Gaming the System
November 16, 2012
Here is an email exchange I had with a friend. Thought it might be interesting to others. His email is first.
The problem with Republicans is that they think everyone is like them, and that the point in life is not to play fair, but to game the system.
Romney said this in the election; Ryan said the same thing in the last couple of days. The problem, they claim, with raising taxes on the wealthy, is that those on the "low end" of the wealthy, in particular small business, aren't wealthy enough to hire a phalanx of high powered accountants to figure out how to exploit every loophole, however shady it might be, to avoid paying taxes. Consequently, the really wealthy hire such people and don't pay the 38%, but it's only the "sort of wealthy" who can afford the accountants and end up paying the full amount.
Same line of thought. Obamacare. How to game the system? If you're required to contribute to insurance of those working for you who work over 30 hours a week, cut their hours back to 28. That's a reason why Obamacare probably won't work. It was hatched by the Heritage Foundation as a way to avoid a single payer system and keep insurance companies in the game. The system can be gamed.
The guy who owns Paps John's pizza is threatening to do this. The fucker has this gargantuan house, his own friggin' private golf course as his back yard, and a 22 car garage. And Romney talked about him and said, "isn't that great. Isn't that something what free enterprise can do with something as simple as pizza." A guy named Ponzi figured out the problem with this. It's not possible for every Mom and Pop pizza store to expand into a giant chain. The market can support only so many giant chains. I think after maybe your 3rd car, you might want to think about setting up a foundation of some sort. But I guess I don't have that "entrepreneurial spirit."
It's like playing board games with my brother. He tries to find every pay possible to exploit ambiguities in the rules and "go outside the clearly intended purpose of the game," thereby completely negating the spirit of the game. He votes Republican.
Yes, Paul, I agree. But "gaming the system" is our way of life and not confined to the Republicans. This does not make their actions any less reprehensible, just more understandable. The health insurance "system" we have is a result of "gaming," by Obama and many, many others. They looked for a way to get such insurance while meeting other goals as well, as you point out, keeping insurance companies in the game.
From my perspective, this phenomenon is merely the offshoot of a politics of ambition, which is what I call the kind of politics recommended by and created by the Federalists and our founding fathers. It's character is captured nicely in an address by A. Lincoln entitled "On the Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions" that he gave in the 1830s, I think. Up to date version is "In the Lake of the Woods" a novel by Tim O'Brien and also one that students love to read. [The movie version sucks.] As a friend said a long time ago, one of the founders greatest failings was in assuming that they - and we - did not need to pay attention to fostering moral virtue, that this was a constant that would leaven the effects of ambition. I say that the founders did not think moral virtue - simple restraint, to start with - was needed, that ambition was and would be enough to get us through. Hamilton, in the Federalist, wrote of "the love of fame, the ruling passion of the noblest minds," no doubt with himself and Washington in mind. [I believe both Plato and Aristotle thought of politics in far different terms than Hamilton: the love of fame should be redirected or satisfied in ways other than politics given the dangers it creates. Or as some have argued, Plato was looking to substitute Socrates for Achilles as the "role model" for Athenian/human youths.]
And while we rely on ambition, we are shocked, again and again, when its limitations are revealed, e.g., the Petraeus [or "Betrayus", as his wife should call him now] affair. Ambitious? Heck, the guy married the daughter of the head of West Point after he was graduated from there. It's a classic.
I guess this is my way of saying, as I use to say to students of Bush II, the Republican Party isn't the problem; it is rather a reflection of the problem. Any way, that's my take on this phenomenon. And I will add that when ambition is given a national stage to play on, things only get worse as this stage feeds on and attracts or feeds those types Hamilton thought were the "noblest."