August 15, 2019



Mark Rubin

I saw this post, shared on Facebook by my high school chemistry lab partner, Sarah Fajardo fka Sally Johnson. It explains how Sinn Fein can prevent a no-deal Brexit. I read the piece. Truly!

Unfortunately, I didn’t understand the issues even a little. What I did get, though, as a strong sense that too much I see in and about the world is simply too complicated!

I think I’m a fellow of above average intelligence. For damn near 40 years, I have dealt with complex matters on behalf of others. They—clients—have paid me many millions of dollars to address their complicated problems. Still, I feel stupid, too, too often.

Take Social Security. I’ll be 62 in 30 days. While I don’t intend to take benefits anytime soon, I did want to do the analysis. Less now, banking the payments? Or, wait and get more later?

Step one? Identify my benefit levels at the various starting ages. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen a statement in years. (Somehow, at least one governmental body lost track of me.) At, I couldn’t remember my username and password combination. Security questions? Two right, and one wrong. (Identify your dream car. Who asks a question like that one? Whatever it was, there was no Tesla then.) So, I’ve been waiting for four weeks for the letter (5-10 business days, expected), which will tell me how to access the website.

Of course, I don’t know why I’m bothering. I know I won’t be able to satisfy myself that I understand the issues and have made the right decision. Ditto for Medicare in three years.

Humble bragging? Not really, for I have regular conversations with my elder law friends about these very issues. They start with “this stuff is really complicated,” and always end with “if we can’t figure this out, how can anyone expect regular people to make good decisions.”

Too much got too complicated, somehow, some time ago. For sure, none of us need to really understand how a computer works (although I do feel like a prisoner when I can’t make something simple work.) But, how much expertise should we need to decide when we want to start taking Social Security? Should we need a health care degree to figure out Medicare issues? Etc.

I think too much has gone too wrong, for too long, to make the situation retrievable. That said, if I was candidate number twenty-something—not gonna do it, wouldn’t be prudent at this juncture—I’d be advocating for simpler systems. Single-payer health care, not just because it eliminates the profits we pay to insurers, but because it’s simple. Social Security at age XXX, for everyone. And, by the way, national service for everyone at age XXX. No exemptions for rich white kids. None!

We live in a complicated world, for sure. I’m not a Luddite, and I appreciate the fact that every complication has a constituency and a rationale. Still, we ought to accept the fact that we’ve lived in a nation ruled by special interests, who make policies which fit their narrow, narrower, and narrowest needs.

We need a reset. A do-over. Many factors should inform a very complicated process but, at a minimum, the new POTUS—optimistic, always—and Congress should value simplicity for its own sake.

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