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The Sound of Ideas

Distrust of Government

Posted Wednesday, April 21, 2010

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Apparently, most Americans don't trust the Federal government very much. In fact, the latest numbers say almost four out of five of us don't believe the Feds will do the right thing when it comes to just about any decision. But does the electorate take a similarly dim view of state government and local officials? Wednesday morning at 9, you can tell us. Join host Dan Moulthrop for a conversation about what this massive amount of distrust actually means, and whether it's simply as American as apple pie.


Economy, Government/Politics


Beth Donovan, Deputy Washington Editor, NPR
Carroll Doherty, Associate Director, Editorial, The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press
Thomas Suddes, Editorial Board, The Plain Dealer & Adjunct Assistant Professor of Journalism, E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, Ohio University
Paul Beck, Professor of Political Science, The Ohio State University

Additional Information

The People and Their Government, DISTRUST, DISCONTENT, ANGER AND PARTISAN RANCOR, The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press
Trust in Government: The Season of Discontent (NPR special series)

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julie 9:26 AM 4/21/10

Frankly, I distrust the distrusters.  Call it what it is, whining.  Voter turnout is low, and the Tea Party movement is demonstrably not only ignorant but recalcitrantly so, the obvious example being a train of thought that goes something like “government-run healthcare is going to ruin my Medicare!” to which I say “huh?”

It seems to me the conservative end of the spectrum is willing to exploit this ignorance - death panels, anyone?  The question is, how to deliver facts to the people so they can be intelligently debated. The politicians, the press, and the public share responsibility for starting from facts.  I have one suggestion; stop reporting on the rabble rousers like Sarah Palin.  Empty kettles don’t need amplifiers.

DLinn 9:40 AM 4/21/10

This CBS Sunday Morning commentary is very insightful regarding government employees. These are people we should be glad are in government because they do the day-to-day jobs that keep our country running.

March 28, 2010
Ben Stein: Bureaucrats Are Great, So Lay Off

He Tells Us Why We Should Not Only Cut Civil Service Workers a Break, But Also Praise Them For the Jobs They Do

(CBS) CBS Sunday Morning Contributor Ben Stein on why we should be just a little more grateful for the people who work in government ...

There is a basic assumption among many of us conservatives that bothers me. Basically, the assumption is that if a person is a government employee, then he or she is lazy and shiftless, a parasite just eating up tax dollars without doing anything.

“Bureaucrats” is what the sneering expression usually is.

To put it mildly, this is unfair and not even in the ballpark of what’s true.

Government employees include cops and firefighters, who do some of the most dangerous, vital work in the society. Government employees include prosecutors and prison guards, who do work that is often extremely difficult and deeply necessary.

Government employees are the doctors and nurses at VA hospitals. They are the teachers who try to teach our kids. They are the men and women who keep track of our economic and health statistics, without which we cannot measure progress or failure.

Government employees are the CIA agents who launch drone strikes to kill terrorists and who sometimes get killed. Bureaucrats would include the people of the FBI and it would also include the men and women at the Pentagon who guide our armed forces. These people are the muscle and bone of the nation.

Long ago, Alben Barkley, Harry Truman’s Vice President, keenly said that “a bureaucrat is a Democrat who has a job a Republican wants.” I am not sure that’s true, but I have been a bureaucrat in my youth and I never worked so hard for so little money in my life, and my fellow employees were in the same galley slave boat.

I am sure there are many government employees who waste money but so are there wasteful private sector people.

Let’s take our conservative noses out of the air and stop sneering at the people who serve us in the civil service. We would be awfully sad if they were gone, even the ones in the Department of Motor Vehicles.

© MMX, CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Tony 9:50 AM 4/21/10

You ask why the disconnect between the Pew poll and what your listenership is telling you.

Part of that I believe is the demographics of your listenership. WCPN is public radio, hence the listeners on average have a greater faith in public institutions than those who would not be listening to it.

I wouldn’t say I distrust government, but I do lack the faith that they have any real idea of how to handle problems. Too many of them have been there too long, and have no to little real world experience and have lost touch with those they should represent.

Our founders imagined citezen legislators that would do a few years of service and return home. Not what we have now, long term feeders at the taxpayer trough.

Thomas Kettler 9:52 AM 4/21/10

I’m listening to this from Hamilton, OH. Here’s a case from here.

This year I was returning to Hamilton from visiting my mother in Wapakoneta in January.

I was listening to WLW and the National Weather Service had given a Winter Weather Advisory so Cincy had snowplows out on the streets but the snow had yet to arrive.

People ranted and raved about how much money was being spent on the trucks without any snow falling. Wouldn’t they have complained if the snow had been falling yet the city hadn’t already had plows out to deal with it?

Some people complain for the sake of complaining.

julie 9:57 AM 4/21/10

Paula’s comment on the Supreme Court was appreciated.  In my case, this amplifies my distrust not of government, but of the Republican Party, which stacked the Court.  John Roberts (remember “modesty”?) is a paragon of intellectual dishonesty.  The Court is tainted and the obstructionist GOP Senate contingency will do all they can to hold this judicial hegemony.  Thank you Paula, for reminding us!

Mark Filipak 10:06 AM 4/21/10

Elaina called in decrying that the Supreme Court made corporations people. The Supreme Court did no such thing. Congress did it and Congress could undo it whenever it wants.

Re, U.S. Code, Title 1, Chapter 1, Section 1, clause 6, to wit: “the words ‘person’ and ‘whoever’ include corporations, companies, associations, firms, partnerships, societies, and joint stock companies, as well as individuals;”


Since Congress gave corporations personhood, the Supreme Court has no choice but to extend Free Speech rights to them.

JS 10:31 AM 4/21/10

From the other side of this topic, government can do some things right. However, nothing in government gets done because they are the right things to do.

Want to improve trust in government? Here are some tips.

Approve sensible rules in drawing congressional district which bring an end to the practice of gerrymandering. I’ve heard some interesting formulas on SOI.

Do not have blind endorsements of programs like 3C corridor or 3rd Frontier without a hard looking into practical ROI issues. It’s almost impossible to find out anything about the 500+ Third Frontier Businesses touted IN AGGREGATE.

If it’s a success, put out the numbers. If it is an inauditable mess, then that is a story in and of itself. Help—don’t hinder—decision makers to get facts, not press release cameos which may or may not be representative of this, or any other program.

A 3rd Frontier site, with every single business listed, aggregate figures, trending, profitability, years in existence, and so forth is basic, fundamental fiduciary responsibility required for competent administration of such a program. It should be available to everyone as an issue of transparency.

Require legislators to read the legislation they pass with a Read The Bills Act. Alternatively, quiz guests on little known aspects of legislation, like earmarks.

Prohibit legislators from exempting themselves from the legislation they pass as now happens all too often.

Finally, start a Sound of Action program. Stop using listening projects to diffuse change, thwart civic activism, and give the illusion of public endorsement of decisions government is going ahead with in any event. Grill guests on results and the focus on measurable action.

Jonathan 9:26 PM 4/21/10

One of your guests suggested that what’s needed is more dialogue. I agree.

Before meaningful dialogue can occur, however, people need to be just a little more skeptical about what their own political parties advocate. Just as many Republicans were unwilling to question Sarah Palin’s remarks about death panels, many Democrats fail to question whether this nation can afford high speed rail.

Until we’re all willing to question the partisan leaders with whom we identify, there will be no meaningful dialogue. We all need to get out of our partisan rut and really consider other viewpoints. Neither party is right about everything.


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