Showing posts with label Affordable Care Act. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Affordable Care Act. Show all posts

Monday, January 20, 2014

"Existential Illegitimacy"

We recently returned from a week cruise in the Caribbean, something I'll write about once I have some photos assembled, but on our way home from the cruise terminal parking lot, between Ft. Lauderdale and our home, a message was flashing on I95 about a traffic alert.  I checked Google Maps, and there didn't seem to be any delays but a few minutes later, on an overpass, there was a terribly disorganized "protest" with few protesters in attendance (I guess the authorities thought this would tie up traffic), holding signs for the motorists passing underneath, reading "Obama is a Muslim").  How sad, I thought, wasn't this yesterday's "news" or are these zombies conditioned by the Tea Party media, condemned to be the walking dead for their propaganda?

But it is something deeper, sadder than that, and especially on this Martin Luther King Day it is propitious to be reminded of the racially charged roots of such "protests" (and the "existential illegitimacy" of Obama's presidency).  In this regard, Sunday's New York Times carried an especially insightful article by Greg Grandin, a professor of history at New York University, Obama, Melville and the Tea Party.  Melville, you ask?  Ironically, one of the books on my "reread" pile is Benito Cereno, a short novella that I had mostly forgotten (as I had read it in college ages ago) and Grandin makes the association between Melville's classic and Obama's ongoing problem as a black in a Christian white man's world: "Benito Cereno" is based on a true historical incident, which I started researching around the time Mr. Obama announced his first bid for the presidency. Since then, I’ve been struck by the persistence of fears, which began even before his election, that Mr. Obama isn’t what he seems: that instead of being a faithful public servant he is carrying out a leftist plot hatched decades ago to destroy America; or if not that, then he is a secret Muslim intent on supplanting the Constitution with Islamic law; or a Kenyan-born anti-colonialist out to avenge his native Africa.

No other American president has had to face, before even taking office, an opposition convinced of not just his political but his existential illegitimacy. In order to succeed as a politician, Mr. Obama had to cultivate what many have described as an almost preternatural dominion over his inner self. He had to become a “blank screen,” as Mr. Obama himself has put it, on which others could project their ideals..... Yet this intense self-control seems to be what drives the president’s more feverish detractors into a frenzy; they fill that screen with hatreds drawn deep from America’s historical subconscious.

Indeed.  One of my blog articles, written in May 2008 as the presidential elections were gearing up, was an "Open Letter" to the then Senator Obama, in which I said Today is not too far removed from then. [The "then" I was referring to was the 1970s] Our economic difficulties of mounting national debt and a declining dollar, a decaying infrastructure, and the lack of better healthcare for our sick and better education for our young can be traced to a needless war, and to being hostage, once again, to oil producing nations. Racial and religious divisiveness still erodes the fabric of our society. The view of America abroad has undermined our ability to effectively deal with terrorism and to address global environmental issues. Politics again slithers along a slippery Machiavellian slope.

Since then, I've had my problems with Obama's presidential style, his academic standoffishness (perhaps Governor Christie could have given him a few pointers in good old fashioned strong-arm politics). But, looking back, even with the brinksmanship of Tea Party politics he's had to contend with, there has been progress. The economy is one, unemployment still too high, but slowly declining.  And soon after Obama was elected, the Dow dropped a few hundred points and the conservative press was immediately crying, SEE! For months, it was all Obama's fault (although he had nothing to do with it) and now, years later, with everyone's 401Ks flush with gains from a rising market, and real estate making a recovery, not a peep about his being responsible (which I would only attribute indirectly anyhow).  And even now that Osama bin Laden has been killed and al Qaeda in disarray (although, admittedly, not entirely eliminated -- almost an impossibility due to its decentralized organizational structure), little credit is given to Obama, but only just imagine that if bin Laden was still at large, you'd never hear the end of it from the Tea Party.  And Obama supporting the efforts of NSA surveillance to minimize terrorist threats -- how many conservatives would have jumped on board that train until they discovered Obama was at the wheel?  Meanwhile, hydraulic fracturing has made us more energy independent, something Obama has supported in spite of certain aspects being under assault from environmental organizations. 

Obama's signature piece of legislation has been the Affordable Care Act, and the conservative press was delighted at the very poorly planned launch via the government web site.  But as a cynic about many aspects of government, I can only attribute that to the "a camel is a horse designed by a committee" syndrome, not to mention the inherent complexity of the entire program.  But it is a start.  For a wonderful tongue-in-cheek "news report" on the program, read The Onion's Nation Recalls Simpler Time When Health Care System Was Broken Beyond Repair

Are things perfect, or as far along as we would like?  No.  In the absence of sound fiscal policy from a dysfunctional Congress, the Federal Reserve has had to use monetary policy to stabilize the economy -- even to bring us from the brink of a depression (although deflationary clouds still gather).  We've substituted soaring public debt for private debt and a banking system gone wild (remember the days of unregulated CMOs?). And another Sword of Damocles hanging over the nation is its inability to balance the legitimate spirit of the Second Amendment -- the right to bear arms -- and the demands of the NRA. (I say "legitimate spirit" as the weaponry when the Second Amendment was drafted was nothing like today's.)

