November 21st, 2013
09:59 PM ET

Why Americans hate their government

By Fareed Zakaria

For partly cultural and historical reasons. Americans have always been suspicious of government. Talented young people don’t dream of becoming great bureaucrats. The New Deal and World War II might have changed that for a while, but over the past 30 years, anti-government attitudes have risen substantially. Two national commissions on public service have detailed the dangers of having too few talented people go into government. The ever-increasing obstacles — disclosure forms, conflict-of-interest concerns, political vetting — dissuade and knock out good candidates.

The problem is bipartisan. On the right, too many people believe that their role in Washington is simply to attack, denigrate and defund the government. This relentless onslaught erodes public trust and robs federal agencies of any sense of mission and ambition. Continual budget cutbacks have limited the government’s ability to take on new challenges. There is no attempt at ambitious thinking and planning, whether in space or in infrastructure. Seemingly every agency is in cost-cutting and damage-control modes. The persistent politicized attacks — whether blocking the confirmation of hundreds of officials or investigating them at every turn — have helped create an atmosphere of caution and risk-aversion.

Read the Washington Post column

Topics: Uncategorized

soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. kevin daly

    The real problem is politics by the Republicans! Even Eisenhower wanted to repeal Social Security!! Things just got worse starting with REAGAN the president with althimers. The fools in the USA believed the B grade actor and now thru the use of Adverting firms that have absolutely NO ethics the GOP have the vast majority of middle America convinced that government in Bad! I got my education because of LBJ & the National Defense Student Loan Act. The only hope is to get an Educated Public but the Republicans know that so, they severely limit funds to education. Look at the demonstration at the White House by a group of nuts that threaten to remove President Obama from Office if he does not resign. Even Donald Trump is a birth-er claiming that President Obama was born in Kenya he went to some of the best private schools in NY State did he get an education or a Republican INDOCTRINATION???

    November 21, 2013 at 10:26 pm | Reply
    • Joseph McCarthy

      Good post, kevin. Thank you.

      November 21, 2013 at 10:59 pm | Reply
    • banasy©

      "Should any political part attempt to abolish SS, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor law and farm programs, you would not hear of that part again in our political history.
      There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man, and they are stupid!"

      Dwight D. Eisenhower, November 8, 1954

      November 22, 2013 at 12:29 pm | Reply
  2. Allan Kinsman

    Americans don't hate their government but they do dispise being told one thing when something else is true. They dislike when the truth is different from fact. They dislike the mishandling of value, making their hard earned dollars worth less than last year. They dislike sending their children off to war which was created through a vision of foreign policy designed to capture another countries resources. America is loosing the battle for the hearts of it's people through mismanagement and ignoring the quality of life here. Through one step after another there has been a slow progressive infusion of policy and action which has not represented the American spirit of being independent and supportive but a central core of using power to further profitability. I have nothing against profit. However, nothing is gained from stealing either. We have to decide to pursue civilization under the rule of justice and integrity or under how much we can steal from those which create value. The real problem of politics is power and it always corrupts. The two party system has it worked out with a kind of perverse precision which continues to watch the republic fail under the ideal the other party is at fault. A very cleavor premise when it is the corporations which gain the upper hand at the demise of the middle class. While the fraud is promoted foreign governments continue to get a ear in Washington while they buy up America. I have watched from afar while a great idea of freedom and liberty is written off by continous war on character. No one would or can admit we have lost our way by an attack on principle. I challenge anyone to read the Gettysburg address by Abraham Lincoln then read the accounts of how veterans since Vietnam have been treated by a their government. We have forgotten the meaning of "full measure". "Without change something lies asleep inside ourselves and seldom awakens; the sleeper must awaken". Frank Herbert.

    November 21, 2013 at 11:20 pm | Reply
    • ✠ RZ ✠

      Once again Allan, it seems you have hit the mark quite nicely. And methinks it is even starting to trickle upward. WAKE UP AMERICA!

      November 22, 2013 at 9:24 am | Reply
    • Joseph McCarthy

      Well said, Allan. Thank you.

      November 22, 2013 at 10:40 am | Reply
  3. Failure of Democrats

    Americans need start working, stop importing. American Corporations are not as successful, as their European or Asian counterparts. Washington DC politics was damaged by Democrats. Democrats also sold out our American jobs to Asians and weakened many American Corporations. Democrats destroyed DETROIT, with the goal to damage American Automobil Industry. This was a secret deal between Ms.Hillary and 'mazda-hyundai-toyota' representatives. We have secret photos about this 'betrayal meeting'. Kick Ms.Hillary out of business forever.

    November 22, 2013 at 2:53 am | Reply
    • banasy©

      So.....you don't like Democrats, I take it.

