The Right response

The Right response

January 16th, 2013 in Opinion Free Press

In this column, Free Press editorial page editor Drew Johnson replies to emails, letters to the editor and online comments in response to Free Press editorials. Submit questions on Twitter: @Drews_Views

It's been a long time since I responded to readers and the questions have piled up. Here are my responses to a few of the inquiries I've gotten over the past few weeks:

The author is an idiot. Why doesn't he put his name at the top of the page and take credit for his opinions?

My name (Drew Johnson) is at the top of the page every single day in the masthead.

Most newspaper editorial sections do not feature the names of authors of editorials. That's because editorials are, by their nature, supposed to reflect the voice and view of their paper - not the singular opinion of the editorial's author.

The Free Press editorial page is intended to represent the perspective of the center-right leaning Chattanooga Free Press, one of the two papers that merged to create the Times Free Press. That free market, limited government outlook will always guide the content of the Free Press opinion page and be reflected in the page's unsigned editorials.

The unsigned editorials featured on this page are always written by me or, on occasion, a guest editorial writer. The Free Press page may also occasionally publish editorial opinions from other publications that reflect the Free Press' ideology. In such instances, that newspapers' name follows the editorial.

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Drew, it seems like you are negative about Chattanooga. I challenge you to write about what you like about the city.

I accept that challenge. You already may have noticed that I've recently pointed out several charities, public officials and businesses that deserve praise and support.

Clearly, the editorial section should be a cheerleader for the community - and, increasingly, the page will highlight the successes of our region.

That said, I believe strongly that it is the role of a good opinion page to expose examples of corruption, cronyism, wasted tax dollars, dishonesty and abuse of power. Performing that public service and working to ensure that Times Free Press readers aren't being taken advantage of by the people entrusted to serve them is the most valuable use of time and ink I can imagine.

•••

You criticize the Tennessee law that limits the sale of pseudoephedrine in an attempt to curb meth production. What is the solution to the meth epidemic?

I criticize any law that treats innocent people as criminals. In the case of state laws that make it difficult to buy pseudoephedrine to treat a head cold, a failed attempt to prevent a tiny minority of people from misusing a product has harmed the majority.

The Tennessee General Assembly should admit its failure and return pseudoephedrine products to pharmacy shelves.

As to solving the meth epidemic, the first step is admitting that meth may be a problem, but it is certainly not an epidemic. The 1918 flu outbreak that killed an estimated 60 million people was an epidemic. In 2010, 439,000 people were "current users of meth" according to the Department of Health and Human Services - that's 1 out of every 706 Americans. That doesn't seem like an "epidemic" to me.

Further, according to a best-estimate from the RAND Corporation's Drug Policy Research Center, 927 people die annually in the U.S. from meth-related causes (everything from overdoses to explosions). That's about the same number of Americans who die every year in boating accidents. Again, hardly an "epidemic."

The best way to address the meth problem is the best way to address all drugs usage: End the government's expensive, dangerous war on drugs. Legalizing drugs and making them as safe as possible, and then providing resources to help people who are addicted to get well, are much better solutions than pushing misguided policies that actually make drug use more dangerous.

It's important to realize that, no matter what, some people will use drugs. The government won't change that, but they can (and do) waste a lot of money and trample a lot of liberties trying.

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Why do you write about federally-subsidized museums, fairs and studies that cost taxpayers a couple hundred thousand dollars? That is a drop in the $3.8 trillion federal budget.

Every dollar that the government spends is a dollar that is taken from the pockets of taxpayers.

Before spending our tax dollars (or borrowing money or printing it), lawmakers and bureaucrats should ask: Is this program or project constitutional, is it necessary and is it something I'd spend my own money to support? If the answer to any of those three questions is "no," the program or project shouldn't be funded - no matter how large or small it is.