New York Times

Yanks in Crisis
The New York Times

We’re in the middle of the biggest crisis of capitalism in 70 years. We’ve got a new administration in Washington active on every front. So whom do Americans turn to in times like these? Themselves. Americans have always felt that they are masters of their own fate. Decade after decade, Americans stand out from others in their belief that their own individual actions determine how they fare. That conviction has been utterly unshaken by the global crisis.

The crisis has not sent Americans running to government for relief. Nor has it led to a populist surge in anti-business sentiment. In a recent Gallup poll, 55 percent of Americans said that big government is the biggest threat to the country. Only 32 percent said big business.

Americans have always been skeptical of activist government, and that skepticism remains. When Gallup asked specifically about the current crisis, 44 percent of Americans said they disapprove of an expanded role for government during the crisis; 39 percent said they approve of an expanded role but want it reduced when the crisis is over; and only 13 percent want to see a permanently expanded role for government.

When asked what could best enhance income security, half of all Americans said it was a matter of individual responsibility, 19 percent said government regulations like increasing the minimum wage were most effective and 15 percent said government programs.

The Great Depression altered the national consciousness. So far, the Great Recession has not.