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Who Do You Trust?

11 Décembre 2012 - Wall Street Journal

Who Do You Trust?

People who sell cars are considered the least-honest, least-ethical professionals, according to a Gallup poll released last week. They were the only ones to rank lower than members of Congress.

Survey respondents also ranked them below advertising executives, stockbrokers, HMO managers and folks who sell insurance. Yes, insurance—even though the chief spokesman for one of America's most widely advertised insurance companies is a lizard.

Fortunately, Gallup's annual "honesty rating" did not rank snakes, rats and pigeons.

Car sales people do not deserve our deepest mistrust. They only want to sell cars. They might try to sell you an overpriced car. They might try to stick you with a shoddy car. But once you know their game, they become very transparent.

Someone who sells you a car is not going to blow your retirement accounts, foreclose your home, deny you medical care, ship your job to China or shove the entire nation over a fiscal cliff.

At least the professionals Americans find the most honest and ethical are nurses. My mom was a nurse. When I went to journalism school they said, "If your mother says she loves you, check it out." I did. And she does. But I still don't see why nurses are trusted more than pharmacists, who ranked second in the survey, and doctors, who ranked third.

Nurses and pharmacists are mostly going to do what doctors tell them, and doctors are mostly going to do what pharmaceutical-industry reps suggest over golf and dinner.

Engineers, who ranked fourth, are far more trustworthy than those in the medical profession. If they lie, we find out when it crashes.

Next in the rankings come dentists, police officers, college teachers, clergy, psychiatrists and chiropractors. I find it alarming that people trust dentists, who drill teeth, more than shrinks, who reassemble entire personalities. And I don't know what to say about a society that trusts cops more than clergy. But then we come to bankers.

The honesty and ethical standards ranking of bankers has skyrocketed from its depths following the 2008 financial crisis and ensuing bailouts. Twenty-eight percent put bankers "high" or "very high" on the scale—up from 19% in 2009. And they are ranked a full peg higher than…journalists.

"I know an insult when I see one," wrote my columnist colleague David Weidner upon seeing these rankings.

A little perspective, people: Bankers want to take your money and make it their money. A journalist only wants your attention.

Ranking lower than journalists were business executives. It is heartening to know my chosen profession is considered more honest than, say, running Enron.

Next come state governors. I don't think they should rank higher than car sales people, either. I grew up in Illinois, which has a track record of sending governors to prison, including Democrat Rod Blagojevich, earlier this year.

Next come lawyers. No one trusts a lawyer until they need one to sue somebody they should have never trusted in the first place.

The survey overlooks the fact that there are honest and ethical people in every profession, even car sales. If I had to rank anyone at the bottom, it would be people who begin sentences with the phrases, "To be honest," and "To tell you the truth."

This implies everything else they have said is not the whole truth. These are the people who cannot be trusted.

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