Capitalism: Is it working for you?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Capitalism
Artist and activist Steve Lambert designed the interactive Capitalism installation to let people express their confidence as well as their complaints. Click this image to visit Lambert's website, where he also has posted videos about the project.

Artist and activist Steve Lambert designed the interactive Capitalism installation. Click this image to visit Lambert’s website, where he also has posted videos about the project.

QUICK! Does capitalism work you? Yes or no?

If you’re in Times Square this week, you can register your vote at an interactive art project. If you are not in New York City—please register your vote here by leaving a comment!

Artist and activist Steve Lambert’s installation “Capitalism: It works for me!” began yesterday in New York City’s Times Square, and runs through October 9. The lighted display invites passersby to press a green or red button, registering their vote “true” or “false.” Updated totals are shown on the display. Voters can also video record their comments and thoughts.

If you were in Times Square, how would you vote? Would you say that capitalism is working for you? Or not working for you?

Most Americans say that our system of capitalism is working, according to a 2013 Public Religion Research Institute survey. But only 9% say it is working very well. About 45% say American capitalism is working somewhat. Twenty-six percent say our economic system is not working too well, with an additional 16% saying that it is not working at all well.

Not surprisingly, Americans who make a lot of money are much more likely to say the system is working, compared to those who make little money. Even so, almost half (47%) of Americans with annual household incomes of $30,000 or less says that our economic system is working well.

Why is capitalism working? Among those who believe it is, the main reason they give is that it encourages personal responsibility (33%). Others say it is working because it provides equal opportunities for all (29%), or that it promotes individual freedom (24%).

Why is capitalism NOT working? Among those who say it isn’t working, the main reason is that it encourages greed (34%). Others say that it does not provide opportunities for all (28%), or that it creates poverty (14%). Only 4% say it is not working well because of too much government regulation.

Does capitalism work for you?

If yes, why?

If no, why not?

Please, take a moment to add a Comment, below. And invite friends to read along. Use the blue-”f” Facebook icon or the small envelope-shaped email icon.

Capitalism: So what if everyone doesn’t have an equal chance in life?

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Capitalism
Click the cover of the Public Religion Research report on its Economic Values Survey of Americans for 2013 -- to jump to the PRRC website and read either a summer or download the full report.

Click this cover of the PRRI report on its Economic Values Survey of Americans for 2013 — and you will jump to the website where you can read either a summary or download the full 62-page report.

Equal opportunitiy is one of America’s 10 core values. Almost all Americans endorse this principle. Indeed, America is called the Land of Opportunity.

But, is it?

Americans are divided about how well our economic system is working. Americans are also divided when it comes to the reality of equal opportunities. As I mentioned yesterday, those who believe the system is working cite equal opportunities for all as a reason—while those who believe the system is not working cite the lack of equal opportunities for all.

Is it really such a big deal if we don’t have equal opportunities for all?

A sizable minority of Americans say it isn’t: 39% say “it is not really that big a problem if some people have more of a chance in life than others,” according to a 2013 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI). A slim majority of Americans (53%) disagree, saying that “one of the big problems in this country is that we don’t give everyone an equal chance in life.”

Attitudes about this issue vary widely by religious affiliation. At one extreme, black Protestants are the most likely to say that it is a big problem if everyone doesn’t have an equal chance in life. Over three quarters (76%) believe so, compared to only 20% who say it isn’t that big a problem if everyone doesn’t have a fair shot in life.

At the other extreme, white Evangelicals are the least likely to see the lack of an equal chance for all as a big problem. Almost half (47%) say that it isn’t really that big of a problem if some people have more of a chance in life than others, compared to 42% who say that it is.

Where do you come out on this issue?

Do you believe that it really isn’t that big a problem if some people have more of a chance in life than others?

Or, do you believe that one of the big problems in our America is that we don’t give everyone an equal chance in life?

Please, take a moment to add a Comment, below. And invite friends to read along. Use the blue-”f” Facebook icon or the small envelope-shaped email icon.

Capitalism: Does government help or hurt?

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Capitalism
Treasury employees and other federal workers protest the government shutdown. Photo by Keith Ellison from Minneapolis. Released for public use via Wikimedia Commons.

