Archive for September 2009

Where is the Anger?

If you watched the debate yesterday in the Senate Finance Committee on the Health Care Bill, it became abundantly clear that some of our Senate leaders are not very bright.  When obvious flaws in their logic against a public option was pointed out, they just stammered that it was a government run program and would eventually, like the blob, eat Chicago.  Listening to Senator Grassley explain why it might be good now, but bad later and then having to say Medicare is good was like being Alice in Wonderland.  They were making no sense whatsoever.

Now conservative Democrats took one of two tacks.  The first one from our spineless and obviously bought chairman was that although he was for a public option, he had to be against it because he didn’t think it would get 60 votes.  Well, not if you are not going to vote for it.  This also made absolutely no sense.  Let me vote for a bill that I think is wrong because I think it will pass?

The other tack was that I have to be against this because a government program would force Medicare reimbursement rates on rural providers and these rates are too low for them to survive.  Now this one has a shred of truth, but strained at best.  If the rates are too low, then raise them in rural communities.  Ah, but therein lies the rub.  This program has to be revenue neutral so where does the additional money come from?  How about from the funding for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan?  One has to ask themselves, if the present system continues, what is the cost to the government as health care costs spiral upward out of control.  This is truly a head in the sand approach if one is to take it on face value.

So one has to wonder where is the Democratic anger?  We now know that 65% of the population wants a public plan and that includes those populations that these Conseradems represent.  After the hearing and the defeat twice of a public option, here were all the Democrats putting a happy face on the situation and saying stupid things like we never having gotten this far before.  Sort of like any bill, even a bad bill is a real step forward.  Harry Reid, the Democrats’ bumbling leader, has indicated that he is not sure whether the final bill will contain a public option.  And of course where the hell is the President, off to Copenhagen to fight for the Olympics in Chicago?

Maybe I am missing something and there is some grand strategy to all this, but I doubt it.  I think Democrats may be on the verge of committing political suicide as they destroy the best opportunity we have had for real reform.  Where is the discipline?  Why not say to Democrats that if you want to keep your chairmanships, and you want to stay in the Party then you will vote against a filibuster and then we will allow a real public option with teeth to be voted on?  Then majority rule will be reinstated in our government and maybe we can get something done.

I think there is a gathering anger out there that will only get worse if the Democrats fail to pass real heath reform.  It would be nice if we could see that anger now, because it might wakeup a few who are on the fence.  Remember the real, but totally irrational anger from a minority this summer that changed the course of the debate.  How about some real anger based upon real issues for a change?

On and On

This weekend’s round of Sunday talk shows was like a never ending recycling of the same old issues.  There is the health care muddle, the Afghanistan debate, the Iran nuclear program, cap and trade being watered down, and least I forget, Glenn Beck getting the key to some city in Washington that I never want to go to.  Banking reform is going nowhere with all the usual suspects.

On the President’s rethinking the Afghanistan war and a troop increase, there was Senator Kyle for Arizona saying what hawkish Republicans have been saying since time began.  We leave and the enemy will see this as a great weakness and they would fill the vacuum.  It will be our downfall.  It must really be comforting to have such a simple world view of every conflict where wagging our…..well you get the point.  What I find simply fascinating is there is no consideration of the cultural or historical record of this country or trying to understand this conflict in terms of what can really be accomplished with more blood and money.

On “60 Minutes”, there was a nice piece about General McChrystal and how dedicated he was to changing the way the war was fought.  He definitely is an admirable man, but that doesn’t make his approach any more appealing.  He is a fine general but this war is not about fighting, it is about minds and we still think like Western white men instead of Afghans (Note: after working on many projects in Afghanistan, Afghans are the people, Afghani is the currency).

I am sure his approach is the only way forward for “winning” the war, if we had 20 years and unlimited funds.  Or would that be 50 years?  Remember we have been there eight and things have gone from bad to worse. The real issue is can we afford it and is it really that high on our national priorities?  If we spent that money here at home making us a stronger economy, would that greatly increase the security of the average American?  I think it is time to quit being terrified of Al-Qaeda.  If the Afghans won’t fight the Taliban, let them live under them for a while and see how they like it.  Maybe it is a problem they have to work out for themselves.

