The ratings are out. No, not the Nielsons, they are always out— somewhere. I’m referring to the annual Gallop poll asking a random number of Americans to rate institutions, those entities that the dictionary defines as organizations, establishments, foundations, societies, or the like, devoted to the promotion of a particular cause or program, especially one of a public, educational, or charitable character.
Well, rate them we Americans did and here are some results.
I’m happy to report that the United States military ranked highest with 76 percent of us having quite a bit of confidence and respect for those who serve. Placing second at 66 percent was the institution that encompasses the small businesses of America. Again, we should all be heartened to hear that so many people appreciate the idea of small business, unquestionably the backbone of our economy. As a small business owner, I am quite familiar with the sweat, equity, sacrifice, responsibility, reputation and challenge just to stay afloat during the 21st century recession. Coming in third on the list of respected institutions is the police. No group of men and women face more crime, grime and danger on a daily basis so that’s a survey result I can live with. Next is church and organized religion. It’s dropped a few percentage points over the past year, but people still see enough of the positive in religion, despite what certain individuals have done and continue to do in the name of it. Rounding out the top five is the medical system. Doctors and health care providers have been taking it on the chin for years with rising demand, shrinking budgets, lower compensation, mounting attacks by litigants and government red tape that will certainly explode with the passage of the Fed’s health care bill. Interestingly, HMO’s place extremely low on the list, next to last place. People do generally like and appreciate their doctors – patients don’t have patience (pun clearly intended) with the messy and costly jungle that is the maddening health care bureaucracy.
This brings us to the low point, the nadir of the survey. By now, you’ve probably guessed what institution ranks at the bottom and has consistently done so for many years. Good guess—The United States Congress. Since Gallop began the questionnaire, the public’s rating of confidence in Congress has fallen rather precipitously from a high of 42 percent in 1973 to an all time low of 11 percent today. Those are pretty damaging numbers. Especially when you flip it and realize that 89 percent of us think Congress is doing a horrid job. There are many obvious reasons such as promises broken, bloated deficits, lack of effective leadership, corruption, and petty party bickering.
This survey has to bother Nancy and Harry and the rest of the gavel raisers. How can they get those numbers up, how can Congress win back the trust and confidence of the American people? There is only one way out of this jam as I see it. Borrow some tricks from TV.
Congress ought to roll out promos on a regular basis to attract voter attention. How about a “Don’t Miss Thursday Night Roll Call Lineup” promotion where all of the reps and senators gather in tuxedoes and ball gowns to pass vital legislation. They would of course save votes on going to war or amending the Constitution for “sweeps month.” Or how about inviting special guest stars to the Congressional podium to call meetings to order? Justin Bieber would bring in the kids; Betty White would bolster the golden-age demographics. Let’s do a little creative thinking here people!
Or maybe, the House and Senate should just launch competing reality shows on C-Span 1 and 2. How about something like “Pelosi’s Pad,” involving rookie representatives who would have to fight off dangerous lobbyists, bloggers and extortionists in an attempt to win lunch with the House Speaker? Or perhaps “Who Wants to be the Senate’s First Billionaire?” a game show involving all 100 senators, all millionaires as we know, in their quest to propose and fund the biggest pork barrel projects in under an hour, all while padding their pockets to reach the billion. Congress needs the dream team from “Mad Men” and a whole lot more to regain something of a positive image. Subway boards, radio spots, online ads, free handouts – wait; they’ve already cornered the market on those. It will be costly and require hundreds of millions to reverse the downward trend. More good money after bad? Most likely.
Or maybe, the solons in Washington will just have to roll up their sleeves and do what those other institutions at the top of the list have done so well over the years. Deliver.