Free Markets, Free People


“Denial” Isn’t A River In Egypt

I swear I have no idea what the left is smoking, but whatever it is, it makes them blind to reality. One of the more prominent examples of this condition is Steve Benen at Washington Monthly’s “Political Animal”.

He cites Kevin Drum who remembers what the Republicans faced when they too had both houses of Congress and the Presidency:

They wanted a revolution, but instead they got NCLB. And a wimpy stem cell compromise. And Sarbanes-Oxley. And McCain-Feingold. And a huge Medicare expansion. And complete gridlock on Social Security.

Not exactly what they signed up for.

Drum goes on to sarcastically point out that Reps did get a nice tax cut and a couple nice wars, but his point was that “Washington DC is a tough place to get anything done.” And at the time, Democrats were no small part of the reason.

Benen then adds his two cents about why Republicans found DC a tough place based on some rather dubious analysis. Then he adds this:

Obama is finding that D.C. is tough place to get anything done for entirely different reasons. The White House agenda is popular, but his obstacles are almost entirely institutional hurdles — the Senate operating as if every bill demands a supermajority, the Kennedy/Byrd illnesses, and the prevalence of center-right Dems in both chambers who look askance at the progressive agenda and who the president has no real leverage over.

A) As we’ve pointed out, the belief that the White House agenda is popular is not reflected at all in polling. Why Benen and the Democrats believe this can only be categorized as “denial”.

B) The Senate rules, something Senators agree too on their own, does require every bill have a supermajority. Benen wants those rules ignored for a simple majority that he’s sure they can squeak out. I understand his desire, but pretending that the “supermajority” is some artifice that isn’t required is BS.

C) The reason for the prevalence of center-right Dems reflects a majority center-right nation. Not a “progressive” nation. And, obviously if you pay attention to the polls, they’re not the only one’s who look askance at a “progressive agenda”.

The only thing Benen and I agree on is “the president has no real leverage” and he proves it every day.


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A Majority Of Americans Say Stimulus Not Working

Speaking of skeptical Americans, there’s not much of anything this administration is saying that they believe. For instance, in a new USA Today/Gallup poll, 57% of them say the stimulus isn’t working:

Six months after President Obama launched a $787 billion plan to right the nation’s economy, a majority of Americans think the avalanche of new federal aid has cost too much and done too little to end the recession.

That’s a pretty stark number, and I would guess the administration knows that it is more likely to go up rather than down considering how the stimulus funds were to be disbursed over the years.

75% said they were very worried or somewhat worried that the stimulus funds were being wasted. 60% think the plan will have no effect or actually make things worse. 81% believe that in the short run the plan has made their own financial situation worse or had no effect, and 70% believe the plan will make their financial situation worse or have no effect in the long run.

That is a glaring lack of confidence in government. It is also another indication of why I continue to say that the anger you see at townhall meetings isn’t just about health care. For decades through the administrations of both parties we’ve seen the metaphor about the frog in slowly heated water acted out.

But what happened late last year was the heat under the frog was turned up to high and the frog finally noticed it and didn’t like it. Bailouts and “stimulus” in the trillions with money we don’t have. The government takeover of banks, financial institutions and auto companies. Deficits exponentially larger than any in history and extending into the future as far as the eye can see. And then the attempt to regulate emissions in the face of unsettled and dubious “science” through cap-and-trade, and the final straw, the health care grab.

The frog has jumped out of the pot and is yelling “WTF!”

And folks, that’s a good thing.


Skeptical Americans Continue To Say No To Democratic Health Care Plan

Rasmussen reports:

Just 27% of all voters agree with the senior House Democrats [Pelosi/Hoyer] that if the health care reform being considered by Congress is passed, it will mean more patient choice. Forty-nine percent (49%) disagree and do not believe more patient choice is likely, and 24% are not sure.

Among voters who have health insurance, the majority (52%) says the plan, if passed, will not mean more patient choice, while 25% say it will.

Democrats like to blame that disparity in support on “misinformation” circulating out there as well as “un-American” protesters keeping them from getting the “facts” out at townhalls.

