Government failure

Americans, Again, Say Government Is Shockingly Incompetent

|

Capitol building
U.S. Government

Surprisingly, in the year of Obamacare, NSA snooping, and skyrocketing federal debt, Americans express little confidence in government and consider it largely incapable of addressing the problems and issues facing the country. OK, that's not surprising at all—actually, it's a predictable result of polling in a year when goverment officials seem to have set out to demonstrate just how untrustworthy and incompetent they can be when given half a chance. Other recent polls have found that Americans consider government to be both burdensome and dangerous, so these latest AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research numbers continue a trend in disillusioned, yet realistic, assessments of the coercive institutions of the state.

According to The People's Agenda: America's Priorities and Outlook for 2014, 70 percent of respondents have little or no confidence "in the ability of the FEDERAL government to make progress on the important problems and issues facing the country." Fifty-three percent express similarly low esteem in the abilities of state governments, though local government inspires moderate confidence.

What those important issues are ranges far and wide, though Obamacare, unemployment, the economy, and government spending all raise concern. So do immigration and education, though at lesser levels. But, when asked, issue by issue, about government's competence to get things right, Americans give an almost unbroken string of thumbs-down.

Not surprisingly, an overwhelming majority of those polled say the democratic system in this country needs changes.

What kind of changes? With all of that skepticism toward government ability to "fix" things, it's no surprise that people express a taste—although slight—for less government in their lives. Interestingly, poll respondents also have a preference for "strong government" over the free market. Quite possibly, given the skepticism toward government expressed throughout the poll, this split decision represents the difference between what many Americans wish they could have (if government wasn't an incompetent mess run by creeps and dipshits) and the reality of what they're getting.

Less government
AP-NORC

Last month, a record 72 percent of respondents (and rising) to a Gallup poll said big government would be the biggest threat to the country in the future. A majority (54 percent) of Americans polled by Reason-Rupe say government is generally burdensome and impedes them more than it helps them.

Whatever Americans might want of the state in an ideal world, they're not impressed by what it can actually deliver. Actually, they're horrified.

Advertisement

NEXT: Czech Police Say They Found Weapons in Residence of Palestinian Ambassador, Killed in Explosion on New Year's Day

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. They should create an agency charged with insuring competency in government.

    1. Headed by a Competency Czar?

    2. Are we talking about the President here? We’re talking about the President, aren’t we?

      1. Can’t be. That guy only knows what’s going on when he reads it in the papers.

    3. Some sort of “chief executive”?

    4. Well, who would ensure that the competency insurance was fully-funded and had the proper discount rates applied to the strong likelihood of vast incompetence reigning in perpetuity?

      (* the idea/pun here being that the government is indeed basically an insurance company with an army, and the one thing this insurance company does most incompetently of all, is ensuring its insurance actually provides cost-effective benefits)

      I mean, don’t we need to spend another couple of hundred billion dollars *just to find out how fucked* social security is? I’d expect so.

    5. More government to solve big government problems? I think not. More government only makes the problem worse. Look at how bad the agency is that is supposed to eliminate waste for a really good example of government NOT doing what it’s supposed to do.

  2. That’s as maybe, but keep in mind that some of those respondents have no confidence in the government because of those horrid, obstructionist Teathuglicans. I’ll bet a good chunk of that percentage consider Congressional success in terms of the number of bills passed per annum, not the quality of the product.

  3. Yet they still beg for government intervention for every goddamn problem. What is that old trope about the definition of insanity…?

  4. Not surprisingly, an overwhelming majority of those polled say the democratic system in this country needs changes.

    Term limits, maybe. But other than that a system that creates so much gridlock is a godsend for liberty. The last thing you want is government unrestrained in anyway.

    1. Most of the “gridlock” that you perceive is bullshit gridlock, made up by the TEAMs themselves to excuse their failures. TEAM BLUE wails about “gridlock” from TEAM RED to get their moronic sheep to hate on TEAM RED instead of asking why TEAM BLUE’s policies fail, and TEAM RED does the same when it is in control.

