Saturday, September 30, 2017

Editorial: Rs May Boost Single-Payer

Mitch McConnell seems to resemble Wile E. Coyote in his attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, but if the Senate Majority Leader ever succeeds in mustering the bare majority of Republicans to overturn “Obamacare,” which has reduced the percentage of uninsured Americans to historic lows, Democrats should start drumming up public support for implementing Medicare for All at the earliest opportunity.

With only two weeks remaining in the fiscal year, when the authority to repeal “Obamacare” with a simple majority of 51 in the Senate under special budget reconciliation rules expires Sept. 30, Republicans stopped negotiating with Democrats on possible fixes to the ACA and instead brought up another “repeal and replace” bill drafted in secret by Sens. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) with no participation by Democrats.

The Graham-Cassidy bill would do away with many of the ACA’s consumer protections and it would eliminate the subsidies ACA provides for insurance coverage for lower middle-class families. The Republicans also would convert much of Medicaid into block grants that would go to each state so state officials could develop their own health care plans.

Neither the White House, nor many senators, knew details of the bill, and a comprehensive report from the Congressional Budget Office was not expected before the Senate voted on it. But, based on the previous repeal-and-replace bills, independent analysts estimated the latest bill would cause 32 million people to lose their insurance by 2026, obliterating the gains made since the ACA was implemented in 2013.

The new repeal-and-reform bill came under fire from a diverse array of critics, including medical associations, insurance lobbyists, hospitals, bipartisan governors across the country, Medicaid directors from all 50 states and late night TV host Jimmy Kimmel, who has become a prominent critic of Republican efforts to roll back requirements for insurance coverage since his son was born in April with a congenital heart defect.

A report from the US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) obtained by Axios projects federal health care spending would be $18 billion lower in 2026 under the Republican health care bill than under current law, but that’s on the low end of estimated lost funds. An analysis by the nonpartisan health consulting firm Avalere found that the Medicaid funding caps in the Graham-Cassidy bill would reduce federal funds to states by $215 billion between 2020 and 2026. Within two decades, states would suffer from cuts in federal health care funding of more than $1 trillion.

The bill also would do away with the ACA’s prohibition against insurance companies charging more because of a pre-existing health condition. Despite the assurances by the bill’s authors that the bill protected people with chronic health problems, an analysis by the Center for American Progress found that a 40-year-old diagnosed with metastatic cancer could be forced to pay an additional $140,510 on their annual health premium, while patients with more common conditions, such as diabetes or asthma, could see their premiums double.

The Republican bill would allow insurance companies to resume denying coverage for a series of basic medical treatments, including pregnancy and maternity care; prescription drugs; mental health services; reproductive health services, including birth control; and substance abuse treatment.

Nor were seniors spared. A report from the American Association of Retired Persons found that a 60-year-old earning $25,000 a year could see their premiums and out-of-pocket costs rise by $16,174 if they wanted to keep their current coverage.

The Graham-Cassidy bill would also allow states to charge older adults more by waiving federal protections that limit age rating, a move that the AARP concluded would make insurance “simply unaffordable” for seniors who don’t yet qualify for Medicare.

The Republican bill also could finish off hundreds of rural hospitals that rely on Medicare and Medicaid payments to keep them from shutting their doors. That would leave millions of rural residents isolated from health care.

As we went to press, Republican leaders had reworked the bill to steer more federal funds to Alaska, Arizona and Kentucky in a desperate attempt to gain the votes of Sens. Lisa Murkowski, John McCain and Rand Paul, but Susan Collins of Maine, McCain and Paul announced they still would vote against the bill.

Even if McConnell fails to get the votes to pass the Graham-Cassidy bill under the budget reconciliation rules, Republicans will get another shot at the reconciliation process next year. But that will be an election year, and Republicans would like to put at least a year between the election and their vote to make insurance unaffordable for 32 million potential voters. And a CBS News poll released Sept. 25 found only 20% of Americans support the repeal bill. Most people want Obamacare to be improved, not repealed, as 9% said it should be kept in place and 65% said it has good things but needs changes.

The good news is that any major changes are unlikely to take place until 2020. By that time, voters awakened to Republican perfidy on health care matters can put Democrats in majorities in the House and Senate, where a progressive majority could use the same budget reconciliation rules that Republicans have abused to simply expand Medicare to cover all Americans — and dare Trump to veto it.

