All high government approval ratings are local

October 3, 2011

This great graphic from Visually maps the public’s great discontent with the federal government using data from the Pew Research Center. It’s hard to imagine the numbers being any worse than this: 11 percent of the public is satisfied with the officials in Washington, DC.

Given Pew’s research, it’s somewhat counterintuitive that a recent poll from Gallup shows Americans pretty content with their state and local governments. From Politico:

Trust and confidence in local government has hovered around 70 percent for the past decade, and the recent gridlock at the federal level has done little to sully local impressions of government. In fact, 68 percent of respondents to a new Gallup poll on Monday said they had a “fair” or “great” deal of trust and confidence in their local governments.

State governments also received good reviews compared to their federal counterparts. A solid majority, 57 percent, viewed their state governments with a “fair” or “great” amount of trust.

It’s unclear why people trust local and state governments more. Personally I think all levels of government are susceptible to outside influences and corrupting internal players. People actually see the benefits of their local governments through roads, schools and garbage collection and maybe this boosts their trust.

The great muniland refi

Bloomberg picks up the theme I wrote about on Friday of the very favorable conditions municipalities are enjoying as they finance their debt. Bloomberg reports:

Like homeowners refinancing their mortgages at the lowest interest rates since 1971, U.S. states and municipalities are slashing debt-service costs by selling new securities to replace costlier borrowings from past years.

Lower yields are helping states and localities cut borrowing costs as they marked their seventh-straight quarter of revenue growth over the previous year, the U.S. Census Bureau said last week. The last time governments enjoyed such an extended combination of falling interest rates and rising revenue was from June 1996 to September 1998, when Bill Clinton was in the White House.

The debt hydra

The worst situation for any borrower to get into is one in which debt service payments eat up more and more of one’s income. It’s analogous to a homeowner paying more and more of his earnings to support his mortgage. It leaves less for other household necessities. There’s troubling news along these lines from the state with the largest municipal bond debt load, California. Bloomberg reports:

The percentage of California’s budget spent paying bondholders will climb to its highest since at least 1977 even as the state borrows less, Treasurer Bill Lockyer said.

Debt service will increase to 7.8 percent of the general fund in the fiscal year that began July 1 from 7.1 percent last year, Lockyer said in his annual debt-affordability report released today. The portion was 2.36 percent in 1991 and 1.47 percent in 1977. California is the largest issuer of municipal debt in the U.S.

But the good news for California is that they pulled back on debt issuance. The Bond Buyer reports:

Borrowers in California issued $27 billion in debt for the first three quarters of the year, down 32.6% from the almost $40 billion that was issued this time last year.


@Twitter Talk

Legislative Library @TexasLRL Legislative Library  On the U.S. Sup. Court docket today, a case relating to state-reductions in Medicaid payments. Good preview here:
Bernie Sanders @SenatorSanders Bernie Sanders  Corporate tax revenue in 2010 was 27% smaller than 2000, even though corporate profits are up 60% over the last decade.

IpreoCapMarkets @IpreoCapMarkets IpreoCapMarkets  Geographical diversity reflected in strong market volume.Here’s the updated muni deal cal for this wk:

California Watch @CaliforniaWatch California Watch  MT @rgabrielsoncw: In 2 days, CA starts sending new low-level convicts to county jails, not prison.

Pew Trusts @pewtrusts Pew Trusts  EPA and Pew reports highlight connection between poultry farms and Chesapeake Bay pollution

Barrett and Greene @GreeneBarrett Barrett and Greene  Gov. Schweitzer says Montana will request waiver to set up universal health care system similar to Canada

Stateside Associates @StatesideAssoc Stateside Associates   PA @GovernorCorbett (R) names 23 business and political leaders to panel on privatization of government assets


+ Good Links +

Sydney Morning Herald: Ratings agencies shamed, not named, in US probe

Bloomberg: Google Joins Apple in Push for Tax Holiday

24/7 Wall Street:  Nine American Cities Going Broke

Bellingham Herald: Wash. minimum wage moving up to $9.04 per hour

MSRB: SEC Approves MSRB Proposal Regarding Board Composition

No comments so far

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see