Thursday, October 29, 2009

Blaming the Individual

for institutional excess:
never have so many members of the nation’s younger generations been so dependent on their parents and grandparents. Should parents set limits, or is this transfer of wealth a social and economic necessity in the long jobless recession? How has this growing dependence changed the country?
Although the various answers to this question are interesting, it's the wrong question. The QUESTION is, 'how has the country's economy created this growing dependence?'

To anyone who entered the job market during a recession, the answer ought to be obvious--while the costs of education, healthcare and housing have skyrocketed since our parents graduated from college, the number of living-wage jobs has plummeted. There is no longer any sane ratio between the price of a college degree and the salary that degree earns you; ditto between the price of a house and the average wage. And I don't even need to talk about health insurance.

The other thing that rarely gets mentioned is that the economy itself is changing so fast that it is impossible to plan a 'career trajectory' that will still make sense five years from now, let alone through 'retirement' (which, for most of our generation, is a fiscal impossibility anyway.) No sooner do you learn one technology, skill or profession than 1) the technology becomes obsolete, 2) your job is outsourced to India, or 3) the industry collapses. Thus, any successful 'career' in this millennium requires an enormous amount of adaptability.

Fostering adaptability is, in itself, not a bad thing (we could all take a lesson from rural China in that respect), but in our certification-happy society, all of us end up further in debt while financing our own retraining. Insecurity generates predation, in the form of absurdly expensive, worthless community college degrees, MFA programs, and arcane graduate degrees. By the time we've attained our certification in holistic health counseling, or DreamWeaver, or Windows OS, the world has moved on to Linux and hypnotherapy.

The fact is, that education, healthcare and real estate are no longer subject to rational market pressures. All three industries have become so enormous, pervasive and mythologized that they are draining us dry, with few 'opt-out' possibilities.

So, New York Times editorial board, give 'dependent' 20- and 30- and 40-somethings a break. We've been sold a bunch of bills of goods, and we have little choice but to sell more bills ourselves, or to curl into a fetal position and give up.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Base Paranoia

Cheers everybody! It's been yonks. Of course I have had opinions unlimited on the healthcare debate, most of which I cannot now recall. But today's Ross Douthat editorial yanked me out of my haze:
It’s the eventual endgame that liberals pushing a “public option” are aiming for: a federal takeover of the health-insurance sector, paid for by rising tax rates, in which the government guarantees universal access while using its monopoly power to hold down costs.
Let's leave aside, for a moment, the fact that the 'radical solution' that Mr. Douthat propounds is nearly identical to the one that I have been touting for years. I want to point out that the rhetoric he employs above indicates why it it is all but impossible to have a coherent discussion about healthcare these days.

Look: at the 'liberals' 'pushing' 'a federal takeover' with 'rising tax rates' to create 'monopoly power.' For Mr. Douthat, and thousands like him, there is no middle ground. Democracy is not a debate; it's a death struggle between opposing forces of freedom and totalitarianism. Any 'solution' is necessarily 'radical' because it involves the total defeat of one extremist point of view or another.

Granted, there are many progressives out there who think that universal single-payer healthcare is the way to go. On alternate Thursdays, I'm one of them. That doesn't mean that I'm incapable of 1) compromise, 2) seeing other points of view; or 3) seeking out alternate solutions which might be a creative hybrid of existing systems. It is perfectly possible to support a public option without simultaneously sending lawyers, guns and money to the secret Communist Liberation Army that is waiting outside the gates of every U.S. hospital.

Let me remind Mr. Douthat, as well as a few of my 'conservative' friends, of one thing--last time I checked, THIS IS STILL A DEMOCRACY. No 'liberal' is going to 'push' a radical solution down the throats of hundreds of thousands of entrenched and well-heeled interests without a great deal of trouble. The term 'public option' includes the term 'option' for a REASON. IT'S ONE OPTION. AMONG MANY.