(Editor Note: Insight Bytes focus on key economic issues and solutions for all of us, on Thursdays we spotlight in more depth Solutions to issues we have identified. Fridays we focus on how to build the Common Good. Please right click on images to see them larger in a separate tab.)
Image: Your Little Planet
Thomas Jefferson and James Madison saw the need to frame a government such that ‘forced compromises’ would push political leaders to focus on the Common Good. The institutions that maintain our common good include the federal government three estates: The Supreme Court, Congress and The Executive. In addition, the Fourth Estate, a Free Press is crucial for our citizens to have access to fair and impartial reporting about the activity of government officials and their policies. We have spotlighted the key role Education, as the Fifth estate, plays in educating our people to make critical decisions and understand comprehensively the information they receive from a Free Press.
Trust in our federal government has been falling since the presidency of Lyndon Johnson in 1965.
Source: Pew Research Center – 12/14/17
We noted in our first post on the Common Good that there were two factors contributing to the decline in trust:
“We see two major factors for the lack of trust. One, is that economic inequality has been increasing over the last 60 years to the point where it is at the worst it has ever been since 1929. Americans expect their government to be the rule keeper of a fair shot at economic opportunity not a bastion for the rich and powerful. As wealthy donors have taken over control of both major parties, the influence of the average citizen has been reduced to nearly nothing except at the ballot box – but not in legislative policy.”
The second major factor is the change in information access and news viewing habits of our society.
“In the 1950s and 1960s families gathered around the television set to watch Walter Cronkite or Huntley and Brinkley bring them the news for the day. These news anchors had teams of trained journalists in how to gather news, provide airing of opposing views and investigation to reveal the facts of the story. As cable news programs became popular people drifted away from central network journalist supported news programs toward popular ‘viewpoint news’ programs like Fox News or CNN. Then, from 1995 until today, the Internet was a catalyst for the growth of blogging, and ‘friend news’ on Facebook which had virtually no formally trained journalists and limited understanding of the difference between facts and opinions. Opinions spread virally through the Internet often with no foundation in formal fact gathering or fact finding investigation techniques. Today, we even have presidential spokespersons talking about ‘alternative facts’ to justify their policies or opinions.”
Trust gaps by income level are increasing around the world with many developed countries showing double digit gaps between the top income quartile and the bottom income quartile and the U.S. with the largest gap:
In the U.S. incomes for the lower 80 % have been largely stagnant for the past three decades since the Reagan years, higher education costs rising to levels never seen before with student loan debt at $1.5 trillion dollars. In short, lower and middle income parents expect their children to have fewer opportunities and to make less money over their lifetime. This growing sense of hopelessness is in part triggering the populist movements we see world-wide. The top quartile trust government institutions the most because they are getting the benefits, tax cuts, relaxed environmental policies to allow their businesses to make as much money as they can, and continued stock buy backs to make even more money instead of increasing worker wages. Workers see their votes not making a difference as Congress is at the beck and call of Corporate Nation States who make multi-million dollar campaign contributions and the Executive Branch now run by billionaires.
Little wonder the Common Good is not embraced by all people, for the rich they are on top of the economic pyramid. The rich get the laws they want and aren’t interested in sharing their wealth or time to build the Common Good.
Here is what will likely happen, in the end the rich will need to see that it is in their interest to build the Common Good, by contributing to our institutions of government and common people or they will lose what they already have and probably a lot more.