What a day for a daydream

October 26, 2008 | 80 comments
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A few days ago, Russell passed around this quote backstage (yes, T&S has a backstage–that’s where the permabloggers hang out, fight, and make fun of you):

From Leon Wieseltier, writing in The New Republic :

“I have not yet been asked for my vote by a candidate who represents the entirety of my convictions. I am not dismayed by this. Politics should not provide the most complete or the most profound of life’s satisfactions. Voting is not an expression of the soul. Anyway, my convictions do not add up. I like taxes and I like the military. (The only thing Obama said in any of those dreary debates that delighted me was his muffled admission the other night that ‘I don’t mind paying a little more’ taxes. Taxation is a strong sign of membership in a polity; and the many calamities of recent years have confirmed to me that the government needs my money, because there are emergencies, within and beyond our borders, with which only it can deal.) I want universal health care and I want an interventionist foreign policy. I believe that the American president should help people in distress, at home and abroad–not all of them, but a lot of them. I like capitalism, but not religiously, and I feel the same way about diplomacy. I do not trust bankers to understand American values and poets to understand American interests. Taken together, these are political inconsistencies, but they are not intellectual inconsistencies. It is not my problem that the political culture of this country has made the liberalism that I inherited, and of which I was honored to become an heir, seem incoherent. Or maybe it is my problem: after all, I have to vote.”

My problem, indeed. I don’t expect voting to provide the most complete or profound satisfaction (although I do believe my soul is involved). But next week I’ll leave the ballot box (or more accurately, the computerized booth) with barely any satisfaction, because I can’t vote for what I want without also voting for what I don’t want. And my quibbles are not small ones. No matter how I slice it, I’ll be saying yes to some policies I deem dangerous (for one reason or another) and others that I find utterly detestable. Such is the fate of moderates like myself.

And yes, I am dismayed. Instead of Obama or McCain, why can’t we have a hybrid? Someone who will stop the torture of prisoners and unborn babies? Someone who believes in A+ public schools and (real) freedom of choice in education? I want strong social services and strong traditional family values. I want gun control at home and success in war abroad. And while we’re at it, can we have a president who’s a sensitive diplomat AND a formidable commander-in-chief?

Alas, on election day I must make do with one or the other. But a girl can dream.

I’m sure at least a few of you are chomping at the bit to tell me why my dream is ill-informed, intellectually inconsistent, politically impossible, or otherwise sucky. Don’t. Instead, tell me your political dream. (But fair warning: if you mention the Green Party, you’ll be ridiculed backstage.)

80 Responses to What a day for a daydream

  1. Julie M. Smith on October 26, 2008 at 4:45 pm

    Yeah.

    Me? I want a libertarian who promises socialized (gasp!) medicine.

  2. mlu on October 26, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    “. . .to establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity. . .”

    A small state constrained by a Constitution and kept in check by freedom-loving citizens–powerful and wealthy families able to meet most needs in the realms of education and health, strong and active churches, my own vine and fig tree. . .

  3. Peter LLC on October 26, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    on election day I must make do with one or the other

    This is the price of a plurality electoral system–in the end the winner takes all. But at least we have a winner. You should see those countries with proportional representation–there’s no telling how it takes the elected parties to duke it out to determine the winner(s) after the election and get a government up and going.

    Anyhoo–my dream is: universal health care. And you can raise my taxes to pay for it.

  4. Dan on October 26, 2008 at 5:59 pm

    Fight for the removal of the electoral college system, and then third parties may have a better chance at gaining traction. Instill proportional representation rather than first past the post and you’ll have more parties, some that might actually represent your views more accurately.

  5. Russell Arben Fox on October 26, 2008 at 6:14 pm

    What would I like, ideally? A small, primarily agrarian, social democratic state governed by a parliamentary system which would more effectively reflect populist, communitarian and conservative sentiments, and in which not coincidentally the church would have significant civic power. Basically, Bavaria–or Minnesota up until about the early 1960s or so.

    Of course, knowing my personality, if I did live in such an environment, I’d probably be an angry, cosmopolitan liberal individualist. BYU helped make me much more of a leftist than I likely would have become than if I’d gone to, say, the University of Michigan. Intellectual contrarians like me do not a good guide to politics make.

    Still, I am who I am, and so I keep waiting for a proper Christian socialist party to appear that I can donate to. Until then, my votes will probably always be half-hearted at most: a Democrat here, a Republican there, a member of the Green Party over there. (No Libertarians, though.) I don’t expect perfect expressive unity between me and any one candidate; that’s a foolish hope. But I would hope someday for there to be slightly more overlap between my–I think intellectually consistent–positions and the practical electoral options available here in the U.S.

  6. Russell Arben Fox on October 26, 2008 at 6:17 pm

    Fight for the removal of the electoral college system, and then third parties may have a better chance at gaining traction. Instill proportional representation rather than first past the post and you’ll have more parties, some that might actually represent your views more accurately.

    I agree completely.

  7. Jack on October 26, 2008 at 6:40 pm

    “Fight for the removal of the electoral college system…”

    No way. We have too much of a divide between the “urban” and the “rural” in this country. The “rural” would get mashed (not to mention the fact that states would lose “that much” more voice in the voting process). I think we still need the electoral system to balance the states relative to their productivity as well as their populace.

