Republican Healthcare Reform Purgatory

The Republicans keep coming back to healthcare. At the rate they are going, they will match their attempts to repeal and replace under Obama, and with equal results.

Something in the Republican psyche keeps telling them to make this happen, and that mantra apparently makes them forget that they couldn’t get to yes. So they start again, only to remember that the deal isn’t there.

The main problem here is that they haven’t started over. They keep trying to revive a very broken approach, and the blame there is largely on the High-Fructose Corn syrup, err, House Freedom Caucus. That bloc wants a full repeal of the ACA. And they’ve been pushing and shoving their sugar-free colleagues, trying to get them to agree to a move that would be harmful to their own interests.

Before the ACA there was a vibrant scamsurance industry that sold people policies that wouldn’t pay for a lot of things, or where they could kick people off while pocketing their premiums if the person ever got sick. It’s not clear that the HFC is funded by that unsavory element, but it is undeniable that their legislative desires would return us to those bad old days.

If the GOP wants to govern responsibly, the first step is to reject that approach to healthcare. So far, they’ve tried to balance things out, and so far they’ve gotten nowhere. That’s because they need the HFC to pass the bill unless they work with Democrats. Working with the opposition is entirely possible, but they would have to accept a much smaller tax cut for the wealthy.

They would also have to swallow their pride, after going it alone so long. They would have to explain to their constituents that the idea that all Democrats are scum just doesn’t hold water, and, really, they are patriots and have some good ideas. Yuck.

And so the Republicans find themselves in this loop. They really want to cut those taxes for the wealthy, so they can use them to pay for a larger tax overhaul for the wealthy. Meanwhile, Democrats have jumped the gun, already starting to point out that tax reform should include the question of how it would affect Trump’s taxes, necessitating the release of his past returns.

There are actual insurance companies that would like to know how this shakes out. There are people who buy insurance that want to know if they should prepare to be uncovered for a period of time and cancel that skydiving trip. But the Republicans are still pretending that they can govern without some faction or other giving in.

They are pretending that 24 million more uncovered individuals is something people will accept. That they can humor the HFC. That all of this doesn’t end in tears unless they stop these headfakes toward reform and actually start over and tell the HFC that either they work with the rest of the GOP on a moderate reform, or the GOP has no choice but to work with the Democrats.

In all visible scenarios, the GOP faces an electoral reckoning. But they’re the party in power, so their best-case is a responsible, moderate change that makes things better.


Gun Issues

When the nation was reformed under the US Constitution, the country ratified the Second Article of Amendment of the Constitution, which stipulated the right to be armed in defense of the nation. The US Supreme Court has ruled that this right includes the individual’s right to be armed, outside of a militia (roughly because, if the individual is not armed, how can the militia really be so).

But we have random shootings happening, and we wonder what we should do about it. Some claim that we should limit the amount of automatically fed ammunition that firearms support. That we should pick and choose which guns should be sold. That we should have waiting periods and background checks. Others say we should focus on mental health care: that people who kill people are obviously disturbed, and they should be treated to prevent these incidents.

There are a lot of guns in the country, most of which are owned by law-abiding folks who are reasonably responsible. They want to keep owning guns, keep going hunting, keep target practicing. They have a bit of a fear or concern of government encroachment of these activities, too.

But nobody wants more people shot. We just haven’t figured out how to act. So we wait. We wait for the breakthrough that will let us do something, anything, about the problem, or around the problem.

The gun control crowd thinks that it’s insane we can’t just crack down on guns. Make them be registered, make them harder to obtain, they say.

The gun owning crowd thinks that it’s insane we can’t just arm everybody. Make them ubiquitous, make anyone looking to shoot someone worry about being shot right back, they say.

Then there are a lot of other issues that get brought up in the mix. How should the media cover such tragedy? How did the candidates respond? How many times does this have to happen before we try something? Anything?

