Posts Tagged ‘reform’

Coming to terms with defeat, or not

Posted: Saturday, November 6, 2010 at 12:42 am
By: Ken Blanchard
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margaritavilleSome people say that there’s a woman to blame
but I know: it’s my own damn fault

Those who have just been shellacked in an election would do well to listen to Jimmy Buffet’s Margaretville a few times, while searching for their lost shaker of salt.  When Republicans get shellacked they inevitably whine about the biased press.  That’s a little bit harder now that Fox News dominates Cable, but when did reason ever persuade the wounded heart?

In 2006 and 2008 the Republicans got shellacked nationally.  It didn’t happen because the other side cheated or because the press was biased or because the moon was in Virgo.  They got beat because they lost the confidence of the electorate. In a Republic that’s getting beat fair and square.

In South Dakota this year the Democrats got shellacked from top to bottom.  My esteemed Keloland Colleague and NSU Colleague Emeritus, David Newquist, is ready with excuses.  He blames the “the socio-economic factors affecting the Democratic Party in South Dakota.”  He doesn’t spell out those factors, but it doesn’t much matter.  In politics, as in golf, you have to play the ball where it lies.

I think it is a scandal that the Democrats did not run a candidate against John Thune.  David again is ready with excuses.  He seems to think that Senator Thune will do such terrible things to an opponent that no human being could dare to challenge him.  I think that that is utter nonsense.  Republicans Rand Paul in Kentucky and Daniel Webster in Florida bore up under much worse abuse than any candidate has ever dished out in South Dakota.  Instead of turning pale and withdrawing, they fought and won.  I cannot believe that Democrats in South Dakota are such cowards as David imagines them to be.  I think that the uncontested Senate race, the first in the state’s history, was a deliberate strategy.

Nationally, Democrats are looking for their own excuses.  One of the most common ones is that President Obama let his foes define him.  Here is E.J. Dionne:

President Obama allowed Republicans to define the terms of the nation’s political argument for the past two years and permitted them to draw battle lines the way they wanted. Neither he nor his party can let that happen again.

That’s just another version of the standard excuse used by both sides after bad news: the voters didn’t reject us or our policies!  We just didn’t explain ourselves properly.

Nonsense on stilts.  When President Obama put forth health care reform as his highest priority (among his other highest priorities), he very clearly defined the terms of the argument.  Health care reform would “bend the cost curve downward,” i.e, health care reform would save the nation money spent on medicine.  The problem was that no one believed it because it obviously wasn’t true.  Even if you believe the CBO estimates, the best you are going to get out of the health care bill is a wash.  But the CBO estimates always include caveats indicating that the savings in the bill depend on Congress doing things that it has always promised to do but has never actually managed to do.

Here’s why the Democrats took a bath in this election: First, the economy is in dreadful shape.  The President today praised the unexpected growth in private sector jobs.  But that growth is not enough to make up for population growth, let alone enough to depress the unemployment numbers.  Voters are hurting.

But there are two kinds of pain.  One is the kind you have when you break your ankle.  It really smarts, but you aren’t too worried because you figure you are going to get better soon enough.  The other is the kind of pain that makes you think that something much worse is happening, something that you won’t get over.  Pain plus existential fear is a lot worse than just pain.

The trillion dollars a year deficits we are running really worry a lot of us.  They make us wonder whether the economic pain we are suffering isn’t more like the persistent cough or the ache in the gut that won’t go away.  Maybe the whole system is sick.  Does the President have any plan to put us back on the road to fiscal health?  That is one thing that he didn’t define very well.

The deficits are the second thing that weighed down the Democrats.  The third thing was the health care bill.  As the economy stalled and the deficits mounted, the Democrats spent all their energies not on the present crisis but on the thing that they have wanted for decades.  The people didn’t want it.  The voters expressed their dismay not only in opinion polls but in actual elections, but the Democrats in Congress pushed ahead anyway.  That was the third thing.

The economy, the deficits, and the health care bill, in that order, did the Democrats in.  They ought to come to terms with that.  It might not get better.