But, in actuality, their “facts” and their message has been getting out. The president has held three “townhalls” not to mention an op/ed in the NY Times in which he has, without interruption, been able to lay out both the message and the Democrats version of the facts. And the polls continue to tank.

That’s because the message is one that most don’t believe. That’s primarily because a majority of Americans believe the “facts” upon which it is based are dubious at best. For instance, as Peter Ferrara points out:

At his town hall meeting on health care on Saturday in Colorado, President Obama told the audience:

“I just want to be completely clear about this; I keep on saying this but somehow folks aren’t listening — if you like your health care plan, you keep your health care plan.”

That is, unless your health care plan is Medicare Advantage — the private insurance options that almost one-fourth of seniors have chosen for their coverage under Medicare. Republicans enacted this choice for seniors, and many, many seniors have chosen one of these private insurance options because they get better benefits from it than from standard Medicare.

President Obama’s health plan targets these Medicare Advantage private plans for $177 billion in cuts in what he misleadingly calls “subsidies”and “sweetheart deals for insurance companies that don’t make anybody any healthier.”At a minimum, these cuts will force these plans to cut back on the benefits they provide to seniors. Or the Medicare Advantage plans may just go out of business altogether, dumping all the seniors who have made that choice because they think they are getting a better deal from those plans.

Seniors know what that means and are rejecting the glib assurances from Obama that he isn’t really saying what he’s saying.

And that rejection of the president’s mantra doesn’t even touch on the effect of the ‘public option’ which various experts say would see 10 to 80 million shifted into it from their present plans.

If one of the targets of this plan is private insurance companies and the goal is to “keep them honest”, it doesn’t take Stephen Hawking to figure out that the chances are very good your private plan may go away.

Back to seniors. They’ve also seen through Obama’s assertions, given as “fact”, that there won’t be any reduction in Medicare benefits:

In these town halls, President Obama has repeatedly denied that his health overhaul scheme includes any cuts in Medicare. But besides slashing Medicare Advantage, the Congressional bills cut over $300 billion more from the program, which the Congressional Budget Office has scored. When arguing that his health overhaul is paid for, he wants credit for these cuts. But when challenged, he wants to deny before the whole country — in broad daylight — that he is doing it. I can’t recall any precedent for such a presidential disconnect from reality.

The disconnect comes from his unfamiliarity with the bill and the fact that he’s turned over the responsibility for it to Congress. Consequently he is out touting something that doesn’t exist. He may actually desire that Medicare not reduce benefits, but that’s not what the bill says. Those “savings” have got to come from somewhere, and since the administration loves to assert that Medicare is so much more efficient than private insurance, that leaves the benefits area from which to reap those savings.

Again, you don’t have to be a MIT grad to figure that out. And seniors have figured it out. That’s they’re rejecting Obama’s assurances.

Obama also continues to claim that overall this plan will save health care dollars, and, magically, eliminate the unfunded future liability in Medicare.

In Colorado on Saturday, President Obama suggested that his health overhaul scheme would “bend the cost curve,”reducing “health care inflation”so much that the enormous long term deficit of Medicare (unfunded liability: $89 trillion) would be eliminated! Otherwise, he said, “We’ll either have to cut Medicare, in which case seniors then will bear the brunt of it, or we’ll have to raise taxes, which nobody likes.”

But the CBO has not confirmed anything like that. What it has said, again, is just the opposite, that Obama’s health plans will not reduce costs, but, rather, will increase federal spending by close to a trillion dollars.

Since, as is pointed out, the CBO said nothing of the sort and, in fact, said precisely to opposite, what does that leave us? Well once you know that CBO said this plan would increase cost, we are left with the reality of Medicare cuts and tax increases.

That’s right: “…cut Medicare [benefits], in which case seniors then will bear the brunt of it, or we’ll have to raise taxes…”, or both. The cuts in Medicare, as mentioned, are already in the plan. Taxes going up is inevitable if this gets passed. He’s asserting a fantasy based on a lie and using the Medicare cuts and tax increases as a scare tactic to get the fantasy passed.

And of course, finally, after having this officially denied by AARP, he continues to say, at two townhalls after the denial, that AARP is “onboard” with their plan. That continued unfounded assertion is costing AARP thousands of members quitting in disgust.

