Home > Uncategorized > Reagan’s Revolution, Norquist’s Quest Complete: Distrust in Government at All Time High

Reagan’s Revolution, Norquist’s Quest Complete: Distrust in Government at All Time High

July 28, 2019

Nearly four decades ago Ronald Reagan declared that government was the problem and twenty years later, GOP operative Grover Norquist declared his desire to shrink the federal government so that it was so small he could drown it in a bathtub. in 2010, as the GOP blocked any efforts by the Democrats to increase government spending, NYTimes columnist and Nobel economist Paul Krugman summarized the GOP’s strategy as follows:

“Rather than proposing unpopular spending cuts, Republicans would push through popular tax cuts, with the deliberate intention of worsening the government’s fiscal position. Spending cuts could then be sold as a necessity rather than a choice, the only way to eliminate an unsustainable budget deficit.” He wrote that the “…beast is starving, as planned…” and that “Republicans insist that the deficit must be eliminated, but they’re not willing either to raise taxes or to support cuts in any major government programs. And they’re not willing to participate in serious bipartisan discussions, either, because that might force them to explain their plan—and there isn’t any plan, except to regain power.

As readers of this blog realize, the GOP has shown itself willing to ride the coattails of a boorish charlatan in order to fulfill its plan to regain power… and the combination of tax cuts enacted by the GOP and their free spending on the military we now have an unsustainable $1,000,000,000,000+ deficit. Worse, as a result of the GOP’s persistent message that “government is the problem” and it’s profligacy now that it is in power, government IS the problem and, according to the most recent Pew Research Poll, voters trust in the government is at an all time low and waning. But that is not the worst news. As Matt Stevens reported earlier this week:

It will probably come as no surprise that most Americans distrust the federal government.

A new study released Monday by the Pew Research Center has found that to be true, and that Americans largely perceive trust in Washington to be shrinking. But the deep skepticism is not reserved solely for politicians, according to the survey: Almost two-thirds of respondents said they thought trust in each other had declined, too.

The report paints a rather dreary picture of how Americans today feel about their political leaders, the news media and their neighbors down the block.

Later in the article, Mr. Stevens dug deeper into the findings, and what he found is particularly disturbing but unsurprising to this “high truster”:

In general, those who were more likely to be “high trusters” were older, more educated and had higher household incomes than “low trusters.”

“Americans who might feel disadvantaged are less likely to express generalized trust in other people,” the report said.

The generational gap in trust that emerged was especially striking. Almost half of young adults between the age of 18 and 29 fell into the low trust category. The same was true about only one-fifth of respondents 65 and older.

Over all, the Pew study found that three-quarters of Americans thought confidence in the federal government was slipping, and 64 percent said the same about trust in each other.

It is completely unsurprising that those in the 18-to-29 demographic have low trust in government: they were raised in the post-Reagan era and came of age when Grover Norquist was promoting his ideas that big government was ipso facto a bad thing and taxes were ipso facto confiscatory and unnecessary. Why would anyone growing up in that era have trust in an institution that was “the problem”.

It is also unsurprising that most Americans sense that confidence in the federal government is waning. Those who voted for Trump did so based on the belief that he would drain the swamp and those who did not vote for him now feel that the leadership in Washington is either corrupt, incompetent, or both. As for the loss of trust in each other, based on what I read on social media, the tendency to “other-ize” is exacerbating educational, political, and economic divides. Many “friends” on social media make disparaging remarks about Trump voters, seeing them as an uniform mass that embraces racists, misogynists, and anti-intellectualism… and I sense that those with Trump 2020 bumper stickers look at my “friends” with the same disdain. How can we trust each other if we draw conclusions based on one’s support for a particular political party?

Despite the gloomy findings in the Pew poll, there was some good news:

On a more positive note, the survey found that strong majorities of both Democrats and Republicans wished trust would rise.

More than 90 percent of both groups said they thought it was important to improve the level of confidence Americans have in government and in each other. And more than 80 percent thought such improvement was possible.

How can trust increase? A 66-year-old woman who responded to the survey has a good answer:

“Each one of us must reach out to others. It takes interaction with people face-to-face to realize that we do all inhabit this space and have a vested interest in working together to make it a successful, safe, and environmentally secure place to live. No man is an island.”

Get off social media and get into the flow of life in the community. Try to find a way to interact with people who hold different political views, who are in a different generation, who see the world differently. Democracy will work only if and when we do so.

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