• An Inevitable Miracle?

    • Posted on Jul 02, 2017

    This morning's Courier column--the case for Medicare for All as inevitable, given the current aborted repeal and replace--which was always misguided.      

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                Another early July, another wave of love for country, a.k.a. patriotism.  July 4th, that is, with a day for fireworks, picnics, and patriots. 

                Time was.

                Now, not so much. Now we’re like an estranged couple still living together, but not speaking except to protect our separate turfs. Without attitude changes, divorce looms. 

                We’re not there yet, but we’re on track to get there.  A steady 38 percent of our fellow citizens still think “Make American Great Again” actually means something besides empty posturing.  That same group cannot be convinced anything’s really wrong with Republicans except Democrats’ opposition.  They’re followers and fans who seem to have suspended their critical faculties.

                I do remember when it was worse, when citizens were fighting in the streets over an unwinnable war, when a genuinely crooked leader instigated a burglary for political gain, when students were being killed for protesting. It was traumatic. 

                Compared to that late sixties nightmare, we’re only having a bad dream.  Perhaps we’ll wake up, come together, stretch, and start solving problems of health care, infrastructure, climate change,   nuclear-armed lunatics, and terrorism.  That would make for a July 4th worth celebrating.

                But for this holiday, it’s nonstop lying at the top and political paralysis, leaving problems unsolved and unfaced.  Mourning seems more in order than celebrating. 

                Yet there’s another possibility for hope. Unforeseen major events happen, “black swans” that change our world forever. 9-11 was such a cataclysmic black swan, as was Pearl Harbor. 

                Not all black swans are negative, however. Miracles, the opposite of cataclysms, occasionally arise with little warning.

                The Salk vaccine removed the horror of polio in the 1950s which terrorized my childhood, and the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1980s relieved suffering for millions.  Romanians were happily surprised in 1989 when their brutal dictator Ceausescu was deposed and executed.

                So a miracle is possible, and now one seems downright inevitable, thanks to the Trumpcare debacle.

                Medicare for all is coming. Trumpcare—Obamacare minus compassion— seems doomed, either sooner from divided Republicans, or later from Democrats who would almost certainly mount a repeal-and replace effort should Trumpcare pass.

              At some point, what has been obvious to a majority of Americans will occur to politicians: Private insurance doesn’t work in the health care arena.  Never has, never will.  Every other developed country has provided national health as a public right, like clean air, water, and safe food.

                Health care as a right, not a commodity. 

                This means lower costs, because a national healthcare system can negotiate prices with serious leverage for treatment and drugs.   It also brings ease of access, universal coverage, and radically less paperwork—without competing for-profit insurance companies.   

                In fact, with all these pluses, the few problems with universal Medicare seem like minor inconveniences.

                When Trumpcare fails—not if—universal Medicare will inevitably emerge as the best alternative.

                That will be worth celebrating.   

               

               

               

               

                 

               

                

                                                                                               

    Another early July, another wave of love for country, a.k.a. patriotism.  July 4th, that is, with a day for fireworks, picnics, and patriots. 

                Time was.

                Now, not so much. Now we’re like an estranged couple still living together, but not speaking except to protect our separate turfs. Without attitude changes, divorce looms. 

                We’re not there yet, but we’re on track to get there.  A steady 38 percent of our fellow citizens still think “Make American Great Again” actually means something besides empty posturing.  That same group cannot be convinced anything’s really wrong with Republicans except Democrats’ opposition.  They’re followers and fans who seem to have suspended their critical faculties.

                I do remember when it was worse, when citizens were fighting in the streets over an unwinnable war, when a genuinely crooked leader instigated a burglary for political gain, when students were being killed for protesting. It was traumatic. 

                Compared to that late sixties nightmare, we’re only having a bad dream.  Perhaps we’ll wake up, come together, stretch, and start solving problems of health care, infrastructure, climate change,   nuclear-armed lunatics, and terrorism.  That would make for a July 4th worth celebrating.

                But for this holiday, it’s nonstop lying at the top and political paralysis, leaving problems unsolved and unfaced.  Mourning seems more in order than celebrating. 

                Yet there’s another possibility for hope. Unforeseen major events happen, “black swans” that change our world forever. 9-11 was such a cataclysmic black swan, as was Pearl Harbor. 

                Not all black swans are negative, however. Miracles, the opposite of cataclysms, occasionally arise with little warning.

                The Salk vaccine removed the horror of polio in the 1950s which terrorized my childhood, and the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1980s relieved suffering for millions.  Romanians were happily surprised in 1989 when their brutal dictator Ceausescu was deposed and executed.

                So a miracle is possible, and now one seems downright inevitable, thanks to the Trumpcare debacle.

                Medicare for all is coming. Trumpcare—Obamacare minus compassion— seems doomed, either sooner from divided Republicans, or later from Democrats who would almost certainly mount a repeal-and replace effort should Trumpcare pass.

              At some point, what has been obvious to a majority of Americans will occur to politicians: Private insurance doesn’t work in the health care arena.  Never has, never will.  Every other developed country has provided national health as a public right, like clean air, water, and safe food.

                Health care as a right, not a commodity. 

                This means lower costs, because a national healthcare system can negotiate prices with serious leverage for treatment and drugs.   It also brings ease of access, universal coverage, and radically less paperwork—without competing for-profit insurance companies.   

                In fact, with all these pluses, the few problems with universal Medicare seem like minor inconveniences.

                When Trumpcare fails—not if—universal Medicare will inevitably emerge as the best alternative.

                That will be worth celebrating.   

