With 2013 still lukewarm in the history vault, we’re on to predicting the future.
Such is the tradition when the intersecting of yearly calendars compels us (or so we like to believe) to print, broadcast, post or tweet our inklings about the next 12 months.
We’ve become a suspicious lot, a nation of doubting Uncle Sams and Samanthas.
Last week, the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research released its findings about the faith Americans have in government.
Here’s a summary: not much.
That Americans have a low opinion of government should come as no surprise to anyone who drew breath in the good ol’ U.S. of A. last year.
Let’s go to the numbers. Half of those surveyed believe the government needs “a lot of changes or a complete overhaul.” Good luck with that.
Seven in 10 think our elected officials and government leaders are not up to the task of tackling the country’s major problems, which they identified as health care reform, a sound economy with job creation and debt reduction.
None of this is new. It has been about a decade since more than 50 percent of us thought we were on the right road.
Perhaps most troubling among the findings is that more than 60 percent of respondents were pessimistic about the way we choose leaders.
Yikes! What did you have in mind?
I’m hoping the gloom has more to do with the prevalence of big and shadowy money, partisan operatives and the death of facts — not the presence of a ballot box and the freedom to express one’s voice there.
In short, we’re bummed about government. And why not?
Pardon my personal pessimism, but this Congress, for example, is on a historic path, one that will rewrite the record books for the fewest bills passed, the most it’s-the-other-guy’s-fault speeches and the shortest, dimmest streak of political independence in memory.
Americans see it at every level of government, too, so we’re hip when it’s politics-first thinking in a governor’s decision or a board’s edict or a commission’s recommendation.
Fifty percent? It’s a wonder we have the faith we do.
All of which makes it curious, too, that it never seems to change unless perhaps for the worse — as in “nothing’s different.”
Well, technically it is different; the calendar has changed. It’s a new year, a time for transformation and optimism. A time to predict a different 2014.
We could always forecast (dream?) a year of efficient and effective government.
Let’s say by February the august halls of lawmaking will be filled with more thinking and conviction than party lines and PACs. Summer will reveal policies that support real people and ideas that give taxpayers more bang for their buck.
By Election Day the government will have actually solved a problem with a solution that is not worse than the problem. Sis! Boom! Bah! and Booyah!
OK, enough kicking to the curb and throwing under the bus.
Government does indeed attract strong, intelligent, compassionate men and women. You know some of them; so do I.
Nor is their job easy, trying to please a demanding public, half of whom have no faith in them, and putting up with newspaper columnists always picking this nit or that. And a bunch of people take it personally that they don’t think like them.
It can be a tough gig. Still, it is the gig they’ve chosen, rarely with reluctance.
The research study confirmed what most of us would have guessed. We have a problem putting much faith in government.
But then the research merely defined the problem; the solution requires much more.
So here’s another prediction during this year when hope gilds the edges of these first few days.
I predict nothing will change if we keep doing the same thing.