A Hemispheric March of Folly

Former Venezuela Presidential Chief of Staff Beatrice Rangel

In 1984 Barbara Tuchman, an American historian and author wrote the award-winning book” The March of Folly” .

Ms. Tuchman set out to demonstrate in her wonderfully written work how elites can take public policy decisions that boomerang to destroy their power base and that of the community they are supposed to lead.

To her mind, these ill-taken decisions could be attributable to three variables. The first was “wooden headedness” or as professor Yehezkel Dror would dub “the Ivory Castle Syndrome”.

Cognitive dissonance is yet another ingredient for folly. Cognitive dissonance is the leadership unwillingness to listen to facts.

Last and very important, ignorance of previous history can also drive decision makers to wrong decisions.

A cursory review of headlines for the third week of July 2017 would make one wonder whether we had entered the March of Folly Celebration Year. No matter where we looked in the Hemisphere, policy makers were following the Tuchman script.

First and utmost of course is the President of Venezuela who engaged the opposition leaders in a game of chicken that is multiplying their following. He convened a National Constitutional Assembly with a view to rewrite the Constitution and do away with separation of powers and democratic institutions.

The move has caused the first true and visible divisions within the ranks of the government party.

It has cracked the institutional tissues as the Prosecutor General indicated that the measure failed to fulfill constitutional procedures.

The decision has also had the effect of destroying overnight any legitimacy that Mr. Maduro might have had arising from the fact that he is an elected official.

Internationally this has revealed his true dictatorial colors and invited a chaotic U.S. administration to threaten with adopting economic sanctions that will send Mr. Maduro to Dante’s Inferno. Mr. Maduro nonetheless is obstinately marching towards his funeral to the tune of a march he composed.

In the northern region of the hemisphere, folly is also reigning supreme.

Republicans have — with a zeal that one would love to see deployed in educational reforms or development of training opportunities for people to become digitally fluent — crusaded to destroy the Affordable Care Act (ACA-Obamacare) despite the drawbacks of this decision.

Among the most notable failings of the Republican project is the fact that no matter how you do the math, their hastily concocted bill would leave between 26 million and 32 million people without coverage. Notably among those are the inhabitants from the Rust Belt that massively voted for President Trump.

Many of these citizens had been shunned by the insurance market before ACA was passed because of “pre-existing conditions” (read: black lung disease). Now they have access to health insurance and at affordable premiums.

Next in line are those suffering from opioids addiction which affects the lower income, lower education, white population who also voted massively for President Trump. These people will be left out of the insurance market because Medicaid will not cover them.

Next come cancer patients of all ages, income levels, races and political persuasions. All these people will either not be able to buy insurance or will be denied insurance.

And as the affected population took it to Capitol Hill to express their discontent, Republican leaders indicated that these people had been mobilized by the democrats who mostly were seating on bleachers to enjoy a show that will turn into plump political dividends for them next year.

Wooden headed Republicans refuse in their Tea Party paroxysms to accept simple facts such as that the democrats are enjoying the ride and that the U.S. citizens would rather see Obamacare fixed than repealed.

And fixing it is rather easy as it only would take to allow insurance companies to cover all the U.S. territory en lieu of regions.

Also, to insure the insurers, which means extending the reinsurance program that protected the ACA health plans from 2014-16.

Next it would be necessary to relax the rules along the lines of directives already issued by the Health and Human Services Department which give insurers more flexibility to offer slightly more generous plans while closing loopholes they thought consumers were using to game the system.

Finally, it is essential to rein in the drug companies that are driving insurance costs to the roof. This would guarantee Republicans and president Trump reelection. But it seems as they would rather be sacked in 2018 and 2020.

Finally, there is Mexico.

Mexican lawmakers on July 19 missed a one-year deadline for creating new anticorruption rules and appointing a corruption prosecutor, with the country’s main political parties blaming each other for missing the deadline.

In a country where the Mexican cost of the euphemistic name of corruption is about 20% of fixed costs, to miss the deadline gives the world a very clear indication of where the heart of Mexican politicians lies.

They however do not seem to realize that the curtain is up and the public has ceased to believe in their civic wisdom. As a result, the Mexicans might be in the search for an independent that has no links to political parties. The Venezuelans tried that in 1998 with the dire consequences we have now endured.

Published by LAHT.com on Tuesday August 1st, 2017

*The opinions published herein are the sole responsibility of its author.*