The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

February 24, 2013

The time for talk is over

The News Courier

— There are a couple of distinct truisms in politics — “All politics is local” and that politics are like a pendulum.

We believe both to be true, and we also believe the ongoing political chess match in Washington will reinforce those theories.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, the mandated budget cuts that were supposed to go into effect on Jan. 1 (and were subsequently kicked down the road) will be enacted on March 1. What, you ask, do those cuts have to do with people living in Athens and Limestone County?

Too much, sadly.

In an Associated Press article this week, Gov. Robert Bentley speculated as many as 22,000 jobs in Huntsville could be affected, though it’s unclear if those would be eliminated or if workers would be subjected to furloughs.

Do you work there? Do you know anyone who does?

Any rocket scientist at Marshall Space Flight Center could tell you that lost jobs mean this area could go into an economic tailspin in a hurry.

Both Madison and Limestone counties have been two counties with the lowest unemployment rates in the state over the last several months. If these cuts go into effect, we could be on the highest unemployment list.

At worst, no one will be spared. Lost jobs means lost revenue for businesses, schools and just about anything else people with a stable income spend their money on. We could also face a flooded housing market if people are forced to leave.

So how does politics play into this? To put it simply, it’s all about politics.

These sweeping cuts were part of a deal Republicans agreed to when President Obama demanded a raising of the debt ceiling. Not all Republicans were on board, however, including our own U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks.

Brooks has made no secret of his disdain for Obama’s economic policies. As a veritable never ending source of Democrat-bashing sound bites, Brooks continuously preaches to North Alabama’s staunchly Republican choir.

The time for sound bites is over, however. The time for action is now. If Brooks and our other staunchly Republican representatives in Washington honestly and truly care about us little people down in Alabama, they’ll suck it up and hammer out a deal to save us.

The election is over. President Obama won. The philosophy of “I’m going to take my ball and go home” isn’t one that works when thousands of Alabamians are depending on these GOP leaders for our very livelihoods.

From what we’ve seen, however, we’re not optimistic. The toxic atmosphere in D.C. does not give us hope. The only thing we can hope for is that if we are crippled by these cuts, those who are crippled remember it when it comes time to cast a vote.

“All politics is local,” remember? When the political game in Washington begins to affect us at the local level, we hope the players who let it happen are sent packing come election time.

Alabama’s voters, however, don’t have good memories. But we do tend to vote with our heart and not necessarily our mind. We tend to vote for the ideologue and not the ideal candidate.

That’s where the pendulum comes into play. Our state is staunchly “red” right now, but there was a time in our recent history when we were of a bluer hue, and that’s especially true for North Alabama.

The pendulum will swing again, though it may take thousands of lost jobs to push it that way. And when it does swing back to the left in Congress, it will eventually swing to the left here, too.

North Alabama has been in love with the conservative sound bites for more than four years now. But how many workingmen and women at Redstone Arsenal would rather have a good paying job than a sound bite?

Sound bites and partisan acrimony don’t put food on the table and shoes on our feet. They don’t put gas in our cars and money in our banks.

We hope the sound bites temporarily cease and compromise and cooler heads prevail. If not, we’ll all pay the price.