This, at least in my mind, has never been a matter of “if”, but instead a matter of “when”. According to the Washington Post, the “when”, has occurred and according to their poll the majority of Americans are now against the war in Afghanistan.
Popularly known, even by Barack Obama, as the “good war” or the “necessary war”, the Washington Post is now saying popular sentiment has turned against it:
A majority of Americans now see the war in Afghanistan as not worth fighting, and just a quarter say more U.S. troops should be sent to the country, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
Among all adults, 51 percent now say the war is not worth fighting, up six percentage points since last month and 10 since March. Less than half, 47 percent, say the war is worth its costs. Those strongly opposed (41 percent) outweigh strong proponents (31 percent).
This change of perception has been driven by the left, who previously claimed that Afghanistan was indeed the only proper war to be fighting:
Although 60 percent of Americans approve of how Obama has handled the situation in Afghanistan, his ratings among liberals have slipped, and majorities of liberals and Democrats alike now, for the first time, solidly oppose the war and are calling for a reduction in troop levels.
Overall, seven in 10 Democrats say the war has not been worth its costs, and fewer than one in five support an increase in troop levels.
Among the right, the war there is still seen as worth fighting and winning:
Republicans (70 percent say it is worth fighting) and conservatives (58 percent) remain the war’s strongest backers, and the issue provides a rare point of GOP support for Obama’s policies. A narrow majority of conservatives approve of the president’s handling of the war (52 percent), as do more than four in 10 Republicans (43 percent).
Interestingly, as the article states, this is a “rare point of GOP support for Obama’s policies”. And it pits both Obama and the GOP against the left and, I would guess, a Congress which will eventually reflect the constituency reflected in the numbers above. There’s a reason for that.
Congress is on a “dollar hunt” right now to pay for their favorite domestic agenda items. Afghanistan (and Iraq) are places where some dollars can be stolen. Popular support and money should be more than enough impetus to begin the “cut and run” mantra in earnest.
Apparently for the left, since it is no longer a blunt rhetorical instrument with which to beat George Bush over the head, Afghanistan is no longer the “good and necessary war”.
The NY Times tells us this morning that we’re likely to get health care reform whether we want it or not.
Frankly I’m not sure why that should be a surprise to anyone. Democrats know that they have to pass something or they’ll effectively, to use Howard Dean’s phrase, “kill the presidency” of Barack Obama.
So it should come as no surprise, really, that Democrats are finally talking about whatever is necessary, to include completely ignoring Republicans, to get a bill through both houses of Congress for the president’s signature.
But the exclusion of Republicans doesn’t mean smooth sailing for Democrats. Numbers-wise they certainly have the majorities they need in both houses to pass legislation. This particular legislation, however, has become fraught with political danger. Many Democrats are very wary of it because of the demonstrated unhappiness of their constituencies and the probable 2010 impact that may have. This is especially true of more conservative Democrats, even those is primarily Democratic districts. And “Blue Dogs” who managed to win in historically red districts are terrified.
Certainly by cutting out the Republicans, they can write the legislation as they want it. But certain parts, such as the so-called “death panels” and “public option”, have little public support. And, in general, polls continue to make the point that a majority of Americans want this present attempt scratched and want Congress to “start over”.
On top of that, it appears the majority of Americans do not agree that “something” has to be passed quickly. Instead, it appears, the public wants an extended debate and believe that such a debate is just beginning.
That sets up the conflict of political interests the Democrats face. They believe, now that they’ve brought it up and the president has made it one of his signature issues, that unless they pass it (or something they can call “health care reform”) they’ll have set him up for failure. However, they are also coming to realize that passing something now despite a majority of Americans saying slow down and start over could be hazardous to their political health – and majorities.
As they finally did with George Bush and the Republicans, I believe Americans are again realizing not just the benefit but the necessity for divided government to keep both sides “honest”. Government needs a bit of competition too. And if Democrats ram health care reform legislation through, whether with our without Republican support, they’re most likely to see such “competition” become reality in 2010.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Part of the reason is the financial situation and part of it is the new evidence that science is producing which is making Americans more skeptical about the AGW crowd’s claims.
Recent Gallup polls carry the news:
Here’s what Gallup found: The number of Americans who say the media have exaggerated global warming jumped to a record 41 percent in 2009, up from 35 percent a year ago. The most marked increase came among political independents, whose ranks of doubters swelled from 33 percent to 44 percent. Republican doubters grew from 59 percent to 66 percent, while Democratic skeptics stayed at around 20 percent.
What’s more, fewer Americans believe the effects of global warming have started to occur: 53 percent see signs of a hotter planet, down from 61 percent in 2008. Global warming placed last among eight environmental concerns Gallup asked respondents to rank, with water pollution landing the top spot.
