How obnoxious and out of touch are Washington bureaucrats?
That's the topic of a brand-new book by Jennifer Bachner and Benjamin Ginsburg: What Washington Gets Wrong: The Unelected Officials Who Actually Run the Government and Their Misconceptions about the American People (Prometheus). The two political scientists at Johns Hopkins University point out that the federal government employs about 2.5 million career civil servants, most of whom consider us ordinary Americans to be dumb as nailheads, while actually getting the facts all wrong about who we are and how we live.
I haven't read the book yet, but New York Post columnist Kyle Smith has–and what he has to say about the book's revelations is devastating:
Instead of polling Americans about Washington again, a pair of academics at Johns Hopkins tried something new — polling Washington about Americans. What they found was a combination of ignorance, contempt and disdain.
Survey data from the polled group — staffers from the White House and Capitol Hill plus career civil servants and the policy community of lobbyists and others who work closely with government from outside it — indicate that the functionary class thinks of itself as our betters. Our bosses, not our representatives. They see their own judgment as being far superior to that of the rest of us — the people whose wishes they are supposed to be carrying out….
By a huge margin, the bureaucrats said they knew better than the public what was right for the public. On Social Security, twice as many bureaucrats said they knew best. On crime, three times as many bureaucrats said their way was superior. On the environment, the ratio was almost four to one.
But in fact these oh-so-superior know-it-alls who make the rules and policies that run our nation know next to nothing about basic American demographics:
Presented with simple multiple-choice quizzes, the bureaucrats failed badly. For instance, 65 percent of the DC insiders guessed that median household income is lower than it is in reality (about $52,000 a year). Almost four out of five respondents underestimated the percent of the population that is white (which is 78 percent of Americans). Sixty-four percent of those surveyed underestimated the cohort of Americans (age 25 and up) who have a high school diploma: It’s 85 percent. And 80 percent of respondents guessed that the rate of homeownership is lower than it is: 67 percent….
Officialdom overestimates, by an average of 8 percentage points, the proportion of Americans who support increasing government spending in the areas of education, crime prevention, welfare and child care.
That doesn't prevent them, however, from viewing the rest of us as easily manipulable dopes:
Asked to estimate how much knowledge Americans have about various issues, the bureaucrats gave answers that were frankly contemptuous. According to government officials, 72 percent of Americans know “very little” or nothing about government aid to the poor. Eleven percent of officials think Americans know nothing — absolutely nothing — about science and technology policy, and another 60 percent think we know very little. Sixty-three percent of officials think we know little or nothing about environmental policy. According to the bureaucracy, 6 percent or less of Americans know “a great deal” about any of the nine issues sampled.
The book's conclusion: Those unelected bureaucrats in Washington who want to run our lives for us are not our friends.