Monday, March 22, 2010
Then I started thinking: what a great country we live in. Here we are debating an issue that touches the core of who we are, a defining line between very different visions of who we should be. Yet there are no machetes, suicide bombers or IEDs anywhere around.
Conservatives took a whipping in 2006 and 2008. Liberals won the national debate and the election in 2008. They won it politically, they won it following the rules, and to the victors go the spoils. They did what they said they'd do.
Yet no one is leading an armed insurrection. Conservatives are trying to take back power, just as liberals did when they were in the wilderness. But "take back power" doesn't mean fund a private militia and storm the capital.
In this country, it means working all the harder at making your point; working all the harder at convincing a free people of the merits of your position; working all the harder to elect people who agree with you.
The debate on health care has only begun. The bad math is still there, and in the coming decades we and our children will have to confront it again. Because this bill, for all its noble purpose, does not fund the entitlements it creates. And that, however you dress it up, is a piece of deception.
Funding these entitlements will, in the end, involve either massive new taxes or the complete overthrow of the current insurance system. At some point, you can no longer finesse the issue with gimmicky accounting tricks.
And the American people will have to make the actual choices that Congress ducked here. Do you want to keep your entitlements intact and pay much higher taxes? Do you accept a severe reduction in entitlements to limit your tax bill? Do you nationalize health care in order to control costs? Or some combination of these three unpalatables?
I don't know what their choice will be. I can't predict all the circumstances under which that choice will be forced upon them. But the cause for optimisim is that the people get to make that choice, and not some wacko president-for-life, "fearless leader" or Maoist dictator.
So for those who prefer an America where risks and rewards are high, and government control is low, keep working, keep praying, and keep voting. The day will come when your voice is heard again. Maybe you'll be the ones high-fiving and cheering on the floor of the House.
Saturday, March 20, 2010
We are currently watching the Social Security/Medicare/Medicaid (call them S2M2) programs approach bankruptcy. Soon we will get to watch RPCare approach bankruptcy, along with the Federal Treasury.
The Congressional Budget Office issues reports each time RPCare changes. The people at the CBO must be approaching nervous breakdowns.
The CBO reports suggest that over 10 years the bill as presently constituted will shave about 10% of the RP's cost off the federal deficit. Now this is small beer, in any event, given the enormous increase in the federal deficit during the Bush/Obama "debt = eternal happiness" era of government expansion.
But the CBO "scoring" is just that: "scoring," as in a weird game of Risk, based on arcane rules that ignore historical reality. CBO predictions of cost savings almost never materialize, and CBO always woefully underestimates how fast health care costs really grow.
Even on their own terms the CBO's estimates don't promise fiscal solvency. They just say that they can't predict where the bill will take us past 10 years, but that by increasing revenues now and postponing new health care expenditures for 4 years, the bill ekes out about 10% more revenue than expenses by year 10. This means 10 years of revenue to pay for 6 years of health care.
Never mind the quality of the "revenues" RPCare asks us to believe in. That is a sausage factory you do not want to see or smell.
After 10 years, we have to pay as we go. See, this is the problem with Ponzi schemes and check-kiting. At some point your "float" drys up. The expenses will keep on going up dramatically, while the revenue sources won't. The math will stop working very rapidly.
And then what? The S2M2 bankruptcy will be dwarfed by the bankruptcy of RPCare. We will either scrap the system, at untold cost to poorer Americans with nowhere left to go, or turn to a truly nationalized health care system. Welcome, Veterans Hospitals.
The administration understands that RPCare is the last, great hope of turning the United States hard toward a nationalized health system. The administration sees such a turn as "the right thing to do." Every year, every month, every week that goes by without RPCare allows America to keep thinking about "entitlement bankruptcy." Voters are getting more and more jittery, even now. Witness Scott Brown sitting in "Ted Kennedy's" seat. People's enthusiasm for new spending will continue to erode, the closer the S2M2 bankruptcy lumbers toward us.
Hence, the urgency to pass this bill now, while Democrats can. Because very soon, the moment will have passed, never to return.
In the end, I don't think Obama cares very much about health care. He didn't before the primaries. He picked up Hillary Clinton's fervor as a convenient device for accomplishing his true passion, a federal government locked into growth at a faster rate than the private economy. If Obama wins health care, he wins constant government growth, relative to the private economy. The rest of the story is interesting, but essentially inevitable, like finishing a hand of solitaire once all the cards are up.
Health care has grown faster than the rest of the economy for 40 years. If the federal government is running health care, the health care math means government expands at a rate faster than the private economy. 2 + 2 = 4, and that's that.
And this means that at some point within a generation, the government will have overcome and swallowed the private economy. That day will mark a great victory for America's left. No armed revolution will have preceded this takeover; just a vote on health care on March 21, 2010.
Obama and friends see federal control of the private economy as the only sure way to ensure social justice, a social justice defined by Obama and people who agree with him. Once they get RPCare done, all they have to do is wait, and the rest of the deal comes to them while they sit.