Democrats are not going to regain majorities in the House and Senate in 2018 by simply promising the same incremental improvements that have failed to excite voters in the past few elections. Democrats need a net gain of three seats in the Senate to regain the majority, but there are only two Senate Republicans who Democrats have a solid shot at unseating out of eight Republicans up for election next year. At the same time, Democrats must defend 23 Senate seats, in addition to two independents who caucus with them.

The main pickup opportunities for Dems appear to be in Arizona (Jeff Flake) and Nevada (Dean Heller), with a longshot attempt to unseat Ted Cruz in Texas. But Dems will be defending incumbents in states Trump won, including Bill Nelson in Florida, Joe Donnelly in Indiana, Debbie Stabenow in Michigan, Claire McCaskill in Missouri, Jon Tester in Montana, Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota, Sherrod Brown in Ohio, Bob Casey in Pennsylvania, Joe Manchin in West Virginia and Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin. If Republicans pick up a couple seats in 2018, they could finally repeal “Obamacare” in 2019.

Democrats need to gain 24 seats in the House and, while severe gerrymandering his made the House Republican majority seem nearly invincible, Hillary Clinton carried 23 House districts held by Republicans, and Donald Trump got less than 50% in 17 other districts held by Republicans.

Republicans have spent the last 45 years determined to block Democratic attempts to show that government can help working people and the oligarchs have tried to convince voters that Democrats are not interested in helping white people.

Insurance companies had their chance with the ACA to show they could play a part in providing universal health care, and they failed. It’s time to expand Medicare to cover everybody, as was planned when Medicare was adopted in 1965. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) have filed the bills, we’re already spending twice as much on health care per capita as Canada, with less to show for it, and recent polls show solid majorities of voters support it.

This could be the game-changer that demonstrates a key difference between Democrats, who would improve Social Security and Medicare, and Republicans, whose determination to defund the ACA bows to the demands of wealthy donors to divert funds from Medicaid and insurance subsidies for working families to pay for massive tax cuts for billionaires and corporations. — JMC

From The Progressive Populist, October 15, 2017

Blog | Current Issue | Back Issues | Essays | Links
About the Progressive Populist | How to Subscribe | How to Contact Us

Copyright © 2017 The Progressive PopulistPO Box 819, Manchaca TX 78652

Selections from the October 15, 2017 issue

COVER/Steven Rosenfeld
GOP plows ahead to hijack the vote and rig elections

Rs may boost Bernie’s single-payer bill


Transportation key to getting out of poverty

RURAL ROUTES/Margot McMillen
No erosion among rural Trump supporters

Medicaid cuts could kill rural hospitals;
Repubs seek $1.5T tax cuts;
Puerto Rico desperate while Trump tweets about NFL, NBA;
Polls show voters reject GOP agenda;
Republicans persist with terrible Obamacare repeal bill;
Trump limits access to during enrollment;
Dems flip GOP seats in OK & NH;
Solar industry braces for giant blow, as Trump gets tariffs;
Climate deniers cheer study that shows Trump policies will destroy America;
Flint had a lead crisis; now it has a fertility crisis 

What happened

Finding a common language on climate

Downgrading Hurricane Steve

The aftermath of Hurricane Donald

New data on tax havens and income reveal America’s great divide

Trump’s tax plan: A billion or three for guys like him

Racial inequality is hollowing out America’s middle class

Medicare for all can reshape the ‘art of the possible’

People need their own representatives

California community colleges win against corporate reformers

Statuary offenses

HEALTH CARE/Joan Retsinas
A Scrooge-test: How much did it cost? 

Eternal vigilance is the price of affordable health care

Marble men

Nature as actor

Let them eat chocolate cake

Why President Trump should support single-payer health insurance

Nobel Prize for stolen goods?

SATIRE/Rosie Sorenson
You Had Me at 너 한테 쓰레기를 던질거야.

MOVIES/Ed Rampell
‘Shot’ takes aim at gun violence

and more ...