Then there was the arrest of Roman Polanski in Switzerland for having sex with a minor fourteen years ago.  Note that the child, now an adult, wants the charges dropped, but since Polanski was convicted before he ran, apparently California authorities just can’t let it go.  Why do I say that?  This is a horrible crime.  Maybe, but California is broke.  They have a population in prison that is breaking the bank, and they release roughly 120,000 inmates a year.  Many of these are truly dangerous sex offenders that we now no longer have the resources to track and monitor.  So we spend our precious dollars to see that the letter of the law is followed, while we drain the resources from those who could prevent truly heinous crimes.  Sooner or later we need people in government who can prioritize societies needs, not pursue some personal quest at the expense of everyone else’s safety.

The level of stupidity and inaction is reaching intolerable levels, while those in Washington continue to have debates about issues that most of us moved beyond years ago.  Of course banks and Wall Street need to be regulated and the tougher, the better.  If it is too tough, adjust it later.  The evidence for global warming is not just abundant, it is accelerating at an exponential rate (the evidence and the global warming), and yet Washington does nothing except wrangle about protecting vested interests as though disaster is not on the horizon.  Our addiction to oil is being facilitated by low gas prices and yet we know the other shoe is going to drop.  If you don’t buy the global warming thing (you are moron), then look at the transfer of our wealth to the Middle East.  The answer is clean, green energy both for our addiction and for our economy, and yet we do nothing.  Then there is health care.  Oh why bother.  The answer is obvious.

What we seem to be really good at today is denial.  We now have a whole party whose total platform is a denial that that platform has bankrupted us.  If we have health care today that we think is fine, there is no pressure for change because we can’t seem to grasp that health care costs are out of control and today’s satisfaction is tomorrow’s sticker price shock.  Wall Street seems to be coming back so why fix anything?  I don’t see no stinking global warming, and cap and trade will hurt some of my biggest contributors.  Did it ever occur to anyone that we have become a country that can’t?

The Republican Mind

Here I am in San Francisco, you know that bastion of liberal thought, and when I went down to the exercise room at my hotel, what is the TV news channel they have on?  Fox Noise.  Are all traveling business people Republicans who like their news carefully filtered so they don’t learn anything new or challenge their staid ideas?  Rhetorical question, sorry.  But it gets better.

Last night after an orgy of oysters at Hog Island Oyster Bar, I wandered over to my favorite wine bar  (called Wine on Front Street at Embarcadero Center) to finish off the evening with a nice glass of wine before BARTing back to my hotel.  I am sitting at the counter minding my own business when one of the two guys sitting next to me (Dave and Harold) says that Democrats are like white wine, pleasant, but no complexity, while Republicans are more complex and fulfilling, like a good red.  I said out loud, “Bullshit.  I think you have that exactly backward.”  So once again I am in the liberal left coast and I am sitting next to two Republicans. WTF?  Meanwhile the staff is scattering away from this conversation in case there are blows.

Actually Dave and Harold were quite pleasant, and I listened more than talked because I wanted to really understand what they were thinking.  Dave was the more conservative one, but more in line with Republicans before the radical right took them over.  Harold was an independent, leaning conservative.  They ended up sharing their wine and cheese with me so I think I comported myself well but I just have to relay some of the conversation because it is a window into their minds.

Dave indicated that he had voted for Bush, but never really liked him.  Isn’t interesting that the Republican mind is distancing itself from George, taking no responsibility for his failed ideas?  He did agree that the Republican Party was in disarray with no leadership.  He thought John McCain was a wimp and did not care for Sara Palin, but thought Michelle Bachmann could be a leader.  I think I may have used the word fruitcake.

Both were terrified of big government.  They did not want the government running anything.  If medical insurance companies were just allowed to compete in different states, and we had tort reform, problem over.  I pointed out that in Texas they had tort reform and the costs are still growing.  I also pointed out that States regulate insurance companies in their individual states so if they are allowed to compete nationally, who would regulate them?  I also pointed out that police and fire services are “government” provided, but that was different according to them because it was “local” government.  But it gets better.

There is no problem with funding of education because if you really want to go to school, you will earn it.  So I tried to point out that for many deserving and hard working kids, education is being priced out of reach or they start their life in unbearable debt.  Well Dave was firm on this one, that education is not some entitlement, but must be earned.  My counter was that access to education should not be based on your wallet, but on your ability.  He kind of gave in a little on this one, especially when the staff at wine bar could not resist weighing in on this one as several were in school and going broke.  Harold jumped in there on this one also, thinking that if you were qualified, you should be able to go to college.  Hooray for Harold.

