Categories
analogies

Analogies: Better Pocket Protectors

This is a general analogy. It can apply to police reform, but it’s generally applicable.

The basic analogy is that people used to wear shirts with breast pockets and keep pens in them. Those pens would leak, and it would ruin the shirts. So some people took to wearing pocket protectors—small containers that would be inserted into the pocket and if a pen leaked, it would catch the ink and keep the shirt safe.

The analogy is is for a policy deficiency, where rather than fixing the problem of the leaky pens, there’s a call by some for better pocket protectors. That is, the source of the problem, leaky pens, is not addressed. What are the conditions that lead to leaks in pens? Shoddy manufacturing, poor storage conditions, whatever. But these things, prevention of the conditions that lead to ink being spilled, are left alone. The focus is placed on better pocket protectors.

So, for climate change, for example, the pocket protector might be things like doing geographic surveys to figure out what land will be inhabitable and arable in the future and relocating people, but otherwise not doing anything about carbon pollution.

Or, for police and justice reform, it’s calling for more police and police militarization, rather than redevelopment of distressed areas, better social policies, etc.

Or for wildfire policy, it’s moving mountains to fight fires rather than doing controlled burns and groundfuel management.

For immigration policy, the wall is a very expensive and mostly useless pocket protector. Lacking policies that both encourage orderly immigration and economic stability in other parts of the world is a good way to find out exactly how useless a pocket protector it is.

For pandemic policy, containment was supposed to be the strategy to get control over the caseload while alternatives became available, including testing and tracing. That’s right—sometimes, and usually for a limited time, a pocket protector does make sense. We put a hardcore pocket protector in place to give time to work on tracking leaky pens. But many of the governors and president never actually worked on tracking leaky pens. They removed the pocket protector anyway, and now we see ink running over much of the nation.

We’re also not too picky when it comes to pandemic pocket protectors—we would love to cease every case and be free of this plague, but honestly if a combinations of masks and scheduling and tracing, or a vaccine, or whatever reasonable and practicable policy combination can simply lower the rate of transmission so that it is stopped, that’s what any reasonable government should be working toward.

Or consider the problem of nuclear waste. It is currently stored in what was intended as temporary storage at the power facilities, and a permanent storage was planned, but has never opened. Given the nature and longevity of that particular sort of pen, a pocket protector might be the only viable solution for long-term protection.


The main purpose of this post is to highlight the connection between disparate policy areas. That the same patterns exist in various policies is worth understanding. When possible, common principles should be brought to bear in policy matters and therefore more consistency can be had in regulation and governance.

The particular choice of a pocket protector, instead of, say, tupperware or antimatter containment units, is not particularly important. Depending on the policy area, a different container might be more appropriate.

The characteristics of a containment policy are necessary for the application of the analogy. Taxes and spending policies are seldom meant to be outright containment, and so are ill suited to this analogy.


On an unrelated note, the term reopened early is incorrect. The timing of their opening is not at issue, but the condition in which they did so. Reopened unready would be more apt. The main point here is that these places delaying their opening wasn’t going to magically prepare them any more than they were, and their lack of preparation is the flaw, not how soon or late they took an unprepared action.

Categories
society

Why Don’t Republicans Want the Last Word on Healthcare?

The Democrats took their crack at major reform with the ACA, and since January the Republicans have been seeking to answer it (after their long chants of “Repeal and replace”). But the answers they have produced so far cannot and will not be the final say on the matter. They have to know that. The question is why?

The simplest answer is that they cannot come together on a reply. Their coalition is too broad and divided to give the answer that would be coherent, so they are stuck with simply saying “No” to the Democrats. Rather than admitting that the country needs universal coverage and figuring out how to spread the cost across the concerns, they are stuck simply reducing what the Democrats did.

Those concerns:

  1. Providers’ profits
  2. Taxes of the rich
  3. Taxes of the non-rich
  4. Coverage for the vulnerable (elderly, poor, disabled, etc.)
  5. Insurers’ profits

The Democrats spoke with the ACA, saying: “We will limit insurer profits, increase some taxes on the wealthy, and provide coverage for the vulnerable.” It was a cohesive statement.

But the Republicans are currently saying something like: “We will increase insurers profits, reduce some taxes on the wealthy, and reduce coverage for the vulnerable.” They’re just gainsaying. This is not an argument. It’s mere contradiction. Someone call up Monty Python.

The Republicans have to know that Democrats, next time, will not just repeat their previous statement when they enact healthcare reform. They will probably say, instead: “We will grandfather existing plans, but everybody else goes to a single-payer system paid for by taxes and with costs controlled by negotiating with providers.”

What will the Republicans say to that? “Socialized medicine?” When people will still pay at least part of their premiums, a la Medicare? When the CBO will say that it increases coverage and decreases costs?

This is the Republicans’ best shot at answering the Democrats, but their answer is weak. They may pass it anyway, but it will not be the last word, and they know it.