Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Personal Aside: The Audacity of Arrogance: Obama at 6 Months.
With Barack Obama floundering in his unsuccessful attempt to get his program passed to transfer this republic to a variant of a European social democracy (Deo gratias) the time is ripe for reviewing what he has done wrong.
Seeds of this failure began with his acceptance speech at the Democratic convention. There he superimposed a hugely expensive package of health-care, energy and education initiatives on top of everything else including an exorbitant multi-billion stimulus package that has not stimulated.
First, he should have followed the course set by Franklin Roosevelt who saw as his first task his remedying the depression which, in fact, he never did until the coming of World War II and who delayed ambitious transfer of a free economy into a government-related one with Social Security until 1935, two years into his administration. Even Lyndon Johnson didnt begin to push his hideously expensive, coercive and anti-societal Great Society until 1965 when he had sufficient tax revenues with which to pay for his follies. When he discovered in mid-1967 that the budget deficit would hit what to him was an unacceptable $28 billion (think of that!), twice the original projection, he went to the Congress and said he would have to trim his spending sails unless he was given a tax hike. So enamored was the Democratic congress of the promised spending goodies, they gave him his tax increase. But the important thing was that both FDR and LBJ were remarkably cognizant of placing overload on the economysomething Obama has not concerned himself with.
Second, he should have discarded the Clinton re-treads he gathered around him: Rahm Emanuel, Larry Summers, Carol Browner and other hangers-on from permanent liberal campaigns which he had promised to avoid. They hail from another era when the deficit was tolerable by modern standards and catchy-sounding spending programs were in vogue. The unfortunate crack by Emanuel to the effect that the economic catastrophe should not be allowed to go to waste and offers a great opportunity was not just a slyly cynical onebut showed the intellectual depravity of the Clinton re-treads. If that crack had been made by an FDR, JFK, Johnson or even Clinton staffer, hed be out on the street before nightfall.
Third, obnoxious know-it-alls Emanuel and David Axelrod have repeatedly invoked insolence and the arrogant gesture of the uplifted index finger toward Republicans by saying pompously, After all, we won the election. Democratic congressional majorities were higher in 1933 and 1965 than they were in 2008. But there was ample bipartisan consultation. James Farley, FDRs guru and Harry McPherson, LBJs confidant, were deeply solicitous to receive Republican support and their acting nice paid off. With FDR and LBJ, congressional leaders of both political parries were consulted at early stages: because Roosevelt had the benefit of Farley, a political genius and Johnson had been himself the most effective Senate leader since Henry Clay.
Fourth, Obamas style has been to make glorious sounding speeches for health-care and energy programs but buck the details to the Democratic congressional committee chairmenwhich was Emanuels idea. By that means he let the unscrupulous pragmatist Nancy Pelosi craft a Christmas Tree full of goodies, satisfying every Democrats needs in his district, with little regard for stimulus which left Obama bereft of control over direction of his $787 billion program. Accordingly no House Republicans supported it , certifying Democrats own the misnamed stimulus, which wont kick in til 2010 at the earliestfor which they will deservedly pay a steep political price.
Fifth, people are getting tired of the rush act to pass Obamas stuff,,,born of Dems realization that voters shouldnt waste time perusing what it costs or lawmakers whats in the bill. This is what happened with the misnamed stimulus. Obama said: If we move swiftly to sign the [stimulus] into law, an economy that is already in crisis will be faced with catastrophe Millions more Americans will lose their jobs. Homes will be lost. Families will go without health care. Then came the siren words of Democrats to boast what they had done. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) trumpeted that its passage will give the economy an immediate jolt! Larry Summers, Clinton old treasury secretary now in the White House: Youll see the effects almost immediately! Well, not really. Unemployment has reached 9.5 percent; everybody acknowledges it will hit 10% and economists generally believe it will rise further.
The rush act to pass stimulus came immediately in Ms. Pelosis House contradicting Obamas campaign pledge to work in spirit of bipartisanship and to give the public 48 hours to consider the 1,071-page stimulus in time for the vote. The package was unveiled to the House at 1 a.m. Feb. 13 and passed later that day after a total of one hour of substantive debate.
The only negotiations with Republicans on the stimulus came in the Senate when in the scramble to get the needed 60 votes to forestall a filibuster, three of the usual liberal suspects defected, one, Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), desperate to save his job, switched to become a Democrat since he faced a conservative primary opponent, as well as having received Obamas pledge to campaign for him. The other two Republicans gargoyle duennas Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins (Me.)are always scared of tough Dem opposition since their northeastern state is filled to overflowing with new residents with liberal Bronx and Brooklyn wiseguy New York city-accented refugees. And of course there are ample goodies for liberal Dems with dollars have been channeled to state and local governments to deflect public employee unions from the ravages of the recession.
But on Cap and Trade, another big Obama push which passed the House by only a handful of votes, House Democrats were cannily prescient. They knew how leery the voters are of big ticket items and were scheming to beat some of their members, so they recruited a handful of Republicans including Cong. Mark Kirk (Ill.) to vote for itcalculating just enough defections to pass it and subtract Democrats and giving Dems cover with permission to vote against it to spare recrimination at the polls. Kirk was worried about Dem opposition in his liberal North Shore district and so Rahm Emanuel, like the ever-slithering Iago in Othello, assured him that if he voted for it, Emanueld see to it a weak Democratic candidate emerged. Kirk cast a predictably liberal North Shore vote. As it turns out, Emanuels promise was unverifiable and Kirks next door neighbor, in Denny Hasterts district got a pass to vote against it. Kirk decided to plump for the U.S. Senate but hell have to live with his pro-Cap and Trade vote which will likely destroy him with his Republican base.
