The modern American crisis is less poverty than it is poverty of education. Even if politicians are stubbornly stuck in denial, the American population must still grapple with the schizoid battle between bloated sense of entitlement and exceptionalism and the realities of a crumbling education system. While schools around the nation crumble under the weight of overcrowding, teachers work long hours for low pay, and children learn out of decrepit textbooks, the military can order superfluous F-35 fighter planes that cost $1.45 trillion over their lifetime. It’s worth noting that if the insidious enemy costing trillions of dollars in lost human capital and dooming whole communities to vicious cycles of poverty were some external aggressor, the United States would have declared war without hesitation.
When confronted with abysmal international education rankings, including 17th in reading, 23rd in science, and 31st in math, politicians instead blame our educators and teachers. The argument makes as much sense as a patient suing a cardiologist over his obesity or a dentist over his cavity. Gushing libertarianism suddenly evaporates in the public education arena, where leaders from Democratic mayor of Chicago Rahm I. Emanuel to Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott K. Walker have adopted the counterintuitive strategy of blaming and shaming the men and women to whom most of the American population entrusts their children. After all, collective bargaining sounds a lot like collectivization to the untrained ear!
On Election Day, America evaded an explosion. The escalation of the unlimited, secret campaign contributions arms race, totaling an astonishing $1 billion, seemed unable to buoy sinking candidates propped up by much-feared super PACs.
American Crossroads, Karl Rove’s Super PAC, had a one percent success rate after spending $103 million, and Sheldon G. Adelson has little to show after spending $53 million of his own wealth. But the system allowing the corrupting influence of unlimited, anonymous contributions remains intact.
Today’s the big day! Citizens will participate in our greatest civic duty—and be accessories to the most excessive and expensive campaigns in history. So here’s my prediction for the evening: a loss for the common man.
American politics is perpetually caught in a catch-22 between irrelevance and inefficacy. More than 50 years ago in the novel “Catch-22,” Joseph Heller presciently painted the saga of war-profiteering Milo Minderbinder, whose caricature of the American dream and crony capitalism now seems disturbingly nonfictional.
Doctors at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center recently took a stand. The hospital will no longer purchase Zaltrap, a superfluous drug that, they contend, is harder to administer and delivers no better treatment than the existing alternative—despite being twice as expensive.
But Sloan-Kettering is just a single hospital making a principled stand. Medicare is still obligated by law to cover every drug that the Federal Drug Administration approves at the exorbitant prices dictated by manufacturers. Contrary to common sense, Medicare is prohibited from negotiating with pharmaceutical companies over the drugs it purchases under Part D of the Medicare Modernization Act, signed by President Bush in 2003.
We have lost our republic. Congress, once a bastion of responsive democracy, is incoherent, coopted, and corrupted by the deluge of campaign finance from a small fraction of the super wealthy, unions, and corporations. Beholden to insidious special interests, our politicians now represent contributors rather than constituents.