I rarely stray into the realm of politics in this blog, but I am really ticked off!
I’m angry with political leaders who continue to put their own interests ahead of those of our nation. And I’m angry with politicians and the media for getting trapped in their own thought bubbles and constantly making stuff up (MSU).
Thought bubbles (picture the dialog bubble above the head of a comic strip character) are the unspoken attitudes, assumptions and beliefs that color our view of the world. They operate just below the level of consciousness, so that most of the time we make decisions and take actions based on thought bubbles we’re not aware of.
MSU happens when we don’t pause to question the validity of our thought bubbles. As a result, we make critical decisions based on outdated information and/or strongly held (but often erroneous) beliefs. Then we wonder why our best-laid plans go awry.
Thought bubbles and MSUs permeate the business world at all levels of leadership. But they run just as rampant (and probably even more so) in the public arena. Especially in regards to many of today’s front-burner political issues.
What bothers me is how the discussion around these issues never seems to get past the thought-bubble level. Until our leaders pause to look at the data and their assumptions underlying these issues, we will never get to the root of the problems or opportunities facing us. Which makes it highly unlikely that we will come up with workable solutions.
Here are some prime examples of thought bubbles clouding our nation’s most pressing issues:
Thought bubble: The debt limit must be raised.
Reality check: With all the discussion around when the debt ceiling should be raised and by how much, no one is looking at the bigger picture. The thought bubble here is that raising the debt ceiling will magically solve our nation’s financial problems. WTH??? (H = heck. I was raised not to say wtf.) We need to be talking about debt reduction and balancing the budget, NOT figuring out ways to spend more money!
Thought bubble: Continued government spending will help our economy.
Reality check: We can’t continue to run huge budget deficits because we will eventually outstrip our ability to pay back our loans. Just because we still have checks doesn’t mean we have money in the account. Continuing to ask the bank for loans when we can’t pay for the ones we already have is the height of fiscal irresponsibility.
Thought bubble: The wealthy don’t pay their fare share of taxes.
Reality check: The numbers don’t lie. The top one percent of income earners paid 38% of all federal income taxes in 2008, while the bottom 50% paid only 3%. Forty-nine percent of U.S. households paid no federal income tax at all. Don’t believe me? Check it out at:
Thought bubble: U.S. foreign aid goes to developing nations to fight hunger and cure disease.
Reality check: Since when? More than one-third of all U.S. foreign aid goes to Israel and Egypt. Neither is classified in any way as a developing nation.
Thought bubble: Unions protect the working class from their “evil” bosses.
Reality check: Right. That’s like saying today’s overpaid professional athletes care about their fans. Fifty-seven Teamster Union officials earn more than $200,000 per year. The president of the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees earns $480K. The head of the American Federation of Teachers receives more than $400K in salary and benefits. More than half of all union members are public employees, meaning they get paid from tax revenues. What evil bosses are we paying to protect them from… ourselves?
Thought bubble: The TSA has the right to search us at airports.
Reality check: The United States Constitution, Amendment 4: Search and Seizure (ratified 12/15/1791), says otherwise. I quote: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
You may not subscribe to my political views (and you might be surprised what many of them are, so hold on to your thought bubbles on that). But I hope we can all agree that our nation’s most pressing problems would benefit greatly if our leaders (and the media):
- Paused to look for real data
- Stopped jumping to unfounded conclusions
- Held themselves accountable to be accurate without MSU’ing to scare us into bending to their view
- Exposed the underlying meanings and assumptions they’re working from so that we can have quality dialogue and discussion.
My thought bubbles tell me that until we slow down just enough to do this, we’re in for a continuing deep divide in our country, and that serves no one well!