The part I really loved was that Obama is weakening our defense.  So I asked how was he doing that, and Dave said by being nice to other countries when all they understand is a big stick, and this stuff about prosecution of torturers.  I just let this lie because the cheese plate they had ordered was really good and I did not want to be cut off.  Finally they said they could support a public option in health care, but there needed to be a level playing field.  When I asked what that meant, I got blank looks and then Dave launch in on how the government does not have to make a profit, but private industries do.  I did not raise the obvious point that that profit is money that could otherwise be paying for someone’s health care.  They were both quite happy with their health care plans and did not want the government screwing it up.  I asked if either had been really sick and tested it, and their answer was no.  I also said that their health care may get dumped by their employer down the road as it gets more and more expensive.  I also pointed out that although their employer pays these ever increasing fees, it is really coming out of salary increases they might see.  Both paused, but then challenged my basis for saying that health care would price itself out of the market.  Again, I wasn’t in an argumentative mood and the bottle of wine they ordered was quite nice.

Oh there were other priceless gems, like cap and trade will just destroy this country, and the Chinese are completely in control of our economy, but all in all we had a cordial discussion and I was convinced that we live in two different realities.  Mine is one where people are struggling and they need some help from the government, and theirs was one that if the free market could just operate freely, things would be hunky dory.  I wonder why our two sets of “facts” are so misaligned?  Can there really be two sets of facts?  I don’t think so.

Missing in Action

Sorry for the break in my mindless ramblings. Once again I am in Burlingame working on a proposal. They did harvest the Syrah (with the Viognier) on Wednesday and it looks like the Grenache with the Counoise will go on Saturday. That leaves the Mourvedre and it still needs some hang time so that will be probably mid to late October. Production was down this year and I am trying to figure out whether it is my irrigation scheme or if this is just symptomatic of this growing season. For those of you who said they would vote for me, Jared and Alice, I am not crazy. One last quick thought before I get back to work: Last night was “happy hour” at the Hog Island Oyster Bar ($1/Oyster). I didn’t think I could eat 2 dozen, but I was wrong. One other suggestion. If you go to a wine bar and you can tell the staff just loves wine, ask them to pour you a glass of what they think is really interesting. I had a wonderful Sangivoese/Grenache blend last night.

This is Not Vietnam, Is it?

A real analysis of Afghanistan is that it is a civil war.  The players are Afghans who want to move forward, and the Taliban who want to move backward, with pot stirring by Al Qaeda.  I want you to think hard here.  Vietnam was the same problem with those who wanted a free Vietnam (mostly different warlords who had control of different areas), and those who saw Ho Chi Minh as the national leader, with the Viet Cong stirring the pot.  And of course, they didn’t like us very much.  But here is the part I want you to focus on:  We had 500,000 troops in the country to pacify the country and we failed.  Ask yourself how could 500,000 Americans and the whole South Vietnam military  not defeat the North Vietnamese?  Hint:  The answer is not in military strategy.

It is that we poorly understood the real motivations of the culture and we tried to superimpose our ideas about their future on them.  I could go into some deep analysis of different cultures and their xenophobia, but think instead about trying to tell your teenager how to live his/her life.  Your advice is good and wise, and yet they totally reject it.  They reject it because it is their life and they have to find their own way.  It is critical to their own identity of who they are.  Do you see the analogy here?  We are making the same mistake in Afghanistan that we made in Vietnam.  Its their destiny and as much as we think we know the right path for them, they are going to have to work it out for themselves, as painful as that may be.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel.  Just a few more troops and we will pacify the countryside and then democracy will flourish.  We just need the right leader and things would be different.  These are the rationalizations of the Vietnam war and we are seeing it all over again. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal warned in a confidential assessment that he needed additional troops by next year or the conflict “will likely result in failure.”  I wonder if it occurred to him that even with more troops it will likely result in failure also?

