On Aftermaths

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

The lead-up to the health care initiative was an interesting narrative that calls for some reflection on a few phases of media coverage. Days after the Obama election, the press went on a spree about the death of the Republican Party and the demise of conservative ideas in general (analysis here). A year later it was the demise of Obama’s various initiatives and a conservative resurgence. Months before, Congress’ attempts were sinking.

These narratives are shaped by power, chance, and incident, of course, and, I would argue, the irony of the ineffectualness of conservative ideas, which aren’t traditionally conservative, as the “less government” meme is a farce and has been since the Civil War. Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman are Obama’s ironic doubles. If this is the face of the current Republican party, then those with seats should start another path.

Given the news of the last few days and today’s talk about revolution and reactionism (this mean to go back to the way things were), we can get our crystal balls out again. In my mind, Obama is well aware of these trends, but no matter. Senate hearings have been shut down, bricks are flying, and idiotic maneuvers continue (some of those maneuvers perhaps would have been legit if the party had played ball rather than walking off the court), all of which point to the effectiveness of Barack Obama and the seriousness with which the opposition now takes him. Okay. I’m pretty impressed by the narrative. I told S a few days back that if any health care bill passed, I’d consider Obama a genius. And so things stand.

I’ve read the bill. Some of it I could understand. Much of it is written in the legal discipline language of legislative bills, which really needs a dose of hypertext to provide clarity, and can only be understood in association to precedent and several other texts. (Maybe this could be a student project or a job for Emberlight.) In general the bill is a set of compromises and comes with very little of what I’d want. But no one wants what I want. Non-monetized health care is a crazy ideal. But non-monetized health care isn’t the same as socialized medicine (don’t bother disagreeing with this: I know what the arguments are; go read Aristotle instead). This bill is neither. In any event, perception will be shaped by what people see as a direct benefit, like eye glasses in the 19th century.

One lesson here has to do with the image of fleas: that’s a riddle.


10 responses to “On Aftermaths”

  1. Obama might just be a genius; you could be right about that. And the Republicans are acting like children, which is horrible.

    However, this bill’s fueling of such terrible debate is a disservice to both parties, and I feel it and other debates are weakening the country overall.

    More than likely, things will work out all right, but I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if they don’t get far worse first, and we’re seeing some of the most ardent political opposition in the country’s history.

    At this point, I’ll be happy if there is a massive shift from incumbents to challengers in the fall, because it will probably prevent the crazies from showing their true color, at least for a while.

  2. Steve says:

    What do you think is the source of the opposition? It doesn’t seem to me that the classic liberal/conservative differences are real anymore as everyone has their stake in the kind of government we have and systematic change to big institutions is inevitable. The narrative says that even the most difficult conservative changes to the system aren’t much of a problem and have even become a standard part of reform and none of the provisions in the bill are that classically liberal or progressive, with perhaps the exception of mandates to force the system into shared financial security. Even when we were all pissed at Stupak, no one resorted to threats.

  3. gibb says:

    Sounds like a plan, Jeremy, albeit a costly one since we’ll be paying forever for all those booted out as well as the new. However, since it’s fair to say that American citizens were evenly divided on the passing or not of this bill, they were not fairly represented in congress and that’s what has to change.

    I admire Democrats for the supposed stance on human rights and equality, and I admire the Republicans for their supposed stance on personal accountability and self-responsibility. Somehow, who we vote in to represent us needs to be trustworthy to do so, and only then can it be called democracy.

  4. Steve says:

    Susan,

    How does one “fairly” represent the citizen? The polls were all over the place and Americans are not really given to reading legislation but acting on generalizations. For example, a Rep takes the will of the people to Congress, a Sen the state’s business; but what “people” should a rep represent? One function of the congress is to check itself. But, in your mind, how does the will of the people in the House play out? It’s a pretty serious question, I think, especially given our complicated systems.

    In terms of that complication, one of the things both libs and cons agree on is the “way” medical care is just administered and its overall design. But someone needs to frame that redesign. Was that on the agenda? I disagree that republicans (as a monobody) stand on personal accountability and self-responsibility as these are values mutually respected by most reasonable people, as are the two values you attribute to the dems. I think it deserves greater detail to show where in “republican only” agendas such values are at play, if this is an arguable point in your estimation.