      We currently have a pretty unrestrained government, and it’s just going to get worse.

      1. While the voters may think the government is incompetent, the politicians on both sides are convinced that it will work great if only the were in charge. So how exactly are the voters supposed to express their desire for less government short of hanging people?

        1. You’ve just discovered the rigged system, John! Congratulations. They give you shitheels to vote for, and then you vote for the least worst, who is terrible in their own right, and then you feel like you participated! Isn’t that a great system?

          1. For sure especially when you add in the bonus feature of each side starting a culture war to get people a real reason to vote. Don’t vote on the fact that we are bankrupting the country and stealing your money, vote against this guy because he hates God or women, depending on your tastes.

          2. I hear it’s the least worst.

            1. It’s like you, except you’re the worst worst.

            2. Sadly it is. But you would know about what’s worst. 😉

              1. All of you are mistaken. All this time, nicole has actually been, the Wurst, which means she tastes good when slathered with mustard and sauerkraut.

                1. she tastes good when slathered with mustard and sauerkraut.

                  To be fair, what doesn’t?

                  1. To be fair, what doesn’t?

                    Birthday cake?

            3. Just put me in charge. I promise to be good. Swearsies.

              1. People are still getting shock therapy from your days as a birthday party clown.

                1. My ballon animals were decidedly non-Euclidean.

        2. I think today is a good day for a hangin’.

          1. It’s certainly a good day for a hangover.

            1. See, that’s why alcohol is the lubricant of society. When I’m hungover, I’m in a killin’ mood. When my neurons are chemically abraded, well, I just feel sleepy.

        3. So how exactly are the voters supposed to express their desire for less government short of hanging people?

          By voting libertarian. If only they knew what that meant.

          1. That is not the voters fault, that is the Libertarians’ fault. The point of politics is to convince people to vote for your side and Libertarians are about as useless at that as tits on a boar.

      2. One of the reasons gridlock alone doesn’t solve problems, anyway, is that the bureaucracy just hums along in a divided government, and all of the abuses of power that are already in effect. . .continue to be in effect.

        Gridlock has been useful recently in slowing down Obama and the Democrats crazy train, but that’s far from enough.

    2. I don’t think term limits will really address the problem, as once the leave office, they’ll go into lobbying or something else government-related.

      1. I’d like to have federal term limits, but there are a whole lot of other checks we need, too. Some old ones, like state power (and the right to secede), some we have at the state level, like recall, and some wholly new ones, given that we know that the original checks and balances were inadequate.

        This is in lieu of an entirely different system, which we may need instead. Fuck if I know.

        1. The best would be to set up the three branches in direct opposition to each other. Right now they’re all part of the same bureaucracy, all get paid by the same source. They need to be set up as each others’ opponents.

          How you would do that, I don’t know.

            1. That only works to settle disputes between children.

              1. I fail to see the distinction.

          1. I don’t think the Framers envisioned all three branches colluding with each other to ignore the Constitution and create a totalitarian state.

          2. The framers envisioned a government made up of people who at least felt some loyalty to the institution that they served. For a long time we had that. It used to be that members of either of the three branches would stand up to the other for the purpose of preserving their institutional prerogatives and power. Now we don’t have that. Someone like Reid or Pelosi or McConnel could care less if the Courts or the President rape Congress and assume all of their powers, provided the person doing it is on their side and sometimes they don’t even mind if the other side does it because giving up power also gives up responsibility.

          3. The three branch separation of powers works great on paper. The thing the Founders didn’t count on was parties. They figured the three branches would battle each other for power. In actuality, each branch does its best to give power to the party they belong to without heed to the people.

            1. I’m not sure you are correct in your assumption, FdA. The Founders had already split into Federalist and anti-Federalist factions while the damn thing was still being written. Likewise, a large portion of Washington’s Farewell Address was devoted to the dangers of political parties. I would say they knew, but some of them were just as venal and self-interested as politicians today. I’m looking at you Alexander Hamilton.

