Free Markets, Free People

fear of government

Americans fear “big government”

Not “big labor” or “big business” or “big oil” or “big pharma”.  Not any of the other “bigs” as much as “big government”. And rightfully so in my opinion.

The question is, what are they going to do about it?  No, the question is will they do anything about it?

I’m not sure. 

Gallup found the fear of big government rising to its highest levels in decades:

Americans’ concerns about the threat of big government continue to dwarf those about big business and big labor, and by an even larger margin now than in March 2009. The 64% of Americans who say big government will be the biggest threat to the country is just one percentage point shy of the record high, while the 26% who say big business is down from the 32% recorded during the recession. Relatively few name big labor as the greatest threat.

Is America finally realizing the drag the government is putting on the economy with the level of debt it is carrying and the fact that the profligate spending continues?   Is it waking up to the fact that government is way to involved in our daily lives?   Is America realizing that government isn’t the answer and many times the problem (despite President Obama’s best effort to spin the opposite as true?)?

I can’t say, but I can say that this rise in fear of big government is a good thing and perfectly in line with what would or should typify the American character.  The problem, however, is to be found in the specifics.   We’ve detailed, in numerous posts, the rise of the entitlement culture that has grown up among us supposed “rugged individualists”.  While the character trait seems to still exist as polls like this point out, are Americans really willing to see their piece of the entitlement pie – and most receive something – go away in any effort to trim the size of government?

That’s the real concern. 

More from the survey:

Almost half of Democrats now say big government is the biggest threat to the nation, more than say so about big business, and far more than were concerned about big government in March 2009. The 32% of Democrats concerned about big government at that time — shortly after President Obama took office — was down significantly from a reading in 2006, when George W. Bush was president.

Democrats who fear big government are up by 16 points to 48%.  This rise has been on Obama’s watch.  And their fear of big business has dropped 8 points from 52% to 44%. 

The real story, as usual, is independents.  Their fear of big government has risen 5 points to 64%.   How well, then, do you think the Obama campaign message of even bigger government (to save the middle class, of course) is playing?


Additionally, while Occupy Wall Street isn’t necessarily affiliated with a particular party, its anti-big business message may not be resonating with majorities in any party. Republicans, independents, and now close to half of Democrats are more concerned about the threat of big government than that coming from big business.

That should tell you what kind of impact OWS is having. As mentioned, Democratic fear of big business has dropped 8 points.  If ever there was a sympathetic constituency, you’d think it would be the Democrats.  And they simply aren’t buying into the OWS premise.

I keep finding polls like this both hopeful and disturbing.  Hopeful in that it seems that the healthy American trait of fear big government still lives in the majority of its people.   That’s demonstrated in another poll by Rasmussen addressing the health care law:

Most voters still want to repeal the national health care law, even though they tend to believe the law won’t force them to change their own health insurance coverage.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 55% of Likely U.S. Voters at least somewhat favor repeal of the health care law passed by Congress in March 2010, while 35% at least somewhat oppose repeal. The intensity remains on the side of the law’s opponents since these findings include 42% who Strongly Favor repeal versus 26% who are Strongly Opposed.

What disturbs me is how little those who we put in power seem to understand that or attempt to work toward addressing that fear.  

The question remains, if indeed the vast majority of Americans fear big government, what are they going to do about addressing that fear.  Obviously what has been tried to this point hasn’t worked.  What’s the alternative?


Twitter: @McQandO