Tomorrow is the first day of spring. The weather is likely to be lovely, here in Hotville. I hope the House of Representatives refuses to approve RPCare. I am Eternally Optimistic.
What a beautiful word, either way. It means various things, but among the more common are "consecrated by a religious ceremony . . . hallowed, holy . . . enjoying supreme felicity . . . happy, fortunate . . . enjoying the bliss of heaven." Oxford English Dictionary.
Last night EO woke up in the middle of the night, thinking. It happens often enough that I wonder if I should form a pre-dawn support group, consisting of people I can reliably email or phone at zero-dark-thirty to discuss what is keeping my eyelids open, even though I am very tired.
Now this may have been fueled by the wine I had at supper, but these thoughts have been frequent enough visitors that I cannot blame alcohol entirely. Alcohol is simply a facilitator, not a cause.
I was not feeling bles-sed, or blest; quite the opposite. I was feeling a failure for not being enough. I was thinking of what a small and inadequate life I have led.
But through the haze of weird chemical reactions, odd personality disorders and bad memories came a very short and quiet thought, the kind I have come to believe is the "word of God" that people write about hearing.
"Aren't small lives the ones Christ was talking about in the Beatitudes?"
I noticed that nowhere in the Beatitudes did it say "blessed are the rich and powerful" or "blessed are the famous." Nope.
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who
hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted
for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew chapter 5.
No matter how small and insignificant my life may be, and no matter how poor my decisions may have been, at this moment and at every moment of my life these doors to blessedness are available to me on exactly the same terms as to every other human being, whether great or small.
And in God's economy, in His society, these are the things that count. Fame and beauty, power and prestige, wealth and privilege: all of it "withers and fades," in the words of Isaiah.
He wrote in the 8th century B.C., but his words still strike home, because they are true:
but the word of the Lord stands forever.
So, as the noted philosopher Carl Spackler once said,
Philosopher King Carl Spackler.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
March 12, 2010 a good man died. Joe Cassario, an old friend, was lifted from this world and went to be with his Lord, whom he loved. I am privileged and happy to know Joe and his family, who every one of them share in his genuine kindness, good spirits and humility.
Tonight Mrs. EO and I have been listening again to a song based on St. Patrick's words. To think of the love that man had for those who had enslaved and tormented him. He deserved the name "Christian." What a beautiful song. What a beautiful life. I thought what a beautiful way to celebrate Joe's life and his new life above.
Joseph, please introduce me to your friends when I arrive. Soon and very soon.
I arise today
through the strength of heaven.
Light of sun, radiance of moon,
splendor of fire, speed of lightning,
swiftness of wind, depth of the sea,
stability of earth, firmness of rock.
I arise today
through God’s strength to pilot me
God’s eye to look before me, God’s wisdom to guide me
God’s way to lie before me, God’s shield to protect me
From all who shall wish me ill,
Afar and a near, alone and in a multitude
Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body, and so…
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ to shield me.
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me;
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me.
I arise today.
Monday, March 8, 2010
Dear Eternal Optimist,
I noticed that I get a headache whenever I read your blog. I think your blog entries are too long and hard to follow.
Headachey in Madison
Your headaches are due to the snow and cold in Wisconsin. EO's blog entries are much shorter and warmer than President Obama's speeches. You ate too many of those during the last election and they gave you an "ice-pop" headache, maybe.
You should pack EO's blogs on your forehead, like a warm compress, for your headaches.
Or, you could just read every third word. It is much faster and more entertaining.
Warmest Personal Regards,
Dear EO (whoever you really are),
You make me SICK!! What right do you have to be so judgmental about people's moral views?! People like you and Bush have ruined this country!! Look at the shambles we are in because of Bush! If people were more tolerant of one another (something you can't seem to understand) we wouldn't have so much gridlock in Washington! I would call you a stupid joke, but you aren't funny!!
Tolerant in Minnesota
I don't appreciate your intolerance of my judgmental attitudes. It is your intolerance, and the intolerance of the other people up there, that makes Minnesota so cold and miserable. Why are people in Iowa so nice, but Minnesota is so mean?
You elected Al Franken, so you can't be all bad. Check out "Stuart Saves His Family." Great movie. Remember, "progress, not perfection."
Warmest Personal Regards,
Dear Eternal Optimist,
The last election demonstrated the problematic nature of the democratic/republican insistence on either/or propositions during elections and, more broadly, during any political debate. The underlying dementia in the current toxic political environment is the insistence on a zero-sum mentality, when the reality of today's multi-dimensional social and psychic time/space continuum is that we rarely confront a bona fide zero-sum game; rather, we are most often involved in games that promise less for all players (or, correspondingly more for all players), depending on the inter-connectivity and biological relevance of the answers we suggest and, ultimately, implement. Contributing to the misidentification of dialectic imperatives does nothing to enhance the reformation of what can and must be relatively benign processes for change and overall paradigm shifting toward the symbolic and actual sharing of both political and economic futures. We cannot afford to continue along these lines and fool ourselves into believing it does not matter.
