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Tuesday
Nov062012

No matter who wins, the voters lose

And the loss is self-inflicted.

Already conversations are underway about presidential race for year 2016. More often than not, voters who complain and write off the political process will not engage with other voters in the effort required to draft a candidate to run for office.

Instead, most voters will wait around over the next four years, looking in from the outside as party leaders, loaded campaign contributors and political operatives decide what candidates will be "viable"--worthy of their support, primarily; then there is that secondary consideration--will voters support them?

For once can't we, the people, do the foot work for a presidential candidate that makes the exploratory committee and party machinery obsolete? Voters have the numbers to make this a reality; lacking only the coordination and political will.

How goes the cliche? If you don't vote you have no right to complain. And complaining never drew any voter closer to the decision making process that nominates and ultimately elects a candidate president.

Saturday
Nov032012

GOP: relativism's standard bearer

Leave it to quick thinking children who can take advantage of a chaotic situation--when adults caring for them aren't paying attention--to achieve aims not in the interest of the whole family. The fallacious quality of Republican political discourse over the last several years invites a comparison to such juveniles. The hazard of such behavior is that truth and accountability endure such erosion so as to undermine a citizen's trust in elected officials, as well as the institutions they are selected to manage.

Take the case of Gov. Mitt Romney's 2012 run for president. Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi provides a summary of Romney's political campaign career to date. Capturing the kaleidoscopic quality of his campaign's talking points, or rather, allegations, Taibbi dispenses with the niceties offered by most journalists covering (for) the Romney-Ryan campaign.

[I]ndependent voters are not reading those dense commentaries [about Romney's tax plan and jobs proposal], and instead are responding more to the general vibe surrounding Romney's campaign, which is clearly benefiting from the fact that he's being so aggressive that the whole world is left scrambling to react to his bullshit.

If anyone else is as mystified about the quality and direction Republican political discourse has taken, look no further than to master political operator Karl Rove as the source of a novel messenging paradigm. As an unnamed Bush administration official Ron Suskind's New York Times Magazine piece published in the fall of 2004, Rove sets the journalist straight about the new prevailing political reality. In Suskind's own words:

The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality...." "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors… and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

"Creating our own reality" works well for children's play. However, in the world of adult responsibility with life-or-death consequences, this way of thinking dispenses with the burden of accountability—a crucial element to any functioning democracy.

In the case of the Romney campaign, nothing says, "We create our own reality" like switching your campaign platform or simply telling lies about your opponent—and doing either one with a chronic frequency. It illustrates to voters and everyone else concerned that you have little interest in accountability. You play by a separate set of rules than the ones everyone else must obey.

There wouldn't be much else to say about the moral hazard that "making it up as you go along" poses to our republic—except how troubling it is to watch a solid 25 per cent or more of voters willing to overlook the prominent role "creat[ing] our own reality" has taken in Republican political discourse.

Friday
Oct052012

Vouchercare, schmouchercare

President Obama arguably scored only one point in the first debate with Republican opponent, Mitt Romney. It was getting the former Massachusetts governor to admit that his team's proposed Medicare reform amounts to providing a $6000 annual voucher for the under-55 crowd to buy private insurance.

Given how high health insurance rates leap from year to year, the vouchercare scheme merits that band-aid-slapped-on-a-hemorrhaging-wound kind of metaphor.

What such policy debates always overlook is the assumption that health care should be dispensed primarily as a commodity rather than as a necessity.

Even President Obama affirmed that the conversation would steer clear of questioning healthcare's profit-driven structure. Marking a crucial difference between Medicare and the health insurance industry, the president acknowledged that "private insurers have to make a profit. Nothing wrong with that; that’s what they do."

Certainly, nothing wrong with that--unless one considers the industry's practice of denying coverage to patients with "pre-existing" conditions; or worse, refusing to pay for life-saving treatments.

"All the incentives are toward less medical care, because--the less care they give them, the more money they make." So said White House counsel John Erlichman to President Richard Nixon back on February 17, 1971, about the beauty of Kaiser Permanente's HMO model. Consider it as a pivotal moment in the history of health care in the U.S.

The Nixon administration had looked to the HMO as means of containing inflating cost of medical care, without ever questioning whether or not it should be embedded within a transaction for profit.

This is the starting point for any serious conversation about health care affordability that can produce action-worthy conclusions.

A sincere debate begins by posing the following question: If private industry's primary aim is profit making, how will it muster the self-restraint needed to deliver health care at an affordable cost?

Wednesday
Sep262012

Andy Williams (1927 - 2012)

 

The most fitting tribute I could muster on the recent news that Andy Williams has joined Henry and Johnny in crooner heaven, was to post my favorite cover of "Moon River".

Tuesday
Sep252012

What the NFL referee lockout tells us about libertarian thought

On a couple of levels it's been fun watching the NFL replacement referee disaster unfold. The league is trying to stick it to the unionized professionals while sending in what appear as rank amateurs to officiate regular season games.

It also works as an illustration of why letting the market do its thing (a.k.a. laissez-faire) is a terrible way to run an economy. Business and commerce need compentent referees to achieve a fair, accountable outcome from trade. Letting the players go at it without oversight falls far short of assuring orderly transactions. Weak, ineffective regulation is an invitation to mishap or mayhem--preventing a just and fair resolution. Go ask the Greenbay Packers' fans.

James Madison said it far more eloquently in Federalist #51: "If men were angels, no government would be necessary." Let's fit that statement for a capitalist context: "If market players participated fairly, no regulation would be required." The 2008 financial crisis proved this wasn't the case. Why can't libertarians grasp this?