In other words, it isn’t that the message isn’t getting out there, but that most Americans don’t agree on who is doing the mischaracterizing. It appears they believe that it is the Democrats and the president who are attempting to sell a program which they are mischaracterizing as something it is not.

In return for their refusal to be duped, Americans are being called all sorts of names by the hired help. It is an amazing spectacle in which the servant calls the master names because the master doesn’t like the servant’s crack-pot ideas and doesn’t believe their talking points.

The irony, of course, is much like the Republicans when they lost the Congress in 2006, the Democrats have yet to figure this out. They’re lost in the belief that their problem lies in messaging and if they just do a better job of delivering it all will be fine. What they don’t realize is the message is out there and it has been rejected.

Most voters (54%) now say no health care reform legislation this year would be better than passage of the bill currently working its way through Congress. This does not mean that most voters are opposed to health care reform, but it does highlight the level of concern about the specifics now being discussed in Washington.

The message from the majority? Slow down, there is no rush, drop this mess and rethink it. If Democrats don’t listen and ram something through, they do so at their own peril and there will be consequences.


Barack Obama’s Health Care Editorial

Barack Obama editorial in the NY Times is another part of cranking up the left wing scream machine in effort to counter the detrimental effect townhall protesters have had on the Democrat’s health care grab. It is mostly appeals to emotion and the repeating of discredited talking points (to include the “AARP supports this” nonsense). But these lines especially caught my attention:

We are bound to disagree, but let’s disagree over issues that are real, and not wild misrepresentations that bear no resemblance to anything that anyone has actually proposed. This is a complicated and critical issue, and it deserves a serious debate.

They totally contradict this line within the same editorial:

I hear more and more stories like these every single day, and it is why we are acting so urgently to pass health-insurance reform this year.

This is a familiar Obama tactic. Give lip service through high sounding rhetoric about “serious debate”, but in reality be focused on “urgently pass[ing] health insurance this year” and avoiding debate. It is supposed to fool you into thinking he’s committed to debate while in reality he’s trying to push this legislation through as quickly as possible.

Serious debates are not time sensitive – they go on until the debate is settled to everyone’s satisfaction. That is not at all Obama or the Democrat’s intent.

That takes us to the most disingenuous line in the op/ed:

In the end, this isn’t about politics.

That, of course, is nonsense on stilts. In the end, this is all about politics and that point is demonstrated by the rush to pass the legislation.

If, as Obama asserts, this is about “people’s lives and livelihoods” and also a “complicated and critical issue, and it deserves a serious debate”, then you have to ask – what’s the rush? Don’t “complicated and critical issues” deserve close scrutiny and extended debate?

On the other hand, if he actually believes it is about “people’s lives and livelihoods” and we must rush to accommodate the people, why does the bulk of the proposed legislation not kick in until 2013? If it’s not about politics, why is the implementation date one year after a second term would start? How does that start date support the rhetoric about the “urgency” of the matter?

In reality, there is no final bill and there has been no real debate anyone can point too in Congress. In fact it has taken the people going to townhall meetings and passionately expressing their displeasure to start the debate.

The “not about politics” is more of the glib Obama nonsense that people are beginning to see through. This is all politics – because he and the Democrats know that if they actually have a “serious debate”, this most likely wouldn’t pass. The rush to pass it is specifically to avoid that debate, gloss over the details and get it into law while Obama still has some political capital.

That effort, as we’ve seen through the polls, is in serious trouble now and Democrats can deny that or try to wave it away until the cows come home – but that won’t change anything.

However, and again despite Barack Obama’s rhetoric to the contrary (“But let’s make sure that we talk with one another, and not over one another.“), this op/ed is an attempt to talk over the opposition, not with it. And it is beginning of an attempt by the left to ramp up an effort to talk over the townhall protesters and lessen their obvious impact which has been negative for the administration. Again, if you don’t believe that, simply read where Obama contradicts his high sounding rhetoric by doing precisely what he condemns:

In the coming weeks, the cynics and the naysayers will continue to exploit fear and concerns for political gain.

