Friday, January 21, 2005

Getting Serious

After the non-event of yesterday, we should face the reality of what is America with no reservations. It is true that we all have our own view of reality. However, there is enough of a correspondence in that view so that we participate in a social contract. It is my opinion that that social contract is frayed and in danger of tearing with momentous consequences for our polity. Here are my reasons:

1. The War in Iraq: It is very telling that George Bush did not mention Iraq in his inaugural speech yesterday. This would be tantamount to Lincoln not mentioning the Civil War, Wilson WWI or Roosevelt WWII. It is just incomprehensible. It shows a disconnect with reality. The War in Iraq is the defining event of these years and we must extricate ourselves from there as quickly as possible. It is clear that there will be a civil war in Iraq after the attempt at elections on 30, January (in 9 days). What we will do then is unknown. There will be four sides: the US and Britain, the Shiites, the Sunnis and the Kurds. Standing in the wings will be Iran and Syria. It will only be because of exhaustion if a more terrible bloodbath than the present one does not ensue.

There is only one solution. That is for the US and Britain to relinquish control to the United Nations who would then deploy troops from Arab nations as security. What other option is open?

2. Social Security: This is a non-issue. It is solvent at 100% until 2042, at least. Let us move on from this attempt to line the pockets of the investment bankers.

3. Health Care: At this point, we need a national health plan. The current mess will just get worse if we do not radically alter the system. At the crux of this is the insurance companies. They have grown from the benign, not-for-profit organizations when I was young (principally Blue Cross and Blue Shield) to the voracious megacompanies of today. It is telling that in Maryland there are only two companies that account for 80% of the private coverage. This is not competition in the free market, it is unchecked greed. While America is not ready for the Canada solution (though it would be the best), we need to take the possibility of fabulous wealth for a few out of the system. As I have pointed out before, the CEO of United HealthCare, one of the two companies mentioned above, makes $38,000,000 a year CASH, with $500,000,000 in stock options. This just can't continue to be the case when people around me are suffering from lack of medical care.

4. The Environment: The current course will not even get us to 2042. The contention that science is invalid by those who are not scientists (our President) reminds one of the Ludites. Science is science and not open to opinion. The overwhelming consensus amongst environmental scientists is that we need to do something and do it fast. Our inability to deal with emissions, our reliance on oil, our rape of forests (including the Amazon) is about as shortsighted as a people could be. I realize that it is radical, but I am of the opinion that natural resources belong to everyone. Of course if that ownership is administered but the current cabal in Washington, they will continue to deteriorate. Achieving a coalition in Congress of Democrats and Republicans who care for the environment is the only solution.

5. Nuclear weapons: All of the above is made trivial by the possibility that rouge nations, ourselves or Israel will start using nuclear weapons. Our efforts to stop the proliferation of weapons has received a severe setback in recent years. We have abrogated treaties (the ABM treaty in particular) and refused to sign treaties (the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty). We have sent the signal to the rest of the world that it is o.k for ourselves (and Israel) to develop these weapons of mass destruction but not for anyone else. Unfortunately, the rest of the world isn't buying it. In addition to Pakistan and India, it is pretty certain that North Korea has them. It is only a matter of time before others start pitching them at one another.

We should immediately forswear first use of WMD. We should sign the treaties an negotiate new ones. The only thing that I can think of that might force us to do so is if Israel launches a weapon at its Arab neighbors. This will wake up the world.

6. Education: I am sorry, No Child Left Behind is a disaster. We need to immediately stop this foolishness of testing and begin to really address the problem of education. As long as we have a President that laughs at intellectual achievement (and science) this won't happen. But perhaps a more understanding Congress will be able to turn the tide.

It doesn't sound good for the U.S.A. I suspect we are facing even worse straits than in 1778, 1861, 1917, 1941 or the Vietnam war.

But, we must survive. I'm going to work for it.


EG said...


The Bushies will attempt to push the SS issue into the ground. Scott McClellan was grilled this week about the word 'crisis'. He and the administration now know they cannot use 'crisis' and refused to use the word during the briefing.

Surprising, FoxNews' Chris Wallace has been forcing the Bushies to elaborate on the SS issue.

Nuclear Weapons:

I don't consider nuclear weapons treaties to be an issue these days. Not with the ability to make dirty bombs, a weapon agreement isn't necessary and will be ignored by terrorists. The scare in Boston (and who says the 'informant' got the right city? Could it really be Boise or Baltimore or Birmingham?) with a potential dirty bomb shows how our enemies can use home-made bombs and destroy our way of life. If the right 'informant' said there are dirty bombs in fifty U.S. cities at this moment, the country would go into utter hysteria.

Anonymous said...

Wow. That's what I call pissing in my Cheerios. Although I really can't argue with you much. There is a little good news. Josh Marshall, at Talking Points Memo, has been following the Social Security stuff pretty closely and he seems to think the Congressional Republicans are running away in large numbers from the Bush semi-proposal. In terms of health care, I defer to your expertise. Can you answer one question? Whenever free-market conservatives discuss why we can't go to a single-payer system, they claim that such a system would be less efficient financially than the current hodge-podge. Given the executive salaries you've given an example of, can this possibly be true? Aren't the administrative costs of Medicare and Medicaid a tiny fraction of those like United HealthCare or MAMSI? Am I missing something? Or are they? Like honesty.