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Walking the center path

When in doubt, when we find ourselves swamped with loud, ill-thought blather, when extreme positions are advanced at top volume and in uncivil ways, it serves us well to realize that the vast majority of us are fairly moderate folks and that reasoned dialogue and reasonable processes will see us through most predicaments, producing the greatest good for the greatest number.

It is the central path that, in time, usually wins the day, that accommodates the majority in a democracy.

We have no dearth of topics and situations that require a moderate path. At all levels — personal, in our community, our nation, in terms of global issues.

Take a look at the ongoing debate about health care. Throw out the extremists and what are we left with? A recognized need for reform, with the assumption that a privileged society has a moral obligation to provide health care for all citizens; awareness that a healthcare industry driven by the profit motive and unfettered by pointed regulation will never provide manageable and persistent care for most Americans; acknowledgement that the extremes of out-of-pocket and government-only systems are undesirable; recognition of the fact that existing “socialized medicine” systems — VA health care, Medicare, etc. — must be kept viable, but must not underpay, resulting in higher charges to those with other plans; a pressing need for tort reform and a pressing need to control costs that are getting out of hand for most average American workers.

Toss out the fabrications of party cyborgs aiming at upcoming elections and attempting to damage opponents with diversions, cast aside the shallow and often false and fear-inducing pronouncements of cable “news” personalities and radio talk show hosts, and the nature of the problem is clear: It is complicated, it cannot be solved soon, and it will require the types of compromises met only on the central path.

Locally, take as an example of a need for moderation the current uproar about PAWSD impact fees. Toss aside the extremes — calls for dissolution of PAWSD, and the grandstanding (in at least one case, a cynically empty waiver of fees by another body) — and what are we left with? The reasonable argument that PAWSD fees are, perhaps, too high, the district’s ambitions, perhaps, too lofty or even unnecessary; the recognition that the waiver of utility capital fees is risky (by any entity facing impending and, in some cases, mandated projects); the fact that, rather than moving in an unnecessarily aggressive manner with respect to one another — such as Freedom of Information Act requests, when a polite, informal request would suffice — dialogue might be more productive.

Some time ago, a Community Roundtable process was established to allow representatives of public entities to massage thorny issues, find compromises that suited all concerned.

What happened to that process? Why hasn’t it been used? It is easy to find: it is on the central path.

And how about the economy?

On a central path, government and the financial industry are held accountable, but so are the consumers — those millions of us who took out sub prime or option ARM mortgages, those of us who fell into nasty webs woven by the purveyors of all-too-easy credit, those of us who lived lives of excess fed by debt.

When times get better, moderation, personal and collective, is an option found on that central path. Regulation of a financial industry that, propelled by greed, took huge profits as the rest of us took a bath seems reasonable, doesn’t it? Accountability from those who survived via government largesse seems reasonable, doesn’t it, with fluid and effective lending practices in place and in operation? Sensible credit practices seem to be a good idea — with inexcusable credit card interest policies controlled.

And, once the economy bounces back in places like Pagosa Country (which, we remind you, is at the rear end of the economic animal — prone to suffer setbacks and recoveries last) perhaps more sensible reactions to a gaining prosperity are called for than those we experienced in the recent past when expectations, excess and a lack of foresight ruled the day.

We can do it. If we walk the middle of the road. Karl Isberg