Hyperbole should not drive political discussions – July / Aug. 2017
It is said that politics is the art of compromise and that may have been true, but in recent years politics appears to be the art of hyperbole. The truth is stretched to the breaking point in order to characterize a position. With the advent of social media, we see hyperbole as the tool that drives the conversation. Look at the posts on Facebook and then you’ll see what I mean.
Unfortunately, with this type of political discussion the issues get lost in the effort to create a soundbite. When EPA director Scott Pruitt came out with the announcement that he was withdrawing the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, the posts that popped up were predictable. AFBF praised the move as well as several groups which had opposed the original WOTUS rule. On the other side, we saw a lot about how the action was going to result in corporations being free to pollute the water and some even predicted people would die.
Of course, the WOTUS rule only was an interpretation of a section of the Clean Water Act that was passed in the early 70’s. The fact is water quality in the US has continued to improve long before the creation of the WOTUS rule. That alone puts the hyperbole being created that pollution is now going to run rampant and people are going to die into a different picture.
The argument about WOTUS being about allowing pollution or not is a red herring. States, who have been on the front line in water quality regulation since the passage of the Clean Water Act, are the ones who are writing the permits, sampling the water and reviewing the results. The problem with WOTUS all along has been the action by the EPA to unilaterally develop rules without input from the states. It always struck me as disingenuous that you would claim to want to address water quality issues without first asking those on the front line for input.
EPA’s actions on this were not about water quality. Initially, the WOTUS rules were proposed as “guidelines” which would not have required any input from the public, but soon after their attempt to go down that path, they were told they had to do this through the rule making process. This would have been the perfect opportunity to solicit input from the states, but that wasn’t done. Judging from the number of lawsuits that were filed shortly after the rule was adopted; it would appear there were a number of states who objected to being left out.
Hyperbole can be a powerful force for public opinion. Political leaders, however, must look beyond the hyperbole as should the public. Real solutions to real problems can seldom be accurately described by a few statements. When people use hyperbole in a statement, then it generally means they don’t want people to find out what’s really going on but instead react on an emotional level.
By Ken Hamilton, WyFB Executive Vice President