The Beginning Of The End For The (dis)United States

As one part of my history major, I studied Central and Latin American history in college. And there was one thing I could never figure out. Until this weekend.

I didn’t understand why, whenever a populist, land-reform promising political party gained control of political power, they never managed to follow through on their promises to upset the status quo, distribute power more fairly, and improve ordinary people’s lives.

Forty years later*, I realize it’s because the idealists’ hatred for their predecessors became so all encompassing it distracted them from the day-to-day work of building a brighter future.

The common good took a backseat to getting even with the bastards in the other party for the sometimes decades-long laundry list of political grievances including massive corruption, and in some cases, government sponsored death squads.

The political class in the (dis)United States thinks the (dis)United States is superior to any country to the south, so my reference is irrelevant. But it’s dead wrong, human nature doesn’t respect political boundaries. We are prone to the exact same desire to get revenge. I know that because I feel it in a more visceral way this weekend than ever before. Others do too, no doubt.

Consequently, we are on the precipice of a very similar downward spiral that’s seemingly inevitable when every political party assumes the worst of the other.

Listening to the Senate Majority Leader, the President, and other Republicans unprecedented, unapologetic politicizing of the Supreme Court convinces me that they care way more about their party’s interests than the country’s.

The Democrat’s refrain this week will be, “Never forget.” Democrats risk being overwhelmed by anger at the Republican’s historic hypocrisy. When they gain power, which they inevitably will sooner or later, they are likely to seek revenge. And when the Republicans regain it, which they inevitably will sooner or later, they will do the exact same.

Just like that, if it hasn’t already, the organizing principle of our politics will become revenge. Instead of looking to the future, we’ll be mired in the past. And our national debt will grow large; our natural environment will grow more inhospitable; our infrastructure will erode further; racial justice will remain more illusive; and more people will struggle to meet their basic needs for food, shelter, and clothing.

And I will take zero joy in being right.

*better late than never

The Kavanaugh Nomination Explained

Thank you Lili.

“The nominee looks good on paper—he’s Ivy-educated, Federalist Society–approved, and has the sorts of credentials serious thinkers like to solemnly enumerate. More importantly, though, Kavanaugh isn’t just a booster for presidential power, he’s someone who—having once laid out the grounds for impeaching President Bill Clinton—has since (in a move his advocates will no doubt cite as evidence of his broad-mindedness) changed his mind about how presidents should deal with being investigated. In brief, he doesn’t believe they should have to: ‘[T]he President should be excused from some of the burdens of ordinary citizenship while serving in office,’ Kavanaugh wrote. ‘We should not burden a sitting President with civil suits, criminal investigations, or criminal prosecutions,’ he added. The ‘indictment and trial of a sitting President’ would ‘cripple the federal government.’

Imagine Trump’s feelings when he heard that. Trump used the phrase equal justice twice in his speech, but what he really wants is exceptional justice. And Kavanaugh is willing to give it.

But installing a judge who will quietly immunize you from any legal consequences for wrongdoing requires finesse. It’s a challenge even for a showman of Trump’s caliber. A maneuver like this must look quite, quite normal in order to successfully mask his real rationale. It can be easy to forget, especially on the heels of a bile-filed rally in Montana, that Trump can ‘code switch’ when he has reason to, and he had reason to do so Monday, when what he needed was to make filling a Supreme Court seat look like the act of a statesman rather than a robber baron.

Kavanaugh went out of his way to play his part in catering to Trump’s ego.”

 

Highly plausible. I also LTM (laughed to myself) as Kavanaugh’s acceptance stretched from one minute to seven or so and Little St. Don couldn’t mask his complete and total annoyance at having lost the limelight. I’ve heard some people have been saying he’s a bit of a narcissist.

What the Affordable Care Act Gets Wrong

Poor form to be contrarian following a week liberals can’t stop celebrating, but count your blessings I’m done writing about golf. For now at least. I always reserve my right to tap my inner Alan Shipnuck.

Thursday night near the end of another spirited training ride. Soft spinning on North Street, two friends and I head for home. One is a well-to-do 59 year old who just retired. His very nice lake home is paid for and he and his wife just returned from another trip to Europe. Euro vacations aside, as his threadbare cycling gloves illustrate, he’s actually on the frugal side. He says he can afford the vacations because of the gloves. Decades of having made very good money no doubt help too.

“You’ll never guess what medical plan I’ve signed up for,” he says. “No clue,” I replied. “Medicaid!” “Wait, you’re 65?!” “No, I’m 59, that’s Medicare. I was surprised to learn I qualify for Medicaid because I have no income now.”

Quick google search. Medicaid is “a U.S. government program, financed by federal, state, and local funds, of hospitalization and medical insurance for persons of all ages within certain income limits.”

I was stunned. He told me a person can make about $20k/year and still qualify for Medicaid. He hardly has any capital gains because he hasn’t sold any assets for a long time. Apart from his international vacations, I’m guessing his expenses are minimal and he’s living off of savings that he previously set aside. I’m not sure how he’s sheltered his wife’s income.

Then he tells me the adult son of a mutual cycling friend is also getting “free” Medicaid despite the fact that he has a very large trust fund that must consist of tax-free municipal bonds.

Undoubtedly, if my friends are doing this, so are other high wealth/low income people. Especially those whose income stems largely from tax-free municipal bonds. Why isn’t anyone writing about this gigantic loophole and what we should do to close it?

More generally, why does the Affordable Care Act (ACA) use income as it’s sole reference point instead of some combination of income and wealth? The same can be asked about the IRS and college financial aid offices. When it comes to health care premiums, college financial aid, and taxes more generally, it’s far better to be wealthy than to have lots of income. Just ask Mitt Romney. My guess is, and I’d love a more tax savvy reader to enlighten us on this, IRS agents, ACA bureaucrats, and college financial aid officials are unable to determine people’s total wealth with any certainty.

Why not ballpark it though I wonder. If the government knew my friend owned his home outright, would it compromise his Second Amendment rights to privacy? How do we balance well-to-do people’s right to privacy with public policies that, through subsidies, take from those of modest wealth and give to those with considerably more?