General McChrystal, or those who support this war in the military, leaked this report because they didn’t like the fact that President Obama may actually be asking the right questions.  He has said that he will not commit more troops unless he thought we really had a plan that would work.  Apparently they haven’t convinced him yet.  What I see is a repeat of the military thinking that failed us so disastrously in Vietnam.  These guys are good Americans and they want to solve a problem.  But they have a one-dimensional view of the problem.  The only light at the end of tunnel is one that is held by Afghans, not Americans.

So what is the way forward?  Are Pakistan and Afghanistan intimately linked?  If Afghanistan becomes a Taliban stronghold will it be the home of terrorism?  Is it that simple?  I don’t think so.  We have an arrogance that makes us think we can control another country’s destiny.  We actually think we know what is best for them and we can control it.  Should I remind you again of the teenager analogy?  The last time we went down this road it cost 58,000 lives and now we recognize that there was no national strategic interest there.  We are only at 4000 and counting now.  Will it take another 54,000 before we get the message?  I hope not.

You Wouldn’t Vote for Me

Let’s just say I decided to run for public office.  Now one has two choices here:  One can be a values candidate, and by values, you can stand up for what you actually believe, or you can be a poll candidate.  A poll candidate tries to find what the most voters want and then gives it to them.  Pandering to the masses is another way to say this.  There are two forces pushing you toward a poll candidate.  First is the idea that you are elected to represent your electorate no matter how misguided their ideas might be.  Somehow or other, that got ingrained in our idea of American democracy.  The second one is that is where the money is.  If you do what others want, they will pay you handsomely.  It is called campaign contributions.

The problem with being a poll candidate is that once you are elected, you are without a firm understanding of your beliefs to guide your decision making, except of course to take another poll.  Robert Redford in the movie The Candidate got it exactly right when he reshaped his campaign to gather the most support, but no longer knew who he was and his famous line after winning the election, “Now what do I do?”  We see this now in our Congress where they are afraid to even make modest changes to anything for fear that there could be a populist backlash.

On the other hand a values candidate has a basic understanding of who he/she is and what they believe in.  We hear voters bemoan the fact that they can’t trust a candidate because he runs on one thing and then does another (a poll or lobby candidate).  Many candidates start out as values candidates, but like Robert Redford, the process of actually getting there corrupts them.  The game is about getting money and to get money one has to cater to the needs of those that have it.  We see it all the time at the local, state, and federal level.  At the local level candidates become captives of real estate interests, at the state level where they become captive of the no new taxes motto, and at the federal level add no new taxes with big government is the problem.

I would be a values candidate.  I would stand up for what I think this country needs to do to fix itself and I would not be shy about going against populist trends.  Here is what I think needs to be done:

  • We need a new stimulus package that is focused on jobs.  Forget the deficit right now and get the economy jump started on things that will enhance our ability to compete in the world market in the future.  There will be no tax cuts in this bill.
  • We need strong banking reform that makes no institution too big to fail.  When and if we ever bail out an institution it will be for our long term benefit and there will be strong conditions for changing the institution and the reasons for its problems
  • There will be at least a $1 gas tax increase to start a real move to alternate energy.  Nothing else works but the pocket book and this money could start to help us get off our addiction on oil whole reinvesting in our future
  • Health care would have a very strong public option and the funding would be taxpayer based, not employer based.  Trying to fund this by cuts out of Medicare or some other clever gimmick is just pasting over our moral responsibility with a promise for a free ride
  • There would be a massive program for a national high-speed rail to offer a alternative to airlines and to increase our ability to move goods, services, and people throughout the country in a cost effective and energy efficient way
  • There would be a consistent program to help the struggling alternate energy industries.  It would allow consistent tax breaks and incentives to start a vigorous industry to complete with the Chinese
  • Education is our seed crop for tomorrow.  We have to start finding ways to make it affordable for everyone without massive loans.  In the end, most four year public institutions would have minimal charges
  • End the war on drugs.  Some need to be illegal, but most need to be legalized and controlled.  The cop and robber approach to our drug problem is a disaster
  • Immigration and our treatment of illegal immigrants is a disgrace.  We need a realistic guest worker program that is not at the whim of some lobby group that gets threatened and then screams the sky is falling.  I would run on a platform of Lou Dodds is an idiot
  • Our approach to law and order is also a national disgrace.  We have the largest incarcerated population in the world, and we are wasting precious resources on throwing people away.  No doubt some need to be locked up forever, but most need help, not heaped on the trash pile of society.  Do I mention I would do away with capital punishment?
  • Did I mention that I would make government a whole lot more transparent?  If we do something bad, then it is for everyone to see.  No more hiding behind the State’s Secret Act on torture and eavesdropping

Bottom line is that I would raise your taxes and make you tighten your belt.  I would challenge the status quo and knock over a lot of apple carts.  My focus would not be on finding scapegoats, but in finding solutions.  Would you vote for me?  Of course not.  And that is precisely why we are in the predicament we are in.  We only vote those who tell us what we want to hear.

