As usual, I got some political questions this time out, and also as usual, I'm putting them below the fold, so if you don't want to go down my own personal liberal rabbit-hole, you don't have to! And remember, if you want to ask something, please do!
Roger asks: Is the problem with the Hobby Lobby SCOTUS decision that it restricted birth control to women, or that it reaffirmed the personhood of corporations?
The idea that an employer should be able to require his or her employees in any way to abide by their own personal religious views strikes me as deeply odd, and I'm reminded in any event that Hobby Lobby actually did cover the contraceptives to which they "deeply objected" for years, until the Affordable Care Act specified that they had to. Yes, I question the sincerity of their religious beliefs, and I also deeply object to their ill-informed and unscientific view that those particular contraceptives are de facto abortion pills.
Likewise, the fact that their objections only went as far as female contraceptives is pretty telling. I always have a hard time with people who object to contraception on any kind of basis regarding sexual morality, and yet who also seem to have no problem at all with treatments for erectile dysfunction. There's a weird kind of cognitive dissonance here: we need to be able to help men have sex, but not women, but we also object to men having sex with each other.
Equally bad, though, is the idea that a corporation as a single entity has Constitutional rights. Where does this concept end? Can a corporation "bear arms", and if so, what would that look like? Can a corporation require every one of its employees to carry (or at least own) a gun? Can a corporation vote? This kind of ruling constitutes a starting move on a path toward what seems to me a deeply flawed manner of thinking. A corporation's "religious beliefs" is a concept that makes no sense at all -- can a corporation be Catholic? How would that corporation take Communion? Does a corporation have a soul? What is so special about a corporation that gives it rights that, say, a club doesn't have? If a corporation gets bought by a larger corporation, what happens to the smaller corporation's rights? If Hobby Lobby gets bought by Procter and Gamble, whither Hobby Lobby's deeply-held religious principles?
I noted an article that said that the US was one only a handful of countries that doesn't provide maternity leave. Why do you think that is, not just on this narrow issue, but on so many topics from health care to the metric system, that American exceptionalism means that the US takes exception to what everyone else does?
I struggle with this, and I honestly don't get it. America is the shining beacon, modeling democracy and self-government for all to see across the globe...and yet, we're told that our government is incompetent and can't do anything at all right. Well, that's just embarrassing, isn't it? Why can France and Germany and every other less-wealthy country on the planet get a lot of these things right?
I simply do not believe, for one second, that these types of things wouldn't work here. These types of predictions are never true. We don't lose millions of jobs every time the minimum wage goes up, and yet, every time someone proposes raising the minimum wage, that's what we're told will happen. Never does, but we always believe it. National healthcare will be a disaster that will ruin everything...and yet, we have quite literally dozens of other countries as counterexamples. The implication seems to me that they can do something we can't -- and yet, make that suggestion in other regards, and you might as well be questioning the cuteness of puppies.
When so many other nations are doing something different and better than we are, I stop paying any attention at all to people who argue that it can't work here. Sure, America is different in some key ways, but there is nothing so unique about this country as to make the United States a total and complete outlier to any reasonable expectation based on results elsewhere.
So what's the deal? Well, frankly, America's libertarian leanings are holding us back. I find that frustrating, but it's basically the way it is. I find it deeply saddening that the richest country in the history of the world is so behind the times in so many ways, and when libertarians tell me that a national healthcare system somehow represents a loss of "freedom", I just shake my head. This is no kind of "freedom" that has any referent point in my mind. I have no idea how a Canadian citizen of similar economic status as myself is "less free" than I am, because he has his country's healthcare system.
These questions tie together interestingly, because it seems that while we as a country don't want government doing anything because it somehow infringes on our "freedom", we are entirely willing to let our corporate bosses encroach on our "freedom" in ways that are more real and more limiting than anything government is trying to do. I, for one, am not interested in a concept of "freedom" where the degree to which one is "free" is directly proportional to one's socio-economic status or position on the management chain.
OK, that's all the politics this time out, huzzah!