Is distrust of government impacting our economic recovery?

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Recent polling shows the approval rating for Congress is at 9%, an all-time low since polling began. Support for President Obama is somewhere in the 40s; the last I saw was 46% from a CBS News poll. Meanwhile, nine out of 10 people routinely expect government to do the wrong thing.

There’s good reason for all the negativity. The middle class is losing income and losing ground and expectations for the future are ugly.

A new index of consumer confidence from the Conference Board sits at 39. At the bottom of the financial crisis, it was 27. What’s considered normal when everything is going even-keel is 90.

We assume the future will be bad. We’re afraid of stocks. We don’t trust the government. We have contempt for Congress.

Where’s the good news in all this?

I believe we have structural strengths that will see us through. Americans as a whole have idle cash they’re not investing; we’re reducing our debt; and the conversations we’re having are all about individuals and governments paying their bills as they go.

It’s all a new sign of maturity that sets the table for an eventual strong, real recovery. It will take awhile, but we are going to be OK.

The two major political parties have been dysfunctional in doing their jobs in Washington because they won’t talk to each other. But they will when their jobs are at stake. We’ve reached a point where a lot of voters are talking about just throwing out all the rascals, no matter their party affiliation.

Unfortunately, things may have to get worse before they get better. The parties will only cooperate in crisis. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, “America eventually does the right thing after it’s tried every wrong alternative.”

Editor’s note: This segment originally aired Oct. 27, 2011.

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