Hungering for Something Big

The other day a friend of mine asked me if I was getting feed up with politics and the news.  I have to say I am.  Nothing changes.  I was reading the paper this morning and my eyes gloomed onto a report about the possibility that Amtrak will build a major and modern rail hub in New York City.  I am hungering for any sign of progress or a vision of the future.  As far as our progress in changing anything, I have to give it to David Sirota, when in his column he described the situation in terms of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest:

“As the insurance industry’s Nurse Ratched lurks in the background, congressional Democrats cower in the corner, fearing the phantom menace of their own shadows. Standing next to the window, suicidal Republican leaders rant about “death panels” and threaten to splatter their electoral prospects onto the pavement below. Nearby, White House officials struggle with multiple-personality ailments as they mumble contradictory statements about the public option. Meanwhile, tea party protesters lie on the floor in a fetal position, soiling their hospital diapers as they throw incoherent tantrums about everything from socialism to communism to czarism to Nazism. And, not surprisingly, Washington reporters just stare off into the distance, having been long ago lobotomized in the wake of their Watergate heyday.” (Selective Deficit Disorder)

My feeling is that the inmates are running the asylum and we are just running in place.  The media who should be the ones to report on this stagnation of will and purpose are instead feeding on the circus so I have no idea who is going to slap us to our senses.  The President is too timid, and Congress is totally dysfunctional.  The people are adrift and running scared.  What happen to the America of anything is possible and the America where no challenge was too big?  We have become the nation of “we can’t”.

Listen to the debates in Washington:  We can’t afford a moon program; we can’t afford a national railroad system; we can’t invest in green energy or create an environment where it will grow because we will upset the vested interests; we can’t have national health care (same reason); we can’t have world class education with access for all like most other countries.  When you get done with all the “we can’ts”, you start to wonder just who we are anymore.  Certainly we are not the richest most powerful nation in the world.  That would be China.  They are actually investing in all those things.

So I think I will quit watching the circus in Washington or the morons who think Barack is the anti-Christ.  It is just too depressing to realize we have become a nation of whiners who don’t have the self-discipline or will to raise our taxes, pay our bills, and get on with building our nation.  We are so busy hoarding our own piece of the pie we have forgotten to plan for tomorrow.

Some Idle Thoughts

Well Max Baucus finally came out with his plan and as we all guessed, it was a give-away program for the health insurance industry.  But what, after all, should we expect?  Max and the other Conservadems are really Republicans who had no place to land when the crazies took over the party.  Keep asking your self if you are a rational person, what is wrong with a public option for those who want it?  It’s called choice, and they will kill it at all costs because they know it is the beginning of the end for them.  Sadly after all that time he has no Republican support.  Who would have guessed?

It is now crunch time and we will see what the Democrats are made of.  The lines have been drawn and there will be no Republican support for any reform bill that actually reforms anything.  So we will see if they have the guts to go it alone, or we will have to get a whole new pack of representatives.

On another front, good old Jimmy Carter told it like it was on the race thing and the denials today bring back so many memories.  “I did not have sex with that woman.”  “I am not a drunk, I just binge on the weekends.”  “Hell no I didn’t eat that ice cream.”  Or more to the point, “Of course I am not a racist, I just hate his black butt.”  Let’s face it, we are all racists in one form or another, but when we get scared, that racism just bubbles to the surface. Remember President Obama’s comment that he was so roundly criticized for during the election about people in the small towns hanging on to their guns and religion? We have a population of about 25% that are scared to death and they are lashing out in all directions.  Racism is just part of this irrational behavior.  Of course there is that inconvenient fact that the average white male vote for Obama in the South was 10% and 43% in the rest of the country.  Who would have guessed?