Obviously, at least according to Obama, you can’t have a valid argument against his political health care prescription, but must instead be a “cynic” or “naysayer” trying to “exploit fear” for “political gain”.

And, of course, we all know Obama and the Democrats would never do that, don’t we?


Democrats And The “Senior” Vote

More polling to consider from a Politico article:

“Seniors are one of the most attentive and engaged constituencies, especially on health care issues, and we’ve seen that in the Medicare Advantage programs,” said Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for America’s Health Insurance Plans.

A July 31 Gallup Poll found that just 20 percent of Americans aged 65 and older believe health care reform would improve their own situation, noticeably lower than the 27 percent of 18- to 49-year olds and 26 percent of 50-to-64-year-olds who say the same.

The senior citizen problem could pose a serious problem for the 2010 election cycle.

Older Americans turn out in much higher numbers than other age groups during midterm elections. In 2006, the 55-and-older age group still had the highest voting rate of any age group, at 63 percent, even though younger voters turned out in record numbers for a midterm, according to census data. Half of all votes cast in the 2006 midterms were from voters age 50 or older, according to AARP. And one out of four were AARP members.

Of course, one of the ironies the left likes to point to is that seniors are actually saying they don’t want their socialistic, single-payer system changed. I think that’s a very lazy bit of analysis. I would instead suggest that since seniors have no choice about their socialistic, single-payer system (they’re automatically enrolled at age 65) that what the system is has nothing to do with the protest. They had no choice in the matter.

Seniors are a very tuned in group when it comes to health care because they know what they have is all they can have and the government is talking about legislation to cut that. And one of the areas targeted is the private insurance that covers the gaps Medicare doesn’t cover:

But Obama is talking about finding hundreds of billions in savings from Medicare — cuts supporters say will trim fat from the program — including slashing $156 billion in subsidies to Medicare Advantage, a privately administered Medicare program.

The cuts will also target the amount health care providers are paid to treat Medicare patients.

One of the dirty little secrets about the cost of private health care that you’ll never hear the Democrats or the Obama administration point out is the tremendous amount of cost shifting that goes on from the private sector to cover the public sector.

For every dollar of health care delivered to a Medicare patient, the government pays, on average, $.94. Medicaid only pays $0.86. However, health care providers are able to squeeze those nasty old private insurance providers for $1.34* for every dollar of health care provided. That’s how badly government has distorted the health care industry. It then has the temerity to scream that the private side is “bankrupting” us. Meanwhile it is the private side that has, for decades, been subsidizing the public side.

But back to seniors. Seniors know you don’t recover or save health care costs from healthy people. Seniors also know that they’re in the group in which most health care dollars are spent. Consequently, any savings, a stated goal of the so-called “reform” is most likely going to come from their part of the health care pie.

The proposed cuts to Medicare Advantage are real, but Democrats are also fighting full-blown myths that have gained traction, attacks claiming that reform would create government “death panels” authorizing euthanasia.

The rhetoric is designed to rattle seniors already nervous about health care

because they pay a higher percentage of their income for health care

than younger Americans and face rising costs on fixed incomes, said Jim Dau, a spokesman for AARP.

“Some are simply trying to derail health care reform by targeting seniors, by scaring them, making them, frankly, more dubious, more nervous,” said Dau.

Dau’s protest simply has no legs. The House legislation targets Medicare and talks about cuts to that system. That’s not something the protesters have made up to “rattle” seniors. Instead, it is something which exists, in writing.

And, as I point out above, if you’re a senior you don’t have to be an MIT grad to understand from where the euphemistic “savings” have to come. From the group where most of the spending occurs – duh?!

“Death-panels” and other nonsense aside, seniors have sniffed out the plan and aren’t happy with it. And, again, if you look at the rooms in which these protests are taking place, there are a tremendous number of grey heads evident.

So, we have independents (below) not happy with this power grab in the health care area and we have seniors obviously not happy. Are Democrats paying attention at all or, like Dau, do they plan to wave it all off as opposition dirty tricks and pretend all will work out for the best after they ram this through?

2010 is looking like a lot more fun than I believed it would be.



[*] Those numbers came from Betsy McCoy, former Lt. Gov of NY, in an interview. McCoy is a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute and a patient advocate.