Earnestly in California
I can't disagree. I think you've said it all.
Warmest Personal Regards,
I find your blog offensive in the extreme. Please take me off your mailing list at once.
Stuck in Rhode Island
(A) I don't have a mailing list. (B) If I had a mailing list you wouldn't be on it. (C) Doesn't it embarrass you to have the same number of senators as California?
Warmest Personal Regards,
I am your mother, and even I find you difficult. Why don't you stop writing these silly blogs and just find a job and be kind to people?
I used to work at a job, but that made me so sad. Everyone was mean to me. So now I just write blogs and play the guitar and the bongos, and I feel more happy. And I've lost a lot of weight.
You want me to be happy, don't you?
Saturday, March 6, 2010
This weekend I read an article about moral absolutes in a local paper (The Hotville Herald). The article took as its starting point Pope John Paul II's statement, "In the end, only a morality which acknowledges certain norms as valid always and for everyone, with no exception, can guarantee the ethical foundation of social coexistence . . ." Parenthetically, Pope Benedict XVI probably agrees with this.
Now, the 82% figure includes anyone who self-identifies as a Catholic. If you took a poll of people who go to Mass even once a month (the Church teaches you should go at least once a week) the answers to the poll change significantly, as the article points out.
Nevertheless, the "buy-in" on the statement is fascinating.
I had some questions I wanted to ask of the 82% (we will call them "The Eighty-Two.") Feel free to write in with comments.
First, when you said "there is no definite right and wrong for everybody," did you mean, "categorically and objectively, there is no definite right and wrong for everybody?" I will assume so, since otherwise the statement boils down to
including myself, but I am actually not so sure.
Besides, it is time to watch "Lost."
We will call this mushier statement "Lost," to keep things brief. Lost is not much to get excited about, so I will ignore it for now. More on Lost later.
If your answer was yes, "categorically and objectively, there is no definite right and wrong for everybody," my question is "how do you know that?"
Do you know it (A) empirically, having tested all possible knowledge and all possible variations of right and wrong, or (B) via some type of deductive logic, reasoning from an accepted first premise?
I will take a wild guess and rule out (A). So we are left with (B). Somehow you were able to move step by logical step from an accepted first principle to the conclusion that, categorically and objectively, "there is no definite right and wrong for everybody."
Let me know what the universally accepted first principle was and what the logical steps were. My guess is that the universally accepted first principle looks awfully like an absolute moral value. But I will wait to see the arguments before passing judgment on that.
Here's a second question. Let's try a "Moral Absolutes Experiment." I guess that even The Eighty-Two will agree with the following absolute moral norms:
(1) torturing small children to death is never a moral good.
(2) racism is never a moral good.
(3) forced conversion to Christianity is never a moral good.
(4) listening to Rush Limbaugh is never a moral good.
Okay, I'm sorry, get rid of Number Four. But am I wrong about the first Three? I like Three, for reasons I've explained elsewhere.
If you want to argue that any of the first three propositions are only relative (i.e., sometimes it is okay to torture small children to death), my only stipulation is that you let me know who you are so I can keep an eye on you.
If I can think of three (possibly four) absolute moral truths in 15 seconds, you maybe see why I am siding with the Pope on this issue? You can try stating moral absolutes at home, just for fun. It's easy. For example, "launching nuclear weapons purely for the purpose of self-gratification is never a moral good."
You get the idea for the game. It will keep you busy on the weekends and provide plenty of fun comments with which to infuriate your teachers during the school week.
I will step out on a limb here and say that the actual thought in the mind of every one of The Eighty-Two was, in fact, "Lost" (for those who forgot the details on Lost, including me, it means "I don't think there is a definite right and wrong for everybody, including myself, but I am actually not so sure. Besides, it is time to watch 'Lost.'")
I will step out further on the limb and say that the originating impulse for Lost is that The Eighty-Two wanted to have sex with their girlfriends/boyfriends and didn't like the Pope or anyone else telling them it was wrong.
I will also stand on a twig at the end of the limb and say that each of The Eighty-Two heard or read the statement "there is no definite right and wrong for everybody" an average of 10,097 times in high school and college. And many of them heard it right after the class on the Holocaust, where they heard (and agreed) that genocide was never a moral good. I will venture that the contradiction never registered.
So the basis of this profound moral nihilism is that the The Eighty-Two really, really want to have sex with their girlfriends/boyfriends. Without the Pope telling them "no good."
You are going to dump the Pope, maybe your Mom (although there are some odd Moms out there these days), almost certainly your Grandmom, together with 5,000 years of a very sensible moral system (dating back to at least Abraham) so that you can have sex with your girlfriend/boyfriend? On the advice of that teacher with the bad haircut and body odor, to whom you probably wouldn't entrust your bicycle, much less your eternal soul?
How about instead of jettisoning a time tested system of morality, you just deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Jesus? Maybe start by going to confession and trying to quit sinning?
It's Lent. Great time of year for that.
I'm just saying.
It seems simpler to me. Occam's razor, know what I mean?