Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Free Advice For Obama And The Democrats

Here's a good example of why so many people are so cynical about politics.  Back in 2011, the FDA looked at the research and concluded that there was no reason not to make the birth control drug known as "Plan B" or "The Morning After Pill" accessible to the general public as an over-the-counter product, not requiring a prescription.  This was contrary to earlier decisions, and was based on a body of empirical research on the subject.  Then, HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius overrode the FDA's decision, a move that, as far as anyone can tell, was based entirely on politics and fear. 

Last week, a federal judge overruled the HHS's authority to make that decision, making Plan B available OTC to anyone over 17.  The FDA lowered this number to 15.  This, an observer would assume, gives the Obama administration cover with the anti-contraception crowd: "Hey, we tried."  But--and this is where it gets really depressing--the Obama administration is taking it to court to appeal the ruling.  I mean, what do they even have to gain from appealing this?  (Here's Wil Wilkerson's attempt to answer that question, but it seems deeply unsatisfying.)  Allowing OTC Plan B sales is not only a nice, simple solution to a problem, it would, if enacted, be one of the most significant accomplishments of the Obama administration, one that would (at least potentially) reduce teen pregnancy AND abortion without even involving much exercise of government power.  It's hard to imagine getting more bang for your buck in reducing human misery.

Which sets me up to talk about something I've been meaning to get to for a while now, starting with the last State of the Union Address, where Obama brought up just about every liberal cause in the book in one speech.  My advice, or my preference, for Obama (and congressional Democrats, while we're at it) would be to just keep things simple.  Focus on a few things, and get them done.  Things that are important, things that can have a huge impact on our country.  We don't know what will happen in 2016 (or even 2014), so let's concentrate on getting a few things so done that they can't be undone.  Specifically, my feeling is that the administration should forget about guns, Head Start, Plan B and all this other silliness, and focus with laser intensity on four things:

1. Get ALL of our troops out of Afghanistan as soon as humanly possible.
2. Resolve the debt crisis while preserving (as much as possible) our social safety net.
3. Institute the Affordable Care Act.  Put maximum effort into getting it as right as possible.
4. Pass comprehensive immigration reform.

And, you know, if a bill legalizing gay marriage should pass your desk, sign it.  And I'm conceding a lot of ground in this.  I know that Obama isn't going to take the lead in ending the drug war, and he's certainly not on the side of the good guys when it comes to civil liberties and the execution of the war on terror.  But let me elaborate on these things a bit.

Getting out of Afghanistan (and credit to the President, he got us completely out of Iraq, and looks well on track to get us completely out of Afghanistan as well): This come first, because it's the thing he was elected to do in the first place.  We've extended our military to the breaking point.  The V/A system is completely broken, because it's impossible for it to deal with the results of a decade-plus-long war.  We can't fix our budget because of the cost of the war.  We need to get the fuck out of there NOW.  And it would have the bonus feature of making us slightly less likely to get involved in every other problem in that region.

The debt crisis: Let's start by acknowledging that it actually exists.  Sooner or later, we are going to have to balance the budget and stop hemorrhaging money.  And raising taxes simply won't be enough.  Deep cuts have to come, and there's really no place big enough to cut besides Defense, Social Security, Medicare and maybe Medicaid.  I don't WANT to see entitlements cut, but it's going to have to happen at some point.  If we take care of it now, we can do it on our terms (heavy on defense cuts, light on entitlement cuts, augmented by some tax increases and cuts in discretionary spending on things like corporate subsidies), or at least a compromise.  If we don't do it now, it will be done on the Republican's terms in the future, which will likely mean a deep gutting not only of SS/Medicare/Medicaid, but of all the other programs that help the poor: Unemployment, Food Stamps, WIC, CHIP, and on and on.

Obamacare: This is huge.  We have laid the final brick in The Liberal Project.  But the Executive Branch still needs to, you know, execute.  There are a million details that could go right or wrong.  And there's still a Republican Party that would like to make repealing the law a central part of their agenda.  If Obama leaves office in 2017 with a functioning healthcare system in place, it's a big victory.  If it remains vulnerable, we've got a lot to worry about.  I have no illusions that it's going to be an unqualified success.  I generally expect it to leave the healthcare system slightly better than it was before.  But it leaves us with a framework to improve upon.  Plus, it could give just enough cover to make some cuts to Medicare and Medicaid that could keep the government solvent.

Immigration reform: The momentum this cause seemed to have coming off of the election is draining quickly, but I expect the demographics make it doable-to-inevitable.  This would be a huge victory in protecting the poorest and least powerful members of our society, while also ending an idiotic waste of our resources hunting down people who have committed no crime but simply trying to work in this country.

Add all that together, and note that we're pretty much on course to total victory on gay marriage, and that at least marijuana legalization is progressing state by state, no thanks to the administration, and the FDA allowing OTC Plan B, and these measures would leave us in a strong, solid position with permanent benefits.  Compare this to passing a bunch of laws that won't do anything to keep guns out of the hands of people who want them, or developing a national preschool program with no proven results, and I think you'll agree that this simple agenda does the most to reduce human misery for the least cost.

2 Comments:

Blogger Dr. B said...

Yep, you're definitely my spirit animal.
Love your comedy on youtube.

Thanks for uploading these amazing compilations.
Can you please tell me how / where I can download them?
Thanks a ton!

10/20/2013 3:06 AM  
Blogger Chris Oliver said...

Thanks for the support. Which compilations are we talking about? If you mean my music podcasts, I had some problems with them, and I'm in the process of fixing them. Episode 3 should be fixed, and you should be able to download it now. I'm going to try to do the same for Episode 2 today, and Episode 1 soon. And episode 4 should be up before long.

10/26/2013 12:26 PM  

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