In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. From time to time we've been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule, that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people. Well, if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else? All of us together, in and out of government, must bear the burden.Reagan was warning America of the dangers of an uncontrolled, large, government that is looked upon by its citizens as the source of answers to the problems they face. This was, of course, a rebuff of the liberal policies that Reagan saw as a threat to our country. While I may disagree with President Reagan on the source of the governmental threat, I am beginning to see that he may have been very right in seeing government as threatening to our way of life.
In Tennessee we have experienced a bit of a revolution. Members of the far right have taken over our government and now hold the governor's office along with majorities in the state house and senate. They are now using their position of power to push through legislation that is not in any way limited by Reagan's desire for smaller, more limited government. No, they are expanding the powers of the state government, limiting the powers of county and local governments, and positioning government as the artificial head of Tennessee households.
Last year the state stepped in and passed a bill sponsored by Glen Casada, HB 0598, which removed a city or county's right to decide who should be included in anti-discrimination ordinances. This bill was directly aimed at the city of Nashville which had passed a law requiring companies that contracted with the city to have a non-discrimination policy that included sexual orientation and gender identity. Instead of letting the people of Nashville decide what was best for their city the state moved in and told them what was best for them. Rep. Casada defended the bill by saying its intent was not to promote discrimination, but instead to make it easier for small businesses to operate in Tennessee by not forcing them to deal with a patchwork of laws that varied from city to city or county to county. Of course most small businesses operate out of a single location and would only have to work within the laws in their own city or county so it is hard to say how many, if any, small businesses actually benefit from Mr. Casada's law but to me it shows a lack of respect towards small business owners as Mr. Casada obviously doesn't think they are smart enough to deal with laws that vary slightly from one location to the next.
Mr. Casada is using this line of reasoning once again this year with a bill that would prevent a county from instituting a higher minimum wage than the state and another bill that would prevent counties and cities from establishing their own zoning regulations. Again Mr. Casada claims that these laws would help small businesses even though there is no evidence for his claims. It is easy to see, however, how large businesses and corporations, who are more likely to have operations in multiple counties and cities, would benefit from restricting local government officials from doing the job we elected them to do. These bills are nothing more than big government on the state level. Our local governments are where we, as citizens, have the most influence, where we have the greatest power and so these laws don't just muzzle our local governments, they muzzle all of us in a rather dramatic way. They are designed to help the few at the expense of the many and they represent, in a strong way, how government is the problem.
Tennessee law makers aren't happy with simply crushing the power of local governments. No, they also have their sights set on limiting our rights as individuals and as families.
Imagine, and I pray that no one will ever have to do more than imagine this situation, that a female member of your family was raped or sexually abused. Now imagine that this violation leads to a pregnancy. It should be up to the person carrying that baby and her family to decide on the best course of action. That woman should be able to rely on the traditions and experience and beliefs of her family to help her figure out the best way to deal with a terrible situation. She may decide to carry the baby to full term or she might decide to take another course of action. Either way the decision should not be one controlled or influenced by Tennessee state legislators who have never met the woman in question and know nothing of her suffering. What if a woman in your family became pregnant only to find out that carrying the baby could threaten her own life. Isn't this something that her and her husband should discuss and come to a decision on? We would expect her to consult her doctor and her parents and siblings. She might ask the advice of her friends and her pastor, we would never expect her to have to get a permission slip from her state representative though. It seems as though Tennessee state representative Mae Beavers thinks that our government should have some say so in her decision. HB 3808 would make coming to a decision in these terrible circumstance much more difficult. First it would put unnecessary restrictions on which doctors could provide abortion services and then it would institute health department reporting requirements that could make it possible, in more rural areas, to identify the women who have had to make such a hard and personal decision. If this law passes our big, over reaching, state government will take a personal. family, decision and turn it into a matter for public discussion. This is not small government, this is more than big government, this is government that is stomping on sacred traditions in our country. This is bad government. We see once again, government is the problem.
These few pieces of legislation are just the tip of the ice berg. There is a constant stream of legislation circulating through the chambers of the Tennessee State Capital that will not only limit liberty and subvert justice, but that will do so at the expense of a particular group of Tennesseans. Which group is that? The majority.
Hard work is the path to success. That is a sacred truth to most Tennesseans, but it seems that our government wants to turn that path into a toll road and hand control of that road over to a few select individuals. Now working hard, being smart, doing your best, and being a little bit lucky isn't enough for success. Success has been changed from something you strive for to something you pay for and those at the top seem to want to make success an option for as few as possible. Many worry that social programs make it to easy to not work and inspire some individuals to take more from our system than they give to it. I think the greater danger, the greater cause of avoiding the hard work needed to succeed is to see that no matter how hard you work, not matter how hard you strive, that success will always be out of your reach. We used to have a system that allowed everyone a chance to succeed, now we offer that chance to just a few. Even worse those few with the chance seem hell bent on limiting the chances of success even further. They want to change the rules mid-game to favor only them. They want us on their team, but they have no intent of letting us enjoy the victories we all work hard to achieve. Our government is helping to make this happen. The problem is government.
I can't claim to be a big fan of Ronald Reagan's, but I will happily admit when he got something right. Right now, in the state of Tennessee government is the problem, our bad government. Luckily we can fix the problem. Let's work hard to get a wider representation of views into our state government. Let's bring market principles into our political market place by encouraging competition and innovation. We need ideological competition in our government so that neither side can win. Because if one side wins, the rest of us will probably lose in many ways. Lets make government less of a problem.