  8. Jack on October 26, 2008 at 6:48 pm

    As to the original post–

    To vote for one candidate is to plunge in a knife. To vote for the other is to plunge in the knife and then commit hari kari.

  9. Kathryn Lynard Soper on October 26, 2008 at 6:58 pm

    Jack, for me the choice isn’t so, uh, clear-cut. And you neglected to tell us your dream.

    (btw, it’s hara-kiri.)

  10. This is What They Taught Me in AP Gov on October 26, 2008 at 7:06 pm

    Exactly, #7, what we really ought to remove is the misconception that the constitution gives us the power to elect the president. It gives the states the power; it just happens that the states think it’s nice to let us have a say.

    Also, there is a trade-off to having political parties that accurately represent your views. The two-party system is much more stable and basically ensures that party platforms stay moderate; a party only gains any control by absorbing as many movements and sentiments as possible.

  11. Russell Arben Fox on October 26, 2008 at 7:28 pm

    We have too much of a divide between the “urban” and the “rural” in this country. The “rural” would get mashed (not to mention the fact that states would lose “that much” more voice in the voting process).

    The rural already gets mashed, because the majority of the votes aren’t there. Just ask anyone who lives in downstate Illinois, or eastern Oregon or Colorado, or western Iowa. Chicago, Portland, Denver, and Des Moines makes those states what they turn out to be in terms of electoral impact, regardless of how concentrated (and hence, in a sense, “unrepresentative”) the relevant populations may be. I would be interested in a system that truly reflected diversity of living patterns, but the current electoral college really doesn’t do it.

    As for giving states more voice in the voting process, I’m not sure. The Constitution wanted to create a single executive accountable directly to the people; that’s why they took the ability to appoint a (powerless) executive away from the Congress–which is the way it was under the Articles of Confederation–and created a separate branch of government. (Which is a problem all its own, but that’s another issue.) The electoral college was set up primarily not because they wanted the states to elect the president, but because they didn’t trust ordinary people to be able to transcend local interests and make decisions on behalf of the national good; hence, the need for a system whereby a range of better types of people would be appointed who would presumably be able to make voting choices superior to those of rank and file citizens. The idea of the electoral college protecting state interests is something that developed later (and it also doesn’t particularly work, at least not if you take national polls seriously).

    Federalism is a good idea, but it needs to an effective federalism that actually delivers positive power and accountability, and neither the electoral college nor the Senate do that especially well, at least not as currently constituted. If we were redivide the jurisdictions of the country (the way Germany did to their Lander after WWII) and end up with more compact and well-defined states, well, then we might getting somewhere.

  12. Dan on October 26, 2008 at 7:54 pm

    Another problem is gerrymandering. It creates a stagnant cesspool of corrupt Representatives who can never be taken out. Worse, it makes those districts into cesspools of extremists living in an unrealistic bubble, constantly viewing the “other” side wrongly and adding to the divide the nation experiences.

  13. Kathryn Lynard Soper on October 26, 2008 at 8:19 pm

    a party only gains any control by absorbing as many movements and sentiments as possible.

    But, see, I only want MY sentiments absorbed. Surely the nation would be much better off that way.

    (half-joking)

  14. Seth R. on October 26, 2008 at 8:24 pm

    I just want someone who will make Cheney’s White House records public.

  15. Velikiye Kniaz on October 26, 2008 at 8:43 pm

    RE: 14

    Good luck, Seth! By the way, so would I. Among the first things that I would like to see would be the minutes from the secretive “Energy Summit” that Cheney (through Bush) called shortly after they came into office. My gut instinct is that all of the records we both long to see have either already been consigned to the flames or shortly will be. We wouldn’t want such incriminating documentation lying about for a successor administration to ferret through and find justification for impeachment (or worse) proceedings, would we? The pressure for such actions will intensify next year(s) as a second and third wave of financial institutions fail. There is a great deal that we will never know about the workings of government these past 8 years, but we can take solace that there is a Living God of justice and no one, no matter how ‘clever’ they think they are, will ultimately get away anything.

  16. Kathryn Lynard Soper on October 26, 2008 at 9:05 pm

    Oh, I think the Living God of justice has plenty of scores to settle with politicians of both parties.

  17. keva on October 26, 2008 at 9:38 pm

    Alas, no man can serve two masters, you just gotta pick one.

    For me, I pare it down to the issues I think are most important to me (the war, affordable health care, how we treat the poor, etc.) and pick who represents my views best. Yes, I might also care about gun control, foreign trade, abortion, etc., but since I am not affected directly, they rank a bit lower on my scale. This helps a bit, but I still feel the two-party system doesn’t give me the best possible candidate.

    A plug for early voting. I voted yesterday. It was great! No lines, no hassle. I just have to wait two weeks for the results……

  18. Geoff B on October 26, 2008 at 10:02 pm

    Three legs of the stool: smaller federal government (lower taxes, more foreign trade and promotion of globalization, the abolition of many federal agencies but NOT the defense dept), a muscular, moralistic foreign policy (peace through strength) and a state that promotes traditional values (abortion restrictions, the FMA, etc).

    This is not popular position among many bloggernaclites but probably pretty popular among Church members in general. And history shows me it is more and more the right way to go.

