Good Faith Politics Is Going To Ruin A Lot Of Americans

Good Faith Politics Is Going To Ruin A Lot Of Americans

Every game has rules, and every sport has a referee. But only the truly deranged would invent more rules with which to abide and install refs to enforce the rules that don't need to exist for any reason whatsoever.

Forcing yourself to play by rules that your opponents do not observe – and, in fact, laugh at them – is true sicko shit. Think of someone playing Monopoly and declaring they will not purchase a property without majority consent, or that they can only use one hundred dollar bills to make said purchases, or they will not charge the property's fee if another player lands on the same spot two times in a row. Everyone else would either shrug and smirk and belligerently ask why someone would place these restraints on themselves. The question would arise naturally: Do you even want to win?

Support Bad Faith Times with $5 a month and join the Bad Faith Times Discourse channel

Last week Senate Democrats, in a thing political journalists gleefully call Vote-a-Rama, decided to keep millions of Americans in medical debt – something that only exists in the United States – because their referee said so. In passing a sweeping budget package with all sorts of potentially positive spending in our dying republic, Democratic members allowed Republicans to strip a proposal that would have capped the monthly price of insulin at $35. The cap stuck for Medicare patients, which of course isn't hateful, but Republicans used a parliamentarian trick to ensure the cost-saving measure did not apply to diabetic people using private insurance – another feature unique to our rapidly decaying nation.

Democrats conceded to Republicans killing this vital cost-and-life saving measure because their ref, known as the Senate parliamentarian, ruled that the insulin cap would require a filibuster-proof 60 votes. Since nothing but bombs and police funding can fetch 60 Senate votes, the measure died and millions of people will continue living with crushing debt, with many dying from lack of medication. It is the clearest example of the utter failure of good-faith politics.

Four in five diabetics in the US are in medical debt, with the average credit card debt for insulin costs coming in at a cool $9,000, according to recent surveys. Keeping the insulin price cap would have turned $400 monthly insulin bills into $35 bills – a life-changing amount of money for working families.

Eight in ten Americans in this horrifying and wildly unjust predicament fear they won't be able to meet monthly expenses because of criminally overpriced insulin. Shit like food and rent is often the trade off for a month's supply of insulin for themselves or their loved ones. One-third of respondents to a 2022 survey said they had resorted to drug dealing to keep the insulin flowing for their parent or child. More than half said they had rationed insulin because they simply couldn't afford another batch. That anyone has to live like this – in the richest nation in human history, no less – is an abomination. If only Americans were capable of feeling shame.

Lowering insulin prices – again, only an issue in the US – is broadly popular among liberals and conservatives. It's one of about three things on which we can agree: People should not become homeless or starve because they need insulin to stay alive. Even sleazy right-wing collaborators Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin were on board with putting a firm cap on insulin prices – not just for Medicare patients, but for everyone.

But no. Republicans used Democrats' made-up rules against them because they know Democratic leaders are obsessed with gaining approval from the Senate parliamentarian, who, when Democrats are in the majority, acts as a godlike figure who decides which Americans will live with dignity and which Americans will not. It's hardly an exaggeration to say the parliamentarian, when Democrats hold the chamber, has the power over millions of American lives. People will die because the Democrats' referee ruled against the insulin cap. There's zero doubt about that.

The parliamentarian was not elected. They have no business telling elected lawmakers what they can and cannot do in the nation's most consequential legislative chamber.

Republicans, meanwhile, treat the Senate parliamentarian like the mob treats a soccer ref: They seek one who will do their bidding. Honestly, good for them. They know how to play the game. They intuitively understand that you should not – cannot – observe a rule unless you are forced to do so. In 2001, with the Senate split 50-50 for the first time in generations, Republican leaders fired the parliamentarian after he made it tougher for conservatives to pass George W. Bush's tax cuts for the ultra-wealthy. The ref got in the way so he needed to go. Simple as that. The hideously unfair Bush tax cuts were rammed through the Senate and Republicans scored a massive political victory while Democrats whined on the sideline, as is their wont.

This is but one example of Senate Republicans kicking the parliamentarian out on his ass if he doesn't do as he's told. Once again, good for them. It's a game and Republicans want to him. You can't say the same about Democrats, who prioritize decorum and tradition and technicalities over improving the material conditions of people's everyday lives. Democrats don't want to win. That's a problem in our current political crisis.

Of all the idiotic sports phrases, "If you're not cheating, you're not trying" has always struck me as the most honest, and the most true. No great champion in any sport has abided by the rules. Michael Jordan and Tom Brady are two of the most hellacious cheaters to ever play their respective sports. They wanted to win. The ends, in other words, would always justify the means. The means, of course, included cheating their asses off. Who the fuck cares if you've held yourself to a high standard if you don't win? Losers get nothing, and deserve nothing. When the game is politics, it's hard-working people who lose: They lose their money, they lose their peace of mind, they lose their family members, and they lose their own lives.

The New York Times should interview folks up to their bloodshot eyeballs in medical debt what they think of the Senate parliamentarian. Should this unelected rules-knowing nerd have such sway over their lives? Will these Americans be OK with their next $500 insulin bill because, well, Democrats tried but simply couldn't do what had to be done because a referee wouldn't give the green light? Will these folks invite the Senate parliamentarian to the funeral of their diabetic parent or child or friend who no longer had the means to purchase insulin?

Everyone hates refs for a reason. That Democrats love their ref is revealing in the grimmest way possible.

Follow Denny Carter on Twitter at @CDCarter13.