Learning From “Obamacare”

Some people are ardent proponents of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — known to many as “Obamacare” — and others are equally ardent opponents.  People on both sides of the issue feel passionately about whether the concept and purpose of the statute is good or bad, and it’s hard for a moderate to find common ground.

I think there is one thing, however, that fair-minded people on both sides of the issue might grudgingly accept:  the implementation of the statute hasn’t gone as its advocates forecast.  There have been delays in promulgating regulations, and developing systems to audit and enforce the different provisions of the law.  There have been unexpected consequences, as employers have considered the economic impact of different potential approaches to compliance with the law — a process that has resulted, for example, in some employers deciding to focus more on part-time workers.  The allegiances of former supporters of the bill, such as labor unions, have in some cases shifted as regulations are promulgated and the potential impact of the statute has become clearer.

None of this is particularly surprising, but it does teach a valuable lesson.  The American economy is extraordinarily complex, and whenever Congress promises to take an action that “fixes” a problem, we should all show a healthy skepticism.  Health care is a significant and complicated part of the economy, but it’s not appreciably different than, say, the mortgage loan sector.  People are, perhaps, more aware of the issues with the Affordable Care Act because it has been the continuing subject of withering public attention and because, in certain respects, its implementation is having an impact on everyday Americans — but I think it’s quite plausible that the financial institutions regulation that Congress enacted recently, or for that matter the Patriot Act passed in the wake of 9/11, are having similar issues and producing similarly unanticipated effects.

This has nothing to do with the party affiliation of the sponsors of legislation, or even the competence of the administrators trying to draft appropriate regulations.  It’s just reality.  The American economy is intertwined and interdependent and interconnected that broad-based regulations are going to have a ripple effect that could go far beyond whatever the politicians promise.  All of us, Democrat and Republican, should remember that the next time Congress makes confident predictions about the effect of a significant statute.

Looking For New Parking, More Than 20 Years Later

I’ve parked in the same parking garage on East Long Street in downtown Columbus for more than 20 years — until today.

IMG_4906Tuesday night a colleague and I were walking out to our cars when we were approached by a guy who asked if we were monthly parkers.  When we said yes, he said that city inspectors had, apparently without advance notice, posted a small sign declaring that the parking garage was unsafe.  The colleague and I looked at each other and shook our heads in wonderment at this news, because the structure has always had a distinctly aged, rusted, ramshackle, crumbling character to it.  But the price for a monthly spot was very affordable, our expectations were adjusted accordingly, and we had hadn’t noticed any sudden drop in parking quality.  So we shrugged and drove home.

Yesterday morning when I pulled into the garage news vans were out front, broadcasting about the city’s action.  I parked there anyway.  Why not?  I’ve paid for my spot for this month, and I had nowhere else to go.  But when I walked to the garage last night cheap white plywood barricades, with blood red danger warning signs from the City of Columbus Department of Building and Zoning Services, were placed across the entrance — giving the garage an even more decrepit, condemned feel.  Clearly, parking there is no longer an option, unless you want to feel like a squatter.  I think I’ll pass on that.

So, after two decades of not giving parking a second thought and driving to my garage on autopilot, I’ve got to figure out where to park my car.  Of course, so do all of the hundreds of other people who parked in the same garage.  Suddenly, in a downtown area where surface lots are ubiquitous, parking is at a premium.

The Birds Of Midway Island

Watching the video above will take about four minutes.  They will be a poignant and powerful four minutes, and after they are over you will never think of littering in the same way.  More information about the filmmakers, and their latest trailer about their film Midway, are available here and here and here.

Thoughtless actions can have tragic consequences.