Writing on the Double Yellow Line

Militant moderate, unwilling to concede any longer the terms of debate to the strident ideologues on the fringe. If you are a Democrat or a Republican, you're an ideologue. If you're a "moderate" who votes a nearly straight party-ticket, you're still an ideologue, but you at least have the decency to be ashamed of your ideology. ...and you're lying in the meantime.

Location: Illinois, United States

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Help Wanted

Patsy Wanted for Immediate Blame
© 2016  Ross Williams

As more and more states are decriminalizing and legalizing marijuana possession and even licensing its sale, more and more people are asking when the United States will finally end its moronic War on Drugs.  The answer to that is trivially simple to anyone who even marginally understands the psychology of democratic government: government will end the War on Drugs when they find someone to blame for it.

A democratic government cannot and will not ever permit itself to be seen as the culprit for perpetrating and prolonging a grand stupidity, such as The War on Drugs, or the equally insipid War on Poverty.  A democratic government is installed by The People and The People possess far too little critical introspection to permit them to accept blame for large-scale insanity.  A scapegoat must be fitted — retro-fitted, to be accurate — into the yoke of blame.

As most can probably imagine, it's the job requirements for this patsy that are so difficult to fill.  A successful candidate must have a highly visible position.  The general public, too preoccupied [or dim] to understand the true nature of the problem, must be able to immediately recognize the scapegoat's connection without having it explained to them.  Ergo, no conspiracy theories need apply.

In The War on Drugs the players are the drug users, the street peddlers, and the drug cartels.  It would almost certainly have to be one of these which get the official blame for the War on Drugs.

A successful candidate must, furthermore, be a plausible bad guy, meeting the public's need for simple, straight-line blame-laying and without arousing too much public sympathy in the process.

In The War on Drugs, the drug users are far too sympathetic a group.  They are seen as victims.  They are the ones dying of overdoses, or incarcerated for a bazillion years by an inflexible system. The street peddlers are disproportionately black, ergo another victim class, and thus cannot be saddled with responsibility. And the drug cartels are foreign, usually hispanic from Central or South America when they aren't islamic from central Asia, and it would violate our current anti-jingoist sensibility to blame a non-American for an American problem.  Besides, hispanics and muslims are currently seen as victims of American imperialism [sic].

The government is undoubtedly looking, but hasn't found anyone to blame yet.  As soon as they do, the torches and pitchforks will come out of the closet and we'll have ourselves a good old-fashioned boogeyman hunt.

It's been done before.  Doubt me?  The Civil Rights Era was made possible only because government stupidity demanded it.

The entire fiasco was created by state governments in the post-Reconstruction south institutionalizing discrimination against blacks. It was mandatory under the law — the Jim Crow Law. If a white merchant was caught serving a black customer the white merchant would have his store burned to the ground and looted by government-inspired rowdies and thugs — and in the early days of Jim Crow it happened a lot. In many areas, black customers were just about all the customers there were, and serving black customers meant the difference between making a profit and going bankrupt.  Or, more correctly, it made the difference between having your store [and possibly your home] torched and going bankrupt.

These stupid state laws were rationalized by federal courts about a generation after they were created —  most notably Plessy/Ferguson and "separate but equal". Two generations after that we discovered that not only was this creating an economic problem, but a very very very large societal problem as well. So quick! Find someone to blame to take the heat off government stupidity.

And who did the government find to blame for government-imposed institutionalized racism in commerce? Why, the merchants, naturally. ...the merchants who were following the law to avoid being burned out of existence.  Merchants were an immediately recognized part of the equation, and because they were the ones required by law to discriminate, they were very easily made into the responsible party.

The next generation of laws the government gave us solidified this blame.  The new laws essentially declared: "Look at what you bigoted merchants did!  We leave you alone for one minute and you create a whole system of discriminatory commerce!"  …because Jim Crow laws were really, apparently, Jim Crow Business Model.  To be sure, some white merchants in the Jim Crow south wouldn't have needed a law to force them to refuse service to blacks, but most white merchants, judging by the number of merchants vandalized to obliteration for violating Jim Crow, would gladly have taken blacks' money even if they wouldn't have gladly taken blacks themselves.

We can see the results of this self-serving buck-passing today in the sturm und drang of gay marriage.  Among our nation's thousands of bakeries, photographers and florists are maybe two dozen individual shops operated by bigots who don't want to have anything to do with gay marriage to the point that they'll refuse money in exchange for their service.  Leaving aside the hypocrisy of their reasoning and the vacuity of their business acumen for a moment, and concentrating solely on the moronic reactions of the hyper-sensitive, it appears that the shift of blame away from government worked well in the minds [sic] of these overly sensitive simpletons.

You can't swing a dead cat today without hitting three gaggles of protesters all claiming that a single bakery in Oregon, or a single photographer in Colorado, or a single pizzeria in Indiana willing to voluntarily turn away business from a gay wedding is the exact same condition as a law mandating these businesses [not to mention their thousand of competitors] to deny service to the same gay wedding, and thus the equivalent of Jim Crow.  They will set their hair on fire screeching about the constitutional imposition of non-discrimination and "public accommodation", forgetting that the Constitution applies only to the government and that "public accommodation" is, like "god" and "christianity", not a phrase found in the document.

In any event, the only true "public accommodation" in this free country with citizens possessed of property rights is the government itself — the government is the only institution not permitted to discriminate; any citizen, or the business he operates, is supposed to be free to be whatever type of self-righteous bigot he chooses to be.  You may be a bigot about gay marriage and refuse to sell pizzas for a gay wedding reception, or you may, as I would, be a bigot about gay marriage bigots and refuse to patronize that pizzeria for friday night movie marathons.  Similarly, you may be a bigot about dirty old men under cover of "transgendering" being in the women's restroom, or you may, as Bruce Springsteen is, be a bigot about those anti-dirty-old-men bigots.  Yes … it would seem Bruce Springsteen is among the faux-sensitive fops who can look the other way when it comes to sexual predation and pederasty.  Who knew.

