As a writer and a blogger, I stand for one thing: truth. Sadly, it seems that truth is hard to come by nowadays. But taking a deeper look at the concept of truth leads me to ask, "what does truth mean?" To me, truth means substance. It means real, cited, repeatable data. It means, and this is the biggest driver of why I write, when you have an opinion, you back it with fact. You back it with... truth.
Now, of course, truth begets interpretation. What do I mean? Referencing my introduction paragraph, it means that I'm growing very tired of hollow opinions. I'm tired of empty rhetoric such as, "Bush was a bad president" or "Obama hates America" (to highlight how, yes, this does occur on both sides). Anyone can have an opinion, and debating what someone feels is useless, but opinions that are backed with facts, examples, citations, studies, etc. go much further than those that lack these opinion-promoting artifacts.
Why did I preface this post with my strong-willed opinion of why facts are the most important part of an opinion? Well, it's because I read this article by Niall Ferguson of Newsweek that makes a great claim for why we should not re-elect Barack Obama: http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/08/19/niall-ferguson-on-why-barack-obama-needs-to-go.html
In addition to reading the article, I read the comments after the article. Sadly, these tend to be nothing but attacks and hollow accusations. It definitely doesn't fall into the world of civil debate I so strongly support. The "you're lying" line is repeated often, along with this doozie:
"The factual inaccuracies in his assessment are stunning. This is what passes for journalism these days? Just another GOP shill."
To the maker of this comment I say, "care to elaborate?" His/her comment is what I'm talking about, and I see it more and more.
Ferguson's five page write up is very clear. To break it down:
- It is his opinion, or for a more academic word, thesis, that we should not re-elect the President
- He backs this with the following evidence of Obama's failure to do what he promised when he campaigned in 2008 (this is a brief summary of his points; I highly recommend reading the entire article):
- In his fiscal year 2010 budget—the first he presented—the president envisaged growth of 3.2 percent in 2010, 4.0 percent in 2011, 4.6 percent in 2012. The actual numbers were 2.4 percent in 2010 and 1.8 percent in 2011; few forecasters now expect it to be much above 2.3 percent this year.
- Unemployment was supposed to be 6 percent by now. It has averaged 8.2 percent this year so far. Meanwhile real median annual household income has dropped more than 5 percent since June 2009. Nearly 110 million individuals received a welfare benefit in 2011, mostly Medicaid or food stamps.
- Welcome to Obama’s America: nearly half the population is not represented on a taxable return—almost exactly the same proportion that lives in a household where at least one member receives some type of government benefit. We are becoming the 50–50 nation—half of us paying the taxes, the other half receiving the benefits.
Of course, Mr. Ferguson goes on, and cites his reasons with deeper, expanded analysis and graphs. Again, read the whole argument.
Personally, I think this is a well-written synopsis. Ferguson backs why he believes what he believes using facts. You can debate the subject of should we or shouldn't we re-elect the president all day, and that's a totally fair debate, but as far as why Niall Ferguson believes what he believes, he does a very good job of explaining it. Hollow, worthless, "you're a liar" one liners ping off Ferguson's backing like bullets off Superman's chest. I think every American should read this. Its analysis should be discussed openly, and the connections it makes should be absorbed by all.
So in getting all the "you better back what you say" stuff out of the way, I would like to have a debate. For those on the right, you might have already known this information, or the technicals might be new to you. Do you agree with Niall, or do you think he doesn't go far enough? For those on the left, after seeing this, what do you have to say? Is his case compelling? If it is, would you consider changing your vote. How would you put together a fact-based counter response? Do you support Obama to no end, no matter the strength of the counter position that exists? Please share your thoughts.
Obviously, in simple terms, I'm taking Niall's position, and I fully support his analysis. As I said, it's well written, and it doesn't carry a lot of emotional fluff. It gets straight to the opinion-backing details, and leaves little room for error. And to me, the biggest surprise of all: it made it to the front of Newsweek! Wow!