Tag: bipartisanship

Congressional Road Trip

This doesn’t often occur to U.S. residents, but the road trip is highly romanticised by people outside of the U.S., and is fairly unique to our country, where you can drive for many days on easily-traversed highways with fairly inexpensive gas, no border checkpoints, and a good chance you won’t have to change languages or currency.

What I’m getting at is that maybe instead of traditional swearings in before a flag, we need to switch to mandatory road trips, and this is the key to repairing the Congress and our very nation. (There definitely would be more support for infrastructure bills.) Possibly at the end, you shake hands in front of a yellow school bus (these also much adored from abroad, considered to be a critical symbol of the USA in the same way we like London’s double-decker red busses).

Bipartisan ‘Bromance’ Blossoms As 2 Texas Congressmen Make D.C. Road Trip” by Jessica Taylor, NPR’s Morning Edition

My favorite part is how invested other members of the House got in whether the road trippers would arrive make it in time for the vote, with majority leader Kevin McCarthy holding a parking spot right on the capitol steps so they could run in with minutes to spare.

My other favorite part is how obvious it is that members of congress have no understanding of copyright or the necessity of clearing music for broadcast.

Keep on extending that protection, kids. Currently 95 years past publication. I’m still not allowed to sing anything from the 1930s without tracking down the rightsholder, and my friends’ youtube videos of their kids dancing get pulled down by bots because of what’s playing in the background. (Bots reject the very idea of fair use.) But you go on, you rebroadcast that 70s stuff. I’m sure it’s fine.

(Despite my snippyness, I’m pretty sure neither of these guys were in office in 1998 when the most recent copyright extension act passed.)

Health Insurance Doesn’t Equal Health Access

A sliver of cross-partisan agreement on healthcare: It’s not fair to have to pay for something you can’t access.

It has been observed by many people that red states, and in particular red rural counties, have had the largest increases in insurance coverage through Obamacare. So why would they be against it? Why would they be adamantly convinced they had to pay their money to help somebody ELSE?

In some cases, it’s probably straight partisanship, or a globalized sense of persecution, or just not knowing the score. But in other cases, they’re right, for a simple reason: Health insurance is meaningless if you can’t use it to access medical care.

That’s one of the reasons we created Obamacare in the first place – to get rid of insurance that doesn’t actually insure you, that drops you the second you make a claim. However, bad insurance wasn’t exclusively the problem, because the existence of insurance doesn’t magically create doctors where you need them.

If you are not in or near a sufficiently large population center, medical care is hard to come by. Doctors just aren’t there. Don’t want to be. Don’t want to move out to the middle of nowhere to make less money; don’t want to have to start their own one-room practice rather than join a medical community they can consult with, and refer to, and commission tests from.

If you want to see this expressed in a jokey fictionalized way, watch Northern Exposure. The struggle is real. My best friend lives in New Mexico, and has expensive “good” work-based insurance, and had to wait something like two years to get registered with a primary doctor even though she was willing to drive anywhere within 120 miles of her house. There aren’t doctors out there. Patient rolls are full. Even now, she has to assume she’ll spend $100 a month on urgent care, even though all she usually needs is for a nurse to shine a flashlight in a kid’s ear and, say “yep, ear infection” and prescribe a course of antibiotics – because there’s no chance she’s going to get a timely appointment with a pediatrician.

This isn’t a market failure; it’s the way markets work. Doctors don’t want to move to that area. You move to a small town because you have roots in the small town, and basically for no other reason. Meanwhile, the kinds of people from small towns that have big medical school dreams often have big other kinds of dreams that don’t involve the small town.

Freeing up the insurance market further, by allowing people to buy insurance across state lines, is not going to fix that, because it’s not an insurance problem. It’s the kind of thing that is best handled by creating a National Health System, which requires doctors to put in time out there, pays them some kind of bonus for that tour of duty, and sets aside large grants to create community health centers in geographically isolated areas. Obamacare didn’t do that. Republican Obamacare 2.0 doesn’t do that either. I’m not super optimistic that U.S. legislators are ready for that particular grand bargain, considering we weren’t even able to get rural broadband access going.

