Saturday, June 7, 2008

Actions have consequences, for better or worse

(Originally published 6/7/08)

If you’re a regular reader of this column, you’ve read about the three little girls my husband and I have running around at our house.

One of the primary things we’re trying to teach them is that actions have consequences. Sometimes their actions have positive consequences; when they work together and cooperate with each other, for example, we’re able to reward them with fun things. But lately, the lesson is learned the harder way: Fights over the remote result in them losing their TV privileges; their all-too-common physical confrontations result in sister separation.

It seems the lessons of childhood really do follow you all your life.

Nationally, Hillary Clinton is learning the consequences of being on the losing end of an intense race for president of the United States. The key to understanding Clinton’s next moves, her closest advisers say, is to consider the psychological effects of coming farther in a presidential campaign than any woman in U.S. history – and finishing second.

Barack Obama is learning the consequences of defeating a Clinton in a political battle. He’s being pressured from nearly every front to choose his former foe as his No. 2. But along with Hillary comes the former president, and it can’t be a good thing that more than one pundit has used the phrase “food taster” in describing what Obama would need to make that partnership work.

Closer to home, the Alabama Legislature is learning this week that its actions have consequences. The State Senate passed a budget in legislative overtime a week ago that slashes next year’s appropriations to the universities by 11 percent.

They did it over the urgent (but polite) objections of higher education advocates, including Auburn University President Jay Gogue and University of Alabama System Chancellor Dr. Malcolm Portera. Gogue and Portera told lawmakers in a joint statement at the end of the regular session that forcing universities to shoulder a disproportionate share of the nearly $370 million in cuts across the board would result in “staggering tuition hikes.”

“That is not an option,” the men wrote.

Well, thanks to the egos in the Alabama Senate, it’s not an option. It’s a reality.

Auburn officials will pursue a 12 percent tuition increase, in addition to possible cuts in non-academic areas, academic support and academics.

The University of West Alabama has already agreed to a 12 percent tuition hike.

But even those stark numbers pale in comparison to what’s on tap for the UA system: In addition to near-certain tuition and fee increases and the cancellation or delay of pending construction projects, the system will cut about 300 jobs.

Three hundred jobs.

In addition, Portera said Wednesday that his system will step up recruitment of out-of-state students, because they pay higher tuition than in-state students.

Thanks, Alabama Senate, for making it harder for your constituents to go to college. Way to look out for your people!

Finally, we, the people of Alabama, are also learning that there are consequences to our actions – or, as in the case of primary this week, our inaction. The turnout of Lee County voters on Tuesday was an inexcusably pathetic 5 percent.

Incomprehensibly, state officials expect turnout of half that for the runoff on July 15.

People, if you wonder why your government doesn’t think twice about sticking it to you, just look in the mirror.

We have only ourselves to blame.

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