Janus Lives!

I’ve been thinking I should write something regarding the insane debate around health care reform. I’ve been reluctant to do so because I guess I’ve lost hope that any meaningful reform will happen. Surely no sane person believes that the health insurance industry will allow their puppets in congress, on both sides of the aisle, to pass anything that would help consumers and simultaneously reduce their profits. Given the powers and pocketbooks of big insurance and big pharma, anything that finally receives the blessing of both congress and the White House will be nothing more than the Health Insurance Relief and Protection Act of 2009.

But one thing I am willing to write about, at great personal peril, is that it is obvious to me Janus is alive and well and living in conservative western Kansas. Janus, you may remember from your last mythology class, is one of the Roman gods. According to Wikipedia “Janus (or Ianus) was the god of gates, doors, doorways, beginnings and endings. He is most often depicted as having two faces or heads, facing in opposite directions.”

I think it is the two-faced nature of Janus that reminds me most of the western Kansas version of the health care debate, which, at its core, is really a debate about government spending and government programs. We are a particularly conflicted people when it comes to deciding if government money is good or bad. We can’t seem to make up our minds if government intervention is something we desire, or something we loathe. It’s confusing to me.

On one hand, western Kansas votes consistently to send conservative Republicans to Washington. The people who win the overwhelming majority of our votes say they are against bigger government, they believe with a religious fervor that government spending is bad and should be reduced, and they almost all scream like wounded banshees whenever the dreaded “R” word (regulation) is mentioned. In our neck of the woods, we like guys who have a particular distaste for anything Fox News might label as “socialism,” or “big government.”

And yet, our Senators and Congressmen support bigger cash payments from the federal treasury for farm subsidies. They support the expansion of Medicare even though it’s the original socialized medicine. And while other conservative True Believers decry Social Security as Roosevelt’s Folly, our guys support the Social Security program at every opportunity. And clearly, voters out here agree with these stands even though they are in direct opposition to the philosophy of limited government and reduced federal spending.

Hello? Janus called, and he wants his two faces back….

Just for the record, I personally think Social Security, Medicare, and some farm subsidies are good things. But I also don’t see the boogey man under my bed every time someone mentions single payer and a public health insurance option during the health care debate.  I think that out here in the hinterlands, we may find out the hard way that it’s not possible to have our government cake and eat it too.

It seems the overriding idea in Kansas is that MY government payments are good things. Expanding MY government programs to make them bigger is a good thing. But still, we vote for people who agree with our opposing thought that bigger government is bad, and real health-care reform will raise Marx from the dead.

The piper will have to be paid in Kansas if federal spending is truly reduced. Kansas receives far more federal dollars than we pay into Washington’s coffers. That’s been true for over 25 years. And in rural states, especially those with aging voters and declining populations, we don’t have the votes to swim upstream against programs that benefit urban communities. If we raise too much of a fuss about spending on their programs, we might feel the backlash against “our” programs.

You see, we are not one America anymore. We’ve allowed ourselves to be polarized into “your” and “mine” camps. We no longer care what is good for the country, but instead, we focus only on what we perceive is good for “us” and we shrug our shoulders and let the devil take the hindmost where the welfare of others is concerned.

The day of reckoning is near. Kansans will have to resolve our collective schizophrenia about whether or not federal spending is good or bad. We will be forced to look at the contradiction in believing Medicare is good but other government health care programs are bad. And we have to know that voters in other states see our farm subsidies as just another welfare program while we believe they are good investments of taxpayer dollars. We can’t sustain this duality any longer and expect to be relevant in the national debate.

Like I said, two-faced Janus lives in western Kansas, but not likely for long. We will soon have to choose which of our faces is real, and which one is fake. I only hope we choose wisely.



Filed under Community Organizing, Economics, Healthcare, History, Kansas, Political Reform

22 responses to “Janus Lives!

  1. prairiepond

    Just for you Fnord!

    If someone can shorten it with a “read more” thingy, that would be great.

    I may sometimes be short on ideas, but I’m always long on words. “Wordy Biotch” is my editor’s pet nick name for me! HA!

