Health care reform?
Or, perhaps, economic recovery and jobs?
On Thursday, Obama’s economic adviser Christina Romer told Congress the administration agrees with other analysts that the economy will grow in the third quarter, and beyond. Even so, she said, “unemployment is likely to remain at its severely elevated level,” and noted expectations that few jobs will be added through the third quarter of 2010.
And what happens during the 4th quarter of 2010?
So why are Democrats fiddling with health care reform and cap-and-trade instead of the economy and jobs?
All I can figure is the radical element in control of the leadership in Congress right now sees the small window they have to push this garbage through as more important than putting policies in place which would enable economic recovery and create jobs.
Politically its a mixed bag for Democrats – push the extremist agenda through but at the cost of seats and possibly a majority in the midterm elections. Apparently they (the liberal Democrats, certainly not the more conservative Democrats who’re actually the one’s who might lose their seats) think enacting the legislation is worth the cost of 2010. And then, they might just be arrogant enough to think they can pull both off.
[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!
Neil King thinks the unemployment rate will be on of the keys to outcomes in 2010.
“Unemployment is the leading economic indicator when it comes to politics,” said Democratic pollster Peter Hart. “Anytime unemployment hits double digits, it’s hard to see the party in control having a good election year.”
Economists generally predict that the number of people out of work will continue to inch up next year, even if the economy begins to rebound. Most see the jobless rate peaking at around 10.5% in the summer. Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan said Sunday that his own hunch was that the economy would turn around over coming months, but that unemployment would “penetrate the 10% barrier and stay there for a while before we start down.”
As Dale has noted, if we were calculating unemployment as we did in 1974, we’d be in the 17% area. That means a lot of voters are hurting and the one place they can voice their displeasure is at the ballot box. Additionally, by 2010 the “we inherited this” gig will have been up for some time. Democrats in Congress have been in charge for almost 4 years now. Politically that means this is their economy. The last time unemployment was over 10% during a midterm, the Republicans lost 26 seats in the House.
Then there’s the stimulus which was touted to be the answer to unemployment. The current administration promised that passing it would keep unemployment down in the area of 8%. But after its passage it didn’t even slow the growth of unemployment, a fact Republicans are sure to point out in the coming year.
As it turns out, Democrats may be happy to just lose 26 seats. Republicans are targeting 54 vulnerable Democrats, 49 of which come from districts John McCain carried in 2008.
Add in Afghanistan, health care, cap-and-trade and the huge expansion of government and the fact that Congress is deeply unpopular, losses in the 40s might not be as out of the question as one might think (think of an energized Republican base and a dispirited Democratic base with independents leaning to the GOP side).
[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!
It starts with McCain campaign manager Steve Schmidt saying that it would be a catastrophe in 2012 if the GOP picked Sarah Palin as their candidate.
My question is compared to what?
Which segues perfectly into the laugh of the day – John McCain has decided he’s going to remake the GOP:
Fresh from a humbling loss in last year’s presidential election, Sen. John McCain is working behind-the-scenes to reshape the Republican Party in his own center-right image.
Good lord … that’s like Jimmy Carter wanting to reshape the Democratic party. McCain stands for everything that is wrong with the GOP today. If ever there was someone who found the wrong message for presenting the GOP to the voters, it was John McCain. And the economic problems the country has gone thorough since his defeat have only made his message less acceptable. Schmidt can bellyache all he wants about Sarah Palin, but without her McCain’s election night returns would have been much more dismal than they were.
Smaller and less intrusive government, fewer taxes and much less spending is what the GOP must put forward as its platform. John McCain, despite his claims to the contrary, does not represent that platform. And he’s not much of a friend of the First Amendment either. He is a big government Republican.
John McCain was rejected because he was seen as a light version of the Democratic candidate. Why compromise when you can have the real thing? Well now we’ve seen the real thing and voters aren’t going to want anything to do with the toned down “moderate” Republican model. And the base certainly won’t be enthusiastic about him. This is not the time for the GOP to even consider someone like John McCain or a surrogate if the GOP is at all serious about 2012. It’s time for a principled stand to reduce the size and intrusiveness of government and to let the citizens of the US retain more of what they earn and more control over their lives than they now do. Find a candidate to articulate that and lay out the freedom and liberty platform and the GOP has a decent shot in 2012 if what I think is going to happen happens.