Again the rush act was clamped on. The 2,000-plus page which would put a ceiling on greenhouse gas emissions was delivered to the House June 28. Then came a crucial 300-page amendment presented at 3 a.m. When House Republican Leader John Boehner scheduled a one-hour speech in opposition, Dem attack-dog Henry Waxman, the personification of what it is to look porcine objected that it was too long. That kind of autocracy has apparently crushed any hope that Cap and Trade will be given much even-handed consideration in the Senate. For example, already some senators, notably John Kyl (R-Ariz) are demanding the stimulus be repealed. This isnt as wildly unpopular as one might suppose: polls show voters are worried about the specter of the national debt spiraling 40% to about 80% of GDP and a popular argument runs that it would be folly to entrust our economic future to those who wrote the stimulus package.
These five points have contributed to joblessness and Obamas sharply declining approval rates, spurring panic in Democratic ranks. Cap and Trade has been put off to Fall; card check dear to the hearts of union bosses has been shuffled off to Buffalo but liberals are crafting another substitute called Fast Track.. But the point that follows is very important for Obama.
Dont Fudge the Numbers.
Sixth, dont get crosswise with your own Democratic Congress by fudging the numbers on how much you universal health care will cost. Along with all other of his programs, Obama has put the rush act on passage of health care first insisting it be passed before the August congressional recess, then amending the do-pass date to years end. But deadlines wont do it. What little chance remained of passage, popped like a kids birthday party balloon last week when Obamas cost estimates were shot down not by Republicans but by the Democratic-appointed head of the Congressional Budget Office, Douglas Elmendorf who must be one very brave guy coming under inexorable pressure from Congressional Democratic leaders and from the White House when he testified that no way can the figures Obama has submitted for health care costs will be attainedin fact the numbers cannot reasonably be reconciled.
Questioning Obamas numbers have been rife since he unveiled his plan but they and the mainstream liberal media generally ignored it akin to the Emperors New Clothes saga. No one aside from the Republicans have questioned his premise that as rising health care costs will bankrupt the treasury the solution is to pile atop of everything else a new hugely expensive entitlement: a suggestion that should have been ridiculed off the lot as incredibly insane. And for proof that The New York Times has officially abdicated any claim to reporting the news, consider this: most national newspapers reported Elmendorfs shattering statement that he cant justify Obamas statistics: even The Washington Post Post put it on page 1. But The Times buried it on page 15, sandwiched in a few sentences with other news. Who says we dont have a Pravda or Izvestia in this country?
At the same time, a key Democratic Senator, Max Baucus of Montana, chairman of the Senate Budget committee, complained out loud to the press. He wants to tax health care benefits and was asked about it. This is what he said: The President is not helping us. He does not want the exclusion. Thats making it difficult with these taxes moved off the table. It is still difficult to come up with the revenue measures and other saving measuressaid Baucus.
Slipping FOCA Through.
While the nationally liberal media bury the issue of abortion coverage in Obamas health care bill, abortion will be a major issue because its clear from the House legislation that outpatient hospital clinics and clinic services would be funded. The legislation provides that a board at Health and Human Services named by Obama and the secretary of HHS, a pro-abortion Catholic, will decide whether abortion should be covered. That came clear with an exchange between pro-life Mormon Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) a pro-abortion Catholic. The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions rejected four pro-life amendments including one by Hatch barring the government health plan from abortion coverage, and two more by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), one to add an abortion conscience clause for medical personnel and the other to prevent the massive bill from being used to overturn state abortion restrictions.
One pro-life measure was adopted by voice-vote was by Coburn to provide a conscience clause for medical personnel who object to assisted suicide which Connecticut pro-abort Catholic Dem Chris Dodd amended to require medical providers to object in writing invoking religious beliefs but excluding protection from those who involve conscientious objection. And of course the Dodd amendment includes a broad provision for emergency situations. As it stands now, Obamas health care provision is a sneaky way to incorporate the FOCA [Freedom of Choice Act].
But the Obama bill which has no numbers, has little or no chance of passage. What could happen in order to give Obama a fig-leaf is to pass an aspirational bill which will continue to have no numbers and which revenue will be decided later.
One additional point that might be considered by Obama and his followers if they wish to heighten his persuasive powers. Here Ill address this message just to him cognizant that I was the first radio correspondent to interview him substantively after he got elected to the legislature on ABC Chicago although he wont read it anyhow:
Barack, everybody massages your ego as an orator but youre not THAT good. Youre outdoing Roosevelt, Kennedy, Johnson and even the garrulous Bill Clinton with the multiplicity of your speeches and prime time news conferences in Washington and around the country. Cool it; put the teleprompter in the closet and resolve to be photographed at your desk working, writing, with your mouth closed. In fact, trim back your grandiose proposalsand see how that works.