Government of the Voters

The latest special election, in Pennsylvania’s 18th (a vanishing district that will not exist for the midterms this November), was exceedingly close. Anybody would expect that someone elected to represent such a district would take that lesson to heart and respect that the voters want someone pretty middling. Same goes for the 2016 election and the presidency.

The number one political threat is that we can’t seem to recognize the meaning of elections. They aren’t sporting events. To the victor belongs the spoils, but to the nation belongs the nation.

To put it another way, if you and a group of humans were trying to decide what to spend communal money on, about half of you wanting a sewing machine and the other half wanting a rowboat, upon voting and realizing how evenly divided you were, you might opt to get a portable color television set, instead.

America deserves a portable color television set, God damn it. We’re long past the time when to get it, never mind that analog signals no longer exist and people can stream video on their compacts and the underside of the brims of their baseball caps. Compromise.

The main impediment to compromise is the same thing that keeps these elections so close: both sides want their choice. Politicians fear that compromise will break their voters’ hearts, and they will be scorned for it. They will lose their precious seats at the table where nothing useful gets done. But in striking real deals (and not the president’s two-for-me-none-for-you schemes), some of them will be spared. The ones that are capable of actual governance will generally get reelected. Moderates and Democrats will vote for Republicans that are willing to admit to reality, and moderates and Republicans will vote for Democrats that don’t demand the cosmos.

Now, leadership is a problem. McConnell and Ryan are not willing to allow for compromise. The president calls for it, then lists his demands and then backtracks and changes them and then gives up and blames Obama. The first step toward compromise in the Congress must be to change leadership. It must be to recognize the pluralist majority is stronger than either party.

But sooner or later, America will have its portable color TV, whether Trump, McConnell, Ryan, the Russian Federation, or anybody else agrees or not. We want it, we deserve it, we can afford it, and we will have it.


Trade the Rich Their Taxes for Healthcare

Given the amount of control the wealthy have over the state and federal governments, this might be the best market-driven solution to healthcare. The basic outline is that the rich will pay less in taxes (limited to the portion paying for health-related services) as healthcare costs decrease and coverage levels increase. Since they care enough about taxes to make the Republican Party try to pass these bloodthirsty bills (AHCA and BCRA), we should let the rich take control over their own tax destiny.

Now, it’s a little more complicated than described, because there are more rich people in blue states that already make a bigger effort to increase coverage and decrease costs than many red states do. So the mechanism can’t be “if you live in a state that does better, you pay less tax.” That would also not work due to venue shopping, where the rich would just establish residency in states where they would pay less federal tax (some may already do this, if they can deduct state tax from federal and federal from state; but that depends on whether they can control which state their income comes from).

But the basic outline is there. And it could very well be bipartisan if the lever moves both ways. That is, if failure to diminish costs and increase coverage means they pay more tax, the Democrats might be able to deal with a bit of deregulation and help pass it.

Other sticking points would be that there would have to be a fairly rigid definition of coverage (something the Republicans seek to undo with their evil pair of bills), and there would have to be other broad strokes about existing conditions and bans on lifetime and annual maxima. But if the rich hate paying tax that much, they should be drooling at the chance.

Given we pay much more per capita and we don’t even have universal coverage, there should be a lot of cost savings available that the rich can tap to reduce their tax burden. They can buy all the hospitals and streamline them. They can focus on prevention and interventions for patients with high-cost conditions. They can buy the pharmaceutical companies and slash back the price hikes we’ve seen in recent years. Invest heavily in automation.

But one way or another, this country needs affordable care for everybody. If the rich want to get lower taxes in the bargain, I suggest that Congress lets them pull all of us up by their bootstraps.