  19. Geoff B on October 26, 2008 at 10:04 pm

    And Kathryn, if you’re wondering, IMHO, the Republican party has abandoned the first leg of that stool (smaller federal govt) and is on its way to abandoning the other two, so I definitely wish there were another viable option.

  20. Bob W on October 26, 2008 at 10:29 pm

    Does anyone actually see a substantive difference between the Democrats running things and the Republicans? They both seem beholden to wallstreet, the pharmecuticals, oil, and big business. They don\’t raise hundreds of millions by not taking care of the money guys. And the money guys usually give to both.

    Absentee or early is the only way this year. The last time there was this much interest I stood in line 2 1/2 hours.

  21. Adam Greenwood on October 26, 2008 at 10:33 pm

    54’40″ or fight.

  22. Stephen M (Ethesis) on October 26, 2008 at 10:36 pm

    Alas, on election day I must make do with one or the other. But a girl can dream.

    I feel the same way. Thanks for saying it.

  23. Adam Greenwood on October 26, 2008 at 10:53 pm

    If you really feel all angsty about voting, you are probably taking it too seriously. Your chances of winning the powerball lottery are much greater than your chances of affecting national politics via voting.

  24. Mark D. on October 26, 2008 at 10:54 pm

    Geoff B,

    If by “muscular foreign policy” you mean intimidating our enemies into inaction through fear of swift and sure reprisal, I agree. If by “muscular foreign policy” you mean, for example, that knowing what we know now we still should have invaded Iraq, or that we should commit our military to “nation-building” exercises like Somalia, I couldn’t disagree more.

  25. Nate W. on October 26, 2008 at 11:00 pm

    Russell (11):

    I’m utterly confused by your statement that somehow concentrated populations are somehow unrepresentative of the state or legislative district. To quote Chief Justice Warren, “Legislators represent people, not trees or acres. Legislators are elected by voters, not farms or cities or economic interests.” It sounds like you’re arguing for representation based on acreage. I suppose you can argue that some sort of corporatist (apologies for the baggage associated with the term, I’m using it in the least fascist way possible) representation of interests more accurately represents the populace than the principles of one person, one vote, but I think that argument is pretty clearly wrong. The mythos of the yeoman farmer has propped up parochial rural interests at the expense of the majority of Americans for too long already (see, e.g., the farm bill). Jefferson was wrong and Hamilton was right on that argument, and it’s about time that our country’s political establishment reflected the fact that big cities are as American as small towns.

  26. Kathryn Lynard Soper on October 26, 2008 at 11:24 pm

    Your chances of winning the powerball lottery are much greater than your chances of affecting national politics via voting.

    I don’t think I harbor any illusions, Adam. The public significance of my vote may be negligable, but for me, the personal significance is not.

  27. Ray on October 26, 2008 at 11:48 pm

    My dream: To really like one of the choices I have on the possible-to-elect Presidential tickets – either office. That’s really all at the most fundamental level, and I haven’t had that for a long, long time.

  28. Mark D. on October 27, 2008 at 12:32 am

    My dream is no more farm bills.

  29. mlu on October 27, 2008 at 12:58 am

    Maybe when the electoral college is gone we can also get rid of state governments and the 10th Amendment. All those red states have just interfered with the true blue of New York and California. One big national government–how could we go wrong.

    Actually, I think Faheed Zakaria was on the right track with his observation that much of our current trouble stems from an expansion of democracy. Demagaguery has replaced governing as the main task of elected officials. So even the simplest of problems can’t be solved, and people keep electing people who increase their dependency while making promises that won’t be made good.

    Letting state legislatures elect the president would be a step in the right direction. It would make the presidential campaign a little less ludicrous.

    Other things would help, too: restricting voting to taxpayers comes to mind.

    But I think we’ve passed the tipping point, where more than 50% of voters think of the government as an entity that is doing its job when it writes them checks.

  30. Nate W. on October 27, 2008 at 1:09 am

    Good grief, MLU, more than 50% of voters are on the dole? Citation please. And what are your requirements for participation in this new government of yours? Real property ownership? Minimum income requirement? I hope I can qualify to be part of your oligarchy…

    Zeal without knowledge–you’re doing it right.

  31. m&m on October 27, 2008 at 2:21 am

    Kathy,
    Great post. I, too, am a daydreamer.

  32. Summer Wheatley on October 27, 2008 at 4:15 am

    I want all my dreams to come true.

  33. Velska on October 27, 2008 at 6:54 am

    Actually, proportionate representation (as mocked in #3) is not that bad. It is alive and well in Nordic countries. Norway, Sweden and Finland haven’t had any trouble forming coalition governments for some time (say, 20 years). The story is different in Italy, of course, where your choices are very fractious socialists, who can’t tolerate each other, or Berlusconi, who is basically using the Treasury as his piggy-bank and the legislature to give himself immunity (to simplify a little). France, Netherlands, Germany, they all have proportionate representation and are as governable as the US (at least in that they have both representation and a functional government). In Belgium, where there is a real governing crisis, the problem is with the Flemish and Walloons not getting along with each other – Belgium may eventually end up being split into Flemish-speaking and French-speaking entities (who knows what will happen to the tiny minority of German speakers).

    By the way, the Brits have a multiparty system, too, although the Liberal Democrats don’t get to live at 10 Downing St. Of course, there the winner takes all in electoral districts, favoring the big two.

