Confidence down on Congress? Here's why

The Gallup polling organization does an annual survey on public confidence in our nation's institutions. The results last month show our most esteemed institutions are the military, small business, organized religion and the police.

Although popular culture often belittles the military and organized religion, and often disrespects the police, most Americans hold them in high regard. Eighty-two percent expressed a "great deal" of confidence in the military. The Pentagon's only higher score was at 85 percent after the Gulf War in 1991.

Some of the institutions at the lower end of the poll included television news, newspapers, organized labor, banks, big business and Congress. News organizations averaged 24 percent. Confidence in banks and big business has declined -- and rightfully so -- considering their roles in the subprime mortgage mess and the economic crisis.

The Gallup poll shows the Pelosi Congress with an average confidence rating of 14 percent over the past three years. The latest poll shows Congress at 17 percent, and I will lay out why it is held in such contempt.

Over the past six months we have seen Congress pass a $787 billion stimulus package which many members admitted they did not read.

In these same six months, we have seen the House pass a massive piece of "cap and trade" energy legislation that many members admitted they also did not read. Now wouldn't you think an energy bill that both Democrats and Republicans agreed would create higher energy costs for working families would at least be read by those in whom we have entrusted with our votes? Especially considering its cost could be up to $3,000 per family, per year.

Wouldn't it stand to reason that a 300-page amendment added to the energy bill at 3 a.m. should be read by those voting on it?

In these same six months:

-- We have seen more than 30 "czars" appointed by the Obama administration to oversee issues ranging from the auto industry to climate change to executive pay. In my opinion this usurps the constitutional authority of the Congress.

-- Congress and the administration have continued to allow the big banks to ignore small businesses. I still don't get it. They say big business is too big to fail. But small business is too small to fool with.

-- We have seen legislation to create a federal government takeover of our health care system. The Congressional Budget Office estimated a $1.6 trillion price tag for the proposal.

Ironically, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., pressed the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee to require members of Congress to enroll in whatever government plan Congress structures to compete with private insurance companies.

The measure passed 12-11 with nine Democrats voting against it. However, believe you me, this will be stripped from the bill, and will never see the light of day before the full Senate votes on it.

The first line of the House health bill reads ""to provide affordable, quality health care for all Americans and reduce the growth in health care spending, and for other purposes." What other purposes? Could someone define that extremely broad language?

Also, on page 16, you'll find a provision making individual private medical insurance illegal. Yes, I said "illegal." This 1,017 page document has a provision that would outlaw private insurance. So much for the private options.

This comes only after reading just 16 pages. Imagine what other surprises await us on the following 1,001 pages.

Bailing out General Motors; bailing out the big banks; abandoning small business; cap and tax legislation that will drive up energy costs for everyone and make us more dependent on foreign oil; a $787 billion stimulus bill that hasn't created more jobs; more than 30 unaccountable czars appointed; and a government takeover of our health care system.

All of these things in the past six months -- on top of having $56 trillion in unfunded obligations in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Medicare and Medicaid trustees said last May that both programs are spiraling toward bankruptcy faster than previously predicted.

The national debt has topped $11 trillion for the first time in our nation's history, and the federal government in this fiscal year faces at $1.8 trillion deficit.

So what is Congress and the Obama administration doing to address these problems? Absolutely nothing.

They are spending our money with no end in sight. With all the spending we've seen in the past six months and the last year of the Bush administration, this should give Republicans and Democrats concern about the economic future of our nation.

With nothing being done in a bipartisan way to address these economic grumblings that will cause an economic tsunami, this reminds us of why Gallup shows Congress at record low approval ratings.

J.C. Watts ( is chairman of J.C. Watts Companies, a business consulting group. He is former chairman of the Republican Conference of the U.S. House, where he served as an Oklahoma representative from 1995 to 2002.