On December 8th, 2011, Greater Ohio Policy Center, The Buckeye Institute and The Center for Community Solutions co-hosted a powerful conference that successfully raised the level of public discourse beyond the current partisan posturing that is so prevalent in our nation and state. “Across the Spectrum: The Future of Ohio and the Path to Prosperity” brought together 20 state and national experts to propose and debate a variety of solutions to some of the most urgent policy challenges facing Ohio and the nation: government consolidation, health care, government pensions, federal, state, and local taxes, the modernization of Ohio’s constitution and the culture shift underway in American society.
Lively and collegial discussion between panelists, and between panelists and over 300 audience members, demonstrated to all attendees that there is much common ground from which we can develop new policies and programs that aren’t “right-wing” or “left-wing” but an innovative “third way.”
Perhaps best modeling the ability to forge agreement on lightening-rod issues was the lunchtime discussion between Dr. Arthur Laffer, Founder and Chairman of Laffer Associates and The Laffer Center for Supply-Side Economics and Dr. Alice Rivlin, member of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform and former director of the Congressional Budget Office. During their friendly debate on “National Debt, Deficits and the Future of Fiscal Federalism” they agreed that the country’s national debt had to be addressed immediately and that “flexibility”—though perhaps not compromise—by both parties would be one important way out of the morass.
At dinner, Professor Walter Russell Mead, Professor of Foreign Affairs and Humanities at Bard College and Editor-at-Large of The American Interest, gave the dinner keynote address, “Where is America headed?” and offered a vision of America’s future where community—defined by place, as well as by interests and/or workplace training—will remain the bedrock of American society. Identifying the democratization of information through the internet and higher levels of education attained by Americans, Mead argued that the future will hold a range of opportunities (and options for getting there) that is markedly more varied that our 19th and 20th century past and that this complexity will be our greatest competitive advantage.
Throughout the day, numerous audience and panelist members commented that as a result of the sincere conversations prompted by the panels, they felt extremely hopeful for Ohio’s future and the political discussions that will get us there.
We anticipate “Across the Spectrum” will have long-lasting impacts on the political dialogue in Ohio—please leave your thoughts on the conference in the comments section below to let us know what you think and to keep this important conversation going.