John McCain is certainly not the candidate for that platform. Thank goodness, his day has passed. Where and even if Sarah Palin plays into this for Republicans remains to be seen. To many, she’s yet to prove she’s ready for the job. But it certainly isn’t too early now for the GOP to say ‘no’ to John McCain. It’s time for the GOP to take a chance and stand up as the party to return us to our small government roots. Maybe it’s just me, but it sure seems like the timing is right.
[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!
That’s how an acquaintance once described the constituency of the Democrats. In other words, it is really a collection of diverse special interest groups vs. a homogeneous political group of any sort. And keeping that collection of special interests in line is almost impossible as health care insurance reform debate has proven. The Democrats in both the House and Senate are their own worst enemy. While the Republicans form a fairly solid base of opposition it is a minority base – Republicans can’t defeat a thing in either house of Congress. Yet health care insurance reform legislation is in real trouble, not because of the minority party, but because of the majority party’s internal dissension.
On the one side are progressives (formerly known as liberals until liberal became a pejorative term). On the other are the much more conservative Blue Dogs. The fight is in the middle and over the public option. The reality is the Blue Dogs are Democrats that come from very conservative districts which voted for both Bush and McCain. Political reality says that voting for a bill with the public option may be hazardous to their political health – i.e. they may have to find a new job after the 2010 midterms. Progressives have staked out a position saying they’ll not vote for any bill without a public option. Republicans will be happy to add their “no” votes to whichever Democratic caucus ends up not getting their way.
Que the 300 pound tub o’ lard that thinks he’s an 800 pound gorilla - Michael Moore:
“To the Democrats in Congress who don’t quite get it: I want to offer a personal pledge. I – and a lot of other people – have every intention of removing you from Congress in the next election if you stand in the way of health care legislation that the people want,” Moore told supporters of women’s groups and unions gathered at the headquarters of the government watchdog group Public Citizen. “That is not a hollow or idle threat. We will come to your district and we will work against you, first in the primary and, if we have to, in the general election.”
One has to ask, what if it is the progressive caucus that kills the bill, Michael? For whatever reason, I don’t think that’s who he’s talking about here. I think he’s making the assumption that it will be the Blue Dogs he and the rest of the “mob” will be going after (just using a little Democratic lingo here – don’t get excited).
And you’ll love this:
“You think that we’re just going to go along with you because you’re Democrats? You should think again,” he told the Tuesday crowd in a speech that was carried to members of the media dialed into a conference call. “Because we’ll find Republicans who are smart enough to realize that the majority of Americans want universal healthcare. That’s right. That’s absolutely right. Don’t take this for granted.”
So the gauntlet is thrown and Moore is sure the hills are teeming with Republicans “smart enough” to vote in government run universal health care. In Blue Dog territory? Where that’s most likely enough to get a Democrat voted out of office?
Moore may have a talent for making fiction appear as reality, but I think his grasp of how the politics thing works might be slightly wanting. My guess is Republicans would welcome Moore as a comrade in arms in the races he and his “brownshirts” (more Dem lingo – it’s ok, they approve) choose to enter to unseat the incumbent Democrat. If health care insurance reform really stalls out and he takes this “un-American” action to defeat Democrats it will also have the side benefit of making Rham Emanuel apoplectic – and who wouldn’t enjoy that?
Yup – from teamsters to transvestites – a collection of special interests in which common interests are difficult to find, much less act upon. The Democrats find themselves in a position they haven’t enjoyed in decades and, like the dog which finally catches a car it chases, they have absolutely no idea what to do with it. Pogo’s famous line never better described a situation than now: “we have met the enemy and he is us”.
[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!
I just watched a video in which House Republican Whip Eric Cantor appeared with one of his Democratic colleagues from Virginia to discuss healthcare. You can watch it here if you like.
Though I can tell you right now that there’s not much point to it. It consists virtually 100% of empty, meaningless politician-speak from both congressmen. Despite some decent attempts on the part of the interviewer to get them to answer some tough questions, they both just dodged them and mumbled platitudes about “educating voters” and “the status quo is unsustainable”.
Educating voters isn’t going to do a damn thing. Voters are sick to death of Washington telling them what to do. Democrats in Congress (and many Republicans) insist that there be a mandate to buy health insurance, and I think they have vastly underestimated the pushback they are getting right now and how much worse it would be if they actually passed it. Any bill with a ghost of chance of passing also has new taxes and new spending, and voters are (1) not fooled by any shell games claiming otherwise, and (2) profoundly sick of both taxes and spending.
