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King: We keep enabling our political problems

POSTED: July 23, 2013 1:00 a.m.

What do we mean when we say someone is an “enabler?”

It’s one of those word we bandy about when we observe addictive behavior in a family or social setting. It’s usually about alcohol or drugs, but can be almost any self-destructive habit. We see enabling in other people but deny that we do it ourselves.

It works like this: Dad drinks too much. Mom pops pills. Their teenager is on street drugs, but it’s family so people make excuses. Mom covers for Dad when he has a hangover. Dad forgives Mom because she is going through “the change” or caring for elderly parents. The teenager ... well, he or she is basically a good kid who has made one or two bad choices. Give them a little time; they’ll straighten up.

Enabling requires at least two parties” the addict and a facilitator, and they usually are linked by strong emotional ties. When we care about someone, it is almost impossible to turn our back on them in times of trouble.

But let’s suppose it’s not an individual. Let’s suppose it’s an institution, part of our social structure. Let’s suppose it’s a political party. I look what’s happening in politics today as a form of enabling. On one side, we have candidates running for office; on the other, we have voters who want their party to win.

Take something simple like negative advertising. Every time a voter excuses unfair or untrue accusations in a political campaign, he is an enabler. Every time the voter overlooks a politician’s ethical breaches because the candidate in question belongs to the “right” party, she is an enabler. In fact ­— and this is pretty extreme — any time we donate to a campaign out of party loyalty, and not because of the character of the candidate, we are enablers.

It really speaks ill of our country when the candidate who raises the most money wins a race about 95 percent of the time.

The papers were clear about what was happening at the Georgia General Assembly in 2009 when it passed the Georgia Nuclear Energy Financing Act. The act empowered the Georgia Public Service Commission to create an accounting procedure, giving Georgia Power the ability to tax customers for two additional nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle. They called it Construction Work in Progress.

Since CWIP was approved, electricity raters have gone up at three times the rate originally set by the General Assembly. By not protesting this tax — and it is a tax — the ratepayers have become enablers, and like family members who enable Dad’s drinking, Mom’s pill-popping or Junior’s drug experiments, the situation is only going to get worse.

Vogtle reactors Nos. 1 and 2 were supposed to cost $300 million. By the time they were completed and producing power, almost 20 years had gone by and the cost had risen to nearly $9 billion, a 1,200 percent increase. Today, Vogtle reactors Nos. 3 and 4 are more than $1 billion over budget and more than a year behind schedule. In fact, there’s reason to believe the reactors may never go online, but we are going to pay for them anyway unless there is an outcry and CWIP is repealed.

If this isn’t the granddaddy of all enabling, I don’t know what is. But if you decide you don’t want to be an enabler, go to stopcwip.com and sign the protest. Together we can stop it.

Joan King lives in Sautee. Her column appears biweekly on Tuesdays and at gainesvilletimes.com/viewpoint.



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