    I just thought that the slur on proportionate representation was a little misinformed, that’s all. I’ve never even dreamed of having a candidate that would actually represent me and have a chance to get elected, so I do a balance act. Politics is ugly everywhere, but necessary.

  34. Eric Boysen on October 27, 2008 at 8:03 am

    Yeah Adam! I say Free silver! (and lots of it)

  35. Peter LLC on October 27, 2008 at 8:09 am

    Actually, proportionate representation (as mocked in #3) is not that bad.

    Actually, I was poking fun, but my real purpose was to highlight one of the fact that while the American electoral system tends to narrow choice down to two candidates who may not even come close to “representing” the wide spectrum of political thought in America, it does produce a winner. And that can be a good thing that might only appear that way when contrasted with other countries.

    I just thought that the slur on proportionate representation was a little misinformed, that’s all.

    Well, it’s not a slure and I’m not misinformed.

    I live in a country with proportional representation and if anything was misinformed, it was my lame attempt to humorously point out certain aspects of such a system. Yes, you get “better” representation under this system in the sense that smaller parties can and do play a role in government and legislation. But you also create a system where the people do not choose a clear winner in the form of a president or prime minister or chancellor with a mandate to govern, but one of any number of parties that meet a fairly low hurdle to campaign. And the parties do pretty much whatever they want, including dissolving the government (that somehow represented the will of the people, right?) and calling for new elections, which in my case they just did this July after not quite 18 months into a five-year term.

    So new elections were held the end of September, the people spoke and their voice was divided as follows: 29.3%, 26%, 17.5%, 10.7% and 10.4%.

    Since you need a parliamentary majority to govern (or extra-party support for a minority government) and the people did not grant this, the parties now have to duke it out (verbally if not literally) until they have a coalition that can govern. And don’t think that the two largest parties are always the default winners or that they enjoy working with each other. In 1999 the government that ended up taking office was comprised of the second- and third-place parties with the third-place party nominating the chancellor. And the latest 18-month coalition consisted of the top two parties with the winner nominating the chancellor and it was less stable than the two 2nd/3rd place coalitions before it.

    Anyway, elections were held on 28 September and the parties are still deciding who the winners will be; the two biggest parties are not even one week into negotiations that are expected to last till Christmas. In 2006 it took over 100 days from election to inauguaration and it has taken as long as 130 or so days before.

    My point is this: for all the virtues of proportional representation, and there are many, there are some vices. One of them is the lack of a clear mandate that the US system provides no matter how close the race.

    I hope that clears up a few of your misconceptions, though if it doesn’t, I would chalk it up to poor communication skills rather than ignorance.

  36. Russell Arben Fox on October 27, 2008 at 8:19 am

    Nate W.,

    I’m utterly confused by your statement that somehow concentrated populations are somehow unrepresentative of the state or legislative district.

    You’re reading too much into my comment. I state pretty plainly in that comment that rural voters get mashed under our present system anyway, because urban and exurban areas are where the majority of voters are. For better or worse, that’s the way it should be; I’m fully in favor of counting votes, not trees or acres. I do think that a strict, nationwide, majoritarian plebiscite would be bad for both diversity and democracy in this country over the long haul, because it would consistently skew policies and politicians toward a fairly narrow set of perspectives, and therefore indirectly encourage more and more citizens to go after just those policy preferences in their lives. However, I don’t think the electoral college actually fights that skewing, at least not very well.

    Don’t apologize for using “corporatist” language; I think collectivist and communitarian solutions to the problems of large and complex democratic societies, where power and influence mostly follow capital and thus are concentrated into the hands of relatively few, are often necessary and wise.

    Jefferson was wrong and Hamilton was right on that argument, and it’s about time that our country’s political establishment reflected the fact that big cities are as American as small towns.

    I disagree that the mythos of the yeoman farmer has been bad for America, and in that sense disagree that Hamilton was right and Jefferson wrong. I do agree that our electoral system doesn’t do much to allow the yeoman farmer–such as he or she may still exist in some sense somewhere out there–to translate their populist and localist political dreams into practical social and economic reality; that myth has mostly been captured by politicians looking for an easy argument to win or by big agribusinesses and corporations which crush the economic independence of small towns.

    Proportional representation and a strong parliamentary system of democracy (they need to go together) would go a long ways towards resolving at least some of these impasses.

  37. Nate W. on October 27, 2008 at 11:33 am

    Russell:
    Even if I don’t fully agree as to the seriousness of the problem you outline, I agree with your solution. And I wasn’t apologizing for using the concept of corporatism; I just wanted to be clear to all readers that I wasn’t trying to call you a fascist.

  38. Jennifer B. on October 27, 2008 at 11:50 am

    You summed up my dream pretty well, Kathryn. Well said.

  39. Jonovitch on October 27, 2008 at 12:21 pm

    “Someone who will stop the torture of prisoners and unborn babies? Someone who believes in A+ public schools and (real) freedom of choice in education? I want strong social services and strong traditional family values.”

    Announcing today my candidacy for 2012.

    Jon

  40. CS Eric on October 27, 2008 at 12:27 pm

    I just want a presidential candidate I can vote for. I’m afraid this time around I will be voting against somebody instead.