Saying “the status quo is unsustainable” is pointless because it says absolutely nothing about whether any of the current proposals would make the system any more sustainable. Given the $47 trillion Medicare and Social Security already has in liabilities, creating another entitlement to increase that amount looks like the silliest possible response.
I expected such empty blathering from the Democrat. Any Democratic member of Congress is caught right now between a hard-left leadership who want government control over when people go to the bathroom and the Blue Dogs who know they’ll be looking for another job if any healthcare bill with a lot of government interference is passed. Not to mention a president who can’t seem to make up his mind on what he’s willing to settle for on healthcare, and whose only strategy is to flap his gums.
But have the Republicans learned nothing from 2006-2009? Has the Tea Party movement made no impact on them? Do they not sense the rising anti-government attitude in voters? Are they so incredibly clueless that they can’t learn the lesson from Reagan’s landslide and the 1994 takeover of Congress?
Look, you idiots: You can win big when you strongly advocate smaller government principles. When you don’t, at best you tread water, and at worst you get your butts kicked.
Watching Cantor pour out the same old politician’s blather was painful. Based on that one video, I never expect to support this guy for anything. And he’s part of the GOP leadership, supposedly the best they’ve got. Well, if he’s one of the best, they’re still as lost as they were in 2006.
I see many signs that 2010 could be a landmark year. Two months ago, I summarized Obama’s failings to that point, and since then he’s racked up scandals with his czars, seen his buddies at ACORN exposed as the criminals many of us thought they were, and had his make-nice efforts toward Iran shown to be naive and pointless.
But absent any Republican leadership on a real change in direction, none of that will make a big difference. Oh, I think the Democrats will lose a fair number of seats in the House in any case, because of depressed turnout among Democrats in marginal districts. The Republicans may well pick up three or four Senate seats too. But without a clear message concerning their desire to trim the size, cost, and intrusiveness of government, they will gain no loyalty or long-term support from those people who have finally reached their agony threshold on big government.
They’ll just drift for two years, using the same strategy that got the Democrats in the White House, which is to hope voters are so sick of the other side they will vote for a change, any change. And, of course, even if that works, they won’t do anything about reducing the size and scope of government, hoping the whole debt mess doesn’t finally reach critical mass on their watch.
With a clear message, I believe the GOP could do a rerun of 1994. But I don’t know a single person among them capable of carrying the banner for that message. It sure as heck is *not* Eric Cantor.
Along with his credibility. When the House bill on health care (H 3200) came out, anyone who read the bill, to include Republicans, noted that it planned to pay for much of what was offered through Medicare cuts. And, in speeches and talks following that, President Obama said that he wanted to “end subsidies” to Medicare Advantage, a Medicare supplemental program very popular with those using Medicare (because it covers what Medicare doesn’t).
Even the CBO has come out, as noted yesterday, and said what President Obama is talking about when it comes to Medicare will cut the level of benefits for Medicare users.
Be that as it may, and as he has in many things, he claims everyone else is wrong, he’s right and those disagreeing with him are simply doing it for political purposes. In talking points distributed by the White House today, they say:
Talking Points: Republicans’ Disingenuous Scare Tactics on Medicare
• Recently, as part of an ongoing effort to revive their political fortunes by killing health insurance reform, many Republicans have been attempting to scare America’s seniors with false myths about what reform would mean for Medicare.
• These distortions and outright falsehoods would be offensive under any circumstances, but they’re especially disingenuous coming from a group who has a long history of opposing Medicare and who very recently tried to kill the program as we know it.
• Just this past April, nearly four-fifths of Republican House members voted to end Medicare as we know it by turning it into a voucher program that provides a fixed sum of money to buy private insurance.
• And this most recent assault on Medicare is just the latest in a war Republicans have been waging on the program for decades.
They also attempt to spin away the CBO finding that benefits will indeed be cut and they further attempt to justify the Medicare Advantage cuts.
But this just isn’t selling to those at whom it’s aimed.
Gallup reports that seniors 65 and older are the demographic with the largest percentage against the reform being offered. By a margin of 10% (42% to 32%) they oppose it.
I think it is pretty safe to say that seniors, at this point, don’t trust the Democrats and certainly aren’t now going to buy into the old “Republicans are using scare tactics” canard. Nor are seniors going to be mollified by claims that Medicare Advantage “overcharges” and therefore should be eliminated.
