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Posted: February 14, 2010 12:00 a.m.

A Washington recall this fall

Maybe Mother Nature knows what's best. This week, she brought her own version of a government shutdown to Washington. While the Post Office might continue to work through rain, snow, sleet and hail, the snow in the capital resulted in the House suspending votes for the week and the Senate scaling back its calendar.

Many people across the nation might be breathing a sigh of relief that their government is not at work. Rasmussen Reports released a poll on Monday that said "75 percent of likely voters now say they are at least somewhat angry at the government's current policies." Of this group, 45 percent are very angry. This is not a good sign for elected officials.

Why are Americans angry?

The American people believe that their government is out of touch with their needs. They said as much in the recent Virginia and New Jersey governors' races and in the recent Senate race in Massachusetts. Voters want the government to focus on jobs, jobs, jobs. But government leaders are not listening.

They might want to listen not only to their constituents, but also to Toyota Motor Corp., which is steering its way through a massive recall.

While Congress is taking a vacation courtesy of Mother Nature, Toyota is recalling more than 2 million cars in the country. How the crisis is handled will help shape the future of the company.

According to a company television advertisement: "172,000 Toyota and dealership employees are dedicated to making things right. We have a fix for our recalls. We stopped production so we could focus on our customers' cars first. We're working around the clock to ensure we build vehicles of the highest quality. To restore your faith in our company."

Even before Toyota adopted this proactive approach, Rasmussen Reports released another poll on Monday that said, "59 percent of Americans still hold at least a somewhat favorable view of Toyota."

While 75 percent of Americans are at least somewhat angry with their government, which doesn't know how to find the brake pedal on spending, only 29 percent of Americans have a somewhat or very unfavorable view of a company whose products have their own problems with control.

In other words, Americans regard more highly a car company with millions of recalls than they do the U.S. government.

Stunning.

We may be suffering from the "crisis of confidence" as articulated in 1979 by then-President Jimmy Carter during his infamous "malaise" speech. Or maybe it's a crisis of confidence in our current government.

What has Toyota done right?

In his Washington Post op-ed Tuesday, company President Akio Toyoda wrote, "Today, Toyota team members and dealers across North America are working around the clock to repair all recalled vehicles. ... As the president of Toyota, I take personal responsibility. That is why I am personally leading the effort to restore trust in our word and in our products."

Hmmm. Acknowledging a problem, taking ownership, and addressing how to solve it. These are the best ways to right a mistake.

Not talking about malaise, but focusing on positive actions that will lead to a better future.

Three-fifths (60 percent) of voters believe that "neither Republican political leaders nor Democratic political leaders have a good understanding of what is needed today," according to Rasmussen Reports. If they don't get it, they can't acknowledge it.

Why don't the voters think the government gets it? American voters want tax incentives - government wants a jobs program.

If the government is to do something for the economy, 59 percent of voters "believe cutting taxes is better than increasing government spending as a job-creation tool," according to Rasmussen, "but 72 percent expect the nation's elected politicians to increase spending instead."

Not only do we think the political leaders don't get it, we expect them to do the opposite.

What might happen this fall? "Sixty-three percent of likely voters believe it would be better for the country if most incumbents in Congress were defeated this November," according to Rasmussen.

We need our faith in our government restored. This will help fix our crisis of confidence. Those in charge of government have to admit that they have made mistakes, take ownership and address how to make it right.

The Democratic Party is the party in control. Democrats hold the White House, the House of Representatives and the Senate. If they cannot admit they are in charge - and therefore responsible - and recall what they have done, they won't be in charge for long.

My forecast?

Look out for a Washington recall this fall.

Jackie Gingrich Cushman founded and is chairman of the board of the Learning Makes a Difference Foundation.


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