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Our Fake Democracy by Timothy Egan

2017-06-23

This op-ed in the NYT tells it all:

We tell ourselves stories in order to live, as Joan Didion said. We do this as a nation, as individuals, as families — even when that construct is demonstrably false. For the United States, the biggest institutional lie of the moment is that we have a government of the people, responding to majority will.

Mr. Egan goes on to point out that the “health care” bill currently in the Senate, and the one already passed by the House, represent deeply unpopular policies that will gut Medicaid and push over 20 million people off of “health insurance.”  As we have pointed out repeatedly in the past, the United States is the only advanced country in the world that doesn’t have single-payer health care.  At the risk of boring you, I will again point out that the US consumer pays almost twice as much for health care as in any other advanced country.  A reasonable person would rather pay for their health care in taxes– a predictable, constant amount– than take the risk of being bankrupted by medical expenses.  What is more, the tax burden would be significantly less than the average per capita cost of medical care.  Rather than choosing the reasonable option, our government is trying to eliminate the small tax that is currently being paid by higher-income persons and trying to take it away from Medicaid.

We do not have a democracy because the poorer you are, the less likely you are to vote.  The barriers to voting for poor people can be extreme.  First, there is transportation to the polls.  One would think that the Democrats would have an organized system for taking poor voters to the polls on Election Day, but they do not.  There are a few scattered programs here and there, but nothing organized and country-wide.  This is absurd and so elementary that it makes me just scratch my head.  For all the money spent on everything involved in trying to win an election, this would probably be the most cost-efficient.

The other problems that constitute barriers to voting are harder to deal with: lack of desire to vote, barriers to registration, lack of “time”, gerrymandering, and so on.  Just solving the transportation problem would increase motivation to vote, especially if the transportation effort is advertised.

Many other countries have solutions for those barriers to voting that have made it possible for poor people to vote, and they have more representative democracies as a result.  There are also countries with systems that are much worse than that in the United States, but it seems silly to point out that we are better off than the people of North Korea, for example.  No rational person would accept our system because it is better than the worst possible system.

The bottom line is that our democracy is compromised, and the consequences could be fatal.  A few wealthy people may survive, but they will have blood on their hands.

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