Monday, September 23, 2013

Moral Masquerades

There is nothing so bad but it can masquerade as moral.

-- Walter Lippman, A Preface to Politics (1920)

This week's featured articles: "Hunger Games: Who's Right About Food Stamps?" and "Pots, Kettles, and Projections from the Religious Right".

This week everybody was talking about government shutdown

On Sunday's interview shows, Republicans and Democrats alike were predicting the government would avoid shutdown, which will happen a week from tomorrow unless Congress passes something. But nobody was presenting a plausible scenario for how that is going to happen.

Friday the House has passed a continuing resolution to fund the government at sequester levels until December 15, except for anything having to do with ObamaCare. The Senate will probably remove the ObamaCare provisions and send it back to the House. Nobody seems to know what will happen then.

and ObamaCare

The reason Republicans are so desperate to get ObamaCare derailed right now is that the exchanges start up October 1. When Americans start dealing with the reality of ObamaCare rather than the monsters-under-the-bed conjured up by right-wing propaganda, they're going to like it. And that might be good for America, but it will be bad for the Republican Party.

This week, Republicans finally got around to offering the "replace" part of their plan to repeal-and-replace ObamaCare. As Bloomberg's editorial notes, it doesn't really replace anything: ObamaCare lowers the number of uninsured Americans by about 25 million (more if red states would implement Medicaid expansion) and the Republican plan doesn't.

The Republican plan is basically the same hodge-podge of proposals they floated in 2009. The CBO looked at them back then and ...
CBO begins with the baseline estimate that 17 percent of legal, non-elderly residents won't have health-care insurance in 2010. In 2019, after 10 years of the Republican plan, CBO estimates that ...17 percent of legal, non-elderly residents won't have health-care insurance.

So President Obama has passed into law a plan to cut in half the number of uninsured Americans. Republicans counter with a plan that does not address that problem at all.

The most outrageous piece of the ObamaCare debate right now are the ads being run to get young people to "opt out" -- in other words, to stay uninsured. These ads are being funded by the richest men in America, the Koch brothers, who have a combined net worth equal to Bill Gates.

If those young people who opt out have a major health problem, will the Koch brothers be there to help them? Don't be silly. I tend to shy away from using the word evil, but this is evil. Rich people are trying to achieve their political goals by encouraging poorer people to do something that could ruin their lives.

and the Navy Yard shooting (i.e. guns)

It's hard to argue with Dr. Janis Orlowski's response:
There’s something evil in our society that we as Americans have to work to try and eradicate. ... I would like you to put my trauma center out of business. I really would. I would like to not be an expert on gunshots and not to be an expert on this.

The gun issue seems to epitomize the entire liberal/conservative debate these days. On the one hand, you have liberals advocating a policy (gun control) that might or might not work. It seems to work in other countries (like Australia), but maybe America is different somehow. On the other hand you've got conservatives, who offer nothing.

Meanwhile, in as polite a way as possible, Starbucks asks people not to bring guns into their shops. And pro-gun commenters go ballistic.

and Food Stamps (but I wish we were having a more factual discussion)

Fox News would have you believe that Food Stamp recipients are freeloading surfing bums. MSNBC wants you to think they're hungry kids. I decided to look at what the House's proposed $39 billion in cuts actually are in "Hunger Games: Who's Right About Food Stamps?"

and Syria

The weirdest thing about Syria is the disconnect between the American people and the pundit class. The people think it's great that we might get rid of Syria's chemical weapons without entering another messy war. The pundits find this solution weak.

Meanwhile, the plan is puttering along. Syria submitted its chemical-weapon inventory to international organization in charge of destroying chemical weapons.

and you also might be interested in

It looks like it must be an Onion news parody, but it isn't: An op-ed in Fortune says it's time for the 99% to "give back" to the 1%.
All proper human interactions are win-win; that’s why the parties decide to engage in them. ... For their enormous contributions to our standard of living, the high-earners should be thanked and publicly honored. We are in their debt.

Here’s a modest proposal. Anyone who earns a million dollars or more should be exempt from all income taxes. Yes, it’s too little. And the real issue is not financial, but moral. So to augment the tax-exemption, in an annual public ceremony, the year’s top earner should be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

As I recall, the original "modest proposal" was also pitched as a win-win interaction.

If you like the Fortune piece, this WSJ op-ed is right up your alley: A hedge-fund manager expresses his moral superiority over his son, who's feeding the homeless.

Peter Beinart argues that the formative political/economic experiences of 20-somethings will place them outside the Reagan/Clinton boundaries that have defined the last few decades of politics.

and let's end with something fun

I remember being a grad student: At certain points, any kind of time-consuming project seemed more interesting than finishing my thesis. So rewriting and re-performing "Bohemian Rhapsody" to explain string theory makes perfect sense.

I think this will be hard to beat for Gonzo Labs' 2013 "Dance Your Thesis" competition. (Only one more week to get your video in.) Watch the 2012 winners here.

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