(Readers: Please note this blog is constructed as a story.  While not all chapters are linked, I think the story will be more meaningful by starting at the beginning.) 

Cleo: “Whew, I feel better. Now I can think. What’s next?”

Jordan: “Let’s talk about whether people believe government can help solve problems.”

King III: “Now that’s a good idea. The answer is no, government can never solve problems. Next topic.”

Queeny: “King George III, you are becoming hopeless. Do you ever listen to anyone? Don’t answer, I already know.”

Jordan: “So King George III believes that government cannot solve problems effectively. And a lot of people believe that…but why and when did it start to change?”

Cleo: “I remember growing up that my parents thought government could solve lots of problems. How did we get a man on the moon if government can’t solve problems? What about all the vaccines? What about the military?”

Jordan: “Good questions. If you look at a chart of people’s attitude toward government, it started to change under, guess who, the Great Communicator Ronald Reagan.”

Caesar: “But he was a great communicator.”

Jordan: “I agree. He was so good that he convinced people he was a conservative, yet increased debt dramatically. Reagan’s mantra during his campaign for president and even at the inaugural address was “In this present crisis (economic), government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” 

Caesar: “Do you have a chart tracking people’s attitudes?”

Jordan: “Yes, I do have a chart with data since 1977. Word of caution. Look at the trend line and not the individual data points, which bounce all around.”

Caesar: “Spoken like a true statistician.”

Jordan: “Caesar, you know as well as I, that people look at a few data points and call it a trend. Just a reminder.”

Caesar: “OK, what’s the chart look like?”

Jordan: “Since 1977, there have been regular surveys asking respondents, “How much of the time do you think you can trust the government in Washington to do what is right – just about always, most of the time or only some of the time?” 

King III: “I can tell you what my answer is. Democrats, zero. Republicans, almost always.”

Queeny: “King III, has it occurred to you why we are sitting at this table effectively as hostages?”

Jordan: “Back to the chart. There are year-to-year swings in attitude. In the late 1970’s, for example, attitudes were negatively influenced by high inflation, slow economic growth and the hostage crisis in Iran. In the early 2000’s, attitudes were positively influenced by government actions following 9/11.

Caesar: “But look at attitudes since. Wow. Horrible.”

Jordan: “And attitudes the last couple of years have gotten worse.


Caesar: “You started this part of the conversation claiming you thought President Reagan contributed to the decline. Why did you say that?”

Jordan: “It’s one thing to run a campaign about changing how things operate in Washington or some state capital. It is quite another to include in your inaugural speech that government is the problem and not the solution.”

Caesar:     “Well, it’s not the solution for all problems.”

Jordan: “I agree government is not a solution to all problems. But do you think the CEO of an organization should keep telling all the employees they are the problem and not the solution? Reagan was CEO of the federal government and the country.”

Caesar: “Certainly an unusual approach and probably not the best way to inspire the workforce or the shareholders – that is taxpayers.”

Jordan:  I know it’s hard to make a direct connection between Reagan’s mantra that ‘government is the problem, not the solution’ and the deterioration in confidence in government, but how often is something repeated over and over again and people start to believe it?”

Queeny: “I think that’s called advertising.” 

Jordan: “Great point, Queeny. Companies pay billions of dollars to have the public begin to believe their message. And what do we have with Reagan? Free advertising pounding home the message that government is bad.”

Cleo: “If you were an employee – direct government employee or legislator – how would you feel if every day the CEO said you were the problem?”

Queeny: “How would you feel as a customer if every day the CEO of the organization providing you services said the organization was the problem? I don’t think I’d feel very good.”

Jordan: “Apparently a lot of people didn’t feel very good. Look what’s happened to trust in government since. One things for certain. Reagan was a good communicator. His training in Hollywood paid off. He read scripts very well.”

Caesar: “I almost hate to say this but presidents might be more effective if they had some training to be an actor. Think about Bush 43 and Obama. Both would have benefitted from some training.”

Cleo: “Jordan, what’s next? This is getting interesting.”

Jordan: “Trickle-down economics. Why it helps the rich and why little, if any, trickles down to the poor.”

Queeny: “You know, I never thought about economics that way. In fact, I’m not sure I ever thought much about economics. But from what I think you are saying is people can work hard, do all the right things and still not get ahead.”

Jordan: “You got. And lots of data to support the statement.”

Cleo: “I’m starting to get queasy thinking about all those people who were laid off while we made all that money.”

King III: “Stop it. You sound like a couple of screaming liberals. You want to give up all that we have?”

Caesar: “King III’s right on the money. What’s happened to you two? Keep up this kind of thinking and no more beach house, no more weekend farm, no more airplanes. Are you two crazy?”

Cleo: “Unless I completely misread the outcome of this revolution, all those things are going away anyway.”

Queeny: “For once, I am going to take a stand on my own. Old King III, you do what you want. But I’m going to join the revolutionaries…I mean patriots.”

Cleo: “I’m with you Queeny. Let’s start a company.”

Caesar:     “You two starting a company should be a real trip.”

Queeny: “Speaking of trips, Caesar and King George III, you are coming with us.”

King III: “Not now. You guys are nuts.”

Jordan: “Caesar, King III – sure you don’t want to join Queeny and Cleo?”

Cleo: “Let’s get out of here Queeny. We’ve spent many a night on our own when Caesar and King George were on business trips or those golfing trips.”

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