Public trust of government is near its all-time low according to the Pew Research Center, which finds a perfect storm of factors -- including a deep recession, high unemployment and polarized Congress -- are driving distrust near an all-time high of 80%.
What accounts for this outpouring of discontent? After all, the recession is over, the economy is growing, and job losses have slowed dramatically in the last year. But overall distrust has been permanently scared since the early 1970s, and periods of recession and high unemployment depress public trust in government. Here are three key lessons from the Pew poll:
1) Blame Nixon, and stagflation
The United States government suffers from not seasonal, but structural disapproval. This poll isn't an outlying data point. It's part of an overall decline in government trust since the mid-1960s. The only time since 1975 that government trust broke 50% was in the months following 9/11. After the tumultuous assassinations of the 1960s, the Vietnam War, the resignation of President Nixon, and the stagflation of the late 1970s, public trust fell from 80% in 1966 to about 25% in 1981. Since then it's only peaked over 50% once, after 9/11. Nixon's scandal, the regularity of hyperpartisanship, the rise of cable news, and the annual parade of government frustrations that belie the quixotic campaign promises Americans now expect from outside candidates has permanently eroded faith in the US government.