  41. Kathryn Lynard Soper on October 27, 2008 at 12:28 pm

    Jon for president!

    Can I be your VP? I’m even cuter than Sarah Palin. I’ve got a baby with a disability, too!

  42. Adam on October 27, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    I want more of the American electorate to be actively paying federal taxes. Approx. 1/3 of Americans do not pay federal income tax (including myself) and that number is only going up. http://www.taxfoundation.org/research/show/1410.html

    More and more Americans that will not see a tax increase even when they elect spenders will eventually bankrupt our country (if we have not already).

  43. This is What They Taught Me in AP Gov on October 27, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    My dream:

    ditto #28, and the first half of #29

    Populism isn’t cool. The farm bill keeps the mythological yeoman farmer happy, but it starves poor African countries.

    Somehow I think that if we didn’t directly elect senators, we wouldn’t have false expectations of magical cures for things like gas prices.

  44. Rameumptom on October 27, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    Why do so many dream of

  45. Rameumptom on October 27, 2008 at 1:42 pm

    Sorry for the system blipping and sending an incomplete thread on 44.

    Why do so many dream of universal health care, when we cannot afford the $12 trillion debt we now have? How do you propose we pay for universal health care, when Social Security and Medicare are expected to go belly up within 10 years?

    First things first, folks. Let’s fix our financial crises already at hand, and THEN we can look at expanding government aid, if at all.

  46. Mormon Paleo on October 27, 2008 at 1:44 pm

    My political dream is simple: a body that acknowledges the existence of the welfare-warfare state, understands its origins, its impracticality, and immorality, and exists for one purpose: to ensure its dismantling so that individual liberty might once again be the principle upon which this republic is based.

    There is, in fact, such a body: Ron Paul’s Campaign for Liberty.

  47. Jonovitch on October 27, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    Kathryn (41), you’re on! Just to be safe, though, please send a head shot so I can confirm your cuter-than-Palin-ness. ;)

    First item of business: legally change my last name to Vitch. What, you thought that was real? Maybe for Halloween I’ll dress up as my pseudonym.

    Adam (42), you’ll be my treasurer. As such, our second item of business: every resident of the U.S.A., regardless of income, will pay at least 1 percent federal income tax. The tax “brackets” will be squashed into a sliding scale, divided by $1,000 increments, and the top federal income tax rate will be capped at 30 percent. Excessive spending will be slashed. Pork/pet projects will be eliminated (if it’s not good enough to be debated, it won’t be voted on). The federal budget will be balanced. In short, if we can’t pay for something, we won’t. See here for more info: http://www.hulu.com/watch/1389/saturday-night-live-dont-buy-stuff And finally, we will set a course to repurchase all outstanding U.S. debt from China and other countries. (BTW, this last point is the long-term national security issue that by far overshadows all others.)

    Regarding school choice: we will eliminate “vouchers” and replace them with “tickets.” Anyone can choose whatever public school they want to go to, not just get a rebate for certain options. Within a set number of miles, the bus will pick your kids up. Outside that range, you can still go there, but you’ll have to get them there. In the end, the bad schools will shrink, and the good schools will be overloaded, so we’ll move the teachers and administrators from the good schools into the bad schools’ buildings and make those better, too. Oh wait, let’s just pay better teachers and administrators more for performing better (based on peer and student reviews, not test scores) and for having more experience and education (rather than just seniority) and not have to shuffle the kids around to begin with. Brilliant!

    Jon

  48. Peter LLC on October 27, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    Why do so many dream of universal health care, when we cannot afford the $12 trillion debt we now have? How do you propose we pay for universal health care, when Social Security and Medicare are expected to go belly up within 10 years?

    Speaking only for myself, of course, I dream of universal health care because healthy people are good.

    Regarding the bit about how to pay for it, I suggested you raise my taxes.

    Beyond that, I wonder if you may have skipped the last sentence of the original post:

    I’m sure at least a few of you are chomping at the bit to tell me why my dream is ill-informed, intellectually inconsistent, politically impossible, or otherwise sucky. Don’t. Instead, tell me your political dream.

  49. Kathryn Lynard Soper on October 27, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    My headshot’s on my bio, Mr. Vitch. C’mon, lie to me.

    I don’t think your ticket plan will appease enough voucher fans. But I’m all for jump-starting a new kind of supply and demand. And as vice president of the United States, I commit to attracting the best and brightest teaching talent for our public schools, and rewarding them handsomely.

    btw, my school district has open enrollment–my kids go to an out-of-boundary school.

  50. Adam on October 27, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    Jon, I accept. I could not possibly do worse as a Treasurer than those before me (tongue firmly in cheek).

    On the question of universal health care, I am as interested as the next in “universal” health care, but the truth is that someone has to pay for it. If I cannot pay for it either directly, after insurance, or through MY tax dollars, how do we expect to be able to do it? It is too easy to just say “taxes will pay for it” and sign the bill and make it happen. Truth is that universal health care will cost an enormous amount of money and someone will have to pay for it – just as someone has to pay for the mortgage disaster.

