Jerking the Country Around

We have a problem with the way our government is run.  We have elections where two extremely different political parties exist, and elections where a majority (of sorts) wins.  The result has been that our country’s leadership takes the country in one or another extreme direction, in response to the people who elected them, but in direct opposition to the ones who did not.

This terrible tug-of-war is undermining the progress in our country, because major projects take more than an election cycle to complete.  Can we imagine what would have happened if our highway system was canceled eight years after it had begun?  That is the world we live in now, where major undertakings are always getting started, but never finished.

We need some amount of magnanimity from our leadership when they are newly victorious, and a “meeting in the middle” understanding of what the problems are.  Just as an example, one of those major issues in recent years is the Affordable Care Act, called “Obamacare” whenever the media decides there’s call for political frenzy (which is always).

This was a piece of legislation that had a number of great points to it.  One of the major points was allowing people to sign up for health insurance if they had a “pre-existing condition”, which basically meant “anything at all wrong with you”.  If you had a ringing in your ears once in a while, you could be disqualified from any and all coverage – which makes absolutely no sense at all.  Insurance had gone to an extreme where they were functionally refusing to insure individuals, and private citizens who were not working for major corporations or the state were not able to sign up for health insurance (the main way to pay for healthcare costs), even if they were mostly healthy.  Literally any condition could disqualify you from buying individual insurance, so this was obviously something that needed to change.

However, one of the most controversial provisions of the bill required people to sign up for health insurance, or face a still tax penalty at the end of the year.  This part of the bill was insisted on by the insurance industry, citing high costs and claiming that people would “forgo insurance until they need it”.  This provision was opposed by the representatives of rural populations, both on principle (they did not feel like people should be forced to buy into a private business, like insurance), and because rural populations were both less likely to need a doctor (since sparse population cuts down on the spread of disease), and they were less likely to have many doctors in their area.  Even if they did need a doctor, many of them would not have been able to afford seeing one; forcing them to pay for insurance literally takes their money while giving them nothing in return, because they still cannot afford the copay to see a doctor. Adding to the problem, once the law was passed, insurance companies raised their rates to take advantage of the financial penalty the government had imposed for non-participation, and many of the reasonable plans no longer existed due to the requirements on care put in place by the government’s regulation.

Neither one of these positions was completely wrong, but because of the extremist positions that all of our leaders nearly always take, nothing can ever get accomplished.  If the party that wasn’t in power has their way, they will repeal the entire legislation a few years down the road, anyway.

A similar problem undermined the one good, major project that President Bush pushed for: a mission to Mars, which spurred an interest in engineering and the sciences.  The following administration effectively scrapped that twenty-year plan entirely.  We cannot have a country that is constantly undermining itself.  As Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

As a country, we cannot constantly let our representatives jerk the helm of the country back and forth, because we are getting nowhere and accomplishing nothing.


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