I’ve talked about the erosion of independent support for the administration and Democrats in general. If the Democrats want to ensure a minority in the Congress in 2010, continue to alienate the seniors as they are presently doing and they’ll get their desire. And that might also mean 2012 won’t be looking so hot for them either.
This is a demographic which knows their issues (especially health care) and votes them. Screw with this program (and yeah it’s ironic that we’re talking about leaving a government program alone, but again, since they don’t have a choice, that says nothing about its quality or efficiency) and you can almost bet the house (pun intended) that 2010 will find a new majority in one of the chambers of Congress.
[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!
I saw this on CNN’s Political Ticker this morning about NY’s Gov. David Paterson:
A new poll suggests that nearly three out of four New York State voters like Gov. David Paterson — but don’t think he’s getting the job done.
The Siena College Research Institute survey released Tuesday morning also indicates that more than six out of 10 say Paterson doesn’t have the leadership skills to be governor and feel he’s not effectively dealing with the problems facing New York.
The irony is the guy who has told him he shouldn’t run for the governorship seems to be thought of in much the same vein, not that you’d ever read that here. But the Brits, even in left-wing papers like the Guardian, aren’t at all shy about making the charge:
Many leaders and supporters are beginning to wonder what is causing this growing gap between the Barack Obama that many people saw on the campaign trail, and the Obama they see in the White House? Beyond Obama’s oratorical skills, which excited not only American voters but people all over the world, he is mostly untested as a politician. His previous experience was only a few years in the US Senate and a few years more as a state senator. A sinking feeling is arising among many that President Obama may not be up to the task, that he may not possess the artful skills needed to accomplish even his own goals.
Suddenly the left discovers his lack of experience and realizes he has absolutely no leadership experience and has demonstrated no leadership skills since assuming office. Wow, where have they been?
But the sparkling speeches have continued, haven’t they?
Of course, being a left-wing rag, the Guardian tries to make excuses for Obama by citing the Senate as a reason Obama has been able to move his agenda. Apparently the author is unaware that the Senate has been around since the creation of the government and other presidents have managed to get their agendas passed.
Yes, we’re back to the leadership question (or lack thereof).
But, back to the point, you have to appreciate the delicious irony of one liked but ineffective politician telling another liked but ineffective pol not to run for office. You can’t help but wonder, assuming things continue on the path they’re now on, if such a message will be conveyed by someone to Obama in 2012? Perhaps it will be delivered by Hillary Clinton when she throws her hat in the ring?
[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!
Charlie Cook, one of the most respected of the political prognosticators, continues to sound the alarm for Congressional Democrats. Since August, Cook has been telling them they’re headed for electoral disaster in the 2010 midterms if they don’t change their ways.
Most of the erosion of support has taken place among independents. Although the country still seems willing to give President Obama the benefit of the doubt, at latest for the time being, they’re not willing to extend that to Congress. The threat to the Democratic majority in the House, unsurprisingly, comes in the districts of the Blue Dogs:
I am becoming convinced, based on this and other research, that although many independent voters are disappointed in specific things that Obama has done, they still hope that he will do well and believe that he might. To be sure, red America has already given Obama the thumbs down. And blue America just wishes he would be more liberal. But it’s purple America, the independents who voted for Democrats in the 2006 midterm election by an 18-point margin, that makes the biggest difference right now. Most House Democrats live in blue America and show little awareness that their party has a problem. However, the Democrats’ majority is built on a layer of 54 seats that the party picked up in 2006 and 2008 that are largely in purple — or even red — America. Democrats ought to keep in mind that 84 of their current House members represent districts won by President Bush in 2004 or John McCain in 2008.
A whopping 48 of those Democrats — eight more than the size of their party’s majority — are from districts that voted for both Bush and McCain. That America is very different from the Democratic base in blue America, and it sees many major issues very differently.
Two things to note – as Cook notes, the number of Blue Dog districts comprise more than the Democratic majority in the House. If independents continue to desert Democrats in the numbers they have, it is not at all inconceivable that they could lose every one of those districts (all of which voted for Bush and McCain).
Secondly, the other point to understand is the leadership comes from the “blue” side of the tracks – safe blue districts – consequently they’re most likely not going to back off on their more liberal agenda (Pelosi’s claim that the health care bill will not pass the House without a “public option” being a perfect example). That could end up mortally wounding Democrats chances in those 84 districts that are traditionally red districts – enough so the Republicans regain the majority.
