Sunday, November 03, 2013

Shut It Down. Shut It All Down.

Latest Newspaper Column:

I’m telling you, this website thing is a total debacle.
One applicant, whose heartbreaking story was told by The Washington Post, spent hours trying to log in, only to be told via one of those infuriating error messages that the username and password that he’d picked didn’t exist.
Another filled out all the questions, only to have the website tell her that her application was incomplete. A third applicant cleverly set her alarm for 3:30 so she could successfully log on when no one else was on the site, but many more continue to experience frustration and anger due to the buggy, crash-prone online application process.
Oh, you think I mean the Obamacare website, Well, yeah, that’s a nightmare, too. But the online application giving thousands of young people heartburn is the one that 515 colleges and universities (including my own alma mater, UNC) require prospective students to fill out to seek admission.
It’s called the Common Application, and this year, more than 723,576 students used it to send in more than 3 million applications. Gone are the days of laboriously typing or hand-writing pages and pages of information, over and over, before stuffing them into manila envelopes and dropping them in the mail addressed to the college of your choice.
Now, bright young scholars-to-be can fill the info in once, send it off, and go back to their SnapTweets or their Tumblegrams or whatever the kids are up to these days. Or so they hope. It seems that a recent “upgrade,” as upgrades so often do, bollixed the system up, but good.
So it’s clear, fellow Americans, that there’s only one thing to do. We need to completely dismantle and defund the college and university system.
I mean it. The recent problems with the application process are undeniable proof that the entire system of higher education is a hideous combination of slavery and the Holocaust. Just ask any college student during exam week. Something has to be done to help all the young people who are being hurt by the train wreck that is higher education.
In fact, we need to get Ted Cruz (who seems a bit aimless and out of sorts these days) to go back to the Senate floor bravely clutching his copy of “Green Eggs and Ham” and ramble and rail against college until he drops from exhaustion.
While we’re on the subject, where are the investigations? Where are the hearings? Why aren’t more officials being dragged away from fixing problems so they can sit under hot lights and be berated by pompous attention grubbers? I’m a tax-paying citizen, by golly, and I deserve my congressional grandstanding. And I want both dogs AND ponies in this show, do you hear?
On second thought, wait. Let’s not do all that. Because that would be stupid. Like the Common App site, the central site has problems. It should not have those problems. With that point agreed upon, what now?
Well, some pols continue to demand that the whole law be dismantled. This is the wingnut pipedream it always was, the province of right-wing grifters like Ted Cruz and the delusional rubes who love them. Some are angrily seeking scalps and sound bites.
While it’s important to figure out what went wrong so we can try to keep it from happening again, trying to accomplish that through the modern congressional hearing is like trying to fix your busted computer by throwing it into the monkey cage at the zoo and hoping the simians stop screaming, beating their chests, and throwing poo long enough to at least give you an estimate.
It should be noted, by the way, that states who accepted the health care law rather than dragging their feet, i.e., states that set up their own exchanges, seem to be doing a lot better than the ones relying on the federal site.
For example, California, Connecticut, Kentucky, New York, Rhode Island and Washington state “have exceeded federal-enrollment targets,” according to an article in The Seattle Times. Here in North Carolina, however, and in other states where our New Republican Overlords have decided to do prove that Obamacare won’t work by doing everything in their power to make it not work, we’re stuck with the federal site.
So since the ACA is the law, and will remain so for the foreseeable future, maybe we should be hoping for it to be fixed rather than cheerleading for failure. Or better yet, maybe the GOP-controlled state government could make itself look good by setting up our own successful exchange. They could even sigh in exasperation like an irritated tech support guy and say, ‘Here, get out of the way and let me do it.”

But that would mean trying to fix problems with the law rather than create them.