Perusing the blogosphere and the internet this morning, I ran across two stories which reinforce something that has become increasingly clear over the last couple of months.
Namely, the Democrat Party is close to getting swept out to sea. And they don’t seem to have any concept of how to keep that from happening.
I’ll explain. First, let’s recount where we are.
Last year, there was a massive Republican wave in the House and, to a lesser extent, the Senate. That wave was driven by voter reaction to runaway growth in government and the prospect that massive tax increases would be in the offing to pay for it. It wasn’t particularly driven by bad economic performance, though certainly the anemic “recovery” we were in last year didn’t do the Dems any favors.
After that wave hit, the president and his people in the Senate essentially caved to Republican demands for an extension in the Bush tax rates, and that extension passed in the lame-duck session.
But since then, there has been next to zero legislation passed on Capitol Hill. Short of a rather disappointing – for both sides – deal to clean up the mess the Democrats left on the 2011 budget, nothing has gotten done.
And for Republican voters and friendly independents, this isn’t a bad thing. One of the most prevalent themes for the Right in the 2010 cycle was that a GOP majority in the House was necessary to put a stop to the insane policies Obama, Reid and Pelosi were ramrodding through Congress. Reality didn’t exactly match perception in that regard; after the Pyrrhic victory the Dems managed to inflict on themselves in March last year, the only major piece of legislation they were able to pass was the Dodd-Frank financial regulation bill. You’ll notice that nobody is touting Dodd-Frank these days, since it’s being blamed for a slowdown in the financial services industry, and the Dems have been on defense where Obamacare is concerned for more than a year.
But Obamacare alone was enough to justify a perception of a threat on the part of the voters; after all, it’s a vehicle to destroy the private health insurance system in this country. Wiping out an entire private-sector industry by legislation is a big deal; most people would say it’s foolish politically.
Because of that, ever since Obamacare passed the Democrats have been like scared chickens. Their agenda has been completely exhausted and they have no ability to drive policy. Even Obama doesn’t have the ability to drive legislation.
And what I see is that Obama isn’t even able to control his people on policy. Remember that vote on Obama’s “budget” a while ago? It failed in the Senate by a 97-0 vote. A Democrat president wasn’t able to get so much as one Democrat senator to give him a meaningless vote on the budget. Sure, the Democrats in the Senate haven’t come over to the GOP side; blocking Republicans isn’t the same thing as getting in step with Obama on substantive policy.
But there’s a big problem with this stalemate situation. Namely, we’ve got to do something about the debt ceiling. Somebody has to offer a plan that can pass, or else there will be major consequences. But the American people would rather just start cutting the federal budget with a meat cleaver than raise that debt ceiling. The polls show huge numbers opposed to raising it – above 60 percent, in some surveys, and in a poll ABC and the Washington Post took over the weekend this question was asked…
Would you support or oppose raising the government’s debt limit while also making deep cuts in spending on federal programs? IF OPPOSE: Is that because you (oppose raising the debt limit) or because you (oppose deep cuts in federal spending)?
The response was portrayed as “Americans Split On Debt Ceiling,” which is a lie. Here were the numbers…
- 51 percent supported the proposition; essentially, they said it was good policy to do what House Speaker John Boehner and the GOP leadership are advocating. Raise the debt ceiling and foreclose discussions of default, but hack away at the budget so this doesn’t come up again.
- Of the 44 percent who opposed the proposition, most – 23 percent – said they oppose raising the debt ceiling under any circumstances.
- A grand total of 22 percent said either the debt ceiling should be raised without spending cuts (15 percent) or that neither the debt ceiling should be raised nor spending should be cut (7 percent). That latter group, one assumes, is for just printing money or for raising taxes to close the deficit; who knows.
The upshot? We ain’t split. 51 percent plus 23 percent equals 74 percent of the American people who say don’t raise that debt limit unless the federal government goes on a massive diet. You can’t get 74 percent of the American people to agree on almost anything; this is as unanimous as it gets.
So the Republicans have the high ground here. They can go a number of different ways. Dick Morris suggests that they should pass a bill in the House which directs the Treasury to prioritize debt service, paying the troops and Social Security, which would foreclose a default, and then sit back and watch the Democrats burn. The guess here is that’s what’s likely to happen, at least to some extent.
But even if Morris is off the mark, the basic GOP position already staked out by Boehner represents a consensus of the voters.
And what is the Democrats’ position?
Well, they don’t have one.
There was a great deal of sound a fury about Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget document, and the media narrative was that it’s a political loser because it ends Medicare as we know it. The Democrats gave us six weeks of Mediscare howling, and claimed – dubiously, I think – that Mediscare delivered them the NY-26 seat in a special election. The narrative was that the GOP had cut its own throat and the Democrats were going to win back the House as a result. Mediscare, together with Obama’s poll bounce from killing Osama bin Laden, had them believing Obama was unbeatable.
But there is only so much time you can kill accusing the other guy of trying to strangle Granny; eventually the voters will get tired of that, or worse, listen to the other guy’s explanation for why that’s not what he’s trying to do. And if his explanation makes sense – Ryan, as it turns out, can make a very articulate case for his plan given airtime to do so – the voters turn on you for lying to them. Killing bin Laden, also, was always a fleeting source of job approval for the president.
And so Mediscare and killing bin Laden have petered out. They’ve been overtaken by events – namely, an avalanche of bad economic news which indicts the administration’s policies and to top it all off, Weinergate.
