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.
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.”
But expertise is distinct from trust. Even if Congress possessed the know-how to micro-manage the economy, to cure diseases, to stop global warming or cooling or whatever the latest computer climate models warn us to be frightened about, and to dictate diet and exercise programs to keep us living forever (or as long as we are of value to society), would we trust Congress to do so?
Would we each have $90,000 deposited in our freezers, or would that only go to certain members of Congress?
Would we each have our own personal airport, or does such luxury only accrue to certain members of Congress?
After browbeating auto company execs as arrogant and insensitive for flying corporate jets to congressional hearings to discuss taxpayer bailouts for their companies, what did Congress do? Congress ordered new corporate jets for themselves at a cost of over a hundred million dollars.
The pervasive public fear over what’s predicted to be the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression has indeed turned angry. Could that anger have something to do with the bulk of the causes of this downturn, many of which lie squarely at the feet of Congress?
Anger is a very rational response to seeing folks in Washington rip us off, dismiss our concerns, mortgage our great grandchildren’s future and label us “un-American” for calling them on it. The folks who do the working and tax-paying have had enough.
Do they trust Congress — on health care or anything else?
Not on your life.