Grandfather Economic Report series
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by Michael Hodges - email
- with pictures -
(updated July 2011)
- a chapter of the Grandfather Economic Reports -

trust in governmentThere are serious trends,
regarding citizen trust in government

80% of citizens do not trust government (July 2011),
a massive change in 3-5 decades, indicating declining legitimacy

In 2011, 80% had a low respect for Congress,
and 71% had low respect for the President
58% have low respect for the media.

July 2011 Rasmussen national survey finds 46% of Likely U.S. Voters view most members of Congress as corrupt. Just 29% think most members are not corrupt, and another 25% are not sure. Similarly, a whopping 85% of voters think most members of Congress are more interested in helping their own careers than in helping other people.

78% believe the federal government has too much power;
also, state & local governments are increasing their power each year, as their employees grow in numbers faster than the general population - reaching a historic high ratio last year.

Trust in government correlates to trust in certain professionals > > lawyers and news professionals:

  • Most federal & state legislators are lawyers, yet Citizen Trust in the Honesty & Ethics of lawyers has declined to new lows. Is there a coincidence that while the USA leads the world in lawyers per capita (see graphic below) it also leads in trade deficits and lags in quality health care and education?
  • And - Citizen Trust for honesty and ethics for News Professionals also declined to a new low - -
    - yet citizens depend on news professionals to monitor government and report unbiased news,
    although 96% believe it's their duty to 'educate' the public, instead of simply providing balanced and unbiased news, yet at election time 89% of those reporting news vote for the political party most aligned with 'big government'.

Is this an acceptable status to pass on to our young generation?
Did our nations founding forefathers intend this?

Indicated action required:
Downsize government, significantly - and search for facts, other than from major news media.
And, as Ronald Reagan often said, "Trust but verify."

The Grandfather Economic Reports is a series of picture reports to raise awareness of difficult economic challenges facing families & youth, compared to prior generations - by displaying hard data evidence in picture form. There are so many great & positive things about our beloved America to celebrate, such as per the Celebration Chapter. But, there are also some negative trends. It is my hope that if more are aware of the negatives, even more solutions & positives will result. This chapter of the report series is about trust in government, compared to prior generations.

Trust in Government - - Trust in Ethics of Elected Officials, Lawyers and News Professionals - - Lawyers Compared to other nations



3 decade trend in declining trust in governmentThis chart shows the declining trend of citizen trust in government. After trust increased to 61% by the early 1960s, it plummeted to but 27% by 1980, before dramatically rebounding in the 1980s, only to fall back to a record low by 2011. (data sources listed on chart).

While visitors should form their own views of this chart, the following comments are included to stimulate thought.

As will be shown later, trust and voter turnout decline when social spending and regulatory cost ratios and debt rise. Also impacting trust is the handling and/or justification of war, as seen in Viet Nam and Iraq.

The rising trend up to the early 1960s shown by the chart demonstrates that Americans trusted the government far more than now - - 100% MORE !!

The Vietnam years and the failure of the Johnson era's war on poverty, dealt terrible blows to patriotic idealism. Watergate damaged faith in government, and the rising inflation & interest rates, Soviet pressures plus international terrorism & hostage-taking of the 1970s destroyed faith in its competence.

The chart shows plummeting trust in government from the middle 1960s all the way to 1980.

Then came President Reagan's up-beat, patriotic anti-communism and his stand-down/defeat of the Soviet Union, the resolution of the hostage situation, lowering of severe interest and inflation rates, as well as the tax-cutting tonic applied to the economy, caused trust to rise strongly (70%) from 1980-86. (see the Reagan Era Report).

Trust slipped back again during the Bush-1 era, perhaps in response to the deficit which showed the lack of clear actions to reduce spending to complement tax cuts. Then came the Bush 'flip-flop' on 'read my lips' as the largest tax increase in history was enacted.

