The "Rodney Dangerfield" of movements gets ignored by liberal Bob Herbert. After he says both sides are clueless in DC, and leadership is "AWOL", he says this:
What this election tells me is that real leadership will have to come from elsewhere, from outside of Washington, perhaps from elected officials in statehouses or municipal buildings that are closer to the people, from foundations and grass-roots organizations, from the labor movement and houses of worship and community centers.
The civil rights pioneers did not wait for presidential or Congressional leadership, nor did the leaders of the women’s movement. They plunged ahead with their crucial work against the longest odds and in the face of seemingly implacable hostility.
Sounds like a perfect description of the Tea Parties and what they’ve faced from the left – to include Bob Herbert.
Irony – something about which the left remains clueless.
He doesn’t come right out and say it, but it is certainly evident in his column. If even a lapdog like Bob Herbert is noticing it – it must be pretty darn evident to everyone else:
President Obama missed his opportunity early last year to rally the public behind a call for shared sacrifice and a great national mission to rebuild the United States in a way that would create employment for millions and establish a gleaming new industrial platform for the great advances of the 21st century.
It would have taken fire and imagination, but the public was poised to respond to bold leadership. If the Republicans had balked, and they would have, the president had the option of taking his case to the people, as Truman did in his great underdog campaign of 1948.
But, he didn’t do any of that.
Herbert’s ideas of what he should have done are pure poo. However the underlying point of why he didn’t is what’s important. Whatever the plan, there was no leadership evident or apparently available to enthuse Americans, move the ball forward and rally support for whatever plan there was.
Instead we got a few carefully orchestrated campaign style events where themes such as “shared sacrifice” were mouthed, but then the president never visibly showed anyone what that meant. In fact, we saw the guy calling for “shared sacrifice” golfing repeatedly and now on a 5 vacations since July marathon. When you’re calling for “shared sacrifice”, perception is reality and that reality is critical to the success of your attempt. When leadership essentially excepts themselves from things like “shared sacrifice” those from whom they ask it feel no remorse in excepting themselves as well.
This is what Obama has never, ever gotten. Real leaders lead by example. Say what you will about him but George Bush understood that and refused to play golf while the nation was at war because he thought it was inappropriate and set the wrong example.
Obama doesn’t understand that basic point, apparently. That’s because the man isn’t a leader. And, as mentioned, when even your media lapdogs start pointing that out, it has to be so evident that even they can’t ignore it any longer.
If the administration has lost Bob Herbert, an up to now dependable Obama sycophant, I’d say they’re in deep trouble.
Not that Herbert’s column is an outright declaration of incompetence or anything. In fact he tip toes around quite assiduously laying out the woes the nation faces and his idea of what is necessary (more spending – much more spending) to correct the situation.
He laments the depth of unemployment and the economic demise of the private sector. And he is sure, that had some things been done when necessary (more spending – much more spending) we might be on the road to recovery. But since those things weren’t done (more spending – much more spending) we’re in the quagmire and, says Herbert, “there is no plan that I can see to get us out of this fix.”
Any guess why he says that? The last to sentences in his column and our quote of the day explain:
Bold and effective leadership would have put us on this road to a sustainable future. Instead, we’re approaching a dead end.
When even Herbert figures it out you have to figure the gig is pretty much up.
You know a problem is obvious when even Bob Herbert figures it out:
Instead of focusing with unwavering intensity on this increasingly tragic situation, making it their top domestic priority, President Obama and the Democrats on Capitol Hill have spent astonishing amounts of time and energy, and most of their political capital, on an obsessive quest to pass a health care bill.
Health care reform is important. But what the public has wanted and still badly needs above all else from Mr. Obama and the Democrats are bold efforts to put people back to work. A major employment rebound is the only real way to alleviate the deep economic anxiety that has gripped so many Americans. Unaddressed, that anxiety inevitably evolves into dread and then anger.
But while the nation is desperate for jobs, jobs, jobs, the Democrats have spent most of the Obama era chanting health care, health care, health care.
That obsessive quest, as Herbert calls it, to the detriment of what should be the real priority of this administration and Congress removes completely the label of “pragmatic politician” from behind Barack Obama’s name. He’s an ideologue, pure and simple, and is engaged in an purely ideological attempt to pass a far-left fantasy while he has the opportunity. Jobs and the economy be damned, his focus is on increasing the government’s role in health care by any means necessary.
Now of course, Herbert doesn’t go that far in his piece. However he does trash one of the favorite beliefs of the Democrats as we at QandO have done for quite some time:
The talk inside the Beltway, that super-incestuous, egomaniacal, reality-free zone, is that President Obama and the Democrats have a messaging or public relations problem. We’re being told — and even worse, Mr. Obama and the Democrats are being told — that their narrative is not getting through. In other words, the wonderfulness of all that they’ve done is somehow not being recognized by the slow-to-catch-on masses.
Herbert calls such belief “silly”. It is silly, although not for the same reasons Herbert chooses. In fact, the narrative has been both understood and rejected. It is through maintaining their unsubstantiated belief that it is the public that is the problem, and not their policies, that lawmakers continue the “obsessive quest”.
