Danny Zeng | October 10, 2013
The President and the Congressional Democrats’ most recent decision to shut down the government is reflected in their approval ratings.
AP released its most recent poll yesterday with a sample of 1,227 participants and +/- 3.4% of errors with a 95% confidence interval. The President’s approval rating slipped 13 percentage points since April, from 50% to 37%. A majority of Americans disprove how the President is handling federal deficit and managing the federal government. Even a plurality of Americans seem to give the President a thumb down on issues such as the economy, unemployment, healthcare, immigration, and gun laws. There can be no doubt that constant news framing, acerbic opposition rhetoric, and late night talk shows are eroding politicians’ popularity among the people.
While the President’s rating slipped in the latest poll, Congress is diving off the rating cliff itself. Polling at a meager 5% approval, the lowest since summer of 2010, our nation’s legislative body is a non-legit slate of work – nay “work” would be too generous a usage in this context. Even though Congress has such a historic low approval, the structure of Congress, a body comprised of 535 elected members, make it nearly impossible for high ratings: any miscreant group of legislators could poison the well rending the body the least liked branch of government.
When asked about to what extent do people think the President or Republicans should negotiate to end the shutdown, a majority of Americans want to see politicians working harder to open up government for business. It is interesting to point out from the poll that a vast majority of Americans (lower 90s) do not feel the impact of the shutdown. It is similar to the popular demand for PCL to open 24/7 here at the University, but yet such action has so little consequence for vast majority of students.
One question that is very telling about the public’s understanding of the current issue in Washington is “In general, do you support, oppose or neither support nor oppose raising the federal debt limit in order to avoid defaulting on U.S. government debts?” Almost half, 46%, of Americans neither support nor oppose raising the debt ceiling. I have zero idea what these folks have in mind in terms of options on the table.
News flash: the debt ceiling WILL be raised, like dozens of times in recent decades. The issue here is still long-term spending. The GOP in Washington recognize that the debt ceiling provides them with leverage to deal with deeper fiscal problems that this President and his party allies in Congress have refused to do. The market does not need to freak. The journalists need to stop writing doomsday stories on a U.S. default. This crescendo-like, crisis-driven, cliff-diving, who-blinks-first sort of high-stake game of chicken has unfortunately become the new normal of Washington politics. At the end of the day, average Americans suffer as result of campaign-oriented, chest-pumping posturing.
To be fair, the system incentives little negotiation, compromise, or working together as result of attractive political gains.
Political gains: constant news coverage a.k.a free PR, shifting public attention allows for unorthodox law making to grant favors to special interests a.k.a. long-time supporters in the interim, prime pump campaign chests for 2014 through a war of blames, activate and mobilize the base for future campaigns, Mr. Smith goes to Washington…to become filibuster YouTube stars, etc.
Public losses: civic dysfunction that breeds public cynicism, stress on our constitutional system, showmanship over statesmanship that provides marginally low entertainment values compared to the gravity of these issues (unless you are C-SPAN nut job), losing competitive edge to up-and-rising countries abroad, and ultimately affecting lots of people’s livelihoods.
Despite the perverse incentives in place, I strongly urge the President to come to the table and do the job he was elected to do – LEAD. The power of the purse has resided with Congress since its inception. No President should willy-nilly stonewall on the question of who gets the say on what government funds – that’s the primary responsibility of Congress. I urge the President to respect the demarcation of powers (and not listen to liberal columnist’s call to take the issue into his own hands), lead the conversation and cease to stifle sensible negotiation opportunities over his predictably-poor-performing pet policy project that a significant plurality of Americans don’t like and don’t want.