September 14, 2010
November Is Just the BeginningBy Christopher Chantrill
It's beginning to look like the Republicans will win both Houses of Congress this fall. But a Republican Congress won't be enough repeal the disaster of ObamaCare. President Obama will be able to veto any repeal effort at least through 2012. And even with a Republican president in 2013, Democrats may still be able to filibuster a repeal bill. So what's the point?
The point is that from now until its actual repeal, in three years or thirty, ObamaCare is going to be an issue that cuts against the Democrats.
Remember how it used to feel when a big issue cut against Republicans? For years, Democrats had been demanding expansion of Medicare benefits to include prescription drugs for our seniors. Every time they brought it up, Republicans would go into a protective cringe. But then President Bush pushed his Medicare prescription plan through Congress in 2003, and the issue has since gone away. You may not like Bush's huge entitlement expansion, but we will look back at Medicare Part D as the last Big Push of the entitlement state.
Yet here we are in 2010 with another entitlement around our necks: ObamaCare.
But look what has happened. It's six weeks before an election, and the Democrats are throwing away their weapons and yelling ancient French war cries like sauve qui peut! (literally, "save who can") and triage! No Democrat, not one, is boasting of his or her vote for ObamaCare.
Democrats must be looking at each other in utter perplexity. This was supposed to be 1933 and FDR all over again. The American people were supposed to be bellowing for Big Government to come and rescue them from the evil Republican financial tsunami. Instead, the American people are petrified by debt and wasteful stimulus spending.
What went wrong? I will tell you. Back in 1933, the majority of Americans were wage-earning working stiffs. They had nothing to lose from FDR's bold, persistent experimentation. Debt? Hey, when times are good, you buy a car on credit. When times are bad, you pawn the furniture. What really counts is a powerful political patron who can help you out.
Today, the majority of Americans are middle-class property owners. Don't talk to them about debt and default. They have money in the bank and 401ks with Fidelity. They pay their mortgages and their insurance premiums on time, thank you, and they don't hold with others who get in over their heads. Also, senior citizens understand instinctively what happens to their Social Security and their Medicare when the government goes broke.
And then the president decides to mess with their health insurance.
Here's another issue that's going to cut against Democrats: European levels of working-age people outside the work force.
Ben Stein reported on this last week. He was lunching with some folks in Sandpoint, Idaho.
I've written about Euro-style unemployment before. Studies show that people start losing job skills as soon as they get laid off. The longer they are out of work, the less employable they become. Most middle-aged men out of work for two years will never work again.
I predict that after this Great Recession is over, we will be looking at about 15 percent of the adult working-age population that will be detached from work -- just as in Europe.
Democrats are going to get the blame for this, and they deserve it. They have known since 1970 that their welfare policies don't work. In Losing Ground, Charles Murray wrote about the great liberal experiment of the 1960s, the Negative Income Tax. It was tried in several states in the late sixties and fully instrumented with social science research analysis. The result was complete failure. The Negative Income Tax (NIT) reduced work effort and increased family breakup.
But did the failure of the NIT and job training and all the other Great Society programs get the liberals to give up on their welfare philosophy? No. If they couldn't end poverty, they could at least buy the votes of the poor with other people's money.
I do not think our rulers understand how badly they have failed. I do not think they understand yet the rage their arrogance has provoked. But they will, and November is only the beginning.