A majority of Americans believe that good-paying jobs and access to the American Dream are slipping from their grasp. Their main culprit leads by a long shot. And it should disappoint you.
When given the choice between Wall Street, taxes, executive pay and Washington discord, the country chose the fourth option as the biggest impediment to a good job and a fair shot.
In life, not everything is within our control. We do the best with the hand we are dealt. Sometimes the cards are not all that great.
For example, in 2008 experts said that a financial bailout was unavoidable. Begrudgingly, the country went along. Vitriol against Wall Street ran rampant. But the damage was done. Prevailing opinion said that it was time to move on.
And as much as we would all prefer to avoid the inevitable, sure enough tax day comes and goes once a year. Most of us would enjoy a few more deductions, but they will not be arriving anytime soon.
Similarly, many Americans endure executives who can be irritating, underqualified, overpaid or all of the above.
But in the end, what can you do? That’s life.
By contrast, the nation freely elects its representatives. In each of the former cases, we are obliged to make sacrifices or put up with something distasteful because that is, for lack of better words, just the way it is.
But with elections, we choose. We vote. Congress is the home team.
That is what makes the next part so funny. Well, it should be funny, But it isn’t, because the joke is on us.
According to a recent Miller Center/Washington Post poll, 68 percent of U.S. residents believe that being rewarded for hard work is central to their idea of the American Dream.
Respondents were then asked which groups stood as the greatest obstruction to the kind of “good-paying jobs” that might adequately reward their hard work.
Sixty-six percent said that Wall Street financial institutions deserve some blame in making those jobs harder to find. Seventy-four percent blamed high taxes and regulations. Seventy-six percent pointed the finger at the gap in pay between ordinary workers and executives.
In start contrast, a whopping 94 percent said that the inability of elected officials in Washington to work together has made it harder to find good-paying jobs.
Let that sink in for a moment. The implications are profound.
Five years after the worst financial collapse in U.S. history, a third of the country has forgiven the banks.
Meanwhile, 94 percent of that same lenient group is nearly unanimous in its discontent over Congress.
And in case you were wondering, that 6 percent left over does not lean toward either party. Sixty-two percent of respondents said that the Republican Party is doing a poor job of providing solutions for the middle class. Ahead by a nose was the other party; 55 percent of respondents said that Democrats are doing just as poorly.
In short, the American people have had it. They have had it with the entire institution.
“I don’t see much difference between one party or another,” Barry, an IT technician, said.
He then referenced Washington’s recent inability to find common ground.
“You can’t just throw a temper tantrum,” he said. “That’s what Congress is doing. Those guys are playing chicken with my future.”
It was not always this way.
In 2002, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., achieved passage of a landmark bill designed to overhaul the way we finance political campaigns.
In 2006, Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass, and Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, successfully championed a piece of legislation that expanded Medicaid coverage for children with special needs.
Yet, over time these cases have become fewer and further in between.
The new U.S. farm bill is now more than a year past due.
If you exclude “omnibus spending bills,” the last time the government passed a real budget was 1997.
As of Oct. 1, the government shut down for the first time in 17 years.
And thus we arrive at the new status quo. Leaders in Washington truly are playing chicken with our future. The only problem is that no one seems to have told them that at some point you have to turn.
Ninety-four percent of U.S. citizens believe that Washington is impeding the American Dream. That is what it has come to.
When does it all stop? Or perhaps more importantly, when it does, what comes next?
Tony Lucadamo is a graduate researcher at the Miller Center on Public Affairs. He has previously been published in the Virginian-Pilot, Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Hill.