Trust in Government

Matt Bai muses:

In this way, the “Don’t touch my junk” fiasco raises, yet again, what has become the central theme of Mr. Obama’s presidency: America’s faltering confidence in the ability of government to make things work. From stimulus spending and the health care law to the federal response to oil in the Gulf of Mexico, Mr. Obama has continually stumbled — blindly, it seems — into some version of the same debate, which is about whether we can trust federal bureaucracies to expand their reach without harming citizens or industry.

That broad-based skepticism of government is, of course, why the Obama Era has also witnessed a broad-based public backlash against unrestrained government surveillance powers, the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, public demands that Obama cut Medicare benefits more sharply. That’s why a ballot initiative to legalize marijuana passed easily in California, and public momentum is growing to get Big Government off our southern borders and let people travel back and forth more easily.

I would say the main story of the Obama years has to do with people’s trust in other people. Most Americans are white, most Americans have health insurance, most Americans are native-born citizens, most Americans aren’t Muslims, and over the course of the Great Recession most Americans have become more suspicious that they live in a zero-sum world where any effort to improve the condition of other people will come at their expense.