So Much For “Backlash”

As I tried to point out yesterday, those inside the beltway like Marc Ambinder and Charles Krauthammer, who think these visceral and grassroots displays of anger at elected officials aren’t understood by the American people and will blowback against the protesters are simply wrong. And now polling supports the point. From USA Today/Gallup:

In a survey of 1,000 adults taken Tuesday, 34% say demonstrations at the hometown sessions have made them more sympathetic to the protesters’ views; 21% say they are less sympathetic.

Independents by 2-to-1, 35%-16%, say they are more sympathetic to the protesters now.

The findings are unwelcome news for President Obama and Democratic congressional leaders, who have scrambled to respond to the protests and in some cases even to be heard. From Pennsylvania to Texas, those who oppose plans to overhaul the health care system have asked aggressive questions and staged noisy demonstrations.

That highlighted sentence is the one that should be worrying Democrats. We know that Republicans are going to be mostly sympathetic to the demonstrators. And we know that Democrats are going to mostly condemn the protesters. As we all know, the electoral war is fought in the middle with the winner being the side that attracts the most independents.

The question is, why are independents more sympathetic to protesters now than they were? Usually sympathy is a sign of some level of agreement with those with whom someone sympathizes.

If, as I assert, this is about more than just health care (health care is the excuse to confront the lawmakers but the reason is broader and deeper – profligate spending, more power, more government control) and it is there that the indies are finding common ground with the protesters, 2010 could be a tough election season for Democrats. The poll seems to reinforce my assertion:

A 57% majority of those surveyed, including six in 10 independents, say a major factor behind the protests are concerns that average citizens had well before the meetings took place; 48% say efforts by activists to create organized opposition to the health care bills are a major factor.

If that’s not bad enough, check out the most recent Pew poll:

Of those who had heard at least a little about the meetings, 61% say they think the way people have been protesting is appropriate; 34% say they see the protests as inappropriate.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed the change in how Democratic lawmakers are now characterizing the townhalls, but they’ve gone from calling them a “mob”, “un-American” and likening them to the KKK to saying they are quintessentially American and “important”, “refreshing” and “invigorating”. That last descriptor was used by Nancy Pelosi, I believe, who has completely changed her tune.

But of course, that isn’t defusing the protests (which are continuing to build momentum) nor is it necessarily helping Democratic lawmakers look better (especially when you have the likes of Shelia Jackson Lee showing her concern for what her constituents have to say by taking phone calls while they’re talking to her).

There’s an anger out there and it’s real. And beltway pundits and Democrats had better take off their DC goggles and look reality right in the face. They ignore this at their own risk. They need to understand that “respect” is something to be earned, and “civility” comes afterward. But when lawmakers lie to constituents and wave away their concerns by parroting talking points that their constituents know are baloney, they can expect to be treated rudely and with incivility. Why? Because nothing is more rude than treating those on whom your job depends as annoyances, calling them names and making it obvious that party loyalty means more than the wishes of the constituency. It’s a sure ticket to early retirement.


6 reasons why “reasoned debate” over healthcare isn’t called for right now

1. The left doesn’t want it. They just pretend they do. If they wanted it, they would not have tried to jam a thousand page bill through with virtually no debate, and they wouldn’t be using high-pressure sales tactics.

2. It won’t work – I. Beltway insiders are not going to have their mind changed by calmly and rationally pointing out the flaws in their bill. If their minds worked that way, they wouldn’t pass half the junk that goes through Congress.

3. It won’t work – II. If people are coming to these town halls in large numbers and mostly sitting there quietly, the spin from the media will be how everyone is quietly supportive of the “Health Insurance Reform” (or whatever the current focus-group-tested moniker is) except for a few cranks. Only if it’s abundantly obvious that the majority of the crowd is against the bill can that spin be forestalled.

4. It’s counter-productive. Incumbents really, really love it when they can appear to be listening and open even though their minds are already made up. Sitting down and calmly going over the points in the various bills gives them that facade that a deliberative process is going on when it’s not. It also takes away from the fear of losing an election they must feel if their mind is to be changed.

