Real Problem – Hunger in America. That 49 million Americans, including 16 million children, can be food insecure in the richest nation in the world is simply a disgrace.
Manufactured Problem – Debt Ceiling. The debt ceiling is not in the Constitution. It’s an arbitrary limit on the amount the Treasury can borrow in order to pay the bills as a result of budgetary items already passed by Congress. The limit originally was created because Congress no longer thought it was practical to approve every debt issuance by the U.S. government, so they ceded control to the Treasury up to a given limit, the debt ceiling. It was never meant to be used as a tool by one political party to extract concessions from the other.
Real Problem – Affordable Care Act website – This is the website where those who need to obtain health insurance would be able to compare plans, shop, and purchase that insurance. All reports are that the website roll-out has been an unmitigated disaster. The funny thing is that opponents of the Affordable Care Act have been so focused on the misguided shutdown/debt ceiling strategy that they haven’t hammered this legitimate issue (and would probably be a good ‘exhibit a’ for a ‘government can’t do anything right’ argument against this legislation).
Manufactured Problem – Affordable Care Act – Don’t get me wrong, I think the legislation is flawed (mainly in the sense that instead of focusing on the “affordable” part, the focus was just on getting the uninsured insurance). Still, it seems like the worse case scenario is that everyone who was uninsured remains uninsured. However, I just don’t see of the doomsday scenarios actually playing out. And the website can be fixed.
Real Problem – Long Term Solvency of Social Security/Medicare – It is indeed an almost certainty that given the age demographics of our population that these programs will cost more in the future.
Manufactured Problem – Short Term Solvency of Social Security/Medicare – But the problems do not start tomorrow. Any solution should not be half-baked and rushed through Congress. Personally I also think these two programs are too important to include in any “grand bargain” that a lot of folks, including President Obama, seem so fond of. We have time to deliberately develop different options, weigh the merits of each, debate the pros and cons, and come up with the best solution. (We also need to keep in mind that cutting benefits is not the only way to solve this, but you can also raise revenues, or some combination of the two.)
Real Problem – Media Echo Chamber – I think the bad part about the Fox News’s, MSNBC’s, talk radio, certain websites, is that you can now receive media coverage through your own political prism without your viewpoints ever being challenged and lose the sense that others may disagree and actually have good reason to do so.
Manufactured Problem – Lack of Realism in Movies – Ok, I do think this can be somewhat of an issue when a movie is made about real events (Zero Dark Thirty, Argo, JFK, etc.) because unfortunately we tend to forget the “based on” part of the “based on a real story” in our minds. But somehow this idea has been extended to clearly fictional movies, such as the recently release Gravity. Gravity makes no claim to be based on any true story. Yet we have some, including a famous physicist, nitpicking every detail in Gravity that is not quite right. To paraphrase the MST3K theme song, you should repeat to yourself that it’s just a movie, you really should just relax.