Posts Tagged ‘abortion’


November 11, 2016

No more gridlock! With Republicans controlling all three branches of government, we will see action on all kinds of fronts.

I realize that making predictions is a fool’s game, but I’m writing down what I expect to see in order to test myself. Nothing would delight me more than to be wrong on many of these prognostications… but we’ll see.

Health care. Obamacare is toast. Mostly we will revert to the status quo ante, which was not good. The one piece I can’t quite foresee is whether Republicans will repeal the law requiring insurance companies to insure everybody, regardless of pre-existing conditions. The one piece I am sure of is that they will repeal the mandate that everybody buy insurance. Without that mandate the economics of the insurance-based system don’t work, especially if the insurance companies have to insure everybody. Obamacare tried to patch up the existing system; it was questionable whether it could succeed even if encouraged. We’ll never know! I predict that health care will be in crisis within Trump’s first term. Eventually (in the next decade) we will end up with single-payer insurance, which we should have had in the first place.

Trade. Not much will change. There will probably be a show of saber-rattling, maybe with China, but Republicans are the party of big business and business interests are strongly for maintaining the status quo. .

Immigration. Not much will change. There will be an early show of building a wall—a Potemkin wall about 10 miles long somewhere in Texas. Immigrants, legal and illegal, will continue to come, but there will be a great reduction in the number of refugees accepted through legal processes. The millions of immigrants living without papers will continue doing as they have done; they will not be deported—business and farming interests will make sure of that–nor will they be given a path to citizenship.

Tax reform. Taxes will be cut, especially for the rich along the lines of Paul Ryan’s proposals. This will result in huge deficits, which will result in legislation cutting programs for the poor. The deficits will continue to mount until we reach a financial crisis.

Infrastructure. We will finally get money for roads and bridges. This will last until huge deficits catch our attention, probably in 2-3 years.

Regulation. The regulatory apparatus of the federal government will be reduced in every area, but especially regarding banks and financial institutions, consumer protection, and the environment. The impacts of these changes will be diffuse and hard to measure, except regarding banks and financial institutions, where they will inevitably create a crisis that will require a bailout. How long before this happens is hard to predict, but that it will happen is as close to a sure thing as we know. Banks and financial institutions have not learned how to regulate themselves; and Republicans both hate regulations and love banks and financial institutions.

Climate, coal, solar. Attempts by the federal government to slow climate change will end. Problems with climate change will continue to grow (as they probably would even if we did our best). I can’t foresee how cataclysmic the problems will be, nor how soon they will become cataclysmic. The coal business in America will continue its death spiral, as fracking spreads (with less regulation!) and keeps the price of energy low. Solar and wind energy will grow due to their efficiencies and also because some large states (California) will subsidize their use.

Social issues. Abortion will continue unabated, though perhaps the Supreme Court will allow more restrictions in Southern states. Gay marriage will be universally accepted. There will probably be more latitude for people and institutions to discriminate by, say, refusing to bake a wedding cake or make facilities available for gay marriages, but people will care less and the issue will all but disappear. Marijuana legalization will continue to spread; problems with illegal drugs like heroin will also continue to grow. Over all, America will continue to move toward more liberal and hedonistic values, as seen on TV.

Social Security and Medicare. There will be benefit cuts. Social security’s finances will be stabilized, probably by raising the age of retirement; and Medicare will continue to grow hugely more expensive, prompting even more cuts. See Health Care, above.

Foreign relations. Not much will change. There is no appetite for “boots on the ground” nor for a policy that enables Iran to build a nuclear bomb. The world will be slightly friendlier for dictators, but they weren’t doing badly before. Terrorism will continue unabated for the foreseeable future; the problems of the Middle East will continue and the refugee crisis will grow.

The unknown. By definition, the unknown cannot be predicted, except for this: we will be confronted by problems that we do not anticipate. Some possible areas: financial meltdowns, events of nature (storms, earthquakes), cyber disasters, terrorism, war. But there may well be categories that we don’t even know exist. How will the new Republican/Trump administration respond? That is hard to foresee, but recent history does not encourage a rosy view of Republicans’ ability to cope with reality. For the last eight years Republicans running Congress have majored in outrage, not in governance. And President Trump has no experience in governance at all. He does not seem to be a calm and measured person. The category of “unknown” is by far the most frightening of all—as it always is.




Why Abortion Won’t Go Away

April 23, 2013

Ross Douthat has an outstanding short essay on the media response to Kermit Gosnell, the doctor who killed newborns. He quotes, at length, from abortion rights advocates, and gives them their due. They are right in saying that doctors like this would be a lot less likely to exist if there were easy, convenient access to professional abortion clinics. In a perverse way, restrictions on access actually enable devils like Gosnell.

