Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Pause

Perhaps it's just me, but this time of year seems to be the boring period between the fun of a nasty winter and the beginning of a well-earned spring. And I'm not just talking about the weather. American politics is on hiatus at this moment because it's too early to get too riled up by the prospect of electing another do-nothing Congress, and since the one we have now is essentially done for the year, what else is there to talk about? The Affordable Care Act? Boring. Marriage equality? Done. The lost Malaysian plane? Probably found and the story will make a great movie one summer. Ukraine? Potentially deadly and maybe the foremost threat to world peace presently in the news.

This is not to say that these stories are not important because they are, but there doesn't seem to be any movement or progress or yes-we-canism alive at the moment. The Republicans are still trying to figure out what it believes in and how it can appeal to groups that have shunned its message so far. The House will most likely remain in their hands, which guarantees us another two years of bills that will not become law until a GOP president is elected (shudder). And the Senate will probably also go red, but I've already treated that scenario.

I am not, though, down in the dumps. The Supreme Court is hearing arguments about whether religious companies can stop providing certain forms of birth control the ACA requires because it would be a violation of their religious rights. I'm thinking that Justice Roberts is aching to get back on the conservative horse he dismounted two years ago in the health care law case, but Justice Kennedy might be the wild card in this one. It is certain that Justice Scalia will lament the end of the republic if he's on the losing side.

And the health care law will survive because about six million people will have signed up for insurance through the exchanges or Medicaid and throwing them off the rolls is just too mean for even today's Republican Party. The law needs fixing and that's where the focus is going to be in 2014 and 2016 and 2018 as companies and states decide that insurance is too expensive and want employees to sign up for the policies on the website. This will be revolutionary and the effect will be profound. I'm not surprised that neither party is really talking about this out loud, but it's almost certain to come to pass sometime within the next five years.

As for Vlad the Invader, I'm not ruling out a bit of shooting in Ukraine or areas local to it. It will depend on whether he heeds the economic warnings his aides are no doubt giving him. My sense is that Putin will ask for something big in return, negotiate, and take something smaller that gives him a say in Ukraine, but not the whole country. In the end, Ukraine will make a deal with the EU, but will always need to watch its eastern back.

All of this is in the future, and you can feel free to pay attention to it since you're obviously not winning $1 billion dollars on March Madness because nobody has a perfect bracket left. The best we can hope for is common sense and pride in a job well done. Some things never change.

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