Treasury employees and other federal workers protest the government shutdown. Photo by Keith Ellison from Minneapolis. Released for public use via Wikimedia Commons.

Confidence in our economy is dropping like a stone. Gallup reports that last week saw the single biggest drop in economic confidence since September 2008—when Lehman Brothers collapsed and triggered a global economic crisis.

Is government to blame for our plummeting confidence?

Can government fix things?

Few Americans think the federal government is generally working, according to a 2013 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI). Only 10% of Democrats said that it was generally working, with only 2% of Republicans and 2% of Tea Partiers saying the same. The PRRI poll was taken before the shutdown, and I’m sure even fewer would now say that our federal government is generally working.

The majority opinion in every political camp is that the government is completely broken or broken but still working in some areas. Tea Partiers are the most likely to say the government is completely broken (51%). Democrats are the least likely to see it that way (15%).

Is there any group that gives high marks to the federal government? Among racial and ethnic groups, Latino Americans are the most likely to say the government is generally working or working but with major problems. About 40% say so. Black and white Americans give the lowest marks

Millennial-age Americans are more positive than their elders. About four of ten (39%) say the federal government is generally working, or working but with major problems. Baby boomers give the lowest marks.

How confident are you today in our economy?

Do you think the federal government is broken?

Do you think is it generally working?

Please, take a moment to add a Comment, below. And invite friends to read along. Use the blue-”f” Facebook icon or the small envelope-shaped email icon.

Capitalism: What values should guide government policy?

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Capitalism
An area of the National Mall closed during the government shutdown. Photo by Reivax, released for public use via Wikimedia Commons.

An area of the National Mall closed during the government shutdown. Photo by Reivax, released for public use via Wikimedia Commons.

Government economic policy is now hostage to the ideological battle in Washington, D.C. If we can set that dispute aside for a moment, this is a timely moment to ask:

What values should guide government policy? Here are several values the government should promote. Which of these do you think are the most important?

  • Encouraging people to live more responsible lives.
  • Promoting freedom and liberty.
  • Promoting equality and fairness.
  • Providing a public safety net for people who are facing hardships.
  • Supporting private charity for the poor.

The economic values that government should promote is an area of broad agreement among the American people, according to the recent survey by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI). A majority of Americans says that each of the above values is important for government to promote.

But some values are more important than others. I listed them above in the order of support. An overwhelming majority say that the value of encouraging people to live more responsible lives should guide government economic policy. Support declines slowly for the other values as we work down the list, but—still—a majority endorse even the last value, supporting private charity for the poor.

What values do you think should guide government policy?

Is the value of encouraging people to live more responsible lives at the top of your list?

If not, what is?

Please, take a moment to add a Comment, below. And invite friends to read along. Use the blue-”f” Facebook icon or the small envelope-shaped email icon.

Capitalism: Is dysfunctional government the big problem after all?

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Capitalism
Click on the Gallup chart to read the entire report.

Click on the Gallup chart to read the entire report.

“Government is not the solution to our problem,” said Ronald Reagan in his 1991 Inaugural Address, “government is the problem.”

Gallup reports that record numbers of Americans today believe Reagan was right after all.

We began the week asking if capitalism is working for you and whether it is or isn’t a big problem if everyone doesn’t have an equal chance in life. We noted that confidence in our economy is at low ebb, and discussed the economic values that should guide government policy.

Dysfunctional government is now seen as a bigger problem than the economy, according to a Gallup poll taken about a week ago. Dysfunctional government tops the list of the biggest problems our country faces. Thirty-three percent of Americans now say that it is the most important problem facing the country. In contrast, 19% of Americans say the economy is the most important problem.

Here’s the shocking news: The percentage of Americans who now say that dysfunctional government is the most important problem is the highest percentage that Gallup has ever seen—going all the way back to 1939!

Is dysfunctional government the biggest problem we face?

If government got out of the way, would your faith in capitalism increase or decrease?

Please, take a moment to add a Comment, below. And invite friends to read along. Use the blue-”f” Facebook icon or the small envelope-shaped email icon.