Free Markets, Free People
You remember the headlines Senate Majority Leader Reid got last week when he threw out a bipartisan jobs bill effort crafted by Sen’s Baucus and Grassley with a price tag of about $100 billion for a very scaled down version costing$15 billion?
Not to worry – the House’s version of the job bill is much more like the Baucus/Grassley version than the Reid bill – and even more. In fact it comes in at 10x times the Reid bill and has the usual cornucopia of porky spending and subsidies for perpetual money losing programs we’ve all come to expect from our out-of-touch legislators. This list is classic – subsidies for programs of marginal worth with many completely unconnected with jobs or job creation as well as the usual unemployment benefit extensions. And don’t forget the Medicare “doc fix” – critical to creating jobs [/sarc] – which also finds its way into the bill. Here’s the list:
* $27.5 billion for roads and bridges
* $8.4 billion for public transit
* $800 million for Amtrak
* $500 million for airport improvement projects
* $100 million for maritime interests
* $2.1 billion in Clean Water funding
* $715 million for Army Corps of Engineers projects
* $2 billion in Energy Innovation Loans
* $4.1 billion in School Renovation Grants
* $1 billion for the National Housing Trust Fund
* $1 billion for the Public Housing Capital Fund
* $23 billion for an Education Jobs Fund for states
* $1.18 billion for law enforcement jobs
* $500 million for firefighters
* $200 million for AmeriCorps
* $500 million for Summer Youth Employment programs
* $300 million for the College Work Study program
* $270 million for Parks and Forestry Workers
* $750 million for competitive grants in “High Growth Fields”
* $41 billion to extend expanded jobless benefits for six months
* $12.3 billion to extend COBRA health insurance aid for jobless workers
* $354 million in Small Business Loans
* $2.3 billion in expanded Child Tax Credits
* $305 million to keep certain people eligible for federal aid programs
* $23.5 billion to extend a higher federal match for some Medicaid payments to doctors
If you carefully peruse the list you realize this is “Stimulus II” and will have just about the same effect “Stimulus I” – drive us into a deeper debt hole and create nothing in terms of jobs. Small business creates about 80% of the jobs in America. The $150 billion bill sets aside $354 million for Small Business Loans. $354 million. Even Summer Youth Employment programs got more. Yup – a real “serious” jobs bill.
A poll today said that only 6% of Americans believe the $787 billion stimulus bill (which was promised to keep unemployment down to 8%) has had any positive effect whatsoever in creating jobs. It should be clear that such messages from the unwashed masses has still yet to penetrate the “clueless bubble” many members of the House continue to live under inside the beltway.
With yesterday’s surprise retirement announcement by Evan Byah, another Senate seat moved into the “probably Republican pickup” column. Some think Bayh is positioning for a primary run against Obama in 2012. Like most senators, I expect Bayh does have presidential aspirations, but step one in serving that goal is to avoid a possible career-ending loss in a possible Democrat meltdown. He’ll likely decide later whether to make his presidential run in 2012 or 2016, depending on how vulnerable Obama looks in a couple of years.
A few days before that announcement, this article offered a good summary of the Senate races and their current status. As we already knew, things are getting dicey for the Democrats. The article lists North Dakota (Dorgan’s retirement), Delaware (Biden’s old seat), and Arkansas (Lincoln) as likely GOP pickups. Nevada (Reid), Colorado (Ken Salazar’s old seat), and Pennsylvania (Specter) are also not looking good for the Democrats. Other seats are rated as competitive, including Illinois (Obama’s old seat!), and Indiana. (If you’re keeping score, don’t forget to now promote Bayh up to “likely pickup”.)
The article even floated the idea of a GOP takeback of the Senate, though most think that’s still a distinct longshot. They put it this way:
Picking up ten seats and the majority is almost certainly out of reach for Republicans, although, with a few more strong recruits and some breaks, what recently seemed an impossible dream has become a remote possibility.
The GOP is defending in some places too, and the idea of an anti-incumbent fever eroding some of their gains is certainly a possibility.
