Policy Or Talking Points? What’s The Difference?

It is not a new phenomenon. Been with us forever. People confuse talking points from politicians with policies. There is a massive difference.

However, we are living in a different age and there is no longer an excuse for not knowing what the difference is. Personal preference, wishing and cognitive dissonance are NOT excuses.

Talking points, also known as rhetoric or platitudes, are exactly what they sound like. They are talking points, empty campaign promises that hold no substance. The vast majority of the time, they will never be fulfilled and there will be no actual attempt to fulfill them.

Talking points are vague. They include things like creating jobs or improving the economy but they never offer any specifics on how this will be accomplished. They rely on the blind faith of the listener and loyalty to the candidate or party.

Let’s add another level to this. Policy proposals. Policy proposals are rough ideas of policies which may or may not include suggestions of how something can be accomplished, maybe a timeline, some numbers, real or imagined. However, not even the first letter has yet been set on paper. Usually a policy proposal will be followed by statements (after the election, of course) that a committee or study must be done to evaluate whether it can be done at all. Once that announcement is made, you often never hear of the policy again. If you do, it will be drastically modified and not resemble the original in any form. The benefits to society will be a fraction of the proposal while the cost increases many times over.

One example of a policy proposal would be a job training program. After the election, a committee is formed to look at the viability and cost. The study then takes years and costs huge sums of money paid to some company related to the politician who proposed the program. Maybe we eventually see a study completed, maybe we don’t.

Policies are where we know a politician may mean business about a subject. This is when a promise has been set to paper in the form of a bill to be submitted for a vote. A policy offers specifics, defining how policy will work, sometimes how a policy will be funded, sets a timeline for implementation, establishes responsibility for implementing (such as what government agency will utilize it.

But slow down, no so easy. Once a policy is set to paper, the writer is considered the sponsor. Now they must find one or more other politicians to endorse or cosponsor the bill. The more cosponsors, the better chance it will come to a vote. Of course, even when it comes to a vote, it can be altered, amended, vital elements stripped out or completely unrelated elements tacked on. Of course, it may also lose the vote. If it ever makes it to a vote at all.

Using the same example of a jobs program- This means the viability study was completed. Now the policy states the kind of training to be offered, who the people are that will be trained, what agency will run the program, when it will begin, how it will be paid for, projected startup costs and possibly suggest location/s.

Of special note are platforms. Platforms are a collection of talking points used by a campaign or party. The candidate or party are under no obligation to pursue any part of the platform. The only point is getting votes. Then the entire platform can be discarded after the election is over, usually blaming the opposing party or the voters themselves.

So, when politicians start using talking points, there is nothing about them to be believed until they start explaining exactly how the talking points will be accomplished and in what time frame. If they have not even considered the answers, they have no intention of acting on those promises. What they are most likely to do is divert the subject or attempt to state how good the idea is, how it is needed, appealing to emotions. If pressed for details, they will become defensive, blame opposition for a problem, anything to make the subject emotional rather than explain any technical details.

Emotions do not create, write or implement policies. Emotions accomplish nothing other than brainwashing. The further down the process one goes from talking point to policy to implementation we go, the less raging emotion is called for. The less division is called for. Real solutions require critical, rational thinking and cooperation by multiple entities.

If you did not know the difference between talking points and policies before, now you do. When you listen to politicians speaking, start listening to what they are really saying. If they only use talking points, they are not saying anything.

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Issues unite, names divide

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