The Relentless Demand For “Bi-Partisanship” Comes From The Same Cynical Place As “Both Sides Do It”

When we get to a safe enough place in this horror story we’re living through — where we don’t have to sweat it every day whether or not American democracy itself will survive — we owe it to ourselves to take a good, long, very hard look at American journalism and the multiple ways it both hastened and abetted the rise and rule of Donald Trump. Trump himself has always made it part of his mantra that everybody does what he does — he just admits it and profits from it. Except, of course, as with all things Trump, it’s flat out untrue. Trump’s peculiar genius — such as it is — is his ability to liberate so many other peoples’ worst instincts. Trump does what he does and (so far) gets away with it. When the GOP finally stopped resisting Trump — having been compromised by Trump and Russia — they settled comfortably into the same expectation: that whatever truly awful thing they did (treason, say), just by refusing to acknowledge any sort of truth whatsoever, they’d get away with having done the truly awful thing. In this case, treason.

We need to know where “both sides do it” came from. What right wing think tank farted out that bit of rubbish then set about promulgating it? How insulting and wrong can four otherwise innocuous words be? “Both sides do it” asserts right off the bat that both sides are the same since whatever “it” is, both sides DO it and they do it the exact same amount representing the exact same amount of people. Is it charity? Are both sides equally charitable? Or is it corruption? Are both sides equally corrupt? Not by a long shot, they’re not. That’s because each side (in America’s binary system) comes from an entirely different place. One side will always favor profits over people (which makes them more corruptible) while the other will always favor people over profits. One will always ache to live in the past — where their group dominated all the others and they held virtually every last bit of real political power. The other — filled with those the first group dominated against their will — approaches governing itself from a completely different place.

They approach governing to begin with. They see governing as an essential function in a free society — a dirty job that someone has to do. But, when you have a vision of the future — an idealized version of how Life could be and should be — you’re far harder to corrupt. You’re pursuing a “dream” that requires a number of like-minded people for whom money will always come in a distant second to what actual human beings need. Every time we allow any industry to oversee itself, we get a fresh lesson in why greed kills. Take Boeing who, over time, exerted enough political muscle via years and years of lobbying and donating (mostly) to Republican political campaigns, that they were allowed to oversee the safety protocols of their 737-MAXX jets all by themselves. And lo-and-behold! Boeing cut safety corners. They broke the law repeatedly. They destroyed their own integrity; they did that — to themselves!

It’s ludicrous to say that a progressive and a conservative do things for the same reason. Yes, sure — both want to see their way become “our” way. That’s not the question — but “both sides do it” ends its insights into human behavior right there. Want to “win” the political argument? So does the other side which means “you’re just like them!” Oy!

That is where all similarities end. Oh, right — are Democrats 100% accurate and honest ALL the time? Hell, no! Thank goodness we got THAT out of the way! But, in the current environment (let’s worry about the past later) Democrats are being far, FAR more accurate and honest in what they’re saying (about pretty much everything) than virtually any Republican you care to talk about. Only two Republicans are taking part in the January 6 Commission. That’s awesome. And sad. That means pretty much every other Republican is willing to keep The Big Lie afloat. They were willing to let their constituents die — maskless and unvaccinated — until the public relations became too hard to maintain. Both sides do not do that. One side would not EVER do that.

Democrats could never march in lock step the way Republicans do. It’s just not in our nature. We see a bunch of brown-shirts marching in goose-step together and we run the other way — mostly because the brown shirts are hunting us. But also because we just don’t have that “brown shirt” gene in our makeup. Democrats are still every bit how Will Rogers described us when he said of himself “I’m not a member of any organized political party, I’m a Democrat.” That’s because Democrats come from such different places. Our pasts are all different but, ironically, the future we aspire to is remarkably similar — one where our children can thrive and prosper along with their community and the nation and the world as a whole. E Pluribus Unum describes the Democratic Party.

It does NOT describe the Republican Party. Not anymore.