After the usual, expected and mostly unsubstantiated “Republicans have no solutions” jab (because anything else might lend aid and comfort to the enemy), Herbert concludes:
The many millions of new jobs needed to make a real dent in the employment crisis are not going to materialize by themselves. Mr. Obama and the Democrats don’t seem to understand that.
Actually they will materialize by themselves – unless government gets in the way, imposes new taxes (health care reform and cap-and-trade, etc.), more onerous regulation and otherwise keeps the business climate roiled and uncertain. Thus far, that’s precisely what the administration and Congress have managed to this point.
The quest for more government control of health care has exhausted the political capital of the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress. In the end, regardless of what happens with its passage, this ideological obsession is going to hurt those engaged in it pretty badly. The only question is the extent. But when even Bob Herbert is able to remove the blinders and for once see the real problem from which the Democrats and Obama suffer, you know it has to be just as obvious to the vast majority of the public. It’s not the “narrative” stupid, it’s the focus. And having the wrong focus is detrimental to your political health.
In case you missed it, which is entirely possible, it appears one of the potential “show stoppers” for the reconciliation of the health care reform bill between Democrats in the House and Senate is no longer an issue. Surprisingly that would be the “public option”.
A week or two ago, the House Whip, Rep. James Clyburn, made it clear in an interview that the House wouldn’t be rubber stamping the Senate’s version of reform. No sir. Because, you know, the House isn’t some second class legislative body and it has certain requirements that must be in a bill, such as a strong public option, before the support of House Democrats can be considered to be behind it.
That, of course, was then. Now Rep. Clyburn is singing a different tune:
“We want a public option to do basically three things: create more choice for insurers, create more competition for insurance companies and to contain costs. So if we can come up with a process by which these three things can be done, then I’m all for it. Whether or not we label it a public option or not is of no consequence,” House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn, South Carolina Democrat, said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
When asked by CBS host John Dickerson whether he could give his support to a bill that has no public option, Mr. Clyburn said “Yes, sir, I can.”
I’m sure that Clyburn actually meant he wanted something which created more “choice for the insured” vs. “insurers”, but nevertheless his defense of dropping the public option is exceedingly weak by anyone’s standard. That’s not to say dropping it is a bad thing – obviously I’d like to see the whole bill dropped. But that’s not going to happen. However it is interesting to watch the willful self-delusion necessary to state the Senate bill does these things parroted by someone who was adamantly against the Senate’s version of the bill because it lacked that very thing he now says it contains.
And, of course, it doesn’t “create more choices for the insured” or more “competition for insurance companies” and it certainly doesn’t “contain costs”. It mostly increases government’s intrusion into the market by mandating coverage (Who is going to monitor and enforce that? Government.), requiring insurance companies to cover those with pre-existing conditions (Monitor? Government. Result? Increased cost.) and increase taxes (Enforced by? Government. Result? Increased cost, although not “direct”.).
It also leaves a significant portion of the uninsured uninsured. Well, not really. They either self-insure or pay a fine (or, got to jail). In fact, this bill is so bad that even the ever dependable statist hack Bob Herbert is having problems swallowing the “major accomplishment” line on this boondoggle. He’s not at all happy with one particular provision in the bill. Methinks it’s probably because Mr. Herbert knows he’s one who will be paying for it:
The bill that passed the Senate with such fanfare on Christmas Eve would impose a confiscatory 40 percent excise tax on so-called Cadillac health plans, which are popularly viewed as over-the-top plans held only by the very wealthy. In fact, it’s a tax that in a few years will hammer millions of middle-class policyholders, forcing them to scale back their access to medical care.
The so-called “Cadillac health plans” are those which cost more than what the government (via the Senate bill) has decided cost more than what it arbitrarily has designated as a “cost-effective” health care plan. In other words, it has declared a certain amount paid for health care coverage to be “enough” and anything over that excessive and taxable. The entire intent of the bill is to make those who enjoy better health care insurance benefits pay for the privilege through a tax penalty which will then subsidize those who don’t have insurance to the tune of 150 billion.
As Herbert realizes, that means a number of things might happen, none of which translate into “if you like your coverage, you can keep it”.
The idea is that rather than fork over 40 percent in taxes on the amount by which policies exceed the threshold, employers (and individuals who purchase health insurance on their own) will have little choice but to ratchet down the quality of their health plans.
These lower-value plans would have higher out-of-pocket costs, thus increasing the very things that are so maddening to so many policyholders right now: higher and higher co-payments, soaring deductibles and so forth. Some of the benefits of higher-end policies can be expected in many cases to go by the boards: dental and vision care, for example, and expensive mental health coverage.
Proponents say this is a terrific way to hold down health care costs. If policyholders have to pay more out of their own pockets, they will be more careful — that is to say, more reluctant — to access health services.
Notice how it is in the private market that these “proponents” seem to be aiming their “cost cutting” knife. Tell me – how does cutting costs in these private plans at all effect the 89 trillion in future benefit obligations of Medicare and Medicaid? That’s where the unaffordable costs are. Isn’t that the area where government should be focusing its “cost cutting” effort? Sure it claims it will cut 500 billion from Medicare – something absolutely no one believes will be done. But this so-called “cost cutting” measure aimed at “Cadillac plans” is pure and unadulterated semantic nonsense.