Another recent Gallup study found that, for the first time in 25 years of polling, more Americans care about economic growth than the environment. Just 42 percent of people surveyed said the environment takes precedence over growth, while 51 percent asserted expansion carries more weight. That reverses results from 2008, when 49 percent of respondents said the environment was paramount and 42 percent said economic growth came first. In 1985, the poll’s first year, 61 percent placed a bigger priority on the environment, while 28 percent ranked economic growth highest.
Scientists have begun to push back against those who have been claiming “consensus” for so long. And, Americans are simply becoming more informed about the matter. Part of that is the effect of the new media which has broken the monopoly hold of the mass media’s ability to shape public opinion. As the poll points out, Americans increasingly think the media is exaggerating the problem. That skepticism has to be based in something, and the only media carrying the skeptical side of the argument is the new media.
Obviously, since the financial meltdown, priorities have also changed. While AGW was apparently never a high priority among environmental priorities, it is dead last now. That’s again because people are becoming more informed about the economic impact of the draconian legislative measures being touted as a solution. And as time goes by, and there is more of a focus put on cap-and-trade legislation, I expect the numbers in opposition to go up even further.
Naturally the opposition disagrees and cites polls from Pew and the National Wildlife Federation that they claim contradict Gallup (no date for those two polls is given). But as you recall, Rasmussen had a very recent poll which had similar results to the Gallup poll.
The radical agenda is in trouble, folks. Whether that means Democrats will “listen” as they claim they do, is another matter entirely. I fully expect them to attempt to ram both health care and cap-and-trade through. But that doesn’t mean we have to give them a pass if they do. Be your “un-American” best and tell them loudly and strongly that cap-and-trade is not a good thing for the US and is not something that should be passed while the science of AGW is decidedly unproven.
Again, what’s the freakin’ rush?
The most recent Quinnipiac poll isn’t at all kind to “health care reform”. And, it should tell politicians all they need to know about what the priority of the American people is:
American voters, by a 55 – 35 percent margin, are more worried that Congress will spend too much money and add to the deficit than it will not act to overhaul the health care system, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released today. By a similar 57 – 37 percent margin, voters say health care reform should be dropped if it adds “significantly” to the deficit.
Voters know about political promises and “estimates” when it comes to cost. They are never – let me say it again – never accurate and they are always, again repeat, always on the conservative side. Or to say it more succinctly, they always cost more than the politicians say they will. This current version is said to conservatively add 1 to 1.5 trillion dollars in debt.
Voters also know that the CBO has twice come out and said this turkey will not “bend the cost curve” down. In fact Douglass Elmendorf, the director of the CBO has said all indications are it will bend that curve up.
Given that, the American people seem to be indicating rather strongly their preference for dropping this entire health care foolishness. And if that’s true and the Democrats ram something through anyway, they put themselves a real electoral risk.
By the way – if you thought the margins were rather large on the last question, check these out:
By a 72 – 21 percent margin, voters do not believe that President Barack Obama will keep his promise to overhaul the health care system without adding to the deficit, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University national poll finds.
I’m sure someone will send this poll to the White House office of fishy links, because this just can’t be right can it? This is a huge majority of voters saying that the bloom is off the rose as far as Obama goes.
And, another thing that politicians ought to be able to discern from these numbers is the anger out there is real and showing up at grassroots level at their townhall meetings. They dismiss them as “extremists” at their own political peril. According to this poll, there is a legitimate reason they’re shouting “just say ‘no’”.
Check out the politics of this thing:
American voters disapprove 52 – 39 percent of the way President Obama is handling health care, down from 46 – 42 percent approval July 1, with 60 – 34 percent disapproval from independent voters. Voters say 59 – 36 percent that Congress should not pass health care reform if only Democratic members support it.
Indies are deserting ship on health care big time. And, should Democrats try to use reconciliation to pass health care, they’ll pay for it heavily (if the Republicans have the wits to use such an abuse of power as they should during the mid-terms).
As for the sales job?
Voters are split 39 – 41 percent on whether the President’s health care plan will improve or hurt the quality of health care in the nation, with 14 percent saying it won’t make a difference.
Only 21 percent of voters say the plan will improve the quality of care they receive, while 36 percent say it will hurt their quality of care and 39 percent say it will make no difference.
Can you say “Edsel”?
That was a question put to Americans in a poll:
The question flummoxes most Americans, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, which is among the reasons for the party’s sagging state and uncertain direction.
A 52% majority of those surveyed couldn’t come up with a name when asked to specify “the main person” who speaks for Republicans today.
Frankly, given the current crop of GOP “leaders” that’s probably a good thing.