Tag: Politico

How Long Can the Politics of Compromise Continue?

Today POLITICO Arena asks:

Are Mitch McConnell’s and John Boehner’s recent statements about not compromising a refreshing bit of candor from top political leaders, rather than the usual platitudes about bipartisanship and working across the aisle?

My response:

Mitch McConnell’s comment about making Obama “a one-term president” and John Boehner’s vow that Republicans will not “compromise on their principles” if they win the majority do indeed challenge “the usual platitudes about bipartisanship and working across the aisle.” But they also reflect a deeper problem that the midterm campaigns have begun to unmask, namely, that decades of compromises have brought us to a state where further compromise is no longer tenable. Look at France. Look at Greece. Look even at England.

I allude, of course, to the “entitlement” schemes that are sinking all western democracies – others more than ours. These are giant Ponzi schemes that would be criminal if undertaken by private parties, because like all such schemes, they’re unsustainable, with late entrants left holding the bag. But unlike their private counterparts, the public versions force us all to play. Yet as the day of reckoning approaches, government has only limited choices: either reduce the promised benefits, or pay for them by taxing or borrowing more or by selling government assets (e.g., western lands), each of which has inherent limits, or by printing money, which is another way of breaking promises – and it ends ultimately in a death spiral. That’s the hard reality. Government isn’t Santa Claus.

So when Obama governs as though he has no grasp of that reality, talk of a one-term presidency is simply coming to grips with reality. And if this election is any indication, Americans appear increasingly to appreciate that. To be sure, there are issues on which to compromise. But for far too long we’ve acted as if every issue were “political,” from retirement security to healthcare to so many other “problems” that in truth are simply the problems of life. Earlier generations solved those problems privately, either by themselves or in voluntary association with others. Indeed, the freedom to do so was what the Constitution was written to secure.

But Progressives disdained that kind of freedom as illusory. They wanted us to solve our problems collectively. The New Deal institutionalized that vision, of course, turning the Constitution on its head. Thus today’s progressives think that nearly every “problem” is a political problem, to be solved collectively – utterly ignoring the evidence of the ages about such collective undertakings. Sarkozy has prevailed for the moment in France, but strikes continue to cripple the economy, and the opposition has promised to make him pay in the next election. One can hope only that American voters will take a different course and that those they elect next Tuesday will have the wisdom to know when and when not to compromise, because this cannot go on forever.

Time to End the Campaign Finance ‘Reform’ Ruse

Today POLITICO Arena asks:

Looking at the repeated failures of campaign finance reforms, is it time to end the restrictions?

My response:

Funny, we didn’t hear the primal scream about campaign finance from liberal Democrats during the 2008 campaigns, when money was pouring into their coffers from everywhere. Do we need any better evidence of the hypocrisy surrounding their screams this year? If so, turn to the lead editorial in this morning’s Wall Street Journal. It’ll tell you all you need to know about the campaign finance “reform” ruse that has been going on for years.

As I’ve written often at the Arena, the true aim of this game is incumbent protection, and it has been from the beginning. But thanks to the First Amendment, incumbents can’t shut down all private campaign financing, or regulate it in many of the ways that have been tried over the years. So after each new “reform,” private money – which is speech – finds new ways to try to influence election outcomes. The reformers real beef, then, is with the First Amendment. They won’t say it. But there it is. It’s time to end this nonsense.

ObamaCare: Never Supported by a Majority, Now 10 Points behind with Likely Voters

With the addition of a poll by George Washington University and Politico – completed the day before ObamaCare started sending health insurance premiums higher, making coverage less accessible for children, and destroying health insurance innovations – Pollster.com shows that among likely voters, ObamaCare now suffers a 10-point popularity gap:

(As I’ve noted before, Pollster.com’s local-regression trend estimate will head off in a direction different from public opinion if the latest poll is a fluke.  But these trajectories are consistent with Pollster.com’s trend estimates for polls surveying registered voters and all adults, which incorporate many more data points.)

Also worth noting: ObamaCare has never enjoyed the support of a majority of likely voters or even all adults.  For every poll that put ObamaCare above 50 percent – there have been only a few, and the highest showed only 53-percent support – many more polls clocked support at well below 50 percent.  Thus Pollster.com’s trend estimate shows public support for ObamaCare peaked among all adults at 47 percent just after Obama’s inauguration, and has fallen to just below 40 percent today.  Among likely voters (above), the high water mark was 45 percent in June, 2009, and now stands at just over 42 percent.

If Pollster.com does a fair job of smoothing out the quirkiness of various polls, that means ObamaCare has never enjoyed the support of a majority of Americans.

