Guest Post: “Only 21% Say U.S. Government Has Consent of the Governed … Those with the Lowest Incomes are the Most Skeptical”

A new Rasmussen poll finds:

The founding document of the United States, the Declaration of Independence, states that governments derive “their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Today, however, just 21% of voters nationwide believe that the federal government enjoys the consent of the governed.


Seventy-one percent (71%) of all voters now view the federal government as a special interest group, and 70% believe that the government and big business typically work together in ways that hurt consumers and investors.That helps explain why 75% of voters are angry at the policies of the federal government, and 63% say it would be better for the country if most members of Congress are defeated this November…

In his new book, In Search of Self-Governance, Scott Rasmussen observes that the American people are “united in the belief that our political system is broken, that politicians are corrupt, and that neither major political party has the answers.” He adds that “the gap between Americans who want to govern themselves and the politicians who want to rule over them may be as big today as the gap between the colonies and England during the 18th century.”


Sixty percent (60%) of voters think that neither Republican political leaders nor Democratic political leaders have a good understanding of what is needed today. Thirty-five percent (35%) say Republicans and Democrats are so much alike that an entirely new political party is needed to represent the American people.

Nearly half of all voters believe that people randomly selected from the phone book could do as good a job as the current Congress.

It is not surprising – given the following – that this is largely viewed as a class issue:

  • PhD economist Dean Baker said that the true purpose of the bank rescues is “a massive redistribution of wealth to the bank shareholders and their top executives”
  • PhD economist Michael Hudson says that the financial “parasites” are “sucking as much money out” as they can before “jumping ship”
  • Warren Buffet said a couple of years ago: “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”

As Rasmussen notes:

Those who earn more than $100,000 a year are more narrowly divided on the question, but those with lower incomes overwhelming reject the notion that today’s government has the consent from which to derive its just authority. Those with the lowest incomes are the most skeptical.

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George Washington is the head writer at Washington’s Blog. A busy professional and former adjunct professor, George’s insatiable curiousity causes him to write on a wide variety of topics, including economics, finance, the environment and politics. For further details, ask Keith Alexander…


  1. NotTimothyGeithner

    I don’t think people know what that means, so that is good. I’m more concerned about the pitiful low number from the political class who should know what that means. The truth is except for a handful of nuts the number should be 100%. The last time it wasn’t 100% was 1864.

    1. democritus

      I suppose that it might be accurate to say that our demographics enable an oligarchy. But Banana Republics do not have 40 or 50% of the population (shareholders) benefiting directly from an oligarchy. So, our configuration is more deeply rooted in regards to power. And this is unprecedented and a result of Globalization.

      And globalization is in large part an outgrowth of the deregulation of the financial industry that’s taken place over the past 30-35 years.

      It would be interesting to see a poll resembling Rasmussen’s which takes occupational backgrounds into account. I suspect that very few people in the financial sector with 100k or more incomes have any qualms about the political system. After all, it’s become little more than a vehicle for advancing their interests.

    2. Sheeple

      No…’re approaching it the wrong way.

      People on the dole should not be able to vote.

      Dole = ANY Federal funds received be it SS, SSI, Wages, FHA, unemployment, etc..

  2. ray l love

    This is a good post — and its message is an important one, however, the analysis provided by the links is misleading. The ‘oligarchy’ contention for example (Simon Johnson), as presented, which is in the context of a “Banana Republic”, is problematic. The dysfunctional conditions of the US culture or society is unlike any historical precedent and so it must be understood as such if we are to put our Democracy back in balance.
    Our circumstances are the combined result of a divided working-class and the emergence an investment-class that enables a form of democratic tyranny. It is the size of the investment-class that makes the political situation increasingly difficult to balance, and the Rasmussen poll shows that the distribution of satisfaction is socio-economic:
    “Those who earn more than $100,000 a year are more narrowly divided on the question, but those with lower incomes overwhelming reject the notion that today’s government has the consent from which to derive its just authority. Those with the lowest incomes are the most skeptical.”
    So I suppose that it might be accurate to say that our demographics enable an oligarchy. But Banana Republics do not have 40 or 50% of the population (shareholders) benefiting directly from an oligarchy. So, our configuration is more deeply rooted in regards to power. And this is unprecedented and a result of Globalization. It was in fact a necessary function of what allowed the complacency, and the selective ignorance, that was integral to the global exploitation that has afforded the largest leisure class ever, by any and all standards. But it would be an underestimation of how destructive this much concentrated power could be, (concentrated though because this leisure-class is only a small percentage of humanity), considering just how much military strength it has to protect that power, in a world with the availability of resources decreasing to maintain so much conspicuous consumption. A Banana Republic would be far less dangerous.