But absent such access: Yes, it is unfair to force people to buy insurance they cannot apply to their own medical care, whether because copays make those visits unaffordable or because there are not doctors to take the insurance. That is an absolutely fair critique. That is a way of making people with fewer resources subsidize people with more resources. And since the individual mandate is one of the three legs of Obamacare and the whole stool falls over without it, we’re kind of stuck.

Just a reminder that the fight, long term, isn’t really over Obamacare, or shouldn’t be. It’s a fight to get affordable healthcare to everyone. A lightly-regulated free market system doesn’t do that: my evidence is that it hasn’t. But Obamacare hasn’t either. It makes sense that some people are mad they have to spend money they can’t really spare on something they can’t really use. On that much, we can agree.

Fake Empathy

My disdain for “now you know how we felt under Obama” (which I’ve read verbatim a number of times, an island to itself, like a bumper sticker) isn’t just that it’s absurd to pretend the situations are equivalent. It’s that even if I give the most extreme benefit of the doubt – we are, after all, talking about feelings, not facts, and who knows what this person’s trusted news sources are – it’s an awful thing to say to a friend. It’s: “I hear you’re frightened and grieving; let’s talk about me and how I need more credit.”

If you’re really trying to reach out – if this isn’t just vindictiveness under the thinnest pretense of empathy – try, “I see how you feel. I’ve been through this, and it didn’t turn out as bad as the scariest stuff I was reading. Here’s why I think it will be ok this time.” That’s how people talk who are sincere about maintaining relationships across political divides. (I speak from experience. Thanks, buds.)

If you can’t do that, maybe you shouldn’t say anything. Maybe this isn’t a topic where you need to weigh in.

Culture War

Occasionally, right wing agitprop still drifts across my dash – one new story every couple of days, reproduced across multiple cash-in blogs which must still be making money. I’m talking about “b-b-but imperfect liberals!” pseudo-scandals: the “discovery” of a widely-disclosed 30-year-old criminal record; out-of-context Madonna; an off-color joke made by a D-lister.

And I wonder, when there’s so much real news coming in so fast, who still has time for that. The actual people in power – the Trump administration and the Republican majorities in both houses of congress and most state legislatures – have threatened to, at any moment, make it impossible for you to afford your medicine; deport your friends or colleagues; start a war (either hot or trade); shut down a bunch of government agencies that have functions you like; and literally give away our (revenue-generating!) public lands. That’s the short list. There is more being threatened – by people who can carry out their threats – than it is possible for a single person to keep track of in a 24-hour news cycle.

Look, I know it would be comforting if we could drift back into the soothing burble of a culture war, but we’re beyond that now. You need to be obsessively scrutinizing the people with ACTUAL power, the ones who could REALLY come for your [fill in the blank].


I guess the exception is if reading a “this liberal non-politician is holier than thou but SNAPS HER GUM” exposé recharges your energy so you are better able to fight the power (i.e. not liberals, who are not in power), in which case, read on?

Cannons for Everyone

Texas State Senator Don Huffines (R-Dallas) has introduced a raft of pro-gun bills that are flat-out crazy (wants to ban all regulation, all registries, any taxation), but there is also one idea that is pro-gun crazy that I support, which is making the cannon the official gun of Texas. I am SUPER pro-cannon. I don’t especially associate it with Texas, but this is an area where I could compromise.

Possible further expansions to pro-cannon legislation I could support:

– if you wear a big enough coat/cape to cover the cannon, it falls under a normal concealed weapons permit

– amnesty for illegal handgun owners who want to trade them in 20 to a cannon

– constitutional amendment defining the right to bear arms as exclusively applying to cannons and steak knives