    Also, I can’t stand the attacks on the “big companies” of America. Who works at these companies? Americans. If we continue to tax at the highest rates, guess who gets laid off? Americans. Well, what about these oil companies that are making billions in profits? Guess what, Americans get the profits too – in the form of dividends, higher stocks in their 401ks, IRA, mutual funds, etc. The money ends up in American hands either way (unless we sell the country to the Chinese). And I’m a small business owner…

  51. Adam on October 27, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    #48 – We have very high corporate taxes already – can’t really raise those. Are you suggesting raising the federal income tax in a recession?

  52. Jonovitch on October 27, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    Rameumpton (45), I’ll hire you to be the official whipping boy on How to Fix Entitlements Using the Method We All Know About But Won’t Say Out Loud. To wit: The retirement age will be linked to the U.S. average life expectancy effective immediately for every child born and for new immigrants. Those already with us will be gently nudged into the new system (e.g., 60-year-olds wouldn’t have to wait much longer, but 30-year-olds would.) Payouts will be linked to total savings, investments, and other income at retirement. No more “free money” for those who can do without.

    For medical care, everyone will have a smart card with a smart chip that holds their medical records on it. A national standard will be set (by someone smarter than us) for electronic record keeping so that all records from all companies are transferable when you move from one insurer or hospital. Pricing for all products and services, from aspirin to a triple-bypass, will be easily accessible. Efficiency and transparency will provide a good start to cleaning up this mess.

    And when it all goes in the tank anyway, I’ll have already appointed someone who I can swiftly blame and fire. Brilliant!

    Jon

  53. Peter LLC on October 27, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    Truth is that universal health care will cost an enormous amount of money and someone will have to pay for it.

    I’m sure there is not a person alive who thinks otherwise. The difference seems to be between those who think it’s worth and those who do not.

  54. Peter LLC on October 27, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    Are you suggesting raising the federal income tax in a recession?

    As far as I’m concerned, we can wait until the recession is over. Still, measures to support public health shouldn’t be tied too slavishly to the business cycle.

  55. Adam on October 27, 2008 at 2:25 pm

    #53 – Peter, in terms of paying for universal health coverage, if we cannot afford getting health care privately, how can we pay for it through the government?

    There is no money multiplier effect when money heads to Washington.

    I realize the easy answer is: “I’m willing to pay for someone else’s health care”.

    And to a point, I am too – in the most drastic of cases, sure.

    But the fundamental problem we’ll have over time is if we have fewer productive people than unproductive people. That is the problem with the credit/mortgage/asset bubble. We haven’t been as productive as a people as we thought we would be and thus cannot pay our debts.

  56. Nate W. on October 27, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    Truth is that universal health care will cost an enormous amount of money and someone will have to pay for it.

    Someone needs to explain this to me. To me, it seems like this won’t cost the taxpayer a dime. Sure, we’d raise taxes, but you know what the taxpayer wouldn’t have to pay for anymore? Insurance.The money that your employer withholds for insurance will get turned over to the government instead of an insurance company. This is only a tax increase on paper–there won’t be a difference in takehome pay.

  57. Adam on October 27, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    #56 (we’re going off topic I’m sure but…) Maybe. But what about those of us that try to stay healthy so we keep our health care costs down. What is going to keep me from making an appointment from going to the podiatrist after every church basketball game?

    I spent a glorious summer in Spain doing an “internship”. One day they were all up in a fuss because the gov’t wanted to charge 1 euro to visit the doctor because too many were going to the doctor to socialize or other useless reasons. So not only was the government taxing for the service, but now was going to be charging them (paying twice, which I believe France does – a type of co-pay).

    Nate, I think we we often underestimate is the power of unintended consequences.

  58. Jonovitch on October 27, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    Adam (50), you’ll notice I didn’t even talk about universal health care. I believe it is a human right to have access to a doctor. I also believe that a single-payer system would cost an unbelievably enormous amount of taxpayer dollars. But I don’t think that’s necessary. (Full disclosure, I haven’t had health insurance for more than 3 years).

    Some possible solutions and a lot of good ideas can be found in a Frontline report that looked at what other capitalist countries are doing to make universal health care successful and efficient. (No, really.) This is where I got my smart-card idea. Check out the full video, for free, along with further discussion, analysis and a Q&A with the producer: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/sickaroundtheworld/

    Good stuff there. We can learn a lot from others’ successes.

    Jon

  59. Nate W. on October 27, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    There is no money multiplier effect when money heads to Washington.

    Really? So when the government spends tax money on goods and services it doesn’t have a multiplier effect, but if private companies spend money on goods and services, it does? I need to see a cite on this, as it contradicts every economic theory I was taught.

    if we cannot afford getting health care privately, how can we pay for it through the government?

    Four things–economies of scale, removing perverse incentives, the coercive power of government, and the market power of monopsonies. First, having a larger insurance pool creates efficiencies in administration that decrease the per unit transaction costs–that’s savings right there. Second, because private insurers are trying to make a profit, they have incentives to not insure the people who need insurance the most. That means that the people who are not insured go to the emergency room, don’t pay their bills, and that cost gets passed on to all of us through higher health care costs. When you have those people paying a premium and getting preventative care, it creates savings. Third, a significant number of young people don’t pay health insurance because they’re healthy. Even if their premiums are small, if the government mandated that they buy health insurance, it would provide more money for the insurance program. Fourth, because the government is the sole consumer of health services, they would have power to negotiate price in a way that private individuals and multiple insurance carriers do not. Health care providers have to take the government’s prices because that’s the only consumer in town.

