"I don’t know if America has a leadership problem; it certainly has a followership problem. Vast majorities of Americans don’t trust their institutions. That’s not mostly because our institutions perform much worse than they did in 1925 and 1955, when they were widely trusted."
Let's leave aside 1925 since it was a very different world. In 1955 the economy was growing at a healthy pace with workers up and down the income ladder sharing in the prosperity. They were seeing rapidly rising living standards and it was a virtual certainty that children would enjoy much better standards of living than their parents.
Brooks may have missed it, but the economy collapsed in 2008. This was not due to any external event like a massive drought or asteroid strike, it was due to fact that the people who design economic policy were too brain-dead to see the largest financial bubble in the history of the world.
The result of this failure is that tens of millions of people are unemployed, underemployed, or out of the workforce altogether. Millions more are facing the loss of their homes. And a huge cohort of baby boomers, many of whom spent their lives working at decent paying jobs, are approaching retirement with nothing to support them but their Social Security.
The amazing part of this story is that the people most responsible for the disaster are still doing just great. Robert Rubin and Alan Greenspan are both very wealthy (the former more so than the latter) and still highly regarded for their views on economic policy. The Wall Street folks that pumped up the bubble and often wrecked their companies in the process are still hugely wealthy. (Think of Lehman's Richard Fuld or Bear Stearn's James Cayne.) And all the well-paid economists at the Fed, the Treasury, and the ECB who were completely out to lunch when it came to understanding the economy are still well-paid economists who are mostly still misunderstanding the economy.
What could the masses possibly have to complain about?