There’s no benefit in terms of “cutting costs” to be found in taxing them. It’s a revenue stream, pure and simple. The “cost savings” rhetoric is purely to dupe those who don’t know any better. It does nothing to “cut costs”. In fact, it increases the cost of those plans. But it does accomplish two “progressive” goals – it levels the benefit field so the vast majority of people, most likely including the entire middle class, is on “equal footing” with everyone else, especially the “poor”. In fact, only the rich will enjoy Cadillac plans after the Senate gets done with it (oh, and the Senate of course, which has exempted itself from what we proles are allowed to have).
The other goal it will supposedly accomplish is ration health care consumption without calling it that (increasing the cost will impose self-rationing). And, it will do it through cost. Yes, irony of ironies, that was exactly the complaint progressives used to support government intervention in this market. But as we all know, the left is irony impaired. By jacking up co-payments to levels that hurt, people will indeed be less likely to consume health care. But that’s not a “cost cutting” measure no matter how badly progressives want to characterize it as such. Because someone will be consuming health care. It’s a finite product and government is in the middle of expanding the market by millions and millions at a higher cost (pre-existing conditions) than before.
Newt Gingrich is out there saying Republicans should be running on repealing this bill (obviously assuming it will pass and be signed into law). I agree. This is the perfect platform and perfect example of government out of control. The good news, if there is any, is the bill is structured in such a way (taxes begin immediately, benefits don’t kick in for 4 more years) that it can be repealed before the damage is done.
Unfortunately, and I say this based on history, the Republicans most likely won’t have the stomach to just repeal it and return to the status quo, or even better, pass legislation that enables the market (tort reform, sell insurance over state lines, etc). My guess is they’ll get wobbly and assume they have to pass some sort of nonsense that appeases the whining on the left. Of course it won’t appease the left’s whining – their compromises never do – but it will compromise the Republican’s principles – again. That’s assuming the same old faces that got the GOP in the mess it now finds itself in are still running the show then. I think you get my point.
So, in summary, the stage is set to pass this monstrosity. The stage is also set for the GOP to use its passage as a platform for electoral success and its eventual repeal. If even Bob Herbert understands that his travesty does much more harm than good, then the average voter is going to pick up on it as well. And since it is going to effect that average voter immediately while they see no benefit from the increased taxation, the GOP should have a very strong case to make. But they better have their ducks in a row and be willing, for a change, to actually stand on principle and then once in power, have the spine to implement those principles and do what is necessary to roll back government intrusion, power and spending.
And that, of course, is the weakness of the plan – the GOP has never, ever, shown it has the cajones to live up to its principles once in power. That’s because the perks of power are just too seductive and the incentives of the existing political system work at odds with any stand to limit them.
One of the more entertaining things to do is watch partisan political columnists adjust their outlook and opinion based on who is in power at the moment. The convolutions, contortions and outright memory lapses are something to behold. Bob Herbert is no exception to the rule as he demonstrates today. Apparently he’s upset with the right-wing crazies out there and is sure their dyspeptic mood and demonstrations signal the demise of our once great nation:
Maybe the economic stress has been too much. Looking back at the past few months, it’s fair to wonder if the country isn’t going through a nervous breakdown.
The political debate has been poisoned by birthers, deathers and wackos who smile proudly while carrying signs comparing the president to the Nazis.
Of course that wasn’t the case in good old says of 2007 when the anti-war protests were in full bloom and Herbert was sure that they signaled a new and wonderful resurgence of public activism that he felt, at least at the time, was so refreshing and so badly needed:
You can say what you want about the people opposed to this wretched war in Iraq, try to stereotype them any way you can. But you couldn’t walk among them for more than a few minutes on Saturday without realizing that they love their country as much as anyone ever has. They love it enough to try to save it.
You can be sure that’s not the case with the present crew who Herbert gladly stereotypes. They obviously can’t at all love this country – especially if they’re carrying signs calling the president a Nazi. Of course for Herbert to have missed the abundance of signs calling the then president a Nazi on the “beautiful, sunlit day” in January of 2007, then his blinders were surely well in place.
The goal of the crowd was to get the attention of Congress and persuade it to move vigorously to reverse the Bush war policies. But the thought that kept returning as I watched the earnestly smiling faces, so many of them no longer young, was the way these protesters had somehow managed to keep the faith. They still believed, after all the years and all the lies, that they could make a difference. They still believed their government would listen to them and respond.
Yet apparently the goal of the “birthers, deathers and wackos” Herbert denigrates in his latest couldn’t at all be that they too believe they have a right to petition Congress or that “their government would listen to them and respond”. Nope, they’re completely different than the smiling, expletive shouting anti-war crowd which made signs calling the president a Nazi a cottage industry. Obviously, unlike the anti-war/anti-Bush crowds of 2007, the “birthers, deathers and wackos” hate their country- right Mr. Herbert?