              1. To some extent, the fear of parties was rooted in the idea that opposition to government meant that you intended to overthrow the system.

                This was one of the big problems the Jeffersonians had in the 1790s: how to express opposition to the government without people thinking that they wanted to repeal the constitution.

        2. Repeal the 17th (and 16th)!

        3. How about… If they voted for a law that was later ruled unconstitutional, we throw them in jail. And not a fun jail, either.

          1. Put punishments in the Constitution? I like that, but they already ignore the one we have.

            1. They took an oath. They broke it. They should just be happy Ned Stark isn’t beheading them.

              I’m not sure what would fix it, honestly. I think I’m leaning toward anarchy at this point in that I can’t imagine an unabuseable form of government that doesn’t radically restrict the right to vote.

      2. Term limits don’t matter because all it will do is replace one crop of power seeking lawyers with another crop of power seeking lawyers. The problem isn’t that the people are in office for too long as much as it is the kind of people the office attracts.

        1. That’s right, and after their terms of office it will be right to K Street.

        2. That’s because you’re looking at the wrong type of term limit.

          I’d be content with a Running Man type of contest that takes place at the end of each Congress, the survivors winners being allowed to be considered for re-election.

          1. Funny, I was thinking something about how the branches need to be affirmatively incentivized to hate and oppose each other.

            1. Only the most cunning among us will hold office.

              1. Maybe that’s what we need. Impromptu tests of each person in government, administered by BuSab agents. If you fail the test, you’re out. If you fail badly enough, you’re fined.

    3. There’s no gridlock when it comes to churning out reams and reams of regulation that has the power of law, but absolutely no accountability whatsoever.

      1. Hey, they gotta replace all those regulations Bush did away with when we had our free market utopia in the 00s.

      2. They need a 100% tax for ten years on all post government service earning over the greater of your highest income in the five years before joining government or $100,000. No more leaving government to become a millionaire. And we also need a cap on investment and outside income by all of those in government service. You can insider trade all you like, but you are giving up your winnings in taxes.

  5. To be fair, it’s not all incompetence since Obamacare is working exactly as designed. It’s screwing taxpayers, screwing insurance companies, screwing the sick, and screwing the young, just the way Tony wanted it to.

  6. Of course it’s incompetent. So libertarianism is not only morally right, it’s also right from a utilitarian perspective. Unless what you find useful is fucking up people’s lives or something.

    1. Unless what you find useful is fucking up people’s lives or something.

      Well, DUH.

      1. It’s what I always wonder when lefties say they’re utilitarians.

  7. “Government is incompetent” + “we need a strong government” = “we just need to get The Right People in charge.”

    1. Exactly right, unfortunately.

  8. I haven’t been shocked by governemnt incompetence since college. Most of its incompetence isn’t even noteworthy at this point.

  9. Those are biased questions, anyway.

    We need a strong government to handle today’s complex economic problems..

    The free market can handle these problems without government..

    makes it sound like free-marketers are basically saying “meh, I bet it will work by itself” but implying that the bias should be toward government intervention. What if they had instead asked “We need a strong government to solve today’s problems” vs. “Only the free market can handle such a complex set of interactions as the economy?”

    1. Re: Metazoan,

      Still, that’s a BIG number of people that say “The Free Market can handle these problems without government.” I believe that the number of people that trusted government more than the market was even bigger just a decade ago compared to now. That is a good sign.

      1. I agree.

  10. If it weren’t for the government trying to fix problems, there would be very few new problems for the government to fix.

  11. The military may be the most competent wing of the federal government, and nobody who spent time in uniform should be shocked by government incompetence on a massive scale.

    1. The military is competent in spite of itself. And moreover, fighting a war is a totally different operation from nearly anything else.

