I had a variety of different election day posts drafted in my head, ranging from the infuriatingly arrogant to the nakedly pleading. Ultimately, I hated the tone of all of them. Look, vote for whoever. It’s bigger than one person anyway.
From the Blog
God damn it. God damn it. I almost made it the entire week without saying anything about the health care reboot bill. And then:
With little fanfare, President Barack Obama signed an executive order Wednesday designed to ensure that no federal money can be used for elective abortions under the nation’s new health care legislation.
The order had been demanded by a key bloc of anti-abortion Ruling Party members as the price for their support for the health overhaul legislation that narrowly passed the House Sunday night.
Since then it’s been criticized by anti-abortion groups who say it has no actual impact other than restating restrictions on abortion funding already in the law. Rep. Bart Stupak, leader of the anti-abortion Ruling Party caucus, insists that’s not the case, but lawmakers supporting abortion rights did not object to the order because they said it made no difference.
Pro-choicers made quite a few complaints about the explicit denial of federal funds for abortions in this new health coverage bill. The Ruling Party acknowledged these issues but said hey, it’s cool, let’s just pass this shoddy bill full of pro-insurance-company graft first, and then we’ll fix it. And while this makes sense – Roe v. Wade became settled case law nearly forty years ago, and a woman’s legal ownership of her own body has only become stronger since then – it still sounds just a little dismissive when you put it that way.*
I know, I know. We can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Women just need to wait their turn. After all, the important thing is that the Ruling Party passed a healthcare reboot that helps pay for itself by taxing high-income earners. Right?
Meanwhile, debate was under way in the Senate on a companion bill to the landmark law, with Opposition senators forcing the Ruling Party to run a gantlet of politically dicey votes on a long list of amendments. Major components of the “fix-it” legislation include scaling back a tax on high-cost insurance plans opposed by labor unions, eliminating a special Medicaid deal for Nebraska, closing the coverage gap in the Medicare prescription benefit, and imposing higher taxes on upper-income earners.
The Ruling Party is vowing to bat down the amendments one-by-one, and also hope Opposition won’t succeed with any procedural objections, because any change to the fix-it bill would send it back to the House, a complication Ruling Party leaders want to avoid.
Oh, wait: so the higher taxes aren’t settled law yet? Senate still needs to pass that? Well, it’s not like the Ruling Party has a history of caving, so I’m sure that’s set.
(Check the text of the House Resolution, HR 3590, if you like. There’s a new excise tax on “Cadillac” insurance plans, taking effect in 2018. How many people do you think will be demanding those kind of plans eight years from now?)
And what sort of principled objections will the Opposition Party mount in this last-ditch defense?
Sen. Tom Coburn wants a vote on his amendment to prohibit coverage of Viagra for sex offenders. Sen. Judd Gregg wants savings from Medicare cuts plowed back into the health care program for seniors, instead of being used to expand coverage to the uninsured.
Viagra for sex offenders? That’s the most crucial issue facing America today – making sure sex offenders can’t get Viagra. I can’t even come up with a joke for that.
But what’s really laughable are the pundits on the Opposition Party side who call this America’s first steps toward socialism. Guys! You were awake in history class, right? Because creating a massive body of bulletproof legislation that funnels money from the working poor to a small oligopoly of insurance providers isn’t “socialism.” The reason nobody takes your Party seriously anymore is because you don’t know what words mean.
I really need to stop reading the news. I have enough stressors in my life that I can change without spending my free hours worrying about things I can’t.** But there’s a word for people who form their opinions of the world before age 30 and then stop thinking. And while it’s not the worst thing you could call me, I’m not sure I feel like donning the ratty jacket and settling into the rocking chair just yet.
Still: you got me talking about politics again. Damn it, damn it, damn it. God damn.
