The problem with political debate today.

by w3woody

I Have The Cover Story In Regulation Magazine — How Labor Regulation Harms Unskilled Workers

When I grew up, public policy discussion meant projecting the benefits of a policy and balancing them against the costs and unintended consequences. In this context, I am merely attempting to air some of the costs of these regulations for unskilled workers that are not often discussed. Nowadays, however, public policy is judged solely on its intentions. If a law is intended to help worker (whether or not it will every reasonably achieve its objectives), then it is good, and anyone who opposed this law has bad intentions. This is what you see in public policy debates all the time — not arguments about the logic of a law itself but arguments that the opposition are bad people with bad intentions.

I saw this in spades on Facebook, and I got tired of the same old God-damend bullshit, day in, day out–even by people otherwise intelligent enough to know better.

It’s why I left Facebook and decided to get my sanity back. Because too many otherwise very good people forgot how to talk about politics and policy: they talk about intentions and presume if you oppose the policy you oppose the stated intentions even if the policy can never achieved its intended results.

Obamacare is an excellent example of how intentions and results fail to intersect:

I will retell a story about Obamacare or the PPACA. Most of my employees are over 60 and qualify for Medicare. As such, no private insurer will write a policy for them — why should they? Well, along comes Obamacare, and it says that my business has to pay a $2000-$3000 penalty for every employee who is not offered health insurance, and Medicare does not count! I was in a position of paying nearly a million dollars in fines (many times my annual profits) for not providing insurance coverage to my over-60 employees that was impossible to obtain — we were facing bankruptcy and the loss of everything I own. The only way out we had was that this penalty only applied to full-time workers, so we were forced to reduce everyone’s hours to make them all part-time. It is a real flaw in the PPACA that caused real harm to our workers. Do I hate workers and hope they all get sick and die just because I point out this flaw with the PPACA and its unintended consequence?

Now if we had real honest-to-God functional policy debates in this country, instead of angry assholes chasing policy wonks all over Washington D.C. because they dane to associate with the “Orange Monster” now in the White House, we could have caught bugs like this in Obamacare before the law was passed rather than being told that we had to pass the law to find out what was in it, a statement which illustrates the hardened hearts and closed minds surrounding its passage.

And we could have caught flaws in the law, such as the one that caused a lot of seniors who otherwise qualify for Medicare getting their hours cut so that businesses don’t face massive fines for providing seniors insurance they already have.

So long as our discussions revolve around emotions and hatred and discussing intentions and slamming those who question policy as being against its intentions, we will continue to get bad law and bad policy and badly crafted regulations that fail to work. And we will continue to hurt seniors and workers and people who are in the private market, because we’ve come to accept “intentions” as the only metric for a law, forgetting that often “intentions” are a fig leaf to all sorts of insider bullshit and sloppy crap.