Americans, not surprisingly, are feeling cynical.
Gallup's just released Honesty and Ethics of Professions poll shows that for the first time, a majority -- 55 percent -- rate members of the U.S. House of Representatives low/very low for honesty and ethics. Senators come in slightly better at 49 percent.
A whopping 9 percent of the house and 11 percent of the Senate get high/very high ratings in honesty and ethics.
Even members of the clergy do not escape this cynical cloud hanging over the nation. Although 50 percent rate the clergy as high/very high in honesty and ethics, this is the lowest since Gallup starting reporting it.
This prevailing mood of distrust is understandable given how commonplace it has become for so many in public life to lie to us.
A mountain of hacked emails shows that scientists who held the public trust regarding information on climate change research were liars. The emails show they selectively expunged data and suppressed research not supporting the conclusions they wanted showing man-made global warming.
Congress is frenetically trying to pass major health care reform that report after report shows is filled with politically manipulated data and conclusions. And now we learn that even Tiger Woods has been lying to us about whom he is. What is so troubling is that all this is not about human error or fallibility. It's the opposite. It's about individuals intentionally manipulating information to deceive the public in order to advance their own personal agendas.
The late writer/physician Michael Crichton pointed out back in 2003 in a speech he gave at the California Institute of Technology the common sense being violated in the research allegedly showing that human activity is causing the earth's climate to irreversibly warm.
"Nobody believes a weather prediction twelve hours ahead. Now we're asked to believe a prediction that goes 100 years into the future? And make financial investments based on that prediction? Has everyone lost their minds?"
Similarly in the health care reform push, simple exercise of common sense would put the brakes on what is going on.
Before us is proposed massive new government expenditures and intervention into health care markets under the assumption that the benefits of all this government activity will exceed the costs.
But simple honesty would recognize that if this were true it would be unprecedented.
When Medicare was enacted in 1967, the projections then were that its annual expenditures by 1990 would be $12 billion. Actual expenditures in 1990 were $110 billion.
Medicaid started as a proposed modest program with $1 billion in annual expenditures. It's now $280 billion.
We're told that health care reform won't cost more than $900 billion over the next 10 years. This is accomplished on paper by sleight of hand. Taxes are assumed to start in 2010, but expenditures not until 2014. Starting the meter when the expenditures actually begin shows that over the first ten years the costs are more like $2.5 trillion.
It's not that we no longer know how to conduct honest inquiry in America. It's that our interest in doing so is disappearing. How can you search for truth in a society that increasingly denies that truth exists?
What is adultery when our acceptance of something as basic as the definition of marriage can change with the political winds? So Tiger Woods, unhampered by moral constraint, simply pays handlers to produce a public image calculated to maximize his income.
Our national history began by asserting "self evident truths." Now we have a president who, in his interpretation of our constitutional history, writes: "Implicit in its structure, in the very idea of ordered liberty, was a rejection of absolute truth ..."
It must have been times like this that George Orwell had in mind when he wrote: "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act."
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