In looking at the year 2017 and what lies ahead, it's painfully obvious that we need: leaders and policies that objectively function in reality. This also calls for a population of voters that allow more cold rational thought to drive reasoning. Easier said than done given the reality of neuroscience. Nonetheless, I think it's important to give the effort anyway.
Choosing solutions requires examining the facts and picking the best path, even if that solution isn't perfect. Emotions shouldn't enter into to it. Most of the time, solutions offer choices of crappy, bad, terrible, or awful. Learning to live with this fact is, well, part of being an adult. It's also why I think people should give the president, of either party, a break. They have to choose what benefits the most people which means a substantial part of the population is going to be pissed off.
The key here is to set party ideology and tribal chest thumping aside. What actually works and what doesn't? As we kick off the new year with a new president, I thought I would compile a brief list of the challenges we face as a nation and a brief description of how to tackle them. This is by no means a complete list and I might add to it later on but I wanted to at least get a foundation started. As the year unfolds and policies are made with the new president and Congress, we can see if they are dealing with reality or not.
21st century skills. A bachelor's degree is bare minimum essential. A master's degree is preferred.
Globalization is here to say despite Trump's promises of global nationalism (what the heck is that anyway?). Tariffs never work and the corporate world will resist Trump on this every step of the way. Free trade is a good thing, despite the protestations of both Trump supporters and progressives who claim to want inequality eradicated but apparently only want that to apply to United States workers. Don't they care about laborers around the world? The data shows that standard of living around the world has risen massively in the age of globalization. Remember Gapminder?
The freer the trade, the more this continues.
This is also why liberals should take care to rip corporations at every turn. Mitt Romney was right when he said that corporations are people. They are made up of people who have families and contribute to the aggregate demand in the economy which means they improve the lives of our nation and, indeed, our planet.
The constant rag from liberals regarding corporations is almost as tiresome as the rag from conservatives about government. They both come from a place of complete ignorance. Both corporations and government are essential to our economic health. Governments can sometimes improve market efficiency. This is a fact. Further, government projects, like the Grand Coulee Dam or the more recent investments in renewable energy has improved the lives of millions of Americans.
What works in reality with the economy and what does not...it's just that simple. Let's deal with the facts.
We essentially have three choices for health care in this nation.
1. Go to a completely free market without insurance.
2. Go to Medicare for all with single payer.
3. Retain an insurance based system.
Let's take a look at the challenges of each one.
Free market-This would be great if demand in most health care markets was elastic like Lasik, for example. It isn't which means that suppliers can charge whatever they want and most people will pay
(remember the Epi-pen thing?) A few might leave but most will go into debt paying for health care otherwise they will be in pain and/or die. Prices won't go down. Demand is too great and too inelastic in most health care markets. This is just fundamental economics. Prices in most health care markets will remain high because people need the services and care.
Medicare for all-Taxes go up significantly. The economy takes a hit from all those unemployed medical insurance folks out of a job. How much of a hit would depend on where we are at in the business cycle so the impact would be unknown.
Retain insurance based system-That's what the ACA essentially is. It's a free market solution for insurance with government regulation. It was never meant to be perfect but to be changed and altered over the years. If our new president wants everyone to be covered and yet still not be compelled to have insurance if folks don't want it, someone is going to have to pay for this.
Rates can only be lowered if everyone has insurance. The pools of risk won't be large enough for insurance companies to stay afloat let alone pay out. This is the problem with the ACA right now. The penalties for not being insured are not significant enough. That'w why rates are going up. That and the bulge of baby boomers requiring more care. The distortion of the market due to people not actually paying what their care costs (insurance) makes things more expensive.
The free market choice isn't an option in reality so we need to look at either shifting to Medicare for all or fixing the issues with the ACA. The GOP is feeling the heat as they try to satisfy their childish urge to vanquish "Obamacare" once and for all. They have no plan to replace the ACA, other than some mentions of block grants and buying insurance across state lines. The latter certainly won't work because you'll get a state that offers just catastrophic coverage and then everyone will flock to that state, leaving their home state with a small risk pool and thus, insoluble.
Either choice #2 or choice #3 will work and function in reality.
With 13,000 school districts and over 100,000 schools in the country, having a one size fits all policy is ludicrous. The federal government and even state level governing bodies should stay out of the way of local districts. Each district knows intimately well exactly the challenges they face. They should be the ones to decide policy and dictate any sort of regulations. The US Department of Education should exist only to dole out money and analyze data. The same goes for state level education departments.
Luckily, such a model for local control exists. It's called "Strive Together" and the data shows that if districts can pool resources and create a foundation for cradle to career support of each student, the achievement gap narrows and graduation rates rise.
In terms of collage, we have to figure out a way, as a nation to make college more affordable if not all together free. Everyone is going to have to pitch in whether it's in the form of higher taxes to make community college tuition free or universities cutting salaries and laying off their latest multi million dollar building project.
If we want to stay competitive in the world, we have to have a better educated people. It's just that simple.
