Posts Tagged ‘climate change’


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.




The Psychology of Indecision (I Feel Cranky)

November 13, 2009

It’s hazardous to psychoanalyze your family members, obnoxious to psychoanalyze your friends, and downright dubious to psychoanalyze a nation. Nevertheless:

I’ve been thinking about the national mood, which is cranky. In four critical areas we are teetering on the verge of decision: health care, Afghanistan, financial regulation and climate change. All four are extraordinarily complex, all four appear urgent, and as a nation we are finding it very difficult to make up our minds about all four.  For each of these concerns I give at least even odds that we will not reach any decision of consequence in the coming year.  (Of course, not to decide is to decide, but in most of these cases the same issues would then be back with us next year.)

This indecision feels bad. I find myself looking back longingly on our election just slightly more than a year ago, when it seemed that we had made up our mind to something fresh and new. That felt good. Elections, however they turn out, give the sense of decision in a way that Congressional deliberation very rarely does. (It was the Republicans’ turn to feel good in last week’s gubernatorial elections—their turn to feel as though they had accomplished something.)

I relate our current crankiness to the dis-ease I myself feel when I am trying to make up my mind about a personal matter. Whether the decision is big or small, I am restless, crabby, and unproductive. I can’t sit still. I look for distractions. (Bless the internet for providing them, better than TV ever did!) All the alternatives seem bad. I need to spend more time analyzing their flaws. So many unknown aspects could go wrong.

Some people get so overwhelmed that they literally cannot make a decision. But healthier minds usually manage to move ahead. We decide on the Grand Tetons as our vacation destination, we plunk down money to reserve a cabin (lots of unknowns there), we put the dates on our calendar, we begin to get dog sitters and house sitters and all the rest.

And then we feel better. The unknowns remain. So do the imperfections of our choice. But we are in motion. We will work out the problems as we go. We will live with the imperfections.

In all four areas of national choice, we’re stuck in the crabby land of indecision. Added to that, we have a constitution that was deliberately crafted to make decisions difficult. (Thank God it’s not California’s constitution, which was crafted to make us crazy.) Added to that, there’s a partisan spirit in the land that sidetracks deliberation.

Beware of governments making decisions that aren’t thought through. (Remember Iraq?) I’m glad for the deliberative process. I realize that making a decision, any decision, feels better in the short run, but it doesn’t necessarily feel better in the long run.

At some point, though, you know all you are going to know, and it’s time to decide. Will we? Will we decide on a direction for any of these four matters within the next year? I hope so. I want to move on. I want to feel better.