Poll: Conservatives Blame Washington, While Liberals Blame Wall Street

A new poll by The Hill shows that voters assign blame for the financial crisis depending on party:

In the minds of likely voters, Washington, not Wall Street, is primarily to blame for the financial crisis and the subsequent recession.***

The Hill poll found that only one in three likely voters blames Wall Street for the country’s financial troubles, whereas more than half — 56 percent — blame Washington.


The split on the question of apportioning blame for the nation’s economic travails corresponds closely with voters’ political ideologies: More than 7 in 10 conservatives blamed Washington for the recession, while more than 5 in 10 liberals blamed Wall Street.

But self-identified centrists, importantly, appear to be siding with the right on economic issues, with nearly half blaming Washington for the recession.

The difference also reflected voters’ views of Obama: Among those who “strongly” or “somewhat” approve of the president, most blamed Wall Street, while those who “strongly” or “somewhat” disapprove of the president blamed Washington.

Interestingly, those who described themselves as “not sure” about Obama nonetheless blamed Wall Street over Washington by a more than two-to-one margin, 55 percent to 23 percent.

The poll – conducted for The Hill by Pulse Opinion Research – asked the question of who is “more to blame for America’s recent financial crisis and recession”, Washington or Wall Street? But as shown below, that is the wrong question.

Who Is Really To Blame … Wall Street Or Washington?

So who is really to blame … Wall Street or Washington?

The answer – which can only be seen if we take of our partisan blinders long enough to look around – is both. But because both mainstream parties benefit from the fake left-right dog-and-pony show – because it keeps Americans from realizing that Wall Street and Washington are working together to screw the 99% – there are many loud voices on both sides trying to keep us from taking off our blinders.

As Matt Taibbi pointed out yesterday:

Take, for instance, the matter of the Too-Big-To-Fail banks …. These gigantic institutions have put millions of ordinary people out of their homes thanks to a massive fraud scheme for which they were not punished, owing to their enormous influence with government and their capture of the regulators.

This is an issue for the traditional “left” because it’s a classic instance of overweening corporate power — but it’s an issue for the traditional “right” because these same institutions are also the biggest welfare bums of all time, de facto wards of the state who sucked trillions of dollars of public treasure from the pockets of patriotic taxpayers from coast to coast.

Both traditional constituencies want these companies off the public teat and back swimming on their own in the cruel seas of the free market, where they will inevitably be drowned in their corruption and greed, if they don’t reform immediately. This is a major implicit complaint of the OWS protests and it should absolutely strike a nerve with Tea Partiers, many of whom were talking about some of the same things when they burst onto the scene a few years ago.

The banks know this. They know they have no “natural” constituency among voters, which is why they spend such fantastic amounts of energy courting the mainstream press and such huge sums lobbying politicians on both sides of the aisle.

Indeed, it is really the malignant symbiotic relationship between Big Government and Big Corporations (what Mussolini called “fascism”, numerous economists have called “socialism”, and others have called “crony capitalism”) which is the problem:

Both liberals and conservatives hate the malignant, symbiotic relationship between big government and big corporations:

Conservatives tend to view big government with suspicion, and think that government should be held accountable and reined in.

Liberals tend to view big corporations with suspicion, and think that they should be held accountable and reined in.


Conservatives hate big unfettered government and liberals hate big unchecked corporations, so both hate legislation which encourages the federal government to reward big corporations at the expense of small businesses.

Most Americans – whether they are conservative or liberal – are disgusted that virtually all of the politicians are bought and paid for. No wonder people of all stripes have lost all trust in our government.

And everyone hates government-enabled fraud. The big banks, of course, committed massive fraud. But the auditors, rating agencies and regulators also all committed fraud, which helped blow the bubble and sowed the seeds of the inevitable crash.


Both liberals and conservatives are angry that the feds are propping up the giant banks – while letting small banks fail by the hundreds – even though that is horrible for the economy and Main Street.

The Dodd-Frank financial legislation wasn’t a compromise where things landed somewhere in the middle between liberal and conservatives ideas. Instead, it enshrines big government propping up the big banks … more or less permanently.

Many liberals and conservatives look at the government’s approach to the financial crisis as socialism for the rich and free market capitalism for the little guy. No wonder both liberals and conservatives hate it.

And it’s not just the big banks. Americans are angry that the federal government under both Bush and Obama have handed giant defense contractors like Blackwater and Halliburton no-bid contracts. [And Solyndra and other solar companies]. They are mad that – instead of cracking down on BP – the government has acted like BP’s p.r. spokesman-in-chief and sugar daddy.

They are peeved that companies like Monsanto are able to sell genetically modified foods without any disclosure, and that small farmers are getting sued when Monsanto crops drift onto their fields.

They are mad that Obama promised “change” – i.e. standing up to Wall Street and the other powers-that-be – but is just delivering more of the same.

