Situation Normal, All Fouled Up
My colleague Dave Schuler, writing at his own digs, explains why he’s “discouraged” by the news of the day, both foreign and domestic.
- Healthcare reform. As I commented not long ago over at OTB I wouldn’t oppose a single-payer system in the U. S. if (and only if) it were accompanied by measures that would actually control costs. In the absence of such measures IMO we’ll just have a the most expensive single-payer system in the world that we can’t afford, either. In the presence of such measures we wouldn’t be worrying about the unaffordability of healthcare insurance in the first place.
- China-U. S. relations. I think that the mutual testing and saber-rattling is unhelpful, a prelude to a genuine trade war (or worse) that will benefit neither China nor the U.S.
- The U. S. economy. I am very concerned that the desperate moves to “get things back to normal” are actually preventing the new normal from taking form. We’ll never have a U. S. car market dominated by U. S. automakers again and the car business is unlikely to be a growth business. Subsidized alternative energy products bought from overseas companies are unlikely to help the U. S. economy. Keeping unrealistic promises made to public employees’ unions won’t help, either. It’s cruel to say but bankrupt car companies and insolvent banks need to be allowed to fade away.
- Iran. I have no confidence whatever that the “green” movement in Iran will result in anything other than a bunch of people being beaten and killed by the basiji. I also think that we’re going to need to reflect seriously on how we’ll deal with a nuclear-armed Iran since it’s probably too late to prevent them from developing nuclear weapons now.
He sees us as “collective deer caught in the headlights.” But, as noted on last night’s installment of OTB Radio, he’s “positively sunny” compared to Bernard Finel, who dubs both Afghanistan and the fiscal situation as “a nightmare,” predicts we “won’t get a health care bill worth a damn,” and believes the “rule of law is likely shot.” Worse, he’s not sure whether it’s even worth caring anymore.
I’m not fighting in Afghanistan. Since the only people we “draft” are people who have already served under individual ready reserve and stop-loss, I can’t be drafted and neither can my sons. I have good health insurance, and am likely to continue to have it, and anyway, my wife and I make enough to buy it privately if we need to. The fiscal collapse will be painful, but again, I’m doing well-enough financially that I am not really that concerned about affording retirement or affording some sort of supplemental health coverage as I get older. I don’t rely on many government services, and heck, can afford to move if I find I want better services in gated community or something. And in the end, I’m a well-educated white man, not Muslim, unlikely to find myself on the wrong end of some overzealous government action. So, the whole rule of law thing is pretty abstract for me.
In short, it is hard for me to remain emotionally committed. Yeah, we’re making tragic decisions on a number of fronts. I am not quite sure how I’ll explain to my kids how my generation managed to f_k so much s__t up. But in the final analysis, I’ll probably ride all of this out just fine.
That’s the spirit!
It’s been said that the benefit of being a pessimist is that you’re rarely disappointed. It generally works out for me. I’m generally optimistic about the medium- and long-run and pessimistic about the short. Of course, as John Maynard Keynes observed, “In the long run, we’re all dead.” But the fact of the matter is that we generally make stupid decisions, demonstrate how inefficient our political system is by design, and just muddle through somehow.
But, as Winston Churchill pointed out, “Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing — after they have exhausted all the alternatives.” At the end of the day, we’ll fix health care and the budget because we won’t have any choice. Relations with China will improve because we need each other too much to get derailed on extraneous issues. Iran will go nuclear and we’ll get used to it, eventually wondering what the fuss was about. Afghanistan will be a basket case, just as it’s always been, and we’ll eventually resign ourselves to that fact. And the American economy will eventually right itself despite the best efforts of the federal government.
Beyond that, as the old Army saying that is this post’s title* reminds us, it’s always something. I don’t know that there was some halcyon age where American politicians were all statesmen, the world was safe and free, and there was no greed or hunger, only a brotherhood of man.
*There are other variants as to what the F stands for.