In Focus: 81% of Americans Say Country Going to Hell

A recent New York Times/CBS News poll found that 81% of Americans thinks "things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track" in this country. At issue, of course, is the unpopularity of President Bush and Congress, the war in Iraq, and -- weightiest on respondents' minds -- the dire economy.

There were some counterintuitive results, such as:

The poll found that Americans blame government officials for the crisis more than banks or home buyers and other borrowers. Forty percent of respondents said regulators were mostly to blame, while 28 percent named lenders and 14 percent named borrowers.

Which might indicate that people pay closer attention to interest rates than they do to junk securities merchants. And:

More broadly, 43 percent of those surveyed they would prefer a larger government that provided more services, which is tied for the highest such number since The Times and CBS began asking the question in 1991. But an identical 43 percent said they wanted a smaller government that provided fewer services.

Given the extraordinary growth of government services under the current administration, it's not hard to see why there is such an evenly distributed antagonism between the desirability of federal bail-outs, and laissez-faire, let-the-market-fix-itself sentiment. Also, financial institutions get no love, while respondents sympathize more with individuals affected by the mortgage crisis.

Firedoglake blames the man in charge, and cautions against the man who would be in charge: "Just like George Bush, John McCain has been on the wrong side of every issue important to voters: he approved the Fed's Bear Stearns bailout, but opposes more regulation and is skeptical about helping homeowners; he supports Bush's tax cuts for the rich; he'll stay in Iraq for 100 years, even though Americans and Iraqis want us out."

naked capitalism says: "For the collective mood to be this negative when the US is at the beginning of a downturn points to at least a couple of culprits. One is that the public believes that this is no ordinary recession in the making. Second is that the unhappiness is about more than the economy, but also about the US's fallen standing in the world and the patent, unabashed dishonest of many government and business leaders."

Jonathan Cohn at TNR's The Plank is bolstered by the favorability of bigger government: "So what's the political lesson here? On the merits, the case for more aggressive regulation and a stronger safety net--not just in health care, but also banking, pensions, and other areas--has never been stronger. And the insecurity evident in this poll suggests people are becoming more open to these sorts of initiatives--more, certainly, than they have been in a long time."

Michael Weiss is the New York Editor of Pajamas Media. His blog is Snarksmith.