It reached a historic low point by 1994 during the first half of the Clinton era, perhaps in response to increased social agendas being pushed (such as a national healthcare program), including an even larger tax increase than in the Bush era. Citizens were experiencing what appeared to be another ratchet-upward in social agendas, as seen during the Johnshon era in the late 1960s. Then, in 1994, the Republicans won a mid-term landslide by campaigning against big government.

The up-tick in trust in government starting in 1996 follows a more conservative Congress moving on spending, balanced budget and tax cut agendas.

Additionally, President Clinton in his 1996 state-of-the-union speech appeared to recognize the anti-social spending wish of citizens as he declared 'the era of big government is over' - although the Government Growth Report proved otherwise, with the federal government's controlling share of the economy nearly 8 times more than it had been before WW II. 1997 witnessed the Congress and President passing a balanced budget plan, tax cuts, and an 'end of welfare as we know it' bill (and welfare rolls begin to drop). For 1998 a budget surplus was claimed by politicians, although few citizens recognized this so-called surplus was not a surplus of the general government but was 'achieved' by siphoning-off record surpluses from trust funds such as social security (see Trust Fund and Deficit Report) - - such camouflage cannot be kept from citizens forever.

Bush-2's first term showed a rising trust early on due to hoped confidence to properly respond to the terror attacks in 2001, only to be followed by a significant plunge due to justification and handling of the war in Iraq promoting exploding federal debt.

The 2nd & 3rd year of the Obama term, distrust exploded to 76% (Pew Research April 2010 and down to 80% by early 2011). This record low was fueled by soaring federal government debt to accommodate bail-outs, unemployment and home foreclosures resulting from an on-going major financial crisis - and a major fight to raise the debt ceiling again and again in the face of runaway spending and debt generation of the federal government - - as well as the growing feeling the nation is moving in the wrong direction toward more, not less, government control fueled by more and more unapayable debt.

The above 53-year history suggests the majority of Americans are conservative and for limited government & debt, and opposed to the opposite - - similar to the philosophy suggested by our founding forefathers:
1) Declining and low citizen trust ratios mean citizens are granting less legitimacy & approval to government) in response to 'big government with social spending' agendas, and
2) Rising and higher trust ratios mean citizens are granting more legitimacy & approval in response to 'smaller government with reduced social spending' agendas.

After the terrorist attacks on America on Sept. 11, 2001, it was presumed trust in government would increase as all rally around government to 'save them' - - and the above chart's 2002 data point shows this increase did occur.   However, since the major reason for forming a federal government (as outlined by our nation's founding forefathers) was national security, and 9-11 was a massive federal government failure in this regard, time will tell how future trust in government plays out. (despite the post 9-11 rally-around response, 8 months later the Washington Post reported 5/30/2002 "The post-Sept. 11 romance between the public and the federal government is fading fast - already down 18 points." - ). As government expands its power and influence, and spending & debt under the cover of 'anti-terrorism' - - such can eventually lead to even less trust. Additionally, the chapter, 'National Security', raises significant challenges looking forward.

That trust gain recorded in the above chart for 2002 following 9-11 dropped in 2004 as the Iraq war got underway, and trust in government has dramatically eroded since then according to the below 2006 poll.

The very low levels of trust today suggest significantly less legitimacy to government size, emphasis and debt, and a call for significant reductions in same. As will be seen in the 'Notice' below, size reductions are needed in the social spending components of government - - perhaps a 2/3rd reduction.

The index, developed by the University of Michigan combines answers to 4 questions:

1) How much of the time does the government. in Washington do what is right (always, most of time, sometimes, never)? 2) Who does government serve (a few big interests, all the people)? 3) How much money does government waste (a lot, some, not much)? 4) How many people in government are crooked (quite a lot, not many, hardly any)? The high-trust answer is scored as 100 and the low trust answer is zero, with intermediate replies marked accordingly. The curve shows the average score, plotted over time.


July 2011 - Rasmussen national survey finds 46% of Likely U.S. Voters view most members of Congress as corrupt. Just 29% think most members are not corrupt, and another 25% are not sure. Similarly, a whopping 85% of voters think most members of Congress are more interested in helping their own careers than in helping other people. Only seven percent (7%) believe most of the legislators are more interested in helping others.

