Americans Continue to Turn Their Backs on Big Business and Big Government

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Americans are unusually dissatisfied with big government and big business. There is irony in that, because many of the solutions to major problems in the U.S. will have to come from these two sectors. Americans must rely on the organizations with which they are most unhappy, if the current economic and deficit troubles are to be resolved.

A new Gallup poll shows that:

Americans’ satisfaction with the size and power of the federal government is at a record-low 29% and their satisfaction with the size and influence of major corporations remains near the all-time low at 30% — making both highly susceptible targets for politicians and presidential candidates in this election year.

Yet, big business must be relied upon, to a large extent, to rebuild the U.S. private employment base. It often has been pointed out that America’s largest companies hold hundreds of billions of dollars in cash. So far, little of that money has been used to hire new workers. That should change, perhaps gradually, as the economy improves. The advancements in productivity that have done so much to allow corporations to get more from each worker have a natural limit. And small business does have a significant part of the U.S. worker base, but these businesses have very little access to capital. Huge corporations can still borrow money at near-record low interest rates.

Big government is part of the American deficit problem. The cost of it drives up national debt obligations. Decisions by the federal government have extended the deficit trouble, and ongoing increases in spending have swollen America’s debt. But these government entities are led by people who may decide to drop the rate of borrowing and create a climate for job creation. The Gallup poll results suggest that people do not think big government will take that course.

The Gallup research also suggests that Americans do not believe they can solve their own problems, or put into action a series of decisions that will allow them to. Instead, they view big government and big business as the problems — problems that they are helpless to correct. The extent of this feeling of powerlessness may be as large a hurdle to an economic recovery and deficit reduction as anything else.

Methodology: Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Jan. 5 to 8, 2012, with a random sample of 1,011 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

Douglas A. McIntyre