They are furious that there is no separation between government and a handful of favored giant corporations. [Indeed, Ben Bernanke has handed out more presents than Santa Claus to McDonald’s Harley-Davidson, hedge funds and others.] In other words, Americans are angry that we’ve gone from capitalism to oligarchy.

As I noted Sunday:

The corrupt, giant banks would never have gotten so big and powerful on their own. In a free market, the leaner banks with sounder business models would be growing, while the giants who made reckless speculative gambles would have gone bust. See this, this and this.

It is the Federal Reserve, Treasury and Congress who have repeatedly bailed out the big banks, ensured they make money at taxpayer expense, exempted them from standard accounting practices and the criminal and fraud laws which govern the little guy, encouraged insane amounts of leverage, and enabled the too big to fail banks – through “moral hazard” – to become even more reckless.

Indeed, the government made them big in the first place. As I noted in 2009:

As MIT economics professor and former IMF chief economist Simon Johnson points out today, the official White House position is that:

(1) The government created the mega-giants, and they are not the product of free market competition


(3) Giant banks are good for the economy

And given that the 12 Federal Reserve banks are private – see this, this, this and this- the giant banks have a huge amount of influence on what the Fed does. Indeed, the money-center banks in New York control the New York Fed, the most powerful Fed bank. Indeed, Jamie Dimon – the head of JP Morgan Chase – is a Director of the New York Fed.

Any attempt by the left to say that the free market is all bad and the government is all good is naive and counter-productive.

And any attempt by the right to say that we should leave the giant banks alone because that’s the free market are wrong.

The [corrupt, captured government "regulators"] and the giant banks are part of a single malignant, symbiotic relationship.

Indeed, while most Americans are in favor of free market capitalism, we don’t have capitalism at the moment. Instead, we have socialism, fascism or crony capitalism, where the government allows a handful of companies to succeed by propping them up, covering up their fraud and handing them guaranteed profits … but allows everyone else to struggle.

For these reasons, a better poll question might be:

Do you know that the unholy alliance between Big Government and Big Government has destroyed the American economy and political system, or are you stuck in some partisan fog of ignorance and blaming one side or the other?

Category: Think Tank

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

12 Responses to “Who Is to Blame: Washington Or Wall Street?”

  1. OK Avenger says:

    Good stuff BR. Both sides have some good points, but the Republicans are too brainwashed to acknowledge that Corporate America has been involved in a very successful campaign of regulatory capture since the 1970s. The Democrats are so stuck in the mode of trying to preserve the Golden Age of the postwar period that they are scared to embrace sensible reforms to labor law, public education, and environmental regulation for fear of alienating their constituencies.

    We need to get together and re-write the social contract for the 21st century.

  2. Frilton Miedman says:


    What scares the crap out of me is hearing the mantra of “get government out of the way”, being promoted by corporate funded interests like Heritage Foundation, ALEC, Freedomworks, America Crossroads and the Fox network.

    The problem isn’t too much government, it’s ineffective government.

    The root cause of that ineffective government – bribery.

  3. ilsm says:

    It is wall st, which is anti markets and anti Adam Smith.

    wall st bankers own the US government.

    “Money is the root of all evil”.

    The wall st money buys the government and perpetuates the grave economic sin, which is condemned in the Old Testament, usury.

    Lack of regulation and no enforcement of fraud laws are motivated by the moil for wall st bribes money.

    However, the bribed and the bribers are culpable.

    The congress is guilty of soliciting the bribes, the corruption starts on wall st.

    There is no capitalism in the US and it is kept down on wall st.

    When in doubt go with old wisdom.

  4. The fact is that nobody is really to Blame

    see “Equality” – http://thepeakoilpoet.blogspot.com/2011/10/equality.html

    here’s a snippet

    I remember the first things I ever read about Peak Oil.

    I forget who those early writers were other than the obvious ones but one thing I got from it all was the need to study economics.

    So I did – for about 10 years – until I came to understand what economics actually is – it’s akin to John Michael Greer’s idea about magic.

    Economics, as much as any economist might claim otherwise, is about spells and incantations that lead people to believe one form of magic or another is the most powerful and the most relevant.

    The battle then becomes between “schools of magic”.

    Those who profit most from one school will back that school.

    So, for example, those that saw profit in backing the Jeffrey Sachs lines of thinking would employ him and his students and sing their praises.

    The process is of course rather incestuous because a clever “economist” would look to where the power was and seek to weave incantations that he’d know that power would be inclined to utilise.

    To my mind, as the ratio of humans to available natural resources grew (in any defined geographic or socio/political region), we moved from profiting from the exploitation of those resources to where we seem to be increasingly going – the exploitation of ourselves.

  5. Moss says:

    Hey George…check the wording of your last question.

  6. dsawy says:

    It is a three-way cluster-foxtrot of blame: DC, Wall Street and the Fed.

    The Fed is unaccountable to the public by design, and the clowns in DC are fighting as hard as they can to remain out of touch.