Frank Schaeffer, author of “Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of it Back”, was on Rachel Maddow last night and his comments about the religious right and their takeover of the Republican Party were priceless.  Basically he described the religious right as brain washed to ignore facts, from their home schooling to their religious colleges, and that rational arguments have no effect.  This describes precisely the Republican Party these days.  When Rachel asked Mr. Schaeffer if there was not someone in the Republican Party who could bring some sanity back to their side, he was not sanguine.  He had worked in the John McCain Campaign back in 2004, but in 2008 he saw John sell-out to the religious right with his choice of Sarah Palin for VP.  She is one of the faithful whose soul will never be touched by unpleasant facts.  John McCain sold out?  Who would have guessed?

Finally, and surprise, surprise, the generals want more troops for Afghanistan.  I just love listening to proponents of this approach.  They take a very rational and linear thinking approach that says if we can just do A, then B, will follow and things will be hunky dory.  President Obama has once again assured us this is no Vietnam.  Really?  The real lesson of Vietnam was that the social and internal political climate of the country was complex and defied external solutions.  Culture is everything and applying 20th century logic of cause and effect to 5th century countries is bound to fail.  The problems there are complex and so are the solutions.  Law and order is not going to resolve it.  Hopefully in the future we will see a more sophisticated and scaled back approach to what our national interests really are in that country.  But the good news is the election was joke.  Who would have guessed?

Now it is Clear Who is in Charge

“Senator Olympia Snowe, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, where the most-watched version of the health care bill is being written, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that the so-called public option is “universally opposed by all Republicans in the Senate” and “therefore, there’s no way to pass a plan that includes the public option.””  The New York Times article went on to say, “A new government insurance has been roundly opposed by the health care and insurance industries, and Republicans have argued that it would create an alternative to employer-sponsored private plans that will lure millions of insured workers away and lead to a dysfunctional single-payer plan.”

If the Republicans and the health care and insurance industries don’t like it, it must be a good idea.  So it is clear who is in charge of health care reform, and it is not the Democrats.  Senator Snowe is, of course, referring to the filibuster requirement of 60 votes.  But one has to remind the Democrats that our democracy as defined in our Constitution does not require 60 votes for a health care bill.  The Constitution is clear about what actions require a super majority, but lets each house set its own rules, thus the filibuster in the Senate. The Democrats have tied their own hands because they have failed to call the Republican’s bluff and stand firm for what they believe will work.  They seem to work under the impression that half a loaf is good enough when in fact it may just worsen the situation.  I wonder how the Republican Party would fare if the Democrats stood firm on a Public Option and forced the Republicans to actually conduct a filibuster, exposing their nihilist approach to our problems for all to see.

Senator Snowe went on to say scuttling the public option for good “could give real momentum to building a consensus on other issues.”  Read the words “real momentum to building a consensus on other issues” as meaning do it the Republican and health industry way so that the bill enrolls lots more people, but does nothing to really correct the massive cost growth problem. Building consensus with Republicans has really worked well for the Democrats in the past, hasn’t it?  If they are stupid enough to go down this road again they deserve to be out of power.

Republicans mean only one thing when they say bipartisan, and that is do it our way.  Real negotiations would have been insisting on a single payer system and then compromising to a public option.  As it is, President Obama and his band of weak-kneed advisors gave up the single payer system before the game began, have not stood firm for the public option, and then made side deals with the health care industry to try to defuse opposition.  It was a stupid play when they could have used the opposition to their advantage.  It is unlikely now that we will get any real health care reform that makes a difference or put in place the incentives to control costs, unless the Democrats decide to fight the filibuster.  Will they?  I don’t think they have the guts.  It has always been their fatal flaw that Republicans have turned to their advantage.

What we need is a strong public option and a real look at how unlimited health care incentivizes unlimited spending.  Probably a mix of public and private insurance such as France has is the optimum approach (See Roger Cohen op-ed, Get Real on Health Care),  with a look at how to make consumers more discerning about how they spend their health care dollars (How American Health Care Killed My Father).  If Congress brings anything forward without a public option, it should be killed because it doesn’t address the underlying problem of mushrooming costs and has no mechanism to control the private industry by competition.  We need to stand firm for what is right and will work, not half measures that may cover a few more but bankrupts all of us in the end.

