David Brooks rightly notes (yikes!) that many people are actually liberals in their support for individual government programs, but don't trust the federal government as the instrument to implement those programs.
He adds that many perceive the government as being open to rent-seekers.
Joe Nocera, on the BP liability disbursement program, though, notes that government can and does still work well.
So, what's the issue? It really is that the "rent seekers" aren't Reagan's welfare queens, but are bipartisan rich fat cats, fat cats that gave Barack Obama more money overall than John McCain in 2008, and a bigger portion of respective campaign fundraising money.
And, that, in turn, is the difference between traditional American liberalism of New Deal and other varieties, and neoliberalism, technocratic ersatz liberalism, that started to grow under Jimmy Carter and continued ever since. After Carter, Walter Mondale's been the only traditional liberal nominated for president by Democrats. But, real liberals have continued to acquiesce in neoliberals glad-handing rent-seekers.
So, the Democratic Party's messaging problem here is self-inflicted, with additional collateral damage starting with Tip O'Neill, a paleoliberal, refusing to stand tougher against Ronald Reagan.
And, that's why people like me have to, in the face of David Brooks columns, often add an adjective like left-liberal.