    • jammer5

      Leave it as it is, prairie. Should be on the front page of the KC star, but good luck with that. Problem is, this country has become so polarized, that bringing it together would require one hell of catastrophe. But even that would bring out the worst in people, I’m afraid. Wish I had either an answer or even a good suggestion.

  2. anniethemoose

    massive cut and paste from “the big picture blog”

    big hairy snip

    There was a narrow window to effect a full regulatory reform of Wall Street, the Banking Industry and other causes of the collapse. Instead, the WH tacked in a different direction top pursue healthcare reform.

    This was an enormous miscalculation.

    I’m not sure who to blame, but the leading suspects (in order) are Larry Summers, Rahm Emmanuel, and David Axelrod. Instead of getting a populist clean up of The Street (ala Eliot Spitzer circa 2,000), they allowed a smoldering resentment to take place. The massive taxpayer wealth transfer to inept, corrupt incompetent bankers has created huge resentment amongst the populace, regardless of political affiliation.

    There was widespread popular support for a full reform. What the White House should have pursued was the reinstatement of Glass Steagall, the repeal the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, overturning the SEC Bear Stearn’s exemption (allowing leverage to exceed 12 to 1), regulating the non bank sub-prime lenders, pursuing misplaced compensation, etc. could have been accomplished in the first 6 months of the Obama administration. The consumer protection stuff could have been tossed in as well, though it was not the cause of the collapse.

    What we got instead, was the usual lobbying efforts by the finance industry. They own Congress, and they throttled Financial Reform. It did not help that the Obama economic team is filled with defenders of the Status Quo — primarily Summers, but it appears Geithner also — who fiddled while the economy burned.

    Such dithering can be fatal to an administration.

    This was a colossal screw up. A successful Reform legislation would have fulfilled the campaign promise of “Change” and created legislative momentum. It would have provided a healthy outlet for anger of the Tea Parties and Town Hall meetings. It might have even led to a “throw the Bums out” attitude in the mid-term elections, forcing the most radical deregulators from office.

    Also wasted: The enormous anti-Bush attitude throughout the country that swept team Obama into office,. They should have tapped into that same wave to force the greatest set of Wall Street and Banking regulatory reforms seen since the 1930s.

    • jammer5

      This is the one area I have been bitching about since the election: Where is the reform? The biggest meltdown since the great depression, and the White House sits on its collective hands. Friken unbelievable. Like Prairie says, . . . and the band plays on . . .

      • G-stir

        I don’t disagree with any of the above, but the public has to keep in mind that the current adminstration inherited the most screwed up mess in our countrie’s history. There is a myriad of BIG PROBLEMS to be addressed.

      • wicked

        G-stir, I’ll add a ditto on that. I think there was pressure from so many sides, they screwed up.

        Obama has some good people in the admininistration, but some need keepers. WE, THE AMERICAN PEOPLE MUST BE THOSE KEEPERS.

  3. prairiepond

    Thanks Jammers.

    Great post Annie. Sorry I didnt get to meet you at the shindig. Maybe next time.

  4. back at you farmgirl, how about we hold the next one [meetup] at your place.

  5. G-stir
    team obama was hired to throw out the money changers from the temple. how they got there is now a mute point.

  6. This is so well put. It is very true that people want “theirs”, but don’t see any reason for others to get the same.

  7. Now that is an excellent idea!

    PrairiePond, I can vouch for the fact that having this bunch as guests is all pleasure! They joke, cuss and discuss in the nicest ways. They help and participate, even seeming to have the ability to see what needs to be done and just doing it. Not anything like having company you need to entertain! I will admit to a bit of male chest-thumping when I had the audacity to question whether the fire had been started. I was told by a chorus of men’s voices — we are men, we do fire. I was dismissed!

    Did I mention that some of them could give YOU some competition in the cooking business?

  8. step up to the plate farm girl you are one of our spiritual leaders. you have an obligation to your flock.

  9. PrairiePond, this is an excellent post! Will it be published in your town’s newspaper? It should get any reasonable person thinking about what they might have ignored.

    How can each of us make a difference?

  10. Bad Biker

    Ms. Grrl, I know you live out in the sticks where you have to have electricity trucked in each week, but does your local rag have one of those new-fangled website thingies?