Climate change is real and it's caused by CO2 emissions. The free market has essentially recognized this and we are now seeing cheaper renewable energy. Conservatives are going to have to give up on this one because that's where the money is going to be. Liberals are going to have to accept that the old energy companies that provided us with oil and coal will be the only ones who can successfully finance a broad, renewable energy push. Look for Exxon Wind or Koch Solar soon. It's honestly the best way to go if we want to address the threat of climate change. Liberals are also going to have to give up their hysteria over nuclear energy. It's clean and it will one day propel us to the stars.
Side note: here's a handy list of every single climate change denier's argument thoroughly blown apart by science.
If you want to own a gun in this country, you have to demonstrate that you have complied with regular training and mental health checks. This training should be just as intensive as those who dedicate their lives to public safety (armed forces, police, etc). In short, you have to be part of a trained militia.
Gun bans won't work because such a law would merely create a criminal enterprise. Other laws like ammo limits or smart guns are cumbersome and silly. Yet ongoing training and mental health checks would allow gun rights folks to play with their guns more often and actually support public safety.
If such training and mental health checks were required, they would not eliminate gun violence. But they would drastically reduce the amount of suicides, gang violence, spree shootings, and accidents every year. Universal background checks should also be law.
Here are the numbers from the past few years. We can no longer afford to continue like this. People are dying every day. Let's face reality. Too many irresponsible people with far too many guns.
When it comes this issue, identifying the challenge is simple. We are still feeling the socio-economic fallout from slavery. Anyone out there want to voluntarily be treated like a black person in this country? Anyone? Go ahead and stand up.
The first step in addressing the problem of race is admit that we even have a problem. We still have a large segment of the population that is racist or, at best, prejudiced. We also have a fairly significant portion of the population that throws tantrums and has hissy fits over attention to cultural diversity and/or calling out racism when it's apparent. These folks (mostly conservatives and right wing bloggers and commenters) are not necessarily racist. They are more adolescent in the sense that they don't want to take responsibility for the problem of racism nor do they want to lose their privilege.
Rather than talk about civil rights or Black Lives Matter with folks like this, try talking to them about Constitutional rights being violated or people's freedom and liberty being under siege by the government (e.g. our criminal justice system). This is much more effective way of getting people to admit that there is a problem.
After we all admit there is a problem with race, the next step is to engage at the community level. The most successful diverse communities in terms of zero issues with law enforcement are in areas where the police engage with community leaders and their people.
This isn't going to go away over night. Having a black president for 8 years doesn't really mean shit compared to 400 years of institutional sedimentation. We have to, at least, be pointed in the right direction, though, and we are not there yet.
Abortion rates have fallen to their lowest rates since Roe V Wade passed. That's nice and all but there are still young women getting abortions. Both sides in this argument really piss me off. The pro choice crowd utterly fail to recognize that we have a heartbeat in a fetus after just a few weeks. Brain development occurs shortly thereafter so we are killing living beings. No wonder people are upset. Yet the pro life crowd utterly fails to recognize that this living being is attached to another living being who has rights. If abortion were outlawed, would her womb then become the ward of the state? Why conservatives support this, given their stated beliefs on government out of people's lives, makes no sense to me. In fact, when it comes to the abortion issue, both sides are antithetical to their overall ideologies. Suddenly liberals want the government out of people's lives. WTF?
The solution to abortion lies with the data. Most women who get abortions are single, white women in their 20s. Why? Are they stupid? Do they not know about birth control? Think about this from an economic standpoint. How do we decrease the demand for abortion? If we cut off the supply, then we just create a criminal enterprise when there is such high demand. We need to focus on this larger group of abortion demanders and find out what tools we can put in place to reduce their need for abortions. We mitigate it here first and we can really make a serious dent in abortion demand.
If we want to save the lives of the unborn, this is the best route. Roe V Wade will not be overturned, Abortions are going to continue to happen. Let's get rid of the demand and then suppliers will go away because they won't make any money from it.
The answer here is simple. We need to legalize all drugs and regulate them through the health care industry. Violence will go down and tax dollars will go up. We also have to be careful about how these drugs are dispensed. Life expectancy for white people has declined over the past few years because of drugs and alcohol. There is a deep malaise in white culture that needs to be addressed.
The best way to deal with this is to destigmatize mental health. People should go to their therapists at least as often as they go to the dentists and treat it with the same level of nonchalance. The brain is the most complex organ in your body. Pretending that stuff is "all in your mind" is pure nonsense. Your brain doesn't float next to your body as some sort of ghostly object. It's a part of you that needs to be treated with great care. Doing so will result in less problems with drugs in our country.
I'm only interested in solutions that speak to functionally working in reality. I have zero interest in folks who allow emotion to cloud their judgement. So, let's think about functionalism. What actually works in our society in terms of solutions and what does not? In looking at the challenges we face above, I no longer think of myself as fully embracing liberalism or conservatism. I embrace functionalism and will do so every single day in the future. You should too.
Blow the horn for functionalism!!