Friday, April 25, 2008

Easy Answers

David Ignatius wrote an op-ed Wednesday in the Washington Post (behind a registration firewall), which was reprinted in the San Diego Union-Tribune Thursday (but not included in their online edition), which had to do with politicians offering “easy answers” to today’s problems; easy answers to hard problems, he says; answers that are mostly entirely bogus. Amen.

He blames politicians, and wants to know when they’ll quit doing it. I’ll suggest in just a bit that we can know exactly when our politicians will begin offering real solutions.

His prime example is the Iraq quagmire, and he says that McCain will not keep troops there forever and Clinton or Obama will not withdraw as promptly as both of them promise. He is, of course, I believe certainly quite right and some complex and gradual process is going to have to be worked out. I buy his premise that all three candidates are setting themselves up to seriously disappoint those who voted for them whichever is elected.

The second pie-in-the-sky that he describes is the return of jobs by McCain’s promise of tax cuts and the Clinton/Obama demonization of free trade. I agree with him that neither presents real solution to the issue, but I disagree with his solution of the problem being “government to help workers get the training and job skills they will need.” He’s been drinking some koolaid with that one.

Part of the complex solution that is really needed is to put a halt to all the mergers and acquisitions, and the debt that is created by them which is not only not part of the real economy but is enormously destructive to it.

When a business borrows money to invest in new plants and/or equipment it creates productive debt. The payment of that debt and the interest on it is offset by increased sales which is the product of enhanced productivity and/or increased production.

The debt incurred by mergers and acquisition does not increase anything, and payment of that debt and interest has no offset. It must be accomplished by reducing costs and that always, always means job losses and reductions in worker income.

So who benefits from the debt incurred by mergers and acquisitions? The brokers who managed the deal receive fees for doing it, fees which contribute nothing to the real economy. The financiers who lend the money receive the interest on the debt, interest which also contributes nothing to the real economy. The debts are then packaged and sold, and resold repeatedly, as “financial instruments” and “derivatives” which generate yet more fees which, yes, contribute nothing to the real economy.

A college degree is not needed to tighten a bolt on an assembly line. What is needed is for the assembly line to actually exist for the worker to tighten the bolt on.

A third “easy answer,” which he does not address, is the healthcare problem. McCain proposes to deal with it basically by ignoring it, calling his policy “enhanced consumer choice.” Obama and Clinton both propose to increase enrollment in health insurance. That plan smacks of, “When you find yourself in a very deep hole, the solution is a bigger shovel.”

Health insurance is the problem, and doing more of it is no solution.

Someone will suffer needlessly today because they have health insurance, for which they or their employer has been paying premiums regularly, and their insurer will refuse to pay for the treatment that they need. The reason for the refusal will be the profit motive.

I don’t I know in detail what the solution is. I’m just one guy, and it will take someone with a much higher forehead than mine to come up with that. But I do know for sure that our present system, for-profit health insurance, is seriously flawed and that simply making it bigger is not a solution. This is the “easy answer” that both Obama and Clinton offer, and it is bogus.

I’m in tune with Ignatius that this sound-bite campaign is bad for governance in our nation. It weakens democracy and it worsens with longer campaigns. The media feeds and is part of the problem. I’m angry with all of the politicians who are doing it and I want them to be more honest with us.

They offer easy answers, though, in part because that’s what we demand of them. They do it because we vote for them when they do.

We voters have to do our part. Democracy is hard work. For it to function we have to work at it. So long as we keep voting for those who offer the sound-bite easy answers, we are going to keep getting dumb politicians. When we become smarter voters we will get smarter leaders. Politicians will begin offering real solutions when we demand that they do so.

Democracy is our job.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous1:38 PM

    one of the problems is that real solutions often hurt.. and no one wants to take the pain.

    I want a bigger house.. I can't legitmately afford one.. fudge to get a bogus loan, get a bigger house, can't meet payments, lose home, cry about "housing problem".

    I want a fully functional road system with no potholesm but I don't want to pay higher taxes for it.

    etc etc, Yes, this may be somewhat oversimplified, and limited in scope. But the truth remains you get waht you vote for... leadership or sound bites.