      1. And yet, when was the last time we won a war, conclusively?

        1. Every one we have ever fought. The problem isn’t that we didn’t “win”. It is that after World War II we changed the meaning of win from “kill them and destroy their military” to “make them into civilized people who love us”.

          We have never lost a war. We have just failed to achieve unbelievably stupid and irrelevant goals that have nothing to do with war.

          1. We have never lost a war.

            I strongly disagree. We fucked the pooch in both Korea and Vietnam. You can’t say you “won” a war by any definition when your ambassadors are scrambling to board an overloaded helicopter on the roof of your embassy that is surrounded by enemy troops.

            1. I can say that easily when you realize that in 1975 that was different war than the one we fought. The war we fought ended in 1973 and we got everything we wanted and then some. The fact that the South Vietnemese were unable despite decades of US involvement and billions and billions in aid to create a military strong enough to fight off the North does not mean the US in any sense lost the war. To say that it does is to do exactly what I am talking about define “win” not to mean kick the shit out the North Vietnamese and get them to agree to the peace we want but to mean some how making the South Vietnamese into something they were not going to be.

              And I fail to see how saving South Korea from the communists “fucked the pooch in Korea. Again, you are defining victory in unreasonable ways. Unless you really think it would have been worth it to invade and occupy China, I fail to see how we did anything but win in Korea because that is what it would have taken to create a unified non communist Korea.

              1. Your first paragraph is what I meant by “conclusively”. You can massage the definition all you like, but in the end, all of Vietnam became communist and another domino fell. Not that I endorse the domino theory, but the policy makers of the time did. From the perspective of grand strategy, our goals in Vietnam were not accomplished.

                Likewise, in Korea, just before Chinese intervention, we had them with their backs to the banks of the Yalu River. Now while, MacArthur certainly did think it worth it to march into China, at that point in time it wasn’t necessary. We would have needed just one final push, however, our NATO allies started to whine about American troops being moved from Europe to Korea which they thought the USSR would take advantage of. Therefore Truman did not supply the military with enough manpower to secure the territorial gains made and thus, we didn’t have the power to withstand the Chinese advance.

                1. You counting Iraq in there with the Undefeated Streak, John?

                  I personally think the idea of ‘Winning’ is far too often a bullshit exercise in perpetually adjusting goalposts to justify the casus belli after the fact. Very rarely is any measure made of the cost-benefit at the end, or is any further question raised as to whether ‘diplomacy by the gun’ actually produced desired results.

                  There are wars where we gained great geopolitical advantage from them, and there were some where we shit the bed horribly. Vietnam was a POS, and so is Iraq/Afghanistan in many ways.

                  FWIW I think you should hold back on the cheerleading on the ‘Gulf war’ as well. All it did was postpone a bigger disaster.

          2. According to John Winger, we’re 10 and 1.

            Although that was before Gulf War I, whatever happened in Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Gulf War II The Electric Bugaloo.

            1. If the one is the War of 1812, I would buy that. But the only way you can find another loss is if you redefine victory into something beyond the scope of military action.

            2. Gulf War I was a definitive win. Precisely because there were clear objectives and no need for an occupation.

              1. HEROIC MULATTO

                Where were you during the Gulf War? Did you suit up and go there? How was it a “definitive win” when the fairly competent General Commanding it said it was basically a failure because it did not go far enough? I have seen your posts on this site frequently. You pretend to be an authority on just about everything when in fact your comments read like those of an uninformed asshole. Think! Or keep you moronic pie hole shut.

        2. Wrong question – politicians win wars. Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines fight battles.

          When was the last time the American military lost a major battle. Answer: Nov-Dec 1950.

