Posted by stephen levy, a resident of the University South neighborhood, on Aug 25, 2009 at 9:38 am
stephen levy is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
I agree with you and also think the tooth fairy has a role in our stuckedness.
The polarizing voices on both sides have no interest in starting with the simple fact that you offered--soemtimes change happens and we have to deal with it. Saying change happens in a "no fault, let's see if we can adapt" voice takes away the ability to make every issue about who is at fault or about debating the last election all over again like you see on Town Square sometimes.
If your main interest is in saying that Obama (or Bush) are complete idiots or that unions (or big corporations) are corrupt, that is hardly a good starting point for solving difficult challenges brought about by change in an already polarized country.
So the highly partisan voices deserve some blame for our stuckedness even though from their perspective they are arguing for deeply held views about what is right.
But it cannot be true that every bad thing that happens is the president's fault or the fault of major institutions. Really bad luck still happens--at least the way I see the world/
But I think the major barrier to handling the changes you talk about--in health care or pensions or most anything that involves money is the large belief by residents in the tooth fairy.
Sure partisans tell us that their solution will cause no pain but as residents we believe so little from elected leaders it can't simply be that we are being led on by partisan politics.
Most of the problems you mentioned are about arithmetic no longer working in the sense that programs or promises made a generation ago are on a trajectory to bankruptcy--whether that is Medicare funding or public pensions or the implications of Proposition 13 in a world where housing prices do not jump 10% every year.
I think the tooth fairy or our hope that that the tooth fairy will junp in so we can avoid pain breeds the paralysis that you muse about.
Now the polarizing voices do argue the tooth fairy's side by telling us that the other team's ideas are causing the pain but our ideas are costless. But again, why should we believe that making the arithmetic in Medicare, public pensions or school funding work will be painless?
For example, I think the debate over health care proposals gives people the illusion that the present system of private insurance coverage is sustainable. This is apart from the debate over what reforms should happen.
Private employer-based coverage has been dropping and costs to employees and their families rising. Nothing is in the cards to change this trajectory unless we make the changes. We are on a path where if nothing is done the employer-based system will slowly die from strangulation of ever rising costs and no incentive for practice reform.
Arithmetic is arithmetic and arithmetic that no longer works is at the heart of most of the challenges that Paul talks about.
Why does this have to be partisan and polarizing unless we really don't believe the arithmetic of impending crisis? and so can continue the back and forth about the last election or public versus private as if nothing has changed worth adapting to?