So, … government shifting the blame for its own stupidity onto others works well.  But do you need another example?  Fine.

How many people believe that health insurers are the ones responsible for the hyper-inflation of healthcare costs in this nation since the late 1960s?  The answer to that question is: most of them.

Why do they believe this?  The answer is: because government told them so.

And why is the government telling them so [stop me if you've heard this one]?

Health insurers aren't the ones who decided to start insuring non-insurable events.  It was the government which required them to.  At this point, the only people quibbling are going to be those who don't understand how insurance works, or those who are elected by them.

An insurable event is one that is very very expensive to fix while simultaneously being exceptionally rare.  Such events would include a tornado blowing your house into another county, wrapping your car around a telephone pole, or falling down the stairs and breaking 27 bones.  This is why you can insure a $250,000 house for $1,000 a year, or a $40,000 car for $750 a year, and why you used to be able to insure your catastrophic health issues [a generation ago] for $200 a year.

A non-insurable event would be everything else, and primarily consists of circumstances that are inexpensive to fix and common as dirt.  For example, why does homeowners insurance not cover plugged toilets or dirty furnace filters?  Because fixing a plugged toilet or changing a furnace filter is a very common event and they are very cheap to accomplish.  True, some people don't know how to [or physically cannot] do these things, and must hire a plumber or furnace repairman.  And yes, some people don't have the money to pay plumbers.  But that doesn't mean it isn't cheap.  Insuring these events would cost more than paying out-of-pocket.

Why does auto insurance not cover oil changes and windshield wiper replacement?  Same reason: they're cheap and common.  Insuring these events would cost more than paying out-of-pocket.  And over time, like, say, the course of one generation, the cost of an insured oil change would triple, while the cost of insuring the oil change would quadruple or more.

Now, why does health insurance cover doctor visits for the sniffles and childhood immunizations?  It didn't use to.  These are [or were, at any rate] very very cheap, and extremely common.  The reason they are covered is because the government required health insurance to cover these events.  The cost of insurance skyrocketed in order to have the money to pay for them, and doctors, having more insurance paperwork to fill out and send in, had to hire more staff and the cost of healthcare rose. …which caused the insurance companies to pay more to the doctor, which caused insurance companies to have to increase insurance premiums.

Then, because covering sniffles and vaccines worked so well, the government required health insurance to cover prescriptions and lab tests.  Health insurance costs rose to be able to pay for it all, doctors had to hire more staff to fill out more paperwork and the cost of going to the doctor increased.  And in order to cover the increased cost of going to the doctor the insurance companies had to increase premiums once again.

Repeat this every few years with new government requirements until health insurance is ungodly expensive, a $20 doctor visit costs $400, and the paperwork takes an hour to complete.  Then, — and who could have predicted this — when enough Americans are bankrupted by the expense of government intrusion into their healthcare, the government comes back and blames the insurance companies for creating the mess. 

Sound familiar?  At this point, the government, such noble good-guys that they are, promised to fix the problem of too many government requirements thrust upon health insurers by adding more requirements onto health insurers, and we got Obamacare.

Sadly, most Americans — even those who distrust government remediation — accept the government fantasy that health insurers did this all on their own.  And even more sadly, many  — including millions who lived through the generation-plus of government imposition into insurance coverage in the first place — fail to comprehend what even more imposition will lead to.  These imbeciles are truly confounded by the bankruptcy of nearly a third of the insurance companies after only five years of Obamacare, and are left with inventing conspiracy theories to explain it all. 

Yet another example of the government imposing stupidity on us and then blaming others for doing what they were told: the '08 financial meltdown.  Among the edicts given to the financial industry during the Clinton administration was the "everybody needs to be a homeowner" notion.  Credit be damned, and mortgage lenders who checked the credit ratings of potential borrowers too closely could be cited for discrimination by the alphabet soup of regulators and prohibited from lending money ... essentially forced out of business.

In other words, the government forced banks to stop determining if a new homeowner could actually repay a 30-year mortgage before they gave out the 30-year mortgage.  A decades-old practice of bundling up mortgages and selling them to other banks — all approved by the government, by the way — allowed the mortgage lender to dump unverified credit mortgages onto other financial institutions.  The bundles got bigger and bigger until only the biggest banks could buy them, and then when the credit-less homeowners started defaulting on their loans in large numbers, the whole house of cards collapsed.

Everyone who was conscious between early 2008 and yesterday afternoon knows the result: millions of homeowners got thrown out onto the street when their houses were repossessed by banks, and the government blamed the banks for it.  The government even invented a new crime called "predatory lending practices" to describe what the banks did while following the government's rules for making home loans.  The government then prosecuted many banks for "predatory lending practices", finding all guilty, and forcing several into liquidation.

Phwew!!  Dodged that bullet, dincha, Uncle Sam?

The US government taxes and regulates US manufacturing into moving to Mexico, and then blames the company when the jobs leave and go to Mexico.  And most Americans swallow it whole: yes, it's those evil corporations doing this all on their own.  The government gives tax breaks to other businesses to stay in the US [with their jobs] and then blames corporations for being greedy bastards who don't pay taxes.  And most Americans demonstrate once again that they have no gag reflex: yep, those vile CEOs in the one-percent.

The US government would dearly love to end the War on Drugs, but — darn the luck — there isn't anyone that idiot Americans would accept as a suitable scapegoat.  When they do … watch out.  Have a torch and pitchfork ready.  It's sure to be a hoot.


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