Don't Forget to Write (Gwen Moritz Editor's Note)

I have often wondered why we at Arkansas Business get so few letters to the editor — the type intended for print, anyway. A few months ago, a correspondent with an opinion diametrically opposed to one he read on our editorial page actually accused me of not printing letters to the editor. I grabbed up the phone and immediately called to correct him — and to assure him that I would forthwith have his letter typeset for the very next issue. Suddenly he didn't want his opinion printed after all.

I look longingly at the letters to the editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, even the ones that make me shudder. I cast envious eyes on the letters to the editor of the Arkansas Times, even the ones that make me shudder. When I get e-mails from readers responding to things they've seen in our pages, I often respond by asking if the writer would like his or her message to be published as a letter to the editor. I would love for readers to learn from each other — and to see, as I do, the great variety of ideas among a readership that I'm afraid is often considered homogeneous.

But only once in a great while does anyone take me up on the offer. Sometimes it's someone who shouldn't, like the guy who rushed to defend the fine tax work performed for his company by Little Rock lawyer Bobby Keith Moser, subsequently disbarred. Should I feel guilty if publishing that letter led to an audit?

Anyway, my comments in this space last week concerning President Bush's rush to "fix" Social Security inspired a number of e-mails from readers. I couldn't get any of them to let me print them as signed letters to the editor, and some clearly were intended just for me, but I thought I'd share some of their thoughts anonymously. I'll start with the ones that agreed with me:

"Excellent editorial. I read it last weekend and couldn't agree more. We need a fix, but not an emergency appendectomy or amputation; a well thought-out, long-range plan will do just fine, in time. 'W' needs to cut the puppet strings and swagger his own swag, not those of his bank rollers."

That came from a reader who identified himself as 61 and looking forward to collecting Social Security, even though he hadn't counted on it. He also said, "It's important for a business conservation publication such as AB to get the word out about this non-crisis."

Another reader kindly expressed concern for my career:

"I found your column on Social Security refreshing and insightful. It makes me feel a bit queasy, however, about your job security."

Yet another took a historical view:

"I know this next statement is a little generalized, but maybe not much: Social Security came to be in large part due to a stock market crash, and now we are wanting to put our Social Security money in the stock market? How warped is that?"

One reader sent me a link to a White House Web site discussion, which actually did a very good job of presenting the Bush administration's position on Social Security reform (and nothing else, of course). If you'd like to take a look, it is at www.whitehouse.gov/ask/20050111.html.

"If I may inject a bit of comedy," he added, "beginning a discussion about it today will hopefully bring concrete change by 2018 when SS is set to be paying out more than it is taking in, haha."

Even I hope that we can reach a national consensus before then.

Only one reader really flayed me:

"You and the far left need to realize that not everyone in America needs the government telling us how to handle our money. We have done quite well by ourselves which is certainly more than the government can say.... It is too bad that your bias prevents a good discussion of the nature of the problem and possible solutions. But then again, isn't that what the media is known for today?"

I sincerely hope Arkansas Business is not known for preventing a good discussion. (Or for being "far left" — or far right, for that matter.) I would like to encourage readers to write more letters to the editor if there is a point of view you want to see in print. We don't buy ink by the barrel for nothing.

(Gwen Moritz is editor of Arkansas Business. E-mail her — please! — at gmoritz@abpg.com.)

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