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Dr. Phil’s Advice to Politicians: ‘Start Working for Us’ (Guest Column)

Variety logo Variety 1/17/2017 Dr. Phil McGraw

The election is over. Whether we like the outcome or not, the current focus should be on what each of us can do to make the next four years as good as possible for America.

My dad used to say, “Boy, you better spend 5% of your time deciding whether the deal you got is good or bad, and 95% of your time deciding what you are going to do about it.” That’s advice all Americans could put to good use today.

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JAKE CHESSUM for Variety

I worry that high-profile celebrities run a risk of having an unwarranted impact on public opinion. Being talented in one area doesn’t translate into special insight or wisdom in another, such as politics.

I wonder if most of us, for example, could even find Syria on a map with both hands, three days and a flashlight. I wonder how many of us could give a coherent explanation of the relationship between geopolitics and our economy. I sure can’t. Maybe we should think about staying in our “own lane.” Hopefully, most fans think for themselves. I’m betting they do.

I don’t know politics but I do know a fair amount about human functioning. I’ve spent my life studying why humans do what they do and don’t do what they don’t do. That is my lane. I do have advice for our politicians: Stop fighting with and trying to trip up the other side. Start doing only those things that help people. Stop the games, the obstruction, the chest pounding and the “my party is better than your party” stuff. Stop treating voters like idiots and start doing your job: Working for us. From our point of view, there is only one side.

“We are all Americans, and we are all in this together.”
Dr. Phil

And, by the way, stop rewarding bad behavior! For example, if you want to encourage people to work, stop paying people who could but don’t. If you want initiative and enterprise, stop adopting economic policies that financially punish those who display it. People respond to incentives. Stop creating incentives to do things we don’t want and create incentives for people to do what we do want.

In the real world, we routinely have to negotiate and problem-solve to get along, to thrive and survive. We do that by finding common ground. We focus on what we can agree on with our friends, family and in commerce because we have to get along. Typically, we find out the differences between us are much narrower than we thought. Let’s encourage our politicians to join the real world where people who don’t see things precisely the same way nevertheless work to find common ground and solutions.

I wonder what would happen if all of us arguing about politics, elections and fears called “timeout” and said, “Hey, wait a minute. We’re all Americans. We all love America. Let’s take a few minutes to talk about what we agree on, instead of judging each other and talking about what we don’t?” Remember, it is “WE” the people.

We are all Americans. We are all in this together. That used to mean something. Let’s make it mean something, again.

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