The latest public opinion polls do not bode well for our elected representatives: in some instances, they are suffering record low approval ratings.
In a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll this week, just 23-percent of Americans say they trust government to "do the right thing" all or most of the time. That's the lowest number since 1997.
A September Gallup poll showed public trust in Congress at a record low 45-percent. The executive branch, headed by President Obama, did better, with a 61-percent "trust" rating.
Despite Mr. Obama's campaign promises for hope and change, many Americans have lost faith in Congress to make the right judgments about issues facing the country. This has stymied Mr. Obama's legislative agenda, says CNN Political Analyst Gloria Borger.
"People have always had a kind of healthy skepticism about the bureaucracy. But what you find now is because people don't trust government, it provides a political opening for both parties to say – 'don't trust the other guy.' And depending on where you stand, you don't trust the other guy."
Even the government's push to get the public vaccinated against H1N1 is being viewed with skepticism – despite the fact that the CDC reports 20-thousand Americans have been hospitalized and 1,000 have died from the illness. On the other hand, too much trust in government may have gotten the country in trouble in the past.
After 9/11, trust in government was high. According to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll in October, 2001 – 60-percent trusted the government to do the right thing always or most of the time. That trust, some say, may have helped President Bush make the case for the Iraq War, which most Americans now oppose.
"When you have lower trust in government, you tend to get fewer foreign wars, you tend to get fewer expensive government programs, and you also tend to get fewer abuses of civil liberties, says Gene Healy of the conservative Cato Institute.
In other words, public distrust might be an informal but much needed way of exercising checks and balances.
What do you think? Could distrust in government actually be a good thing?
Filed under: Just Sayin'
Welcome to the American Morning blog where you can get daily news updates from American Morning's reporters and producers. Join us for "the most news in the morning," weekdays from 6-9 a.m. ET, only on CNN.