3 Troubling Events

There are three troubling events that are occurring and raise concerns about the ability of Body Commons that is the USA to “heal thyself”.
The first is the Trayvon Martin case in Florida. A white shot a black youth in very questionable circumstances. It is the aftermath that is the concern. TheDailyBeast has been following the twists and turns and finds the Major Media’s slowness in picking up the major leads in the story and then turning the story into a The Right vs Left Agitation . There is a Stridency Media Circus developing around a most serious case – citizens taking the law into their own gun-powered hands. Yes, by using the phrase “gun-powered hands” making it yet again a left vs right battleground.

But the roles are reversed on the next strident issue confronting the USA – how to deal  with “free riders” in the Health Care Law. In Florida, citizens are taking on the role of local and state government in “policing” their neighborhoods. In the case of the Health Care and uninsured free riders. The federal government is criticized for demanding too much   of its citizens in providing for their health care. The problem is a question of fairness. If you go to an emergency room with an injury or health complaint, you are entitled to by law and get treatment regardless of whether you have health insurance or can pay for it “out-of-pocket”. In many cases, those who are not insured pass on some to all of their health care costs to state and federal governments and/or the insured users of those hospital services. Currently before the Supreme court there is a case asking whether the federal government can force the uninsured to buy some minimal level of health insurance coverage. The problem is that the debate, has taken the same old, same old Left vs Right battle lines shift rather than looking at the key issue of how to deal with free rider problem. What makes it even more salient is that the State of Massachusetts has had nearly the samehealthcare  legislation on the books for nearly tn years with no Federal court challenges. Nudge, nudge; wink, wink; know what I mean?

But perhaps the most disturbing problem is the stalemate in the US Senate. Because of the Filibuster Rule it now effectively takes not 51 Senators of 100 but 60 Senators to pass any legislation.

The last three years have seen a a continued very high level of filibuster action with the 2011-2012 Session likely to reach a new high of over 40 filibuster votes – and remember merely the threat of a filibuster now deters legislation both large and small, vital and petty. On announcing her departure from the  Senate, Olympia Snow noted

“the Senate routinely jettisons regular order,serially legislates by political brinksmanship … and habitually eschews full debate and an open amendment process in favor of competing, up-or-down, take it or leave it proposals.”

Senator Snowe expressed doubt that the situation would improve any time soon, and there is evidence to support her pessimistic assessment. In response to President Obama’s strengthened political position, George Will used his column in the Washington Post to advise conservatives to focus on keeping the House and capturing the Senate, where 23 of the 33 seats being contested are held by Democrats, in order to thwart Obama’s second term agenda. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has described how he would run the Senate if Republicans gain the majority, and he has already shown that a determined, unified Republican caucus can paralyze the Senate even without having a majority. In other words, if the Republicans lose the presidential election, they are gearing up for four more years of political obstruction.

The rancor in the Senate has mirrored the growth of the filibuster. So now the Senate is the great obstacle to getting anything of consequence done from the Federal government as deep and bitter partisanship prevails with the Public out of the loop.

The Consequences

The consequences of increasingly strident partisanship and an increasingly inoperable government are severe. Muddling through has become the operative mode for the past two years. S&P rightfully downgraded the US Triple AAA debt rating based primarily on the paralysis in the federal government. And meanwhile the jobs crisis gets worse not better. And the World is  one step away from crippling Global crisis as Israel ponders taking out Iran’s nuclear facilities or a global economic crisis is one climate change disaster away.  And so the Senate fiddles in strident partisan ship reflected in Florida “justice” and Health Care costs continuing  to spiral out of control.  Truly the US Body Politic is not just in an ill temper but dangerously ill-suited to cope with viral tenoe of the Times.

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