Government & Politics

Government Has Earned Distrust

The reason "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help," is a joke.

Allyne Caan · Jul. 7, 2016

“I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.” At one time, people may have believed this statement, though by the time of Ronald Reagan, it was the punchline of a joke. Indeed, any government worker silly enough to utter it would find uproarious laughter in his wake.

Certainly, a large swath of Americans still look to Uncle Sam to solve their problems, pay for their college, give them free health care, find them a job, and guarantee a safe space where they’ll never be offended. But these self-made serfs can’t cover the fact that trust in government is falling — and fast — not just here in America but around the world.

Edelman, one of the leading global communications and public relations companies, has been tracking trust for 16 years, surveying the faith individuals around the world place in businesses, the media, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and government. Not surprisingly, as company head Richard Edelman explains, people today are much more likely to trust a friend or peer — including a Facebook friend — than they are to trust a government leader. “We have a reversal of traditional influence,” he says. “It is going not top-down, but sideways.”

Frankly, that’s as it should be. But it rarely seems to result in voters voting for smaller government.

The Edelman study distinguishes between the “informed public” and “general population,” the former being college degree holders who are regular media consumers and in the top 25% of household income for their age demographic. Perhaps ironically, among this group, trust in government is generally higher than among the “general population.” Then again, elites trusting elites isn’t surprising at all.

The Pew Research Center confirms the plunging trust, noting that while trust in Washington topped 75% in the 1960s, by late 2015 it had fallen to about 20%. (We might note that the high trust in the ‘60s led to massive government expansion under the “Great Society,” so perhaps distrust will lead to better things.)

Meanwhile, the 2008 financial crisis, which Barack Obama and Democrats blamed on everything but government, may actually be responsible for falling trust in government among the general public.

As The Atlantic explains, “The 2008 financial crisis, [Edelman] argued, produced widespread suspicion that elites only act in their own interests … and that elites don’t necessarily have access to better information than the rest of the population does. The sluggish, unequal recovery from that crisis — the wealthy bouncing back while many others struggle with stagnant incomes — has only increased the skepticism.”

The Atlantic blames this global distrust of government for everything from Brexit to the rise of Donald Trump.

Far from an indictment of the general population, however, this falling trust is an indictment of the government. As John Davidson logically concludes, it’s little wonder Americans don’t trust the government given the decision not to prosecute Hillary Clinton. Davidson writes, “The populist wave that elevated Donald Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders … has been pushed along by a growing sense that our elites do what they want and our institutions are unable or unwilling to check them. Institutional failure has perhaps played a greater role in this than the behavior of the elites themselves.”

Indeed, one need not look far to find examples. There’s the IRS targeting of conservatives, the VA scandal, the DOJ spying on reporters, Supreme Court Justice John Robert’s rewriting ObamaCare to find it constitutional and, most recently, the FBI announcing Hillary Clinton is above the law — all while FBI Director James Comey admitted that other little people “who engaged in this activity” would face consequences.

Yet while the Republic crumbles — and let’s not sugar-coat it, it is crumbling — Obama is busy dictating bathroom policies in schools and the military. This is exactly what he meant when he threatened to fundamentally transform America.

It’s not too late to save our Ship of State, but to do so, we must admit it is sinking — not in danger of sinking, actually sinking.

Thomas Jefferson warned, “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.”

James Madison likewise cautioned, “The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse.”

Thus for good reason our Founders established a constitutionally limited government, and for good reason they pledged to uphold our independence with “our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” They weren’t fooled into believing Liberty could be preserved at any other price.

As we continue the fight today, let us not be fooled into thinking the price for us will be any less.

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