I think Kaus’s diagnosis is largely right. There is a very real sense — from the “Occupy Left” to the “Tea Party Right” — that the system is being rigged from the top. Who is doing the rigging depends on whom you talk to. But whether your villains are super-rich hedge-fund managers, rent-seeking insurance companies, or elitist environmentalists, pretty much everyone feels a powerlessness as decisions about how we should live are being made without our input or consent. When did we vote to get rid of the incandescent light bulb, for Pete’s sake?
Unfortunately, I think Kaus’s prescription misses the mark. He likes the idea of the federal government figuring out clever ways to get the rich and poor to mingle. For instance, Kaus wanted Obamacare to force the 1 percent and uninsured into the same waiting rooms. This is philosophically not very far from Barack Obama’s community-organizer approach to the presidency — as if a country of 317 million people can work together like the Amish at a barn-raising.
For practical purposes, people don’t live in the United States of America. They live in their neighborhoods, towns, and communities. Yes, these are American communities, but your neighbors live in your neighborhood, not seven states over. Your kids don’t go to “U.S. schools”; they go to the school down the road.