One of the places where I tend to disagree with other liberals is the defense budget. Attacking defense spending is a common hobby for many liberals. I get the appeal. I don’t like spending astronomical sums of money for the purpose of killing people. It doesn’t sit well with me. But what I’ve come to realize is that the defense budget is so much more than a killing budget. It’s a convenient way for Congress to allocate money to things we need, as a nation, but can’t convince many voters (or even Members of Congress) to support otherwise. How do some countries fight unemployment? They hire lots of people to work for the government. We do that too, through the military. Want to provide education and job training and healthcare for millions of Americans…put money for education and job training and healthcare into the Department of Defense budget and consider it done. Want to spend money on biomedical research, on materials research, on computing research, on all kinds of research…put money into the Department of Defense budget and consider it done.
Trump is in trouble, maybe. Something might actually stick to the Teflon Don this time. It’s bad. It’s really bad. And I hope he’s held accountable for it. But how bad has he really been as President? It’s a fair question.
Yes, you heard that. I think the democrats should give Trump the $5 billion he requested for the wall. I think the wall is a dumb idea. I think we already have physical (natural and man-made) barriers that do good where they’re needed. I think the eminent domain issues will be tied up in court for the better part of a decade, at least. I don’t think it’s a good use of our funds, but it’s about 0.13% of the proposed FY2019 budget, it’s a fraction of important things like the $39 billion budget for the National Institutes of Health, and I just don’t care enough about it to advocate keeping federal workers from getting their paychecks.
Obamacare set up health insurance marketplaces. It didn’t take over health insurance like some would make you believe, but one thing it did was establish a website, not much different from expedia, where people can compare available insurance plans. Of course, it made some rules about the plans that can be sold on this platform, and each state has its own set of plans, so somebody from NY, for example, only gets to shop for plans in NY. Republicans latched onto this, and said that it hurt competition, because insurance companies should be able to sell across state lines. I’m not an expert in health insurance, so I’m sure I’m missing something (maybe something big), but the whole thing always seemed silly to me. I’m the first to warn against anecdote, and I should probably use my own advice here, but every now and then we all ignore the rules (even our own), so here goes.
There are some things that I tend to say over and over. One of them is about the options, as I see them, when it comes to offering social services to a society. There is always going to be a group of people who we can agree are deserving of these services, and a group of people who take advantage of the services and get something they don’t deserve. In an ideal world, we will only give coverage to those who deserve it, and not one undeserving person will get benefits. This will reduce the costs to the lowest possible, because there is no waste in the system. Because the ideal never seems to be possible in an imperfect world, we have to pick which way we want to err. Do we want a system that covers the most people, or the fewest. The system that covers the most costs more, but makes sure that all the “deserving” get what they need, while unfortunately letting some of the “undeserving” take advantage of the system. The system that covers the fewest saves money, by making sure that no “undeserving” get help they need, but leaves some “deserving” without help they need. Of course we can also debate who is “deserving” and who isn’t, but that’s a separate issue (not unimportant, just separate). Nevertheless, the whole purpose of this post is to have a place for a graphic that I created to illustrate this. It’s rough, and I spent less than 10 minutes creating it, but here it is. Sharing is welcome, but it would be nice if a link to this post came with it.
The House of Representatives has voted, once again, to repeal the Affordable Care Act. This is not the first time they have done so, and it likely won’t be the last. They passed several bills and amendments since 2011 that repeal or limit Obamacare, and few of these became law. My guess is that this bill will die like the others have, but this time it will be killed by a more pensive (and smart?) Senate. Senate republicans are already saying that they can’t pass the current bill, and it’s not clear that they even have enough support for a vote. It’s hard to see how the House and President see this as a win, but they do, and they had a party at the White House about it. Vice President Pence rallied the crowd (of middle-aged to old white men) with a line, “Welcome to the beginning of the end of Obamacare.” Silly line. Doesn’t that assume that Obamacare will end? Doesn’t it assume that the previous votes weren’t the beginning of anything? Silliness all around.
[Somewhat rushed piece…overwhelmed with work, but trying to stay in the habit of writing, and it’s been a long time. I’m sure it’s full of typos and other problems, but at this point, it will have to do]
I’ve spent a bit of time talking about abortion and abortion rights since Hitting Bregma started (notably here and here). I’m fascinated by it as a topic because it’s so meaningful to so many people, that I honestly see it as the number one guiding issue in our politics today. I don’t have any scientific evidence for this at all, and I would enjoy being shown that it’s not true, but I think the abortion question actually drives many people in one direction or another, and then the other partisan issues take hold. It’s easy for me to imagine somebody being appalled by abortion, leaning toward a particular political identity because of that, and then slowing assimilating with all the other beliefs of that political party. It seems like a key reason, for instance, why a deeply religious Christian would so predictably care about small government, about maintaining strong borders, about a super powerful national defense, about implementing the death penalty, about low taxes (especially for the wealthy). On the flip side, it’s puzzling to me that advocacy of abortion rights does such a good job at predicting where somebody stands on raising taxes on the wealthy, on being against the death penalty, about working hard for minority rights and environmentalism, and about government services for the poor. Of course, there are plenty of folks out there who don’t fall into those more predictable positions. I know plenty who are deeply religious, and guided by this to be sickened by abortion, but put this aside to otherwise favor liberal politicians who are anti-death penalty, pro-helping the poor, pro-helping immigrants, and willing to tax people to make that possible. It would be a silly straw man fallacy to say that I’m implying that this applies to everybody equally, but I find it interesting to see how many people seem to find their political identity by following the pro-choice or anti-abortion trail to the rest of the stuff.