Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - March 11, 2017
Please note: These show notes may be in various stages of completion -- ranging from brainstormed notes through to well-polished monologues. Please excuse anything that may seem rough around the edges, as it may only be a first draft of a thought and not be fully representative of what was said on the air.
Segment 1: The Bugs Bunny Way
When I was growing up, one of the great joys of childhood was Saturday morning cartoons. And now that I have young kids of my own, I feel like I have a cultural duty to pass along a sense of appreciation for the classics.
Now, if you're asked to name the iconic American cartoon character, I'll bet a shiny nickel that the majority of people out there would say Mickey Mouse.
I wholeheartedly disagree.
There is no question in my mind -- none whatsoever -- that the most American cartoon character isn't that saccharine, inoffensive, pants-wearing mouse, but rather the perpetually irascible Bugs Bunny.
And I say the following with the full understanding that the best way to lose an argument is to overstate my case: The President of the United States needs to emulate Bugs Bunny. I don't care if that means Reince Priebus has to re-wire the Oval Office cable so that the only channel left is one that plays non-stop Looney Tunes.
Bugs Bunny is the iconic American cartoon character -- perhaps the iconic American character, period -- because even though he was created as a cartoon, in the golden era of those animated shorts, the Warner Brothers team that brought him to life followed some rules that could not be broken.
First and foremost: Bugs Bunny never picked a fight. That might have you raising an eyebrow, since all of those classic cartoons involved some kind of conflict. But Bugs Bunny never started them. It was a firm rule -- he only responded if provoked. Now, the world of course found all kinds of ways to provoke him, and when called upon, he would react. But Bugs never started the fight.
But that brings us to item number two: Once engaged in a fight, he didn't win by brute force. He was a rabbit, after all. Instead, he won by outsmarting his opponents. His brain won the battles, not his fists. Remember, Elmer Fudd and Yosemite Sam had the guns. Bugs had his wits.
Not unrelated is item number three: It's OK to be rough around the edges, but you have to know your culture. The obvious point to make here is that all kinds of Bugs Bunny cartoons made reference to high-minded culture -- think of "The Rabbit of Seville". But beyond that, if you really pay attention, you'll notice that Bugs Bunny is often minding his own business when he's provoked by someone or something else. And quite often, "Minding his own business" meant reading a book. Chuck Jones, who directed many of the Looney Tunes shorts, was emphatic that his teams read and learn new things to integrate into their films. And that's a great practice for us all. If you don't constantly encounter new and novel input, it's hard to have new and original ideas.
Finally, point number four: Stand up for yourself and for the defenseless. This is the most American characteristic of all.
We are now about 50 days into an administration that promised to act like a wrecking ball. There's been plenty of that. But has there been enough construction? Has there been enough building of something better for the next 50 days?
A lot of people have tried to argue that ideology is dead these days, and that Trumpism and populism are the proof. I beg to differ. But I would submit that any ideology should have at least the same grounding as the Bugs Bunny cartoons, and I'm afraid I'm still waiting to see examples of that recognition from many on both the left and the right. We're seeing a lot of shortcomings from the administration, but we're also seeing them from people who want to plug their ears and break things on the left as well.
Bottom line: If you're not able to come up with as coherent a philosophy as Bugs Bunny, I don't care what you call yourself. You're not doing enough.
Segment 2: Automation is coming, minimum wage hikes or not
Segment 3: Compulsory education for everyone?
- Not just a skills gap problem, but one of skills rot
- How many occupations already require continuing education?
- Best employers already focus on skill development, but what about the employees trapped in jobs where the employers don't invest?
- Would permanently increase labor mobility
- Of course not a perfect answer, nor the only one. But we have to open our eyes to the problem and engage in a serious debate about the answers. Need to frame the problem.
Segment 4: Why I really hate Daylight Saving Time
- The worst kind of tax: A tax on our time
- The worst kind of investment: It's returned without interest
- And it only leaves us cranky when it's just as easy for employers to change their working hours
Segments 5 and 6: Reforming health care
Suppose you were charged with creating a government health-insurance program from scratch. Suppose, too, that this program was to be created without any pre-existing conditions: Your only charge is to deliver the maximum quality of health at a minimum level of expense.
If you were truly starting from scratch, then you'd have to decide how to allocate the limited funds you would have available. And the rational way to do this -- if you had your eye on the total long-term costs of the program -- would be to skew your spending in the direction of whatever would prevent the largest costs down the road.
Priority 1: Spend on the young in high-return ways that will result in maximum long-term savings
Priority 2: Spend on those who have no control over their outcomes (young people, genetic conditions, accidents, unpreventable catastrophic conditions)
Priority 3: Reward investment by individuals and care providers in wellness upkeep rather than recovery from illness
Priority 4: Reward calculated risk-taking in research and development
Priority 5: Maximize availability and application of best practices wherever found
Show me a system that puts an emphasis on these priorities, and maybe we can talk.