Friday, September 29, 2017

Moral aspect of tax policy: How much do “deserving” rich really deserve? Not as much as they think

By Marc Jampole
As Donald Trump and Republicans roll out their proposal to provide wealthy people with a massive tax cut while giving everyone else a small break or nothing, they are restating that old lie that reducing taxes will make the economy grow so much that tax revenues will be more than before. It wasn’t true when Arthur Laffer proposed it in the late 1970’s and it’s not true now, as the recent experiences in several states show. Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee and Indiana (no matter how much Republicans and the New York Times try to scrub the numbers) all slashed taxes drastically and ended up with weaker economies and budget shortfalls.
If history is any guide, the Trump-GOP tax cut would be part of a two-part swindle. In the first part, everyone gets their taxes cut—the rich massively so—and in the second part, the poor and middle class get their taxes increased or the benefits they receive from the government cut. The GOP successfully engineered the two-part swindle under a mediocre Hollywood actor. Now they’re trying it again with a reality television star in charge.
All the rightwing arguments in favor of tax cuts for the wealthy are false.They don’t create new jobs. They don’t create much new spending. And, they can lead to a recession if the wealthy put too much of their new largess into bubble-prone assets. As they always do.
But the right wing also has a moral argument in favor of tax cuts and low taxes for the wealthy, which goes something like this: They earned it and they deserve it. The rich certainly don’t deserve to give up their hard-earned money to the undeserving, the lazy and those who didn’t work as hard as they did to get where they are. After all, America is the land of opportunity in which anyone and everyone can climb to the top and make the big bucks. Behind this argument stands a basic tenet of the Protestant ethic: that the good do well and the wicked do poorly. The subtle but subversive power of this argument is that it puts everyone who pays taxes on the side of the wealthy, since all of us deserve to keep as much of our money as possible. We put in the work and we don’t deserve to have our largess stolen by government!!
In the recorded history of self-serving crap, no crap has ever been more self-serving than the idea that the wealthy deserve their wealth because of their talent, education, hard work, drive and general goodness. First of all, much of the success of any given person depends on the economic, physical and social infrastructure that society provides, usually through government spending. The roads, bridges, tunnels, mass transit and airports that a high-tech genius, her employees, vendors and customers use, the public schools that educated her workers, the consistent operation of society which the maintenance of laws and standards of operation, weights, measures and safety ensure, the safety maintained by the police and armed forces, the subsidies to our health care and retirement systems that allow her to pay her employees less. All this and more is what President Obama meant when he inarticulately said, “You didn’t build this.” He really should have said, “Whatever you built would have been impossible without the efforts of the rest of society.”
More significantly, much more of the success of virtually all of us has always resulted from the luck of the draw than from the virtues of the individual. As philosopher Daniel Robinson detailed in Praise and Blame: Moral Realism and Its Applications, luck determines most of our fates, the good and the bad, the successful and the failures.
The factors that affect our fate include:
  • Having a wealthy or prominent family.
  • Marrying into a wealthy or prominent family.
  • Growing up in a family that has not been devastated by poverty, food scarcity, substance abuse, criminality or mental illness.
  • Being born with a special skill or more intelligence than the average person. No matter how hard a 5’9’’ male athlete of average speed and strength works on his game, he’s not going to be able to keep up with the 7-foot Shaquille O’Neal.  No matter how much a person of average intelligence studies, he or she won’t be able to keep up with someone with a photographic memory. Shaq did nothing virtuous to attain his size. The genius was likewise born with the photographic memory.
  • Being in the right place at the right time, which can mean being the assistant of someone who makes a great discovery or taking a job right out of high school at Apple instead of the post office in the early 1980’s.
  • Being born at a time in history when your skill is appreciated or your weakness not a problem. This last point can be illustrated by imagining Willie Mays if he were born into slavery in the first part of the 19th century or Stephen Hawking before the development of motorized and digitized aids for people with physical disabilities.
  • Meeting a mentor or someone with connections who will take a special interest in you.
  • Not having an accident or dying young in a war or epidemic.
These factors determine not only whether people will achieve wide recognition for their life work, but also the fate of the average person. For example, researchers recently tested Indian sugar cane workers before the harvest when they were broke and after the harvest when they had lots of money. The difference in scores amounted to 9 or 10 points on an I.Q. test, which measures certain intellectual capabilities correlated with success in school and in professional employment.  On an I.Q. test, 9 or 10 points means a lot: for example, about 28% of the population scores between 106-115, while only 9% of the population scores between 116-125. Thus, the physician with an I.Q. of 120 from a wealthy family could work 60 hours a week and earns $400,000, while a lab technician with an I.Q. of 110 whose poor family could not afford SAT prep courses and summer enrichment could work the same 60 hours a week and make $65,000. Who is more deserving of the additional money and respect? Who would get to go to school for more years, score higher on tests, achieve more and make more money if the tables were turned?
One thing that the latest studies on wealth and income inequality have shown is that the United States has very little socio-economic mobility, and less today than ever before. The so-called land where anyone can make it big sees fewer people making it big who weren’t already big than most other industrialized nations.
The concept of the deserving rich and the undeserving poor is therefore built on a fraudulent understanding of the way individuals and society interact. Neither rich nor poor deserve their fates. In a land of abundance, isn’t it up to society to balance the scales and assure that all people have at least a minimum standard of living as defined by healthcare, education, retirement and housing? From the moral point of view, instead of lowering taxes on the wealthy, we should be raising them to help level the playing field. Raising taxes on the wealthy not only makes good economic sense, but also gibes with our basic morality. When the rich advocate for lower taxes to be paid for by cutting social programs and infrastructure investment, they are behaving out of pure anti-social selfishness.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

