Americans Are Interested in Jobs and Effective Government, Not Gun Laws and Immigration Reform

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ANALYSIS –
By Glynn Wilson

While Congress is spending lots of time and resources trying to make laws to limit access to guns and bullets and reforming immigration, public opinion survey research indicates that more Americans think they should be spending their time creating jobs, making government work and improving the quality of education, according to the latest Gallup poll on the subject.

In the midst of continuing disagreements on how to reform the nation’s immigration laws and highly contentious lobbying on the part of gun control groups, the American people don’t seem particularly interested in those issues. When asked their opinion, more people say politicians in Washington should be spending their time focusing on the economy and making government work, as well as improving education and access to health care.

A large majority of Americans, 86 percent, say the federal government should be trying to create jobs and make the economy grow. Only 50 percent of the American people say reforming the immigration system should be the top priority and only 55 percent say the priority should be reducing gun violence through federal law.

Gallup_priorities

These findings run counterintuitive to the constant national debate in the United States as portrayed by the mainstream national news media, which often reports with a slant of perceived conservatism on the part of the American people who don’t think it is the federal government’s job to get involved in the economy or to work efficiently.

Gun and bomb violence, like the recent incidents in Connecticut and Boston, are sensational crime events that sell newspapers and drive up ratings for television news shows. But academic research has shown for many years that sensational coverage of crime by news organizations is way out of line with the actual chance of an average person becoming a victim of such a crime. It is also well known that sensational news stories often drive the public debate in governing bodies like Congress and state legislatures.

While in this case Democrats are more likely than Republicans by 30 percentage points to say improving access to healthcare and reducing gun violence should be top priorities for Congress and the president, it is not in the interest of Democrats running for office for wedge issues like gun control and allowing illegal immigrants resident status to dominate the debate in Washington and on the news. This only drives working white males even further into the Republican political camp.

Chances are that gun control laws are not going to stop nuts with guns and bombs from committing atrocious acts to get themselves famous anyway, and limiting individual liberties for the sake of public safety just lets the criminals and terrorists win.

No doubt the immigration system is broken and needs reforming. But as long as the Republicans control the House and hold enough seats in the U.S. Senate to block any unwanted legislation, nothing is going to be accomplished except to perpetuate the divided electorate into ideological camps of conservatives and liberals.

If, on the other hand, the politicians listened to the basic desires of the American people and created efficient federal programs to create jobs and improve the economy, more and more of the public would vote to keep politicians in office who believe in making government work.

Gallup’s Implications

“Many factors come into play in determining the priority Congress and the president give to specific legislation and other policy actions, particularly including pressure from interest groups and lobbyists, and the decisions of the president or specific influential members of Congress to push certain issues,” according to Gallup’s own analysis. “For example, gun control groups put a renewed focus on gun legislation after the tragic shootings at Newtown, Conn., last December. Immigration reform — long a congressional interest — has received a new push since the 2012 elections that highlighted Republicans’ weakness with Hispanic voters.

“Still, despite this interest-group pressure, when the views of all Americans are averaged together, reducing gun violence and immigration reform receive the lowest priority rankings of the 12 issues tested,” according to the Gallup poll. “Instead, Americans would urge their elected representatives to focus on creating jobs, improving the economy, making the government run more efficiently, and improving the quality of education.”

“Creating jobs” and “helping the economy grow” are of course broad and diffuse goals that do not easily translate into specific legislation, Gallup says.

“Even though there is significant consensus across party lines that these two issues should be given high priority, there are fundamental party disagreements on the broad approach that can be taken to achieve these goals. These disagreements no doubt have kept the Congress and the president from moving forward on these issues — but to the degree that these elected representatives feel it is their duty to follow the wishes of those they represent, they would renew their focus on efforts to come to consensus on reaching these goals.”

My Two Cents

In spite of economic reports showing that the national economy is improving, those effects are mostly being felt in big cities where local leadership is working, and on Wall Street. The stock market is back on track for the folks with enough resources to dabble in stock trading. The good economic news is not exactly “trickling down” to working folks still faced with the juggernaut of working for lower wages in real dollars for corporations that hold far too much control over the work place these days.

There are several steps the national government could take in a relatively short time to improve this situation for the American people.

One, the federal government should create a new Civilian Conservation Corps to put people to work rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure and even improving the national parks mostly created by the original CCC in the 1930s. While these projects are perceived today as environmental in nature, in fact they were created mainly to give people jobs during the Great Depression so they would have money to spend on food, housing and other basic necessities of life. As all economists know, consumer spending is one of the most important factors in driving the health of the national economy.

Two, the Obama administration should move with all deliberate speed to lift all trade embargoes with Cuba. The U.S. policy toward that country is a Cold War era dinosaur of a policy. Trading openly with Cuba would create a boon for the national economy as well as the economy of the American South, and would create a host of good will that could translate into helping the election chances of politicians who believe government has a positive role to play in the economy.

To the extent to which policies work, politicians who play the anti-government card are weakened even further in the national debate. If the national debate and government time and resources are devoted to wedge issues, this only helps politicians who run campaigns saying government doesn’t work.

Three, the Obama Justice Department should get active to break up some of the corporate monopolies who now not only plague the traditional economy. While news companies like Newhouse already control far too much of the news Americans consume, huge new media companies like Google and Facebook are threatening to create an entire class of Web monopolies that will limit the public debate for consumers in a way that damages the American experiment in democracy in devastating ways that most people don’t even see (I will be writing more about this very soon).

Four, the Obama administration could go down in history if it would get onboard with the movement to decriminalize the use of the herb marijuana, and not just for medicinal reasons. Marijuana is now one of the most significant cash crops in the world, yet it is now the sole domain of the black market. Not only is the so-called War on Drugs costing the government and taxpayers billions to prosecute. It is costing the treasury billions of dollars in lost tax revenue that could literally wipe out the budget deficit with the stroke of a presidential pen.

President Barack Obama could be remembered not just for being the first African-American president in U.S. history. He could be the president who ended the War on Drugs and eliminated American debt to the Chinese forever.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted May 4-5, 2013, on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 1,021 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

© 2013, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.

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