5. If we play Calvinball, we lose. We can’t afford to get bogged down in the details of the bill through endless talk-talk. What the protestors intuitively understand is that Congressional Democrats (and a few very foolish Republicans) are playing Calvinball. In fact, they’re world champions at it, and the rest of don’t even know how to play the game.

Case in point: I’ve seen signs at the protests that talk about how “If the plan is so great, why doesn’t it apply to Congress?” I understand and agree with the sentiment, but the last thing we want is to make that a bargaining point. I’m surprised it hasn’t yet occurred to some Democrat to float a “compromise” that supposedly “addresses the concerns of critics” with a laundry list of junk like that. This would be an obvious strategem to dampen down the protests. But it doesn’t really change anything. Since this is Calvinball, they can change the rules next year, or even during conference committee before the bill is officially passed, and get back everything they supposedly gave up.

6. We don’t want to turn discontent to cynicism. There has been latent discontent for the federal government and its incessant growth for a long, long time. We saw it with Perot and the 1994 Republican takeover. But the ones who feel that mostly have no way to express it, given the Tweedledum/Tweedledee relationship of the major parties. We’re seeing many of these people get engaged for the first time in a long time, and their long-felt anger is the motive force behind these protests. Anything that faintly smells of a sell-out would turn many of them back to their weary cynicism. We who support limited government need these people as engaged allies.


The Democrats, starting with Nancy Pelosi and her “un-American” comments are floating the idea that vociferous opposition to healthcare reform is causing a backlash. Pundits have picked that up, and some critics of reform are buying it. I was particularly surprised to see the usually-astute Charles Krauthammer doing so.

I disagree completely and current polls back that up.. This is not the time to lessen the pressure. Determination and time are the only weapons we have. Time is on our side if we can keep up the pressure.

The media is mostly against us. The Beltway collective is against us. The whole Left is against us. To counter all that, we need to have all the visibility we can muster. No violence, of course, but being rude and obnoxious to arrogant and disconnected elected representatives is not violence, no matter how the Left would like to spin it.

Maybe in the future. we can reach a point where there can be a productive debate on healthcare. I concede that the odds are against it, because the two sides are so far apart. But we don’t even want to try until the current “reform” effort is dead, the corpse has been burned, and the ashes have been scattered.

What Does Parental “Education” Have To Do With Health “Insurance” Reform?

Something that must be kept in mind – while the Democrats are attempting to change the focus of their pending legislation from health care reform to health insurance reform, they’ve not changed the legislation to reflect that.

Of all people, Chuck Norris brings that point home with a vengeance. Unlike our lawmakers, he’s apparently actually read the House bill and found another nugget that is not only costly and none of the government’s business, but has nothing to do with health insurance reform.

It’s outlined in sections 440 and 1904 of the House bill (Page 838), under the heading “home visitation programs for families with young children and families expecting children.” The programs (provided via grants to states) would educate parents on child behavior and parenting skills.

The bill says that the government agents, “well-trained and competent staff,” would “provide parents with knowledge of age-appropriate child development in cognitive, language, social, emotional, and motor domains … modeling, consulting, and coaching on parenting practices,” and “skills to interact with their child to enhance age-appropriate development.”

You can read Norris’ fisking of the provision for yourself. He, of course, wants to know why a government agency is being legislated into existence to provide parents with “knowledge of age-appropriate child development” tools and wants to know whose principles and values would drive such teaching – the government’s or the parents. Uh, well, I don’t think you really have to ask, because there’s no reason to send out agents if they’re just going to teach the parent’s values.

The more imporant points are A) this is none of the government’s business and B) it has nothing to do with reforming health care insurance.

Or said another way, you’re being fed a line when the Democrats claim that all they want to do is reform insurance when, as you read the bill, it becomes absolutely obvious that the bill isn’t at all just about insurance reform, but instead about taking more and more control of your life and the lives of your children.

This is the sort of crap that has middle America angry and out protesting. And pretending that this bill is something other than what it is – an attempt to impose more government control over our lives – is only going to feed that anger. This is part of what those protesters are talking about when they say they’re tired of being lied too and tired of being lied about.


