When Trust is lost
The struggles and drama playing out in the United States for the past 60 years in general and 10 years in particular are indicative of a much greater crisis of trust.
Trust is an elusive concept for some. Trust is a gift that you give someone else. It is yours and yours alone to give. No one can demand to be trusted.
It takes a lifetime of commitment to earn someone’s trust and but a second to lose it. Once lost, trust is almost impossible to regain totally. Only by a consistent commitment to wanting to rebuild trust can you hope to earn it back.
The triangle of trust, as I call it, is a basis for true leadership. The triangle of trust is “to trust is to believe, to believe is to have faith, and to have faith is to trust” which completes the triangle.
The election in 2016 in which Trump became President was as much about the lack of trust that the electorate has in their government as it was about President Trump. The government had lost touch. We had lost faith. Trump became President.
In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania there is a battle currently brewing relative to a severance tax which will set the stage for the state’s financial success or demise.
The battle is with the bill, House Bill 1401of 2017, which provides for a severance tax on shale natural gas production. The battle is more about trust, however, than about a natural gas tax.
The national implications of this bill which now has over 390 amendments is significant. The merits of the severance tax notwithstanding, the bill and the reaction to the bill reflects the deep-seated mistrust in government.
When parties of either side engage in debate in which the reality is substantially different than what the populace believes, a societal lack of trust sets in and sets the stage for absolute paralysis in government.
The argument that government needs more tax revenue when it will not even remotely consider reducing expenditures is laughable at best. Every citizen who survived the recession of 2008 understands the need to curtail spending. When government refuses to consider spending reductions, the need for additional revenue is questioned and the motives challenged.
Once we challenge government’s motives we no longer have trust in our government.
For instance, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania I introduced House Bill 1691 of 2017 to reduce overhead costs by approximately 10% which equated to $370 million in savings without affecting any programs. This dollar amount exceeds the amount of money that would be raised by the severance tax but the bill has not yet moved out of committee. The lack of action despite co-sponsorship by 15% of the legislature and widespread popular support has not fallen on deaf ears.
The electorate and many newly elected representatives frankly do not trust our government and its ability to wisely spend tax dollars.
We have lost trust in government’s ability to restrain itself and to be a good fiscal custodian of taxpayer dollars. The “swamp” is fighting desperately with a severance tax which serves as a barometer that the bureaucracy is fighting not to be drained or constrained in any way.
To be clear, in my life as a CPA and financial restructuring expert, I can assure you that there is no amount of money that you can give government that will cure its problems. Government operates outside of a free market system and has no restraints until it goes bankrupt or its citizens do. Government has an insatiable appetite for cash ï¿½ï¿½“ yours!
This is not about a severance tax. This is not about taxation in general. This is about a general mode of operation within government to exercise its will against the better wishes of sound fiscal policy.
In the case of the severance tax there is popular support to enact it if you read the polls because the people who are passing the law will not have to pay it. They are more than happy to pass that tax on since they do not have to pay it themselves. How disingenuous to pass a tax because you can inflict that pain on someone else.
The great divide occurs when a people no longer trust the government that was elected to serve them. People are reacting and demanding change and they are not happy about the paralysis at all levels.
Until we enact meaningful restraints on government and give power back to people the trust will never be restored and the result, a complete financial collapse, will ensue if left unchecked.
To trust is to believe, to believe is to have faith, and to have faith is to trust. Our elected leaders over the decades have broken that trust and we must work diligently to rebuild the trust or all will be lost.
Col. Frank Ryan, CPA, USMCR (Ret) represents the 101st District in the PA House of Representatives. He is a retired Marine Reserve Colonel and served in Iraq and briefly in Afghanistan and specializes in corporate restructuring. He has served on numerous boards of publicly traded and non-profit organizations. He can be reached at [email protected].