Scotus and Potus Fail: Ritholtz Chart

Barry Ritholtz is a Bloomberg View columnist. He founded Ritholtz Wealth Management and was chief executive and director of equity research at FusionIQ, a quantitative research firm. He blogs at the Big Picture and is the author of “Bailout Nation: How Greed and Easy Money Corrupted Wall Street and Shook the World Economy.”
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Last month, we noted how Congress reached a record low in confidence from the American people. (I blamed you, the non-voting public for allowing the inmates to take over the asylum and turning this into the worst. congress. ever.)

As it turns out, it's not just Congress: Confidence hit a six-year low for the presidency and an all-time record low for the U.S. Supreme Court.

What is behind this?

Some of it is personal. President Barack Obama's approval ratings are low, even though people like him personally. President George W. Bush suffered from the same fate, with high likability ratings but even lower approval ratings in the midst of the financial crisis.

Most fascinating is the court's rating: The institution that was once rated the most trusted branch of government has since seen its approval ratings plummet. Gallup has tracked confidence in the court since 1973, and the most recent rating is the lowest in the institution's history.

This is actually an important thing. Although the court is supposed to be above such minor concerns as popularity, there is such a thing as consent of the governed and legitimacy of the institution. There, the John Roberts court seems to be flagging.

Going back to Bush v. Gore, the Supremes have issued a series of decisions that were castigated by legal scholars and ridiculed by experts. And they have generally chosen the corporation over the individual voter. Other than the recent 9-0 decision that reading mobile phone information requires a warrant, can you think of any other controversial decision that was not ridiculed as absurd? Corporations have been elevated to personhood status. They can vote, donate to elections in a practically unlimited way and now apparently have religious views. You can almost hear the hum coming from the founders spinning in their graves.

And it's only going to get worse. More corporate-rights cases have been added to their docket for the fall. The Wall Street Journal notes, "The court agreed to hear eight cases examining a range of issues, including employment discrimination, state taxes and antitrust issues." As we noted some time ago, it's you versus corporations.

Based on recent history, it would not surprise me to see court approval ratings fall even farther.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

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Barry L Ritholtz at