One Big Fix?

Two mass shootings over the weekend, and more than 250 since the beginning of the year… and people are demanding a solution. Then there are racism and misogyny, poverty, and inadequate education, not to mention the problems of health care, immigration, and climate change.

And all of these problems have one thing in common – people are looking for a simple, single, and quick solution, if you will, a form of a big fix.

There isn’t one. Not to any of these problems.

Mass killings are created by a confluence of factors in each case, and while anger, almost always male anger, is a key factor, others, depending on the killer, are also critical, but not all of these factors are common to every mass killer, and that means that making significant progress means addressing more than one factor. Yes, reducing the number of firearms and who can carry what would make a huge difference, but with over 300 million in circulation and the current wording of the Constitution, to remove all firearms from private hands would require a Constitutional amendment and the approval of 38 states. That’s unlikely any time soon, and that means pursuing a number of other initiatives, from background checks to limiting the kinds of weapons allowable, possibly requiring gun owner licenses or gun registration. It means more coordination between mental health professionals and law enforcement. And that’s just the beginning.

The same problem exists with health care. For all the fuss of about Medicare for all and the cost of insurance, co-pays, pre-existing conditions, and the like, the basic problem is that healthcare in the United States costs too much. It costs too much for a variety of reasons, one being that the economics are structured so that U.S. sales of pharmaceuticals and medical devices bear all the costs of development and marketing, and that the profit motive is totally out of control. Other factors include an FDA that is slow and politicized and reluctant to approve competing generics, a law that prohibits the government from negotiating drug prices, a legal climate that rewards litigation, and a public that, for the most part, doesn’t do enough to keep itself healthy. Differing state requirements for licensing and insurance don’t help either. And, just passing Medicare for all won’t address any of these.

Merely building a wall across the southern border of the U.S. won’t even begin to address the myriad of smaller problems involved in the massive immigration problem. It won’t even stop the flow of immigrants.

The problems of racial injustice weren’t created just by slavery, but by a plethora of smaller injustices, ranging from a lack of education or systemically inferior education, economic discrimination, various forms of “redlining,” voter suppression, terrorist violence by the Ku Klux Klan and other groups, judicial support of “separate but equal” provisions, “Stop and Frisk” and other unequal policing systems, just to name a few, and each of these denials of rights and truly equal opportunity needs to be addressed separately, simply because trying to address them all at once doesn’t work.

And U.S. educators have been trying to come up with a single, one-size fits all educational solution for decades, ignoring the facts that no one methodology meets the needs of differing communities and student bodies or that schools within the same system can differ incredibly. Education administrators have also become so obsessed with measuring achievement and accountability that their measurements often hamper more than they help because teachers have less time to teach and students less time to learn.

Climate change presents the same problems. A carbon tax would definitely help, but such taxes have to be levied by all major carbon-emitting companies, just for starters.

The “one big fix” is just another useless aspect of a media culture that has forgotten and doesn’t care that all solid accomplishments rest on painstaking methodical steps toward the end. Sweeping generalizations just don’t cut it, but that’s all I hear any more. People and their politicians need to stop looking for the big fix, the miracle cure, and start addressing, step-by-step, all the smaller components of the big problems.

8 thoughts on “One Big Fix?”

  1. Lourain says:

    All solutions must fit into 30-second sound bites.

  2. Tom says:

    There are 100 Senators and 435 Representatives plus the President governing the Federal/National USA. These elected officials have to deal with 23+ committees in the Senate and 20+ committees in the House. 97% of the proposed bills do not become law. It takes an average of 264 days to get from Bill to Law. Senators have 6 years to concentrate on running the nation before they have to fight for their job … again. Representatives have only 2 years to do what they were elected to do before they have to fight for their job … again.

    Assuming that all governance issues are indeed complex (rather than the issues/bills becoming complex when in search of satisfying all parties concerned) how large a staff does an elected congress person need in order to become conversant with the pros and cons on any issues/Bill to vote? What other tools are needed to reduce the complexity of issues, for our elected representatives to do their job of governance, that you became aware of during your efforts in congress?

  3. Richard says:

    So if no progress is made towards resolving any of the issues you describe, what happens to these internal pressures in North American society?

    Do you think this is one of the reasons for the rise of populism and the growing divide between politicians (and voters) of the Democratic and Republican parties?

    1. The “sound-bite” culture makes public discussion of issues in a sensible manner and looking for compromises close to impossible. Almost any politician who publicly departs from his party’s “line” risks defeat in the next primary election. And given the media intrusion into everything, private closed-door compromises always come to light. So the pressures will continue to build, and there will likely be an increase in violence in the next recession, unless politicians actually start listening to someone besides the extremists in their parties.

      1. Richard says:

        I’m British (and we have our own issues), but from the outside looking in it looks like the start of the breakup of the USA to me. This is something you’ve wrote about in some of your novels. Do you think this is a ‘blip’ or something more terminal?

        I wonder if citizens of the Roman empire at it’s height ever thought that their empire would fall..

        1. At present, I see the situation as more than a “blip” and less than terminal [so far], but the next 5-10 years may well be critical, particularly if the squabbling turns into serious confrontations and if the economic elites don’t realize just how angry, disappointed, and discouraged a good percentage of people in the U.S. really are.

          1. Wine Guy says:

            At least you didn’t say ‘devastated’ or ‘outraged.’ Those words have apparently lost their meaning. Just like the phrase ‘thoughts and prayers’ has become trite.

            At least in the US.

  4. Kath says:

    If America ever had a heart, it has developed arrhythmia. Unless one is Native American, we are all immigrants. Trying to marry someone from a different country is almost impossible if one or both people are not rich. But far worse is that hundreds of children have been bereft of one or more of their parents across the country.

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