22 January 2017

Trump’s Healthcare Bait and Switch

One of President Trump’s first executive orders was to order a relaxation of the mandate on federal agencies to enforce non-participation penalties on taxpayers eligible for coverage by the ACA.   It is my understanding that that feature of Obama Care was included in order to assure that enough funds would be available to finance its benefits by forcing greater participation by healthier and younger potential subscribers.  The result of elimination of this disincentive from the ACA would appear to be the need to subsidize the Plan with general federal revenues in order to pay for the healthcare of those who choose not to pay for their own private plans.

What it comes down to is that there is no silver bullet.  Somebody has to pay for ersatz universal health care.  Obama Care is an attempt to disguise an expensive plan to cover everyone with healthcare insurance by forcing those not covered through their employers or under costly independent private plans to subscribe for a government-brokered private plan whether they thought they needed it or not.  It modeled itself on Social Security, which has young wage-earners financing retirees’ benefits through payroll deductions. 

So who’s complaining that a champion of smaller government is responding to disappointment that Obama Care cannot be a free ride by allowing evasion of its primary mechanism for avoiding insolvency?  The relaxation of penalty requirements on those who refuse to participate will inevitably lead to relying on general federal revenues in order to finance ACA’s benefits.  Universal health insurance is too attractive now that we have it.  The ultimate accomplishment of Obama Care may then turn out to be acceptance of universal healthcare  by conservative policy-makers.  Was it “bait and switch?”   Perhaps a deft use of that tactic.

23 December 2016

Novel Anthropology

A fictional depiction of the human condition, whether foreign or domestic, says much more about the author’s and reader’s states of mind than about the depicted character or society.  In fact, it may not be determined by anthropological facts at all.  Its anthropological significance is that fiction, like games, is a human exercise that engages the human mind in an entertaining, if not instructive, way that is deemed valuable for its own sake.  A novel may be evaluated and criticized for the beauty of its portrayal and its use of the language without regard to the accuracy of its analysis. 

That summarizes my mistake in asking a central Asian resident for his impressions of a novel about his society written by an American friend of mine.  I was disappointed by the novel’s lack of appeal for the native Asian, for he obviously found it misrepresented his thoughts about his own society.  He and I were reading the novel as an anthropological treatise, rather than as a literary construction which used the framework of an American’s experiences in that society to tell a story that would be a worthwhile mental exercise for his intended mainly American readership.  There may be differences of opinion on the work’s success as an analysis of an Asian society while there was broad acclaim for the novel as a literary triumph.

30 November 2016

Trump's Need to Win

The President-elect's denial of Hillary Clinton's popular electoral majority is another illustration of the Donald's visceral need to score a win in a competition just for the hell of it, without regard to its objective.  That will be the principal driver of his coming administration.  Once Steve Bannon or another table-setter in his entourage selects an issue for him to focus on, he will fight to impose those views on the nation with the same promotional skill and determination that won him the White House.

That may be the greatest danger of a Trump presidency--not his belief in reactionary values, for he may not have any beliefs other than in his own importance.  We are in for leadership by an impressario of convincing salesmanship who can be used by a destructive right wing to reverse some of the progressive accomplishments of the country since the New Deal.  Therefore, it is up to the people who have voiced their concerns in futile demonstrations rather to educate and mobilize popular resistance to the backward-looking strategists who have dominated Trump during the campaign and who threaten to continue their influence over him during the next four or more years.

06 November 2016

Correcting ouir Changing Economy 

Correcting our Changing Economy
The NYT’s editorial on 5 November 2016 criticized Donald Trump for ignoring the official statistics that substantiate the federal administration’s and the Hillary Clinton Campaign’s claims that the nation’s economy is doing as well or better than it has since before the Great Recession in 2007-8.  Sadly, in order to agree one has equally to ignore that the recovery has come simultaneously with the apparently more complete transformation of our domestic  economy into  one in which physically creative human activity, like manufacturing and mineral extraction, are less valued than the sum of intellectual and interpersonal services. 