The political tea leaves continue to point to trouble from Democrats as well:
The 17-point advantage that Democrats enjoyed in the January Gallup Poll (when “leaners” were included) shrank to 5 points in August. Their edge on the generic congressional ballot test has vanished, according to most national polls. For three years, Democrats enjoyed high single-digit or low double-digit leads on this question — a very good indicator of which direction (and how hard) the political winds are blowing as a congressional election nears.
Of course the question is “can Democrats recover before November, 2010?”
What we are seeing is an electorate growing just as disgusted with the Democratic majority as it did with the Republican one in 2006. The mounting ethics problems of House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., combined with ongoing allegations about House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Murtha, D-Pa., and others on his panel threaten to make matters still worse for their party.
Despite Nancy Pelosi’s promises to have the “most ethical Congress ever” when Democrats were swept into the majority in Congress, she’s shown no stomach for actually taking on the tough ethical problems the House Democrats face. Cook is implying that unless they do (and they won’t), that combined with their agenda and the growing disgust among independents with both, could doom their chances of maintaining their majorities in 2010 (much less likely in the Senate, but the Democratic majority may be much less than at present by the end of election night).
Some Democrats are beginning to see the possibility of such an occurrence. Joe Biden said recently that the agenda the administration is pursuing is over if Republicans win in 2010.
We can only hope Cook is correct – mixed government would be a God send given this president.
[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!
That’s the solution that came to my mind when I read this piece in the New York Times.
I don’t think my suggestion would violate the important aspects of our constitutional design.
As attractive as the idea of having fewer constituents represented by each Representative may be, increasing the number of seats to around 1,000 would make the House unwieldy. Dunbar’s number reflects the difficulty of becoming familiar with large numbers of other people, so in very large bodies, it becomes difficult for one “side” to get to know the other. That increases the tendency toward misunderstanding and factionalism, with negotiations handled entirely by a relatively small number of leaders, whips, and committee chairs.
Then there are logistical issues involved with more than doubling the size of the House (where will they all sit?), and — this might be a minor issue, but — do we want to pay 1,000 Congressmen and their staffs? Do we expect that Congress will produce better legislation with 1100 members than it does with 538?
But the status quo does seem flawed. The Senate may be designed to give some people more representation than others, but that’s because the Senate traditionally was supposed to be the great protector of the states. The House was intended from the start to represent the people directly rather than the people as represented by their states, so for one legislator to represent 958,000 people (Montana) while another represents 527,000 (Rhode Island) doesn’t seem quite right.
There are a number of places where it strikes me as natural that a House district would cross state lines, because the people on either side of the border have more in common with each other than they do with other people in their state.
If an agreeable method of choosing where those lines are drawn can be devised, I see only one major difficulty with this idea. That is: how to treat electors for the Electoral College. If a district straddles two states that vote differently for president, the solution I see is this:
- Each state delivers its 2 base electoral votes to whoever wins the state.
- Any district which doesn’t cross a state border delivers its elector to whoever won the state.
- If a district straddles a state border where the states voted differently, its elector votes for whoever won the district.
That might actually improve the Electoral College.
But perhaps I’m missing some other important snag here. Your thoughts?
According to Rasmussen, if given the choice of a single vote to turn out or keep all the members of Congress, 57% would vote to boot ‘em:
If they could vote to keep or replace the entire Congress, just 25% of voters nationwide would keep the current batch of legislators.
A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 57% would vote to replace the entire Congress and start all over again. Eighteen percent (18%) are not sure how they would vote.
Of course that’s more of a feel-good poll than reality since we all know that incumbents are usually reelected and that happens because for the most part those in each Congressional district feel the problem is the rest of Congress and not their guy or gal.
However, it is a number which does point to the underlying unrest among the population – and not just about health care.
Back in October, prior to the election which saw increasing Dem margins, 59% said given a single vote to turn out the whole Congress, they’d do so. That was in the middle of the “crisis” and frenzy of TARP.
Obviously “turning them out” wasn’t something which happened then, but the fact that we had a rather historical presidential election can be assumed to have had some salutary effect. 2010, on the other hand, is a purely Congressional election year. Again, the probability of turning the whole Congress over is practically nil. But it could be a bloody year for incumbents as we’re seeing some of the early polls indicate. If the anger remains at this level and the politicians continue to ignore it as they seem to be doing, I predict that 20 seat losses in the House may be considered the best outcome to be hoped for when election day rolls around.
[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!