Economic Anxiety is Existential Dread

For as long as I could remember, my dad worked in radio and my mom stayed at home with their four kids. We had as comfortable a life as can be had living paycheck to paycheck on the bottom end of the middle class spectrum. Neither of them had college degrees. Our trajectory out of the lower middle class had a razor-thin margin for error.

Dad had a real talent for radio. He was good on the air and good at managing the day-to-day operations of a station. He took a middling adult contemporary station in central Illinois, changed formats, and turned it into the area’s most popular station.

When I was a teenager and my dad was around 50, he lost his job at the station. The details aren’t important, but there weren’t jobs for him in radio any more. He bounced around. He sold siding. He was the manager of a dollar store a hundred miles away that he commuted to every morning. But those were jobs, not careers, and he was an old dog desperately trying to learn new tricks.

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Teachers Can’t Be Trusted to Regulate Themselves

Another month, another Valerie Strauss article covering the resignation letter of a teacher in the Washington Post’s Answer Sheet blog. Last month she covered what she called a “powerful letter” from a teacher in Louisiana. It read more like a temper tantrum. This month, Strauss has focused on the resignation of a teacher who actually appears to have taken a writing class at some point in the course of his own education. The result is easier to read, but makes many of the same tactical and logical errors that the post before it did.

The two letters are not unique. Their arguments are not new. Facebook, twitter, and blogs are filled to the brim with teachers complaining about the “broken” education system in this country while simultaneously decrying anyone who tries to reform it. Teachers, collectively, have taken an untenable position and the only way forward for them, as a profession, is to jettison the weak and under-performing of their group.

If they won’t do it themselves, we as a society are left with no choice but to do it for them.

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The ACA is Constitutional, but Still Terrible

The Supreme Court upheld (on narrow and clever grounds) the Affordable Care Act. So, for those of us who had our fingers crossed that we could start over, we’re going to have to look to our elected officials for help. To be certain, the health care system in the United States has some problems. Some of those problems are huge and pervasive. The ACA is the epitome of everything that sucks about compromise: nobody gets what they want and you run the risk of the outcome carrying the worst traits of the proposed solutions.

The left wants to fix everything right now. The right wants the federal government to have no part in it.

Neither of those are viable alternatives, and what congress ended up with in the ACA was a deal with the devil. The left sold its soul to the health insurance industry for some short-term gains to coverage levels. In exchange for some platitudes from the health insurance lobby, congress handed them millions of new, mostly healthy customers, a demographic known to health insurers as “free money.”

In typical American fashion, once we agreed there was a problem, we demanded an immediate fix, without regard for the long-term consequences. With a bit of patience, we could have something both better and easier.

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The Myth of Corporate Personhood

Flickr image by konstantine1982

Today, instead of handing down the Affordable Care Act opinions like we all wanted, the Supreme Court ruled on the constitutionality of life without parole for minors, some immigration thing1, and a third case2 which tested some of the boundaries of their 2010 Citizens United ruling.

Even if you’re not familiar with Citizens, you’ve probably heard about it. Most likely, you’ve heard people offering various sarcasm and snark about “corporate personhood”. Those who opposed the ruling and what it represents did an exceptional job of driving the narrative about the case toward what turns out to be an absurdist interpretation of the court’s opinion.

You see, Citizens actually has a remarkably sane holding. So sane, in fact, that were one to read the actual text of it, one would be relatively unlikely to experience outrage, even in disagreement. So, if you’re one of those who mistakenly believes that the Supreme Court of the United States ordained corporations as people, read on.

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  1. I kid; this was a pretty huge deal, but well beyond the scope of my knowledge 

  2. American Tradition Partnership, Inc. v. Bullock, which determined that state laws weren’t free to ignore the Citizens holding. 

What the Abortion Debate Isn’t

To hear the anti-abortion advocates tell it, abortion kills living, breathing human beings. To the other side, abortion is about legislating what a woman does with her uterus. Seldom do two sides of an issue talk quite this far each other without either of them coming within spitting distance of the real issue.

On her blog, Valerie Tarico has an interesting discussion of the imagery by the two sides in the abortion debate.

Abortion opponents may be driven by Iron Age sexual scripts, but they are advancing their cause primarily by appealing to universal, secular and –ironically, progressive– ethical principles. If history has a moral arc, the curve has to do with one simple question: Who counts as a person? Who deserves autonomy and opportunity and freedom from unnecessary suffering? Who merits our compassion or respect? In other words, who is morally relevant?

For much of the article, Tarico seems to get what the abortion debate is really about, but just as she’s about to get there, she throws it all away1:

The irony, of course, is that a fertilized egg is not a person in any traditional or meaningful sense.

Tarico makes the same error that so many others, on both sides, make when talking about abortion: she assumes that there’s one correct and objective definition of “person”, that she knows what it is, and that her politics are informed by it (and not vice versa). That is, of course, begging the question to a great degree.

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  1. To be fair, large portions of the article are really interesting and worth reading.