No Where to Run to Baby

Posted: Sunday, September 5, 2010 at 11:38 pm
By: Ken Blanchard
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nowhere-to-run-sleeveDavid Broder interprets the meaning of end of Arlen Specter.

For 30 years, Arlen Specter has been the emblematic figure — a man who started as a Democrat, became a Republican for most of his political life, and then switched back. He was notorious for his “flexibility” on policy. A labor leader here once told me he had mockingly congratulated Specter for “staying on the same side of the debate all the way from breakfast to dinner.”

With rare … successful politicians in [Pennsylvania] have hugged the center line at the expense of ideological clarity.  But Specter’s fate signals that the era of ambivalence may be ending.

Broder is right about Arlen Specter, of course.  Specter’s frequently liberal voting record protected him when Pennsylvania shifted toward the blue end of the spectrum, while his party affiliation simultaneously protecting him against a challenge from the right.  For a while, that is.

This year the jig was up.  Neither Republicans nor Democrats in Pennsylvania were interested in watching more of the Specter two-step.

If the Specter dodge didn’t work in Pennsylvania, it might not work elsewhere.  Patrick McIlheran notes a quick dodge by Senator Russ Feingold in Wisconsin.

President Barack Obama’s spending Labor Day afternoon in Milwaukee at an annual union festival. It’s quite a party: Parade organizers were still looking for volunteers to help carry the giant protest puppets of the Earth Goddess and such. Pity, then, that Russ Feingold, the incumbent Democratic senator in a neck-and-neck race, can’t hang out with the president.

Feingold, three terms in office and now tied with a plastics manufacturer no one heard of five months ago, will be at Laborfest earlier in the day. By afternoon, he’ll have scampered far from Obama, to a parade in his hometown, Janesville, where the General Motors bailout didn’t save the truck plant and unemployment is now double-digit. A spokesman said Feingold asked the White House to change its schedule, but you know how these things go.

Feingold doesn’t want to remind Wisconsin voters he is somehow connected to the President, let alone the Earth Goddess.  He wouldn’t be neck and neck with a Republican challenger if voters needed reminding.

What was true of Specter and is true of Feingold is more or less true of the Democratic Party as a whole: they think their best chance this year is to stand against the wall and mumble: invisible, invisible, invisible.  Consider this from the Politico:

At least five of the 34 House Democrats who voted against their party’s health care reform bill are highlighting their “no” votes in ads back home. By contrast, party officials in Washington can’t identify a single House member who’s running an ad boasting of a “yes” vote — despite the fact that 219 House Democrats voted in favor of final passage in March.

Okay.  So the only Democrats running ads about the healthcare vote are running ads boasting of voting against it.  Will the voters forget that the 34 Democrats who voted against the abhorrent legislation voted for the party leaders who greased it through?  What about voters in the districts held by the most vulnerable of the 219 Democrats who voted for the health care reform bill?  Will these voters forget that the bill passed just because no Democrat anywhere is talking about it?

I find it hard to remember a time when a political party was so furiously trying to run away from itself.  In the past, this sort of subterfuge often worked.  This year, there is nowhere to run to baby, nowhere to hide.

Abolish the Electoral College. Screw the Dakotas.

Posted: Saturday, July 31, 2010 at 11:39 pm
By: Ken Blanchard
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It occurs to me that we are doing a lot of tinkering with the political system right now, without doing much thinking at all.  The people of California voted overwhelmingly for Proposition 14, a reform that abolishes party primaries.

Proposition 14 would create a “top two” primary in which candidates of all party affiliations run on one primary ballot. The two candidates who win the most votes, regardless of party, would face off in the general election. The system would not apply to presidential primaries.

The new system is supposedly better because it is open to all voters.  I suspect that it passed with strong support because Americans have always had a distaste for political parties.  But no one really has any idea how this is going to work.  Pass it, and then see what’s in it.

I am not sure it’s going to make a big difference, except that it will effectively shut out third parties.  Under the current system, third parties could get a candidate on the ballot if they could register 100,000 voters.  To be sure this rarely happens, and third party candidates almost never win.  Under the “top two” system, they will have little hope of a place on the final ballot.