    Big government for example is in the eye of the beholder. If a conservative suddenly claimed that big agro should grow corn all on its own without big government subsidy, then “big government” would suddenly be redefined. Both Dems and Repubs love their big Government (as do I), but “conservatives” have sold the American people a very successful different story.

  5. gibb says:

    Though likely unfeasible (though it might’ve cost a lot less than paying for the political pressure meetings) I would have liked to have seen a popular vote, the issues one by one offered to the voters themselves to determine. For example, in CT, voter registration figures (October 2009/active) are R 412,746 (20%); D 751,612 (37%); Unaffiliated & Minor Parties 853, 697 (42%) and yet all five of our Representatives are Democrats. And this vote was based on political affiliation rather than will of the people. There were Republicans voting one way and even more Democrats being just as stubborn voting the opposite. God only knows how the holdouts were finally broken. Polls produced at a college versus one produced by Gallup are going to be completely different and yet as seen in the 2008 election results, the balance of 60/40 one way or the other can be construed as a fairly close call whereas a 48/52 and 52/48 is even closer. Polls depend on who is asking, and who is being asked. I got an A in Statistics, I know how things are done.

    The problem I saw with the healthcare reform bill(s) were that because of cockamamie legalese with intent to both clarify and cloak, almost nobody could comprehend the whole thing. A lot of good ideas were in there, but also some that are clearly bribes for votes and pacification of the large insurance companies (I’m running out to buy stock right now). Instead of spending money to reform, they simply expanded opportunities for abuse. The problems we have had for years were the uninsured or underinsured (Medicaid took reasonable care of the very poor), and that only because prices have gone through the roof–and I say prices, not costs–and that’s what money should have been spent to look into. When a medical service performed can cost xx dollars and yet be satisfied by less than half that when an insurance company is paying, something’s wrong. And much could be modified: a 26 year-old needs his parents’ insurance plan yet at 16 can drive and have sex and vote at 18? What sense was the highly touted “pre-existing condition” clause when it only applies to children?

    Obviously, this is more than a partisan war. This gets up real close and personal with some people who are always happy to have somebody else pay their way (government has a face, and it’s your tax-paying neighbor) and those who are angry about ending up paying their way. The rich are rich not because they’re stupid, and the corporations will also find a way to bypass any taxation. Healthcare for all is a must, but this was nowhere near the way to do it. And as I’ve said time and time again, it’s all in the perception based on experience and learning.

  6. gibb says:

    Oh and the fleas? Bloodsuckers. Have you ever watched how quickly they jump off a dead dog?

  7. I’m not sure the source of the opposition, actually. Possibly the source of the opposition is the fact that their are Democrats in control, and the opposition doesn’t like that. That’s most likely the case.

    Of course, the reason for the healthcare legislation is precisely that; the Democrats are in control. It’s been stated many times that this bill is the conclusion of efforts begun at the end of the New Deal, and I think it has been a goal since it was not done before Roosevelt died (not that I know whether it was a goal for him). The Dems have, unfortunately for them, never been in a position to pass such legislation until now. So interestingly, they are trying to pass an ideal from sixty or seventy years ago, so we could actually call them conservative if we wished.

    The source of my angst with government these days is that it is broken, and was never operating correctly. For the very reasons that Susan illustrated with her numbers about Connecticut, many voters’ ballots are literally cast out. The Electoral College does not represent voters; it’s not true that he who votes for the losing candidate in his state should not have voted at all, but rather, his vote is actually switched and counted for the winner of the majority of votes. That is insulting to my intelligence, and violates the will of the people. It was necessary to have such a system when votes were counted by hand and transported by carriage, as it was far easier to move the data around that way. It’s no longer necessary. For the record, though I couldn’t stand the thought of Al Gore winning the 2000 election, he won it, and should have been the president. And it’s happened either one or two other times that way, so we should be seriously paying attention to that fact.

    But the real root of my problem goes far beyond that. As Susan said, the senators and representatives vote often along party lines, but even more often on how they feel on a subject. That is a violation of the public trust. Our representatives are so named because they are there to represent us, not their own opinions. Therefore they are obliged to vote in a way consistent with how the majority of their constituents feel on a piece of legislation, regardless of their own opinions. No effort is ever made to find out what the majority of constituents feel; both parties think that either they know what we think, or more likely that we don’t really know what we want so they will decide for us. That goes against the very existence and reasons for formation of the United States.