I notice that the list of races in the article did not include two that could easily end up being competitive: California (Boxer) and Washington (Murray). Not much polling has been done in either, but what little we’ve seen didn’t show overwhelming strength. Boxer has already drawn some high-profile opponents, and seems to have worked hard to make herself look like a pretentious politician in the last couple of years, which is a bigger liability than usual in this year’s environment.
If the GOP picks up at least four more to go with Scott Brown, that pretty much writes the end of Obama’s collectivist wish list because it overcomes the power of squishes such as Snowe and Collins to hand him a victory. They now look likely to get that many.
Ten looks much harder, but even if they don’t make it, the more they score this time around, the better positioned they are to gain a majority in 2012.
Unfortunately, I don’t expect them to do much with increased power except thwart leftist Democrats. I don’t see a lot of senatorial GOP candidates who are significantly different from the current crowd or from the Lott/Frist group that handed Bush all his big-government requests and the unconstitutional campaign finance bill to boot. Rubio is about the only one with some promise.
If the Tea Party influence continues to grow, perhaps it will result in a few GOP senators considering spinal implantation instead of becoming dreary, complacent politicians assisting the drift to ever bigger government, spending, and debt. But in the Senate, at least, that possibility looks a lot more remote than the GOP taking back control.
*** Update 12:30 CST ***
Neo points out that 86-year-old NJ Senator Frank Lautenberg is in the hospital after a fall. Recall that the Republican Chris Christie scored a surprise upset in the governor’s race there. So yet more uncertainty for the Democrats, because if Lautenberg has to be replaced, it will likely be a Republican replacement.
And, in related news, Obama has decided that the problem is so serious he needs to apply more cowbell to it: Obama’s Save the Senate Tour.
Apparently “engagement”, at least when it comes to Iran, seems to be headed to the scrap heap of foreign policy ideas. That’s primarily because such a policy requires both sides to be willing to engage, something many experts tried to point out that Iran has never shown any willingness to do in the past. Candidate Obama wanted to point the finger of failure at the previous administration. But his administration has fared no better. Now, it appears, that administration has finally realized confrontation with Iran serves it best:
Ray Takeyh, a former Iran adviser to the Obama administration, said administration officials were learning from experience.
“There was a thesis a year ago that the differences between the United States and Iran was subject to diplomatic mediation, that they could find areas of common experience, that we were ready to have a dialogue with each other,” Mr. Takeyh said, but “those anticipations discounted the extent how the Iranian theocracy views engagement with the United States as a threat to its ideological identity.”
That’s not to say the spin factory in the White House isn’t trying to claim it’s failure to engage Iran isn’t a “success”:
Instead, administration officials say, the biggest benefit of Mr. Obama’s engagement policy now is not dialogue or understanding with adversaries, but simply a defusing of a worldwide view that the United States is part of the problem, a demonstration that the problem is Tehran’s intransigence, not Washington’s pique.
“What the president has achieved is that he has outed Iran,” a senior administration official said Friday. He said Iran, by refusing to respond positively, had exposed itself as uninterested in a better relationship with the United States.
They honestly think any objective person would believe that the 31 year refusal to “engage” with the US and the rest of the world was the US’s fault? Really? A country which took hostages from an embassy and held them for 444 days while calling the US “the Great Satan” was seen as the “good guy” in this? The intransigence isn’t just a product of the last 8 years. It is a product of the last 31 years. No one with any sense has ever considered the problem there a result of “Washington’s pique”.
However, that brings us to how the term “engagement” is now redefined by the White House:
At a news briefing on Thursday, the White House spokesman, Robert Gibbs, presented this latest metamorphosis of the administration’s thinking: that engagement is not necessarily about the two adversaries, but rather, about the worldview on America.
Of course it is. That was clearly what was meant in Obama’s “unclenched fist” speech, wasn’t it? Apparently the administration’s gameplan is to refuse to admit the failure of its policy and instead just redefine words to fit the present situation. I can’t say that comes as much of a surprise.