    1. Richard Kline

      So ray: “dysfunctional conditions of the US culture or society is unlike any historical precedent and so it must be understood as such if we are to put our Democracy back in balance.” That contention is actually categorically _false_, and understanding historical precedent is important.

      Our situation in the US is not dissimilar to that of, say, circa 1891. Not at all dissimilar. Super-wealthy ‘trusts’ completely dominated the financial system and the political process, though overt bribes and long-standing influence. The working class had never really recovered from the Crash of 1873, and had been ground down by a low-intensity depression throughout the 1880s with a deflationary background. Crop prices had declined for years. The urban poor and immigrants were simmering on ‘riot’ and had Pinkertons, strikebreakers, and police on the companies’ payrolls all over them. Both parties were riddled with graft and profoundly corrupt, neither capable of articulating any kind of inclusive program. Progressive minorities managed to push through the first governmental regulatory reforms, only to have them comtemptuously batted aside or castratred by officials bought and paid for by the trusts. Federal war on indigenous resistants was winding up ‘the Indian Wars’ by resort to near genocidal policies, with a ‘splendid little [colonial] war’ the gleam in the eye of a grossly racist, lying-through-their-teeth Big Media which existed primarily to bamboozle the populace and put a shine on the steals and theft of the richest 1%. All that sound familiar.

      What are the signal differences? Our industrial base was expanding then, and in consequence the number and the asset base of the middle class were taking off as never before. The reforms which eventually followed were significantly the result of the voting swing of such a ‘liberal’ middle class. Today circa 2010, our industrial base is contracting, the middle class is shrinking, and the middle class keeps clutching at nonsensical ‘tax reform’ and ‘world policeman keeping order’ toxins which are not at all constructive to say the least. There was a deeply implanted labor movement amongst the urban working class in the 1890s, a substantial part of it brought by immigrants familiar with class struggle in Europe, ideas literally foreign to American society and so ones which took awhile to make headway. In 2010, there’s nothing like this. Our largest immigrant groups from SE Asia, Latin America, and Africa, do not come from areas where labor organizing is strong or has had any record of success. With the American labor movement at the top now as sold-out as the Knights of Labor in the 1890s, there’s nothing to cohere around, either. On the plus side, we have had a regulatory regime for the second half of the 20th century which had some record of success, so the middle class has a memory of it and a sense of it having worked. OTOH the middle class has spent much of the last generation voting for exactly the folks who have gutted that regulatory regime so the political competence of the American middle class is very much open to question.

      I would like to think that the US is capable of pulling off a ‘muddle through’ program of reform as took place over the generation following 1891. And I wouldn’t rule it out as a possibility. We even have substantive ideas which would be useful if enacted. Universal single-payer health care. Financing reform for higher education. Dozens of good, solid ideas about reforming the financial system, many of which Yves states with admirable lucidity. We are capable of doing quite a lot to restructure our unsustainable energy comsumptive regime, and while this would be inimical to established regimes of wealth it would make considerable new fortunes with different goals. But there is one further difference of 2010 over 1891 which I didn’t yet mention: we have a stupendously expensive military establishment now, completely sold to unachievable, indeed ludicrous, strategic goals, which make us more enemies while soaking up an inordinate amount of blood, treasure, political capital, and public attention. And to me, this military establishment—conceiving nothing, achieving nothing, and for all their not infrequent dedication good for nothing—will be the set of cement galoshes which drags down domestic reform. We’ve got a poor problem set, is what it is.