The GOP has become the Trump Party and the Trump Party is simply the Republican Party given its bucket list and allowed to go hog wild, being hogs. The biggest thing in that bucket is permanent minority rule. Democracy has always been a long term problem for Republicans — especially if America continued to invite new people to join the experiment. The more new people from new places there are in positions of power, the conservative thinking goes, the fewer white people there will be occupying those same positions. Hegemony doesn’t make itself happen, ya know.

Republicans, being conservatives, are entirely about CONSERVING what was. If they could magically stop the world from progressing, or blockade the future, they’d do it. After all, what does any conservative want to “conserve” if not the past? To conservative thinking, the present is the past’s final line of defensive. Surrender to the future and the past becomes a museum piece. Conservatives know — once they’re beaten, they’re beaten for good. The past will never grow back like a crab’s claw. They, conservatives, will have to soldier on claw-less.

Only one side aspires to the brightest future possible for the most people. Only one side wants every eligible American to vote. Only one side wants every child to have guaranteed pre-k education — and a good public education all the way up through community college or a public university or a trade school. Only one side sees health CARE as a right for all rather than seeing health insurance as a privilege for the few.

By the same token, only one side has sided with Russia in their cyber war against us. Only one side has made it part of their brand to obstruct justice every which way they can. Only one side has made it their mission to restrict voting to only themselves.

When they adopted “both sides do it” as their mantra, America’s news media closed its eyes to perspective. Skepticism (which belongs in every journalist’s utility belt) demands that a journalist question everything until they’re satisfied with the answers given. Not satisfied? Keep asking. Skepticism is naturally neutral. It doesn’t assert that “both sides do it” because, a good skeptic should be skeptical of something so sweeping and broad. A skeptic assumes that everyone has their reasons for doing what they do; the trick is finding those reasons.

A cynic on the other hand isn’t searching for anything other than affirmation that their shallow view of things is valid (or valid enough for their liking). In a cynic’s view, proportionality is irrelevant. Bernie Madoff stole billions. Jean Valjean stole bread. A skeptic would point to their differences as to why this is a stupid comparison. A cynic (the Republican Party and most of our news media) would say “they’re both thieves so therefore ‘both sides do it’.” If you’re capable of thinking Bernie Madoff and Jean Valjean are thieving birds of a feather, you’re also capable of equating a Republican gerrymandering a Congressional district because he can’t win any other way with a Democrat running IN a gerrymandered district having to get three times the voter turnout to overcome the Republican’s entirely artificial advantage. Our news media regularly looks at these two very DIFFERENT things as “the same thing”.

It’s slowly dawning on our news media how completely the Republican Party’s been playing them. Why, even the dean of “both sides do it” brand journalism — Chuck Todd — has admitted that the Fourth Estate was regularly played by the Republican Party. Good on Chuck for doing the “Mea Culpa”. But it’s way, waaaaaaaaaay too late now. The harm’s been done; the democracy-hating horses are out of the barn and galloping toward the horizon.

I stopped watching Chuck eons ago but I bet Chuck still turns from a segment about how Republicans are behaving like pirates to one where he’s asking “why won’t Democrats negotiate with Republicans?” (meaning “why won’t the Democrats give Republicans every single thing they want?”) That, to Chuck — to our news media in general — is what “bi-partisan” means: giving the Republican pirates whatever they want.

That, ultimately, is what Republicans want our democracy to do for them: give them whatever they want. Enrich them. Enrich their friends. And keep them in power forever.

Progressives and democrats want no such thing. Never have and never will.

Only a cynical journalist would dare suggest otherwise.

You CANNOT Have Profit Incentive At The Core Of A Health CARE System

Some ideas are so stupid, you have to marvel how they don’t die at their inception. Example — having profit incentive inside a health care system.

Of course we want people to “make money” doing their jobs in a health care system. That’s not the same thing however as having corporations step in as gatekeepers between Americans and their health CARE. Our system is screwed up foundationally. We’ve let the inmates run the asylum — literally.

