Faith in government powered Apollo 11. We don’t have that anymore.

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by Max Boot,

from The Washington Post,

The Pew Research Center has compiled surveys of public trust in the federal government from 1958 to 2019. In 1958, trust was sky high: 73 percent. And why not? Washington had created the Tennessee Valley Authority, Social Security and the interstate highway system. It had vanquished a Great Depression and won a world war. It was now desegregating public schools.

Faith in government had dipped by the end of the 1960s — 62 percent in 1968, 54 percent in 1970 …

Public confidence was just 36 percent after President Richard M. Nixon’s resignation in 1974, and it has never reached earlier highs.

There was a rise in support during the 1980s — but only into the 40-percent range. President Ronald Reagan had taken office proclaiming “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” But while Reagan helped to undermine faith in government in the long term, his immediate success, ironically, had the opposite effect by showing that America wasn’t ungovernable.

Another irony: Confidence in government plummeted in the 1990s — as low as 19 percent in 1994 — even though this decade is now seen as the apogee of American power and prosperity. Presumably this curious fact can be explained by a combination of Newt Gingrich’s inveterate hostility toward government and President Bill Clinton’s scandals.

Faith in government rose again briefly after the 9/11 attacks; the only time since 1972 it exceeded 50 percent was in October 2001. But the disasters of the George W. Bush presidency — the Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina, the financial crash — took their toll. By the time Bush left office in 2009, faith had fallen to 25 percent. It has never recovered — even though the economy did. Under President Barack Obama, the nation launched the longest economic expansion in its history. Yet public confidence that the government in Washington would “do what is right,” “always” or “most of the time,” has fallen to just 17 percent today.

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