    If it does, give us a link and we can read your bitchy, wordy column each week on our own.

    Think national, Grrl! With the rapid expansion of Pop Blog throughout the country and even to far-flung points like Australia, before long you and your column would be a topic of discussion around dinner tables in the four corners of the world!

  11. This IS a most excellent point. And it also hints at the fact that populism is not dead in Kansas, it has just been twisted by the brainwashing of the Republican party. Reagan made a populist appeal and populists were so smitten that they left their thinking caps on the peg; they’ve yet to put them back on. I have hope that articles like this can make them see what they have been missing.

    One man’s pork barrel is another man’s saving grace.

    Capitalist systems that function for all are always well-regulated and subsidized when and where needed.

    There IS a common good, and when we ignore it, it is our neighbors, friends and family that we are hurting.

    Health care is one issue where all people should be able to agree that change is needed, KNOW wherein the trouble lies and realize that more of the same is not an answer but a stall tactic. Nobody wants their brother, father, sister, daughter, neighbor or life-long friend to die of a treatable illness so that wealthy stockholders, CEOs and bureaucrats can get richer. The question is, will they wait until it touches them personally or will they put their fears aside and open their eyes and minds to it now?

    – 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 –
    If I speak in the tongues of men and angels,
    but have not love,
    I have become sounding brass or a tinkling symbol.
    And if I have prophecy and know all mysteries and all knowledge,
    and if I have all faith so as to remove mountains,
    but have not love, I am nothing.
    And if I dole out all my goods, and
    if I deliver my body that I may boast
    but have not love, nothing I am profited.

  12. prairiepond

    Heh Y’all. Thanks for the compliments. Yes Fnord, it already was published in the local paper. And no, biker my pal, there is no website for the paper.

    heheh. Bitchy and wordy. That’s me! I’ve GOT to learn to shorten things up!

    I’d love to have a meet-up here. Fnord can tell you that my place is small, but guests are welcome.

    And because my love of eating far exceeds my need to cook, I would SO relinquish the cooking title:) I’m really not that competitive. Just bitchy and wordy… hee hee heeeeeee!

  13. Thank you all for never being impatient with me when I frequently bring one of the ‘Quotes of the Day’ here. It seems to happen often that one of the three applies to something here.

    PrairiePond, here is one that says what I think of your excellent column —

    “The skill of writing is to create a context in which other people can think.”
    – Edwin Schlossberg

  14. I consider Phillip Brownlee and to a lesser degree, Rhonda Holman, my friends.

    They seldom say what I’d like to hear.

    I guess we’ll work that out as is needed…

  15. wicked

    Well said, PP, as always. 🙂 Having lived in a rural area for many years, although not as “remote” as where you are, I can vouch for everything you wrote. Not that my vouch is worth much. 😉

    The worst of the deal is subsidies. In the beginning, it was good, until big farm corps realized they could reap the same benefits and get even richer. So what if the small family farm would eventually die? Money doesn’t care. If reform were to be done on this alone, billions could probably be saved and so might the small family farm.

  16. Pingback: Janus Lives! « PrairiePopulistsAndProgressives.net

  17. prairiepond

    No kidding Wicked. Big ag takes that gummit money and uses it to drive up the price of equipment, land and labor. Then they use those high prices to the advantage of their stuffed wallets and drive the small farmers out of business.

    And the band plays on…

    Few people realize how precarious our food supply really is.

  18. Excellent analysis, since I’m originally from North Dakota we have the same situations; where we’re conflicted about government intervention, though, fortunately, government intervention won. That’s why we’re a predominately Republican state yet our entire congressional delegation is all Democrats: Senators Byron Dorgan, Kent Conrad (who’s been in the news lately) and Representative Earl Pomeroy. Indeed, there was a brawl back in the 80s when Conrad beat long time incumbent Senator Mark Andrews, a conservative republican, during the farm crisis. This has all been documented in the book “When Incumbency Fails: The Senate Career of Mark Andrews.” However, even though North Dakota is by all means a “Red” state, it does have a longstanding history of pro-government politicians just look up the Non-Partisan League.