If you want mainstream media to like your book on American decline, blame the 60’s. Fantasyland latest to do so

By Marc Jampole
It seems as if no social critic can get a fair hearing in the mass media unless she-he blames it on the sixties. If you Google the expression “blame it on the sixties,” you summon up references to a wide range of articles and books in which experts and pundits blame a variety of current social and economic problems on changes in the attitudes, customs and mores of the 1960’s. My perusal of the first three pages of search results found the 1960’s and early 1970’s faulted for the rise in child abuse, our economic decline, political correctness, the vote in the Electoral College for Donald Trump, the increase in obesity, crime and growing drug abuse.
You’d think that most of the sixties-haters would be religious and social conservatives, because, say what you will about that decade, it did witness the sexual revolution that led to more open attitudes and greater social acceptance of sexual rights for women and all kinds of sexual experiences between all kinds of people. But as it turns out, a substantial number of sixties critics are self-flagellating liberals, you know, pundits who claim to be liberal but butter their bread by always blaming liberals for their own predicament. For example, after the election, a slew of Democrats blamed Clinton’s loss on the Democrats depending too much on “identity politics,” i.e., caring about civil rights. With friends like that…
The latest liberal self-flagellator to blame the sixties for the deplorable state of the world is novelist and journalist Kurt Andersen, in his glib and often superficial Fantasyland. Anderson’s description of today’s American Fantasyland is attractive and largely accurate. The insidious spread of fake news; the new level of lying by politicians; the basing of social and economic policy on disproven or bad science; the great numbers of Americans who believe in demons, the absolute existence of a god with male features and/or a literal interpretation of the Judeo-Christian genesis myth; the large number of adults whose lives revolve around electronic games, comic book superheroes, cosplay and other escapist fare; the climate change deniers, the evolution deniers, the birthers—these snapshots of the irrational are but a sampling of the evidence that Andersen musters to show that current American society is based on lies and myths, that we surround ourselves with fantasy.
Andersen is also right when he asserts that fantasy has played a major role in American society since the search for the Northwest Passage and the Salem witch trials. His history of irrational thought in America reads like an outline or a greatest hits list: each major figure in an irrational movement or trend gets a paragraph or so. For readers who want to delve into the long history of irrational thought in America, Fantasyland can serve as a syllabus that sends you to the right people and primary sources to read.
But the third part of Andersen’s thesis—that the sixties marked a turning point, after which instead of being a peripheral trend, irrationality took center stage—is dead wrong.
In sixties terminology, Andersen’s mistake is to conflate “do your own thing” with “believe your own thing.” Yes, a lot of people believed in some pretty weird stuff in the 1960’s. Like the First (1730-1740) and Second (1800-1860) Great Awakenings and the Roaring Twenties, the sixties saw an uptick in interest in the occult and the irrational. But lots of the doing of your own thing in the sixties and early seventies involved overthrowing old myths and lies and asserting the truth of empirical science, such as the anti-Vietnam War, Civil Rights, Women’s Rights, Gay Rights, environmental, anti-nuclear, organic gardening and sustainable living movements. All products of a very rational sixties. And in every case, it was the government or the majority of those with influence who were living in a fantasy.
Andersen takes particular note of the rise of the Pentecostal movement and televangelism in the 1960’s. True enough, but morality is not inherently contra-factual. Morality motivated a lot of the antiwar activists and poverty workers. Remember, too, that a Christian left and right wing have existed in this country since at least the abolitionist movement got its start. Even if we accept the core beliefs of the Christian right wing that have persisted for at least 140 years, a rise in a concern for moral issues doesn’t in and of itself suggest the society is entering a fantasyland. I can be against a woman’s right to control her body for moral reasons and still be living in the real world. I enter Fantasyland only when I believe that an abortion causes future health problems, that life begins at conception or that vaccines cause autism.
