21 Dec 2009

Keep the Change

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The Wall Street Journal bitterly sums up.

And tidings of comfort and joy from Harry Reid too. The Senate Majority Leader has decided that the last few days before Christmas are the opportune moment for a narrow majority of Democrats to stuff ObamaCare through the Senate to meet an arbitrary White House deadline. Barring some extraordinary reversal, it now seems as if they have the 60 votes they need to jump off this cliff, with one-seventh of the economy in tow.

Mr. Obama promised a new era of transparent good government, yet on Saturday morning Mr. Reid threw out the 2,100-page bill that the world’s greatest deliberative body spent just 17 days debating and replaced it with a new “manager’s amendment” that was stapled together in covert partisan negotiations. Democrats are barely even bothering to pretend to care what’s in it, not that any Senator had the chance to digest it in the 38 hours before the first cloture vote at 1 a.m. this morning. After procedural motions that allow for no amendments, the final vote could come at 9 p.m. on December 24.

Even in World War I there was a Christmas truce.

The rushed, secretive way that a bill this destructive and unpopular is being forced on the country shows that “reform” has devolved into the raw exercise of political power for the single purpose of permanently expanding the American entitlement state. An increasing roll of leaders in health care and business are looking on aghast at a bill that is so large and convoluted that no one can truly understand it, as Finance Chairman Max Baucus admitted on the floor last week. The only goal is to ram it into law while the political window is still open, and clean up the mess later. …

“After a nearly century-long struggle we are on the cusp of making health-care reform a reality in the United States of America,” Mr. Obama said on Saturday. He’s forced to claim the mandate of “history” because he can’t claim the mandate of voters. Some 51% of the public is now opposed, according to National Journal’s composite of all health polling. The more people know about ObamaCare, the more unpopular it becomes.

The tragedy is that Mr. Obama inherited a consensus that the health-care status quo needs serious reform, and a popular President might have crafted a durable compromise that blended the best ideas from both parties. A more honest and more thoughtful approach might have even done some good. But as Mr. Obama suggested, the Democratic old guard sees this plan as the culmination of 20th-century liberalism.

So instead we have this vast expansion of federal control. Never in our memory has so unpopular a bill been on the verge of passing Congress, never has social and economic legislation of this magnitude been forced through on a purely partisan vote, and never has a party exhibited more sheer political willfulness that is reckless even for Washington or had more warning about the consequences of its actions.

These 60 Democrats are creating a future of epic increases in spending, taxes and command-and-control regulation, in which bureaucracy trumps innovation and transfer payments are more important than private investment and individual decisions. In short, the Obama Democrats have chosen change nobody believes in—outside of themselves—and when it passes America will be paying for it for decades to come.

Read the whole thing.

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Last week, Kimberley Strassel explained that democrats will pay a major price for this, but the democrat leadership doesn’t care.

Barack Obama emerged from his meeting with Senate Democrats this week to claim Congress was on the “precipice” of something historic. Believe him. The president is demanding his party unilaterally enact one of the most unpopular and complex pieces of social legislation in history. In the process, he may be sacrificing Democrats’ chances at creating a sustainable majority.

Slowly, slowly, the Democratic health agenda is turning into a political suicide pact. Congressional members have been dragged along by momentum, by threat, by bribe, but mostly by the White House’s siren song that it would be worse to not pass a bill than it would be to pass one. If that ever were true, it is not today.

Public opinion on ObamaCare is at a low ebb. This week’s NBC-WSJ poll: A mere 32% of Americans think it a “good” idea. The Washington Post: Only 35% of independents support it—down 10 points in a month. Resurgent Republic recently queried Americans over the age of 55, aka Those Most Likely to Vote In a Midterm Election. Sixty-one percent believe ObamaCare will increase their health costs; 68% believe it will increase the deficit; 76% believe it will raise their taxes.

Democrats also have managed to alienate the liberal base to which they were catering. The death of the public option and Medicare buy-in this week sent Howard Dean to thundering “kill the bill.” A week from now, the current polls might look good.

Yet it is in individual states where the disconnect between the White House’s soothing words and the ugly political reality is most stark. While Democrats are under fire for the economy and spending, it is health care that has voters thinking it’s time for political change. …

[W]hy the stubborn insistence on passing health reform? Think big. The liberal wing of the party—the Barney Franks, the David Obeys—are focused beyond November 2010, to the long-term political prize. They want a health-care program that inevitably leads to a value-added tax and a permanent welfare state. Big government then becomes fact, and another Ronald Reagan becomes impossible. See Continental Europe.

The entitlement crazes of the 1930s and 1960s also caused a backlash, but liberal Democrats know the programs of those periods survived. They are more than happy to sacrifice a few Blue Dogs, a Blanche Lincoln, a Michael Bennet, if they can expand government so that in the long run it benefits the party of government.

What’s extraordinary is that more Democrats have not wised up to the fact that they are being used as pawns in this larger liberal game. Maybe Mr. Obama will see a bump in the polls if health care passes; maybe not. What is certain is that this vote is becoming one that many in his party will not survive.

Read the whole thing.

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