Inefficiency erodes US public faith in government

By Ai Jun Source:Global Times Published: 2018/1/23 22:23:39

The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer report, released last week, finds that China has witnessed a leap in public confidence toward the institutions running the country, with 84 percent of Chinese interviewees having faith in their government. The US, meanwhile, is "enduring an unprecedented crisis of trust" with only 33 percent of respondents trusting the government.

Americans never had that much faith in their government in the first place. But what little faith they had is seriously deteriorating.

The crisis stems from whether the government can genuinely do something for its people. The more a government delivers for its citizens, fulfills expectations and resolves economic as well as social problems, the more belief it will gain from the public. Otherwise, it will only see public trust diminish inch by inch.

The US government serves interest groups more than ordinary people. The endless partisan infighting over the years has produced an unproductive government. A decision-making mechanism that is supposed to enhance the government's decision-making capacity through competition, correction and compromise between two mainstream parties, in fact achieves the opposite: The fierce conflicts and serious antagonism between the parties have critically jeopardized any possibility of consensus.

In many other countries, a multi-party system has caused similar conundrums with their government's authority distinctly descending. In nations such as India and Brazil, where local authorities often cannot coordinate with central government, the government's potency is likewise limited. Government performance is also undermined by corruption and a lack of social mobility.

China faces a few problems of its own. But the nation has been resolving them effectively, including cracking down on corruption, carrying out reforms and tackling pollution. Above all, China is eliminating dereliction of duty and ensuring all authorities and officials fulfill their responsibilities, which is one of the focuses of government work in 2018. This is how the Chinese government is gaining trust. The overwhelming majority of Chinese people have enjoyed an improving living standard over the past decades and they believe their lives in the years to come will get better.

As US President Donald Trump shouts "America first," the federal government shuts down within one year of his tenure. It took five years for his predecessor Barack Obama to achieve the same dubious milestone. Every government wants to put its country first, but the question is how.

"The world of traditional power politics was typically about whose military or economy would win. In today's information age, politics is also about whose 'story' wins," wrote Harvard professor Joseph S. Nye, a former US assistant secretary of defense. Glimpsing the US "story" today, we observe a massive collapse in public faith.

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