Respecting government is harder when it doesn't respect you

Respecting government is harder when it doesn't respect you
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According to a 2017 Gallup poll, 81 percent of Americans disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job. This has steadily risen from a low of 67 percent in March.

Frank Newport, reporting for Gallup News last June observed “28 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of the federal government, while 55 percent have an unfavorable opinion. That's the lowest rating for any business or industry sector we tested.” He further reported “Americans think that Congress is corrupt and not focused on the interests of the people.”

This continues a trend which was studied by the PEW Research Center. In their 2015 report “Beyond distrust: How Americans view their Government,” the study observed “The public’s trust in the federal government continues to be at historically low levels. Only 19% of Americans today say they can trust the government in Washington…” This represents a steady decline from “…1958, when the American National Election Study first asked this question, 73 percent said they could trust the government.” Why is it that peoples’ respect for the law and the government is slipping away?

The Declaration of Independence, the founding document of the United States, lays out the responsibility of government. “Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed … to effect their Safety and Happiness.”  Do people perceive inconsistencies in the government’s application of these “just powers” to “effect their safety and happiness?”  Are there any events we can observe which justify this declining confidence of government’s ability to equitably govern?

Bowe Bergdahl’s guilty plea for desertion resulted in a dishonorable discharge. CNN reported “Bowe Bergdahl received a dishonorable discharge from the US Army, but will avoid prison time.” He will “be reduced from sergeant to private. Additionally, Bergdahl will be required to pay a $1,000 fine from his salary for the next 10 months.” While the Army Times tells us that “along with his basic and deployment pay, he could be entitled to more than $300,000.”

ABC News is among many news organizations that reported “In a surprising verdict, the jury of six men and six women deliberated and came back with a not guilty verdict, acquitting defendant Jose Ines Garcia Zarate. He was facing second degree murder charges for killing 32-year-old Pleasanton resident Kate Steinle on July 1, 2015, at Pier 14 in San Francisco.” Zarate, a convicted felon, “claimed he found the gun wrapped in a piece of cloth under a swivel chair at the pier. He says he picked it up, and it accidentally fired, hitting Steinle in the back.”  Zarate only faces a conviction for being a felon in possession of a gun.

In the Washington Examiner, Byron York detailed 27 senators who promised Americans could keep their health coverage, including Sen. Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerIt's not just Manchin: No electoral mandate stalls Democrats' leftist agenda DOJ to probe Trump-era subpoenas of lawmaker records Democrats demand Barr, Sessions testify on Apple data subpoenas MORE (D-N.Y.) who told Americans in September 2009: “If you like your insurance, you keep it.”  But Jonathan Strong, writing for the National Review, wrote that congressional representative knew this was not true when he reported “House Democratic whip Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerPelosi signals no further action against Omar Overnight Energy: EPA to reconsider Trump decision not to tighten soot standards | Interior proposes withdrawal of Trump rule that would allow drillers to pay less | EPA reverses Trump guidance it said weakened 'forever chemicals' regulations Progressives rally behind Omar while accusing her critics of bias MORE conceded to reporters (in 2013) that Democrats knew people would not be able to keep their current health care plans under ObamaCare.” 

John Solomon writing for The Hill in “GOP Lawmakers cite new allegations of political bias in FBI” reflects “The data points we have regarding politicization are damning enough but appear all the more problematic when viewed against the backdrop of investigations whose ferocity seemed to depend on the target.”  He reports that Andrew McCabe and Pete Stozyk, two of the most senior members of the FBI, have been relieved of their duties and reassigned due to questions about their political prejudice in the conduct of criminal investigations which raises questions about the impartiality of criminal investigations conducted by Washington, D.C.

In The Hill’s “Congress Reeling form sexual harassment deluge” Scott Wong and Mike Lillis paraphrase Rep. Kathleen RiceKathleen Maura RiceHouse moderates signal concerns with Pelosi drug pricing bill House GOP campaign arm adds to target list Lawmakers brace for bitter fight over Biden tax plan MORE (D-N.Y.), writing “the public perceives elected officials to be applying different, more lenient standards to themselves.”  

And Kevin Mooney writing for the Daily Signal exposes a taxpayer funded “Congressional slush fund.” He details “taxpayers’ money being used to cover the costs of settling sexual harassment allegations against lawmakers or legislative branch employees.” Records show “more than $17 million has been spent since 1997 to cover the settlements.” These also included violations of “the American with Disabilities Act” and “civil rights infractions.”

Have our inner cities become sanctuary cities for the lawless? Gregg Re reported for Fox news on December 1 of this year the city of Baltimore recorded its 319th homicide, surpassing the total recorded for all of 2016. On December 7, the Chicago Tribune reported there were 630 homicides in the city of Chicago so far this year. Even a cursory search of the news, reports article after article detailing MS-13, an international gang, preying on our youth throughout the country with gruesomely vicious murders and violence; no less than the most horrific terrorist group.

We know from Maslow’s theory of motivation that with decreased security people perceive the world as increasingly inconsistent. John Barry, in his book “The Great Influenza,” tells us “Trust broke down.” in the face of government’s inconsistent actions during the 1918 Influenza outbreak. “Signs began to surface of not just edginess but anger, not just finger pointing or protecting one’s own interests but active selfishness in the face of general calamity.”  He further observed that “It is the quality of coherence that holds a nation together.”

Are these examples of the governed that are losing confidence of “the government” to equitably “effect their safety and happiness?” Has this loss of confidence contributed to the loss of national coherence? Are people losing respect for the law because the law and the government are losing respect for the people?

John M. DeMaggio is a retired special agent in charge, and a retired captain in the U.S. Navy. The above is the opinion of the author and is not meant to reflect the opinion of the U.S. Navy or the U.S. government.