Another reform in the works is the National Popular Vote Initiative.  The Electoral College makes it possible for a candidate to win fewer popular votes than another candidate, but still be elected President.  That happened in 2000 and would have happened again in 2004 if Kerry had carried Ohio.  A lot of people think this is a very bad thing.  The NPVI is intended to correct it.

Under the U.S. Constitution, the states have exclusive and plenary (complete) power to allocate their electoral votes, and may change their state laws concerning the awarding of their electoral votes at any time. Under the National Popular Vote bill, all of the state’s electoral votes would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes—that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538).

This is very clever.  Since it is very hard to amend the Constitution, but very easy to change the way states allocate their electoral votes, this would leave the Electoral College in place while rendering it powerless.

It is based, however, on a premise for which little argument is offered.  The premise is that a majority of popular votes is more legitimate than a majority of electoral votes.  There is no reason to think that this is so, under the Constitution.

The Constitution checks the power of popular majorities in several ways.  A majority of votes in the Senate may represent a small majority of the nation’s citizens.  That is a very effective way of protecting small states and less populous regions against “the tyranny of the majority.”  If you think it’s a bad idea, ask the Canadians why they can’t get a constitution.  The Supreme Court allows five of nine old people to overrule 309,865,000 American citizens, minus five.  Ask the NPVI people if they are offended by that.

Moreover, majority rule is itself a compromise between moral principle and efficiency.  If every single person is morally equal, why is the consent of one or a few to the next President or any policy of less weight than the consent of the many?  Only because an insistence on unanimity would be unworkable.

There is nothing morally wrong with the Electoral College.  Of late, however, it has been causing problems.  It has been pretty easy to tell who won a majority of the national popular vote in Presidential elections, but not so easy to tell who won Florida or Ohio.  That created a brief constitutional crisis in 2000, and a lot of leftist conspiracy theories in 2004.  Maybe it’s time to consider something like the NPVI.

Before we do, we ought to note what we will lose.  If George W. Bush had lost North and South Dakota in 2000, Gore would have won without Florida.  If Bush had lost the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, and Wyoming in 2004, Kerry would have windsurfed into the White House.  With the Electoral College functioning as it always has, candidates for President have to campaign in small states.  Living in Aberdeen, I got to see Obama and shake hands with Bob Dole.  George W. Bush and Ms. Clinton landed on our soil.

If we really go to a system of direct popular election (however indirectly) that is likely to change.  No one will give a rat’s ass about the Dakotas.  Of course the larger states don’t have to worry about that when they pass the NPVI.  Maybe the Midwest should give that some thought.

Greek Theater

Posted: Saturday, May 1, 2010 at 10:54 pm
By: Ken Blanchard
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What is wrong with that picture?  Or this one:

Flights were grounded and trains suspended amid a nationwide general strike Thursday, as Greek police fought running street battles with anarchist youths in fresh and violent signs of anger at the government’s austerity plans.

Stop there.  The anarchists are protesting cuts in government spending?  Doesn’t it sound like there are several thousand words missing from that paragraph?

Anarchists are supposed to be opposed to the very existence of government.  Surely cutting government spending would get them a little bit closer to that goal.  Of course, it’s a lot more fun to be an anarchist when the government covers your health care costs and living expenses, so you don’t actually have to get a job.

Those who think that the American Tea Party movement encourages violence might take a look at what real political violence looks like.  Those who wonder what the Tea Party people fear might take a look at Greece.  From the London Times:

Economists regard the bloated civil service with its jobs for life and generous pensions as a cancer consuming the country’s resources. The older generation, the experts grimly concur, turned the state into a giant cash machine to be plundered at will.

The Times takes a closer look at the Greek cancer.

Public sector workers are virtually unsackable, can retire as early as 45 and get bonuses for using a computer, speaking a foreign language and arriving at work on time.

Some of them get as many as four extra months’ salary a year, compared with the 14 months that are paid to other Greek workers. One of the most generous bonuses is paid to unmarried daughters of dead employees in state-controlled banks: they can inherit their parents’ pensions.

