Federal government not as important as politicians believe
Entering the world of official Washington is a bit like the mythical trip Alice took through the looking glass. Everything is upside-down and nonsensical.
This was highlighted most recently in a Wall Street Journal article about how the American people have “a deepening distaste for all Washington institutions” and “angst over Washington dysfunction.”
At the same time, the reporter noted that Americans were “surprisingly upbeat about their own lives.” Solid majorities were happy with their personal finances and “more optimistic about the economy.”
This disconnect is surprising only to those who have gone through the D.C. looking glass and believe the federal government is responsible for running the country. Fortunately, large parts of America work just fine regardless of how badly our political elites perform.
But it's important to recognize the depth and durability of the disconnect.
Earlier this year, official Washington was convinced that citizens would rise up in revolt against the so-called sequester. That budget gimmick modestly slowed the growth of federal spending but was reported by The Washington Post and others as “massive spending cuts.”
Rather than rise up in revolt, hardly anybody outside Washington noticed.
Smug in the worldview that the capital was the driving force behind the economy, many Beltway analysts expected the sequester to tank it. It didn't happen. The economy, while far from strong, continued to get a little bit better.
The fact that the economy could keep getting better while the federal budget was being trimmed shocked many in D.C. But not the rest of us. In America, most correctly anticipated that even a modest bit of budgetary restraint might be good for the economy.
To be clear, Americans weren't happy that Congress was so inept it couldn't cut spending in a more thoughtful manner. Nobody likes the political gamesmanship and petty partisanship that forced Congress to fall back on an across-the-board automatic cut. But expectations are low for elected politicians, and the sequester was better than nothing.
The same phenomenon played out over the so-called shutdown of the federal government. Washington punditry was full of confident assertions it would strangle the fragile recovery. They were wrong again. Following the shutdown, more jobs were created and the unemployment rate got a bit better. Voters disapproved of the incompetence that led to the shutdown, but they also recognized how little it mattered.
This is not to say that the dysfunction of official Washington is good for America. It's just that Washington isn't as important as the political class thinks.
The vast majority of Americans recognize a reality that is unseen in our nation's capital. We know that most jobs are created by small-business owners trying to grow their businesses and make a little more money by serving more customers. We know that most Americans want to work hard and provide for their families. We also know that most Americans aren't looking for special favors. They want to treat others fairly and be treated fairly in return.
Those are the attitudes that help America survive the antics of our political class.
Scott Rasmussen is founder and former president of Rasmussen Reports.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Prime time not kind to Heinz Field
- Starkey: Hockey hypocrites, unite
- Ferrante defense continues to question cyanide tests
- Steelers offense puts up gaudy numbers in season’s 1st half
- Woman’s body found in Adams home
- Penguins veteran defenseman Scuderi’s game looking up
- State trooper struck by SUV in Westmoreland faces more surgery, long recovery
- Steelers notebook: Roethlisberger, offense must adjust with CB Smith out
- State police trooper seriously hurt when hit by vehicle in East Huntingdon
- Clairton police rounding up street-level drug dealers
- Sewickley VFW could be forced to close amid financial concerns