“Poor performance leads to deeper distrust, in turn leaving government in the hands of those with the least respect for it.”
Friday, July 10, 2020
Coronavirus will undermine trust in government, ‘scarring body and mind’ for decades, research finds
Distrust in government and institutions among many people is a long-term effect of the current pandemic. This will impact future pandemics in terms of the government's recommendations. This piece ends with this ominous quote:
As we consider this scarring of body and mind, let's also think of how we can learn to be self-reliant and healing far into the future, as Dr. Greg Pulte, in effect, outlines in an excellent July 6, 2020 post to this blog titled, "Our Way of Life Does not Prepare us to Endure COVID19."
We thusly need, in every town, city, or locale, to be less vulnerable by always anticipating either a faulty or limited government response. Here in Austin, for example, you can find an array of resources at the Grow Food, Grow Local website. We should also support our local food movement and buy their produce and goods either at local farm markets or on their farms. Check out urban gardening options, too. In the process, beware of "faux local" that really isn't local. Every city should have such readily available resources on their websites for all of their citizens and residents. Support farmworkers, too!
An intermediate and ongoing local response is to donate to food banks and pantries. I regularly donate to the Central Texas Food Bank. If you are in Austin and you need food right now, this is the most helpful link I found. Consider volunteering at one, as well. Here are a few additional food bank links that a quick search turned up:
If you have a child in the Austin Independent School District, here is a link to food that is available to you summer-long compliments of the Austin Independent School District and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This federal resource is the kind that makes me feel good about paying my taxes. When we pay them—and not try to get out of paying them like Donald Trump does—we help others. And when we help others, we help ourselves as individuals, families, and communities.
We should always demand good government, especially considering all the taxes we pay precisely for such things. While securing federal support is always desirable, I urge us all to simultaneously work on securing dollars that are closer to us in our states, towns, and cities. However, we must all get involved for this to be tangible to us, minimally, and maximally, for the setting of priorities on how our precious tax dollars are allocated and spent.
In short, we need to get closer to the ground, in the grassroots, to strengthen your local food movement. To wit, we should regularly have dirt under our fingernails to show for this, too! 😁
July 5, 2020 at 6:00 a.m. CDT
The second, led by Cevat Giray Aksoy of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, finds that people who endure a pandemic in young adulthood tend to be more distrustful of government institutions for the rest of their lives, an outcome that makes it more difficult for governments to effectively respond to future pandemics.
The first paper, by Kozlowski and his colleagues, investigates the likelihood of a covid-19 “scarring effect,” or a “persistent change in beliefs about the probability of an extreme, negative shock to the economy.” Severe economic events such as the Great Recession have caused individuals, institutions and businesses to permanently change behavior. Experiencing one recession, for instance, makes people sensitive to the possibility of another.
The authors construct a complicated economic model to quantify how this scarring process may work in the context of the current crisis, incorporating data on the economic damage to date, the likely spread of the virus in the future, and how policy responses have altered those parameters.
They concluded that the bulk of the economic damage will not come from short-term impacts, such as job losses and business closures, but rather from long-term effects. If the pandemic costs the U.S. economy between 6 and 9 percent of gross domestic product in 2020, for instance, the authors expect the long-term losses from behavioral changes, such as reduced business investment and lower consumer spending, to be between five and six times as large.
As with other research examining the effects of the pandemic on fertility, these economic losses would be permanent. “Even if a vaccine cures everyone in a year, the Covid-19 crisis will leave its mark on the US economy for many years to come,” the authors wrote.
Similarly lasting effects are visible in the realm of politics in the second paper. Aksoy and his colleagues combine a global database of epidemics since 1970 with country-level Gallup survey data on trust in institutions. Their primary research question: How does the experience of an infectious-disease outbreak in a person’s young adulthood shape their trust in institutions later in life?
The findings are substantial: “An individual with the highest exposure to an epidemic (relative to zero exposure) is 7.2 percentage points less likely to have confidence in the honesty of elections; 5.1 percentage points less likely to have confidence in the national government; and 6.2 percentage points less likely to approve the performance of the political leader,” the authors wrote.
The general population averages for those values hover around 50 percent, so that represents more than a 10 percent reduction in trust.
"Citizens expect democratic governments to be responsive to their health concerns,” study co-author Orkun Saka wrote in an email, “and where the public-sector response is not sufficient to head off the epidemic, they revise their views in unfavorable ways.”
The authors contend such an erosion of trust can become self-reinforcing. “One can envisage a scenario where low levels of trust allow an epidemic to spread,” the study noted in its conclusion, “and where the spread of the epidemic reduces trust in government still further, hindering the ability of the authorities to contain future epidemics and address other social problems.”
“When I wrote that passage I was thinking about the United States,” co-author Barry Eichengreen said in an email. “The mixed messaging we’ve been getting about the pandemic from our leaders in this country is having a negative impact on trust in government and public policy.”
In the early days of the pandemic, for instance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised against wearing masks to prevent transmission of the virus but later reversed course. President Trump and his allies initially touted the use of hydroxychloroquine, a drug that studies later showed to be ineffective against the virus. A Wall Street Journal op-ed by Vice President Pence titled “There Isn’t a Coronavirus ‘Second Wave’” was published almost simultaneously with a steep rise in the daily new-case numbers.
All of these actions have contributed to confusion among the public about the seriousness of the pandemic and how to best address it.
Gallup polls showed a long, steady decline in trust in the U.S. government before the virus hit. In 1972, 70 percent of Americans expressed a “great deal” or “fair” amount of confidence in the federal government on managing domestic problems. By 2019 that share was fluctuating between 40 and 50 percent.
This lack of trust “is one part of the explanation, in my view, for why the American public has responded in — how to put it politely — a less than coherent way to the government’s public health recommendations,” Eichengreen said.
The authors closed their paper with an ominous quote from Mark Schmitt, director of New America’s Political Reform Program: “Poor performance leads to deeper distrust, in turn leaving government in the hands of those with the least respect for it.”