The coronavirus has shown people that big government can't solve all their problems

When asked in the abstract, voters generally tell pollsters they want the government to do more to solve the problems in their lives. Yet new data show that the COVID-19 crisis and the subsequent botched response at all levels of government may be starting to relieve people of their naive belief that more government “help” is a good idea.

According to a new Gallup poll, Congress’s already-low approval ratings have done a nosedive in the last few months. At 22% in March, when the coronavirus outbreak began, approval ratings had briefly ticked up after Congress passed a $2 trillion relief bill. But now, the legislative branch has fallen to just 18% approval.

That means nearly 4 in 5 people in the United States do not approve of our legislators’ performance amid this crisis, and it’s not a partisan phenomenon. The gap between Republicans and Democrats on this metric is only a few points.

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Image Credit: Gallup

In an interesting contrast, public trust in the private sector has risen markedly during the coronavirus crisis. A new Axios/Harris poll surveying voters on their views toward various industries found positive changes in every sector except media (how about that!) and airlines. From medicine to retail to technology, private enterprise’s rapid and innovative response to this unprecedented crisis has impressed people.

These are welcome trends in public opinion. After all, the COVID-19 disaster has been a story of government incompetence and mismanagement from the very beginning. The original coronavirus outbreak got out of hand because of the Chinese Communist Party’s malfeasance. By silencing journalists and “disappearing” doctors in an authoritarian effort to save face, the regime delayed global response to COVID-19 until it was too late to contain the virus.

Then, when the outbreak first reached U.S. shores, the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention botched our response horribly. By foolishly monopolizing testing kit production and putting up red tape, the two government bureaucracies set our ability to contain the virus back irreparably. The crisis was also compounded by the failure of government officials from both parties to take it seriously initially. Even after the government woke up to the threat, the inconsistent and confused messaging on best prevention practices coming out of the CDC sabotaged our collective response.

Worst of all, elected officials such as Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York made the deadly decision to force nursing homes to accept patients who had tested positive for COVID-19 and so endanger their entire community. More than 6,400 New York nursing home residents have subsequently died from the coronavirus.

When Congress tried to help fix the mess the government itself largely created, it spent trillions of taxpayer dollars on a bloated “stimulus” bill. That bill created economically broken incentives where welfare pays more than work for 70% of the unemployed and led to more being lost in fraud than the entire unemployment system paid out in 2019. Too, Congress’s relief legislation sent billions in stimulus checks to dead people. We have witnessed a masterclass in wastefulness and incompetence.

While government’s disastrous COVID-19 management decisions are tragic, the consequences offer voters an opportunity for learning and reflection. Politicians will never stop promising that they can solve our problems if only given more power, but the public may finally be starting to see the limitations and failures of big government.

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