* In case it’s not clear just how insidious this is: it’s the poor and working poor who have typically had the hardest time getting pregnancies safely terminated. And it’s the poor and working poor who’ll be most likely to need federal subsidies to acquire their (soon-to-be-mandatory) health insurance. It’s not like they’ll have the option of not buying any. And just in case anyone thought this was a wily ruse that he later planned to abandon, President Obama signed a (largely redundant) executive order yesterday stating, “No, really, we weren’t kidding, no federal funds can be used on abortions.”
** “But Professor, blah blah voting.” Did voting for Man-Palin stop the healthcare reboot from passing? Did voting for Obama make single-payer an option?
Like most single Americans between the age of 21 and 36, I regularly go out and drink with large groups of people. Wait staff at bars accommodate large groups by ringing an entire table up as a single check. However, in an informal gathering, people come and go at different times. They order different amounts of alcohol and food – some folks get one drink, some get three, some get zero drinks but nibble on a communal order of nachos.
The problem: how do you ensure that everyone tips enough?
I don’t mean paying for the right number of drinks (though that happens, too – it happened to us on Wednesday, with a Bacardi, a Bailey’s and an Allagash walking off without cash, and only Mark M’s generosity kept us from getting barred). I mean that floating, hazy notion of “a proper tip.” Between the total cash value of all drinks and the highest potential gratuity, there’s a nebulous zone of loose change.
This problem persists, even among the closest of friends and the smallest of parties, for a few reasons:
Varying priors. Many people disagree on what a proper tip should be. Some are happy with 15%, some insist on 18-20%. So if everyone’s got a different notion of what to tip, the final total will be very hard to predict.
Poor incentive structure.. I wouldn’t feel terribly guilty about stiffing the final bill by 80 cents, and I imagine most people are similar. Plus, doing so might make my own finances easier (I don’t have to break a bill, for example). But if eight people feel the same way, the final total’s nearly six and a half bucks shy of what it should be. I have little incentive to be scrupulous. And groups comprised of people with no incentive to do good always produce bad results.
Lack of information. If the check is in cash, it’s easy to contribute in secret. Even if you’re not hiding the cash you put in, all those folded bills become anonymous once they enter the general pile. Also, it takes a rare type of paranoia to keep an account of what other people in a large party ordered. So anyone can claim to have put in enough money.
Aggregate preference. If you have Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem painted on the ceiling over your bed like I do, you’ll already suspect that there might not even be such a thing as “what the group wants.” Individuals have preferences, sure, but it might not be possible to aggregate those preferences into a single Leviathan. I bring this up here because there might not be one real number that everyone in a dining party wants to leave as a tip.
So even if everyone’s friends, had a great time and loved their waiter, they might not agree on what an ideal tip is. Even if everyone agrees on what an ideal tip is, there’s no way to compel an exact accounting from everyone. Even if everyone makes an exact account, there’s nothing compelling them to be honest. And even if everyone’s compelled to be honest, there’s nothing that says the final total reflects the group’s aggregate will (if such a thing even exists).
It’s a wonder waiters get paid at all.
Potential solutions? Let’s deal with the problems one at a time.
Varying priors :: Dictatorial control. One person at the table decides what the proper tip is. Everyone chips in until she says the pot is full. This may sound graceless – we have an ingrained hatred of the word “dictator” – but this is usually what happens anyway. The person counting the money decides when to stop counting.
Poor incentive structure :: Remove options. Incentives only matter if you have choices; in the absence of choice, no one needs incentives to do anything. Dividing the check evenly among all diners bulldozes over this problem. People may grumble at paying for things they didn’t eat, but that’s the price of an imperfect solution.
Lack of information :: Mandatory disclosure. I’ve never seen this method implemented before; as far as I know I invented it. When you put money in for the check, you have to wave the bills over your head and announce the total in a clear voice that carries. After everyone’s contributed, tally up the money. If you’re short on the bill, whoever put in the least amount has to make up the difference. This not only prevents secrecy, it adds an incentive not to be the cheapest person at the table.
Aggregate preference :: ??? No idea. If you solve this problem, you’ve fixed what’s wrong with democracy. I’ll buy you and all your friends a drink. You cover the tip.