Maybe I should check, but I believe that there are only twelve months in a year.  Apparently Greek workers get paid fourteen months out of the year, and public sector workers get paid eighteen months out of the year.  The Greek government doesn’t just need to reduce its spending, it needs to reduce its calendar.

It’s not just generosity that is the problem.  The Greek government makes it hard to generate productive business in the first place.

When [Konstantinos] Michalos started a commodities trading business in London in the 1980s, the paperwork took him 48 hours, he said. In Greece’s “Soviet-style” economy he had to go through 117 bureaucratic procedures to get the right government permits. A wealthy friend of his had taken 10 years to win permission to put up a hotel.

The New York Times is also offended by the Greeks.  But what is eating the Times is not that public employees enjoy ridiculous benefits or that regulatory strangulation renders the economy sclerotic.  It’s that too many Greeks aren’t paying their taxes.  I humbly suggest that this is all the same problem.  Ridiculous spending leads to ridiculous taxes, which leads in turn to massive tax evasion.  Ask the Russians.

Greece is going belly up financially, and because of the Euro it threatens to take down the rest of Europe with it.  The PIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Greece, and Spain) are the most vulnerable, but apparently Britain is not far behind.  I hope it’s not bigoted of me to say that.  Keep Gordon Brown’s microphone on, please.  Germany can’t bail out everyone, so the IMF and the European Community are insisting that Greece get its act together.  Good luck with that.

Meanwhile back in the States California is going belly up due to exactly the same causes as operate in Greece.  On the Federal level, we are running trillion dollar a year deficits, and the majority party deals with this by passing a 900 billion per ten year health care reform that is really a trillion and a half per ten year program.  Not to worry.  They are also pushing an energy bill that would intentionally retard economic growth.

The American Left has always wanted to make America more like Europe.  Well, we are getting there.

Immigration Politics and the 2010 Elections

Posted: Tuesday, April 27, 2010 at 10:58 pm
By: Ken Blanchard
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The MSM is on a full court press to convince us that the recent legislation in Arizona turns that bit of Painted Desert into a police state.  See Linda Greenhouse’s piece “Breathing While Undocumented” for a sample.  That none of this is in good faith is evident from the fact that no one seems to be asking how the law would actually work.  Arizona has decided that its own law officers ought to do the work that federal officers ought to be doing but clearly aren’t.

Maybe this will be done in a way that unconstitutionally burdens all citizens of Latino decent, and maybe not.  I would like to see someone with the necessary expertise tell us what documents are necessary to prove that one is a legal resident.  A driver’s license?  A social security card?

Meanwhile the majority party in Congress has put immigration back on the agenda, just in time to wreck negotiations on a Cap and Trade bill.  Why?  The answer is that the President has given up on the “non-minority” vote for this November.  Or at least non-young, non-male voters.

Maybe the Arizona business will help with Hispanic voters.  That would explain the MSM’s attention.  But he has his work cut out for him.  The Examiner explains:

Last week, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) wrote a very angry op ed for the Huffington Post in which he assailed President Obama for everything from allowing federal agencies to lawfully deport criminal aliens, to not acting to stop the Arizona state legislature from passing a law which makes it a crime for illegal aliens to be present in Arizona.

In his rant, the Illinois Congressman even griped about the breakup of human smuggling networks, notorious for abusing and kidnapping their human freight.

What Rep. Gutierrez wants is “comprehensive” immigration reform.  In case you don’t know what that means, let me enlighten you.  It means legalizing people who entered this country illegally, in exchange for empty promises to control the boarders in the future.  So far, so good.  But he wants President Obama to actually arrange this.

The President can do nothing of the sort.  Congress has been trying to pass immigration reform for decades.  It isn’t going to do it in the middle of an election year.  The sole purpose of raising the issue now is to try to drum up enthusiasm among Hispanic/Latino voters.  But such voters want action, and they can see that the President can’t deliver.  FiveThirtyEight shows that enthusiasm for Obama among such voters has fallen precipitously.  Only 55% now support the President.

