Perhaps the most promising means of shoring up the public’s damaged trust in government is for leaders to take concrete steps toward making government more transparent—and accountable.
As the public’s perception of government has declined, according to polls, the solution is not for officials to fashion better and more pithy arguments to convince people their feelings are off-base.
That’s the recent finding of an analysis put out by the nonprofit government watchdog, the Project On Government Oversight.
Instead, POGO concludes, the most promising means of shoring up the public’s trust of government is for leaders to take concrete steps toward making government more transparent and accountable—areas that by some metrics have been in retreat in recent years.
The best place to start, POGO said, would be to strengthen the existing and time-honored means by which government—including the federal government—is held up to scrutiny and problematic activities, including waste, fraud and abuse, are laid bare to be corrected.
“Frighteningly, the growing disconnect between government and the people it represents in the U.S. tracks with a trend that is emerging around the world, a shift of government systems away from democratic principles towards authoritarianism,” POGO stated in its analysis.
“The solution to this existential challenge is to reform our government institutions so that they are held accountable and are genuinely responsive and effective for the common good, not simply for the powerful few,” the watchdog continued. “Accountable government means political power is neither corrupted nor abused, and if a public official intentionally breaks the public trust, they are held to account. It’s been said and it’s true — ‘Accountability is the antidote to authoritarianism.’”
The mechanisms in need of strengthening—or “six pillars of accountability”—include “whistleblowers, who expose wrongdoing; inspectors general, who serve as independent watchdogs at each government agency; congressional oversight, which provides a check on executive power; transparency and civil society participation, which ensure that the government answers to the people; independent journalism, which investigates and exposes wrongdoing; and the equal application of the rule of law to the highest levels of government,” as the watchdog summarizes.
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