if Senators didn’t require their cash to stay in power? How much more state policy innovation and local autonomy would we see with this shift away from centralized government?

    Repeal of the 17th amendment would be a fundamental and positive reform of government.

  21. Puzzling:

    good thoughts as usual.

    One question though, how does appointment preclude the possibility of influence? There is life after the Senate and the Senators son might need a bit of money to be able to go to Northwestern or Yale.

    It would take some of the graft and corruption of K St. off the table but not all of it. Why not just simply make direct Lobbying illegal? They can place all of the adds they want and have the Senator or Congress to their association dinners but no honorarium for re-election and no junkets to the Cayman Islands.

  22. Puzzling,

    The Supreme court is a nice red herring, but not really relevant to this discussion. My point wasn’t that direct elections better serve Democracy, just that your solution struck me as a little nonsensical. It still does, especially since you went from justifying it as “decentralizing power” to being a panacea to all the corruption in the Federal government. To be fair, you might see decentralizing power as a panacea, you just failed to connect those dots for the rest of us.

    I just don’t get the underlying assumption that the State Governments are some how pure and free from the corrupting influence of whatever the corruption d’jour is. In addition to Byron’s point, States are just as easy to buy as Senators, the tender is just a little different (you know, it’d be a shame for my company to have to take all it’s jobs to Oregon where they appoint Senators who have views more in line with our bottom line).

  23. I wonder what the polls would reflect if the current President and Justice system actually enforced the laws that exist for the ‘people’…but are apparently absent when applied to the ‘lawmakers’ and their moneyed Corporate buddies. I for one do not understand how we can call a system broken when we have simply ignored the tenets that make it a ‘system’ to begin with. How about a new poll….”Will this system work if we actually apply it?” I’d love to see THOSE rsults.

  24. AY,

    Yeah, was absent for a while. Life and all. Law school treats me as well as usual, which is to say like crap.:)

    I’m taking all electives now, so I guess it’s a bit better. Have a great class being taught by a top DoJ litigator which really makes you appreciate the benefit of going to law school in DC.

    I think one of the reasons for the “failure” is that only one side seems to be willing to play hardball. No prizes for guessing which. It is my understanding, for example, that the 60 vote cloture rule can be changed by a simple majority at the start of a new Senate session. Why hasn’t that happened? Sure, Republicans will benefit from it in the future, but so what? If people elect Republicans they would rightly expect them to pass things by virtue of a majority.

    Congress has become a money making machine for its members. They go in, serve X time, come out and go to work for the private sector and trade on their administrative contacts. Being elected president, unlike the old days, is now almost a guaranteed way to become a multi-millionaire after leaving office.

    Interestingly, I find myself leaning more in a federalist direction since I’ve started law school, i.e. towards so-called “states rights,” although that term is now code for oppressing some group of people without interference by those federal nogoodniks. I do like J. Brandeis’ (I think) concept of states a “laboratories” for democracy.

  25. Dear Fellow UofC Grad….”Maybe if the commentators were limited to people with IQ’s in the triple digits or-gasp-lawyers. Okay, blast away.”…
    I’ve met a few lawyers lately….you probably shouldn’t be throwing those particular stones….;)

  26. Speaking of dysfunctional criminasl, according to HuffPo as of 10 minutes ago, Arch-traitor and Neocon War Criminal Cheney has been hospitalized for heart pains. It was not reported where he obtained the heart. On a personal note, as much as I loathe this evil man, I do hope he survives just long enough to go on trial at the ICC.

  27. Ditto, Buddha.


    Jesselyn Radack wrote:

    “This gives me the dubious distinction of being the only Justice Department attorney that OPR referred for bar disciplinary action stemming from advice I gave in a torture case–and my advice was to permit an American terrorism suspect to have counsel.” (refer to the above link)

  28. Although the … my referral to the D.C. Bar (the same Bar to which Yoo and Bybee would have been referred) is still pending after almost seven years. (Politically-motivated treatment by the D.C. Bar, and allowing itself to be used as a tool of revenge by the Bush Justice Department, is a diary for a different day.)

    This is BS. Read the article and also call…..

  29. Michael Isikoff Discusses DOJ Report on Torture Memo; Andrea Mitchell Gives Cover to Dick Cheney

    (I sometimes have trouble with this, so I’ve supplied the link, as well.)

  30. Since I’m commenting, let me rewind a bit and agree with Gyges and Byron that State appointed senators would clearly not totally alleviate corruption in that body. No one is more convinced of government’s inherent corruption than I.

    That said, there’s plenty of corruption going on with our directly elected officials today. It would be useful if US senators did not have to be photogenic, media savvy millionaires (or billionaires), as is the case in 2010. It would also quickly thwart the shift of power to Washington DC that has gone parabolic in the last decade.

  31. anon nurse, Your link resonates with this article I saw yesterday. (link below) A similar situation wherein the whistle-blowers and voices of sanity, this time in the military, are the ones punished and harassed for their positions. The people giving good advice that contradicts a political position (or a position by a superior is just incorrect) that is unwise or unlawful are made the fall guys for a policy that does prove incorrect.

    This used to drive me nuts about the Bush administration; stories like these were regular and reoccurring. To say that this kind of thing sends the wrong signal and casts in concrete the mindset that allegiance to the boss is preferable to allegiance to the mission is an understatement. It’s downright dangerous to ones career to give good, objective advice based on facts. I had hoped there would be less of that these days. Thanks for the link.

    “Jon Landay has a very good piece about Gen. McChrystal overruling his officers’ judgment in eastern Afghanistan about closing two remote military outposts that “were worthless and too costly to defend.” An official investigation into a deadly insurgent attack on one of them last fall ignored McChrystal’s role in the decision and appears to hang out to dry the colonel and the lieutenant colonel who wanted the bases shuttered. …”

  32. “Just stumbled on this blog and initially was thrilled, thinking I had finally found a group of intelligent, thoughtful posters.”

    Well, look at you. You’re going to look for intelligence on blogs. Seems to me someone hasn’t really thought things through. But you’re certainly acting like a bigger douche then John Mayer… good luck with that attitude.

  33. Just a lite snack,this morning:

    “Evan Bayh Gets Rough Treatment on ‘The View'”

    “Politicians frequently appear on national talk shows when they’re running for office, but Sen. Evan Bayh, the retiring Democratic senator from Indiana, appeared on “The View” Monday to explain why he’s not running for office later this year.

    “I reached the conclusion that I could get more done for my country and for my state in the private sector,” he told Barbara Walters. “Congress is so gridlocked these days. It’s regrettable that with brain-dead ideology and strident partisanship, months go by and we don’t get anything done.”

    If Bayh expected a softball interview after that, he was in for a shock.

    “I hate to say it, but you sound like Sarah Palin right now,” Joy Behar said, accusing the senator of quitting his job before his work was done.”

  34. I had been thinking about UofC’s commentary on our little salon (and JT’s reply, of course) while reading Clarence Darrow’s brief but insightful biography of Voltaire, a kindred spirit he both loved and envied. This little passage kept popping up and forcing me to pay it more attention than its due. I suppose it knew that it fit, quite properly, in this thread:

    “The ordinary mind cannot understand that a serious purpose and a sense of humor can go together. It is only the sense of humor that can keep a man alive for the serious purpose. The world has never been able to distinguish between stupidity and seriousness. If the stupidly serious really had any humor, they would die from laughing at themselves.”

    ~Clarence Darrow

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