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Richard Larsen: Time for Adult and Mature Dialogue

March 16th, 2011 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

The old truism, “You may not be interested in politics, but politics is definitely interested in you,” seems self-evident these days. Each of us, whether we take an interest in political issues or not, is affected by decisions made in City Hall, Boise, and Washington, D.C. Whether you like it or not, you’re affected by politics and it’s reflected on your pay stub from increased tax withholdings, higher health insurance costs, higher costs of regulations imposed on your employer, increased layoffs by your company due to those costs, or a host of other ways.

When President Obama started being criticized for some of his controversial initiatives early on in his administration, he shot back with a one-liner, “Elections have consequences, and we won.” One would think that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. After all, Governor Walker was hardly reticent on his intentions to rein in Wisconsin state spending if elected, and he signed the legislation this week that removes benefits and pensions from state union employees collective bargaining agreements, and ties wage collective bargaining to inflation.

And for his efforts, Governor Walker is pummeled with every conceivable aspersion, accusation, and pejorative noun and adjective known to man for trying to get a grasp on his state’s spending. With chants of “Hitler Walker” and allegations of “Nazi-like” tactics while he attempts to get a grasp on one of the largest components of Wisconsin’s budget is not only imprudent because it’s an erroneous comparison, but it’s diametrically opposed to the fiscal responsibility he is attempting to inculcate in his state government.

It should be an affront to all of us that any American would be bantered with Hitler-esque allegations. As I have said before, we have no Hitlers in America and to make such claims minimizes the immensity of the affront to humanity that Hitler perpetrated. Swastikas have no legitimate place in the American political dialogue. As such, all such references should be eschewed as overstepping the reasonable and ethical boundaries of acceptable political dialogue, especially in this highly animated state of political agitation we find the country in today.

The U.S. House of Representatives is looking at ways to reduce spending and identifying ways to trim or eliminate government support of things like Public Broadcasting and Planned Parenthood. To legislators of a different era, those were “good ideas” that merited taxpayer support and funding. But in an era where government spending at all levels has blown far beyond the realm of logical appropriation, everything should be measured against what is absolutely essential and what is not. All government spending, even that which is constitutional, should be eligible for review. We can’t afford all the “good ideas,” and it’s time to get back to constitutional and reasonable restraints.

We see the same illogical and radical responses to efforts in Boise to balance a state budget, which is required by our state Constitution. With references to Idaho legislators as “pirates” and caricatures of State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna as a cartoon “Luna-toons” character, the immature and specious get in the way of logical and reasonable analysis of the issues affecting all of us. There should be no “sacred cows” immune to a budgetary slice here and there, yet based on responses by some on the blogs and even in the pages of the Journal, you’d think the whole cow was being sent off to the slaughterhouse.

How do we get a grasp on all this radicalism exhibited around us? Perhaps we should start by reading for the first time, or re-reading the Constitution. In very explicit terms the Constitution lays out the powers enumerated to the federal government. In very explicit terms it lays out the rights and privileges that are held by us as citizens and taxpayers. We are now in uncharted waters as our total government debt, federal spending deficit, and unfunded entitlement obligations are at unprecedented levels and threaten the very financial stability of the nation. Hillary Clinton was right when she said our financial condition is a threat to our national security.

Secondly, we all need to take a deep breath, think with our minds and not with our hearts, and be part of a rational debate over these issues affecting all of us. People from both sides of the political spectrum do their cause no good by wallowing in the pigpen of political diatribe and calling names, questioning intelligence, or engaging in the most oft-used logical fallacy, the ad hominem attack on individuals rather than discussing the issues. If you object to what’s being proposed, fine, articulate it and back it up. Leave the impish name calling and mud-throwing in the pigpen where it belongs.

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