All of society bases part of its existence on fantastic notions, typically related to ethnic superiority, national character, religion and the convenience of rich folk. Certainly since Columbus made his voyages, religious and irrational beliefs have harmed the United States. Our economy before the 1860’s was largely based on the myth that Africans were inferior people who needed the white man’s guidance and therefore benefited from slavery. What about the medical, economic and social impact of the myths that led to the anti-marijuana laws of the 1930’s? TR, Henry Cabot Lodge and William Randolph Hearst shoveled a lot of bull hockey at Americans to build support for the Spanish-American War and our later atrocities in the Philippines. I would like to prove that the inflection point at which belief overran rationality was during the Reagan era, when so many edifices of lies were built and then used to justify horrific policies; lies and myths such as welfare queens, supply side economics, the failure of government, the failure of public schools and the benefits of the unimpeded free market. But reading history books like Stephen Kinzer’s The True Flag about the Spanish-American War epoch and Matthew Karp’s This Vast Southern Empire: Slaveholders at the Helm of American Foreign Policy about pre-Civil War U.S. foreign policy demonstrates that the Bush II and the current administrations aren’t the first times the United States has been run by a band of reality-denying ignoramuses guided by myths with no basis in reality and representing a sizable minority but not all the people.  
If we, as I do, place primary blame for the growth of the American Fantasyland on the increase of lies and myths knowingly perpetrated by the news media, we can’t really locate in the 1960’s the inflection point after which fantasies begin to dominate the media and, by inference, American society. Since the original scandal sheets and yellow journalism of the Gilded Age, mass media has been growing inexorably, and as it does, so has the ubiquity of advertising, the focus on celebrity and the increase in myths being presented as truth—in commercials, by televangelists, well-funded rightwing think tanks and rightwing television and radio, on alt-right and UFO websites, in social media and fake news. Let’s look at some of major events in the history of media’s creation of Fantasyland: yellow journalism emerged at the end of 19th century, free market commercial radio developed in the 1920’s, the first radio evangelists started broadcasting in the 1930’s and 1940’s, the rise of commercial television and the beginning of the right wing creating alternative distribution channels for their myths occurred in the 1950’s, the federal law that allowed companies to own more TV and radio stations passed in the 1980’s, rightwing radio was born in the 1990’s, the Internet was the 2000’s, the Citizens United decision in 2010. You get the idea.
Why then blame the 1960’s? We would have to read into Kurt Andersen’s heart to know the answer as it pertains toFantasyland. I am, however, quite confident that the larger phenomenon of blaming the 1960’s (and early 1970’s) for every social and economic ill since then results from the mass media applying a screen: Blame the sixties—we like it; blame another decade—reject the article! For the most part rich folk who like the status quo own the mass media and the companies which support media outlets with advertising. While rich folk include a spectrum of beliefs from left-leaning to ultra-right (there are very few socialists of any ilk among this group), they mostly lean right and mostly want to protect the prerogatives of the wealthy.
And they don’t like the true story of what happened in the sixties: It was the absolute high point for equality of wealth and income in U. S. history and the high point of union power (if not of union membership, which occurred in the 1950’s). While not the inflection point for American irrationality, it certainly was for the movement to provide equal rights in courts, the marketplace and workplace to all Americans—plenty happened afterwards, but the turning point certainly came in the 1960’s with the maturing of the Civil Rights movement and the start of other inclusion movements. The 1960’s thus represent the start of the threat to the special position of white males.
In other words, the real “evil” of the 1960’s is not that it created an American Fantasyland, or that it led to a decline in morals or educational standards or the work ethic. No, what the mass media hates about the 1960’s is that for a few brief years we saw a way to institute a true social democracy in a fairly equitable society with a fairly level playing field, kind of like the model developed in Europe after World War II. The Reaganites saw another way, but to make it work, they had to denigrate the real ideals of the sixties—government spending to solve social problems, a level playing field that did not favor individuals of any group, the importance of ending poverty and giving people a hand up, enlightened stewardship of natural resources, a foreign policy not dependent on America bullying other nations. These core beliefs—all based on facts and science—contradict everything the right stands for. Thus the desire, even today, to blame everything on the 1960’s.
I stopped reading novels about writers or university teachers about 30 years ago. I think it might be time to stop reading books that blame the 60’s.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Kudos to protesting players. Part of being role model is standing up for important causes. Trump doesn’t get it

