Sometimes I think it’s a question of focus.
What I mean by that is lots of times it seems to me that the government tends to focus on effects instead of causes.
When that happens, outcomes seem less than effective. That’s a little cryptic, isn’t it?
OK, so let’s think about it in concrete terms.
According to the last Harris Interactive Happiness Index, roughly 33 percent of Americans consider themselves “happy.” No need to go into all the methodology of their polling here, but the bottom line is, fully two-thirds of Americans consider themselves in varying degrees of “unhappy.”
That’s what I mean when I say it’s important to focus on the cause instead of the effect. You can apply this line of thinking to any issue.
Let’s talk about gun violence, for example. The legislation Washington types like to talk about deals with the effect of gun violence, not the cause. The likely reason for this is because it’s just a lot easier to attack the issue that way.
When some crazy person shoots a bunch of people, it’s just easier to attack the effect. Gun bans and background checks have no effect on the cause of mass shootings because guns don’t cause mass shootings. It’s much more difficult and complex to attack the cause.
It’s the same with pretty much every issue this country faces.
Problem is, until you root out the cause and minimize it, the effect will always remain.
Take terrorism – please, for the love of God, take terrorism.
We’ve crafted tons of legislation to attack the effects of terrorism. We’ve attacked the effect to the point where we frisk 80-year-old ladies and 4-year-old children in airports. We make all air travelers remove their shoes.
Yet, when Russia and Saudi Arabia warn of a guy who may become a jihadist bomber, we lose track of him.
I think terrorists know this about us. I think Osama bin Laden got just what he wanted. I think he knew that if he could pull off some grand attack on the U.S. that we would react as we did. We would spend trillions of dollars, basically wreck our economy and raise the ire of people all over the world.
We went right down that path.
I walked around the Twin Towers area and Wall Street in New York City in September 2008. Wall Street looked like something you’d see in Tel Aviv or Beirut. There were concrete barriers blocking access to streets and lots of cops. I think that probably makes the al-Qaida types of the world very happy.
Remember right after 9/11? The whole world was on our side. Everybody felt bad for us. They had empathy for us, sympathy for us.
These days, after a couple wars, countless drone attacks and policies permitting torture, indefinite detention and warrantless wiretaps, we’re back to being viewed as this big imperialist meanie that other countries love to hate.
And we’ve come right back full circle to the cause. By looking to minimize the effect, we exacerbate the cause.
Not that some radical jihadist is ever going to love America. But it would seem that we could make it a little harder for those guys to recruit college kids like the Boston bomber.
I remember George W. Bush saying “They hate us because we’re free.” I don’t think that’s true.
Lots of places are free. Canada is free. Nobody hates Canada, do they? Well, maybe a select few U.S. National Hockey League fans.
I think they hate us because we have no problem propping up brutal dictators to keep the oil flowing. Or because they see us as too materialist and not spiritual enough.
Maybe we should adjust our view a little bit. Maybe we should get introspective and figure out what it is that causes people to hate us and work on that.
But let’s get back to that unhappiness quotient in America. Let’s get to the cause of that unhappiness.
Do you suppose some two-thirds of Americans count themselves unhappy because of terrorism? Is it because of guns? Is it because of gay marriage? Is it because of immigration, health care, the environment?
CBS News/New York Times did a poll in April.
A poll question:         
“What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today?”
The results: Economy and jobs, 40 percent; budget deficit/national debt, 6    percent; immigration, 4 percent; guns, 3 percent; health care, 3 percent; terrorism, 3 percent.
Things like foreign policy, the environment and gay marriage are statistically insignificant with regard to what Americans deem as troubling in this poll.
So, if you’re in government, why not focus like a laser on what’s really troubling Americans? Get right at the cause of that unhappiness – jobs and the economy.
Does anybody get the sense that our elected official are doing that?
Me either.
Seems they’re too concerned about immigration, terrorism, health care, gay marriage, green energy, foreign policy and guns.