I read each and every issue of the AFN, and I rarely find Opinion pieces and letters that I can applaud with enthusiasm. However, I also don't normally become "inspired" enough to reply. The June 3 issue, on the other hand, made me shake my head enough to do so. Maybe it was because both Don Kennedy and Jim Thompson had commentaries/letters side-by-side in the same issue.
I have nothing personal against either of these guys (I don't know either). I have read many of their former "contributions," and I simply would like to use some of their thoughts as examples of what I think is missing both in the AFN and in the national debate over (name your issue) these days: Rational, factual and reasoned discussion.
Full disclosure: I am a political moderate who is very concerned about our country's future, priorities and budgetary process. I am constantly trying to understand "how we got here," what have we done right, and wrong, and how can we leave a better and safer world for the generations that follow.
In my view, that's an obligation that each generation has. Right now, my generation (baby boomer) doesn't seem to be doing so well for either ourselves or future generations, in my opinion. I'd like to help change the direction, but I am pretty sure it's going to take a number of other people who feel as I do in order to move the needle.In order to make progress, my view is that we (society, elected politicians, corporations, non-profits, etc.) need to engage our own constituents and the communities around us in a better process for making decisions. Ideally, the decision-making process would involve more fact-based decision-making, focus on mutually-agreed priorities, a search for the best possible solutions and weighing of alternatives in a civil and rational manner. It would have less ranting, fewer irrational or intimidating statements and be more focused on achieving a greater good for all.
Let me just illustrate via example, from the AFN issue mentioned above, some of what bothers me about our current American discourse.
The AFN guest commentary written by Kennedy was titled "The tyranny of frenzied environmentalism." I still struggle to understand exactly what the point of this commentary was, and why it should be published. Nearly half of the piece was dedicated to discussing definitions of environmentalism, some contrast of that with "conservation" and the acknowledgement that environmentalism has produced cleaner air and water. Then, Kennedy appears to jump to the assertion that environmentalism is the cause for the price of a full-sized Ford sedan increasing from $564 in 1946 to something greater than the $15,000 it costs now for a small Ford Focus.
He offers no facts to back up this quantum leap (because he cannot ... most of the dollar inflation is due to U.S. deficit spending, labor cost changes during that period and the general, historical pattern of most currencies to be relatively devalued as demands for goods and services increase over time). Yes, environmental regulations have contributed to increased vehicle costs (air emission and fleet gasoline mileage requirements have certainly added to engineering and product costs). On the other hand, think about what your gasoline costs would be today if the whole world was driving 12 mph vehicles.
Thompson, on the other hand, wrote a letter titled "Getting through the propaganda," which included an assertion that "NOTHING should be subsidized" (presumably, by the federal government). Really, no orphan drug subsidies, no non-profit status for churches, no Center for Disease Control and no U.S. military? Surely there are some societal objectives that deserve either a tax break or direct funding by our government for "the greater good?"
If you have a beef (pun intended) with subsidizing ethanol, then please discuss that issue, specifically, with facts and logical arguments. I might not disagree.
I'd love to read more intelligent, fact-based and reasoned commentary in the AFN. There are a lot of bright, thoughtful people in our community who are not "on the fringe" and don't need to see their name in print for any particular reason. So, maybe it is time to hear from some of them a bit more often at the expense of some of the current commentary that gets published. I would like to challenge the thoughtful, civil, moderate and community-minded "silent majority" to speak up more often, and I'd like to ask the AFN to give that community a voice.
• Bob Beane is an economics graduate of the College of Wooster and an MBA accounting graduate of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He is also a bicycling advocate and has been a resident of Ahwatukee since 1992.