A New York Times/CBS poll found Americans the most dissatisfied they have been about their country’s direction since 1992. And two things are particularly noteworthy about the survey. First is the unhappiness was as universal as you ever see in a large-scale study, cutting across party, gender, age, and geographic lines. The second is that public sentiment is lagging indicator, worsening as the economy deteriorates and not improving until there are clear signs of recovery. For the collective mood to be this negative when the US is at the beginning of a downturn points to at least a couple of culprits. One is that the public believes that this is no ordinary recession in the making. Second is that the unhappiness is about more than the economy, but also about the US’s fallen standing in the world and the patent, unabashed dishonest of many government and business leaders.
It’s also noteworthy that the respondents saw inadequate regulation as the main cause of America’s economic woes. Yet the powers that be have devoted a great deal more effort to throwing money at the problem than at addressing the root problems.
From the New York Times:
In the poll, 81 percent of respondents said they believed “things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track,” up from 69 percent a year ago and 35 percent in early 2002…..
The poll found that Americans blame government officials for the crisis more than banks or home buyers and other borrowers. Forty percent of respondents said regulators were mostly to blame, while 28 percent named lenders and 14 percent named borrowers.
In assessing possible responses to the mortgage crisis, Americans displayed a populist streak, favoring help for individuals but not for financial institutions. A clear majority said they did not want the government to lend a hand to banks, even if the measures would help limit the depth of a recession.
“What I learned from economics is that the market is not always going to be a happy place,” Sandi Heller, who works at the University of Colorado and is also studying for a master’s degree in business there, said in a follow-up interview. If the government steps in to help out, said Ms. Heller, 43, it could encourage banks to take more foolish risks.
“There are a million and one better ways for the government to spend that money,” she said…..
More than 70 percent said their financial situation was fairly good or very good, a number that has dropped only modestly since 2006.
Yet many say they are merely managing to stay in place, rather than get ahead. This view is consistent with the income statistics of the past five years, which suggest that median household income has still not returned to the inflation-adjusted peak it hit in 1999. Since the Census Bureau began keeping records in the 1960s, there has never been an extended economic expansion that ended without setting a new record for household income…..
Charles Parrish, a 56-year-old retired fireman in Evans, Ga., who now works a maintenance job for the local school system, said he was worried the country was not preparing children for the high-technology economy of the future. Instead, the government passed a stimulus package that simply sends checks to taxpayers and worsens the deficit in the process.
“Who’s going to pay back the money?” Mr. Parrish, an independent, said. “We are. They are giving me money, except I’m going to have to pay interest on it.”