    2. Hey there Drake,

      I spent a lot of time in uniform all over the world and I can tell you that the military can be just as stupid as any other “wing” of the federal government. Other than that, the military wastes billions of dollars on no win wars in sinkholes around the world. That’s because a great many of our Admirals and Generals now are incompetent. If we had had the same careerists in World War Two we would probably have lost. Since then, the military has been on a downhill run headed toward a swamp. Vietnam is a good example were the twits commanding it with four stars on their baseball caps could not handle a war in just one location, not to mention those brilliant Generals and Admirals who controlled millions of men, weapons and supplies on massive global fronts, and won the war against formidable enemies. A far cry from loosing to a bunch of rag ass tribesman in armpit countries barely removed from the stone age.

      1. I agree – I saw incompetence everywhere. The military succeeds because some of the NCO’s and junior officers can lead effectively despite it all.

  12. Interestingly, poll respondents also have a preference for “strong government” over the free market.

    The cognitive dissonance is strong with this one population.

    Quite possibly, given the skepticism toward government expressed throughout the poll, this split decision represents the difference between what many Americans wish they could have (if government wasn’t an incompetent mess run by creeps and dipshits) and the reality of what they’re getting.

    Or it represents a complete misunderstanding of what the free market is or represents. This may be the effect of years of fraudulent public education that fostered an abnormal level of eleuterophobia among people.

  13. Considering who elected (and re-elected) these incompetent boobs in the first place, those people might be due for some deep fucking introspection.

    1. You’re right–we need to implement a massive program to psychoanalyze each American. We’ll obviously need millions of psychologists to start.

      1. Jobs!

      2. We need to create the PSA. One of their jobs is to search and Rorschach-scan you at the polling booth.

        1. Really, why not have people continuously evaluated? You could merge the DHS and PSA, so that analyses that result in diagnosis of dangerous psychoses that could result in terrorist attacks or voting for the wrong candidates could be dealt with.

    2. What choices where there? The people in charge have via the media and the campaign finance laws created a system where only incompetent boobs can ever run much less win.

      1. What if they threw an election and nobody showed up?

        1. Look at NYC mayor. De Blasio wins with only 20% turnout. All they needed was 10 or 15% to come out and vote for the libertarian guy…whatisname.

          There will always be 4 progs to vote in the prog/dreamer/populist/rablerouser dickhead.

        2. Somebody would vote even if it were only the Candidates and their families. And the winner would gladly assume power and not give a flying fuck that no one really voted for him.

  14. I would love to see a survey that asked for the man on the street’s? definition of the free market. Can some intern at reason take a camera out and record the answers?

    1. Free market isn’t free, man. I go out and have to pay for all kinds of shit. It’s a total bummer.

    2. It means, of course, just what you choose it to mean, neither more, nor less.

    3. Chip Franklin, when he was at WBAL radio in Bal’mer, used to do a segment called Curb Your Intelligence. He’d ask people simple, but slightly off questions and record their answers.

      It would make you weep for our nation, some days.

  15. That’s right folks. Let’s just do away with the federal government, and state government, and do everything at the county level. That should work. Right? That also means each county conducting its own foreign policy and forming its own defense militias. It also means printing it’s own currency?

    And of course our big cities are nation-states, so that means that they can do the same things as counties even though they might be located in counties. Right? And let the counties maintain the maintenance on their segments of our interstate highway system.

    And don’t forget our border with Mexico. All the counties on that border can handle this better than the Border Patrol ever thought of. Right?

    Let’s take care of this in 2014, so we don’t have to worry about anymore Presidential elections. Washington, DC can become a museum, and our county seats across the nation will shine. That’s it folks.

    Let’s get to work at the county level, and don’t forget that you will no longer be able to call on the anyone but the county officials in the event of a natural disaster in your county.

    So, let’s get cracking on this forthwith. God Bless the Confederated Counties of North America, formerly known as the United States of America.

    1. You are so boring, Tulpa.

      1. Are you sure that’s not a false positive? I don’t recall Tulpa being one to froth at the mouth concerning the Brown Horde, but to be honest, it’s not as if I spent any great deal of my memory on Tulpatronics.

        1. I’ll give you that. It’s just such an intensely boring troll that maybe I got my wires crossed. Tulpa was this boring when he tried to be “funny.”

