Archive for September, 2013

Let’s delay Obamacare

Pretty amazing stuff.

Health care insurance exchanges open on Tuesday and millions of U.S. citizens without coverage will have the opportunity to participate in them.  After decades of attempting to join the rest of the modern world that considers health care a right, we are taking a significant step towards that noble objective.

A law has been passed in accordance with the procedures contained in our Constitution, its appropriateness validated by re-election of the man who fought for it, and its lawfulness adjudicated by the highest court in the land.

But apparently this is not good enough.  We must, as though there were another secret step in the Constitutional process, re-adjudicate the law before it is implemented.  Dissatisfied with the law, the House of Representatives has voted more than forty times to repeal it.  It’s as though their supporters need to be repetitively reminded of their distaste for this enabling legislation.  And, in reaction to their whistling in the wind, the Senate and the President of the United States have consistently said “No deal. It’s the law of the land.”

Is the law perfect?  Of course not.  Can it be improved?  Certainly.  Will boatloads of people suffer from its implementation?  Some.  Will the overwhelming majority of the millions of have-nots benefit greatly from its implementation? Undoubtedly.

But in the hope that serious men of goodwill can prevail, and since there is some doubt about the law’s absolute perfection, why not take a deep breath and, as the House now demands, delay the law for a year and…do what?  Well, we can convene a bipartisan commission, review the law’s imperfections and develop a list of changes that Congress can, to the everlasting benefit of those who they represent, correct the law’s current deficiencies and produce a product that is even better than the current one.  Just like we almost did with tax reform, immigration, the farm bill, food stamps, and the hands-thrown-in-the air simple-minded budget fix called Sequestration .

After all, what’s wrong with a one year delay to this law when we’ve been grappling with access to health care for at least fifty years.  Surely reasonable minds can get together, ignore the fact that there’s another election in one year, pay little attention to the rants of the extreme voices in the electorate, deal effectively with the millions of dollars that will be devoted to the production of falsehoods that will float through our TV sets, set aside the manic differences that separate Democrats and Republicans, think of what’s best for millions of have-nots instead of the consuming need to stay in office, and present a revised Affordable Care Act that will be passed by both houses of Congress without filibuster and obfuscation.

What’s wrong with that?  And if we can’t manage to do all that, we can delay it for another year or, in the alternative, shut down the government and refuse to raise the federal debt limit.  The millions of have-nots with pre-existing conditions, zero access to preventive care and financial ruin caused by serious illness will surely understand that further delay is in their best interests.  What’s wrong with that?  Huh.

delay obamacare

Stick ’em up

When I was nine I lived in a Chicago semi-tenement where my whole world was the one block area surrounding our building.  My closest buddies, Alan and Alfred, joined me daily in hide-and-seek, softball in the alley, setting fire to things, and playing cops and robbers.

In addition to our motley assortment of beat up baseballs, a make shift hand-me-down chemistry set and stubs of colored chalk that occasionally aggravated the neighbors, we had those not-so-real cap guns that looked like they belonged in Gene Autry’s holster.  The cheaper guns required us to laboriously place one paper cap at a time in the little slot just ahead of the firing pin.  The more expensive instruments of mass destruction let you put a whole roll of paper caps in the gun and then hope that it wouldn’t jam as we pointed our gats at each other and said stick-em-up.  We usually blasted each other even if we obeyed that order.  And then we went home for lunch.

I was recently reminded of my childhood cops and robbers as I listened to the contest between those who think Obamacare is worth trying, and those who would sooner turn us into a dead beat creditor than allow the law an even shake.

Republicans, who undoubtedly possess the automated cap guns of my youth, have yelled stick-em-up and waved an array of mind numbing ransom demands.  The Democrats, one-cap-at-a-time users, are standing by waiting for the Republicans to run out of caps before using the one cap left in their arsenal.

Holding the nation hostage while insisting that their demands be met reminds me of Cleavon Little, the black sheriff in the Mel Brooks movie Blazing Saddles.  Arriving as the new Sheriff Bart in the wild west town of Rock Ridge, populated by a majority of moronic racists, he is confronted by drawn guns and a less than admiring populace.  Sensing his imminent demise, Cleavon pulls his own six-gun, holds it to his own head, and threatens to kill himself if his adversaries don’t give up.  Confused by the display, the bad guys back off.  I always thought this was pretty funny until I watched Speaker Boehner pull the same stunt just the other day.

Convinced that the Democrats will, as usual, back off and give ground, Boehner has capitulated to the Tea Party crazies who are holding guns to their own heads.  Assured of continued job security through gerrymandered districts and terrified of primary challenges by an even worse right-winged zealot, House Republicans are perfectly content to demand unquestioning fealty to their every demand.  Or, bang you’re dead.