Protests Are About More Than Health Care

You can always spot an “inside the beltway” mentality – he or she judges the mood of the rest of the country by what he or she sees and hears in DC and by what those there deem to be imporant.

Marc Ambinder is no exception (and I’m not picking on him specifically – he’s just typical of the type). He has an article out in which he claims that ‘conservatives’ are blowing their chance at stopping the pending health care legislation. Why?

Well, because of the “calmness” emanating from the White House as they gear up for a counter-offensive against the health care protesters found at just about every townhall meeting lawmakers have. And, states Ambinder, Democrats are noticing that opponents have begun “to discredit themselves”.

Really? Is that why the health care numbers continue to tank in every poll taken by every polling organization out there? Is that the reason lawmakers like Sen. Arlen Specter have stated, “there is more anger in America today than at any time I can remember”?

What is clear to those who are outside the beltway and dealing with reality is that those inside the beltway have no clue about the general feeling in this country that has been turning common everyday people with only a passing interest in politics into attendees at townhall meetings with a message. It seems one can sit in DC and write glib op/eds about why “conservatives” are blowing it and apparently be oblivious to that.

Here’s Ambinder’s take:

The American people remain anxious and confused about health care reform. That is an underlying reality that Republican activists are so eager to exploit. But doing so required a certain restraint — and a willingness to traffic in at least approximate truths — and an ability to make distinctions within their own ranks about which tactics were valid and which tactics were venomous. It also required a sophistication about the media. The base condition here is an enthusiastic Republican base and a depressed Democratic base. A coherent, organized effort would have recognized that the moment the media began to take sides was the moment that the entire enterprise could be damaged. The media, being a collection of different megaphones, reported on the town hall meetings in one of two ways, both damaging to Republicans. Either they credulously reported the louder, angrier voices (inherently damaging to Republicans in this case) or they reported on the political architecture of the town hall meetings, which plays down the substance of the protests.

He misses the point of the protests completely. Republicans aren’t in charge of this effort. And it is hard to exploit, control or “message” what isn’t yours.

This isn’t an organized effort by “Republicans” or “conservatives”. It isn’t being done to sway the media or, as he later claims, targeted toward the blue dog Democrats. This isn’t about the politics of this issue. Instead, and all you have to do is watch the various hundreds of videos out there, this is an organic and spontaneous grassroots uprising orchestrated by no real overarching organization. These are people who have sought out the townhall meeting in their district and attended to voice their displeasure with their lawmaker with no organized prompting, no organized email campaign and no preprinted fliers, etc.

And this is what those like Ambinder miss. They’ve quaffed the kool-aid that says it is all astroturf and misjudged the result. To people like him this is all about red and blue, who has the better organization, the best media campaign and timing. As usual, they focus on the wrong things:

As usual, in a pattern that the left patented during the Bush administration, the organized right lost control of its message. Lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats, were being asked to respond to non-sequiturs (would you support a health care reform plan that grows the deficit? Health care grows the deficit right now, so it’s a nonsense question, one that is easy for politicians to answer); ; they found their meetings full of engorged spleens. Unrestrained, these town hall meetings are going to turn off the type of voters Republicans most need to pressure Blue Dog Democrats — independents who don’t have red genes or blue genes. Both Fox and MSNBC televised Sen. Arlen Specter’s raucous town hall meeting live. It was full of confrontation and protest. There were boos when Specter reaffirmed his president’s Americanness.

Of course, the latter point is both minor and a sideshow and misses completely what is going on. What Americans who are confronting legislators over in these townhall meetings is the pattern of deception and misrepresentation they see as rampant now. My favorite line from one of the townhall meetings was “I’m tired of being lied too. I’m tired of being lied about. And this administration has done both of those”.

Ambinder thinks this is all political theater. He’s missed completely the visceral aspect of these protests. He sure that now that the Obama machine is finally paying attention they’ll overwhelm the relatively disorganized rabble.

Well he needs to get a clue. The people of this country can recognize real astroturf when they see it. The know what real political theater looks like. They understand that a big crowd showing up somewhere with the same signs and dressed alike most likely means they aren’t from around there.

