If you go to any restaurant or public place in any major city, you'll see the same thing: Americans with short attention spans. We I'm as guilty as anyone have trouble fully interacting with the person across from us, never mind the dozens if not hundreds of messages coming into our electronic communications devices during a given dinner.
The same problem of short attention spans is obvious in our politics and public policy. In fact, it might even be worse. We all collectively try to focus on one thing or another usually determined by the White House, the party in power, and the media (I choose to be doubly redundant). But it's hard to follow even one, very crucial, debate how many Americans actually know what's going on with the health-care bill? How many in Washington, even? And so, so very much falls by the wayside not that the bill won't become law, necessarily; it just might never really register with Americans, or even with some of the policy watchdogs.
Katherine Bradley just joined one of the Beltway think tanks after 12 years working in the Republican leadership on Capitol Hill. She knows the good and the harm that a congressional vote on a policy issue can do. And so, with co-writers Charles Donovan and Jennifer Marshall, she has highlighted in two recent papers almost two-dozen items that are probably off most Americans' radars: policies that "show a serious disregard for parental rights, human dignity, freedom of conscience, and civil society in American life."
Did you know, for instance, that "within his first two years in office, President Obama will have increased spending on means-tested programs for the poor by 30 percent, and over the next decade he will spend $10.3 trillion on welfare programs alone"? If you're ready to excuse such an action in a poor economy, consider that "government-sponsored welfare programs do little to actually help move families from a position of dependence to self-sufficiency," as Bradley and Donovan express in their paper, written for the Heritage Foundation. "Of the 72 existing welfare programs, only one Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) has been reformed to help move 2.6 million families off welfare and into real jobs."
Did you know that there is no abstinence education in the president's 2010 budget? Many folks don't. The megaphones on this issue tend to be employed only when Republicans who are liable to fund such an initiative are in office. But this issue matters: kids who delay sexual activity tend to do better academically and are less likely to be depressed, live in poverty, or to be parents before they're married.
Did you know that the House of Representatives is on the road to passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2009 (ENDA)? The legislation, a slightly different version of which also passed in 2007, would prohibit discrimination in hiring decisions on the basis of "actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity."
And did you know this? Every state that has given a green light to same-sex marriage has done so only after adopting some ENDA-like law. In Vermont and Massachusetts, along with five other states, versions of ENDA have been the basis of court decisions to strike a blow against traditional marriage.
Among the most heartbreakingly incomprehensible decisions of the current administration has been to end the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program. Parents of children in the program say their children's lives have been transformed by the chance to be in rigorous and caring schools, and Department of Education studies agree.
And then there is the hot-button, life-and-death issue of abortion. Currently, as one of the Heritage papers points out, there are 8 million federal employees who receive health care through the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program. "There are over 250 different health insurance carriers in FEHB, all of whom are prohibited from paying for elective abortions in these plans because they receive subsidies from the government." If the abortion groups that have generously funded the Democrats have their say, that can change. And that would be a significant change in policy no longer erring on the side of life when it comes to spending taxpayer dollars.
The point of lists like these is not to depress the reader. In some ways, it's just the opposite: If people can be seduced into giving some of these questions a second look, they might just be willing to consider the evidence of which policies really work.