By Marc Jampole
The hundreds of professional football players who protested during the singing of the national anthem at football games this week were making three messages:
  1. The original meaning of Colin Kaepernick’s lonely protest in favor of social justice: that the flag also stands for the continued oppression of minorities.
  2. In protest against Donald’s Trump’s racist, anti-immigrant, sexist and autocratic statements and actions.
  3. A reminder to the NFL that no team has yet to give Kaeperick a tryout this year.
While all three messages are consistent with American ideals, the later also resonates with the free market ideology that the ruling elite believes and tells us goes hand in hand with democracy and personal freedom. The market is not supposed to discriminate. The market is supposed to reward the best. For all we know, Kaepernick is washed up from all the beatings his injury-prone body has taken. On the other hand, I understand that while on the field last year, the guy threw 16 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. Those are great numbers for a starter, and for a back-up, they are incredible. He definitely has the pedigree and recent performance to deserve a try-out.
That’s the level playing field that sports is supposed to be about. Athletes are taught that during the game they are not supposed to care about what happens off the field: your teammate is your teammate and the best guy plays the position. The only thing that matters is who can throw and catch the ball the best, run the best, tackle the best, coordinate with other players the best. Who is the fastest, strongest, quickest, most accurate. The level playing field—a myth in the real world—operates most effectively in the fantasy world that is professional sports. If businesses and executives so often use sports metaphors, it’s because they would like us to think that the virtues of sports—hard work, the level playing field, team spirit and practice—rule in the real world. Of course, the hard-working poor and middle class of the past forty years might disagree. So would the owner of the company that lost that first big contract to the inferior technology Microsoft offered because the loser’s mother wasn’t on the board of IBM.
What’s interesting about the message to Trump is that Trump has taken a traditional management position, but in such an overtly racist way that management can’t agree with him without risking alienating the players. Trump and the other White Housers who have commented essentially are saying that the athletes should shut up and do their job. Yes-suh and No-suh, yes’m and no’m. I don’t agree with that idea. We demand that professional athletes be role models, and part of being a role model is speaking your mind when you see injustice and lending your trusted and recognized voice to important causes. On the other hand, management asking an athlete to remain silent is not inherently racist, only un-American. Trump makes it racist by exclusively going after minority players. He makes it racist by going after a player whose so-called transgression was to protest racism. He makes it racist by his use of language and code words. In the case of the entirely inappropriate “son of a bitch” quote, Trump also demonstrates his total lack of understanding of the sports world. I have heard “son of a bitch” and SOB used by an athlete or coach innumerable times about whites, blacks, Hispanics and even a Chinese left fielder, but only in admiration of an opponent, as in “that sumabitch hit my best fast curve ball.” Management never wants to run its own sons of bitches off the playing field, just the other guy’s!
My own personal view is that the main purpose of singing the “Star Spangled Banner,” a war song from the early 19th century, at sporting events is to give people something to protest. At heart, it is a jingoistic and war-mongering custom meant to brainwash patriotism into us. Until Kaepernick, I had long advocated ending the singing of this musical monstrosity before games. Until 2001, I would sit with my hat on during the pseudo ceremony. Now I just stand there, hands at my side, and look at my feet silently, afraid to enrage another fan. But I’m fantasizing a scenario in which athletes engage in more and more elaborate protests during the singing of the national anthem, dividing the country and affecting attendance. People in the stands start to participate, too, maybe by not singing. Rather than keep the controversy alive, one team will experiment with no having the anthem, maybe replacing it by rotating the singing of uplifting sectarian songs such as “Imagine” and “If I Had a Hammer.” After an initial wave of protest against ending the anthem, maybe things will settle down and more teams will end the practice. The announcer will merely cry out “play ball” and the game will begin…
But the television blare of the national anthem before the Yankee game jerks me awake from my day dream of an anthemless sporting world. Uh, oh. The game is about to start. Where’re my grapes? I suddenly realize that the real function of singing the national anthem is to give the folks at home an extended break to go to the bathroom and get a snack and drink.