There is a difference between organic anger and manufactured joy and unlike the Ambinders of the world, most Americans know the difference and are not fooled by it. It is one thing to organize political rallies during a campaign that have that manufactured appearance. It’s another thing entirely to bring that sort of nonsense to what a lot of people consider a life and death debate about their health care.

Another thing analysts like Ambinder miss is the cumulative effect of the reaction of Democratic lawmakers have given to these protesters. When you show up at a townhall meeting to confront a lawmaker who is ignoring you and you’re characterized as a “mob”, “political terrorists”, “racists”, “thugs”, “un-American” and finally likened to the KKK, you’re not going to forget it.

Many who have, for the first time in their lives, actually take the steps to attend such meetings and end up being labeled in those terms are not going to forget what was said and who said it. And as has been obvious, many of those attending aren’t Republicans or conservatives.

One of the reasons these eruptions are happening is because lawmakers have rejected the call by the country to slow down and have a real and substantive debate about this pending legislation. But you have to actually listen to the protesters and understand what they’re saying. Instead we get a handwave that dismisses them as rabble and a complete misreading of what is going on in favor of the DC show.

This is the sort of denial that happens constantly in the happy little bubble within the beltway. The seemingly total disconnect from the reality of the situation in the country is incredible. This is real. This isn’t going to stop. And it isn’t about “influencing the blue dogs” or “Republicans” or “conservatives”. My advice to people like Ambinder is to do himself a favor and actually listen to what is being said for a change or, heaven forbid, attend one of these townhalls and see for himself.

This isn’t about political shows and who shows up with the best organized protesters. This is about a growing fight for the heart and soul of America, and the inside the beltway types are missing it completely.


Robert Reich’s “Democracy”

Robert Reich writes what I can only characterize as a whining rant which is so, oh I don’t know, odd, that I have to comment. It has to do with a supposed deal the White House has struck with “big Pharma” which Reich claims keeps the government from negotiating lower drug prices in return for 80 billion in cost savings (if the government has wrung 80 bil in cost savings, isn’t that a negotiation for lower cost that has already been accomplished?):

I want universal health insurance. And having had a front-row seat in 1994 when Big Pharma and the rest of the health-industry complex went to battle against it, I can tell you firsthand how big and effective the onslaught can be. So I appreciate Big Pharma’s support this time around, and I like it that the industry is doing the reverse of what it did last time, and airing ads to persuade the public of the rightness of the White House’s effort.

But I also care about democracy, and the deal between Big Pharma and the White House frankly worries me. It’s bad enough when industry lobbyists extract concessions from members of Congress, which happens all the time. But when an industry gets secret concessions out of the White House in return for a promise to lend the industry’s support to a key piece of legislation, we’re in big trouble. That’s called extortion: An industry is using its capacity to threaten or prevent legislation as a means of altering that legislation for its own benefit. And it’s doing so at the highest reaches of our government, in the office of the president.

Notice first that the word “market” never appears in his diatribe.  In fact, “market” doesn’t appear in his piece at all.  That’s because Reich doesn’t care about markets. And, of course, any market that exists in health care has been so distorted by government that it hardly qualifies for the term.

Reich cares about control. And he wants full control by government. Notice that when politicians use threats to prevent legislation’s passage if what they want isn’t included in (or taken out of) a bill, that’s called “compromise”, but when an interested constituent (and pharma as a business that is government regulated certainly qualifies as that) promises to work against pending legislation that wouldn’t be in their best interest unless they get concessions, that’s “extortion”.

Reich only wants the government to have the power to extort what it wants and it makes him mad when constituents use their power to push their interests. He claims that thwarts “democracy”. Really?

As I see it, it is exactly the brand of democracy the Democrats have practiced for eons – special interest democracy. The only reason Reich is a little irritated in this case is because the special interest in question isn’t one which the left favors. Democracy, in Reich’s world, is when favored special interests “extort” petition the government, make deals and get legislation passed which serves their interests.

All that said, I agree with one point – what in the world is the White House doing striking such deals? Since it can’t write the legislation, how does it guarantee whatever concessions it’s agreed to will show up in the final legislation? And what happens if it doesn’t make it into the final legislation after big Pharma spends more money than John McCain did during the presidential election for TV adds supporting Obamacare?