In defense of good writing - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Opinion

In defense of good writing

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Posted: Tuesday, November 9, 2010 6:30 pm | Updated: 1:45 pm, Tue Mar 6, 2012.

As a regular reader of the Ahwatukee Foothills News, I'm used to seeing unsubstantiated columns in its Opinion pages, but Philip Moon's "So Much for Obama's Promises" (AFN, Oct. 27) was unique in one regard - Moon and I share an occupation; we are high school teachers. As an English instructor, I've added Moon's piece to my already-burgeoning "How Not To Write" file. Such writing helps my students from appearing disingenuous or academically deficient. Moon's essay is riddled with omissions and lacks evidence to support his claims. As a teacher - a teacher of science, no less - Moon should know better.

Moon's thesis: "Everything that he (President Obama) has tried has succeeded only in exacerbating the recession, skyrocketing the national debt, taking away personal liberty and jeopardizing national security." Such claims must be substantiated through evidence. Relevant statistics or expert testimony will do. I wish to consider each point, though any discussion of "jeopardizing national security" will have to wait because Moon abandons it.

Moon acknowledges no bright spots in the economy since Obama took office 18 months ago, saying he's "succeeded only in exacerbating the recession." But the direction we've been on in that time is positive. Unemployment has stabilized, since March 2009 the DOW is up 60 percent, and corporate profits are up 62 percent. Moon calls job growth "near-stagnant," though for the last nine consecutive months jobs in the private sector have increased. The stimulus package Moon derides is, according to non-partisan sources, responsible for saving or creating 1.3-3 million jobs. And while it's true that the projected 8 percent unemployment ceiling has been surpassed at 9.6 percent, without the stimulus non-partisan analysts say unemployment would have risen higher, perhaps beyond 11 percent.

The assertion that President Obama has sent the national debt "skyrocketing" is inaccurate. Democrats actually shrank the deficit during fiscal year 2010. Ending on Sept. 30, the government had a budget shortfall of 1.294 trillion: 122 billion less than the previous year. Again, Moon overlooks facts.

Then there's "taking away personal liberty." Moon hinges this on the health insurance mandate. Does he mention that mandates are a Republican idea? Does he explore the reasons for its inclusion in the bill? Does he mention how Massachusetts' mandate has caused rates to decrease? No. Instead he ushers out the specter of socialism and uses the puerile slang "Obamacare." He claims health care reform was "rammed through despite the fiercely adamant opposition of the vast, vast majority of all Americans." Wait, not only was it opposed by a vast, vast majority, it was opposed by a majority of all Americans? This sentence makes no sense. "Rammed through" becomes hilarious when one recalls the months of extensive debate. Beginning in the early summer of 2009, the discussion continued for nearly a year before the president signed the bill in late March 2010. What of the "vast, vast majority" in opposition to the bill? A USA Today poll in July 2009 showed 56 percent in favor of health care reform. By December, the public had indeed soured - ABC News poll showed 48 percent for, 49 percent against. In early 2010, Kaiser had it split at 43-43. Divisive, surely. But "a vast, vast majority?" Hardly.

Moon's piece, and others like it, points to a larger problem. All too often opinion is let loose on the world without a fact to stand on, nurturing ignorance. It surprises me that a newspaper like AFN publishes such fact-free arguments. It disturbs me more that an educator would resort to the rhetorical strategies of the ill-informed.

Ahwatukee Foothills resident Eric Day teaches English at New School for the Arts and Academics in Tempe.

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