Monday, March 4, 2013

Solutions and Surrenders (Monday LINKS)

How often do our policy debates vascilate between "Here's the solution" and "This problem can never be solved"?

Obviously, this should be the preliminary question before any discussion of directing public resources, restricting rights, or creating privileges.  Without a solution, or at least mitigation of a long-term problem, being at hand, the attempted remedy will most likely be more harmful than the problem being addressed.

Without being too vague, the most immediate example is gun violence.  This problem is made all the more interesting by the fact that countries with complete bans on firearms have drastically reduced their gun violence - so we know there is a solution.  Due to historical, cultural, and societal norms (as well as practical considerations of collection), a complete ban is completely off the table.  Instead, we are left with half-measures that opponents rightfully suggest will not be effective; similar to tying one hand behind your back and then telling you you're not a very good fighter.

Solutions v. Surrenders has a much broader application in the general philosophy at play in holding up the social safety net.  We have a certain standard of poverty that we do not want any American to go below, but we don't want to make that standard a comfortable place to live.  Opponents say that we will never be able to have government support for the poor without that becoming a point of comfort and reliance for the least motivated.  Instead, they would advocate cutting the ropes and hoping for the best.  The problem of poverty cannot be solved, so why try.

In circumstances like Medicare, the single largest problem in this Country's financial future, the battle between Solution and Surrender has paralyzed law-makers.  It is so broken that everyone is afraid to touch it for fear of making it worse.  How bad is it?  From David Leonhardt's Here's the Deal: "In return for the $88,000 in lifetime taxes, that married couple can expect to receive benefits worth more than three times as much: $387,000."  This problem is complicated further by partisan issues such as vouchers, income caps, and age eligibility. 

Locally, we face the issue of homelessness.  With our homeless census somewhere between 200 and 300 persons, it certainly is a problem available for solution.  Once the Administration took the problem on with a new housing development proposed for North Laurel, it almost looked too easy.  But now the opposition is clear.  It's us.  We want solutions at a distance, not in our backyard.  Some would sooner surrender than lead on this issue.  In a matter of months, we have gone from having a solution at hand, money in the budget, and a site selected to a yawning pause.

I don't think there will be surrender here, but you can sense the general relief that the solution is no longer pressing itself.  Solutions are hard and often uncomfortable.  I appreciate all of those in the Ulman Administration who have done the thankless work of prosecuting a solution when it feels as if opponents are at every turn.  There may never be a middle ground.  Solution or Surrender. 


Speaking of solutions v. surrender - we can't have open air housing for the homeless along route 83, but we also don't have anywhere to house the people being "relocated".

Former Governor Bob Ehrlich has gone from writing an interesting perspective on the right to being an outright fabricating polemic.  This Sunday's editorial about SSDI "exploding" under President Obama is fundamentally misleading and does not merit the paper upon which it is printed.  We can have a discussion about entitlement spending, but it deserve more than playing off of stereotypes and a false premise that nothing happened to the economy over the last four years to make more people use government support.  If I were a Republican, I would be disappointed that Ehrlich wastes his opportunity with this column.  It is free advertising for the GOP's solutions to the State's problems.  Instead, we get Limbaugh lite garbage that does not hold up to even the slightest scrutiny.

Exciting medical news came out yesterday when it was announced that the an infant girl from Mississippi was the first to be cured of HIV.

So we're supposed to get some snow on Wednesday?  I'll believe it when I shovel it.

Featured Blog Post of the Day: This is a little late, but TJ has an interesting paired discussion of gun control and the death penalty that is worth your 15-20 minutes.

By the way, don't expect me to shut up about the 10 Fund in 10 Months, especially after I heard yesterday that we're down to 9!  That's right - One reader has taken the challenge and will be accepting a $500 matching contribution towards their fund with the Columbia Foundation.  Care to be number two?

That's all for today.  Have a great Monday doing what you love!