               

               

               

               

                 

               

                

    Go comment!
    Posted in
    • Politics
    • Hot Button Issues
    • Predictions
    • Conservatives/Liberals
  • Lunch with a Leader: JON CREWS

    • Posted on Apr 07, 2017
    Jon Crews, Cedar Falls' longest serving mayor (15 terms) died yesterday.  Last April 23, the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier published my extensive lunchtime conversation with Jon.  Seems timely to republish it now.  

     

                “Steady as she goes” may not work as a campaign slogan, but it surely worked for Jon Crews as mayor of Cedar Falls for over thirty years.

                Crews began his mayorship in 1974 when he was 24, and ended last summer when he withdrew from the campaign.  

                He had won fifteen two-year elections, most of them easily. He left the position twice for a total of 14 years, then returned for 16 more years.   “I successfully succeeded my successors,” as he put it.   We met over lunch, and I found him down to earth, funny, honest, self-aware, and moving on without a trace of bitterness.  

                While deciding to retire, “I was worried about filling my days after so many years in City Hall,” he said, “but I’ve found plenty to do.”

                 Besides visiting six grandchildren from a blended marriage, he’s enthusiastic about two projects, both community-oriented.  He works locally with the “Senior Medicare Patrol,” which alerts seniors locally and nationwide to Medicare fraud and abuse.  He speaks to seniors and concerned groups about where such scams are found and how to thwart them.

                “Medicare fraud is a multi-billion dollar business, and can wreck seniors’ lives.” 

                He’s also helping develop a new de-stressing tool that involves electronic signals to help calm anxieties—which he believes show promise for helping vets with PTSD, as well as people on the autism spectrum and anxiety issues.    

                So Jon Crews still contributes to his community, and does so with energy and good will.

                He acknowledges that he was “ubiquitous” as mayor, a tag that describes his ongoing attendance at most community events, from art shows to jazz concerts to school plays to bicycle races.  “Even if we didn’t see you,” one citizen told him, “we knew you were there.”

                Crews’ leadership style amounts to “hiring good people and getting our of their

    way—I didn’t micromanage.”  And that means collaborating, cooperating, and compromising.  Not flashy, but refreshing in our current politically stalemated culture.        

                Using this approach, Crews saw the city develop a huge and successful industrial park, with 170 businesses.  It barely existed when Crews began.

                 Downtown Cedar Falls now vibrates with energy, with a Main Street that’s a model for similar cities. Eyesore buildings are being replaced, new restaurants are starting, old ones are remodeling condos are filling up along the riverfront.  All manner of small businesses fill the street and attract customers from across the Cedar Valley.    

                It’s how College Square used to look as Main Street went moribund. Now that’s reversed.  

                Crews recognizes that not everyone has been happy with his leadership, and cites the roundabout controversy as a current example.  “I tried to do the right thing rather than what’s popular.  All the data showed that roundabouts are safer and better for traffic flow.  So we listened to objectors, but found they couldn’t back up their complaints.  So we went ahead.” 

                He agreed it’s a mess on now, but street repairs are always disruptive, especially on major roads.  

                Of all his accomplishments, he cites a humble but important innovation: the one-person garbage pickup truck.  “Garbage pickups used to be the most dangerous job in the city.”  Now it’s safe and cheaper, thanks to his administration’s support for changing garbage pickup protocols.

                His low point?  The flood of 2008, which all but inundated parts of Cedar Falls, causing serious damage to neighborhoods and buildings.  

                However, it was not all dark.  “That flood and the cleanup did show the resiliency of the city.  We were back on our feet fairly quickly, with little lasting damage.”

                The city also re-zoned flooded areas so that fewer buildings now stand in harm’s way from inevitable Cedar River floods.   

                Another controversial area was “cross training” police and firefighters, so that both can be certified for policing and firefighting.  This doesn’t sit well with either group, but Crews supported it, and it still stands.   “Many firefighting jobs aren’t very specialized, so we thought it made sense to offer double duty.”

                What’s the purpose of city government? I asked, and he immediately answered,
    “the health and safety of its citizens, and prosperity, to the degree we can influence that.”   Overall, he’s satisfied with all three, but took little direct credit.  “The good people I hired and supported did their jobs well.  I always appreciated how good they were,” and that included a number of local volunteers, as well as Main Street Cedar Falls, a group that oversees downtown activities. 

                I wondered about Cedar Falls as a city without much racial diversity, and he agreed.  “Real estate costs more everywhere in Cedar Falls, and that may be part of it.”

    That’s an issue that deserves attention, I thought, and has been all but neglected.

                He mentioned two high points of his career: the day he started, when he realized that he actually had been elected mayor of a good-sized city.  That news made the Wall Street Journal---“above the fold,” he said proudly.

                And when he left office, his son organized a retirement party at City Hall that provided an overview of his career. “That’s a day I won’t forget.”  He felt a tide of gratitude that still makes him smile.

                Finally, he’s been surprised that he received so few angry or even complaining phone calls.  “One a year—that’s it.”  

                Collaborating, cooperating, compromising, few complaints.  I’d say Crews discovered the secret to good leadership, and implemented it.  

                Steady as she goes indeed.

               

               

               

               

                 

     

     

                

    Go comment!
    Posted in
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“Even before the advent of the Internet, Cawelti’s columns went 'viral' in the Cedar Valley… the role of a columnist is to be thought provoking, to take tacks that shed a different light on an issue or possibly cause a reader to reevaluate a position. At the very least, it should bring clarity to a particular perspective, whether you buy into the commentator’s worldview or not.

Scott's work does just that.  Enjoy this collection of his writing.”

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