The biggest problem facing the U.S.? Size and scope of government

Raymond Keating
Raymond Keating

To say that government plays too big of a part in daily life would be to grossly understate reality. Gallup recently reported a near record-high 34 percent of Americans cite the government, poor leadership or politicians as the most important problem currently facing the United States.

Indeed, Gallup notes that in terms of responses to the open-ended question about the most important problem facing this country today, the top answer has been pretty consistent for nearly three years: government. Including negative comments about leadership and politicians, government has been the top problem in 31 of Gallup’s 34 readings since January 2017.

Democrats and Republicans agree. Out of the 34 percent of those who cited government as the top problem, 41 percent were Democrats, 36 percent Republicans and 27 percent independents. The Democratic and Republican figures have each jumped 13 points since September, with the reading among independents rising eight points. However, Republicans and Democrats differ markedly as to their problems with government — with both sides falling back on partisan, political matters, such as impeachment.

Without dismissing certain claims relating to politics, the real problem with government is its sheer size and intrusiveness. Whether it’s taxes, regulations, tariffs, government spending, subsidies or rent seeking, government has moved far beyond its foundational duties of safeguarding our rights and liberties and protecting life, limb and property. Make no mistake. Government works best when it stays limited to these foundational duties and, in turn, citizens, businesses and our economy remain free to thrive. After all, more government means reducing freedoms and crowding out the private sector.

But work is required, including education, when it comes to the size and effects of government. After all, there’s a significant portion of the American electorate that looks to government to solve their problems and inflict harm on or place restrictions on others through regulations or mandates.

Refreshing citizens about the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and economics 101 would lead to an even higher percentage of Americans citing government and politics as the nation’s biggest problem. And those views would be undergirded by more than the mere political headlines and whims of the day.

Raymond Keating is chief economist for the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council. The nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy, education and research organization works to protect small business and promote entrepreneurship. For additional information, log on to the website at