Originally published December 3 2014
Americans finally waking up and realizing government agencies can't save them
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) Slowly but surely, Americans are losing trust in one government institution after another, and ironically, perhaps, it is the government itself -- those elected and appointed who comprise it -- who are most to blame for our loss of faith.
The approval rating for Congress, for example, has been bottoming out for decades, but since President Obama took office, the floor has finally given way: A July survey by Gallup found that just 16 percent of Americans view the Legislative Branch positively; more than one in five said that replacing all current members is the best way to "fix" the institution.
Still, as The Associated Press notes in a recent story, as other American institutions began to falter as well in the minds of the public, just a handful were still held in high esteem:
To safeguard the president, there was the solidity of the Secret Service. To stand vigil against distant enemies, the U.S. nuclear missile corps was assumed to be on the job. And to ward off threats to public health, the nation counted on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Ebola shattered trust in the CDCOne by one, however, Americans have begun to lose faith even in these institutions after a series of scandals, missteps and demonstrations of incompetence. We can chalk a great deal of that loss of confidence up to political expediency -- putting the wrong people in the wrong positions of power as a way to reward them for electoral support and party loyalty. But that's not the whole problem; the sheer size of the American government makes efficiency, accountability and responsiveness impossible.
"Maybe a public buffeted by partisan rhetoric and nonstop news should be used to this by now," the AP reported. "But, with the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] facing tough questions about its response to the Ebola outbreak, something feels different. Government is about doing collectively what citizens can't do alone, but its effectiveness is premised on trust."
Just one year ago, in the midst of a government shutdown and trust in Washington already near historic lows, the nation's health agency still won plaudits from Americans: The CDC sported a 75 percent approval rating, which at that time was the highest of any federal agency, according to a Pew Research Center poll.
But by mid-October 2014, as Ebola cases were cropping up in the country, that rating fell to just 37 percent approval, according to a CBS News survey.
"I always called the CDC the shining star of the federal agencies," Lawrence O. Gostin, an expert on health law and policy at Georgetown University, told the AP. "They were regarded with very high esteem and did an extraordinarily good job of protecting the American people. That has changed and I think (doubts about its handling of) Ebola is the epitome of that change."
Some institutions still get high marksThe CDC's fall from grace is likely a reflection of a couple of factors. One reason is fear over the spread of the disease; most of the time, Americans trust their public health officials, but heightened sensitivity over the disease has caused breaches in that confidence, according to Nathan Carter, a University of Georgia psychology professor who has examined falling trust in institutions over the past 40 years.
But another factor has to do with the CDC's self-inflicted wounds. The agency chief, Dr. Thomas Frieden, has made contradictory -- and often comical -- statements and claims regarding the Ebola virus, and in particular how it can and cannot be spread. In addition, Frieden has blamed local healthcare providers who have contracted the disease for a breach in treatment protocol when in fact there were no CDC-approved protocols in place at their Dallas-area hospital.
Still, as Carter noted, the sheer speed at which faith and trust in the CDC evaporated is telling in that it signifies a much broader degradation of trust in public institutions and government. Americans jaded by decades of political abuse and lies are far less likely today to give politicians and the heads of public institutions the benefit of the doubt or "room to make mistakes," the AP noted.
The good news: Americans' faith and trust remains high in the U.S. military, small business owners, the police and in church/organized religion, in that order, according to Gallup.
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