Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Revenge is a dish...

…best served not served at all. Forget serving it hot or cold, revenge serves no useful purpose and, in the case of federal legislation, costs time and money that could be far more usefully spent.

We have a health care reform bill under consideration, and if it isn’t really about health care and isn’t sufficiently reforming, it does provide insurance for a lot of people who don’t have it. Virtually every single objection I have seen voiced to it boils down to, “it doesn’t sufficiently punish the insurance industry.” I have heard one Senator say that it leaves too many people uninsured and, given that he is the only person I’ve heard claiming that, I have no idea as to the veracity of it. The rest have been, “it doesn’t provide competition, it doesn’t give people choices in choosing insurance,” or a more outright “it’s a sellout to the insurance industry.”

Those objections are from people less interested in reform than in revenge against what they see as a form of evil. They have, for the most part, been sold on that thirst for revenge by the misfiring of the political sales pitch for reform, but it has taken hold and will not be slaked by the original purpose which was to extend insurance; they want blood and will not rest until insurance companies pay some sort of price.

What does that revenge accomplish? It doesn’t make anyone more healthy. It doesn’t save anyone any real money; insurance company profits are a mere 3% or so. Those who want revenge think that it will make them feel better, but it won’t; their lives will still be the same, they will still be angry and will simply have to seek another target for that anger.

We have a bill making its way to the House regarding financial reform, but all that the blogs are frothing about is taking away the bonus money that the bank executives have been raking in; no concern is shown for restoring Glass-Steagall or regulating the trading of derivatives.

That bonus money is a very small fraction of one percent of the money traded on Wall Street, and getting it back will have no more effect on the economy than removing one raindrop from Hurricane Katrina. That method of payment is not why trading ran amok; traders trade for ego and power and making money for their clients, money is just a lovely byproduct. Take away their wealth in the form of bonus and they will manage to create wealth in another form.

Taking that money back will satisfy a thirst for revenge; but like the other thirst, this one too will remain unslaked. Nothing will have been changed and the anger will remain, seeking a new target.

Revenge is a dish best discarded.

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