WASHINGTON, June 22, 2014 — One thing that separates American Democracy from government institutions in other countries is that we generally believe, as Abraham Lincoln said, that “We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.” We further believe that “government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from earth.”
Why then are we plagued by distrust and fear?
Some level of distrust and fear has always been with us. Yet today, most Americans do not believe that the government is telling us the truth, and we fear potential government actions.
Distrust and fear were the reaction last week as we watched the smug head of the IRS, John Koskinen blatantly mislead, under oath, members of Congress. The powerful IRS should be held to the highest standards of honesty and integrity. Yet with a grin on his face that seemed to say he thought that no matter what he said, he was shielded from any consequences, he presented testimony that was not completely truthful. Americans know it and so does he.
Perhaps it started when Eric Holder was not completely forthright with Congress concerning the Fast and Furious gun handout. Congress held Holder in contempt, but that really did not change anything. Perhaps Americans began to fear when they saw the head of the highest law enforcement agency in the country being untruthful with impunity.
Then President Obama pushed through the Affordable Care Act with not one vote from the opposing party. This has never happened before. Historically, for every major piece of legislation there was at least some support from the opposition. This made Americans skeptical.
The president said on numerous occasions that you could keep your doctor, you could keep your current health plan, and that health care cost would go down. None of those were true, and it appears that the president knew they weren’t true when he said them over and over again. This made Americans very skeptical.
The administration said that the attack on the embassy in Benghazi was a result of a video. Over and over again that story was repeated, even during a speech to the United Nations, apparently to convince people that terrorism was not really a threat. Once the truth emerged, Americans became more distrustful and began to fear not just the federal government, but also for their own safety. This made Americans distrust the federal government.
Then there was the promise that our war veterans would receive high quality medical care. Not only was this not true, but the real truth was covered up and key employees received bonuses for poor performance. The Veterans Administration said the bonuses were necessary to attract high quality people to work at the VA. The truth is that the bonuses apparently attracted the lowest quality people who were unable to perform their duties. Americans lost further trust in government.
We also discovered that the National Security Administration is listening in on our telephone conversations, reading all of our emails and is keeping email records on all Americans (apparently with the exception of IRS top executive Lois Lerner and six other top officials currently under investigation). Americans fear that the NSA and IRS have the power to completely disrupt their lives. Not only do Americans not trust the government, we have reason to fear it.
We also fear that Congress seems powerless to provide the oversight of government activities that we elected them to provide. We fear that the complete system may be out of control.
Our country simply cannot function effectively unless we have complete trust in government and have no fear of unjust prosecution. The current administration has so divided this country that we have lost sight of who we are and what we stand for.
Look at the faces of our elected leaders. There is deceit, deception and smugness, as if to say “everyone knows we are not truthful, but nobody can do anything about it.” And look at the faces of ordinary Americans. There is anger, fear and distrust. This has got to change or we will continue to stagnate, as we have for the last five-and-a-half years. Worse yet we will lose the American spirit that made us great.