Defending our rights: State’s GOP leaders should amend wishlist with more substance
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
The Republican authors of the legislative wishlist for the upcoming session of the Alabama Legislature titled “We Dare Defend Our Rights” employed a writing style that sounds as if jack-booted thugs were just outside the door.

Seemingly everywhere Alabama’s Republicans in the state House of Representatives turn, they confront advancing evil. They “understand that the rights of Alabamians are under constant threat from an ever-expanding and encroaching federal government, committed liberal activists, and entrenched special interests fighting to preserve the dysfunctional status quo.” Whew, it’s tough to remember that state Republicans control substantial majorities in the state House and Senate as well as possessing the governor’s office. With so much power in Montgomery, they very likely will achieve much of the policy desires, which include unrestricting gun rights, an anti-abortion bill, a measure that ranks the interests of business ahead of the concerns for health and welfare of residents, a defiance of Obamacare, school reforms and other policies.

The breathless prose in “We Dare Defend Our Rights” could have been lifted from talk radio or countless right-leaning websites. President Barack Obama is poised to overturn the Second Amendment. Obama “and Congress have demonstrated that they do not have Alabama’s best interests in mind” on fiscal matters. The president “continues to enact policies that are burdensome to business.” Obamacare will “trample on provisions that our founding fathers viewed as sacred.”

As political rhetoric, “We Dare Defend Our Rights” is not that unusual, particularly for Alabama where there’s a long history of throwing darts at the nasty, old federal government. Voters rarely punish Alabama politicians who go to these sorts of extremes.

However, we’d offer one more plank to this legislative to-do list.

We Dare Defend Our Right to Grow Our Economy and Better the Lives of Our Residents

An estimated 1-in-4 Alabama adults are functionally illiterate. For those Alabamians laboring under this condition, the odds for a better life are slim. The functionally illiterate are more likely to be imprisoned, drop out of high school, have an unplanned pregnancy as a teen and remain unemployed. In only one of 67 Alabama counties — Shelby — is the adult illiteracy rate under 10 percent.

Educating these adults is key to greater economic prosperity in Alabama. A workforce with 25 percent unable to read is not compatible with a 21st-century economy. The state must make a priority of correcting this problem by devoting time and resources to reducing adult illiteracy to less than 10 percent over the rest of this decade.

Granted, it’s difficult to blame Obama or the federal government for Alabama’s literacy deficiency, but more ambitious writers are welcome to try. The important part is that the state actually does something about it.
© 2013