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Politically Incorrect

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Politically Incorrect

A mandate for destruction

We’re moving into a new political season, and the voters have spoken—although nobody seems to be quite sure what it is they said, not even the voters themselves. The closest anyone seems to come is that now-iconic “Network” phrase: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore!” And who cares if no one can actually define what “it” is?

The Republicans, and the tea-party candidates who ran as Republicans even though they might or might not agree with the party ideology, ran their campaigns on this very principle. They were the party of “No, we can’t,” but no we can’t isn’t actually a vision of how we’re supposed to go about fixing whatever that undefined “it” is that has people so sick and tired. In fact, most of the candidates I listened to or read about acted like very good grant writers: “Let me explain how what I’ve always done actually fits whatever it is you’re concerned about.” With “it” such a nebulous prospect, candidates were free to argue that more government/less government, more taxes/less taxes, more regulation/less regulation was the answer to all our ills without having to bother to explain just exactly how that was going to translate into actions that would make us all feel better.

Let me make a prediction here. Simply undoing—or trying to undo—what’s been done in the last two years is not going to be the answer.

The great public outcry, which began during the lead-up to our last election season, was focused around the bailout of the financial industry, so analysts and pundits are now, of course, saying the voters have spoken... about health care reform. And not just analysts and pundits. Our likely new Speaker of the House, Ohio Representative John Boehner, boiled the election results down to a simple statement that, “The American people were concerned about the government takeover of health care.”

Which wasn’t, by the way, about health care at all but was instead a focus on how to make health insurance available to everyone; that’s a whole different dog in the hunt. Given that per capita spending (that’s the average amount spent per person) in the U.S. on health care is running about $5,771—for a $2.5 trillion total—every year, it’s easy to see why this is a concern as none but the wealthiest of us can actually afford to pay that. Yet we are paying for it, in one way or another.

I am not hopeful that a turnover in elected officials will somehow trigger a discussion about the real underlying issues we face. After all, it hasn’t in the past. Every election cycle we throw a whole bunch of the ‘bums’ out and it’s supposed to be some kind of mandate, and then the next cycle comes along and that wasn’t good enough so we throw ‘em out again.

So let’s go back to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the dreaded Obama Care). Will the new Republican majority actually call for a return to the practice of insurance companies denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions? I doubt it. Will it insist that children must be kicked off their parents’ health care coverage as soon as they graduate high school, instead of letting them make it through college and get a job before they have to pay for coverage? Somehow I don’t think they’re going to discover they have a “mandate” for that. No, I think they’re going to focus on the requirement for large businesses to provide health insurance, and add loopholes whereby people will not be required to have insurance of their own, and leave it at that. None of which, let me point out, is going to result in anyone getting a job, or having more money to spend right now, and if they can’t make that happen, we’ll be throwing the Republicans out in the next round of elections.

The new tea-party candidates, however, throw an interesting twist into this mix. For the most part, they’re not just the party of “no we can’t,” they’re the party of “and we shouldn’t.” Many of them, if not all of them, seem to believe that collective government is the actual problem we face, and their goal is to eliminate the ability of government to act. They’ve started by advocating for state’s rights—the federal government shouldn’t address a problem because only the state should rightly have the power to do so—yet they carry on this same belief at the state level, wanting to gut programs that do, well... I guess anything at all. There seems to be no belief whatsoever in a collective good that trumps the individual.

Perhaps our best bet is that they succeed, and manage to destroy everything that is good about this country in the process. If they do so, it’s possible the electorate as a whole will respond, because Americans often seem to show their best face in extreme adversity.

The odds of this happening seem pretty good, as most of the major issues we face right now are not even national in nature, but global, and require a strong collective government to address.

Climate change is precipitating more and more issues faced at the local level. We are so busy spending our energy arguing over the cause that we’ve spent no time in addressing our response, and it’s clear that responding is something we’re going to have to do. Extreme weather events simply don’t follow artificial borders, and the ability to address such events at the local level is generally nil.

Public health, an area devoid of powerful advocates, is another major issue breathing down our necks. The micro world, where viruses and bacteria reign supreme, is poised to explode on an unsuspecting populace who simply are not prepared to respond. We have already reached a tipping point on this one, and our lack of support for collective answers is one that will be biting us in the butt sooner rather than later.

And the financial industry, which demonstrated so amply to us all that it has no real concern for the collective, is still running amok. Somehow we think it’s all going to work out okay if “the economy” just gets back on track; if Average Joe finds a job and has a paycheck he can spend to buy another big-screen HDTV, everything’s gonna be hunky dory.

But the economy isn’t really based on things like buying big screen televisions; instead, it’s a vast Las Vegas where most of the money doesn’t even exist. Like this example: the Bank for International Settlements reported the total market for derivatives (not HDTVs, you’ll note) is one quadrillion dollars. (That’s one thousand trillion by the way.) Compare that to the GDP of the world, which is only $60 trillion.

But the voters have spoken, and it’s all about repealing health care reform. Just ask John Boehner.

And God help us all.


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Landon Otis

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Politics, elections, public health, health care, climate change, global warming, financial crisis, economy, MRSA

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