The reason America’s system is so different than everyone else’s goes back to World War Two. Once America entered the war, every available dollar in the economy was directed toward sustaining America’s war effort. Large companies weren’t allowed to offer employees raises. If a competitor could offer skilled workers more money (because they paid more to start with), the competitor was going to get all the talent.

To counter this freeze on wages, American companies offered to pay for employees’ health care. More precisely, they offered to pay for their health insurance (not the same thing). Most major American companies did this. And then the war ended. But this practice did not.

In the abstract perhaps keeping this idea going wasn’t a terrible idea. But it was a terrible idea. Example — a big, big company like Boeing pays for the health insurance (not care) of a huge number of people (Boeing employed about 161,000 people in 2015). Airbus Group — Boeing’s largest (and main) competitor (though it employs around 136,600 (as in 2014) — by comparison paid ZERO for their employees’ health insurance.

That’s because all the countries that help build Airbus products have socialized medicine systems where tax dollars pay for everyone’s health CARE. Everyone can walk in the door at a universal single payer system. We know already who’s paying for it — we are. As we should.

In a universal single payer system? No one loses their house or goes broke (for a generation or so) because you or someone in your family got sick. Where Airbus is concerned, unlike Boeing, they DON’T have to add the cost of all that health insurance to the bottom line cost of each and every Boeing aircraft.

Consequently Boeing enters every competition with one hand tied behind its back. Our insurance driven system makes that a fact of life. It makes America less competitive. It hurts us — and then makes it hard to get healthy again.

Oh, the irony…

Insurance companies — being publicly traded — have a fiduciary responsibility not to any “patients” (those are cogs in a much larger wheel from an insurance company’s perspective) but to their shareholders. And not to the common class of stock shareholders either (yes, there’s a theoretical fiduciary responsibility) but to the PREFERRED CLASS of shareholder.

Ya know how Facebook users mistakenly think they’re Mark Zuckerberg’s customers? They’re not (of course), they’re the thing Zuckerberg’s SELLING — to the people who advertise on Facebook (aka ACTUAL customers). Same deal. Americans have it in their heads that they’d be screwed without their private insurance.

No, your insurance company is just a gatekeeper actually. Different insurance companies try to carve off different doctors as part of their “network”. Go outside their “network” & pay lots more. The people in the network have agreed to whatever fees the insurance company has decided to pay. The insurance company, if you notice, is ALWAYS in the driver’s seat.

Keep in mind — from the insurance company’s point of view (and fiduciary responsibility), they are OBLIGATED to deny and refuse as much coverage as the can get away with because that makes the company more profitable and being more profitable makes their shareholders happy and the company more financially healthy. Money — not health CARE — runs everything.

It’s not just money, remember — it’s PROFITABLE money. It’s profit INCENTIVE.

It’s completely antithetical to what a health care system is supposed to do — if anyone inside it has ever taken a Hippocratic Oath.

You can’t “But first do no harm” by asking “How’re ya gonna pay for this, Sparky?” These two things are mutually exclusive propositions.

Can We PLEASE Get This Straight? NO ONE Loves Their Health INSURANCE…

Somewhere, an evil genius is smiling so hard his face hurts. It might be the same evil genius who came up with a “Mission Accomplished” banner for the background of a speech by George W. Bush — on an aircraft carrier — during a war he started for no reason.

Yeah, I know the banner SAYS “mission accomplished” but I doubt BushCo could have actually pointed to what mission they meant and what, if anything, had actually been accomplished. “Americans love their private health insurance” comes from the same wellspring of evil-genius-strength bullshit.

The core problem with American healthcare is that its emphasis is immediately on the wrong syllable. When anyone walks in the door of the American Healthcare System, the first question isn’t “How can we help you?”, it’s “How are you gonna pay for this?”. If you can’t answer that question satisfactorily, you might just be screwed. But, hey — even if you DO have insurance? Between the co-pays, the deductibles and all the other out-of-pocket bullshit, you could STILL be screwed.