I’m not sure what the ultimate solution is, but a couple of things do stand out:

The gun lobby, if they want to keep their guns, should be leading the charge to try to get non-control solutions enacted. The fact that they only whine and repeat tired lines about their cold, dead hands means they’re begging to have their guns taken away, rightly or not.

The pro-gun folks are constantly on defense, because these are gun issues. Barring some major change in culture and language, these will remain gun issues. Moreover, they fail to support reform of any sort, mainly out of fear that if and when it fails to produce the desired result, they will have a harder time blocking gun control.

So, their strategy is to do nothing, even though these are issues about which they choose to concern themselves.

The gun control side should push divestment and other economic leverage strategies if they believe their cause is just. They don’t have the legislative route, but money is louder than law anyway. The fact that there is no high-profile divestment and boycott is an equal sign of complacency as the gun lobby’s inaction.

But they don’t do that. The control side is a lot less organized and vocal. The fact that they do not have a legislative caucus, capable of legislating, means they feel like they can’t do anything. They haven’t found the traction to build any sort of national movement, and they’re as afraid as the gun folks that if they try a big push and fall, they will lose any credibility and set their movement back even more.

So we have a stalemate of inaction. Neither side dares to actually do anything meaningful. And so the only people doing anything are the shooters, with their meaningless violent acts that bring horror and dismay to us time after time.

But, if either side acts, the stalemate will get broken, and something will change (successfully or not). If both sides act as above, the stalemate will still get broken, and something will change (successfully or not). This seems to be a case where any action would be preferable to no action. Either side, literally doing just about anything, that would be something.

Waiting for Congress to elect a speaker, to swing to the Democrats, to figure out that none of us call post offices by their pet names so they might as well stop bothering, that’s all futile. Congress is proving that although we do need government, we can get by without a legislature. We won’t do great things, but we won’t just fall apart if the GOP decides it has better things to do than govern.


Reorganizing a Government

After the second world war, the military of the United States got an overhaul (1947). It realigned the military structures, including splitting off the aerial force into its own department outside of the army. (The act, The National Security Act of 1947, also established the National Security Council, the Central Intelligence Agency, and a subsequent amendment renamed the then-named National Military Establishment to the Department of Defense.)

Businesses reorganize from time to time, as well. One of the features of reorganization is that they almost always come later than they should have come. Another of the features is that they invariably piss off more people than they should (aside: most of the people initially pissed off find out that it wasn’t actually painful, and those suffering real pain from the changes mostly do so in silence).

But it is past time for some realignments of the overall government of the United States. Indeed, we’re reaching the springtime of this century and there’s nary a peep calling for a wholesale spring cleaning.

Looking at the facts of this nation’s development, it was never devised as a superpower. It was never envisioned as the major economic powerhouse it has grown to be. The founders expected the nation to prosper, but it has done so beyond their wildest dreams.

And that’s a bad thing, because? Because when you build an engine that you intend to be a workhorse, to serve its people for as long as you can foresee, you build it one way. And when it turns out that engine is now expected to (eventually) steward in a new world order on its back, carrying not just its own people, but the people of the whole world, that engine will turn around, punch you square in the nose, and trample off to the nearest bar for a nice long drunk.

Not that this nation does need to carry the whole world. It shouldn’t and can’t.

The point is merely that the country wasn’t built for its current purposes. And the sooner we admit that and actually look to change it or change our purposes, the happier we will be for it. We don’t want to be half way to the beach only to figure out that our luggage rack is now shaped like a satellite dish.

How do we realign the government, with such dire inability to do anything as it is? Ah, that’s the beauty of the thing. We don’t really have a choice. If we wait long enough, that is. Sooner or later, the wheels come off and we’re in a ditch. And then who can say no? That’s how it usually seems to work. But maybe we can agree that we’re headed for a ditch and pull over, fix things, and then throw a nice party for ourselves.

In the future I’ll try to drum up some specific ideas for each of the branches, specific ways (some old, some new) to realign the government. In the meantime, feel free to think about it yourself.