      November 22, 2013 at 11:48 am | Reply
  4. Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

    BThe article states, "the problem is bipartisan." I agree.
    I disagree with many statements posted in comments, I think;
    1. Money is not what educates students. Studying does.
    2. Ronald Reagan was a great president. I Earned a lot of money while he was in office.
    3. Republicans do not oppose education. Most Republicans that I know would like to see much more studying done, and they did a lot of it themselves.
    4. I neither hate nor love the government: it is not responsible for my life. I am responsible for my life.

    November 22, 2013 at 5:51 am | Reply
    • ✠ RZ ✠

      Joey, Just one other minor possibility. Are you not also responsible "for" your government? Because in the end, you're ultimately responsible for putting them in office and picking up the tab.

      November 22, 2013 at 8:28 am | Reply
      • dee

        The little guy whom makes minimum wage or the family of 4 that makes 50,000.00 is no way responsible for putting idiots in office, corporate america and their super pacs elect people. The visuals are out of this world, the hardworking individual whom has not time to even be able to study less care about whom is running for office... I personally could care less, coporate American has already bought both candidates and we all know what they say and what they do once elected is another thing, and worst yet, the lifetime career politicians are no different than the president elect if not worse, they can get rid of the president, in 4-8 years, cannot get rid of the lifetimers... Politically this country sucks..

        March 6, 2014 at 4:00 pm |
  5. Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

    BTW, President Ronald Reagan was also a very successful actor. Anybody who made it in Hollywood in those days was doing something correctly. If you don't like the characters he portrayed in films, don't accept such parts for your own film career.

    November 22, 2013 at 6:06 am | Reply
  6. Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

    Regarding Americans' need to start working, I am intensely aware that if some fellow in another country can do my job better than I do, and is also willing to do it for less money, I will lose my job.
    Aussi, French wine really is better.

    November 22, 2013 at 6:18 am | Reply
    • banasy©

      I doubt it. You job isn't the mainstream sort of job, really. I don't think your job could be outsourced, quite frankly.

      November 22, 2013 at 5:50 pm | Reply
  7. ✠ RZ ✠

    To sara, is this more like it?
    To Fareed, I'm impressed. And although "hate" is a bit strong, it certainly does get one's attention. Just let's not let it be our guide to doing what is right.

    November 22, 2013 at 8:20 am | Reply
  8. Timmy Suckle

    Us rich people LOVE our country!!!

    I kissed my way up to VP at a health insurance company. Now I take over $600,000 of your health care dollars for NO VALUE ADDED to your health care. And that’s just me. Now think about how many other VPs, Directors, Managers, etc. are at my company alone. Now multiply that by thousands of others at hundreds of other health insurance companies. From 10 to 25% of your health care dollars go towards administration that adds NO VALUE to your health care. But my company’s PAC dollars will continue to fool you little people into thinking that a single payer system will be bad. Little people like you are so easy to fool. Little people also don’t realize that a single payer system is the ONLY system that would allow little people (as an entire country) to negotiate better health care prices. Little people don’t realize that the Medical Cartels already know that. And that is the reason why the Medical Cartels spend so much PAC money from the hospitals and doctors lobbying against a single payer system. Some little people say that a single payer system would cost you little people more. But if that were true, then wouldn’t the hospitals and doctors WANT that extra money? Yes they would. So why do the Medical Cartels lobby against a single payer system? It’s because the Medical Cartels know it would allow little people to negotiate better health care prices. And that’s what the Medical Cartels are afraid of. Period.
    But us big wigs at insurance companies, hospitals, and pharmacy companies don’t ever need to worry about health care no matter what it costs. We get our health care paid for one way or another by you little people. And we get the little people that work at our companies to contribute to our PACs. And us big wigs say it’s to protect the little peoples’ jobs. But in reality it would be in the little peoples’ best interest to NOT contribute to the PAC. Again, little people are so easily fooled. I won’t ever have to worry about losing my job with so many little people being brain washed by the Medical Cartels’ PAC money. Not only that, the Medical Cartels’ PAC money is used to elect so many republicans that will never allow a single payer system. Republicans have always fought against any meaningful health care reform. But that’s what our Medical Cartels’ PACs pay them for. Politicians can be bought so easily.
    Pretty soon the only people that will be able to afford health care is us big wigs. And that’s the way it should be. We don’t want you little people using up the resources when we need them. And once again, I thank you little people for capping my SS tax at the $113,700 level. Now I only pay 1.2% SS tax and you little people pay 6.2%. Also, thank you for extending my tax breaks. I’m using the extra money on my vacation houses.

    November 22, 2013 at 2:30 pm | Reply
    • banasy©

      Copypasta. Tasty.

