Sink or Swim, Tennessee

My daughter went off the diving board without her “swimmies” on the first time when she was a little over three.  I waited under the board to catch her so she wouldn’t go under and panic, never wanting to get in a pool again.  What I caught was a huge surprise. And my experience demonstrates what Tennessee needs to do in the days ahead.  Read more…

When I told my daughter I’d catch her, I hadn’t counted on how much force she’d carry with her coming off that board.  Without my feet on the bottom to brace myself, she was like an anchor, pulling me way under the water!

I felt like I’d never stop going down, and I was desperately trying not to drown my daughter with me.  So, as I went down I was lifting her as high over my head as I could. Go ahead and laugh.  My wife said we were a sight to behold!

Even though my daughter was dead weight and pulling me down, I didn’t feel like I could let go.  Whatever was going on with her over my head, I hoped she was somehow feeling safe because Daddy was holding her.  But, had it been anything else pulling me down, I would have let go in a heartbeat!

I share that story because, going forward, our Governor and state legislature need to think of the federal government as a weight, an anchor, that will pull our state under if they keep holding on to it.

There are enough older heads in the legislature to remember the story I shared two weeks ago about the state’s sovereignty over its own parks being threatened because we had taken funds from the federal government for park improvements.  And when Congress passed its special education law, the mandates came with the assurance that we would receive a certain level of operational funds.  That level was never reached.  Of course, the state wasn’t relieved of complying with the mandates.

The point of these stories is that our state needs to begin to find ways to disentangle itself from as many optional federal programs as possible.  If we don’t, when Washington can’t borrow more money, the federal strings we speak derisively of today  will become a rope around our proverbial neck tomorrow.

We’ll soon find out whether our Governor and legislature are intent on staying afloat or going down with the federal ship of state.  By December 14th, the Governor must advise the federal government if Tennessee will develop a state health insurance exchange as permitted under Obamacare.  Our choice is to tell the federal government: “Good luck. Do it yourself.”

If the state gets in, it’s in for good and that’s not good.  There is absolutely no guarantee that the federal government will be able to fund its share of the deal every year.  In fact, it can’t long-term, and if history is any indication, it will transfer the burden to the states, sticking us with huge unfunded liabilities.  And eventually the state will become nothing more than an underfunded administrator of a federal government program.  And don’t be naïve enough to expect that we’ll keep whatever freedom and flexibility we might have today if we set up the exchange ourselves.  Congress loves power and control too much for that to last.

Like a drug addict, Congress doesn’t have the collective willpower to stop its destructive spending habit.  At this point, only enough states, asserting their sovereignty as states, can muster the kind of power needed to curb the federal government.  It may not be enough, but it’s our best hope.

When our liberty was threatened in the War of 1812, so many Tennesseans volunteered to fight that we earned our nickname, the Volunteer State.  Once again our liberty is threatened, this time by our own, out-of-control federal government.  It’s time for Tennesseans, through their state officials, to live up to our nickname.  The battle starts now.