Conflict and the Demands of Protests

With the Occupation of Wall Street by the dissatisfied masses, the media poses: what do they want?

But examining the impetus for the protest requires a larger context, of conflict in general.

Conflict represents an imbalance in resources, always.  Whether it’s a dominance fight in the wild, where the resource of control needs allotting, or in warfare where the resources vital to the function of society need equilibration, conflict means forcing a decision.

When protesters take to the street, they seek redress.  They do so in a fundamentally civil fashion, though, which separates protest from riot.  Where protest erupts into riot, the cause may be found in the fact that yelling and amassing of people also occurs during violent outbursts, and police conditioning makes them wary, while protester conditioning shows authority to have reactionary tendencies to lash out.

But, again, the question of what the protest wants.  What do they demand?

Excepting the most radical views, conflict wants only a fair shake.  They may believe in one set of outcomes, but they will accept less.  That less is simply a compromise.

Some of the protesters want environmental concerns to be addressed.  They may truly want the end of fossil fuels, for example.  But they will accept a more modest move to minimize the fuel use.

The unemployed want full employment, but they will accept more minor concessions and a general shift in the ambiance of the job market.  For example, they would be glad to see employers begin to give them more feedback regardless of the hiring decision.  They want work, but even a simple response that they are on the right track would be immensely helpful.  Instead, they typically hear nothing, and the lack of reinforcing their behavior is discouraging.

The people with bad mortgage debt would like nothing more than to be free of their bindings, but would feel much better if the banks would simply agree to a refinancing and would set them up with a single point of contact that would provide them with a sense of certainty that their concerns could be voiced in a reasonable manner.

When you go in for surgery, the surgeon is responsible for not only the actual procedure, but for explaining it to the patient.  There’s an accountable party.  But the fact is it doesn’t have to be the surgeon, as long as it’s one particular person that you reliably deal with.

As it stands, the business culture has become disconnected. And that’s no magic.  That’s just bad, collusive dealings.  Dealings that shouldn’t have happened but for irregular leverage.

When you buy a product and have feedback, if you contact the manufacturers, the vast majority of the time they are very helpful, going so far as to give you highly technical details and explanations. They know their products, they work hard on them, and they like to hear unsolicited feedback.

The exceptions are restricted to a few high profile organizations that are more trouble to deal with, typically banks and wireless carriers top that list.  They are service companies, which rely on lock-ins and the like, for continued payment.  Often their service does not require their ongoing diligence to guarantee your satisfaction as a means to ensure payment.

That creates a malformed relationship, much like that between prisoners and guards.  The bank’s loan to you represents a dominance over you, so they feel entitled to bother you and push you around.  See also the Stanford Prison Experiment.

What the protest represents there, is a call against that sort of dominance.  Wall Street represents a continuous tweaking of our entire economy.  When they say jump, we all brace for impact.  But we know that’s an imbalanced relationship.  We know that the government gives them preferential treatment to our detriment.

The same thing with the oil companies, where accidents in natural environments mean they try to escape with as little pain as possible.  We recognize that as a domination of our system, which calls for a change.

So what’s the outcome?  What’s the demand?

A fair shake.  Period.  That the people in charge of writing the laws and understanding/improving the system as a whole (both inside and outside of government) actually pay attention, like the manufacturer when you give feedback.  That Wall Street recognize the vitality of Main Street to their existence.  That the oil companies recognize that Main Street is why they exist, and not the other way around.

It’s really that simple.  They just want a level playing field.  They don’t want profitable companies to be subsidized.  They don’t want socialism, which a major imbalance of wealth represents.  That’s right, having a minority hold a majority of the wealth is just as destructive to capitalism as central-planning by government.  Proper capitalism requires and thrives on distribution of wealth.

I apologize if these ideas are not clear enough.  They are still developing/forming.  I will try to refine them in future posts.