      November 22, 2013 at 3:57 pm | Reply
    • gary

      People like you are one of the reasons the U.S. is in such a mess. However, you are right when you say the little ones are easy to fool. The rich with their money thru the PACS elect the politicians who then enact policies favoring the corporations and 1%. That is how over the last 30-40 years all the wealth has gone to the top. The top 400 richest families and their corporate allies have wrestled control of the democratic functions of the U.S. right under the eyes of the middle classes. Obama is trying to redress that inequality. The republicans are doing everything possible to block him. He is a threat to their existence. How can republicans win national elections when they are against women, minorities, minimum wage increases, extending unemployment benefits, cutting food stamps, ending social security and medicare, and lastly denying health care to all citizens? Their plan to get elected is by gerrymandering states, blocking the vote of minorities and the elderly, spreading lies and disinformation , giving campaign donations to candidates that will do their bidding and then, if you lose then bring government to a standstill. Tim, you are a disgrace and should be ashamed of yourself. We always hear that those unemployed or collecting gov. benefits are "takers", but, you and those like you are the real takers.Worse yet, you seem proud of it. Keep it up and the revolution will be coming.

      December 11, 2013 at 8:05 am | Reply
  9. John Smith

    America is the root of all terror. America has invaded sixty countries since world war 2.
    In 1953 America overthrow Iran's democratic government Mohammad Mosaddegh and installed a brutal dictator Shah. America helped Shah of Iran to establish secret police and killed thousands of Iranian people.
    During Iran-Iraq war evil America supported Suddam Hossain and killed millions of Iranian people. In 1989, America, is the only country ever, shot down Iran's civilian air plane, killing 290 people.
    In 2003,America invaded Iraq and killed 1,000,000+ innocent Iraqi people and 4,000,000+ Iraqi people were displaced.
    Now America is a failed state with huge debt. Its debt will be 22 trillion by 2015.

    November 23, 2013 at 12:23 am | Reply
    • Taka Kalienov

      Yes, if our forefathers can see what the United States has done and the current state that we're in, they'd be angry. George Washington said it himself that politics would lead to the downfall of the US. Whether it's a second American Revolution or something else. Our forefathers would have every right to be ashamed because our government is full of hypocrits.

      November 28, 2013 at 11:58 am | Reply
  10. j. von hettlingen

    It's nothing new that critical citizens in a democracy sometimes hate their government. In the US, partisan ideology plays an extremely important role, which sees how political opponents on each side of the aisle do everything they can to undermine the administration. One good example is what Obama's adversaries are doing to dismantle the country's social safety net.
    Perhaps this hatred has much to do with fear as well.
    "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself, " said FD Roosevelt in his inaugural speech as President. These words sound down through the years, a tocsin of the most grievous of failures – the loss of nerve.
    FDR was alerting Americans to the necessity of that unprecedented expansion of the range and extent of the federal government that became known as the New Deal. What Americans feared was that such measures would usher in the spectre of communism, which would feast on their tax dollars. It was this fear – groundless in FDR's view – that would keep America trapped in its paralysis of paranoia. In the eyes of Tea Baggers today, big government and social security mean a path to socialism.

    November 23, 2013 at 11:18 am | Reply
  11. Taka Kalienov

    I am a natural-born citizen of the United States of America ( believe it or not ). I love this land and I believe that politicians are the problem here. All politicians do is lie and lie, while they ruin this great country. This reminds me of a quote by Abraham Lincoln, "A house divided amongst itself can not stand."

    I think this applies to our country too, if we all oppose each other, than our country can not stand.

    November 27, 2013 at 10:31 am | Reply
  12. SFC Pete

    Why is the government always 'exempt' from bills they pass? Why can they collect retirement in the Congress after serving only one term? It is not that I do not like the government, it's I hate them hypocritical SOBs

    December 4, 2013 at 9:38 am | Reply
  13. DEFCON F

    The author states "The problem is bipartisan", yet only puts blame on the "right" and their attempts at defunding. I have no problem with politicians defunding socialistic programs like ObamaCare and the like. The Federal government has no business being in the private sector at such a massive level, forcing citizens to purchase something & essentially criminalizing those that don't. Obama literally used the words "Social Justice".

    This isn't about LEFT vs RIGHT; it's about the long overstepping of the federal government in every aspect of our lives.

    The federal government is chipping away at our rights daily, with much of the younger generation not even realizing it due to all of the distractions with entertainment, social networking, etc.

    Let's go over some examples, shall we?

    BILL OF RIGHTS

    December 4, 2013 at 8:17 pm | Reply
  14. Jack

    Because it easier to blame some else where you have a press that focuses & magnifies the tinest mistep of government officals, public servant or politican, along with the majors!

    Only about 3% of them make 95% of the news. Two points here. Look at the numbers, they aren't my numbers, but those statistics of polling organizations and those that collect data!

    Secondly, how well would you do stand up under the scrutiny of a relentless press on one of your own major f- -k ups in your own life!

    December 8, 2013 at 1:35 am | Reply

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