Sunday, June 05, 2011

Differences in Perceptions

I had an interesting discussion this morning about the uses of Facebook and of political issues in general.  I lamented that a college roommate who recently discovered Facebook has tended to post opinions like "I had lunch with some friends today and all of them agree with the idea that we should raise taxes."  My friend was a national debate champion so at one point - where he had posted a Mother Jones article which he agreed with - I responded by reading the article and going through it for each chart and posting responses which I think suggested that the justifications used in the article were factually wrong.  He did not respond.  One of my hiking companions suggested that  my friends' response was simply a feeling but not one he wanted to debate or discuss.  

There are a lot of things that bother me about that response (which I believe is accurate with many people). First, public policies should be based on some careful analysis not simply on whether you feel good (or bad) about something.   There are honest disagreements about results and even research but that should not inhibit discussion and debate.  But if a political figure exploits feeling over substance - does the political system benefit?

I raised a real issue - the Ryan plan on Medicare/Medicaid (which was also developed by democratic stalwart Alice Rivlin).  One could argue about whether the proposal would actually solve the problem of the rising costs of Medicare.  One could also argue that more involvement by the government would be a better way to solve the problems.   But the response by most congressional democrats so far has been to simply say "those mean old republicans are trying to take away the safety net."  Without true engagement by both sides the country will continue to fall into an economic abyss which at some point we will not be able to recover from.

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