Exploring the Eclipse of Equality

Posts Tagged ‘health care’

The Endogeneity of Might and Right: “Uncle Mo” and American Politics

In Domestic Politics on March 29, 2010 at 10:07 am

Just before the big health care vote on Sunday, I wrote about the famous Clinton line from 2002 in which he said that the American people occasionally prefer someone who is strong and wrong to someone who seems weak and right.

Let’s call this the endogeneity of might and right problem. It works like this, if I don’t know how the world works, I have to rely upon signals from others. Much of what I mean by the word “works” is that it produces practical effects that are better to those that now obtain. Although I might prefer the optimum, I would prefer the better to the worse. This means that right action in practical life depends on what is possible. What is possible is a function of power or might.

This gets us to the endogeneity of might and right problem. Endogeneity here just means that we have a chicken and the egg problem. It is hard to know which one causes the other and what one would be without the other. They are related to one another in iterative cycles. Something is right if it works; it works if we recognize the virtue in its conception.

Although the power to produce effects is the most crucial, the power to frame them might matter nearly as much. This is why the right is so eager to work the refs Read the rest of this entry »


Howl of the Haoles: Health as a Civil Right

In Domestic Politics on March 24, 2010 at 7:53 am

Perhaps the most interesting thing to emerge from the fight over the health regulation bill that was passed in the House Sunday night was the linkage between health insurance and race. I had the chance to watch the fight while away in the Midwest and the tight connection between race and insurance was made more clear to me in that setting than it might have been here inside the Beltway. To put things simply: the bill itself has little to do with race, but the opposition to the bill is very likely inspired by some degree of racial anxiety. The important thing about this most recent incarnation of race consciousness is that it pits white people not against black, which was most common in the civil rights era. Instead the changing demographics of the country pits Middle America against demographic diversity itself. While hardly new, the changing context of ethnic confrontation makes it different this time and demands a different approach to conflict resolution.

For some of you, there will be no need to establish the link between health and race.  I often hear that this is all about race. There is Read the rest of this entry »

Down to This: Which side is stronger and wronger

In Domestic Politics on March 17, 2010 at 10:36 pm

In one of the most cogent statements of this era of inclusion, Bill Clinton provided an analysis of the 2002 midterm election in which Republicans not only failed to lose seats, as is typically the case between Presidential contests, but also manged to pick up a few. In a speech to the Democratic Leadership Council Clinton said:

So we have to be firm and clear and strong and positive and prepared to defend our positions and those who are brave enough to stick their necks out to take them…When we look weak in a time where people feel insecure, we lose. When people feel uncertain, they’d rather have someone strong and wrong than weak and right…We have a heavy responsibility to cooperate in uniting this country on security issues, and also to come up with better ideas across the board.

What Clinton has Read the rest of this entry »

Safe as Doctors: Organizing the wrong community

In Uncategorized on March 10, 2010 at 10:51 am

Because the health bill debate has lingered so long in media hospice, we have to consider it periodically. The best argument I have seen on the issue in the past few weeks comes from the right. Michael Gerson has an unsympathetic analysis of the political context in which this bill has led to the current malaise. I think he may be a bit jubilant (in a quiet way), and the bill still has a good chance to pass, and once passed to begin to have a happy career. But today, things are pretty bleak and Gerson is remarkably even handed in diagnosing the illness.

Intriguingly enough, this may be where a conflict resolution perspective is potentially debilitating. To see where I am coming from, let me return to the scene on September 3 2008 where Sarah Palin gave us the following infamous lines:

I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a ‘community organizer,’ except that you have actual responsibilities. I might add that in small towns, we don’t quite know what to make of a candidate who lavishes praise on working people when they are listening, and then talks about how bitterly they cling to their religion and guns when those people aren’t listening.

This moment is so infamous because Palin was dismissive of one of the most popular styles of progressive reform: what we more commonly call capacity building, when we give the skill a name. Community organizers were rightly outraged by this attack on their best asset, and Palin, like Glenn Beck, was savvy in her identification of the reform approach that she most disdains.  For this strain of conservatism, the enemy really is Teddy Roosevelt. It was Roosevelt Read the rest of this entry »

Health Savings Accounts: Coming to a conversation near you

In Uncategorized on March 1, 2010 at 2:06 pm

If you have to read one opinion piece today, I would recommend that you turn to the Wall Street Journal to see an idea coming out of Indiana from its governor Mitch Daniels that is likely to represent some large portion of what we will be talking about for the next few months.  The idea he discusses is Health Savings Accounts and is not new, but his use of it is masterful and it is linked with a nice set-up piece in the New York Times that will get more readers than would otherwise come.  Mitch Daniels claims that the use of Health Savings Accounts is working in Indiana to provide coverage and better than that, it is lowering the rise of health care costs in the state.

The way the plan is purported to work is fascinating and it will be really appealing to middle America. Basically, the plan looks like single payer coverage for expenses beyond $8,000 with the bonus that if you use no coverage, you can make $2750 for the year. This means that you get to bargain with your provider so that you save money until you face something catastrophic. You can make money if you are really abstemious and you only stand to lose a maximum of $5250  in cases where you need a lot of care. The clever use of market logic to get people to bargain for most of their routine care is intended to appeal to those who are uncomfortable with the “government takeover” of health care that the Obama administration is said to propose.

The devil of all such plans is in the details. I have not yet checked to see how families are treated and how people with different kinds of pre-existing conditions fare, and the expected limits payoffs can be easily manipulated to fool the unaware . I suspect that on the social science side, there are real problems in making the claims that the governor does. One assumes that younger and healthier people have opted into the plans and the before treatment comparisons are potentially difficult to control for. There could also be selection differences in terms of how assertive the people are who have opted to bargain for their care.

Read the rest of this entry »

Who’s the Kamikaze? Schadenfreude and the American empire

In Uncategorized on February 28, 2010 at 12:39 pm

Back in October 2008, a few colleagues and I were having conversation with Johan Galtung about the 2008 election. Johan was talking about the election and he was rather dismissive of its importance. Many of us were animated in our discussion and we were speculating about what the outcome would be. I remember directing a response to him about how crucial some issue or another would be and why it mattered who won in November. His response to me was, as I have learned, Galtungian. He said if McCain wins, it will only hasten the decline of the American Empire. If I believed that there were real stakes in the election, that only represented my American naivete through my faith in elections. We then had a long discussion about the word empire and how it contrasted with hegemony and which was a better description of global politics. Just for the record, I am a hegemony guy and think that American empire is a mis-specified idea.

Flash to today’s Sunday conversation, in which we see Lamar Alexander taking several shots at Japan through only slightly indirect imagery on This Week. First he compares the health bill to a car that can’t be recalled. Then he comes right out and says that the Democrats are playing a kind of kamikaze politics right now, where they will destroy themselves by pushing through reconciliation. This idea turns out to be relatively well distributed  in the public sphere. I have found it in a few places here and here.

What a great example of how a literary device can be developed and then used opportunistically to take advantage of emerging circumstances.  Now that Toyota is in trouble, it is useful for many to pile on and take shots not only at Toyota itself, but also to invoke the most fearsome image of the Japanese as the enemy they can muster–the kamikaze pilot. No one will soon accuse Alexander of being the Senator from Toyota. By drawing on this kind of opportunistic imagery, Alexander surely scored points. If you can’t profitably paint Obama as Hitler, why not Hirohito?

Read the rest of this entry »