Gallup released a poll where they asked Americans which entities have too much power. There is good news and bad news. The list includes some notable bad guys: lobbyists (71%), major corporations (67%), and the finance industry (67%). But it also listed the federal government (58%) and unions (43%).
It is wrong to say that lobbyists have too much power. Lobbyists are just employees. The problem with lobbyists are the companies who hire them. Focusing on them is missing the larger picture. So people are more concerned about lobbyists than the major corporations who hire them. When it comes to the next two entities, they are more or less the same thing. But the numbers are telling: roughly 33% of the people think that major corporations have the right amount of power or too little. This is the crazy Republican base. Anyone who doesn’t think corporations don’t have too much power in this country is living in an alternate universe.
I’m torn by the statistic on the federal government. I really don’t know how I would have answered that question because the federal government is multifaceted. There are areas where it has way too much power: surveillance, targeted killing, war powers. And there are other areas were it does not have enough power: economic control, welfare, the environment. The 58% figure is typical of the American disgruntlement regarding government: we love what the government does for us but always with a vague feeling that it is up to no good. The best example of this is foreign aid. We spend less than 1% of our budget on foreign aid, but Americans think we spend about 25%. So in a general sense, the fact that most Americans think the federal government is too powerful is meaningless. Note also that Americans are equally against cutting funding of the military—the one place the government clearly has too much power.
And then we get to unions. This is a similar thing to the federal government. Despite the fact that unions have been gutted and have almost no real power anymore, 43% of Americans are still afraid of the boogeyman that is unionization. Oh my God! Workers are organizing like the companies they work for! The horror! Even Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks piles on in the video below. He admits that unions don’t have much power anymore, but that is apparently too much for him. He seems to be confused. The idea of a democracy is not that groups don’t have power; it is that groups will have representative power. As it now stands, unions have far less power than is reasonable for the workers they represent.
The poll doesn’t really matter though. One thing that polls have shown is that Americans are pretty clueless about what is going on in America. They are, for example, against Obamacare while being for every individual idea in it. Most everything in this poll is just the conventional wisdom of political reporters. It does not indicate that Americans know what’s going on.