We’re in one of the most politically charged climates in recent memory, and one of the worst lingering financial crises in years. The leaders of some Ohio-based think tanks hope to bring together people with diverse views to talk about tough issues like taxes, spending and social policy. Ohio Public Radio’s Karen Kasler says the leaders of those groups hope their conference will be marked not by controversy, but by civility.
For more on the conference, watch the rest of this interview on "The State of Ohio" at http://www.statenews.org.
The conference is called “Across the Spectrum: The Future of Ohio and the Path to Prosperity.” Among the topics – the national debt, health care reform, government pensions and state and local taxes – not exactly lightweight nor easy to discuss. And Lavea Brachman from Greater Ohio – a group that studies transportation, growth and regional economies – says no one thinks the conference will solve problems that have been festering for years.
“What we want to do is create a space for civil public discourse and hopefully allow people to discuss substantive issues that are nonpolitical but really more about how do we come to solutions in Ohio that can raise the bar for all of us.”
Joining Greater Ohio in sponsoring the conference are the conservative leaning Buckeye Institute and the Center for Community Solutions, which has a progressive perspective. Matt Mayer from the Buckeye Institute says the three groups come from different perspectives but agree that reasoned debate is not only possible, but preferred,
“What’s far too often happens is, other groups out there, you can’t tell the difference between whether they’re the Democrat or the Republican talking points or a traditional neutral third party. It just looks like the same thing.”
And John Begala with the Center for Community Solutions says every group has data to back up their studies and views, and that’s actually part of the problem.
“I think that lots of people pay attention to their own data and are a little bit short in paying attention to what else is out there. Our reality is much more complex than most of us understand. I think we need to face up to that.”
And Mayer says the situation is getting critical, because he says the problems that drive voters to create a majority for one party in each big election year aren’t getting solved.
“Which majority is that? Was that the 2006 majority, the 2008 majority, or the 2010 majority, or what we don’t know is the 2012 majority. It’s shifting so much because I think Ohioans and Americans are confused, they’re scared, and so they’re just trying to cling on to anybody who’s promising the next kind of bag of chips. What we’ve got to get to is the point where we start solving the problems and not just make promises.”
Begala says that big election less than a year away has major implications for the nation and for Ohio in particular – and politicians need to realize that.
“What’s important is that we get the Statehouse crowd so to speak including a lot of elected officials there having these conversations. Secondly though, and I think this is just as important for this particular conference is the tone. If we can have constructive conversation and people can have the chance to hear each other - that’s the sort of environment that we hope to have.”
“Across the Spectrum: The Future of Ohio and the Path to Prosperity” is set for December 8 at the Renaissance Hotel in Columbus. Among the scheduled speakers are Arthur Laffer, a member of President Reagan’s economic policy advisory board who is often called the father of supply-side economics, and Alice Rivlin, the budget director under President Bill Clinton and an advisor to the congressional “super committee”.