Eulogy for Eric Shultz

Eric as a Child With Family

[My brother’s memorial will be happening as this is published. I will read this at it — if I am able to. I have yet to be able to read much of any of it without breaking into convulsive sobbing. -FM]

I am not a Christian.

Having said that, I read the Bible an awful lot. I like the teachings of Jesus — in his calm reflections and in his fiery rhetoric. I would pick up a sword for him, because his cause was just. His cause was that of my brother Eric, who is, I think, a symbol for us all.

Please forgive me for quoting a bit of scripture from may favorite part of the Bible: The Sermon on the Mount. Even in translation, its poetry is unmistakably brilliant. But it is the content that I want to focus on. (This is from the New American Standard translation, which my seminary friends tell me is about as close to the Greek as one can find.)

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him.

He opened his mouth and began to teach them, saying,

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

“Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied…”

It’s hard to know where to stop. I would like to continue on to, “You are the salt of the Earth” and then, “You are the light of the world.” And I could get very political as Jesus does later in Matthew 5 and throughout Matthew 6. But I’m not here to complain that it is the evil world that killed my brother with a thousand cuts.

Eric was the gentle. That, I always knew. But as I became reacquainted with him over the last several years, I saw that he was also poor of spirit, mournful, and starving and thirsting for righteousness.

Bonding With My Brother

We bonded over film, comic books, even sports. These were the few areas where he would still let me in. And it was with much pleasure that over the years — it was a slow process — that he allowed me more inside his inner world, which was rich.

We made a curious pair. Eric was extremely smart — as smart as I am but without the ostentatiousness, which is my shield as much as reserve was his.

This caused some annoyance on my part, although I look back on it now and see it as charming. We would go and see a movie together. And afterward, as we waited for the bus, I would ask, “So what did you think of that?” And his response was, “Good.” I would push it, “What did you think of the part where Iron Man has to fix a turbine and Captain American has to pull the red lever at just the right time?” “Good.”

But his whole approach to seeing a film was different than mine. When we sat down in the theater, I saw a film. Eric entered another universe. He became lost in the film — to the point where I often had to jab him to get him to stop talking to the characters. He was especially prone to scoffing at the hubris of evil characters. You know the kind of scene in a James Bond film where the villain explains his evil plan for world domination. Eric would mutter, “Yeah, right!”

Meanwhile, I was focused on the jump cuts, bad bits of dialog, poorly rendered CG, and theme — oh, how critical I am on that score. I was offended for all of Christendom by the film Man of Steel.

Eric’s Special World

But I envied Eric. He not only got lost in the films, he was also aware of all the technical aspects of the films. He was just far more forgiving. I know this because over the years, he had more to say. If he’d been given another five years, he might have turned into as big a blabbermouth as I am.

Indeed, our last conversation was the liveliest that we had ever had — just a few hours before he died. It was about how Jack Kirby was the true brilliance behind Marvel Comics and how Stan Lee was an evil hack. Okay, that’s my side of things. Eric was sympathetic to both men. But he was generally a nicer guy than I am.

I know that the gentle are blessed in a metaphorical sense. And I hope that they are blessed in a concrete sense. Eric deserves that.

The Difficulty of Repealing Obamacare

Brian Beutler - ObamacareFor seven years now, the mantra “repeal Obamacare” has been both a spasm of revanchist rage and a cynical ploy to keep a segment of the electorate motivated to vote for Republicans. It was also frequently deployed in the belief that the GOP would not be thrust into a position in which those voters could expect them to make good on the promise.

But Donald Trump’s Republican Congress convened only three days ago, and members are already finding that eliminating Obamacare will be far messier politically than devising and implementing it was for Democrats…

Republicans got themselves into this mess at least in part because of a broad, conservative failure to treat Obamacare on its true terms rather than as an evil abstraction conjured by a political foe. In an important sense, there is no Obamacare anymore; there’s just the health care system Republicans are inheriting, and the one they will leave behind…

When Democrats controlled the government in 2009, they could have theoretically passed legislation that opened an existing public insurance system like Medicare or Medicaid to working-age people. But that would have unspooled existing insurance markets, creating significant disruption for consumers and relentless opposition from carriers and other powerful interests.

Democrats instead struck bargains with stakeholders across the health industry, which created political and economic space for a major coverage expansion but left most existing arrangements untouched. They subjected insurers to more regulation, but guaranteed them millions of new customers; they cut reimbursement rates to hospitals, but with the understanding that a spike in insured patients would help them recoup lost revenues. Most of those patients were expected to be poor people who would be added to state Medicaid rolls, in an expansion paid for almost entirely by the federal government.

The political downsides to this approach were fairly obvious at the time, and have become more clear as the law’s been implemented. It’s complex and inequitable; it doesn’t cover everyone; it turns people into customers in an amoral and unpopular market, rather than into users of a simple public utility. But the upside was that it could be slowly blended into the existing fabric of the health system without rending the whole thing and starting over. It’s not a single patch in a strange patchwork. Removing the stitching won’t just re-create a hole, but leave the rest of the quilt more tattered than it was before.

–Brian Beutler
Republicans Want Revenge for Obamacare and It’s Making Them Do Stupid Things