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Hey, I know you love Obama, and you’re thrilled that he’s going to be our next president. And I hate to burst your bubble. But the simple fact is that it’s not going to be enough. The country is headed down the tubes in a way that no president will be able to fix.
E.g., let’s talk health care. Obama’s healthcare plan (very similar to Clinton’s, if said similarity hasn’t been sufficiently pointed out) is radical enough to be tarred by republicans, drug companies, and the insurance industry. But it fails to bring about key changes that independent industry experts agree will need to happen. For two examples: (1) Change the way doctors are compensated. An article from last year’s New York Times terms it this way:
In the United States, nearly all doctors are paid piecemeal, for each test or procedure they perform, rather than a flat salary. As a result, physicians have financial incentives to perform procedures that further drive up overall health care spending.
Doctors are paid little for routine examinations and very little for “cognitive services,” such as researching different treatment options or offering advice to help patients get better without treatment.
“I don’t have a view on whether doctors take home too much money or not enough money,” Dr. Bach said. “The problem is the way they earn their money. They have to do stuff. They have to do procedures.”
(2) The insurance companies: by their very nature, they make a profit when most folks paying into their system stay healthy while a relative few get sick. Therefore, if universal healthcare is the goal, then removing the profit of the insurance companies is unquestionably desirable.
Yet as much as it’s a step in the right direction, Obama’s plan doesn’t even aspire to address either of these two simple issues. The reason is political.
First, understand that healthcare reform is politically feasible today (when it wasn’t in the early 90s) is because corporations are now feeling the pain of our nation’s increasingly insane medical costs. But amorphous corporate will can only push so hard against the lobbying interests of the drug/insurance cartel. Hence Obama’s plan, which goes exactly as far as it possibly can in today’s political climate. Suggest enacting the more drastic changes that Obama, his advisers, and all honest industry analysts know need to enacted, and his plan will be shot down just as Hillary Clinton was shot down in the early days of her husband’s administration.
One other quick example, more significant but easier to explain: Social Security and Medicare. Check out the second chart on this page, which points out that these two programs, left unchecked, will positively swallow the federal budget over the next few decades if left unchecked. Note that every year we put off reforms adds one trillion dollars to the cost (and that’s according to Republicans!). Yet no candidate dares to go near this issue with a ten foot pole, because the very mention of anything like a sacrifice in this area is political suicide for anyone seeking re-election (or, of course, 1st-time-election). For his part, Obama is singing the Cut Government Waste song.
So. Obama can get elected, and then drop the truth on us, right? Well, even putting aside the re-election imperative, he can’t. Because, as Jon Stewart so eloquently put it, “the President doesn’t make laws.” Congress makes laws, and since every member of congress is up for re-election every two years, we’re right back to the same corporation-run political election system.
In other words: the change that we need — that everyone smart knows we need — cannot be brought about by Barack Obama, President. Now, if you believe that Obama is a very very smart guy, then you know that he knows that his solutions are somewhat half-assed, and that he’s ignoring some difficult truths, all out of political necesity. It probably pains him, but he also knows that he can do at least some good as president, even if he’d lack the power to make the changes this country really needs.
But now suppose we make Barack Obama “Dictator for Life.” Maybe it’s not as crazy as it sounds. All it would really entail is two slight changes in the political structure: (1) give him the power to do whatever he wants (e.g. pass laws without congressional approval, toss out a couple of supreme court justices, etc.) and (2) let him stay in power “indefinitely.”
Every time I bring this up I get dirty stares and mumbles of “Hitler” tossed in my direction. Bullcrap. Hitler made his racism well known in his campaign. Barack Obama on the other hand is making obvious his fair-mindedness, reasonableness, and intelligence. Who honestly thinks he’d abuse a position like “Dictator for Life”? Nobody. He’d stay in power just as long as it took to get us out of the messy corner our democracy has painted itself into (Have I even mentioned the climate crisis yet? The percentage of world carbon emissions the USA is responsible for? Hell hath no fury like Google.), then step down and allow our previously scheduled constitutional government to pick up where it’d previously left off. We’ve survived 8 years of George W. Bush playing de-facto dictator — a properly declared and benign dictator would not only be an effective fix, it might also be a refreshing change.
