They Supported It Until It Affected Them

Something I find…amusing…is how folks can so quickly change their minds about an issue once it moves from the realm of theory to personal impact.  As long as the theory sounds good, they support it.  Once the reality of that theory negatively impacts them, there’s a different attitude.  And much outrage…

Exhibit A is the brouhaha over the revelation that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been collecting basic data about telephone calls from almost everyone.  That is allowed by the so-called Patriot Act.

I suspect that most of the folks now complaining about the telephone data collection supported the Patriot Act when it was proposed.  Because they believed that the surveillance would be directed to the “usual suspects.”  Folks with names like Abdul.  But now that soccer moms are impacted…

Another example is the TSA.  I’m sure that its initial supporters believed that the only folks who would be pulled aside for special screening at airports, including body openings, would be folks who looked like terrorists.  Not elderly folks in wheelchairs or young children.

Security professionals know that everyone has to be considered a suspect. Unlike a court of law, where innocence is presumed, you are a suspect until proved otherwise.

A perfect terrorist disguise

A perfect terrorist disguise

It’s not just national security that is affected by the “I support it until I am negatively affected” mentality.  Any policy having to do with “safety” is subject to the same approach.

For example, I remember when many schools began proclaiming a “zero tolerance” policy for drugs.  Parents applauded these policies.  Then, when their child was expelled from school for bringing one of Mommy’s prescription pain killers to class there was outrage.  The school was now pilloried for “going overboard” when some “common sense” was needed.  Apparently, “zero tolerance” does not mean what it appears to mean when the policy has personal impact.

The fact that prescription pain killer abuse is one of the top “drug” problems (and perhaps the top drug problem) in the U.S. is lost on many folks.  I’m sure the “drugs” they had in mind for zero tolerance were the usual suspects: marijuana, speed, and the like.  In other words, “illegal” drugs.  But not Mother’s “little helper”…

Similarly, schools also adopted “zero tolerance” on weapons.  But when Johnny is expelled for bringing a pocket knife to class, his parents go through the roof.  A pocket knife isn’t a weapon!

Yet, the TSA only recently removed the ban on bringing pocket knives aboard airplanes because they were considered weapons.  And lifting that ban brought the ire of the flight attendants union on the TSA because the flight attendants don’t want pocket knives on planes.  They’re weapons!

This double standard extends to many other areas…

While doing some “research” for an upcoming post, I was reading online comments about an article on taxes.  Folks were complaining about “loopholes” and the general “unfairness” of the tax code.  I wonder how many folks realize that the biggest “tax expenditure” (the technical term for a tax deduction) is the home mortgage interest deduction.

And what do you think the reaction of most “tax reform” folks would be to ending that deduction? That’s right…the political equivalent of the Valentine’s Day Massacre.  Talk of tax reform ends when it’s your tax deduction that’s going away.

Canada has home ownership rates comparable to the U.S.  But Canada has no tax deduction for home mortgage interest.  (Nor does it have 30-year fixed interest mortgages.)  So the argument that the deduction is needed for home ownership is not credible.  It is political.  You don’t need to take my word…read this conservative political think tank article.  (And I am not a conservative.)

I was also flummoxed by the many online comments supporting the Supreme Court’s recent decision that DNA collection from folks who had been arrested, but not convicted, of a “serious” crime did not violate the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on “unreasonable searches.”  Many folks said that if collecting this DNA would help solve past or future crimes, then they supported it.

Now if it is OK to collect a DNA sample from someone who is presumed innocent until convicted of a crime because that DNA sample can solve past or future crimes, then why leave the collection to folks who are arrested?  Why not take a DNA sample of every newborn and all new citizens? For the sake of public safety…   There is no difference between those arrested and those not arrested – all are equally “presumed innocent.”

And, why only “serious” crimes? The path to serious crime is often one step at a time.  First, there’s spraying graffiti somewhere.  Next, shoplifting.  Then, maybe purse snatching, followed by burglary, etc.  Get that DNA from the junior high punks taking their baby steps towards a life of crime!

And if you read about that decision, did you notice which four justices opposed the DNA collection of folks who were only arrested but not convicted? The three “liberal women and…Scalia.  He is easily the most conservative justice. (Interestingly, Clarence Thomas, who almost always votes with Scalia, joined the majority.)  So this is not a clean “liberal” versus “conservative” issue.

You can understand why whenever I evaluate a proposed policy to “fix” some problem, I think about whether I would want that “fix” to apply to me. The idea that it will “never happen to me” but only to “someone else” is a dangerous assumption.  An assumption too many folks make and later regret…when it’s too late.


2 responses to “They Supported It Until It Affected Them

  1. “You can understand why whenever I evaluate a proposed policy to “fix” some problem, I think about whether I would want that “fix” to apply to me. The idea that it will “never happen to me” but only to “someone else” is a dangerous assumption. An assumption too many folks make and later regret…when it’s too late.”

    Agree! Boy oh boy do I agree. And I tend to support Israel’s anti terrorism approach too. If it looks like a duck, waddles like a duck and quacks like a duck then it probably is a duck. We know who has the bombs so go after them.

    “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–
    Because I was not a Socialist.
    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–
    Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
    Because I was not a Jew.
    Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.”


    • I remember seeing the poster of Martin N.’s statement in a number dorm rooms when I was in college. I don’t recall what poster(s) if any, I had then…. (I didn;t like the other popular poster…Desiderata.

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