Good and Bad Ideas: From Bluexit to Pizza Shoes

Bluexit, Pizza Sneakers and Other Good and Bad Ideas

Kevin Baker's recent article in the New Republic contains loads of really good ideas. He proposes that blue states simply surrender to red state visions of what the United States should be like. He's hardly the first to observe that the "United" part of our national formulation is more idealistic than real: the United States increasingly looks like Yugoslavia for the 21st century. But Baker thinks there may be a way to salvage some semblance of unity. Call it a you-go-your-red-way-I'll-go-my-blue-way strategy. In Baker's words, we can envision this as either the "New Federalism" or "virtual secession." Baker suggests we should cut taxes to the bone, but insist that each state pay its own freight.

Like many blue-staters, Baker notes that the more charitable the blue states have been, the more they've been reviled. Among his findings:

            --Hillary Clinton won just 487 counties in 2016, but those same places generate 2/3 of all the nation's economic income

            --Red states are twice as likely to depend upon the government for funding

He suggests that the blue state zones (Maine to Virginia; the West Coast plus Nevada and Hawaii; and the Rockies from Colorado to New Mexico) should operate as autonomous cultural and economic enclaves with the proviso that these states get to keep all the revenue they generate and spend it within the region. The implications of this include:

            --If red staters want to use the Mayo Clinic, they will have to pay higher rates to do so
            --States will have to foot their own bill when a disaster occurs

            --The military will have to be pared back to World War One levels (about 125,00 troops)

I like this show-us-our-own-money approach. Here are the states that pay more than a dollar in federal taxes for each dollar of services they receive (blue states in blue):

            CA, MA, WY, OK, NJ, UT, CO, NY, KN, OH, NB, IL, MN, DE

Here are the welfare bums of America, listed in order of those drinking deeply from the public trough (blues states in blue; ratios = discrepancy between what they get/pay):

            SC (8:1), ND (>6:1), FL (5:1), LA, AL, MS (40% of entire state income), HI, NM, KY, WV, IN

It's evident that blue states are, for the most part, footing the bill for a bunch of welfare states. And why is oil-rich North Dakota getting so much government largess?

The situation becomes starker when we look at the states in which 10% or more of the population receives food stamps. That's the case in twenty-four states, of which just ten are blue.


 I recently spent five uncomfortable nights in an electric hospital bed, which is a decidedly bad idea. They are supposed to be ergonomic, but if you're not of "average" height and weight, they turn you into a human pretzel. Every time one moves, the bed "adjusts" by using a series of electric motors to change the bed's alignment and "support" whatever body parts have moved.

Shall we start with the fact that said motors retard sleep efforts? If only that were the worst problem. In use, various body parts are raised or dropped according to preprogrammed notions of comfort and in disregard of human variations. If, like me, you are four inches and forty pounds short of "average," you're confined to a device straight out of Torquemada." Want to cut medical costs? Start with dumping these $16,000+ monstrosities in favor of decent mattresses and beds that crank into the desired position and stay there.

On the good ideas side of the ledger, University of Illinois professor Kathryn Anthony has written a new book titled Defined By Design in which she concludes that much modern design is about designers and marketers, not consumers. This explains why so many clothes and shoes are no-size-fits-anyone nightmares, why childproof caps are the norm (even though there are more cap-related injuries than there have ever been accidental poisonings), why non-recyclable and cut-inducing clamshell packaging is on everything, and why most products somehow discriminate by gender, age, and somatotype.  Anthony's work is long overdue. Let's hope it inspires the formation of consumer and public groups that will force designers to subject ideas, buildings, and products to public scrutiny rather than constructing things that are extensions of their own egos. 


Obamacare is turning out to be a miscible hybrid of good and bad ideas. On the good side, Obamacare has brought medical coverage to tens of millions who'd otherwise have none. On the bad side, the best that can be said of it is that it's better than no coverage. Republicans have vowed to kill the program since Day One, which makes it poignantly ironic that Republicans might be the ones to salvage it. Many Republicans, especially governors, are discovering that the US medical system is so broken that flawed Obamacare is better than anything else they can cobble together. The real answer, of course, is universal healthcare, but until things change to make that more than magical thinking, Obamacare is as good as it gets.


Sometimes ideas germinate that are just so incredibly dumb that they stretch conceptions of bad. Exhibit A: Pizza Hut's introduction of "Pie Tops," a sneaker with embedded apps that allows your shoes to order 'za through Twitter or Amazon Echo. This sounds like a discarded Monty Python routine. Who pays if the shoes order a large mushroom and onion that its wearer didn't intend?  

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