We interrupt this spiritually-oriented blog with a diatribe:
I am ANGRY. My wrath rivals that of the most rabid teabagger. All these years I’ve been trying to act like a good Zen citizen, working at seeing the divine in everyone, believing that even the farthest-out loons among us are seeking what they believe is the highest good. But at this point, I’m mad as hell and just not willing to take it any more. I’ve had it with people who refuse to recognize reality and are bent on taking all of us over the cliff with them.
The other evening I attended a meeting with a Libertarian legislator from another part of the state. Nice guy, incredibly hard-working, seems utterly sincere. He explained to me that, being a Libertarian and in support of Republicans and their policies, he wants the private sector to take care of health care, and government to stay out of it. But the private sector has had many decades of opportunity to do just that, and you know where it’s gotten us. While this might be just fine in right-wing theory, it hasn’t worked so far and there is no reason to think it’s ever going to. Why can’t we start looking at things as they are instead of things as our pet dogmas say they should be? Why in heaven’s name does ideology trump facts every single time?
I do understand to a large extent where Libertarians are coming from, and I respect and empathize with the desire to be left alone to pursue one’s life as one sees fit. However, the meta-message I got from this man was this: Nothing is done in politics just because it makes sense or will help constituents, or because it is the will of the people. Laws that make sense, even when there are no other reasonable options, may well never be passed. Decisions are made on other bases entirely and may have little or nothing to do with reality. Lawmakers are overwhelmed with information and can hardly even begin to think clearly about the bills that come before them, no matter how sincere and competent they may be.
So single-payer health coverage, widely recognized as the best and most practical choice, is never going to happen because legislators believe it is politically impossible. The fact that this is a belief rather than a bedrock reality doesn’t make any difference. We can’t find a way to do what is good or right on this or any other issue because, well, we just can’t.
Not that government has done a super job with health care either– leading to the scary conclusion that perhaps no one is in a position to manage it. I am not one of the advocates of Medicare For All; I want Something Better Than Medicare, For All. But the facts say that, despite the weaknesses that exist in every country’s medical systems, all the developed countries with single-payer systems have better health outcomes than the US does, and they spend far, far less than we do on our insanely complex patchwork system.
“But that’s socialism!” the right will scream. So? Full-bore, laissez-faire capitalism was tried early in the 20th century. You’ve read The Jungle, right? So much for that. Some regulation, some centralization, is necessary. Deal with it. The diametric opposite, totalitarian, centrally planned communism, was also tried. Visit the former Soviet Union to see how that worked out. Most countries that are even a little bit functional have arrived at some mixture of socialism and capitalism, because pragmatism lies somewhere in between. We have too. It’s OK. Economics is not religion, though sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference. Please, please let’s try to do what makes the most sense, whatever that may be, and leave our emotional reactions out of it.
I’ve read repeatedly that there is wide agreement in Congress, on both sides of the aisle, about how to fix immigration policy. You’d never know that, would you? As far as I can tell, that’s because loony fringers have been so loud on this issue, as with so many others, that they’re driving the debate and scaring legislators who feel vulnerable (and have good reason to feel that way). Immigration is a vexatiously difficult problem, but there are practical, sensible ways to improve the situation, things we could try if we had the will. Even George W. Bush offered a pragmatic plan– having been a border governor, he had some street cred on this– but his party’s wingnuts wouldn’t let him get anywhere. Pragmatism wasn’t nearly as much fun, didn’t whip up the faithful nearly so well, as hysterical fear-mongering, and it didn’t make as good of a news story either.
It is also “impossible” to pass any kind of meaningful energy legislation, despite the increasing urgency of our collective situation. An older friend of mine recently commented that the world is “slowly going downhill.”* Slowly?? We are sliding down a slippery slope and steadily gaining speed. Climate change is no joke, and it dwarfs (and includes within it) all our other issues. Real, current measurements are outstripping the worst predictions of our computerized models. And the real hell of it is that so many aspects of climate involve feedback loops that intensify the problems, e.g. melt the Arctic permafrost→ release more greenhouse gases→ melt the permafrost more. Or melt sea ice→ darken the ocean surface→ absorb more sunlight and reflect less→ melt more sea ice till there’s none left. Think limiting carbon emissions will hurt the economy? Just wait till you see what swamped coastlines, drought-stricken farmland, and killer storms will cost us.
And no matter how you interpret the climate data, there is no getting around the fact that we will, sooner or later (probably sooner), run out of fossil fuels. Even the oil companies know this. Yet wind and other renewable energy projects are met by the usual NIMBY objections. According to a recent Albuquerque Journal story, a currently-planned wind installation in New Mexico is being blocked by people who don’t like the fact that it may interfere with their solitude and the views from their homes. They moved out there to get away from it all, they say. But they’re still dependent on the electricity and other goodies they get from nearby civilization.
The climate deniers, and to a lesser-extent the NIMBY-ers, continue to mystify me. Burying their– our– heads in the sand seems to be the most popular strategy. My best theory is that it’s all a matter of fear, as is true of so many human troubles. The truth of what we face is too horrible to contemplate. Both the problems and the potential solutions seem impossibly, overwhelmingly huge. It’s easier to deny than to act.
Me– I want to move to Vulcan at the earliest possible opportunity. Hey, they already had to deal with climate change….
*I could do another whole post on this concept, and probably will, because the aspects of society my friend sees as “downhill” are not necessarily so in my view. Anyway, the world has always been going to hell in a handbasket at one speed or another. (Classic bumper sticker: Where Are We Going and Why Am I In This Handbasket?)