The new circus comes to town |

The new circus comes to town

More Dogs on Main

News came this week that the Ringling Brothers-Barnum & Bailey Circus is going out of business.

The three-ring circus shows have been around for 146 years, featuring acts with elephants, tigers, bears and other animals. Part of their decline in sales was attributed to protests from animal rights advocates that the animals were not properly treated. The elephants were dropped from the show a few years ago.

Officials with the circus said that wasn’t the biggest reason. Competition from movies, on-line entertainment and other electronic media present what appear to be real dinosaurs and other fearsome monsters in ways that make a circus performer in a cage with a superannuated lion, viewed from the nose-bleed seats, seem something less than spectacular.

When a t-rex comes right at you on a 100-foot tall IMAX screen, the lady riding two horses at the same time is just not cutting it.

The final nail in the coffin, however, came from somewhere completely unexpected. Sources close to the circus said, “There’s just nothing a three-ring circus can offer that can compete with the in-coming Trump administration. I mean, we have 300 clowns, but that’s nothing compared to Congress and Trump’s cabinet picks. Our best can pull a rabbit out of a hat. Trump can pull a nuclear war out of a Tweet. There’s just no way compete against that.”

And so one historic circus ends, and another begins. When Trump placed his hand on an autographed copy of “The Art of the Deal,” and took the oath of office, we crossed into unknown territory.

Nobody has a clue what he will try to do, or what he really stands for. He’s already at cross-purposes with the Republicans in Congress on some significant issues such as Russia and health care. It remains to be seen what he will propose and whether the Congress will go along.

Legislation is a long slog, and Trump has the attention span of a 5-year old.

His cabinet seems like they were selected because they want to destroy the agencies they are being put in charge of. That’s almost refreshing.

I mean the plutocrats have been running the show for generations. They’ve just been polite enough to try to do it discretely, buying a Congressman, siccing an army of lobbyists on every agency to get regulations watered down to suit their needs. So that’s nothing new.

What’s new is that Trump has eliminated the middleman, and is putting the plutocrats directly in charge. The curtain has been pulled back so that the pillage will now occur in plain view. Maybe transparency is an improvement.

Washington hasn’t been working for a long time. Congress has been on strike for years, and shows up for work less than a third of the time. There hasn’t been a really understandable policy on things such as Syria, or clearly defined goals in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, or any of the other un-authorized wars we are engaged in at various levels.

So I’m not all that troubled by an approach that starts with blowing a few bureaucracies up. The problem is the lack of any replacement plans for when the dust settles.

For example, Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act, hasn’t worked out exactly as planned. Even with the (modest) penalty for not signing up, the cohort of young, healthy people who needed to participate in the risk pool to make it all work didn’t come to the party. The available policies, especially in the individual market, are still terribly expensive. So only the older folks like me are buying. Insurance only works if the people whose houses aren’t on fire also buy insurance.

So the Republicans in Congress are all hot and bothered to repeal it, starting with the taxes that partially paid for it.
Then they promise that nobody will lose their insurance, so it’s just a budgetary mess. In seven years of trying to “repeal and replace,” the Republicans haven’t presented an alternative, because they don’t have one.

Health care is something like 17 percent of the total U.S. economy. It’s not realistic to think it will be restructured in 140 characters Tweeted out on the way to the john at 3 a.m.

Yet that appears to be how we are going to operate.

Our government process moves terribly slow, partly by design, and partly because it is hopelessly broken.

When there is a real crisis, though, Congress seems to find a spine and actually addresses things. So maybe that’s the strategy. Government by deliberate crisis. Trump doesn’t have to have a solution. Maybe his plan is to be the destroyer in chief, running around blowing things up, and then letting the experts figure out what to do with the wreckage.

Ladies and gentlemen, direct your eyes to the center ring for the Greatest Show On Earth.

Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.

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