Public policy issues and the great divide

I’ve started doing the research to rewrite the last chapter of my first book that focused on our broken health care system.  During the decade since I wrote it, we had Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act of 2010.  Some of its provisions are just now going into effect in 2013, 2014, and 2015.  Other provisions have either been rescinded or revoked.  Most people don’t know or understand what’s happening.  Many of the books and most of the publicity surrounding these changes have been partisan or ill informed so it’s difficult to find accurate and impartial information.  I watched an Alliance for Health Reform briefing this week on changes in health information technology and read some reports from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Kaiser Family Foundation, but I’m still confused.  See

I won’t try to summarize this complex and complicated legislation that includes a lot of regulations that are still being finalized by various agencies.  But it does raise an important question in my mind of why our country has become so polarized on nearly every public policy issue.  We can’t seem to agree or compromise on anything.  The list is long: immigration, taxes, job creation, economic inequality, intervention in foreign wars, separation of church and state, fracking, global warming, gun control, and social issues such as gay marriage, abortion, and the rapid growth in our prison population.  Of course, Americans have always disagreed on a wide range of political, social, and religious issues, but we seemed to be able eventually to come together to resolve some of our crises without resorting to war.  We seem more divided now than we have been for 150 years.

The dysfunctional governance and corruption at the federal, state, and local levels have made the people cynical about the role of government in our society.  The creeping tentacles of corporations in controlling nearly every aspect of our lives seems to have occurred without much notice or concern.  Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish the oligarchies in the US from those in Russia except that we still have more of a rule of law and a regard for civil liberties.

Historians note that political campaigns always have been full of lies and outlandish claims, but we usually had a period of relative calm between these cycles.  Now the campaigning seems to go on endlessly; perhaps it is because of the need to raise such huge funds for re-election.  No one denies the influence and power of money in our legislative and executive branches, but we don’t seem to know what to do about it except to protest.  We’ve got a zillion petitions and protests, but most people seem to just opt out of the political process and believe votes and their ideas don’t matter.  Perhaps they don’t under the current system, but it can be changed if enough people make the effort to do it.

Like many people I’ve found the political process distasteful because it is so slow and tedious and many times acrimonious.  Too many people don’t even make the effort to vote, so they really can’t complain because they were not involved in the process.  As the beacon of democracy in the world, what has caused us to tune out and become passive recipients of whatever the special interests dole out?  Have the political parties and their leadership become so inept and corrupted that they no longer offer any viable alternatives?


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