May 14, 2008 - low trust continues > 82% disapprove of  the way Congress is handling its job despite a change in the majority power in control, and 71% disapprove of the president.
Gallop Poll - - and -

May 29, 2006 - 76% have a low respect for Congress, and 69% have a low respect for the President. 58% have low respect for the media, and 69% have a low respect for corporate leaders. On the other hand, 67% trust the courts. Poll by Zogby Interactive April 2006 >

November 28, 2004 - 50% of U.S. political leaders are considered dishonest. Reuters News Service reports: "A survey, carried out in 60 countries by the Gallup International polling organization for the Swiss-based World Economic Forum, found In North America, covering the United States and Canada, that 50 percent of the sample felt political leaders are dishonest, and 47 percent believe business leaders behave unethically. In Western Europe as a whole 46 percent of the survey sample described their politicians as dishonest."

Another study, The Council for Excellence in Government, commissioned a poll that showed for recent years the trust in government was actually about 10 points lower than shown in the above chart - being about 15% in 1995 and 22% in 1997. The author wishes to acknowledge as a reference an article in The Economist, 1/24/98.

AND another collaboration - A Poll: the above chart shows public trust at about 35%. The 'another study' above lowers that to about 20%. According to a 1998 Cato report: 'Recently the Democratic Leadership Council (once headed by Bill Clinton) showed that 78% of Americans agree that the federal government has too much power.' This translates to only 22% agree the federal government is OK regarding its power - - a correlation with all studies above.

A report 17 July 1999 - "The proportion of Americans who expressed a great deal of confidence in the executive branch fell to 12% in 1997" - The Economist, 7/17/99, page 50.


70-80% of Americans do not trust government and believe it has too much power.

Citizen Trust in Honesty & Ethics Declines
for Elected Officials, Lawyers and News Professionals

Yet - most federal & state elected officials are lawyers,

And - Citizens have little chance to monitor government
except from T-V and Newspaper professionals

Elected Officials Draw Less Than Rave Reviews
Americans remain skeptical of the honesty and ethics of their elected officials. As with every previous year, less than half the public said any elected official on Gallup's list had "very high" or "high" honesty and ethics. Of the elected positions tested, state governors finish highest with very high or high ratings from 30% of the public, followed by local officeholders with 25%, state senators with 24%, and congressmen with 21%." Gallup Poll Nov. 27, 2000

Opinion of News Professionals' Ethics Steadily Declining
The long-term trends of Gallup's honesty and ethics survey reveal a growing skepticism among the American public regarding the ethics of news professionals. The three news professions surveyed all remain significantly lower than when they were first placed on the list. Twenty-one percent of the public says journalists are honest and ethical, a percentage that has declined steadily from its debut of 33% in 1977. Two specific news professions that first appeared on the list in 1981, TV reporting and newspaper reporting, have also dipped significantly. Currently, 21% of the public rates TV reporters as having high ethical standards; down steadily from the 36% they received in 1981. Similarly, just 16% of the public gives newspaper reporters very high or high ethical ratings. Again, this percentage has decreased consistently since 1981, when it was 30%." Gallup Poll Nov. 27, 2000 (As an update - the May 2006 poll by Zogby reported above shows 58% do not trust the media in 2006).

96% of News Professionals Believe their Job is to Educate the Public - - not report news, yet 89% vote for one political party

"In April last year the Freedom Forum released a nationwide survey conducted by the Roper Organization which showed that 89 per cent of all journalists had voted for Clinton and that only 4 per cent are Republicans. Not only that, 96 per cent of these journalists thought it was their role to 'educate' the public rather than simply report the news." (

Author Note: the declining citizen trust in the ethics of news professionals, coupled with their propensity to primarily vote for a single ideology (which encompasses big government over individual responsibility), suggests a serious issue today and looking forward.

