We have all heard, and most likely given that advice over the years. Some of us had to learn this lesson the hard way. Some of us haven’t learned it yet. Most of us learn it and forget it several times a day. We try to instill it in our kids, usually by referencing some old story or lesson we learned years ago. The reality is that the only way they learn it is by watching us to see if we walk that walk or simply talk that talk.
We can all think of a few noteworthy examples…Nick Saban pointing his finger at a Miami Dolphin news conference and asking incredulously to the media, “How many times do I have to say it? I will not be the coach at Alabama.” Others may remember a certain president saying, “Read my lips. No new taxes.”
Well, these days we sure do get a lot of words in the policy debates that impact our economy and people, but the actions we see don’t always match the rhetoric.
As we enter the first few weeks of registration through the federal health care exchange mandated under Obamacare, the President and his supporters in Congress are once again highlighting all the perceived benefits this new federal program will bring with it. Despite the strong disagreement by many over that point, present company included, the cheerleading by proponents is in full swing. Strong words are said, but the actions taken are different.
One example is the way that Congress exempted itself and its staff from the full financial impact of Obamacare thanks to a recent decision by the administration to allow taxpayer-funded subsidies for these federal workers in order to mitigate the financial impact on their wallets. It seems they do not want to personally pay that cost or look their employees in the eye while making them do so. I get that, but what about the impact of this law on small business owners, families and non-federal workers across our country? I hear the words said about how this new federal program has such great promise and opportunity for all of us, but I do not understand why the actions taken by Congress sets up special treatment for themselves. I guess what they think is good for all of us they know not to be very good for them.
Another example is that the President and Attorney General Eric Holder are filing suit against Louisiana to stop the state from offering scholarships to children in school districts with existing desegregation orders unless the state obtains approval from a federal judge. Keep in mind, these scholarships are limited to low income children stuck in failing schools. They are optional to the school and parent, and revenue neutral to the taxpayer. Justice Holder says that he stepped in to stop this voluntary state program because he is concerned that it is “impeding the desegregation process.” The words say one thing, but the action taken has a very real impact.
This action stops poor, and often minority, kids in the scholarship program from leaving a failing school. It stops poor, and often minority, parents from having the ability for the first time to choose what is best for their children. I have visited with some of these parents, and their stories of hope and determination are powerful. They were finally empowered to make a choice in how their child will be educated, but the federal government steps in and says, “No. And by the way, we are telling you no for your own good.” This action tramples all over any hollow words spoken.
The reality is that when it comes to our leaders, I like many of the words I hear each day. In this era of 24/7 news coverage, our elected leaders are usually accomplished and effective message deliverers. I like to hear our leaders talk about the need for good schools that provide a quality education for our kids. I like to hear comforting words about affordable health insurance, effective coverage, improved health outcomes, and robust insurance markets. Speeches and rhetoric about empowering individuals to be responsible and make good decisions for their families and communities can be powerful and inspiring.
I love all that stuff. I only wish the actions taken would actually reflect the words.