The Biden team denies that we are in a recession: Americans don’t trust the government

Why don’t Americans trust the government and other institutions? Maybe it’s because the government and other institutions they are not reliable.

There is certainly a lot of evidence for both a lack of trust and a lack of trustworthiness. And if the trend continues, it bodes badly for America.

The news is bad about the lack of trust. A recent poll by the University of Chicago Institute of Politics found that most Americans think the government is “bribed and rigged against people like me.” Two-thirds of Republicans and Independents thought so, but things were not much better among Liberals, 51% of whom agreed. So this is not the usual sour grapes of the powerless party, it is a general sentiment.

Why do people feel this way? Well, that’s a real poser, but I’m going to offer a hint: They feel that way because they’ve noticed the government is corrupt and rigged against people like them.

Those in government live in a world of revolving doors and without consequences. Can’t protect or serve the public? You will likely get away with paying nothing and land in a convenient location in the private sector after your “public service” is done. So, the next time your party is in power, you will likely return to another government position that will prepare you for an even more comfortable job in the private sector later on.

Gasoline prices are quoted at a gas station in Los Angeles, California on July 19, 2022.
White House officials have denied that the United States is in a recession.
FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP via Getty Images

Have you supported a policy that spectacularly failed, spread misery around the world, or killed people? It does not matter! The chance that you will face something worse than a critical editorial is minimal.

As Peggy Noonan says, our society is divided into the “protected” class, which makes politics, and the “unprotected” class, which has to live with politics and their consequences. Your children may lose their jobs due to green energy policies; kids in the sheltered class will find profitable positions as green energy consultants or private equity partners. Does inflation make food and gas expensive? You will hear it, but they will barely notice. War abroad? Their children will not be the ones who fight.

And they became shameless. Note this week’s effort to redefine the recession ahead of Thursday’s bad gross domestic product announcement. Previously, as investment expert Jeffrey Carter notes, a recession meant two consecutive quarters (six months) of economic decline. Now it means. . . something else.

What else? Whatever is convenient. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen went on TV and said that even though this quarter’s numbers print negative (they did), it’s not a recession because. . . well, just because. As Carter says, “You are wrong. She knows it. Also, she told a pretty big lie about a political breakthrough and didn’t do it convincingly. ”

Asked to define a recession, White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre would not have been specific, but she said we are not in a recession. Or even in a “pre-recession”, whatever it is.

Other administration spokesmen have said it won’t count as a recession until the National Bureau of Economic Research pronounces it one, a year or more after the fact. (And conveniently even after the midterm.) That’s what it did in 2008. The Council of Economic Advisers, Politico reports, is “churning out blog posts and studies” to try to deny the obvious.

They will say anything to keep power. There was a certain amount of shame there for limiting their excesses, but the political class is completely shamed now and people see it.

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen talks about the state of the US economy during a press conference at the Treasury Department in Washington, DC, July 28, 2022.
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the US economy is not in recession, despite the fact that the latest GDP report showed its second consecutive quarterly decline.
SAUL LOEB / AFP via Getty Images

But the distrust goes beyond politics.

Americans don’t trust institutions in general, according to a Gallup poll conducted last month. After the humiliation of Afghanistan last year, the previously highly trusted military has suffered a severe blow. Only 5% of people trust newspapers “a lot” (how many?), And only 2% trust Congress. 19% trust the police, 15% trust the medical system, 11% trust big tech companies, and so on. There isn’t much confidence out there.

And why should there be? All of these institutions have had a bad year. (Police are doing well to retain 19% after the Uvalde massacre, in which cops stepped aside while children were killed within earshot.)

The way you gain trust is to tell people the truth, do the things you promise to do and admit when you are wrong and do better next time. Lying to people, breaking promises, and redefining the terms for escaping accountability may seem crafty to political agents, but this behavior gets noticed.

Can our nation thrive when most people think it is fundamentally a major organized criminal operation? I very much doubt it. But who will make our leaders do better?

Glenn Harlan Reynolds is a professor of law at the University of Tennessee and founder of the blog.


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