Weinergate is particularly bad for the Democrats because of its protagonist. Anthony Weiner is/was the most shameless of the Democrats’ demagogues, quick to rush a microphone and spread calumnies on the GOP for every supposed sin under the sun. That he would turn out to be a pervert and a shameless, pitiful liar on the question of his frequent electronic exhibitionism is an indictment not just of his personal life and fitness for office but of the style of his politics – which is Mediscare on every issue. Will the public be as interested in demagoguery from Debbie Wasserman-Schultz or Chuck Schumer or Harry Reid in the wake of Weinergate? It’s hard to imagine that level of discourse will be as effective now that one of its most prominent purveyors has entered so flamboyant a state of disgrace.
That Weiner won’t leave makes things worse. He has left no oxygen for the Democrats to push a Mediscare message, and every day he persists is a day that message can’t get out.
So the Democrats are stuck trying to find something else to work with. And they’ve got very little. To wit – they’re now offering up ideas on the budget and the economy which are not only dead on arrival in the House but which are also going to be seen as completely unserious by the public.
Senior Senate Democrats are growing frustrated by what they see as President Obama’s passivity on the economy, and are beginning to discuss a large infrastructure package funded by tax increases.
Some Democrats, such as Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, who serves as chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, think such a package could lower the unemployment rate by as much as two percentage points.
Harkin’s next quote points to something which appears more and more under the bedskirt – Capitol Hill Democrats sniping at Obama…
“I am concerned about the Obama administration’s approach on this,” Harkin said. “It always has been about jobs. I think the administration kind of got snookered talking about the deficit and the debt after the last election.
“The last election was about jobs and the economy, and now we’re in a position where we really do need some economic pump-priming by the federal government,” he said.
In other words, stimulus. Tax and spend. If that’s not a lead balloon, then what is?
And yet the Democrats think it’s a swell idea.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, endorsed Harkin’s argument for more infrastructure spending, and said it is gaining support in the broader caucus.
“There’s very broad support,” Rockefeller said. “There’s no other way to get at this problem.”
Rockefeller said a spending package was discussed at several meetings Wednesday and that there’s a recognition Democrats need to be tougher in negotiations with Republicans.
“We have to be much more aggressive about all this, because as soon as they say ‘We’re not going to do that,’ as they’ve been saying for so long about so many things, you just kind of say ‘oh.’ We’ve got to stop saying ‘oh,’ ” he said, referring to the hard line Republicans have taken for Medicare cuts and against tax increases.
The other proposal was put forth by Democrats in the House, led by Rep. Earl Blumenauer…
A group of House Democrats is calling for any deal to raise the debt ceiling to bring about the end of the Bush tax rates for the wealthy.
The lawmakers, led by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), also say that, following last week’s weak job report, they are concerned that certain decreases in federal spending could hurt the economy’s recovery.
“At this point, both government and private-sector economists agree that sharp immediate cuts in government spending risk plunging our economy into a double-dip recession that will cost further jobs and ultimately worsen our fiscal situation,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter obtained by The Hill.
They added that allowing the Bush tax rates for the wealthiest to expire at the end of next year would by itself “stop the growth of the deficit over the next decade.”
Increasing taxes? Now?
Ed Morrissey at Hot Air demolished this idea with aplomb…
Not only do Blumenauer and his cohorts demonstrate their political irrelevance, they’re also displaying astonishingly bad math skills as well. The projected revenue from hiking the top tax rate to its pre-Bush rate, even using static tax analysis, is around $700 billion over a decade. A $700 billion infusion would not eliminate the “growth of the deficit” over a decade, not at current rates of spending and growth in entitlement spending projected over that period; in fact, it wouldn’t even cut this year’s deficit in half.
Clearly, though, voters are even less interested in tax hikes than they are in raising the debt ceiling. The latter is wildly unpopular with voters, who want spending cuts to resolve the deficit problem. In April, a CBS poll showed 63% opposed to a debt-ceiling hike, a finding confirmed by one poll after another. Telling voters that they can only get a debt ceiling hike if a tax increased is attached is somewhat akin to having someone say he’ll only steal your wife if you let him clear out your bank account, too.
As Morrissey also notes, the entire point of Obama caving to the GOP on the Bush tax rates was to get the issue off the table for the 2012 elections. A bit of self-preservation, you see – a not-insignificant piece of the 2010 debacle for the Democrats was the idea that they’d be responsible for raising everybody’s taxes in the midst of a bad economy. The carnage that resulted spooked the Obamites, who had made a big show of how the Bush rates had to increase in the name of fiscal responsibility. That Obama doesn’t have any control over the House Democrats to keep them from putting forth plans which reopen those wounds is surprising – would the Dems have had so little discipline when Clinton was president?
Of course, nobody of any consequence (Morrissey is correct in describing the House Democrats as irrelevant) is seriously talking about jacking tax rates up right now. But what the Democrats are talking about is hardly better. They’re talking about getting rid of tax breaks, most notably on business – in the midst of a receding economy at a time when America’s corporate tax rate is the highest in the world, and they’re discussing the elimination of mortgage deductions as the housing industry slides further into the abyss.
None of those things are going to work with the public. We can agree on that, certainly. The public wants spending cuts, period. They’re not interested in taxes until it can be shown that there’s nothing left to cut. And the Democrats can’t offer spending cuts now without giving the GOP a victory.
All of this taken together indicates that the Democrats are finished. Unless the GOP makes devastating mistakes – and Ryan’s Medicare plan, unpopular though it might be in certain circles and bashed in the legacy media though it was, has not been such a mistake – they’re out of ideas anyone will take seriously. They also have no record of achievement to work with, either. Last year’s cycle delivered the public’s judgement on that score and things haven’t improved for them since.
And if you don’t have any ideas or record to run on, you’re going to lose. Weinerite demagoguery and Obamite attack politics won’t change that next year; only a miracle can save the Democrats now.