Focusing on the Wrong Aspects

The political structure of the United States has been in a state of virtual gridlock for almost a decade. The rhetoric has been heated, often vitriolic. Yet for all that, most of the so-called debate misses the basic concerns and points.

The issue isn’t whether black lives matter. Of course they do, but concentrating on policing ignores and minimizes the need to change the circumstances in which the poorest Americans, especially minorities, live. Concentrating on the police may well reduce the number of young male minorities being shot by police, but it does little or nothing to reduce the number of young minority males being shot by other young minority males, nor does it deal with any of the other problems faced by poor minorities.

All the furor over Obamacare, aka The Affordable Care Act, focuses on who pays how much for what health care, as opposed to focusing on why health care in the United States costs incredibly more than anywhere else in the world – and often for exactly the same procedures and the exact same pharmaceuticals.

In political campaigns, the rhetoric these days seems to be more about who will impose or not impose pseudo-religious “moral values” through legislation than in dealing with bread and butter economic, infrastructure, and environmental problems.

We have the greatest level of economic inequality in more than a century and possibly the highest in the history of the United States, and every study done on this issue indicates that high income inequality hampers the economy and creates a greater number of the poor. Yet the entire issue seems to center more on avoiding the real issue – that tax rates are likely too low on the top one percent and too high on the middle class – and focuses on how tax increases on the wealthy hurt job creation [proven to be totally wrong] or how more government handouts will solve the problem [also a most dubious proposition].

Environmental issues have become a conflict between one side insisting that all environmental regulations destroy jobs and the other insisting that almost anything “environmental” is beneficial, rather than a debate over what degree of regulation is proper for what substances in what situations.

Shouldn’t we be asking the politicians exactly how they intend to address specific problems and insisting on specific answers, rather than letting them use vague sound bites to avoid the issues while appealing to the prejudices of their potential supporters?

But, of course, that won’t happen, because any politician offering specifics will lose… and that speaks badly, not only of them, but of us.

5 thoughts on “Focusing on the Wrong Aspects”

  1. D Archerd says:

    To quote H.L. Mencken, “The primary advantage of democracy is that it ensures the people get the government they deserve – and deserve to get good and hard.”

  2. Joe says:

    Are you sure they are grid locked?

    Another perspective is that they agree on the important questions. The grid lock is for those things they don’t want to resolve, for show, or to defend the interests of some large corporation / political entity that wants something.

    @D Archerd: It is hard to argue we live in a democracy after Princeton’s oligarchy study.

    1. They clearly don’t agree on healthcare, or on immigration, on spending levels, and a number of other issues I’d scarcely call unimportant.

      1. Joe says:

        Right, but healthcare is vital to the large medical insurers who have a vital interest in ensuring the rules of the game benefit them. The rules in Europe did not benefit insurance companies (tax-payer funded healthcare for all). The result is less price-gouging.

        Aside: Many Americans think they subsidize European healthcare by paying more, but that’s not actually true since most research is payed for by government grants. The money given by consumers to the US healthcare industry goes to profits, and advertising especially to doctors: healthcare is wonderful way to make lots of money, since families will pull together, give over all their savings and go into debt to save a child or parent.

        Immigration is an easy target since immigrants don’t have the vote, even if taxed (that whole “no taxation without representation” idea never really was implemented). Corrections Corporation of America also makes a tidy profit from holding immigrants in detention centers. There’s probably more there that I don’t know about.

        As to spending limits, it’s for show. It will be believable when “vital agencies” such as the NSA are shut down to save money. It’s easy to close the EPA or NIST because corporations will not suffer as a consequence.

        Now for the things they do agree on, so no debate even occurs:

        * If economic ties between Europe, Russia, China and the middle east were to strengthen, it would create an economic block so strong that the US would be miles away from the hub of human activity. To avoid that at all costs we must expand NATO to Russia’s borders (despite promising not to do so when East Germany joined West Germany), and hopefully destabilize it, even if this comes at the risk of nuclear war. For the same reason we must “contain” China. Hence the instability in the Middle east, Ukraine, Georgia and Chechnya is good, not bad, for the US government. [See “The Grand Chessboard” by Brzezinski for example]

        * Trade pacts that only benefit corporations must be fast tracked and passed in secret, because most human people (versus legal people, aka corporations) won’t like what’s in them.

        * No one must be held accountable for US torture, US concentration camps, or wars started on false pretenses, even though all of these things violate international law that the US government championed whenever it suits it (eg the Nuremberg trials), and to which the US is party.

        * Whistleblowers must be prosecuted and put away forever even if they hurt no one.

        * It’s fine for the president to sign death warrants for people he doesn’t know without due process based on no intelligence (such as drone signature strikes).

        * No one must be held accountable for spying on all of us, even though that causes self-censorship and violates our ability to discuss controversial subjects, which is the lifeblood of democracy.

        * The banks must be saved at all costs, despite their reckless betting, even if it results in the economy becoming more fragile (Zero interest rates are no longer an option to pull us out of the next bank crisis). Banks also can’t be broken up, so we now have even even fewer larger banks holding more risk than they did in 2008.

        * There should never be any meaningful debate about studies such as Princeton’s which show that only a tiny fraction of people at the top of society has any real representation when it comes to law-making even though that sets the rules of the game to which we are all subject. Even though the US is nominally a democracy, nothing should be done to fix the system. It is absolutely normal to have 26 lobbyists per Congress person, for Congress people to spend most of their time raising money, and for Congress people to be able to do insider trading of stocks and shares legally.

        * There should never be any meaningful debate about whether we want a capitalist system run for finance, a capitalist system run for industry, a capitalist system run for small and medium sized businesses, or some other economic system, even though people seem to be able to debate these questions in other countries.

        None of this is debated, not because there is nothing to debate, but because preserving the status quo is what actually matters.

        (A few lone voices howling in the wilderness like Elizabeth Warren, or Ron Paul, or Kucinich don’t constitute a debate).

  3. David says:

    You are on track in pointing out these problems. Solutions are very difficult to reach, partly because currently people are easily turned to focus on these extreme positions, these hot-button issues. I taught Business Ethics. What is happening in D.C. today violates so many good, proven principals. How can we get a group of people elected who will use a Utilitarian approach to legislative and executive duties? “The most good for the most people. Is that too much to ask?

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