Flickr photo by reskiebak
Approval ratings for Congress dropped into single digits this month for the first time since CBS News and the New York Times began asking the question more than three decades ago.
A New York Times/CBS poll conducted between October 21-24, 2011 showed just 9% percent of US respondents approving of the job of Congressional lawmakers. [The question read “Do you approve or disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job?’] This is a drop from 11% back in September and the first time approval ratings have been in single digits over the almost three and half decades that the question has been asked (since 1977). [84% in the recent October poll said they did not trust congressional lawmakers and 9% said they didn’t know.]
Rates of approval peaked in the early 2000s when over 60% approved of the way Congress was handling its job and has dropped precipitously since then.
The same precipitous drop is true about trust of national government. [Question: “How much of the time do you think you can trust the government in Washington to do what is right?”] Trust of national government hit an all-time low in October 2011 of 10%. Back in the early 2000s, about 55% of Americans said they trusted the government in Washington.
One can see the time series for Congressional approval and trust of the federal government since 1977 here.
For sure, a heavy component in these declines in trust are macro assessments about the economy and the country. That said, at least in the short-term, the precipitous decline in trust of government presents a strong headwind for those who aspire to mobilize government to do something either about record high levels of inequality or to help stimulate the US out of the deepest recession it has experienced in the last century. I am also working on some scholarship with Chaeyoon Lim (not yet published) that suggests that partisanship may be greater in times of greater economic woes, so this may also be playing a role in the declining trust.
See earlier comments of Bob Putnam from 18 months ago on these declines in governmental trust.
Posted in CBS, congress, congressional approval, distrust, government, new york times, trust, trust government
Tagged CBS, congress, congressional approval, distrust, government, new york times, trust, trust government
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued a report early this week that outlines factoids known to scholars of inequality for some time — that over the last 30 years the share of income captured by the top has grown at the expense of those in the middle or low-end of the income hierarchy.
After-tax incomes for the top 1% grew 265% over the roughly three decades from 1979-2007 while those with incomes in the bottom 20% of the distribution saw after-tax income rise a paltry 18% over roughly 30 years (or about half of 1% per year).
The top 1% now capture 17% of the nation’s income, more than double the 8% they captured back in 1979. The bottom 80% of households (most of us) saw their share of income decline 2-3 percentage points over this period. [CBO points out that part of this trend toward increasing inequality was the result of higher-income households capturing a higher share of wages in the market and part was government doing less than 3 decades ago to redistribute and even out this market-based inequality.]
While these factoids are known by some, what may be new is: 1) that general unrest and anger/frustration at this inequality is growing, as evidenced by the Occupy Wall Street protests; and 2) even mainstream believers of capitalism, like PIMCO bond-fund investment chief Mohamed El-Erian (also former manager of the Harvard endowment) or Harvard pre-eminent labor economist Larry Katz (former chief economist for the department of labor under Clinton) believe that we have drifted into economically deleterious levels.
Mohamed El-Erian, another pillar of the financial world … is sympathetic to aspects of the Occupy movement. He told me that the economic system needs to move toward “inclusive capitalism” and embrace broad-based job creation while curbing excessive inequality.
“You cannot be a good house in a rapidly deteriorating neighborhood,” he told me. “The credibility and the fair functioning of the neighborhood matter a great deal. Without that, the integrity of the capitalist system will weaken further.”
Lawrence Katz, a Harvard economist, adds that some inequality is necessary to create incentives in a capitalist economy but that “too much inequality can harm the efficient operation of the economy.” In particular, he says, excessive inequality can have two perverse consequences: first, the very wealthy lobby for favors, contracts and bailouts that distort markets; and, second, growing inequality undermines the ability of the poorest to invest in their own education.
“These factors mean that high inequality can generate further high inequality and eventually poor economic growth,” Professor Katz said. [quoted from “Crony Capitalism Comes Home” by Nick Kristof, NYT Op-Ed 10/27/11]
Posted in CBO, Congressional Budget Office, Crony Capitalism Comes Home, economic growth, economy, income inequality, inequality, Lawrence Katz, Mohamed El-Erian, new york times, Nick Kristof, Occupy Wall Street
Tagged CBO, Congressional Budget Office, Crony Capitalism Comes Home, economic growth, economy, income inequality, inequality, Lawrence Katz, Mohamed El-Erian, new york times, Nick Kristof, Occupy Wall Street
Flickr photo by seq
We’ve reported earlier on the UK government’s recent decision to measure the happiness of its citizens. The latest government to do so is neighboring Somerville, MA. Somerville, which went by the nickname of “Slummerville” in the 1980s for cheap and affordable 3-decker housing and the highest residential concentration of any community in New England, has recently become more hip and gentrified thanks to the revitalization of places like Inman Square and Davis Square.
Somerville Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone is a recent graduate of the mid-career program Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) and a visionary who has worked with HKS on many other local government measurement projects (SomerStat). The NY Times quotes Curtatone as saying that the project was a “no-brainer” and he noted that “cities keep careful track of their finances, but a bond rating doesn’t tell us how people feel or why they want to raise a family here or relocate a business here.”
The city is collaborating with happiness expert Dan Gilbert at Harvard and ultimately hopes to use these data to see how things like the extension of the subway green line affect happiness or how Somerville’s happiness compares with neighboring towns.
The voluntary survey asks such questions like:
- How happy do you feel right now? (1-10 scale)How satisfied are you with your life in general? (1-10 scale)
In general, how similar are you to other people you know? (1-10 scale)
When making decisions, are you more likely to seek advice or decide for yourself? (1-10 scale)
- Taking everything into account, how satisfied are you with Somerville as a place to live? (1-10 scale)
The survey also asks residents to rate Somerville’s “beauty or physical setting” [likely fairly low for anyone who has spent time in Somerville], “availability of affordable housing”, quality of local public schools, and effectiveness of local police.
Researchers hope to correlate ratings of well-being, demographics, satisfaction with Somerville amenities, and proximity to various parts of Somerville to unpack what makes residents more or less satisfied.
As the NY Times observes: “Monitoring the citizenry’s happiness has been advocated by prominent psychologists and economists, but not without debate over how to do it and whether happiness is even the right thing for politicians to be promoting. The pursuit of happiness may be an inalienable right, but that is not the same as reporting blissful feelings on a questionnaire. ”
See “How Happy Are You? A Census Wants to Know” (NY Times, 4/30/11 by John Tierney)
See Somerville’s voluntary “Wellbeing and Community Survey”
See “Somerville, Mass., aims to boost happiness. Can it?” (CS Monitor, 4/4/11 by Mary Helen Miller)
Posted in census, christian science monitor, community, dan gilbert, happiness, harvard, John Tierney, Joseph Curtatone, kennedy school, life satisfaction, Mary Helen Miller, Mayor, new york times, satisfaction, SomerStat, Somerville, survey research
Tagged census, Christian Science Monitor, community, dan gilbert, happiness, harvard, John Tierney, Joseph Curtatone, kennedy school, life satisfaction, Mary Helen Miller, Mayor, new york times, satisfaction, SomerStat, Somerville, survey research