Not Why I’m Here

“Why am I here?”  That’s an excellent question to ask yourself if you work in Harrisburg.  This week, as I read a piece by Karen Langley in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, I found that question (“Why am I here?”) was much needed.

Ms. Langley’s article summarized a debate this week in the Pennsylvania Senate over a constitutional amendment that would bar imposing health insurance mandates in our state.  As she pointed out, there was a lengthy dispute regarding whether it was appropriate to use the term “Obamacare” on the floor.  Here’s a moment she captured:

As the debate wore on, Mr. Scarnati, R-Jefferson, observed that spectators were likely “shaking their heads.”

“We are consuming time arguing if we call it Obamacare,” he said. “For goodness sake, people.”

You could argue that Sen. Scarnati was answering my big question.  He was saying he isn’t here to debate semantics.  Fair enough.

Let me give my own answer, though.  Here’s why I’m here.  My wife and I decided to uproot our family two years ago and move back to our home state because I honestly believed that if we don’t act quickly, the country our kids inherit is no longer going to be great—and that the best place to change that is in the states, not Washington, D.C., where we were living before.  I still believe that today.

What does that have to do with this week’s Senate debate?  Everything.  Because when it comes to actually stopping one of the biggest attacks on our freedom ever, namely Obamacare, the problem with what happened this week wasn’t the spat over semantics.  It is that as that same Post-Gazette piece points out, “As a constitutional amendment, the legislation would not take effect until passed by both chambers in two consecutive legislative sessions and approved by voters at the polls” (emphasis added).  In the meantime, the things that will actually determine the fate of Obamacare (mainly the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling this summer, the November election, and the ensuing debate in Congress) will occur while Pennsylvanians wait.

What happened in the Senate yesterday was essentially symbolic, at a time when our state and our nation are dying for leadership, for courage, and for tough choices—from both parties, both chambers, and all branches of government.  To borrow Sen. Scarnati’s phrase, that is why I’m shaking my head. 

Yes, Sen. Scarnati’s constitutional amendment would further solidify the Keystone State’s opposition to Obamacare, but it would have little impact on Pennsylvanians today.  HB 42, however, sponsored by Rep. Matt Baker, would bar the individual mandate in state law without requiring the multi-year amendment process.

Not only that, we need much more from lawmakers than than just fighting bad federal policies.  We need them to dedicate just as much effort undoing decades of attacks on freedom here in Pennsylvania, in the form of skyrocketing spending, deepening debt, and forced attendance at failing, violent schools.

The issue isn’t what we call the destructive public policies inflicted on our state and nation.  The issue is whether we are doing everything we possibly can about them, as quickly as we can, before the ship of state hits the iceberg we all clearly see ahead.

That’s why I’m here.  What about you?