This is in line with polls showing lackluster enthusiasm among other key Obama constituencies.  Just at the same time comes this from Gallup:

On the heels of yesterday’s report showing nearly half of young voters aged 18-29 – a critical piece of Obama’s 2008 coalition – are “not enthusiastic” about voting in this year’s election, Gallup is out with another body blow for Democrats today with a survey showing that the GOP leads Democrats by 20 points among those voters most enthusiastic about the 2010 midterms.

Among all registered voters, the GOP leads in the generic congressional ballot in the current Gallup survey by just one point, 46 to 45. But among those who are “very enthusiastic” about voting in November, the GOP lead over Democrats balloons to a 57/37 gap.

A twenty point gap in enthusiasm!  I have never seen anything like this before.  There are two obvious questions: are these polls accurate, and will the situation change between now and this November.  If the answer is no, no exactly, and yes, the Democrats may be in for a pleasant surprise.  If the answer is yes and no, they are looking at a disaster of Biblical proportions.  I make no predictions; but if these polls are accurate and noting much changes, the Republicans will sweep everything that isn’t tied down.  The President will wake up after the election to find the GOP in control of both houses of Congress.

Democrats criticize Senate financial reform bill

Posted: Tuesday, April 20, 2010 at 10:26 am
By: David Newquist
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Former financial regulators and Democratic insiders have written a letter to Senate leaders Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell criticizing the bank reform bill being advanced in the Senate.  They say:

Neither the bill passed earlier this year by the House, nor the one currently under consideration in the Senate would have prevented the crisis. Without serious restructuring, they will not prevent a future crisis.

The letter lists eight specific provisions such a bill must contain to prevent the  kind of financial failure that led to the current recession.  The full text of the letter may be read in PDF format on the Huffington Post.

The Grim Landscape

Posted: Tuesday, March 23, 2010 at 12:04 am
By: Ken Blanchard
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The Democrats are celebrating the passage of healthcare as an historic achievement.  They are right to do so.  This was a tremendous victory for their party, in several senses, and the first piece of evidence that Barack Obama might be fit for the Presidency.  Obama wavered, but rallied his troops and led them to victory.  Nancy Pelosi may not be, as ABC News said in its video canonization, the most powerful woman in history, but she surely ranks as one of the most effective House Speakers.  The Democrats have achieved an ambition they held so long that they long ago stopped thinking about it.  They did so against tremendous pressures, including unanimous opposition from the Republican Party and the disapproval of a clear majority of the American people.  Putting on my political scientist hat, I am in awe.

There is a chance, and Republicans would be foolish to ignore it, that this may be the beginning of a revival for the Democrats.  Nothing succeeds like success.  But it seems more likely that the Democrats’ passage of a partisan, unpopular bill will cement the polarization of the electorate and the states for that matter.  Already several states are planning court challenges and talking of “nullification.”

No one knows how this healthcare bill will work.  Indeed, no one knows what is in it yet.  As Speaker Pelosi herself said, only now that it seems certain to pass will we find out.  Much of the design of the bill, and certainly almost all of the schedule on which its various provision will come into effect, was aimed simply at making the bill look less expensive than it really is.  It is very expensive.  Pretty soon now, the real price tag and all the various deals made to pass it will be generally known.

The United States, like the welfare states of Europe, is just now coming face to face with some very unpleasant economic realities.  For decades it has been clear that our major social programs, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, were on a path to insolvency.  For as long as the money coming into those programs was more than the money going out, Congress was content to spend the surplus.  Now the surplus is gone.  The liabilities are projected to grow while the revenue base will fall further and further behind.

The politics of the healthcare reform push focused all of our attention on whether the reform would increase the deficits or not.  The answer is that it will increase them.  But that focus had the effect of concealing a more important truth.  Even if the reform pays for itself, that is still a trillion dollars, more or less, that can’t be available to restore the existing programs to solvency.

The solvency crisis is not only a federal problem.  California is in serious danger of defaulting on its financial obligations.  The Governor of Rhode Island has been on TV complaining of the cost that the reform bill will impose on the states.  Rhode Island for Heaven’s sake!  A lot of states are in nearly as bad a condition as California.  These states are crying for federal help when Washington is putting new burdens on them.