      The best thing to hope for—well, ‘best’ is a relative term—is a repeat crash sufficient to destroy the last credibility of our political elite. But there’s a catch: fascism is as likely an outcome of that as reform from where we sit. Panicked ‘liberal’ middle classes always vote for order over change. They only vote for change when they’re more or less comfortable and see enough pie that they don’t mind somebody else’s slice getting shared a little more.

      1. ray l love

        Before the crash of 1929 the investment-class reached a statistical peak at 2% of the US population. In 2006 a peak of 50% was reached. Our current political circumstances are not at all similar to those of the 1890s. You are missing the importance of the size of the franchised-class in a democracy. It is not just their vote, it is their compliance, and their willingness to ignore the injustices which allow them to benefit, and, that in turn enables the Corportocracy.
        Our industrial base is not shrinking. It is expanding globally. Your analysis is lacking to recognize how different trade factors have become since the 1890s. You are also ignoring the importance of reserve currency factors etc.. And the “super-wealthy” have always dominated the financial system to a degree, so, your argument is almost entirely beside the point. Your argument is in fact a good representation of the common misconception that my comment was meant to eradicate.

        1. hibikir

          Claiming that 50% of the population are part of the investment class is rather dishonest. 50% of the population have some investments, but what is the income they gained from said investments in comparison with what they get from wages? How many of those that have more investment income than wages are just retirees over 65?

          I am in the top 1% of income earners, and have been there for a decade. My retirement plan is quite aggressive. Still, my returns still get nowhere near what my wages are. Calling people like me part of the investment class is just muddying the waters.

          1. ray l love


            My point stands even at 15%, 25%, or 40%. You are forgetting that those in the 1929 group of 2% were not all wealthy and gaining significant income from investing either. I intended only to show the trend and that is what a “statistical peak” does. With 71% of the population living below the poverty line before the crash in 1929, which is a widely known fact among econo-readers, my contention only needed to distinguish how much the balance has shifted between the franchised, and the disenfranchised.

  3. abprosper

    I trust you are joking Peter. If you tried to take away what little suffrage Joe 6 Pack has sooner than later, you’d decorate a tree. And the military, well if you make the special and give them the vote you have just sponsored a coup.

    Bad idea. Fix the economy and it will all simmer down. Fail to do that and well, it won’t be nice

    1. ray l love

      If the pro-choice party deems it necessary to play the amnesty for immigrants card, so as to consolidate the Hispanic vote, I think your apt description will give way to a new dynamic. We could very likely have racial definitions by 2012. What irony when Obama was thought to be a factor for the closing of the racial divide!

    2. cougar_w

      The number of parties won’t matter. Corporations can buy them up by the dozen. Corporations will even create their own whole-cloth to give a sense of choice where none exists.

      You need to re-evaluate your operational assumptions. We are too far down the rabbit hole for conventional wisdom.

  4. Lyle

    Some bank shareholders have been effectivly wiped out, for example citi group shareholders. It was at 48 and is now at 3. Shareholders of banks don’t have any power its the management that has the power, and since shareholders don’t get to vote on pay and director elections are conducted soviet style, don’t get to choose directors either. Lets put the blame on directors and management who are a nice closed club that don’t give a damn about the small shareholder any more than the do about the public.

  5. Paracelsus

    I make over $100,000 a year, and I tell you sir, that this government does not have my consent. Every turn of the wheel in this country has been a turn for the worse. Every act they take is Machiavelian (at best)/ or Orwellian.

    A small example: I work in the Safety/ Environmental field. The EPA has recently released new guidelines on sampling window caulks for the presence of Polychlorinated biphenyls, better known as PCBs. These guidelines are applicable to schools and facilities and will be horendously experience to comply with. Although they are not regulatory enforceable, their status as “Current Best Practice” requires them to be implemented by government.

    These chemicals are bad actors to be sure. However they are probably not present in many caulks, and in my opinion the hazard is probably quite low. (Not very many published papers/ one very flawed paper from 2004).. The point is this – this probably has nothing to do with safety, and is just a back door way to make facility managers pay for new energy efficient windows.

