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The Public (Dis)Trust

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Robert Brescia
February 20, 2023

“You can trust your car… to the man who wears the star… the big, bright Texaco star!” That’s how the Texaco jingle went in the 1960s. This article is all about the public trust—who and what can we trust in our times? Do you trust the Executive Branch to “faithfully carry out the laws of the nation” as the U.S. Constitution requires it to do? Do you trust the Congress to make laws for the benefit of all Americans? Do you trust the Supreme Court—to act without political ideology?

As you are answering the trust question for yourself, remember what Stephen Covey used to say about trust: It’s like a bank where trust chips are withdrawn or deposited. Every time a promise is kept in full through action, you can add a trust chip in the trust bank between two entities, such as the people and the government. Every time promises are broken, or no action is taken, a trust chip is removed from the trust bank, thereby lowering the level of overall trust. With that in mind, you may want to apply Covey’s logic to our time-honored public institutions.

The Legislative Branch – The House of Representative is still proposing and passing massive omnibus bills that very few of their members have read or have understood. In 1948, the average bill was a little over two pages long. In 2001, the No Child Left Behind bill was over 1,000 pages. The 2009 Affordable Health Care Act was 2,400 pages. The 2013 Immigration Bill was 1,300. Remove a trust chip from the trust bank.

My friend Janine Turner, actress and activist for Constituting America, has proposed a bill she calls the TRUTH Act – Add a trust chip to the trust bank:

T-The bills (including amendments) put forth by legislators are to be limited to single subjects, and THIRTY pages, with U.S. legal code interpretations in the side margins. An accompanying version of the bill is to be written in 5th grade reading level for easy, nationwide comprehension.

R-The bills (and consequent amendments) are to be READ by the legislators—the new amendments are to be underlined with the old version included for clarity. They are to be available for the American people to read—at least thirty days before voting.

U-The bills (and consequent amendments) are to be UNDERSTOOD by the legislators.

T-Before voting on the bills, congressmen and senators are to TESTIFY under oath that they have read and understood the bills and consequent amendments to the bills.

H-The American people are to HEAR the proposed—and final—version of the bills. The bills are to be read on camera and put online so that the people may HEAR (as well as read) the bill at least 30 days before voting on the bill occurs.

The Executive Branch – this branch always promises to be transparent to the people, efficient, effective and spend as little as possible to get the job done. Many of the Cabinet department heads continue to be political appointees with no or little experience in the departments they lead. This happens because of patronage – they were either campaign bundlers or previous competitors to the president. This results in a pronounced surge of ideology within the executive branch departments. Government agencies such as the IRS and the FBI have become embroiled in politics and scandals that tarnish their previous reputations. Remove a trust chip from the trust bank.

The Judicial Branch – in 2012, a justice on the Supreme Court decided that it was appropriate to change a law’s wording summarily that resulted in a confirmation of a very important bill as opposed to its rejection back to Congress for revisions. Last year, someone leaked a Supreme Court opinion in advance of its official release. The Supreme Court issued the following statement: “ In May 2022, this Court suffered one of the worst breaches of trust in its history: the leak of a draft opinion. The leak was no mere misguided attempt at protest. It was a grave assault on the judicial process.” Remove a trust chip from the trust bank.

Citizens from East Palestine, Ohio want the government to step up and assess the threats to their families as well as contain / cleanup the train derailment / chemical mess as soon as possible. They received a statement from Department of Transportation that read, “”While this horrible situation has gotten a particularly high amount of attention, there are roughly 1,000 cases a year of a train derailing.” Remove a trust chip from the trust bank. How about the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)? EPA is one of many independent agencies under the Executive Branch. The EPA is on site at East Palestine and stated, “We will not leave here until the job is done. We will do what we can to help the people affected by this disaster.” Put another trust chip in the trust bank.


Trust is built when ethical decisions are implemented in a consistent manner. Only the top leaders of these organizations can change culture over time to instill an unwavering respect for ethics and a zero-tolerance policy for those who insist on inserting their own political agendas into these institutions.

Author: Dr. Robert Brescia respects the wisdom of generations, promotes the love of learning, teaches ethics to university students, government & politics to AP seniors, and leadership to organizations. He is a candidate for National Board for Certification of Teachers (NBCT) at Stanford University. The Governor of Texas appointed him to the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC). Bob has a doctoral degree with distinction in Executive Leadership from The George Washington University. Contact him at [email protected] or on Twitter at @Robert_Brescia.

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