Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Speaker Boehner Hits High Notes in Music City

For Deborah Taylor Tate

John Boehner made his first speech as Speaker outside Washington, DC, Sunday night here in Nashville. He addressed the annual meeting of National Religious Broadcasters.

Speaker Boehner was straightforward, straight-talking and straight-faced in his analysis of our present “debt empire,” as he put it. The first half of his speech focused clearly on the Republicans' review of unnecessary government regulations. The FCC bore the brunt of his consternation.

He began his attack with this description of the FCC’s actions: “Right now, freedom and free expression are under attack by a power structure in Washington populated with regulators who have never set foot inside a radio station or a television studio.” Evidenced by numerous outbreaks of applause, the room full of broadcasters heartily agreed. With Representative Marsha Blackburn -- another passionate and ardent opponent of “government takeover of the Internet” -- in the audience, this was the perfect venue to call out the FCC for continuing to push in the wrong direction regarding Internet regulation.

The Speaker mentioned numerous colleagues determined to stop the FCC's new net neutrality regulations and ended this portion of the speech with this statement (again, met with resounding applause): “Congressman Greg Walden of Oregon, a former broadcaster himself, has introduced a congressional resolution of disapproval to reverse the FCC’s actions. I’m pleased to report the House will act on this measure as early as next month."

Whether net neutrality, or the return of the “fairness doctrine,” or the audacity of an agency utilizing tax dollars for inappropriate purposes -- most every example of regulatory over-reach ended with a ballroom full of “Amens.” (I bet he doesn’t hear that very often during speeches in Washington). Which is precisely what the problem is. Not that Washington insiders aren’t religious; many are deeply so. But that Washington’s penchant for taxing, regulating and spending -- under the present Administration’s leadership -- is not merely unsustainable. “It is also immoral.”

The fact is that ordinary Americans are facing extraordinary and immediate problems of joblessness, bankruptcy, and even higher gas prices…while Washington is on a “spending binge.” One of Mr. Boehner’s examples is that each baby born starts life with a debt of $45,000 -- their portion of our present national debt. That is more than most college educations, many annual incomes, and about half the price of an average home in many parts of the country. That is appalling. In Mr. Boehner’s words: “Every dollar the government takes is another dollar families cannot devote to strengthening their communities or saving for their children’s future.” And, quoting Proverbs: “No society is worthy that treats its children so shabbily.”

Mr. Boehner is not a showman or an actor. He is not a great orator, and he even has a little trouble getting used to the teleprompter. But he is “everyman” (and everywoman), and he is keenly in touch with both the very fiber of our founding fathers as well as “we, the people.”

Probably the most telling phrase of the night was: “In Washington, the abnormal becomes normal.” Let's hope this faithful band of fiscal conservatives can actually do what the Speaker proposed and “chart a new path to prosperity and make the tough choices necessary to restore a moral fiscal policy” at the FCC as well as in Congress.

Godspeed, Mr. Speaker.