    From the security industrial complex to the financial oligarchs to the decline in values, which were commonplace in my youth, we have lost our way. …I am reminded of the Vorlon Kosh, admonishing the Centauri emperor that this will all end in fire.

    1. ray l love

      If you send me whatever % of your income necessary to put you below the 100k threshold I will vouch for you if a class war occurs. I am pure working-class and I will throw in some tips on appearances, speech patterns, etc.!

  6. Brian

    For the last thirty odd years America has become a slack jawed beast that devours it’s own citizens on the behalf of a wealthy, privileged oligarchy who stand hidden behind the banks and media outlets which they control. The Republicans have pursued policy after policy to sharpen the teeth of the beast to make the process more efficient and the digestion easier. The bleeding heart Democrats have made it their mission to at least seek policy changes that would anesthetize the victims before being devoured, to which the Republicans have consistently replied “That would be a waste of money, you fucking communists.

  7. John

    I’m waiting for the first Youtube political candidate — someone who doesn’t accept any campaign donations and does all of their campaigning through Youtube and the Internet.

    If such a person could get enough publicity, I think they could mop the floor with both parties. No way I would vote for anyone of any party if I had the choice to vote for someone who didn’t accept any campaign contributions.

    Think of how independent such a candidate could be. There wouldn’t be any need to pay back donors with political favors, so they could govern based on how their conscience tells them to govern.

    1. ray l love

      Your Internet candidate may be realized in the not to distant future.
      The corporate stranglehold on humanity is also vulnerable to international boycotts via the Internet. A global boycott will allow a consumer based coalition to apply pressure to shareholders of isolated corporations in secession. This could circumvent the problem of power concentrations in the developed nations due to the obvious numerical advantage of expanding beyond national borders.

      1. john

        You could be that candidate: log onto

        Those disgusted by the abdication of our legislature are invited to participate in GOOOH, Get Out Of Our House. This is a non-partisan effort to include citizen selected candidates on the ballot in all 435 congressional districts that binds those candidates to the stated positions of their constituents subject to electronic referendum with those constituents.

        This effort expressly excludes professional politicians and is self funding eliminating all outside money to candidates. It may be a pipe dream, but if we don’t try we have none to blame but ourselves.

        1. ray l love

          Thanks. I will check it out. But I do not think it is a pipe dream. Our nation is almost ready for serious restructuring. What I said here somewhere though about the size of the franchised-class is a daunting obstacle. The international boycotts will almost certainly need to come first so as to frustrate shareholders. There is enough wealth to appease a great many citizens via global gains, and, the racial divide of the working-class ‘must’ be eliminated. Things need to get worse before they can get better!

          1. ray l love

            The GOOOH guy gives himself away when he talks about taxes. He complains that Congressmen are not enough on the Supply-Side slant for his taste. He is not genuine. We are not ready yet either. Then too, the much needed power must come from a combination of closing the racial divide, and, from the aligning of working-class economic interests.

            The illegal drug industry is a formidable obstacle also. The proceeds are affording another layer of complacency, or apathy, in regards to political change, and so, these layers of appeasement must somehow change. But that is what history is all about.

  8. Evelyn Sinclair

    While the outrage s l o w l y piles up among the not-so-elite, those of us who have been watching the erosion going on, with great apprehension, for years, are getting really worn out by the lengthy processes of predation and decay.

    Far from being news, this newly shared pain is almost a relief in the sense that my reality has finally become visible to those who were not looking at things I saw as they were taking form.

    I pulled out of the stock market in 2004, becazuse I knew the P/E rations had never been allowed to reset after the dot bust – in other words thast bubble NEVER deflated. I watched the housing price bubble the same way. I knew it was all froth. My best friend shold his house at the peak of the market, in a deal he knew was rigged to allow someone who couldn’t afford the house to buy it. I knew Greenspan was keeping interest rates artificially low all those years. Since I didn’t know about the derivatives baloon, I couldn’t understand why the visible bubbles kept miraculously inflating.

    I lost a business I had for 20 years, two Octobers ago. My new business is internet-based, offering a unique gadget I patented. I don’t lack for entrepreneurial zeal, inventiveness, or a devotion to hard work to make my ideas succeed. But my new business is not succeeding. I’ve put years of work into it now, but have yet to see it bring in any meaningful money.