    We’ve essentially, through our apathy, created the world’s largest oligarchy. Everyone in Washington is so out of touch with America that it would be funny, if it weren’t so sad.

    My disappointment with Obama is that he asserted (vehemently) that he would be different. I knew better, but I’m chagrined to have been proven right, again. He claims to understand the plight of the middle class, and states that he understands that our number one concern is jobs and the economy, yet he’s spent trillions of dollars since his inauguration on programs that will do little to solve either problem. I’ve been wondering for the past year why he doesn’t undergo huge projects, like the construction one that was just passed (but for far too little money).

    Why not repair all the bridges in the country? There is a bridge on I-95 in Pawtucket, Rhode Island that has had a sign up forbidding any vehicle more than 22 tons to cross the bridge since about two months after the Minnesota bridge disaster. Since that time, state police officers have sat on either side of the bridge all day, pulling over large vehicles that cross the bridge and assessing them a $3,000 fine. No effort has been made to rebuild the bridge as far as I can see, though there is scaffolding up. I have wondered if we’re just going to wait until the thing collapses and more people die before we address that problem. Probably.

    Why not change the country to the metric system? The amount of workers necessary to change every highway sign in the country would be staggering.

    Why not change us from an above-ground, accident-prone electrical distribution system to an underground model, like the Europeans use, resulting in the lack of massive power grid failures due to storms?

    Each of these things would take years to implement, need hundreds of thousands of additional workers, and infuse billions or trillions into the economy. Why not do something like that?

    The answer, sadly is because neither Democrats nor Republicans really give a damn about any of that. They only care about appeasing special interest groups. So I say the American people form a special interest group called “We want all of you to get the hell out,” and lobby them relentlessly. (That name’s not very catchy; I’ll have to come up with something else.)

    At this point, I figure that if we replaced everyone in Washington, it couldn’t possibly be any worse.

    Oh, and while we’re at it, let’s put term limits on the Legislative and Judicial. Unlimited rule for those groups destroys the purpose for term limits for the Executive, as the real power lies with the other two branches. Furthermore, those unlimited terms create the arrogance that these people have.

  8. Steve says:

    I’d suggest that the projects you advocate would “create” jobs. Now, how do you, as a citizen, get your reps to get on with it? Or, as a recent article in Time hinted at, will private business leaders just take the ball and go with it. Hm, interesting.

  9. Steve says:

    But, I would also suggest that it is difficult to actually conceive of the government as you define it (an oligarchy) in a country the size that we’ve become. Here, a good analogue is anglo saxon culture, small enough to lead, until things get too big.

  10. “Now, how do you, as a citizen, get your reps to get on with it?”

    That’s just the thing. Unless you are a big business, or a major lobbying organization, our reps simply will not listen. Or rather, they’ll listen, looking at us with wide eyes and giving us “Mm hmm,” and “Uh huh,” until we’re blue in the face, but they will not hear us at all because they’re all lost. They think their power is granted on their opinion on matters like healthcare, gun control, immigration, and defense. And while those matters are important, most of America simply doesn’t care as much about those items as they care about the economy and jobs. As it stands, both parties should just do nothing, because when they try and fix the economy, they inevitably do the wrong things and make things worse. Everyone says it all the time; create jobs, build the economy. Then they go forth and do everything in their power to avoid creating jobs and instead create more tax burden. Backwards.

    “Here, a good analogue is anglo saxon culture, small enough to lead, until things get too big.”

    Are you saying that we’ve outgrown our governmental structure? Possibly, but I don’t think so. Rather, our government should change its methods. Town hall meetings simply will not get it done, though it makes 100 people feel a little bit better, like they had a voice. Rather, our government should be embracing technology to gather information from its citizens. Healthcare should have gone to a national special election. Then none of us could bitch if we didn’t like the way the vote went. By taking the power into their own hands, the politicians create dissent.

    Some would say that a national vote on such a matter would be a disaster due to failure in the voting system, and they’d be right. Our voting systems are archaic and malfunctioning, and I frankly wonder if they ever worked at all. They need to be fixed. And changing to an electronic chad counter is not necessarily the right way to go. That’s just applying technology to a failed system. I’d rather we make a new one.