    Wall Street could be held accountable very quickly by either DC or the Fed, but neither the Fed nor Congress/EOP will do anything to “upset the system.”

  7. mark says:

    Why the need for the word “Big” in front of government?

    Whether a government be big or small, whether it be democratic or authoritarian, when a particular segment of the economy gets “too big”, i.e., accumulates an unusually large share of total profits, capital etc, it will attempt and probably succeed in “owning” the government. It was true of the railroads in the 19th century, it was true of Wall St. in the ’20s, it is true of the finance industry today. Until the power of those oligarchs, plutocrats, robber barons or whatever name you want to apply to them is broken reforms aren’t possible.

  8. Futuredome says:

    Anti-Market? Hardly, Wall Street wants to create conditions HOW markets are created. Similiarly, so do Governments. They always don’t see eye to eye. Sometimes they see eye to eye. Markets aren’t freely created from thin air and distributed equally. This point gets lost on the intellectual.

    Who runs Wall Street and the Government? Capital Owners. Capital Owners are the near term problem in todays world. They overaccumalate. After the Great Contraction, Capital Owners lost alot of confidence and allowed for the general surge of the post-war period as capital was redistributed into labor and to no surprise, created a massive economic boom which outstripped any boom before and with no free land, destroyed much of the poverty. Unlike what alot of you believe, Capital Owners didn’t always push for steady expansion. But the Great Depression changed the game(and had been changed since the long depression due to labor uprisings). The Malthusian trap, however, should not be negated and is the long term problem. You can’t grow and expand population wise forever, without feeling shortages. Which IMO the battles line are drawn. Poster above mentioned the Democrats and the post-war period. This is excellent point and also a warning. The Democrats will have to choose between the “New Liberalism” of the post-war period and a viable US economy in a commodity trapped world. There may be a time the party will have to choose between National Socialism vs. International markets. The current new liberalism model is dead. I think the party leaders know it is, but making the transfer, is time consuming and takes awhile. Generally centered around a “cult of personality” type. It will also cause some parts of the party to leave the party, much like the “Dixiecrats” did in 1948. Republicans have the opposite problem. They have over injected the world with so much capital into the hands of a few powers, their system is on the brink of collapse. So they want to continue making it worse because they can’t turn back now.

    I think overall, we need to admit the US is at a crossroads similiar to Rome. The Republic has gone far, but the walls are closing in on expansion via republicanism. Much like Carthage, the US has challengers in Asia. At the same time, the “Barbarians” are down the south(Mexico/CA/South America).

    The US may be at a time that it will have to choose whether to be like Rome and abolish the Republic for the “Empire”. Find a new set of “founders” who can take the country foward. Destroy Asia and take from the world as we so please. Generally, we have done that for Capital Owners in the past 100 years, but that isn’t enough now. To keep the middle class intact, we have to take more. Empire’s have consenquences, but those consenquences are far better than the alternative. Capital Owners faced this in the first half of the 20th century and helped create the “fascist” label, even though they paid a dear price in the end. Now labor has reached the same end.

  9. csainvestor says:

    Conspiracy theorists have told us for decades that there is zero difference between the parties.

    It seems as if every-single day someone new (and mainstream) wakes up to the fact that the game is rigged, we elect new people, but they carry on with the same polices as the previous politicians did.

    Take David Icke as an example (ignore the alien agenda) he has told us that both parties are just two sides of the same coin, We only have the illusion of choice. Everyone believed they were nutters back then, but were they right?

    this movie clip was made in the 70′s but tell me if it is relevant today.

  10. Greg0658 says:

    there are 2 kinds of people in the world .. A> make their conditions B> live in the conditions created by others … ok 3 kinds C> conservatives ie: Bs that think they did it on their own

  11. csainvestor says:

    to clarify, i do believe there is a difference between the modern democratic and republican parties- especially on social issues. most other differences are superficial, but on the large issues its always the same status quo.

    on large issues, that’s an entirely different matter.
    no one that assumes the office of the presidency will end:

    -end the war on drugs- even though new polls show that a slight majority of Americans think pot should be legal.

    -end the fed.
    -close over 100 military bases around the world.
    -they will never seriously regulate wall street.
    -go after white collar criminals with the same gusto they do with minorities.
    -support Palestine
    -end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq UNTIL we take what we need or accomplish some hidden goal or agenda that we will never be privy to.

    no matter who assumes the presidency, nothing on this list will ever change. the real question is- why?

  12. csainvestor says:

    i am not a Conspiracy theorist. i don’t think there is an overarching grand plan that has been concocted in secret. most Conspiracies amount to nothing more than simple greed and corruption.

    i just think it is interesting that a lot of mainstream blogs are actually starting to notice that no matter who we elect, things never change, they just seem to get worse. and, it is doubly interesting that popular Conspiracy theorists of the past, said it, and wrote about it, when no one was paying any attention.