Where such abortion rights advocates never go, however, is the bloody and physical reality of late-term abortions. They don’t focus on the actual fetuses/babies –one different from the other only by the matter of whether a doctor is operating on them inside the womb or outside. And that, Douthat points out, is what is so awful and compelling about Gosnell’s case.

One might have expected abortion controversies to have dried up long ago. The reason they persist–the reason why abortion is not really accepted after forty years of legal practice–is simply those fetuses/babies. It is very difficult to focus on them and remain free and easy about abortion.

Clearly, we live in a time when people want to go about their sexual business without minding anybody’s moral scruples. Most would rather live and let live and not think about it. Given that strong current of sexual individualism, I can’t see abortion rights really becoming threatened in the foreseeable future. But at the same time, I don’t see the issue quite disappearing, either. We don’t have to think about those fetuses/babies most days. But cases will surface to remind us of them.

The Transformation of Guns

July 6, 2012

I was talking to my friend Pete today when the subject of guns came up. Pete grew up in the Dakotas, where he learned to hunt. He’s still a gun owner, but very aware of how much the meaning of gun-owning has changed.

To illustrate, Pete told me that when he was in high school he took his shotgun to school. He had decided to use it for a presentation, so he carried it into the classroom, where (to no one’s surprise or horror) he demonstrated how to take it apart and put it together again.

On another occasion, Pete said, he took his shotgun, dissassembled, onto an airplane. He asked the stewardess if it was okay. She consulted with the pilot, who said it was fine so long as they kept it in the cockpit, which they did.

What’s happened since?

For one, we’ve experienced rampages like the one at Columbine. Guns and madmen have a historic association, but never so strongly as today.

Second, the NRA has promoted an ideology of gun freedom, as uncompromising as the ACLU’s ideology of free speech.

Third, that ideology of gun freedom has become prisoner to a larger argument, the so-called culture wars. Let’s note that there is a limit on the coherence of an argument in which gun freedom and the preservation of unborn life are on the same side. (And gun restrictions and absolute freedom of abortion are on the other.) Throw in capital punishment and immigration and you have some really interesting alignments. But movements have their own kind of emotional coherence, just as do cultures. People’s allegiance to those movements (and cultures) is difficult to move, because it isn’t strictly rational.

Regardless of where you stand on these issues, I think it’s a good illustration on the power of mob/movement thinking. Sometimes issues get carried to places they were never meant to go.

Living Alone

February 7, 2012

Sunday’s New York Times has a fascinating piece by NYU sociologist Eric Klinenberg. It begins with this startling statement: “More people live alone than at any other time in history.” It notes that in Manhattan and Washington, D.C., almost half of all households have just one occupant.

In a chart comparing nations, the most solo country of all is Sweden, where 47% live alone. At the bottom are India and Pakistan, where 3% of households have just one occupant. The U.S. and Canada are in the middle of that broad range, at 27%.

Klinenberg puts a rosy spin on the trend, noting that people who live alone aren’t necessarily lonely or isolated. In fact, he says, “living alone can make it easier to be social, because single people have more free time, absent family obligations, to engage in social activities.” He notes that “compared with their married counterparts, single people are more likely to spend time with friends and neighbors, go to restaurants and attend art classes and lectures.” It’s true of older people too: “Single seniors had the same number of friends and core discussion partners as their married peers.”

We’re not necessarily becoming more solitary or isolated, then, but we are shedding obligations. When you live alone you can be as socially engaged as you wish—on your schedule and your terms.

When you share a living space, on the other hand, you have certain nagging obligations: to cleanliness, to schedule, to shared expenses… and perhaps also to shared meals and social times. Obviously marriage and family—which are equally in decline—obligate you much more deeply. Is there any doubt this is the environment where character and spirituality are formed?

It’s not a simple matter. Freedom and privacy are terrifically valuable, and our evolution from tribe to democracy is progress, I believe. Nevertheless, I feel some deep concerns over this trend. Libertarianism enthralls the right on certain issues and the left on certain other issues. (Economic liberty, gun-toting liberty, abortion liberty, sexual liberty.)There are good grounds for wanting to be left alone, especially by the government. But there are also good grounds for entering a covenant commitment, whether to people sharing your apartment, to a wife or husband or children, or even to the government formed by “we the people.”

Clearly, we’re moving in the general direction of “we the individualists.”

Shaking the System

August 24, 2009

Church Executive Magazine has published a short interview they did with me about how to apply the lessons of my book, Shaking the System: What I Learned from the Great American Reform Movements, to contemporary concerns. They’ve posted the interview at