          1. What, you didn’t think “RePOOPlicans” was pure genius?

            1. Hey Gilmore,

              Dial 1 800 EAT SHIT.

              1. You used that one last time.

                1. DID YOU ENJOY IT?

        2. The “Brown Horde”? Really? Sounds like a racist comment on your part, since I never used it.

      2. SugarFree

        Looks like you are idea free, you a–hole. Also you must have a reading comprehension problem too, as most dimwits do. Were you not so undereducated, you might have picked up some tongue in cheek sarcasm in my comments.

        In any event you ass chunk, looks like you will have to expand your literary fart rebuttals to include some ideas of your own. MIght keep myself and others from getting bored. Have a great day you f—ing idiot!

        1. Sarcasm?

          I thought that was a reduction ad absurdum comparison of people criticizing federal incompetence with some sort of demand for the collapse of the Nation State and return to some sort of feudalistic fiefdoms run only by the PTA and the local Shriners Club.

          And man, was it fucking dumb.

          Sarcasm might have been funny.

          1. GILMORE

            Don’t like my comments or sarcasm? Write something you think I might like. Think you are capable of that? Show me what you can do you piece of crap. Otherwise go f— yourself in the butt with a cucumber. Have a great New Year Asshole.

            1. We hurt his feelings, GILMORE. He’ll be hugging his poo-bear doll extra tight while trying to fall asleep tonight.

              1. I don’t know what to say SugarFree. Guess you will just have to stick your index finger up your Hershey Highway after taking a particularly smelly and messy dump. Then lick it and pretend it is a candy bar. You are too stupid to hurt my feelings, so don’t flatter yourself. Nice posting with you ace.

                1. It did the “Hershey highway” routine last time too.

                  Its so clever, it cut-and-pastes its pre-teen scatological hissy-fits. Because they’re *so clever*, why not re-use them indefinitely?

    2. Take your meds Mary.

      1. JOHN

        Shove my meds up you rectum.

    3. ad hominem, do you speak it!

    4. don’t forget that you will no longer be able to call on the anyone but the county officials in the event of a natural disaster in your county.

      Yes, because independent nation-states never help each other.

      1. I seem to remember when Thailand was hit by a tsunami no private Americans donated any money. No wait it was billions of dollars given to a foreign country most people couldn’t find on a globe, without coercion. But yeah only government is charitable and can lend a hand.

    5. Sounds pretty good to me. Start next week?

  16. I believe the headline is better expressed as,

    Government Still Shockingly Incompetent; A Small Minority Apparently Unaware”

  17. FOR ALL THOSE WHO DID NOT LIKE MY COMMENTS, TRY POSTING SOMETHING OTHER THAN ONE LINE LITERARY FARTS. OTHERWISE GO F YOURSELVES. BUGGER ALL!

    1. So, now that we’ve got an idea of your professional qualifications, what do you do for fun?

      1. I BAIT ASSHOLES LIKE YOU ONLINE.

        1. Go way….baitin……

          1. fish_remote

            No way I will go away. Anyone who does not like my comments and who posts rude and insulting remarks directed at me will receive the same. Anyone who wants to carry on a civil debate about my comments will receive respect and civility from me. I can exchange insults with anyone indefinitely, if that’s the way they want it. Seems to me that there are very few people posting on this site who have anything intelligent to say about the articles, even in jest. All that tells me is that people really have nothing much to say, and like to “bait” someone who might be a bit too educated for them. Since they can’t express themselves with English Composition wise, they simply resort to mockery and insults. I can refute anything like that with the same profane stuff.

      2. GILMORE

        Just one more thing in the form of a combined question. Are you an abortion or an afterbirth that lived?

  18. We should all thank our lucky stars that the government is NOT more “competent.” Can you imagine all the constitutional abuses going on right now being done by competent people? We’d all already be in concentration camps.

  19. No changes necessary, just shut it all down.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.