Sunday, October 13, 2013

Nullam Infernus

Oh my goodness, have there been things to rant about! The government shutdown is the big one, obviously. I try to follow the developments (such as they are) as best I can, and nearly every day I think, Oh, I should blog about that.  I've been feeling guilty about not updating as much as I should, and I got stuff I'd like to write about. Part of the blame can be laid on my schedule. I've stuck a lot of pots on the fire, and while it means I got some good stuff cooking (to be announced soon!) it also means my attention is going elsewhere.
But also, my frustration with the system has risen to the level where I've been asking myself "What's the point?"
We could talk about who's to blame, or what the Affordable Care Act (which people mistakenly call Obamacare, since it was thought up by conservative group The Heritage Foundation in the late 80s and enacted by Massachusetts Republican governor Mitt Romney in 2006) really does and what the pros (and there are some) and cons (way more than there are pros) are. We could talk about the effect of the shutdown on America, or what will happen if America defaults (hint: it would be globally catastrophic).

That's all important discussion, but I think it's not nearly as important as discussing the system that made all this possible in the first place.
The dictionary gives it a fancy name like gerrymandering, but what all of our Representatives have done is consolidate their power. They restructure the borders of the district they represent so they will have the most supporters. Sound strange? It is a little. It's also horribly disingenuous.

Let's say you are a House Representative of the Democratic Party for California. The state of California has 53 members of the House, each Representative covering a district of the state. So let's say that while you garnered enough votes in your district to be elected, there was a sizeable section of your district that didn't vote for you and typically never votes Democrat. What gerrymandering does is redraw the lines of your district so that the section that never votes for you is cut out of your district and now included in the neighboring district, one that mostly votes Republican. With the majority of voters who don't or won't vote Democrat moved out of your district, you've made your seat in the House election-proof. You don't have to fear your constituency becoming so dissatisfied that they'll replace you.

I know a lot of champions of free-market capitalism who moan that without stiff job competition in the marketplace there's no impetus to excel in the marketplace. While I don't 100% agree with that statement I will admit that the House of Representatives provides a perfect example of that idea in action.
In our current situation, a bunch of hard-line ideologues, who are so confident their way is the right way they refuse to compromise right past the point of disaster, made extortionist demands of the government, and when the government refused to capitulate to their demands they followed through on their threats. I could only wish I was talking about al Qaeda here. For once, the Obama administration and Senate Democrats showed they actually had a spine and told these House terrorists to go to hell --unlike when they caved to extend the Bush-era tax cuts through to 2012, caved to offer spending cuts and a "super committee" and a sequester to lift the debt ceiling in 2011, caved to permanently extend the Bush tax cuts for incomes up to $400,000 to avoid the fiscal cliff, and then caved to offer "chained CPI" and Medicare cuts in 2013 (credit to Robert Reich for the list).
Any candidate running against these moronic assholes is doomed to fail in the election because of the gerrymandered districts, so they have little need to change their tune.

The only way out of this mess (because it goes both ways) is for the voters to change. We need to raise the common denominator to expect and demand more of our elected leaders. The only way to do that is by learning. Yes, the l-word. We need to stop relying on the media to tell us how to vote. We need to research our candidates, stop voting down the party line if the candidate at the bottom is broken, learn about the bills and laws that affect our districts, learn how an economy works, how the banking system (the real enemy) works, how taxes work. And then we need to come together as a community and tell these bastards that even if we disagree on the liberal or conservative details, we won't let our elected representatives sell off our personal, social, financial, and political security to the highest bidder.

As Dr. Timothy Leary said: "Think for yourself. Question authority."
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