At just this point, when existing welfare institutions are going critical and the economy is very vulnerable, all Congress and the White House have been thinking about is how to get a new, massively expensive program passed.  When we need some sense of common national purpose to solve the problems we face, the Democrats have passed legislation virtually guaranteed to sharpen national divisions.

That, gentle reader, is where we are now.  Maybe the economy will come roaring back, and jobs galore will suddenly pop up everywhere.  But given the almost a trillion dollars a year that we are adding to the deficit, every year for as far as the eye can see, it is not clear that any feasible growth rate can put us back into the black.  I don’t know how we are going to get out of this one.  Our national government is not even thinking about that.

Plan 9 from Outer Space

Posted: Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 11:26 pm
By: Ken Blanchard
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plan_9_from_outer_spaceWhat is going on in Congress right now is the greatest show on earth.  The prospect of a fundamental piece of social reform passed by Congress in contempt of the manifest opposition of the public, well, one needs jugglers and computer graphics to capture that.  Here is a brief sketch of the evolution of the Democratic legislative strategy.

PLAN A.  Both the House and the Senate have passed healthcare reform bills.  Standard procedure would be to refer both bills to a conference committee, consisting of members of both Houses and both parties.  A single bill would emerge from conference and would have to be voted on again by both Houses.  However, the Senate bill was passed when the Democrats still had a filibuster-proof 60 votes in the Senate.  Republican Scott Brown replaced Ted Kennedy in the Senate (largely by running in vehement opposition to the reform bills, in one of the most Democratic states in the U.S.).  Senate Republicans can now block a conference bill.  In saner times, that would have been the end of it.  But the Democrats are determined to pass reform, public opinion and fall elections be damned.  So:

PLAN B.  The Democrats could enact reform simply by passing the existing Senate bill in the House and then presenting it to the President for his signature.  But the Senate bill was never intended to be the final version of the bill.  Worse, portions of it are repugnant to way too many House Democrats.  So that doesn’t work.  The problem here is not Republican opposition, but divisions within the House Democratic Caucus.  At this point, in any rational universe, the project would have been abandoned.

PLAN C.  Pelosi, Reid, and company decided to try to pass a bill by means of the reconciliation procedure.  The House would pass the Senate bill, as written; but it would immediately pass a second bill proscribing changes in the first one.  That second bill would be the real piece of legislation.  The reconciliation bill would then be sent to the Senate, which could pass it by a simple majority.  The Republicans could not filibuster.

Reconciliation has been used by both parties to get around the filibuster, but as former Hillary Clinton advisor Mark Penn points out, it was only used when relatively small special interest groups were blocking legislation favored by clear majorities in both houses and backed by public opinion.  Using reconciliation in this case would be unprecedented.  That doesn’t mean it’s unethical, let alone illegal or unconstitutional.

The question is whether Speaker Pelosi has the votes.  A lot of House Democrats are facing very tough elections this fall.  A vote for this bill in a procedure that looks bizarre might be the nail in their electoral coffins.  They also have to go out on a limb.  What happens if the Senate fails or even refuses to pass the reconciliation bill?  Then the Senate bill will be enacted.  That Pelosi doesn’t have the votes is indicated by the consideration of a fourth option.

PLAN D.  Pass the reconciliation bill without passing the Senate bill, and then “deem” the Senate bill to have passed the House without any Democrat in the House actually having to vote on it.  This procedure has been used before by both parties.  But again, never in the case of such a major piece of legislation, or to escape the duty of actually voting for a bill.  It has only been used for “routine matters,” where there were no real objections to a bill, and the only point was to save time.  Using it in a case where there is a real controversy is a clear abuse of the procedure.

That Pelosi and House Majority Leader Hoyer are even discussing Plan D means that they don’t have the votes for the reconciliation option.  They may suppose that they can win a few more votes for a “reconciled” bill from those House members who don’t have to vote for the Senate version first.  But I don’t see how that is so.  House members will be judged by their constituents according to how they voted when it counted.

Plan D is just a way to keep the process going in the hope that, somehow, they will get the votes they need.  Maybe Pelosi will pull this off, and the Democrats will create one more entitlement that we can’t get rid of and can’t afford.  But this is a God awful mess.

