In the wake of the recent government shutdown, Congress hit rock bottom in more ways than one: an ABC/Washington Post poll found the public gave Congress a 5 percent approval rating, the lowest rating in 40 years of polling. You would be hard-pressed to find anything garnering less than a 5 percent approval rating. Cockroaches, hemorrhoids and people who let their dogs poo in other yards without cleaning up the mess probably have higher ratings. But members of Congress have plenty of company on a list of the most despised professions. If you want to spend your life as the butt of bad jokes, pursue a career in one of the following 10 professions.
10. Wall Street Traders
A 2012 Gallup Poll found that only 11 percent of respondents rated stockbrokers favorably in terms of honesty and ethics in professions. That is 1 measly percentage point above what members of Congress polled — so the Gordon Gekkos of the world have at least something to celebrate. For every morally bankrupt trader/traitor image perpetuated in the media via Wall Street-isms (“Greed is Good”), there is a legitimate reason to suspect their moneyed ranks. Remember all those ridiculously risky subprime mortgage securities that traders were swapping around like kids trading baseball cards, contributing to the great recession? It will take a long time for traders to live that episode down.
9. Department of Motor Vehicles Clerks
Really, this one is too easy. Many of these clerks work hard and do a good job, but they have come to embody everything that is wrong with the U.S. bureaucratic state. Some trips to the DMV end up feeling like a Saturday Night Live skit, as getting a license or registration becomes a multi-hour odyssey. The saga almost makes you want to hug your friendly TSA worker the next time you’re navigating airport security.
8. Insurance Salesmen
It’s not a good start when your official title has the word “sales” in it. Combine that with the word “insurance” and your job description gives rise to the type of hostile remarks found on a very unscientific Democratic Underground survey, which asked: “What is your perception of insurance salesmen?” Responses ranged from the blunt (“They are the work of Satan”) to the more nuanced (“My perception of insurance companies is UNDER REVIEW and I will probably have to deny any perceptions”).
7. IRS Tax Auditors
Most everyone would agree these professionals perform a vital function, ensuring everyone pays their fair share of taxes. But name one person in U.S. history who has ever been happy to undergo a tax audit. Take a look around the Internet and you can find almost as many jokes about auditors as there are lawyer jokes. We’d love to share a few here but we don’t want to push our luck … April 15 is fast approaching.
Idealistic young journalists look back on a golden age of journalism that may not have been so grand after all. Time and again, the same greats’ names are uttered breathlessly, with hushed reverence — Murrow and Cronkite, Woodward and Bernstein. The profession that once inspired so much admiration now regularly resides at the bottom of public approval polls. Unfortunately, for many people the lines between the bottom-feeding, sensationalistic blogger who can string together a couple of sentences and the trained industry professional have become almost indistinguishable.
5. Political Lobbyists
Perhaps our hatred of politicians is somewhat misplaced. Let’s not forget the “puppet-masters” (official title: “lobbyists”) deployed to schmooze with our legislators as a means of advancing their special interests. Then again, our government officials are supposed to be principled enough not to let a squirrely lobbyist sway his or her opinion. Here we go again … add it to the long list of reasons to hate Congress.
4. Labor Union Leaders
Labor unions once enjoyed incredible popularity. In the mid-1950s, 75 percent of Americans approved of unions, which after all had noble roots, organizing to make sure unscrupulous businessmen didn’t cut corners by not installing “expensive and frivolous” factory options like fire escapes. But today, union leaders are taking a public opinion beating for working out sweetheart pension and benefit deals that are driving some cities into bankruptcy.
No profession has spawned more jokes. Example: “Did you hear the good news? A busload of lawyers just ran off the cliff. The bad news? There were three empty seats.” We have long loved to hate lawyers. Even Bill Shakespeare himself quipped in Henry VI: “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” In all fairness, there’s a world of difference between attorneys aiding the wrongly convicted and/or destitute and bottom-feeders clogging our court system with sensationalistic, often frivolous “ambulance-chasing” lawsuits, resulting in the law firm pocketing millions of dollars while the settlement earns victims a paltry sum. That’s no laughing matter.
2. Car Salesmen
Here we have the only profession that ranked lower than members of Congress in that Gallup poll on honesty and ethics. Car salesmen are the reason would-be buyers stalk the lots after-hours to scope the inventory; some people will do anything to avoid the circling vultures. They’re the reason you feel like you need a shower following a “negotiation” that always culminates with the terrifying phrase, “Let me check with my manager.” While sales will be sales and high-pressure tactics remain, today we have ammunition our car-driving ancestors didn’t have: CARFAX and so-called “Lemon Laws” that offer protection in the event you’re sold a dud.
1. Members of Congress
Imagine if 75 percent of your colleagues, clients and peers rated your job performance as “poor.” Would you still have a job the next day? A Rasmussen Reports survey of 1,000 likely voters in November 2013 found 75 percent rated Congress as doing a “poor” job. And this isn’t a Democrat/Republican thing; if it were possible, 78 percent of poll respondents said they would vote to get rid of the entire Congress and start over. No wonder that a recent tongue-in-cheek poll by Public Policy Polling found that members of Congress were less popular than cockroaches, lice, colonoscopies and even Genghis Kahn. The good news for these much-maligned politicians: Congress rated slightly higher than Lindsey Lohan, the Kardashians and meth labs. There may be a lesson here, but we’re not sure what it means.