Sometimes It’s Hard To Be A Liberal

I’m getting a little dizzy trying to process all the interrelated things going wrong these days. I’m pelted by a string of news events that fall on the hard asphalt of what seems to be structural flaws in our system. I’m left with questions that only lead to other questions, but not answers.

Let’s start with the Affordable Care Act. Speaking from Silicon Valley, I find it deplorable that some programmer looked at this application and said, “Sure, let’s make it live.” According to Bloomberg News, in two days, a grand total of 248 people were able to sign up. That’s less than a planeload. Airlines would go bankrupt if their reservations systems were that bad.

But closer to home, there’s even more government folly. I’m not sure how widely this story has been disseminated across the country, but it’s a doozy. Here in the Bay Area, the state’s Department of Social Services revoked the license of a nursing home in Castro Valley. The owners and most of the staff proceeded to depart, leaving 19 residents – elderly, demented, in need of medication – without care.

Only two staffers, a janitor and a cook, stayed behind, too good-hearted to abandon the residents, but without training or resources to offer even a minimum standard of care. They ended up calling 911 for help. Four times. But that’s not all. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, staffers from the Department of Social Services visited the facility, noted the complete breakdown in care … and then left without doing anything to alleviate the situation.

Ronald Reagan famously said, “Government isn’t the solution. Government is the problem.” He wasn’t completely wrong, but he wasn’t completely right, either. We need government oversight, exactly for people like the owners of that care facility, but we need government oversight that works. Why doesn’t it work? Those of us in the private sector know that when we fail to fulfill our duties, we’re fired.

The problem is that government services are essentially a monopoly. We have rules for governing monopolies, but it doesn’t help that those who oversee the monopolies themselves have no competition for the job. If the government doesn’t do its job, who will?

Why can’t government do its job? For me, this rolls directly into the larger canard that public sector employees are less competent because they’re paid less. Is that true? If it is, then why are municipalities and states alike bowing under the pressure of pensions? This seems to be the tradeoff for lower salaries: a magnificent retirement. (But municipal government can’t even seem to manage those: the San Francisco Chronicle noted last week that the city of Richmond, Calif., had purchased bonds to secure its outrageous pension obligations – and then increased its pension obligations.)

This is what worries me: are we looking at the incompetence of a few or structural issues that are leading us to disaster? I don’t know what will solve what looks and feels like an impenetrable cycle of incompetence, and I worry that we’ve become so lost in a thicket of confusion that we’ll never find our way out.



About middleagecranky

The Middle-Age Cranky blog is written by baby boomer Howard Baldwin, who finds the world, while occasionally wondrous, increasingly aggravating.
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6 Responses to Sometimes It’s Hard To Be A Liberal

  1. Ellen says:

    Whoa, that care facility story is horrifying. Heads should roll, and I kinda mean literally.

  2. Randy says:

    Howard, so good to see you questioning (if in fact you really are, and not just a whimsical harangue of the powers that be) the liberal mantra. I grew up in a family of liberals, and yet the paradox of what they preached vs. what they believed never made any sense to me until a college professor said to me “these liberals are not liberals at all, they are progressives” and I did some study on that. Yup, he was right. A liberal wants less government interference and much more let people be who and what they are within the confines of the law of society. A progressive believes that government is the answer, and all he/she needs to do is come up with the question. Ugh, the very thought of this is the antithesis of all I believe.

    Anyway, glad to see you are brave enough to pen the title, to me that represents….progress!

    • How interesting! I always thought your professor’s definition of liberals applied to moderates. Ah, labels. And to think there was once such a thing as “progressive Republicans” (cf. Teddy Roosevelt).

  3. GingerR says:

    I think the nursing home story is awful, but what exactly did you expect the Social Workers to do?

    Take the folks home with them? Place them elsewhere? Call their families ?

    In my thinking those legally responsible for the residents needed to be notified so other arrangements could be made.

    • That was exactly the problem. Those legally responsible bailed first. I would have expected the social workers to ensure that the residents were transferred to other facilities and their families notified. It was a fiasco from day one.

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