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In the news: Affordable Care Act

10/08/2013 @ 6:31am

I don’t know how to start my day anymore. I’m used to getting up early and reading the morning papers as I eat breakfast and drink my first cup of coffee. These days I can hardly force myself to read the news.

There’ve been a few times in the past half-century or so when I’ve felt like my country has just gone crazy, when I’ve glanced from my left to my right with an air of stunned bewilderment. This is one of those times.

I’m not big on . . . belonging. I don’t join clubs, never tried to join a fraternity. I don’t even like to wear caps and T-shirts with logos on them. The problem with joining up with a team is that you can find yourself defending that team, right or wrong, which usually means that sooner or later you move into shaky territory where you end up saying things you really don’t believe.

Our current political brouhaha is driving me insane. I’m trying as hard as I can to not scream, “A pox on both your houses!” and turn away.

Just for the sake of clarity, I think the Affordable Care Act is a good idea. Not a great idea, but a good one. I make no pretense of being any sort of international expert, but over the last few decades, I’ve traveled to 15 countries and every one of the countries that I thought might be a good place to live and raise a family had some sort of universal health care. That’s just the truth - something I’ve seen for myself.  If there is some sort of Ayn-Rand-government-free paradise existing out there, I’ve never seen it. I’ve been in places without much government (like Haiti), and I’ve been places with an excess of government (like China), and I’m telling you, there’s a lot of room in the middle where most reasonable people can make themselves comfortable.  

I’ve heard people say, “All government is bad,” and those people are wrong. I’ve seen places with no real government, and it’s not a pretty sight.

But when the Tea Party folks say there’s too much government, that it spends too much and is too intrusive, they’re right. The government wastes incredible amounts of money, spending time and energy on programs that never seem to show much success.  The problem, of course, is that every government program is a job or a profit for someone, so any real efficiency is also going to mean real hardship for someone else. Wasteful spending is just the beginning. The farm program is a mess and everyone knows it; if you want to start a business, the list of regulations you need to surmount is daunting and ever-changing; and anyone who can add or subtract knows we are long past the moment when we need to have an honest, open discussion about how to keep Social Security and Medicare solvent.

Ultimately, of course, the responsibility rests with the voters. Politicians love to give people what they want, and what the voters have asked for is every program in the world, BUT they don’t want to pay for them.

It’s a slow-motion train wreck that I can’t bear to watch. I can’t even bear to read about it, at least not on a dark morning with an empty stomach.

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