Our country is going to the dogs.
I speak of a recent article on the Fast Company website that touts the benefits of employees bringing their dogs to work. According to various studies, the article reports, dogs in the workplace improve productivity and reduce stress.
It's true that stress has been around a long time. It's a costly work hazard that results in employee turnover, absenteeism and waning morale. And, says the American Institute of Stress, our still-troubled economy and constant reports of foreclosures and layoffs are making employees even more anxious and stressed.
So some companies — eager to improve productivity and profitability — have been doing all kinds of things to address the challenge. They're offering yoga classes to employees. They're providing stress-management courses, back rubs and stress hotlines that overanxious employees can call 24 hours each day. They're setting up tents where employees can nap on their breaks.
And they're letting employees bring their dogs to work.
Look, the origin of stress goes back to the early days of mankind, when many creatures didn't view us as their superiors, but as their lunch. When a man saw a lion coming his way, he was overcome by stress. The stress brought on an adrenaline rush, and the adrenaline sent one message, loud and clear, throughout the man's body: RUN!
But long after mankind's stress mechanism was needed for survival, we continue to suffer from it. For much of human history, many have suffered poverty and brutality, not knowing where their next meal would come from and not knowing what rival would invade their village. That's stress.
Now, I know our lives are hectic today. We have to keep up with rapid advances in technology. We live in distant cities, far away from our families and friends. In many families, both parents work, which keeps households busy and scattered. And there is the looming worry about the economy, government overspending and the potential for a real barnburner of a collapse.
But our solution to these stress-inducing matters is to bring our dogs to work?
That may be a nice, temporary Band-Aid for some, but the real solution is to get to the root cause of most of our stress: an out-of-control federal government that is increasing regulations, spending and taxes at record rates, which is burdening private companies and putting more jobs at risk.
According to The Hill newspaper, the Obama administration increased the Code of Federal Regulations by 7.4 percent in its first three years — compared to 4.4 percent during George W. Bush's first term.
"More 'major rules,' those with an annual economic impact exceeding $100 million, were enacted in 2010 than in any year dating back to at least 1997, according to the (Congressional Research Service)," The Hill reports.
A study by George Mason University's Mercatus Center found that the number of rules and regulations ballooned from 71,224 pages in 1975 to 174,545 pages in 2012.
Here's what should really be stressing us out: that so few people are aware of the correlation between big, costly government and the negative effects of growing red tape on private employers and economic vitality.
Yoga, stress hotlines and dogs in the workplace are a nice touch, but until we correct the root cause of our economic woes, we will not return to the euphoric levels of growth and prosperity we have enjoyed for much of this country's history.
Without robust growth, we will never have the means to meet our looming entitlement obligations — heck, we don't have enough tax revenue coming in now to meet our current obligations.
Rather than address these core challenges, our current political "leadership" is making them worse.
Like I said, our country is going to the dogs — and there's no greater source of stress than that.
©2014 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of "Misadventures of a 1970's Childhood" and "Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!" is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact [email protected] or call (805) 969-2829. Send comments to Tom at [email protected]