A recent Gallup Poll asked Americans to indicate their confidence in 16 institutions. 76% of those surveyed expressed great confidence in our military. While this is 6% lower than it was in Gallup’s 2009 inquiry, it was the highest on the list. Only small business (66%) and police (59%) were above the 50% mark, and scores fell sharply after that.

The presidency fell from 51% last year to just 36% this year, representing the single largest change among all 16. Next to the bottom of the list and up 1% over last year are HMOs at 19%. Given the pounding the industry received from Congress during the health care fight this year, that’s not totally surprising.

Yet once again, Congress is at the bottom of the list, down 6% from last year. Sinking further in the mud, this year only 11% think highly of Congress. Last week’s Ethics Committee actions against Rep. Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters this week aren’t likely to help push the number higher any time soon.

Often, it seems these Congressional transgressions happen to senior members. We can all name plenty of Ds and Rs who have fallen into disrepute, but the constant is that most have been on The Hill for many years. No one knows what is in these people’s hearts, but what surrounds them is a system built on the spoils of seniority.

The Founding Fathers sought to lay out a roadmap that would be timeless and enduring. For the most part, they accomplished their mission. Yet none among them may have imagined career politicians. Maybe Americans’ confidence in this august institution would rise if politicians didn’t stay there until the rot began to set in. Term limits, anyone?

Check out more blog entries from David Saltzman.