There have been twenty mass shootings since Obama became president and he is helpless to do anything about it without the complete cooperation of Congress.  After the shooting in Newton, Connecticut, only a few miles from where we lived for twenty plus years, there was a ground swell (verbal only) in Congress to do something to control the sale of certain automatic weapons, but by the time the NRA got finished with their lobbying campaign, that effort was AK47ed to death.  Explain that failure to the parents of the children slaughtered.

So if Obama's presidency is finally judged as mediocre at best, read Benito Cereno to understand the historic etiology of his predicament.  As Grandin says, it represents a new kind of racism, based not on theological or philosophical doctrine but rather on the emotional need to measure one’s absolute freedom in inverse relation to another's absolute slavishness. This was a racism that was born in chattel slavery but didn’t die with chattel slavery, instead evolving into today’s cult of individual supremacy, which, try as it might, can’t seem to shake off its white supremacist roots.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Catch 22 in Washington

What is one supposed to expect from Washington nowadays other than a Kafkaesque response to communication?  Of the several emails I recently sent concerning the government shutdown and the debt crisis, my favorite exchange was with U.S. Senator Marco Rubio's office. Here's mine which I tried to keep brief and to the point:

To use the shutdown of the government and, far worse, the possible default on our debt as a hostage for repealing a law that has already been passed, adjudicated, is the worst kind of governing I can imagine and I blame this on the Republican Party, particularly the fringe elements, a Party I used to admire. This kind of brinksmanship reminds me of the Cuban Missile crisis, but being played out with the full faith and credit of our country as the A bomb (I lived in NYC then and remember the anxiety clearly).  Why not deal with the weaknesses of the Affordable Care Act (which is the proper name, not Obamacare) when they become evident during its implication? It makes me furious at my representatives and apprehensive for this country

One minute later, I got the following response:

Thank you for taking the time to contact me, please be advised due to the government shutdown, my office is currently closed. My office will respond to your concerns or resume work on your case as soon as the office reopens. In the interim, if you would like to leave a comment for me, you may still do so at 1-866-630-7106 (within Florida) or 202-224-3041.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio

Thus, I first called the Florida number, and it was busy.  So I called the Washington number and got one of those happy, professional recordings, one option was to leave a message concerning any legislative matters.  So, that is the option I chose.

Then, even a more friendly voice responded,  I'm sorry, that mailbox is full.  Goodbye.
The end. 

PS When I wrote this entry, I had no idea that practically concurrently President Obama was calling the failure to raise the debt ceiling an economic "nuclear bomb."  Amen to that.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Supreme Decisions

PAC ads are now running ceaselessly.  How many times have we heard that hushed voice, solemn in its accusatory tone, “In 2008, Barack Obama said, ‘We can’t mortgage our children’s future on a mountain of debt.’ Now he’s adding $4 billion in debt every day, borrowing from China for his spending. Every second, growing our debt faster than our economy, Tell Obama, stop the spending.” 

Last week the Supreme Court made two major decisions, the really BIG one -- perhaps in part to ensure the Court's integrity as an non-partisan institution --  was to uphold the Affordable Care Act, but in a less publicized one it also declined to reconsider the Citizens United decision that has led to viral PAC advertising by corporations and wealthy individuals.  Montana had challenged the decision by contending its century-old Corrupt Practices Act might be applied to PAC advertising in state and local elections. Not so, said the Supreme Court:  let the PAC advertising flow, with all its inherent sound bites and vapid fury!

And concerning the Supreme Court's courageous decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act , our local Palm Beach Post columnist/humorist, Frank Cerabino, wrote a wonderful satire   In this age of posturing over substance, he shows how it could be used as a political harangue from any viewpoint, merely by twisting a few words in each sentence.  I quote the beginning paragraphs, but the full text can be found at the link here.

"My Dear Fellow American:

The U.S. Supreme Court’s (historic / activist) decision to uphold (the Affordable Care Act / Obamacare) is but a temporary (victory / setback) in our long fight ( for access to health care / against government intrusion ) in (America / the marketplace.)

The law that the Supreme Court upheld on Thursday will mean that scores of (uninsured / reluctant ) Americans will be (covered / forced) in a system that provides the kind of (care / costs) that the rest of the (civilized / Socialistic) countries of the world already (enjoy / are saddled with).

(Unfortunately / Fortunately), the Supreme Court’s decision won’t be the last word on this (triumph / travesty) of justice. There are already (sinister forces / courageous voices) who are prepared to take this battle to Congress, which can (subvert / stop) the health care law through (vindictive / corrective) legislative action."