    All my actual income is from unenployment. I am living off savings. I feel defeated. I have a sense of failure, in general.

    I’m tired.

    I’m impatient for the next shoe to drop.

    There’s a feeling of frustration a lot of people have with all this uncertainty. Will it end in Ice of Fire? Will they be able to buy apples with their gold?

    I see a lot of posts from people who say “lets get this blowup over with!” They want closure. They want to stop waiting for the out of control vehicle to finish careening (slowly) toward the crowded bus stop so we can finally get this tragedy over and count up our dead. (And string up a few worthy politicians and financiers.)

    Ever since “globalization” I knew the US would be third-worldized. It had to happen once US workers are thrust into competition with those who earn pennies per hour. I don’t know whether the decline will be abrupt, soon, or keep on for a long time as slow as it’s been so far.

    When the banks finally HAVE stop hiding their assetlessness, then does the crash come? When the commercial real estate loans go bad, does that triger it? When does the stock market finally get its real crash?

    When can we finally start picking up the pieces?

    1. Toby

      For what it’s worth Evelyn, my heart goes out to you, and to all others who are tired from living on hope alone, a strange hope for tragedy and closure that just won’t come.

    2. ray l love

      My wife and I had a small log-furniture business for 19 years, we filed for bankruptcy this past Tuesday. This I doubt is any consolation. However, we feel somewhat relieved that our long struggle is almost over, at least on that one level. I prefer also to think that our nation must suffer through a creative destruction period that is cultural, a shift must occur regarding our moral standing if we are to evolve. We took advantage of good fortune; we exploited everything and everyone; and when those who live in the poorest nations are considered, or those indigenous peoples from the Americas who had our culture forced upon them, our circumstances are not so bad. But we must atone and I find it less troubling if I keep this in mind.

  9. mg

    Consent of the governed. What a quaint ideal.

    Those who benefit from the status quo have many people with guns and tech that will support their power with or without the consent of the governed.

  10. Independent

    Globalization, as practiced by the US, coupled with massive immigration has been decimating the working class for quite a while. Now the effects are working into the middle class. Those with power don’t care as long as they can continue to profit. That they have access to cheep labor that allows them to live even better is a bonus.

    The US provides a path to citizenship through the military which is another way of saying we have a mercenary army. An army that doesn’t necessarily have an allegiance to the people of the US.

  11. Anal_yst

    Ah, yes, the people think the Gov’t is controlled by corporations, but what of the Unions? Per The Cato Journal:

    “In fact, if the NEA (National Education Association) and AFT (American Federation of Teachers) are taken together (not unreasonable, given that they overwhelmingly support the same party and pursue a similar agenda), they constitute the most generous source of federal political donations over the past 20 years. According to a ranking by the Center for Responsive Politics (2009), the NEA and AFT together have spent $56 million on federal political contributions since 1989, roughly as much as Chevron, Exxon
    Mobil, the NRA, and Lockheed Martin combined.”

  12. RDC

    The incumbents will still be overwhelmingly re-elected in both the Senate and the House.

    Americans are fucking stupid.

  13. im moe green

    RDC–you are correct! Love all the suggestions people have to fix the problems! Love it that there remain people with faith in current system of government to arrive at solutions! Have to love it! Heck, I don’t blame the beltway bandits or the wall streeters–people so gullible should be fleeced! Of course as Kuntsler loves to say–entropy is a harsh misstress…

  14. Xenophon

    The country is simply too large to be run from a central capitol. The reason we have states is that they are scaled for a reasonable form of representative government. I would say that states with populations above 10 million are problematic. Some way to decentralize the huge bureaucratic federal structure must take place because those government workers are not answerable to anyone. AND they cannot be easily fired. We are headed for tyranny if we don’t get this fixed.

    1. moslof

      Tyranny is the only thing that will fix it because men withdraw into a funk during social mood declines. They drink, grow long hair, get lazy and as things get worse they start destroying everything. Read Socionomics for a very eye opening explanation of our collective bipolar behavior.

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