Five Causes for the Public to Not Trust the Government.
The U.S. government has been the subject of countless conspiracy theories, controversies and slanders. For many, their trust in their government has faltered in recent years. This is largely due to the government’s handling of events such as 9/11, the war in Iraq and the financial recession: many Americans have been left deeply unsatisfied by the government’s handling of these events. Many even discussed the idea that 9/11 was operated by the U.S. government themselves: one site, entitled “911truth.org” even has a whole page dedicated to “The Top 40 Reasons to Doubt the Official Story of September 11, 2001” (9/11 Truth), which implies that there are more than forty reasons, in this instance, to cause distrust in the government. The purpose of this essay is to discuss these reasons and others with regard to why they induce a lack of trust in the government.
In America’s recent history, there have been a number of key events that have knocked American public confidence or caused America’s shiny halo to become somewhat tarnished. The biggest event in America’s recent history, and indeed in world history, was the tragic terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 (known as ‘9/11’). These events resulted in statistics such as: “Number of victims identified by New York medical examiner: 1,102; Number of death certificates issued without a body at request of victims’ families: 1,616; Number of people still classified as missing from the World Trade Centre that day: 105” (Lumley & Templeton, 2002). 9/11 shook the world and America, more specifically, to its very core: it was cold, calculated and devastating. What rocked America more was the question that was asked after the event: did the American government cause 9/11? All big, historical events are surrounded by conspiracy theories and sometimes, the facts do seem to ring true: “The US air defence system failed to follow standard procedures for responding to diverted passenger flights.” (9/11 Truth) This has been acknowledged by various government bodies, all of whom appear to give a different account of events. This sort of fact is one which is bound to decrease a public’s trust in their government whether they did cause 9/11 or even if they simply just bungled the response. This sort of ineffective response is symbolic of a government who are unable to respond correctly to a national threat (and lends itself to the view that it was deliberately done because it was the U.S. government causing the attacks in the first place).
Following the events of 9/11, President George Bush announced his “War on Terror” to the world, with the view of bringing down the “Axis of Evil.” Al Qaeda, an Afghani-based cell, led by Osama Bin-Laden, claimed ‘credit’ for the 9/11 attacks. As a result, Bush and his administration went to war in Afghanistan, backed by Tony Blair and the British government. This then led to the war in Iraq which was an international controversy which involved tens of thousands of people protesting its cause. Following the United Nation’s search of Iraq for any weapons of mass destruction, they were unable to find any and as a result, they did not recommend the U.S. and the U.K. to enter into a war with Iraq (Cortright et al. 2003). However, they chose to anyway and to this day, no weapons of mass destruction have been found; although, the one good thing that came of the war was the capture and execution of Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s former president and tyrant who is known for the genocide of the Kurdish people. The U.S. army was deployed into Iraq on the understanding that there definitely were nuclear weapons there. So far, since the war began in 2003, 4441 American soldiers have lost their lives (Griffis, 2009). In the eyes of a large section of the American public, this war was purely a quest for oil riches and was potentially the reason for the U.S. government’s construction of 9/11; the loss of American lives seems senseless and still, there are no nuclear weapons to be found, meaning that the American public’s faith in their government has faltered: they made a bad decision by going into Iraq and their justification is yet to be proven.
Even more recently, America has suffered from a massive financial recession. This was largely brought on by the collapse of banks in America and Europe which affected consumer confidence (Recession.org). The U.S. government’s handling of this financial pitfall has meant that unemployment is currently at a high rate of 8.9% of the population (Murphy, 2011), the stock market is still largely considered to be unstable and consumer confidence is only just beginning to increase again. In his recent State of the Union speech, Obama seemed keen to raise hopes that unemployment was dropping and was very focused on the phrase ‘in the future…’ (Chicago Tribune) which is not of much use to the thousands who are unemployed currently. The government’s handling of the recession has not inspired their public to have trust in them: many are still trying to survive through it and Obama is talking about jobs in the future, money in the future and education in the future: the U.S. public’s response is ‘yes, but what about now?’
Many Americans consider their government to be incompetent. George Bush, certainly, was ridiculed internationally for his fumbled speeches and inappropriate comments. In 1970, only 38% of Americans said that they didn’t trust their government; by comparison, in 2000, over 68% said that they didn’t trust them (Macarov, 2003, p72). This number has risen, in part, to the American public’s disdain towards how the government uses their tax money: following a study carried out in 2000: “21% of the respondents commented – without being asked – that they doubted if the government would use their money to fight poverty.” (Macarov, 2003, p72) This belief that their government is incompetent is bound to cause a certain level of distrust amongst the public.
A further reason for the U.S. public’s distrust in their government is its inability to do what is actually needed. Macorov states this is because “the political process, the pressures of interest groups, and the limitations of the administrative bureaucracy.” (Macarov, 2003, p72) When discussing poverty again, a major issue in America, many said that they considered the “self-serving role of government bureaus” as being a major reason for its perpetuation. With the rich/poor divide growing in width all the time: “35.9 million people live below the poverty line in America, including 12.9 million children” (Siddiqi, 2011), it is hard to trust a government who seem intent on spending more and more money on international affairs, rather than their own internal issues.
It is clear that there are a large number of reasons for the American public to distrust their government: their handling of major events such as 9/11 and the Iraq War demonstrate their incompetency and impotence which breeds a high level of distrust. The U.S. government seem incapable of reviewing their own situation and dedicating public spending toward the correct areas, which is why so many people are in poverty and all the time this remains, more and more Americans will lose their trust in the government.
1. Murphy, R. (2011). Why is U.S. Unemployment So High? Retrieved from http://www.marketoracle.co.uk/Article27089.html
2. Siddiqi, S. (2011). Statistics on Poverty and Food Wastage in America. Retrieved from http://www.soundvision.com/Info/poor/statistics.asp
3. Chicago Tribune. (2011). Text of President Obama’s State of the Union. Retrieved from http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/politics/sns-state-of-the-union-text,0,706450.story
4. Recession.org. (1999-2010). History. Retrieved from http://recession.org/history
5. Griffis, M. (2009). Casualties in Iraq. Retrieved from http://antiwar.com/casualties/
6. Cortright, D. et al. (2003). Unproven: The Controversy over Justifying War in Iraq. Retrieved from http://www.fourthfreedom.org/Applications/cms.php?page_id=28
7. Templeton, T. & Lumley, T. (2002). 9/11 In Numbers. Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2002/aug/18/usa.terrorism
8. 911 Truth.org. (2006). The Top 40 Reasons to Doubt the Official Story of September 11, 2001. Retrieved from http://www.911truth.org/article.php?story=20041221155307646
9. Macarov, D. (2003). What The Market Does To People: privatization, globalization and poverty. Atlanta, GA: Clarity Press.