Robert Samuelson notes that public trust in government is at historically low levels. That is a fact. His explanation for the lack of trust and his solution is not a fact. It is based upon his distaste for government social welfare programs. He cites a public opinion poll which shows that the public does not trust Congress and he argues that the public is wrong to conclude that the members of Congress are the problem. The real problem is that government attempts to do too much. It creates expectations that cannot be fulfilled and that leads to a loss of trust. The implication is that trust in government would be restored if government tried to do less. Apparently, the public perception of the clowns that we send to Washington is an illusion. The public also suffers from an illusion that lobbyists have too much control over our political process, and that money plays too big of a role in our electoral system.
Since the creation of unfulfilled expectations is the real of cause of the public's mistrust of government, the solution is for government to shrink itself. Trust would be restored if politicians did what Paul Volcker did in the 1980's. He broke the back of inflation by raising interest rates and triggering a recession. That kind of tough love is needed today to restore confidence in government. Congress should take out the scalpel and cut the popular programs that Samuelson does not like. His trust in government would be restored. The real question is whether that would restore the public's trust in government. I think that Samuelson is the one who suffers from illusions. The public's distrust of Congress is not an illusion.