The Right Bite
There are five maxims the federal government can follow to regain the public confidence it has lost over the past four decades.
One of the puzzles of our age is why Americans distrust their own government so deeply. Against the inescapable and well-publicized cases of failure by the federal government must be weighed a remarkable half-century record of accomplishment. The federal government has cleaned up our air and water, improved safety in the workplace, spurred immense amounts of scientific and medical research, and underwritten technological innovations, such as the computer and the Internet, that have transformed our society. It has dramatically reduced poverty among the elderly while ensuring their access to medical care. It has expanded both individual freedom and socialinclusion—for women, racial and ethnic minorities, and people with disabilities, among others. The list goes on. Yet despite this record, trust in the federal government now stands at the lowest level ever recorded. That is not merely a riddle for academicians. Without the public’s confidence it becomes ever more difficult for government to do its jobeffectively.
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William A. Galston is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, where he holds the Ezra Zilkha Chair in Governance Studies. A former deputy assistant for domestic policy to President Bill Clinton, he is the author most recently of Public Matters: Politics, Policy, and Religion in the 21st Century (2005).more from this author >>