‘Democrats Guess Wrong on Health Care’

That’s the headline of an article posted this week in Politico:

Rarely have so many political strategists been so wrong about something so big.

But when it comes to the health care bill, everyone from former President Bill Clinton on down whiffed on some of the more significant predictions.

Democrats would run aggressively on the legislation? Nope. Voters would forget about the sausage-making aspects of the legislative process? Doesn’t seem that way, as the process contributed to the sense that the bill was deeply flawed.

And Clinton’s own promise to jittery Democrats that their poll numbers would skyrocket after the bill finally passed also didn’t pan out, as the party is fighting for its life in the midterms.

What can explain the miscalculation?  Maybe religious fervor?

Are the Anti-War Left and the Tea Party Just Two Sides of the Same Coin?

Responding to my POLITICO Arena post this morning about the Tea Party’s potency as a notional political force, David Biespiel, poet, editor, writer, and founding executive director of the Attic Writers’ Workshop in Portland, Oregon, points to opposition to the Iraq War as he argues that “the anti-war left were tea partiers before being tea partiers was cool!” Look here and scroll down a bit for Biespiel’s argument and my response.

Has ObamaCare’s Unpopularity Caused ‘Abject Panic at the White House’?

Politico has obtained and published a confidential messaging-strategy presentation that essentially admits ObamaCare supporters are losing the battle for public opinion.  The presentation was delivered to professional leftists by the left-wing Herndon Alliance, based on public opinion research by Democratic pollsters John Anzalone, Celinda Lake, and Stan Greenberg, in a forum organized by the left-wing group Families USA,  “one of the central groups in the push for the initial legislation.”  It is a stark admission that the public has not warmed to the new health care law, despite predictions that they would do so. 

Here’s how Politico describes the presentation and its implications:

Key White House allies are dramatically shifting their attempts to defend health care legislation, abandoning claims that it will reduce costs and deficit, and instead stressing a promise to “improve it.”

…The confidential presentation … suggests that Democrats are acknowledging the failure of their predictions that the health care legislation would grow more popular after its passage, as its benefits became clear and rhetoric cooled. Instead, the presentation is designed to win over a skeptical public, and to defend the legislation — and in particular the individual mandate — from a push for repeal…

The presentation concedes that groups typically supportive of Democratic causes — people under 40, non-college educated women, and Hispanic voters — have not been won over by the plan. Indeed, it stresses repeatedly, many are unaware that the legislation has passed, an astonishing shortcoming in the White House’s all-out communications effort.

“Straightforward ‘policy’ defenses fail to [move] voters’ opinions about the law,” says one slide. “Women in particular are concerned that health care law will mean less provider availability – scarcity an issue.”

The presentation also concedes that the fiscal and economic arguments that were the White House’s first and most aggressive sales pitch have essentially failed.

“Many don’t believe health care reform will help the economy,” says one slide.

The presentation’s final page of “Don’ts” counsels against claiming “the law will reduce costs and deficit.”

Reason magazine’s Peter Suderman notes that ObamaCare supporters are “backing down from core arguments about cost and deficit reductions in the new health care law… It’s a frank admission that the economic argument in favor of the law has basically failed amongst voters.”

These revelations come at the same time a CNN/Opinion Research poll shows ObamaCare’s individual mandate is increasingly unpopular.  Politico reports:

Just 44 percent favor the health care mandate… Fifty-six percent oppose the mandate, up 3 percentage points from when the bill passed.

Americans still support ObamaCare’s price controls — which force insurance companies to over-charge the healthy and under-charge the sick — by 58-42 percent.  But as President Obama has himself acknowledged, those price controls don’t work without the individual mandate.  Unless a majority also supports the mandate, you don’t have majority support for either.

The Washington Examiner’s David Freddoso speculates there is “abject panic at the White House” over the unpopularity of ObamaCare.

On the “Wisdom” of Obama

This morning POLITICO Arena asks:
Should POTUS show his cards on mosque?
My response:
Obama’s inept handling of the Ground Zero mosque controversy is perfectly consistent with so much else he’s touched during his so-far short presidency. On Friday night he waded into this local matter by miscasting it as one of high constitutional principle. Then as his defenders were shouting “Bravo!” on Saturday he pulled the rug out from under them by saying, correctly, that it was really a matter of “wisdom” – about which he wasn’t going to comment.
Maybe he’s right about that. After all, the president isn’t, or shouldn’t be, the moral compass of the nation – certainly not this president. But it’s rather late in the day to be ducking out on this one, now that it’s been elevated to the presidential level. And it isn’t as if we didn’t know how inexperienced this man was when we elected him president. What was it Churchill said about democracy?