Paul Jacob

At her recent town hall meeting, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill discovered that, in addition to the rapidly growing budget deficit, there exists an even greater trust deficit.

Flustered by a crowd that was clearly not buying into the Democratic Congress’s attempts to greatly expand the federal government’s role in medical care, she asked a man, “Don’t you trust me?”

Shouts of “No” pummeled her from throughout the auditorium.

My only surprise was that she would be naive enough to ask the question or be taken aback by the answer.

Sen. McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, has not sought to ignore, discount or demonize those turning out in unprecedented numbers for town hall meetings across the country, as have Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and many congressional Democrats. McCaskill told a cable TV interviewer: “I think it was a huge mistake for anyone to suggest that anybody who’s opposed to the health care plan is manufactured.”

Huge mistake is right. The error is not tactical, or merely one of manners. It’s a question of reality: The angst spreading throughout the country is quite real.

A recent Fox News poll found that close to half of Americans feel either “frightened” or “angry” about more federal government involvement in our medical delivery system, while less than one in five is “reassured” by a greater government role.

But the alarm coming from the grassroots is not simply in response to the various health care proposals being cooked up in Congress, but a cumulative gasp of disbelief at the enormous expansion of government, from bailing out banks and taking over car companies to blowing a trillion dollars supposedly to stimulate the economy and create jobs.

Today, the answer to every problem appears to be creating a bigger Big Brother-ish government program (read: more spending). Our system of constitutionally restrained government, under stress for so many decades of government growth, now seems at an end. Freedom is to be replaced by a government that takes care of us, or at least promises to do so.

We are expected to believe that Washington politicians are experts who can run our economy and (in the case of health care) our lives — even as they can’t bother themselves to read the War and Peace-length bills they pass into law.

Of course, nothing in Congress’s long record suggests such a level of expertise. No wonder the same recent Fox News poll found that fully 58 percent of us see the government “involved in too many aspects of our lives.” A scant 8 percent believed government was “not involved enough.”

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.