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The data-driven generation comes of age ...

Published June 3, 2011 6:18 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

If it can't be expressed in figures, it is not science; it is opinion.

— Robert Heinlein

I have tried to be open-minded about this. I really have. But ever since the current occupant of the White House moved in, I've felt that something is just a little bit out of alignment.

You see, for the first time ever, the president of the United States is ... I know it's not supposed to matter. And I see how it is a good thing. But it takes a lot of getting used to when the leader of the Free World is, well, younger than I am.

There. I said it.

A lot of other folks are, too. Leaders in the too-young-to-remember-John-Glenn generation include not only President Obama, but also some of those supposedly in the best spot to replace him next year.

Among them are former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.

Another is Shaun Donovan, who somehow manages to be the boss of the giant U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development despite the fact that he was born the same year the Beatles played their last concert. [Note that his official bio link, above, doesn't reference his age. I found it here.]

Donovan was in town the other day to make note of, and bring a large check to, the regional planning efforts going on in the urban areas of Utah's Wasatch Front. He dropped by to see The Tribune Editorial Board, and I momentarily froze when he introduced himself.

It takes a second sometimes to process the information that this youngster is among the more responsible adults in the land.

But the kid displays something that comes with maturity, if not always with age. It is the idea that a lot of the stuff that gets people all hot and bothered really doesn't matter. What matters is what works. And what works knows no party, or generation.

Donovan is data-driven. He commands figures that say that home ownership is good for people, good for their children, good for their neighborhoods and communities. But it's not good to treat your equity as an ATM and the mortgages of millions of people as lottery tickets. And there will always been a need for rental housing, for all income scales.

And the cure for homelessness, duh, is a home. Or at least a small apartment where you can receive whatever government and charitable services you need, keep clean and warm and fill in the spot where it says "address" on the job applications and school registration forms.

None of this is simple bleeding-heart liberalism or moralistic conservatism.

It is clear-eyed understanding of the way things work, which is necessary if we are to improve the way things are.

This is the hallmark of the leaders of the generation that is coming to power. What's good is what works.

Marriage is increasingly seen as good, not because the minister says so but because personal observation and experience prove it out. And same-sex marriage belongs in that category, because there is no rational reason to believe otherwise.

On the Republican side, there's Huntsman. He doesn't quite display the courage of his convictions when it comes to such things as climate change, even though he is smart enough to know that it is real.

But his generational outlook — plus a family that made bazillions in the chemical business and is giving bazillions to fight cancer — leaves him with a scientific approach that would be very useful in a leader.

Of course, the Republicans who have thought about it know that health care reform won't add up without an individual mandate, even as the pressure of their party's retrograde thinking means they have to pretend they don't. So we're not out of the woods yet.

But all these guys have children, who are being taught to count. So whatever we fail to fix, we will at least leave behind the proper tools.

George Pyle is a member of The Tribune Editorial Board. Email: gpyle@sltrib.com. Twitter: @debatestate.

Related:- Home ownership: Shelter, or burden - The Economist

- The Rent Isn't Too Damn High - Annie Lowrey, Slate Why it's good news that more Americans are renting rather than buying homes.

- Jon Huntsman Jr.'s path to the GOP nomination is difficult one to chart - George F. Will, Deseret News/Washington Post... Even if that electorate approves Huntsman's un-Obamalike health care reforms in Utah and forgives his flirtation with a fanciful climate change regime among Western states, he faces the worthy but daunting challenge of bringing tea party Republicans — disproportionately important in the nominating process — to a boil about foreign policy.

- Mitt Romney Is a Lonely Global Warming Believer in the GOP Field - The Atlantic Wire... Romney isn't the only 2012 contender to say climate change is a real problem—rival Jon Huntsman stands on that little island with him. But the rest of the Republican lineup is pretty climate change skeptic. ...