No other civilized healthcare system anywhere on the planet has profit incentive at the core of its healthcare. There’s a reason. Profit incentive and human well-being are completely incompatible when they’re both dependent on the same dollar. A corporation has a fiduciary responsibility to do the very best it possibly can for its investors. That means a choice between an expensive but uncertain procedure that might save a customer’s life (that’s what they are to the insurance company after all — customers) and a happy board of directors able to announce a bigger dividend at the next shareholder’s meeting. Guess who the corporation’s gonna choose?

Like I said — it’s their responsibility to do that. It’s not their fault exactly — it’s history’s. Ever wonder why it is that only in America does anyone’s employer pay for their health insurance? For real. This doesn’t happen anywhere else. And there’s a reason. It’s bad for business.

FDR toyed with making universal healthcare part of social security but the AMA didn’t want doctor’s fees limited by the government (cost controls, in other words). FDR made the political decision not to risk losing on both social security AND universal healthcare. He put all the chips on social security alone. Then WWII happened — and history caused American healthcare to zig when maybe we should have zagged.

Because all available money needed to go to the war, employers were not allowed to give good employees raises. Those same frozen wages made it hard to lure new talent (who could go elsewhere to an employer whose wages were frozen at a higher level). Thinking outside the box — what other benefits could be offered that would feel like salary? — produced the first direct employee sponsored healthcare.

The idea spread. People liked the benefit. In their minds, it was saving them money and providing them comfort. What’s not to love? Then the war ended.

With the war over, companies were free again to offer whatever salaries or bonuses or raises they wanted. They also were free to end the war-time benefit (replacing it with salary). They didn’t. Hell, instead of ending these programs, the big companies held onto it. This was back at a time when your average middle class American (remember them?) entered the work force at 18 or 22 (if they went to college) and whatever employer they started with? That was likely to be the employer who’d be handing them a gold watch upon their retirement 40 years hence. Your employment relationship was supposed to be as durable as your marriage.

While the big companies (who’d done a shitload of the hiring during the war) held onto providing healthcare to their employees, they farmed out the work of administering this employee benefit — and the healthcare insurance industry was born. Didn’t take long before the baby took over the nursery. Then the whole house.

Ask a company like Boeing what having to provide healthcare insurance to its tens of thousands of employees does to its bottom line and its competitiveness. The cost of that healthcare is massive and it gets reflected in the cost of each airplane.

Airbus, by contrast, doesn’t have to pay for its employees’ healthcare. In Europe, the government takes care of it, paying for it with tax dollars. That gives Airbus an advantage because they don’t have to build that cost into what they charge for an airplane. See? Employer-based healthcare is bad for American business because it makes them less competitive.

As for the healthcare itself — all the employer is providing is the insurance coverage. What that coverage is? That’s up to the insurance company.

The insurance companies can make up any rules they want. And they do. The most important rules of all — to them — is who they contract with and therefore who their customers will be allowed (by their made up rules) to see. Every last bit of this, remember, is made up. By a company put there to administer this thing.

To gate-keep.

Insurance companies are gatekeepers. Border guards that — so long as we pay our premiums and stay employed by the same bosses — will smile at us benignly each time we pass by. But we fear them. We dread them. What if they don’t smile next time?

What if, next time — when we’re really sick — they turn us away? What if they point to language in their dense boiler plate (something on page 58) that says our particular situation (as they’re interpreting it) means they don’t have to cover the procedure we need. We’re free however to pay for it retail-retail out of pocket.

Hey — we charge hundreds of dollars for insulin that costs relative pennies in Canada. Every last penny of that difference is profit. Let me repeat: PROFIT. People are dying cos they can’t afford their insulin. Retail-retail in American healthcare means the cost of a procedure and the procedure’s actual cost have nothing to do with each other. It’s like being charged a million bucks to go three blocks in a taxi.

What’s wrong with America’s healthcare system isn’t that the inmates are running the asylum. It’s that insurance companies are. And they couldn’t give a rat’s ass what happens to any of us.