Wednesday, April 3, 2013

American Politics: Why Do We Solve Our Problems with Complex Solutions?

At the ER: And Republicans want to perpetuate this?

Let's face it. Obamacare is a complex mess. We all try to unravel its intent over time, and it seems that it will make life better once it all kicks in -- this post is not meant to explain it -- but why is it so complicated in the first place?

My theory: American policy is often created by the need to feed the skimmers, open holes in the fabric of our cultural and financial universe for the Big Grift.

Would a single-payer healthcare system, paid for by a fair taxation regime, with the government controlling rates to drive down healthcare costs be vastly superior? Where's the fun in that? With our current system -- and continuing under Obamacare, we let entities known as "insurance companies" skim profit off the top. With our system we limit our ability to negotiate drug prices so drug companies can skim profits through overcharging, then blackmailing us with "we'll stop making these drugs if you don't pay us enough."

Imagine a world in which petroleum companies are among the richest in the world, and then imagine a political system that gives away oil leases like they were after-dinner mints and pays around a quarter of a trillion dollars in fossil fuel subsidies annually, dwarfing the $88 billion we spend on renewable energy subsidies. You'd be imagining the way we do business in America.

It's the same with gun control. We have a problem with guns in the U.S. What's being proposed on the federal level? Background checks, smaller magazines, and an assault weapons ban. What are we going to get? I predict nothing.

What does the chief lobbying group, the NRA, want? A solution in which more people have more guns. They want to start by arming schools. Next? Armed guards at malls? Theaters? Sure. Colleges and universities? Sure. In fact, some states have passed concealed carry laws allowing guns on campuses.

Why? So gun manufacturers can keep right on arming us to the teeth. Who wins? Hospitals, insurance companies, corrections departments, the private-prison industry, and, of course, gun manufacturers. And, oh yeah, the NRA.

I don't know about the advantages for the courts and police departments. I think they just get overburdened. The taxpayer, however, really does pick up a huge tab.

Baltimore gunshot victim: Another day, another 100,000 dollars...

What about the amount of skimming, hidden fees, and grifting that goes on in banking, credit cards, and finance? The reason the Republicans have fought so hard against the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is that they don't want the skimming to stop. The GOP functions well as tools of the Big Grift.

Okay, the Democratic Party feeds at the trough, too, although they make some effort to serve the people. Small difference, but enough of a difference to make it wise for people to support the Democratic Party. It's why I do, even though it's frustrating much of the time to see how little bang we get out of the Democrats.

The main argument in favor of the current system is that we believe in the free enterprise system, we believe in free markets. The problem is that free markets provide too much room for the Big Grift.

It's gotta stop, but it won't. It's depressing. But don't let anyone say they don't get why it doesn't work. If you ask most conservatives and libertarians why they support free markets, they'll answer that they believe in hard work paying off, and that we shouldn't have to pay for the losers. They win, and the losers lose. And liberals love the welfare state because that's the liberals' Big Grift, laying around waiting for welfare checks, free healthcare, and Obama phones.

What goes unsaid -- apart from the fact that there are no actual Obama phones! -- is that there is no monopoly on success among the conservatives and no monopoly on welfare among the liberals. Conservatives and liberals succeed and fail at similar levels and access the welfare state at similar levels, as well, although due to higher poverty rates in red states, the majority of welfare dollars flow to highly conservative states. In spite of that irony, the resentment conservatives feel drives them to want to punish the poor, while the empathy that liberals feel drives them to want to help the poor.

Another ironic aspect of this is that conservatives are supposed to be the more Christian group. They talk a good religious game -- without, it seems, ever having read the Beatitudes -- while the more agnostic liberals tend to inhabit the message that the Beatitudes provide.

I'm an atheist, but I have no quarrel with the moral compass that Christ's teaching provides. I just have a quarrel with people who pretend to follow Christ but rarely lift a hand to help those in need, fearing that it would make them lazy, as well as deprive the Chosen Ones of the Unchosen Ones against which to measure their success, their grace, their superiority.

Not the world I want to live in. I'd go for simplicity and stop the skimming, the grifting, and the scam.

That's not, I'm afraid, how our Congress operates. We're in for a long wait while that arc of the moral universe bends, eventually, to justice.

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