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Bill Sargent, Mark Mansius and John Gay are writing columns on important issues for today.

Why Do Americans Distrust Government?

May 12, 2014

On September 9, 2009, President Obama delivered his State of the Union Address; among his topics were plans for changing our health care system.  Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was the House Speaker and Harry Reid (D-NV) Senate Majority Leader.  The President had just said that under his plan illegal immigrants would be ineligible for free health care, when from the back of the chamber Congressman Joe Wilson (R-SC) yelled out “You Lie!”  In the roll out of ObamaCare many of the claims made about its meaningful parts turned out to be untrue. 

Texas has had an unwritten custom; your word is your bond.   A handshake is all it used to take.  But things are changing and since 2009, America’s trust in government has plummeted. 

First the IRS targeted conservative groups.  One local example -- True the Vote, organized by Catherine Engelbrecht of Houston -- was established to make sure elections were being conducted honestly, fairly and in compliance with election laws.  When this group tried to get tax exempt status all heck broke loose!  The founder and her family were subjected to two IRS business audits, her personal tax returns were audited; twice the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms visited her. OSHA visited unannounced and the FBI came seven times! Was this random coincidence or coordinated harassment by the federal government?

Next, to gain support of an unpopular health plan the President said if you like your health care plan you can keep it.  If you like your doctor you can keep your doctor; words that were simply pretentious promises and that are patently untrue.  And how about “affordable” health care where premiums have skyrocketed and deductables are going through the roof!

Then there were the actions of the Bureau of Land Management  which deployed SWAT teams, military hardware, and conducted a cattle round up killing two prize bulls because a Nevada rancher refused to pay range fees.  These were heavy-handed intimidation tactics, when actions in a courtroom would have been more responsible.

Next was Benghazi where the Administration put Susan Rice on five Sunday talk shows claiming the attack on the consulate was in response to an Internet video, when recent emails reveal that the attack was a preplanned terrorist attack and people in the intelligence community and the White House knew it from the start.  Weeks following the attack, where Ambassador Chris Stevens was murdered, the Administration and the President continued telling us that this was the result of a demonstration.

Our parents used to tell us that if you don’t tell the truth it will come back to bite you.  Polls are showing that many across a wide political spectrum feel this administration cannot distinguish truth from falsehood.  Perhaps they don’t think they will get caught or maybe they just plain don’t care.  They seem willing to do whatever will gain them a political victory.   In any event, it is evident that the lack of good character in the current Administration is fueling a continued distrust of the government by many Americans.  You have to earn a good reputation; and overcoming a pattern of untrustworthiness is a difficult thing to do.
We can do better.  Our past is rich with examples.  Washington took the last boat in evacuating across the East River.  Kennedy honestly and openly led through “the Cuban Missile Crisis” standing firmly against prevailing political head winds.  The antidote?  Read last week’s column on the forty candles.

Bill, Mark, and John