American Crazy

I think the whole country has lost its mind.  From my vantage point it looks like a large percentage of our population is in total denial as they try to hang on to a past that is, well, past.  A quick summary:

  • Birthers who deny the reality of Barack Obama as a legitimate President of the United States denying the reality of the evidence
  • Death Panels that don’t exist in an attempt to stop all change
  • Town Hall Meetings where people scream “socialized medicine and don’t touch my Medicare” lacking any understanding of their hypocrisy
  • The “You lie” and the false claim that illegal immigrants will be covered by health care reform, again to stifle any change.
  • A Republican Party that is against all change yet has no substantial alternatives, again trying to freeze our policies where they are
  • The over the top craziness about the President giving a speech to school children about staying in school and working hard
  • The statements of Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Michele Bachman basically calling for insurrection

Then we have Conservative protesters amassing on Capital Hill to denounce anything President Obama proposes.  Okay, I will grant free speech, but let us consider some of their irrational stands:

  • “Hell hath no fury like a taxpayer ignored” – How are they ignored?  They have their elected representatives and they have their vote.  I just don’t think they believe in democracy if they lose an election.
  • Chanting “We own the dome” – Didn’t they not lose the last election?
  • “You will not spend the money of our children and our grandchildren to feed an overstuffed government” – Would these be the same people who said don’t touch my Medicare/Social Security benefits?
  • “Health care is not listed anywhere in the Constitution” – That is true, but “provide for the general welfare” is.  Oh by the way, neither is the filibuster so why do you think every vote should get 60 votes to pass when the Constitution calls for majority rule?
  • “You want socialism, go to Russia” – The protestor is referring to the public option for health care and you can go to France, Spain, Germany, England, Japan, Tiawan, or any other advanced country for this government approach to public services
  • “Socialism is UnAmerican” – So we should get rid of public education, police, firemen, air traffic control, the FDA, State universities and colleges, National highway standards and the interstate highway system, OSHA, Medicare, Social Security, flood insurance, the national weather service, I could go on forever

Denial is in the air as Americans irrationally assume that what they have won’t change if they do nothing, but the most obvious examples are right here at home in my state of California.  With the budget crisis, the Governor cut 57 child welfare programs.  As more need help, let’s cut their help.  Studies show that 70% of California’s inmate population (largest in the country) have been in the state’s foster care program.  Relate this to cutting adoption services that has placed more than 40,000 children who could be placed in permanent homes in foster care hell.  Worse, after an increase of  9.3% last year for the University of California school system, they are proposing whopping 30% increase in the next year and would send the price of a year in the UC system above $10,000.  Education for only the rich?  This does bode well for our future as we continue short-term thinking and selfish tax policy.  We like to think that America is the country of opportunity.  I guess that means if you have a good credit score and can secure $100,000 in education loans.  Long live banks selling packaged debt to the rest of the world.

In a recent op-ed, a resident of Italy pointed out that their and their mother and father’s, and grandparent’s health care was been just fine, free, and with better outcomes than we have in this country.  She also noted that college education costs about $100/semester.  While the rest of the industrialized world understands these basic requirements for a prosperous nation, we are slowly sinking into the haves and the have-nots while irrational emotionalism reigns supreme.  Sooner or later it will be time to face our problems, but apparently right now we are have this irrational denial of our problems.  The American mental state right now and their denial of their responsibilities reminds me of a Credence Clearwater song, Fortunate Son, back during the Vietnam war.  Sadly nothing has changed:

Some folks are born made to wave the flag,
Oh, they’re red, white and blue.
And when the band plays hail to the chief,
Oh, they point the cannon at you, lord,

Some folks are born silver spoon in hand,
Lord, don’t they help themselves, oh.
But when the taxman comes to the door,
Lord, the house looks like a rummage sale, yes,

Some folks inherit star spangled eyes,
Ooh, they send you down to war, lord,
And when you ask them, how much should we give?

Ooh, they only answer more! more! more! yoh,

It aint me, it aint me, I aint no millionaires son, no.
It aint me, it aint me; I aint no fortunate one, no.

I fear that the hope of change back in 2008 has passed.  As the Obama administration has shrunk from the fight and standing up for real change, real change will only come when Americans see their basic institutions fail.  Continuing on our present course and falling back on old conservative palliatives will lead to these ultimate failures.  Then we will be forced to face the reality that we must invest in our future and that may well mean raising our taxes to meet these challenges.