In my files I came across a piece of writing from January 2010 that I don’t seem to have ever posted. I’m going to paste it farther below, because it just shows how slowly things change in our country.
Actually, we’re still trying to sort out some of the issues bequeathed to us by our esteemed Founders: large states vs. small states, executive vs. legislative vs. judicial branches, liberty vs. equality, security vs. freedom from unreasonable searches, the aftermath of slavery, economic injustice, access to education, who controls the military, and much more.
I did post, on 3/27/10, a different set of ideas in “My advice to Obama, 11/30/08,” which you can read here.
Do we still remember those days in early 2010 when the current administration was just a year old, it still wasn’t clear whether or when the country would recover from the great crash of 2008, the Tea Party was just taking shape, the Affordable Care Act was not yet signed into law (3/23/10), the disastrous (for Democrats and in some ways mainstream Republicans and the country) 2010 election had not yet occurred, and the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling (1/10) was just about to lead to the huge influx of political money into Super PACs and “social welfare” organizations?
Despite all that, I still think things move slowly around here.
The piece I just found, dated 1/29/10, shows that structurally nothing much has changed. Even Obamacare, if it stays with us, does not change the basic system of people purchasing insurance health care from private profit-making organizations (except for special groups like veterans and seniors). And that “hands-off dance the administration and Congress have been doing for the last year” has now stretched on to almost 6 years, with no end in sight.
So here are my thoughts, just as written 4+ years ago [plus a few comments added in brackets]:
After the November 2008 election, president-elect Obama asked for advice from the public, and I planned to set out mine in some detail. I know he was quite busy, but someone somewhere might have had time to read it. What I did get around to sending was a brief note that 25% of Americans would always oppose and detest him and that he should proceed to try to listen to and please the other 75%. It doesn’t seem that that advice, which certainly must have come from many quarters, registered on him till this month [meaning January 2010].
What I would have said more fully, according to the page of notes I’ve found, was that it was high time for the government to try to solve some really serious structural problems that are making this country almost non-functional in its domestic policies, and that threaten the people’s future well-being. I’m not talking about tweaks and adjustments, but these critical areas:
1) Economics: too much inequality of wealth, insecurity of families and communities, loss of income, jobs, and homes; too much dependence on consumer spending and imports, not enough on producing needed goods and services; lack of sufficient rewards for hard work; imbalance of expenditures between the military and all other areas [I should have specified discretionary]; corporate overpowering of small businesses.
2) Education: insufficient opportunities for children who need the most help; over-reliance on property tax to fund public schools; decline of public universities.
3) Health care: lack of a fair national health care program; millions with no insurance who are therefore cared for minimally and at public expense anyhow; inadequate care of veterans; poor performance with regard to cost and in comparison to other developed countries.
4) Transportation and energy: over-reliance on cars and trucks; weak mass transportation in most regions; poor progress on alternative energy sources; dependence on foreign sources of oil necessitating expensive military operations [actually, has that changed? I'm doubtful, as long as we are both importing and exporting gas and oil].
5) Political life: need to inspire voters to turn out in the relatively good numbers of Nov. 2008; counteract excessive lobbying influence, corruption, gerrymandering, apathy.
These are issues that need to be solved by total rethinking and recasting, not by little adjustments and compromises. I’d love to think that the public, or the free market, or generous philanthropists, could solve any of this, but honestly, I think these are federal and/or state government questions.
So, how is the government doing? It’s hard to apportion blame in the hands-off dance the administration and Congress have been doing for the last year, but between the two of them, though a few individuals have been trying, the results so far are terrible. We’ll see if any of the energy of the State of the Union message gets spread around, but since the president made some of the same promises before and after his election, I’m not optimistic. We’ve had gridlock, we have gridlock, and things continue to degrade in the five challenge areas listed above.
I’ve been saying for a year that Obama should give up on true health care reform [I meant, table it until later, rather than fighting it through without features than many thought were essential, like the "public option"] and make the 2010 congressional election a sort of referendum on what the public wants. Elections should be referendums, but that works out only if the public is paying attention. It is said that Americans get the government they deserve. If they don’t pay attention, they get terrible government. With the decline in voting from November 2008 to November 2009, what might encourage us to expect sudden improvement after November 2010?