  60. Adam on October 27, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    Jon, I’ll check it out. Perhaps I can be persuaded.

  61. Jonovitch on October 27, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    Kathryn (49), you just need the sexy librarian glasses, then you’ll be perfect for the American electorate. Plus, we can get you a budget for clothes and accessories. Oh, before I forget, do you happen to know how to field dress any large wilderness mammals?

    2012 here we come!

    Jon

  62. Adam on October 27, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    #59 Sure there is a multiplier effect on the money it spends, but you have to produce something of real value. I’m sorry, but most federal agencies do not produce anything of tangible value.

    We do need government acting/spending in many places (infrastructure/security/and many others), but at some point the government becomes a drag on the economy and not a boost.

    1. Larger insurance pool. Completely agree – would love to see this in our current system more.
    2. Incentives. Agree again – part of 1.
    3. Yes, we need Jon to buy insurance.
    4. Negotiating power – sure.

    These are the pro-universal health coverage talking points. If this is all we got with the package then I’d be all for it.

    It is the downsides that leave me wary.

  63. James on October 27, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    Nate W. – your argument would be fine if not for the fact that government is the least efficient means of executing any constructive action. There’s no guarantee that the tax increase would be limited to just the amount that individuals are already paying in health insurance. The cost will rapidly spiral out of control. Currently, about $2.5 trillion dollars are spent on health care each year in the U. S.. Which is incidentally just $200 billion and change less than the total U.S. federal budget. Most of that is being paid by private insurers and private individuals. If the government takes that over in what would be one of the largest rollbacks of freedom in our nation’s history, the cost to the individual taxpayer, and remember that only about 25% of us pay any real taxes at the federal level, would quickly skyrocket.

    Another argument against government paid medicine is that it rapidly becomes government controlled medicine. As a missionary in Thailand, the doctors that we saw for care were all expatriates from Canada and the UK who had fled the socialized medicine there because the government was telling them how to practice medicine. They couldn’t do what was best for their patients because the government forbade it.

  64. Adam Greenwood on October 27, 2008 at 3:22 pm

    When it comes to Adam’s, accept no substitutes.

    I accept Peter LLC’s offer to pay for universal health care.

    Mankind shall not be crucified on a cross of gold.

  65. Adam Greenwood on October 27, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    Free soil!

  66. James on October 27, 2008 at 3:33 pm

    Nate W. – wrote “Health care providers have to take the government’s prices because that’s the only consumer in town.” There is the money line. Let’s force an entire professional sector of society into government service. How many people will be willing to expend the years, money, and abuse needed to become a physician if all they have to look forward to is at best a GS-18 salary, 20 hours per week justifying to Washington how they treated patients the other 20 hours, and victimization from trial lawyers?

  67. Adam on October 27, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    Adam (64) – if only it were a question of money.

  68. Nate W. on October 27, 2008 at 3:43 pm

    I’m sorry, but most federal agencies do not produce anything of tangible value.

    Nate W. – your argument would be fine if not for the fact that government is the least efficient means of executing any constructive action.

    Overgeneralized and absolutist statements are not arguments, they are dogma. Unless you have a theory or data to show that government management of health insurance will be less efficient notwithstanding the efficiencies that I talked about, you’re just making faith-based arguments for the existence of the free market deity. I can’t argue against articles of faith.

  69. Adam on October 27, 2008 at 3:56 pm

    (68) – You’re right Nate. Our government does a fantastic job with managing markets, education, transportation…

    Your arguments are just as much founded in a faith in government. We all act on faith, we just place them in different entities.

  70. Kathryn Lynard Soper on October 27, 2008 at 4:03 pm

    Jon (61): I can draw-and-quarter several species of political extremists–does that count?

    Next stop: http://www.sexylibrarianglasses.com

    Or maybe I can borrow Palin’s in a week or so…

  71. Bob W on October 27, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    What the government run programs around the world bring to the table is cost controls.

    Free market allows costs to rise until the supply and demand meet. Doctors migrate to the highest paying insurer which gives us the system we have today where people would rather die than leave their spouse penniless and leave nothing to their children. No insurance means no treatment for cancer and other long term illnesses that have expensive treatment. No one but emergency rooms are required to give care. CBS news reported yesterday that 22,000 un/underinsured people die each year because they do not get treatment early enough to make a difference.

    Without effective cost control there is no change coming. Our government has shown they are more concerned about protecting drug companies profit margins than controling costs so we know what kind of program we are going to get regardless of who gets elected.

  72. Peter LLC on October 27, 2008 at 4:13 pm

    if we cannot afford getting health care privately, how can we pay for it through the government?

    There is no money multiplier effect when money heads to Washington.

    The fallacy is assuming that health care as it is currently practiced in the US is as cost effective and/or efficient as it gets and expanding health care to cover everyone else not currently under the umbrella is going to cost that much more.

  73. Peter LLC on October 27, 2008 at 4:21 pm

    I accept Peter LLC’s offer to pay for universal health care.

    Well, you know what they say: Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren…

  74. Jonathan Green on October 27, 2008 at 7:15 pm

    There’s also a good chance that Peter LLC has experienced both the U.S. system and pinko-commie-socialist universal health care (right?), and prefers the latter. As do I. If you’re looking for a working model of effective universal care, there are only, like, about 50 different ones to choose from.

