We all watched the spectacle this last week as our government struggled to come to an agreement on a budget. Like every person in the world (if we are to believe what we see on CNN) I have an opinion. I own a blog that I set up so I can express the outrage that fills my mouth with bile. A rant needs a home of it’s very own. But I did not say even one word. Why? Well here’s the deal.
I am the wife of a school administrator. In all the years that my husband and I worked as public servants we learned one very good lesson. It has turned out that the strength of our opinions were inversely proportionate to the depth of our knowledge. When the answers seem so obvious we would find that it was not as simple as we believed.
Many years ago I read a Pulitzer Prize winning book called Advice and Consent written by Allen Drury. It was written in the mid 1950’s and dealt with the process that our government goes through when a treaty is signed or an appointment is made by our president. We have seen the process play out in recent history when Supreme Court Justices are selected. Wikipedia describes “advice and consent” it as a balancing act:
The Founding Fathers of the United States included the language as part of a delicate compromise concerning the balance of power in the federal government. Many delegates preferred to develop a strong executive control vested in the President, while others, worried about authoritarian control, preferred to strengthen the Congress. Requiring the President to gain the advice and consent of the Senate achieved both goals without hindering the business of government.
Before reading about advice and concent in a context that provided a view of all the complexities of our government, I had really not thought about the true implications involved in negotiating something like Presidential appointments. It made me more aware of how laws made by our government play out in real life with real people.
In the case of the national budget I am having a very hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that any group of humans should be held hostage to the budgetary process. Then to add insult to injury, our military families, federal education programs for poor children and public employees were subjected to all this anxiety. In my mind all I could think of was a human shield used in war. Could it all be so complex that I cannot even understand?
I was outraged, as a woman, that programs for such things as pap smears for poor women would be cut. I suspected that such programs would be cut, not because it would save money but because it was a woman’s program. It looked so simple on the surface. But as I reflected on the issue I came to realize that, even though abortion is not publicly funded, the procedures are done in clinics where other important services for woman are performed. The moral outrage that opponents of abortion feel was what propelled them to throw out the baby with the bath water. All programs could be discarded just to make something they don’t like go away. I still wonder where the “compromise” ideals of our founding fathers have gone.
Now, I don’t understand why abortion clinics cannot be set up separately from other womens’ services that are provided by the government. It seems to me that doing so would remove the issue from government interference. There is a lot I don’t know. I do believe that prevention and early treatment of cervical and breast cancer in poor woman should save our government a lot of money in the long run. I also believe that birth control information and availability is very important if we are to keep the number of abortions down. I have also been told that no matter what we do women will continue to get pregnant and then regret it afterwards. It is said that abortion will continue no matter what. That is what I have been told.
But it is a fact that when I know just a little bit, my opinion is very strong. As I become more knowledgably about issues, I am not so sure. In this particular case though I still feel strongly that women, old people, the disabled and very poor should not be held hostage or used as playing cards or human shields in the war games of government finances. Let that debate and game be played out in a democratic way. Let the majority rule and the minority accepts their defeat to play another day. I don’t think that any person in power should play with the lives of real people just to prove a point.