Hope and Change? Majority of Americans Say U.S. Government Threatens Individual Rights

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Obama_The_Same_Keep_ChangePresident Obama was originally ushered into office on a lofty message of hope and change. Four years and a fresh term later, the majority of Americans fear that the government threatens their rights and optimism is at a low point since the days of Carter’s infamous ‘misery index.’

A few polls draw this out. Pew Research recently released the results of a poll showing the falseness of the media caricature that only paranoid anti-government types fear Washington politicians are accruing too much power. There are numerous things worth reading about in Pew’s commentary, but a few selections show just how nervous Americans are getting from the federal government’s actions:

Overall, 53% of Americans think that the federal government threatens their own rights and freedoms; 31% say it is major threat, while 22% say it a minor threat. Roughly three-quarters (76%) of conservative Republicans say that the government threatens their personal rights, and most (54%) say the government poses a major threat, by far the highest percentage of any ideological group.

While conservatives led all groups in fear of the federal government, 55% of independents shared similar concerns, and 38% of Democrats agreed (including 34% of liberal Democrats).

Trust in the federal government has remained historically low in the U.S., due in part to the American tradition of resistance. But part of the problem with the manner the radical left has tarnished the United States is that there is little basis of confidence for people to believe that government actually solves problems.

The current [Pew] survey finds only about quarter (26%) saying they can trust the government always or most of the time, while nearly three-quarters (73%) say that they can trust government only some of the time, or volunteer than they can never trust the government. [...]

More than twice as many Hispanics as whites trust the federal government (44% vs. 20%); among blacks, 38% say they can trust the government always or most of the time.

People younger than 30 have more trust in government than do those older than 30. And far more Democrats (38%) than independents (21%) or Republicans (15%) say they can trust the government at least most of the time.

One can expect that the trust in the government for those under 30 will be hurt by diminishing opportunities and dwindling incomes, such as what was recently seen with the payroll tax increase. And it is likely that legal immigrants to the United States will increasingly dislike the government as familiarity increases and the economy is wrecked by wanton tax-and-spend policies.

So the radical agenda falling under the umbrella of “critical theory” has a major flaw: it doesn’t build social trust and government legitimacy. The former hippies of the Baby Boomer generation, inner city and southern minorities, libertarians and traditional conservatives all have various major gripes about the U.S. government. When one’s worldview revolves around endlessly nitpicking others and America in general, that same mentality can be turned on the federal government and even left-wing community organizers who continually fail to produce results. Scapegoating may work for a while; but when the culprit is the entire country, and especially its largest demographic of middle class whites, there’s an issue with the strategy of “fundamental transformation.”

A survey of other polls shows that the American people are not particularly living the good life at the onset of the president’s second term, which has begun under a cloud of suspicion and dour economic news:

  • The 15% average approval rating of Congress throughout 2012 was the lowest in Gallup’s 38 years of testing the question. The historical average has been 33%. The polling firm believes the negative scores will continue throughout the year, as Congress devolves into gridlock and partisan finger-pointing.
  • There is super-majority support of 75% in favor of Congressional term limits: 82% of Republicans said they would vote for term limits, along with 79% of Independents and 65% of Democrats.
  • Fewer than four-in-10 Americans rate the U.S. in a positive manner – the highest negative feedback for the country since 1979.
  • In December 2011, the last time polling is readily forthcoming, the fear of “big government” reached a record level of 64%; far higher than big business at 26% and big labor at 8%. Much of the spike came from concerned Democrats.
  • Nearly 44% of Americans will end up in poverty if they lose their incomes, since they would not have enough assets or savings to support themselves or their families for any appreciable length of time.

One of the most visible rights that Americans feel is being threatened is that of self-defense rights, as embodied by the right to own and carry effective firearms. According to a Fox News survey, 65% percent would defy a federal gun ban. As pointed out by Breitbart, 70% of Republicans, 68% of conservatives, 52% of Democrats, and 59% of liberals said they would “defy” a federal gun ban to keep their guns. Again, there is bi-partisan agreement in defense of the Second Amendment.

Another things that conservatives and liberals agree on, if not the precise causes and ways of solving the problem, is that there is way too much crony corporatism. While unemployment has remained stagnant for the last four years, and labor force participation has plummeted, Wall Street bankers are making out like bandits. This is due in part to government bailouts, stimulus, and the easy credit/low-interest rate policies of the Federal Reserve Bank.

Consider the following econometrics:

  • The current unemployment rate is 7.8%, the exact same figure as when President Obama came into office four years ago — in the midst of what was openly called severe recession.
  • Buoying this fairly rosy unemployment figure is the assumption that Americans no longer want to work or are forced to work part-time jobs. The labor force participation rate continued to decline to 63.7% — and 1.2 million people “dropped out” of the workforce in the last month reported.
  • Young people are finding it increasingly hard to find jobs. 53.6% of new college graduates are jobless or unemployed and 85% of new college graduates expect to move home.
  • The U.S. economy actually retracted 0.1% in the 4Q of 2012, which has ‘surprised’ many professional economists.
  • For the first time since December 2007, the S&P is trading above 1500.
  • The Dow Jones on February 1st closed at 14,000 — double its recession low mark and nearing its all-time high.

The president came into office in his first term backed by Wall Street, while exuding the vaguely reformist air of an outsider. Since those heady days, he has duped radicals with his class warfare rhetoric and middle class voters with his promise not to raise taxes on those making under $250,000. Nonetheless, due to pop culture and news media water-carrying, the president still enjoys high personal favorability and surprisingly resilient approval ratings.

The escalating pain of living on Main Street and the renewed excess of Wall Street profit-taking is taking a toll on people, and there is the spreading feeling among many that they have been misled. It is becoming clear that the only reason that President Obama returned to office was because of his negative campaign of smearing his election opponent as a liar, a cancer-spreader, and a dog torturer. Such incendiary rhetoric doesn’t solve problems, it actually leads to a growing sense of frustration with politicians.

Ironically, the diminishing negativity in the country is a positive sign, because people are becoming aware that the nation is heading the wrong way. The rest is a matter of consensus on what is to be done and the political will to accomplish it.

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