RESTORING TRUST IN GOVERNMENT. At a time when trust in government is at all-time lows, when anti-government “slash-and-burn” rhetoric dominates our discourse and Washington remains saturated in money, influence and partisan bickering, a key question looms: Will we ever trust government again? That is the central focus of The Nation’s special issue this week, “How Do We Restore Trust in Government,” guest-edited by Jeff Madrick and published in partnership with the Rediscovering Government Initiative at the Roosevelt Institute. The issue brings together diverse voices, including Robert Reich, Dorian Warren, Rinku Sen, Mike Konzcal and others to restart the debate about the proper role government should play in shaping our future.
As Madrick explains in the introduction, since the Reagan era, government has been cast as the problem, and anti-government crusaders and free-market absolutists have played on exaggerated fears about the deficit to justify deep cuts to Social Security, Medicare, infrastructure and education, maintaing that record-high income inequality, prolonged joblessness and economic stagnation are “acceptable byproducts of the free-market.” The Nation’s special issue considers a range of arguments as to why government is key if we are to reverse these trends and share in widespread economic opportunity, income equality and social justice. As Jeff Madrick writes in the introduction, “Americans from every corner can rediscover the value of government, throw off the blinders of the past generation and lead their policy-makers to a wiser path. This is the urgent mission of our times.”
The special issue examines what government does right, how it’s corrupted and how progressives can recapture the narrative and make government work “by and for the people.” From regulation and consumer protection, to establishing standards for social justice, James Lardner and Rinku Sen offer a look at government’s integral role in guarding progressive gains over the last century. Dorian Warren examines research that shows black Americans trust government more than whites and why that might be the case. And I explain why we must challenge the “self-made” myth, also the subject of an important new book by Brian Miller and Mike Lapham debunking the notion of “self-made” success. In addition, Robert Reich and Greg Marx insightfully explain how government is bought and paid for by big money interests, including the media, and what progressives and the grassroots can do it about. From systemic and institutional reforms to crafting a common language about how we talk about government, Mark Schmitt and Dianne Stewart consider how we can get citizens engaged and believing in government again.