Photo: (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) President Barack Obama convenes a meeting with cabinet agencies coordinating the government's Ebola response, in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Oct.15, 2014.

DorobekINSIDER: An Ebola Casualty: Trust in Gov

Hey there. I’m Christopher Dorobek — the DorobekINSIDER — and welcome GovLoop’s DorobekINSIDER… where we focus on six words: Helping government do its job better.

On GovLoop’s DorobekINSIDER:

  • A Bright Future for Open Data: As more industries are joining the fight for open data, governmental organizations at the local, state and federal levels have become more interested in utilizing open data. Not only does open data benefit citizens, but it also benefits government workers dealing with intra and interagency communication.  “It’s more than just about transparency,” said Gyrth. “We are looking at a particular change in how big data will affect how government interacts with private industry. There needs to be a bridge between citizens and the government.”
  • Note: Other posts based on GovLoop’s DorobekINSIDER LIVE – open data:

But up front: An Ebola casualty: Trust in gov

It is almost impossible to escape Ebola coverage these days.

As The Hill notes, the disease has wreaked havoc on the Obama presidency… but it is more than just politics. Fairly or unfairly, the handling of the Ebola situation doesn’t help the public’s already dismal view of government.

As CBS’s Bob Schieffer put it on Face the Nation on Sunday:

…to the list of institutions once held in high regard but which have lately come up short — the Veterans Administration, the IRS, yes, even the Secret Service— we now must add the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It’s been an all-too-familiar story: first, the calm assurances that all is well; then the impenetrable press releases saying nothing; finally the grudging admission, “Mistakes were made.”

And there is data supporting Schieffer’s statements. A poll by CBS News shows plummeting confidence in the Centers for Disease Control. As the poll analysis says, “Positive assessment of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the nation’s public health institute, has declined dramatically. Only 37% think the CDC is doing an excellent or good job, down from 60% in a May 2013 Gallup poll.”

Unfortunately the CDC is not alone. The numbers are fairly dismal for just about every government organization — the IRS, the VA, the FDA… even the FBI, which had 55 percent saying they did a excellent or good job, that has now dropped to 51 percent.

And the numbers are bleak for most institutions — Churches and organized religions, the medical system, public schools, the Supreme Court, the presidency — none of them break 50 percent. Congress wallows at just 9 percent. The public has gained confidence over the long run in the military — 73 percent say they have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the military.



There are many factors in these dismal numbers, of course, many of them are complex. But there have been visible government failures, as Scheiffer noted. The failure of… the seemingly endless drip of revelations coming from the Secret Service… the IRS having to assess political groups… and now, the public’s initial assessment that the CDC — and government generally — failed in dealing with Ebola.

Just focusing on the Ebola situation, I’m not exactly sure what CDC officials could have — or should have — done differently. The only critique I would make is to taper down on the very strong assurances that Ebola would not flourish here in the U.S. CDC officials set a high bar offering bold assurances in an area where they didn’t have full control and, as New York magazine put it, Ebola has proven to be a disease that punishes false confidence.

With that, some additional reading on this subject:

Photo: (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) President Barack Obama convenes a meeting with cabinet agencies coordinating the government’s Ebola response, in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Oct.15, 2014.

The DorobekINSIDER #GovMustRead list:

DorobekINSIDER water cooler fodder

Before we finish up… a few items from the DorobekINSIDER water-cooler fodder… yes, we’re trying to help you make your water-cooler time better too…


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