Time to consider all of the facts

My friends and critics on the left are always challenging me with the statement, "you are entitled to your own opinion but not to your own facts." Fair enough.

The problem with that statement is that both sides of nearly every debate want to only use the facts that support their position and dismiss any facts that argue against it.

Let's consider a few issues that are being hotly debated today:

First, education funding: The state Supreme Court has ruled that the legislature has failed to fully fund public education in violation of the state constitution. The problem with that ruling is the justices have not defined what it means to "fully fund" education. There have been few specific facts forthcoming about current education funding in discussing this issue. For example: How much are we spending per student? How does that compare to other school systems across the country? What percentage of the cost per student actually goes to classroom instruction and how much is spent on administration? Google up education spending by state you will find an article posted in Education Week on January 28 that includes a map with per pupil spending in every school district in the state but the data comes from 2013. To address the issue of funding basic education we need timely relevant facts not just political rhetoric and emotional appeals about our children. There were 80 school districts in Washington state that spent over $40,000 per student in 2013. That was nearly four times the national average. How did the students from those schools do compared to the lowest cost district in the state? Governor Inslee is using the Supreme Court decision on education to justify the largest tax increase in history to spend more money on education. In view of the fact that the court has not defined what is required to "fully fund" education the Governor's call for more taxes is highly irresponsible. Citizens deserve to have clear and relevant facts regarding the costs of education before any new taxes are imposed.

Second, tearing out dams: Environmentalists have been calling for tearing out dams on the Snake River to improve salmon runs. There is no doubt that dams have created barriers to salmon migration but that is only part of the story. Fishing pressure off the coast has probably had a bigger impact on salmon than the dams. Native Americans like to claim that you could once walk across the rivers on the backs of migrating salmon. Those claims are nothing more than Indian lore. What is not Indian lore is that modern commercial fishing off the coast, including that employed by Native Americans, puts far more pressure on salmon stocks than what occurred before Europeans began to move into the Northwest. Before we tear out dams that produce green energy, control flooding and facilitate transportation of agricultural products to world markets we need to know what can be done to increase salmon returning from the ocean.

Third, free trade and other economist pipe dreams: We've been told we live in a global economy and we should learn to enjoy the lower cost of goods that comes with allowing other countries that produce products for less to have full access to our markets. The problem is that many Americans continue to see their incomes decline as their jobs move overseas. The end result is the goods are cheaper but many Americans don't have the income needed to buy them. How insane is it to continue to raise the minimum wage through legislation increasing operating costs to American companies while not recognizing low foreign labor costs are part of the problem?

It is far past time to toss the emotional arguments out and explore what works with honest and clear factual analysis. That means we look at all sides of the issue. When the discussion degenerates into personal attacks or demonization we should immediately dismiss the arguments as without merit.

We are not entitled to our own facts but we are required to look at all of the facts not just the ones that make us feel good.

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