Mr. Trump has tapped into the vocal stratus of American society that has not managed successfully or self-gratifyingly to change their livelihoods from physical production to conceptual or ministrative pursuits.  The dissatisfaction of those U.S. citizens who believe the traditional measures of economic progress do not apply to them should be resolved by government jobs- and education-programs undertaken by whoever wins the 2016 presidential election.

03 November 2016

Driverless Cars Will Reduce Traffic Tie-ups 

Driverless Cars Will Reduce Traffic Tie-ups

Most traffic tie-ups are caused by the shortcomings of driver psychology.  How many times have you waited in slow traffic, particularly on supposedly obstruction-free four or more lane divided highways.  Sure, there are occasional accidents that hold up the progress of vehicles; but these have proven, seemingly more and more often, a small portion of the causes.  When you reach a final resumption of speed after a long slow-down, there is usually no logical expanation in evidence--no accident or breakdown blocking the road, no natural disaster impeding the roadway, not even a pair of hitchhikers, one of whom is exposing her thigh.

There is often a confusing electronic sign suspended from an overpass, a rise in the pavement hiding the assuring view of continued miles and miles of divided highway lanes ahead, the sidelined wreckage from a prior accident, an automobile pulled-over by and next to a patrolman's squad car, an eye-catching bill board that requires more than an instant of contemplation--you name the distraction.  Computers will not be diverted by these attention-grabbers and as they come to dominate the number of vehicles on the road, they won't have slower vehicles ahead of them to create delays they will have to negotiate.

Moreover, only human drivers will discomfort their passengers with their verbal expressions of frustration at the inability of other drivers to deal with the tie-up's cause or at the poor design of the highway and its signage, or even at the uneven justice of God that subjected them to a sudden rainstorm or other more serious exogenous event.  Until the elmination of human drivers clears superhighway traffic, unfortunately, we will suffer from the limits on highway speed and flow caused by our own humanity--we are not just along for the ride.

10 June 2016

Cuomo v. Citizens United

It is a shame that political action committees and other big private and corporate spenders can have as much a determinative effect on the behavior of American voters as the Supreme Court has allowed them.  The confusion of campaign (mostly media) spending with free speech is not as distorting of our constitutional values as the reliance of a large portion of the public on a  third-party advertising production instead of their own analysis.   The republic was founded on the belief that the common citizen was committed to the goals of the union and would set the direction of government policy based on his judgment of what would best achieve them, not on what the most well-funded advertising campaign told him
The pervasiveness of mass media exposure in Western countries has robbed their residents of autonomous personal thinking.  This is not the fault of the media; it speaks of societal laziness in an era of prosperity-mentality, regardless of the Great Recession.  If New York Governor Cuomo intends to reverse the consequences of the Citizens United decision, he must mount a national program of incentives to motivate voters to reduce their dependence on Madison Avenue-packaged political information.

09 May 2016

Trump’s Contempt

The repeated exaggerations, misstatements, contradictions and inaccuracies of Donald Trump’s rhetoric during his 2016 Republican primaries campaign does not just display his recognition that his supporters are less interested in him as a source of reliable information than as an effective spokesman for their frustration.  Those tactics really expose his utter contempt for the intelligence of the voters on whom he depends for overthrowing the GOP’s establishment. 

Donald Trump has enjoyed exercising the power that his wealth provides.  It is a sad comment on many of his supporters that they cede power over them to someone who has great monetary wealth no matter how he amasses it or how he uses it.  The traditional Republicans and other leaders who oppose Trump’s capture of the nomination resent the possibility that so contemptuous a person will be in line to lead our nation.

That resentment similarly characterizes the reaction of international officials to a possible Trump Presidency.  They translate it into the contempt they feel all Americans must have for the rest of the world to even consider it ok to elect someone like Trump to be the “Leader of the Free World.”

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