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Getting Educated at the Policy Boot Camp

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It doesn't sound like a buzzword or a catch phrase -- at least, not like "Obamacare" or "Socialism." But heading into the next election season, keep an eye out for it: "educated voter." That was the phrase being bandied about Saturday, when Unfair Park headed to Lakewood Theater for the founded-by-Dick-Armey Institute for Policy Innovation "Policy Boot Camp," sponsored, in part, by the Dallas Tea Party.

The event promised to teach the 400 attendees -- at $30 a head -- "very basic public policy," in the words of IPI president Tom Giovanetti. "If they're going to get active," Giovanetti said of protesters who've been turning out to health-care forums, "we want them to be educated activists."

On the "curriculum": five speakers who addressed
the usual topics, among them health-care reform and tax policy both here and in Washington, D.C. The theater was packed with audience members armed with notepads and pens; this was serious business, like the first day of school. Bartlett Cleland, director of IPI's Center for Technology Freedom, stood on the stage beneath bright lights. Next to him was a a giant pull-down screen that read "Introduction of legislation"; it was much like a Schoolhouse Rock cartoon. Cleland said as much; the crowd laughed. Then it was down to serious business

"It's very, very interesting," said Irving's Gordon Arnold during the lunch break, for which attendees were provided with boxed lunches. "They're dealing with some very important topics, and they're very thorough." Arnold's a Tea Party member and said he attended the event to support the group -- far as he could tell, most everybody in the theater was on the same e-mail list.

"One of the speakers made an excellent comment," Arnold said, "and that was that we're going to turn into an educated voter contingency."

What did that mean?

"Educated voters," Arnold said. "So that we don't have to accept what politicians say at face value. We can think for ourselves on some of these issues."

Arnold then launched into a discussion about the lecture that resonated with him -- the one dealing with economics. He began talking about the difference between "economic growth" and "economic activity." As in: "Economic activity is the circulation of money," said Arnold.

Jane Howell, a Lake Highland resident eavesdropping on our conversation, jumped in.

"Taking from one populace, tax payer bracket and giving it to another tax-payer bracket," she said, "which doesn't have any economic growth whatsoever."

Arnold wanted to complete the lesson: "Economic growth is letting people keep money so that they can invest in new businesses, produce new products and services for sale." Thus endeth the lesson.

Sititng nearby beneath shade were Denton Tea Party member Tom Sample from Lewisville and a man named Mark, who declined to give his full name since he works for a government agency. "I'm hoping for a reforming of government," Sample said. But what had he learned so far?

"They're teaching us about how we got to where we are," he said. "Different paths that had been imposed on us ... and hopefully the road that will take us out."

Mark, your thoughts?

"In one word, I would think it'd be education. We believe that educated citizenry will lead to better government in the future." And then it was back to class.

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