Opinion of Lawyers' Ethics Steadily Declining
"are often the punch line to jokes regarding professional ethics and honesty. The long-term trends of Gallup's honesty and ethics survey reveal a growing skepticism among the American public regarding the ethics of lawyers. They debuted on Gallup's survey list in 1977 with 26%. Lawyers have not been rated as having high ethical standards by more than 20% of the public since 1991, and the latest poll shows a rating of 17%." Gallup Poll Nov. 27, 2000


"America has 281 lawyers for every 100,000 people, compared to Britain with 94, 33 in France and a mere 7 in Japan.

Americans have a proper contempt for the vast mass of lawyers."
Source - The Economist, page 35, December 16, 2000

Update - the U.S. number on this chart should be raised at least 28% higher, to 361 (see below)

Author's comment > it is interesting to compare this lawyer concentration ranking with other areas >


A few Big Questions about having more lawyers than others >

1) Does having more lawyers than other nations give the U.S. better quality health care than other nations?
Answer: NO !! Worse quality at higher costs, according to the Health Care Report.

2) Does having more lawyers than other nations give the U.S. better education quality than other nations?
Answer: NO !! Worse education quality than others, according to the Education Quality Report.

3) Does having more lawyers than other nations give the U.S. better productivity than other nations?
Answer: NO !! Worse productivity, according to the Productivity Report.

4) Does having more lawyers provide the U.S. with enhanced trade competitiveness and surpluses compared to its major industrial competitors?
Answer: NO !! Worse trade deficit trend in the nation's history (even against major industrial nations in the West which have higher labor costs) and the greatest debtor nation on earth, according to the International Trade Report.

5) Does having more lawyers provide America with lower debt ratios, thereby producing economic growth without debt-pushed consumption:
Answer: NO !! Worse trend of debt ratios for households and business in the nation's history, according to America's Total Debt Report.

6) Does having more lawyers assure that the Social Security Trust Fund surpluses are kept safe in fully marketable (cashable) funds and not siphoned off and spent on non-pension stuff?
Answer: NO !! The federal government continues to siphon-off and spend every single penny of surplus as fast as it arrives (totaling over $2 Trillion), saving not a penny for future retirees, according to the Trust Fund Report and other articles.

7) Does having more lawyers assure American citizens are backed by a stronger and stronger international currency relative to other nations?
Answer: NO !! A currency that continues to decline in international buying power vs. other nations, according to the Dollar Exchange Report.

NOTE - we will stop our list here. You get the picture.
If as a nation the U.S. has more lawyers than other nations should we not be able to find improvement in the above areas, instead of negative trends?
Just something to think about, and maybe then think some more.

Trade: while America has the highest density of lawyers it also has the greatest current account (foreign trade competitiveness) deficit ratio to GDP. Japan with the fewest lawyers has the world's highest trade surplus. Current account data 2003: USA 5% GDP deficit, Britain 2.1% GDP deficit, France 1.3% surplus, Japan 3% surplus. Same as ranking December 2000: USA 4.3% GDP deficit, Britain 1.6% deficit, France 2.3% surplus, Japan 2.5% surplus. (see International Trade Report )

Inflation: the higher a nation's lawyer density the higher is it's inflation ratio, in comparison to other nations. Inflation data 2000 period: USA 3.4% (with doctored numbers - see Inflation Report ), Britain 3.2%, France 2.25%, Japan 0%.

From this data one could argue that the higher a nation's lawyer ratio the less competitive it is regarding international trade - and the higher it's inflation rate. The above chart suggests that once a nation has more than 50 lawyers per 100,000 person population the above correlation results. It could further be argued that by this measure the USA, with a lawyer density ratio of 281, has 5 times too many lawyers. Whatever the excess, the fact citizen trust in the ethics of lawyers reaching new lows suggests troubling implications looking forward.

A November 2003 email from a reader in Austria: "One of the items in the US where we shake our heads about is the high number of lawyers taking over the whole society and literally keeping it at ransom. In Europe, if one looses a lawsuit, he has to pay all costs. This makes suing risky."

