It Wasn’t A Very Bad Year

When Republicans robotic-ally scream  about the Poutrage du Jour — manufactured for your cable news entertainment — the Washington, D.C. media swims right into the storm bobbing around in their inflatable, and inflated, vests to promote the loudest tocsins sounded among the gaggle of Gorgons.   Breathe.  2013 hasn’t been all that bad.

We’re safer than we were in 1993.  In 1993 the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported the “violent victimization” figure at 16,822,618.  In the 2012 report issued this year the “violent victimization” number was 6,842,593.  [BLSPolice Gazette style reporting of youthful crime notwithstanding, the chart for juveniles arrested for criminal acts looks like this: [OJJDP]

Juvenile Crime StatsSensationalism aside, we’re actually looking at reduced crime in this country, and — yes, we’re statistically safer than we were a decade ago.

The Affordable Care Act is working for most Americans.  The narrow focus on the national website problems obscures the fact that (1) children can now stay on their parent’s health insurance plans until age 26, (2) being a female is no longer a “pre-existing condition,” (3) those who do have pre-existing medical conditions may not be denied insurance coverage, (4) insurance coverage cannot be rescinded because the policy holder becomes ill or injured, (5) Medicaid coverage has been extended in those states which cooperated with the federal system, meaning less ‘uncovered’ utilization of very expensive emergency room care, (6) Medicare members may now avail themselves of more preventative care and cancer screenings at little or no out of pocket expense, (7) the infamous “dough-nut hole” in Medicare Part D (prescription) is going away.  Meanwhile, the website problems — exacerbated by stingy startup appropriations from Congress — are being resolved.

The NRA finally faced its critics.  Given that 90% of the American public wanted universal background checks for firearms purchases in the wake of the shootings in Colorado and Connecticut, it was a signal victory for the National Rifle Association and its supporters in the arms manufacturing sector that the Republicans in Congress were able to block any meaningful action.  However, look at the vote which defeated the efforts to move a universal background check bill forward:  54-46. [Hill]  The Republicans didn’t defeat the bill, not in the classic sense of that term — they filibustered it.   This places the GOP in what could be an uncomfortable position, forcing their candidates into the absolutist position of the 2nd Amendment radicals who are the most vocal on TV, but are not representative of the majority of Americans who are concerned that we lack common sense gun laws.

The Filibuster’s Busted.  Nothing says Obstructionism quite like over-using the filibuster.  The Brookings Institution released this handy chart:

Filibuster Chart BrookingsNumerous attempts to get the Senate Republicans to cooperate on non-controversial executive and judicial nominees failed, and the Senate finally took some “nuclear” action.  Well, not quite all that explosive, but enough to jar loose the nominations which had too many judicial divisions in the emergency column.   “The filibuster change is the logical, perhaps inevitable, reaction to Republicans’ vehement, parliamentary-like opposition since Obama’s election and re-election. The window for constructive policymaking that appeared to open briefly after the 2012 election has slammed shut.” [Reuters]

The issue of Comprehensive Immigration Reform has some traction.   It would be more comforting to write that the issue had been competently addressed and the House of Representatives would bring the bill up to a vote — it’s already passed in the Senate.  IF the bill were to be brought to the floor the votes are there for passage.   Once more, the GOP in the House are in the clutches of the xenophobic Tea Party Radicals for whom there will never be sufficient security, and for whom there will never be an immigrant worthy of citizenship.  Wonder what ever happened to that GOP rebranding project?

Without a shot fired in anger.   It took a bit of a show of force, but the Syrian government agreed to the destruction of its chemical weapons stockpile without a barrage from the USN forces stationed off its coast.  It took a year’s worth of diplomacy but the Iranians, with whom we haven’t been speaking for the last three decades, are now willing to talk about putting a halt to their nuclear weapons program.  Without a shot fired in anger.

Not as long a list as I would have liked, but all in all not a bad year.

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