Postmodern Politics

It’s likely to snow today, so I expect most local news to center around this fact. It’ll be all anyone talks about, and by this afternoon you’ll be sick of it and the accumulation is likely to be less and less destructive than you’re fearing this morning.

So, no news. Not even Wal*Mart bribing Mexican “authorities”.

I spent much of the weekend finishing the Steve Jobs biography. He was equal parts visionary leader and horrible person, and he was a master at combining great technology with better design. Much of the book discusses Jobs’ “reality distortion field” and his binary way of looking at things – everything was either brilliant or crap. He seldom settled for mediocre (MobileMe and the ROKR being notable exceptions).

But near his death, he dabbled in politics and advised President Obama on business matters and education. He had great ideas for expanding school hours, and dumping existing curricula for something more up-to-date, dynamic, and personally tailored for each individual learner. But one thing stuck out politically.

Jobs was critical of President Obama and friendly with Rupert Murdoch. He was critical of Obama’s inability to get things accomplished with the Republicans in Congress, and thought that we were rapidly falling behind other countries for no reason. Jobs explained to Obama that when Apple manufactures in China, he can easily retain 30,000 engineers to help run the factories. Not brilliant engineers with incredible vision, but just regularly trained engineers – guys who can run plants and can easily be trained in vocational programs and community colleges.

Likewise, Jobs went out of his way to criticize Murdoch’s Fox News Channel as being uniquely destructive in our society. Jobs said our political system had stopped being about liberal vs. conservative; instead, it was about constructive vs. destructive politics. And in a way, I think he was right. We’re at a point where liberals lurch rightwards in order to try to please conservatives, often to no avail. Thanks to the Senate filibuster – the use of which has become routine (it never used to be so) – governments must govern by supermajority. That is an unconstitutional result from a constitutional rule. 

But on that point of constructive vs. destructive, the Democrats have become the party that tries to develop solutions to deep socioeconomic problems. The Republicans, on the other hand, have become the party that wants to undo the last 100 years’ worth of societal solutions to socioeconomic problems – basic things like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. 

We should have long ago expanded Medicare to the entire population. The Ryan budget would turn America’s most popular single-payer government medical insurance plan (VA is another) into a semi-private, underfunded voucher program. 

Now I have to consider how that destructive vs. constructive quip applies to Buffalo’s multigenerational political and economic malaise. 


  • Great insights, Alan. I haven’t read the Jobs biography but  your constructive/destructive dialectic is spot on in understanding our current malaise.

  • Cue up the “Medicare and VA are absolute failures because I knew this guy who had that coverage and he didn’t like it” arguments.

  • ” the Democrats have become the party that tries to develop solutions to deep socioeconomic problems.”

    Yep, you’re Mr Constructive, the heroic Democrats are struggling against evil!  Please. I suppose since now you’re thinking in terms of destructive vs. constructive, you’ll stop with destructively snarky posts? Oh wait, I have to keep reading….

    Another great “constructive” quote: “The Ryan budget would turn America’s most popular single-payer government medical insurance plan (VA is another) into a semi-private, underfunded voucher program.”

    So much constructive here you could build a new Peace Bridge!

    (For the record, Paul Ryan’s budget is a joke because it keeps on growing the Fed gov’t)

    • Snark in defense of constructive policies is not destructive. 

      Snark in opposition to destructive policies does not somehow magnify same.

      • Sure it does. Just keep piling the crap deeper and deeper and blame the other guy for starting the pile.

        That’s might human of you, Alan. What is it they say about “an eye for an eye”?

        Oh yeah, and Paul Ryan’s joke of a budget will raise spending to ONLY $4.8 trillion or so instead of the $5.8 trillion Obama wants. Yep, he’s evil alright.

  • As opposed to the “constructive” vision of the Ron Paul-ites to health care, which is, “You don’t have health insurance? Then rest in peace, asshole”.

  • Michael, perhaps you should educate yourself regarding Ron Paul’s position on the health insurance problem.  This will provide a good beginning for your educational journey – 

  • As government regulation of health care has increased, competition has decreased and costs have escalated.  The escalation of commitment is unconscionable.

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