UPDATE  > 2003 data shows the number of lawyers per 100,000 citizens increased to 361 (compared to 281 shown in above chart), according to population data and American Bar Assoc. (

U.S. Companies Spending a Fortune in Court. The typical U.S. company faces an average of 305 lawsuits and spends $12 million a year on litigation alone, not including settlements or judgments. A strong majority of companies, 63 percent, also said they had hired outside counsel to conduct internal investigations in the past year.10/13/06 >

March 28, 2007 – United Press International:   “The U.S. legal system imposes a cost of $865 billion a year on the U.S. economy, or $9,800 a family, a San Francisco ‘free-market’ think tank reports. The costs associated with civil lawsuits, and the fear of them, is 27 times more than the federal government spends on homeland security; 30 times what the National Institutes of Health dedicates to biomedical research; and 13 times the amount the U.S. education department spends to educate children, the Pacific Research Institute says.”

Additionally, $865 billion mandated legal system cost is 50% more than spent on social security and 60% more than spent on defense - - see Federal Govt. Spending Report


The above declining trust in government chart follows similar plummeting trend lines of the chart in the Voter Turnout Report , where said turnout reached a historic low - - with 20 million fewer voters compared to the 1960 turnout ratio.

Further, it compares to the graphics showing growth in the size of government, relative to the share of the economy, as government (federal, state & local) has grown in size faster than the economy - especially its social spending component.

And, most amazingly, the trends in trust follow almost exactly the federal components spending chart in the Grandfather Federal Government Report, showing social spending growth 10 times faster than the general economy. Trust in government plummets once social spending ratios rose above 3-5% of national income (as it did in mid 1960s). Today's social spend ratio is 3 times higher than this 5% - meaning it consumes as a minimum 3 times more of the economy than citizens trust as being appropriate.

Trust in government trends also follow the trends in the increased share of the economy involving compliance costs mandated by government regulations.

Additionally, the declining trends of trust in government also follow the declining trends of the education quality-cost productivity index shown in the Education Report.

As another example impacting trust today: Trust in government will not be improved as more citizens become aware that those bragging about balancing the federal budget have evaded telling the full truth - on purpose. To camouflage the size of the federal budget deficit, all surplus funds (intended for future pensions) are siphoned-off by the general government for non-pension spending - - an illegal practice if done in the private sector. (see the current status in the Budget Deficit and Trust Fund Siphon Report). This certainly is a negative concerning citizen trust in government.

All $800 billion of the extra FICA collected to date from working people intended as trust fund surpluses for the future has been siphoned-off by the government and spent on non-pension things, including $109 billion in just the past fiscal year. Some report the unannounced plan is to siphon-off and consume another $2.5 trillion between now and 2012 when the trust fund's outflows for seniors exceed inflows. Politicians are not earning public trust by presuming all citizens are too stupid to be misled forever.

State & local governments are increasing their power each year, as their employees grow in numbers faster than the general population - reaching a historic high ratio last year.

The STATISTICAL REVISIONISM AND WIZARDRY Report is another example of how government can create mistrust, such as by revising education quality and economic measuring criteria that always seems to be in one direction, which is to pump-up the data to make if 'feel better.'

CLEARLY, all is not well concerning America's representative democracy and the respect of its citizens for government.

With such low public trust, government officials & politicians have less legitimacy to represent, and act for American citizens than ever before.

And, as Ronald Reagan often said, "Trust but verify."

with his precious grandchildrenMay actions be taken to significantly increase America's trust in government - by the most obvious action to significantly downsize and restructure federal AND state & local government to a much smaller percentage of our economy, especially in the social arena - - and closer to and not exceeding the 4 main principal reasons for government outlined by our founding forefathers.

We owe it to our nation's founders, the flag of freedom and to our young generation.

Michael Hodges -

Thank you for your visit. To learn about difficult economic conditions being passed to our youth, and to view several graphic pictures you have never seen, please Click this Link for the Grandfather Economic Report Home Page Index

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