A wise man on cable TV pointed out sometime in the last 7 years that Osama Bin Laden sort of had a point with the WTC bombings, in the sense that, as a democracy, we individual citizens are responsible for what our government does. Regardless of how many times you voted for GWB, you are responsible for for his actions in a way that no Iraqi will ever be responsible for anything that Saddam Hussein did. As such, the killing of citizens in a democracy makes pragmatic sense, whereas the killing of citizens in a dictatorship is mere cruelty.
But my argument isn’t that we should make Obama dictator out of fear — we should do it out of strenght: sooner or later we will have to confront the Islamic Jihadists at a negotiation table. This sounds like an anathema, but the historical fact is that this is the only way that terrorists groups can be dealt with once they’re allowed to take root. Witness now-peaceful Ireland if you need evidence. Knowing that Obama has our confidence beyond some hard-edged 4-year election cycle timetable will give him the edge that will ensure his ability to diffuse the situation.
A standard two-term presidential run is nearly a decade. We elected FDR to four terms. Is an open-ended term really so unthinkable? For most would-be leaders it may well be. But here’s a guy who would know what to do with the power, and who’d know when it was time to step down.
I was saving this one. OK, going 80 miles on a bike every day means you get to eat a lot of food. In a weird way, my trip (first two slide shows here and here) ended up consisted of biking, sleeping, and eating. There was plenty of shitty fast food, and an inordinate amount of convenience-store junk food (often a good source of easily-digestible carbs, so actually healthy in this context), but at least once a day something semi-miraculous landed in front of me, and as much as anything, the food made the trip worth it. I took photos of most of these restaurants, but in the end I decided to leave the slideshow be just of food. Here’s one that I couldn’t resist sharing, though. Click it to see the food:
By the way, Singleton’s is actually more legit then it looks in this photo. There’s a fishing boat moored out back, and inside it reeks of fish in a slightly unpleasant way. You get acclimated, but I’m just saying. Sometimes the first-off-the-boat touristy place is actually the real deal.
Friday I was riding my bike South down Pine Tree Drive after the rain had stopped. I’m dodging puddles, mud, and slippery wet grates, and so I’m farther from the right curb then I normally would be, but no worries — there are two lanes going in every direction, and the namesake pines give the road a relaxed sort of mood. Suddenly comes honking from behind me. Incredulous, I turn around, flip off some asshole in a silver sports/luxury car, and move farther over into the lane, just to make it perfectly clear that I have a right to be where I am and he needs to back off or get over and pass.
Dude chooses the latter, then merges over and proceeds to mess with me by braking in front of me, fist slowly and then when that doesn’t particularly faze me, sharply. I move over to pass him on the left (the rest of the cars have passed now) he moves over too, cutting me off. I then stay on the left side of the left lane. There’s a big median with those big pine trees, and now I’m not really letting his shenanigans get to me he, unwilling to actually run me off the road, speeds off.
As it happens the red light up ahead is a long one, and I pass him again, zipping by his driver’s side window and shooting him a dirty look. I run the red light but now I’m in a bit of a dilemma, with no good idea of what this guy is going to do when he gets a second chance to pass me. I move over to the sidewalk for the next block. Sure enough, he slows on passing me.
“That’s more like it,” yells he.
“You’re a real tough guy against a bike, asshole,” yell I back at him.
And he zips off. Good times. At Washington Avenue I cross a bridge that’s under construction and closed to cars, and I’m almost home, crossing another intersection when a car standing at the red light on the cross street pulls a few feet out into the pedestrian cross walks and honks a few times. I’m light wtf, but then I look up, and it’s the same dude, who I guess had to go the long way, except now he’s suddenly my buddy, smiling and giving me a thumbs up. I give him a quick nod and I’m gone. Whatev’s.