  75. gst on October 27, 2008 at 8:24 pm

    My political dream was captured in an online chat with Adam Greenwood from earlier today:

    10:09 AM me: If I had an M1 Garand, I would have to figure out how to snap down the windshield of my Jeep, so I could drive about Garanding the countryside.

    10:11 AM Adam: If you don’t have the right to do that, the 2nd Amendment is a sham.

  76. queuno on October 27, 2008 at 8:27 pm

    Why bother? Skip over the president question and worry about the local candidates and issues. Especially if you live in a non-swing state.

    Filling out every race on a ballot is not a saving ordinance.

  77. Raymond Takashi Swenson on October 27, 2008 at 9:52 pm

    The problem with carrying out experiments with a nation of 300 million people are that any new program we create acquires tremendous political momentum that continues it regardless of whether it is effective or not. And Congress has a nasty tendency to create duties and entitlements without actually figuring out how to pay for them.

    People who complain about health insurance companies dictating medical treatment standards have no idea how a government monopoly will act, when there are no competitive pressures or patient demands that control the allocation of resources. I served in the Air Force for 20 years, with military medical care. The military medical system is characterized by spots of brilliant and very capable physicians amidst a sea of people who do not have the specialty training for where they are assigned. The doctors who staff the emergency rooms are assigned on a sheer rotation basis from the rest of the staff regardless of training and specialization. They do not assign specialists in emergency and trauma care. The backup to every problem was to refer patients out to a civilian specialist.

    In a government run system the biggest incentive is to control costs, regardless of the loss of quality and other less easily measured aspects. Eventually government health care bureaucrats will realize that the most cost-effective way to manage people with chronic ailments and illnesses that are expensive to treat is to triage them and encourage them to die early. Physician assisted suicide is the bright shining light at the end of the healthcare cost control tunnel. Anyone over 70 who gets sick just gets palliative care to help them die. People are propagandized to take the little pill and relieve their families (and Uncle Sam) of the burden of caring for them. The Joe Biden “duty to pay more taxes” becomes the duty to die in the higher interest of the rest of society. After all, health care in a fully socialized system is meant to keep workers productive, not to keep the unproductive alive.

    What happens when doctors unionize, which is inevitable in a unitary, government-owned system, since it is the only freedom they have to counterbalance the concentrated power of a monopoly bureaucracy? Do doctors start doing work slowdowns and sickouts in order to press demands for higher pay? How does that benefit any of us, when we are caught in the squeeze between government bureaucrats and doctors who are pursuing their only option to negotiate with the monopoly?

    How much innovative medical research will be done under a socialized medicine regime? After all, once you offer the same equally mediocre care to everyone, you have solved the health care crisis. Who needs innovation, which is usually expensive at first? There is no reward to any individual researcher who even invents a cheaper way to provide medical care. Bureaucrats believe that giving anyone a profit is a sin. THEY do not get rewarded financially for doing their work well, so why should the doctors and those who do research? While we complain of the cost of modern medicine, it has produced methods of treating illness that are far more effective and far cheaper than before, such as surgery on the heart using instruments delivered through blood vessels, without having to open the heart and the chest cavity.

    I would like to see someone set up their ideal universal medical care system in an actual state and demonstrate that it is financially viable without devolving into mediocre care that controls costs by delaying surgery and hoping people die before they consume the more expensive options in care.

  78. Jack on October 27, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    Kathryn,

    Re: #9–Awesome pun. And “hari kari” is a recognized variant of “hara kiri.”

    Russell,

    I’m not ready to give up the electoral process. The idea of Gore (or any Candidate, really) winning because of the will of a tiny handful of “blue states” (or red as the case may be) is rather frightening to me.

  79. Kathryn Lynard Soper on October 28, 2008 at 2:37 am

    What was that, Jack? You’re a recognized variant? That’s not what I heard.

    :)

  80. Peter LLC on October 28, 2008 at 4:26 am

    Jonathan:(right?)

    Yep.

    gst: If I have any money left over after paying for Adam’s health care, you can have the rest to support your Garand initiative. I believe every American ought to have the opportunity to hold in their hands the rifle that helped defeat evil from Germany to the Korean Peninsula.

    Eventually government health care bureaucrats will realize that the most cost-effective way to manage people with chronic ailments and illnesses that are expensive to treat is to triage them and encourage them to die early. Physician assisted suicide is the bright shining light at the end of the healthcare cost control tunnel. Anyone over 70 who gets sick just gets palliative care to help them die. People are propagandized to take the little pill and relieve their families (and Uncle Sam) of the burden of caring for them.

    I think you will find that government health care bureaucrats are not nearly this cynical in actual practice as you would have them be. I know of a case locally where a patient consumed over over $1 million worth of medication in the last year alone. The response from the government bureaucracy? “This person would have died without the medicine.”

    Regarding your concerns about innovation, look at the list of leading pharmaceutical companies in the world–six of the top ten are based in countries with some form of universal health care. In each of these countries young students are clamoring to become doctors. In each of these countries private practices, clinics and insurance companies flourish and the people who can afford it get the best health care around, just like in the US.

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Times and Seasons is a place to gather and discuss ideas of interest to faithful Latter-day Saints.