Did Health Care Reform Just Collapse?

Posted: Thursday, March 11, 2010 at 11:28 pm
By: Ken Blanchard
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titanicApparently so, if the AP report by Erica Werner is accurate.  From TPM:

House leaders have concluded they cannot change a divisive abortion provision in President Barack Obama’s health care bill and will try to pass the sweeping legislation without the support of ardent anti-abortion Democrats.

Wow.  I haven’t been trying to keep track of the votes in the House, but here is a quick summary.  The Hill reports that Speaker Pelosi can afford to lose 37 Democrats, but not one more, to pass the Senate Bill out of the House.  I am reminded of the engineer in Titanic saying: we can stay afloat with three chambers flooded, but not five.  Not five!  The Hill counted 25 Democrats as definite naysayers, and 12 “Stupak” Democrats as nay without a change in abortion language.  That’s 37.  If these numbers are right and so is Werner, Pelosi has just enough.

Jay Cost on the RealClearPolitics Horserace Blog has been trying to keep count.  He also counts 25 naysayers (those who voted no once before), and 19 possible nays.  Cost is reporting that several Democrats today signaled that they were switching from yea to nay, including Henry Cuellar of Texas and Marion Berry of Arkansas.

I haven’t seen the AP report confirmed anywhere else, so groans and hoorays are not yet in order.  But as Cost puts it, it has been a very rough day for ObamaCare.

Of course, passing the bill out of the House doesn’t mean that a bill will be passed into law.  Keith Hennessey explains the intricacies and obstacles facing final passage through reconciliation.  It looks like one of those innumerable tunnels that Indiana Jones has to shoot through.  Unfortunately for reform advocates, this isn’t a movie.

Democrats continue to talk and act as if they are sailing toward passage.  Maybe the Speaker has a reservoir of votes that will switch in time.  Otherwise, this looks like a slow motion train wreck.

The Democrat’s Addictive Behavior

Posted: Sunday, February 14, 2010 at 1:24 am
By: Ken Blanchard
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bacchusA few short weeks ago the Administration let it slip that they intended to put health care reform “on the back burner,” so as to concentrate “like a laser” on jobs.  It seemed like a good plan.  Health care reform was making them sick, so the sensible thing to do was to stop drinking the stuff and try to find something healthier to put down their gullets.  But here we are talking about almost nothing but whether the Democrats can revive their health care agenda.

All this reminds me of one of my favorite songs, by Celtic singer Andy M. Stewart:

Geordie’s a man I hav’ny seen lately,
I met with his brother in Tain.
Says I, “Do ye think that he’s
still off the drink?”
“Oh, no, HE’S AT IT AGAIN!”

Aye we telt him and aye we warned him;
And aye he promised, but then…
At the turn o’ yer back, he’d be right off the track;
And noo, HE’S AT IT AGAIN!

It isn’t hard to understand why the Democrats cannot break out of their cycle of addiction.  They’ve been sipping this stuff for a long time.  Rehab is for quitters, and the Dems think they will be seen as unmanly if they quit.

It would be one thing if they can in fact, somehow, bring the Bacchus bill across the finish line.  Pardon me, that’s the Baucus bill.  Bacchus is the Roman god of intoxication.  But do they really have hopes for such a victory?

It would require some very dodgy legislative tricks, and right now it doesn’t look like they have the votes.  Mark Tapscott, cited by Michael Barone, thinks that Speaker Pelosi is about 100 votes shy of what she needs to push any kind of bill through.  If that’s anywhere near accurate, health care reform is as dead as it looks.

Failing to pass reform will dispirit and alienate the Democrat’s activist base.  Talking about it when they have no hope of passing it only rubs salt in that wound.  It also irritates the majority of Americans (including a robust majority of independent voters) who are resolutely opposed to the Democrats’ health care reform bills.

Passing the Baucus bill would probably a disaster for the Democratic Party.  It has already cost them two state houses and a Senate seat.  But pretending that they can pass it when they can’t seems like the worst possible behavior.  You can telt ‘em and warn ‘em all you want, but noo, they’re at it again.