Sensing that the defunding ransom demand may not be quite politically correct, the House has apparently replaced it with a new wish list of unsavory pronouncements, including a one year delay of Obamacare.  That’s just enough time for the Koch brothers to invest a zillion bucks on sadly juvenile ads similar to the recent one sponsored by them showing Uncle Sam (looking a great deal like Donald Trump) leering up the skirts of a young coed who was foolish enough to sign up for Obamacare.  Poor, deluded girl.

It matters not one whit that Obamacare was passed by Congress, was used successfully to defeat its reborn antagonist Mitt Romney, and finally upheld by the Supreme Court.  Better to continue to wage a battle already lost by threatening to shut down the government and default on obligations already committed to.  Better to keep firing caps until the other side hollers ya got me.

Mel Brooks claims that his idea of the scene in Blazing Saddles of cowboys sitting around the campfire and farting came from watching lots of westerns where cowpokes seemed to always be drinking coffee and eating beans.  Mel assumed that this caused great waves of bloated gas that must have been freely expelled as they sat around and mused about life on the open range.

It’s too bad that Mel had to go all the way to Texas when the same kind of farting around happens daily in Washington, D.C.

Cleavon Little

Philosophy and Shame

It’s been a very philosophical week.

Starting with Yom Kippur when we debated (sort of) the existence of God.  Concluding the debate and swooning from our self-imposed fast, we agreed that there was indeed a God, albeit a pretty powerless one.  Recent events including another dozen people gunned down by a maniac (ho hum), the inexplicable death of a twenty-six year old boy who had just begun to live, and epic Colorado floods that drowned innocents, made it impossible to believe that someone was micromanaging our lives.  Unless it was a very angry, vengeful God.

No, I sort of preferred the Rabbi’s definition that said there was something inexplicable, call it God if you must, that had provided us with a moral framework accompanied by the free will to choose either good or evil.  Topped off with a generous helping of universal chaos that capriciously allowed some to live and some to die.  And then stood back and watched us flounder.

We’ve also been attending an adult education program focused on Friedrich Nietzsche, that nineteenth century philosopher who famously said, “A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything”.   After stumbling through four two-hour sessions, I’m not sure that I’m looking forward to the next four.

Professor Garlington has done his best to beat Nietzsche’s philosophy into my head without much success.  It’s sort of like sitting through a Shakespearean performance surrounded by people who seem to understand every word while I, in my cocoon, wonder what all the fuss is about.  Nietzsche may have artfully described my confusion when he said, “You have your way. I have my way.  As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.”  Right.

Just in case I hadn’t enough to scratch my head about, I started reading Jim Holt’s book, Why Does the World Exist?  Wondering why there is something instead of nothing, Holt visits a number of philosophers, presents a mind-numbing array of mathematical theorems and posits various theories including the religious, ontological and scientific.  To what end, I’m not sure.  As one of his notable interviewees, the eminent octogenarian philosopher of science, Adolph Grunbaum insightfully said, “who cares”.   Now that’s a man I can relate to.

Holt’s own philosophy of who or what created this mess goes something like this, “My own position is that the universe was created by a being that is 100 percent malevolent but only 80 percent effective.”

So I figured that with all this behind me I could handle just about anything.  Fool that I am.  I forgot about the United States House of Representatives.  Or as some people call it The Divine Comedy.  Dante’s depiction of the nine circles of hell through which we must progress is analogical to the House’s procession through some of the most amazing steps leading inexorably to self-immolation.

To make an example of the surfer dude who bought a lobster with his food stamps and the other guy who had the nerve to use his welfare check to bet on the ponies, the House without blinking removed the food stamp program for three million other supposed malingerers, cheats and presumed supporters of the Affordable Care program.  No matter, as the Congressional Budget Office noted this week, that the disparity between the haves and have-nots has continued to grow despite the re-emergence of Wall Street and the continued growth of banks “too big to fail.”

And just to make sure that the rest of America would get their message, the House voted for the forty-first time to abolish Obamacare.  They also made their consent to continue operating the rest of the United States government contingent on defunding Obamacare, thereby hopefully consigning it to the dustbin of history.  Take that, you folks who thought pre-existing conditions were dead.

That display of Tea Party inspired pique warrants reiteration of this Nietzsche quote, “There are horrible people who, instead of solving a problem, tangle it up and make it harder to solve for anyone who wants to deal with it. Whoever does not know how to hit the nail on the head should be asked not to hit it at all.”

But in spite of everything,  there was a ray of hope as the refreshing and uncomplicated  Pope Francis said something like “Quit bashing gays and don’t be so consumed with what people are doing in their bedrooms.  There’s bigger fish to fry.”  Maybe next week he’ll say something equally understandable to the U.S. House like “Have you no shame?”




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