According to a recent AP-GFK poll two- thirds of Americans don’t trust each other anymore. That’s beyond the natural level of mistrust in government, Wall Street and insurance companies. In the 1960s,73% of Americans trusted government to get things right,today only 19% trust the government to get anything right.
The level of mistrust leads to gated communities, gun sales, protests, long-winded contracts and 2000 pages of legislation.
A good example of mistrust is President Obama’s “honest and trustworthy” poll number. More Americans don’t believe he’s trustworthy and I don’t blame them, given the media’s attention to charges that have never been substantiated. Another good example of that comes from a 2016 presidential candidate Jeb Bush who has always operated above partisan fray. Last week the State Dept. merged the Vatican facility with the larger Embassy in Italy. As expected, the right wing media went nuts saying that Obama was closing the Vatican facility. Jeb Bush responded with a tweet saying, “ Why would our President close our Embassy to the Vatican? Hopefully, it is not retribution for Catholic organizations opposing Obamacare.” The Jeb Bush staff would normally make a couple of calls before embarrassing themselves but the tweet did give Bush some tea party credibility.
It’s going to take the younger people to turnaround the level of mistrust and they will do it with technology. New norms will have to be reestablished using new metrics to reflect the current population. For example ,we now know what the numbers will look like for corporations if they raise the minimum wage; we no longer have to take their word for it. A good example is the largest retail corporation, Wal-Mart’s paying practices. How can people be upset over people being on the government dole and not be equally upset that their tax money is being used to subsidize the health care of Wal-Mart’s employees?Now that's classic 'redistribution of wealth.'
I often hear Rep. Paul Ryan say that we shouldn’t be creating a climate of government dependency but he continues to vote for tax incentives for oil companies.
The other day, I heard a discussion as to whether the Affordable Care Act would have to establish death panels in order to get the cost curve down. The dissenters were referring to the advisory panel but couldn’t call it that because it might give the panel some legitimacy. Insurance companies make life or death decisions everyday. The argument then becomes “do you want a government bureaucrat to pull the plug on granny?” It’s not as if a three star general roaming the halls of the White House or a golfing buddy of Obama will sit on the panel. It’s going to be human beings making that choice, whether it is a selective panel or several insurance companies.
I remember an old blogger named “thewaywardwind” asking me to explain something that I had written in a blog without inserting my usual political spin. The colorful blogger wanted me to write something he could believe because he didn’t trust my version of the facts. I told him that he was perfectly capable of writing a blog that supported his beliefs. We eventually established boundaries because after many discussions, we understood where we came from. A continuing dialogue will eventfully lead to understanding and from there we will get closer to trust.
We can’t expect everyone to accept the views we had about race, culture, ideology or religion that we had in the 1950s because the demographics have changed. The 1970s were a prosperous time but many were benefiting from the G.I. bill, strong unions, good pay/ benefits and affordable education. Today we are a war weary nation coping with a high level of income inequality, which leads to mistrust.
We need to get our nation back to work so the conversation switches to the positives that are achievable. The employed people will find a way to form a community organization to help others and eventually trust will reemerge.