Congress on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

Watching our political class fumble with the hot potato of ObamaCare has proven to make for a highly entertaining August.  We assume that elected officials must have considerable people skills.  Yet many Democrats have been ham handed in the extreme when faced with voters who want to be heard on one hand and party leaders who will not tolerate dissent on the other.

In Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar's  comedic classic,  Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, the farcical antics begin when a feckless man leaves a note informing his lover it is over.  He wants to avoid an emotional scene while she is determined to give him a large piece of her mind in person.  Today it is our Congress that seems to be on the verge of its own nervous breakdown as it attempts to avoid facing a painful truth.  The voters don't want this health care bill. Nor are they very keen about the other major pieces of legislation passed or pending such as the Stimulus Bill or Cap and Trade.  (I've received three e-mails in the last 24 hours from three separate sources notifying me of an anti-cap and trade rally next week.)  Rasmussen's recent 14% approval rating shows that voters don't trust this Congress.  Increasingly they don't seem to trust the President either.  The recent  NBC poll of adults -not registered or likely voters -showed that despite Obama's recent blitz of appearances at to consolidate support for his Health Care bill a plurality is now opposed to single payer .  In addition, many are getting hopping mad at having their position misrepresented by the media.  

The lengths to which some Congressmen and Senators have gone to avoid voters who simply want to be heard is amusing and informative.  

  •  Senator Boxer has no time for Town Hall meetings because she's busy hawking her novel, Blind Trust, which currently ranks number 21,525 in sales at Contrary to what some media pundits on both left and right might think, the health care protesters do read the arts section of their local papers.  There have been protests outside every bookstore At which Madam Boxer has appeared. 
  • Senator Dick Durbin finds meeting with constituents "not productive". On the other hand, meeting with lobbyists for the health care industry is a constructive use of his time. 
  • New York Senator Chuck  Shumer, who is not known to be shy about being the center of attention, plans to hold no town halls at all.  The junior senator from New York, Kirsten Gillibrand will be holding informal meet and greet "Senator at the Supermarket" events instead.
  • Even though he is against Obamacare, Republican Senator Bob Corker heard an earful from his constituents at a town hall meeting in Bradley County.  It seems people in Eastern Tennessee not only want government to leave them alone,  they are sick and tired of being called racists by the Democrats and the media every time they criticize the Obama administration
  • The entire New Hampshire Delegation seems to have gone into hiding in what seems a highly counterproductive move for people who represent a state with the motto "Live Free or Die".  The rhetorical pitchforks have come out in the form of photoshopped images of the missing Congressmen and women on milk cartoons.
  • Minnesota Blue Dog, Collin Peterson, already in hot water because he told Politico the voters in his district were too into 9/11 conspiracy theories to make Town Hall meetings productive, had a change of heart.  He announced he will be holding two "forums" on health care.  He also announced before they were held that he is likely to vote against the Health Care bill.

"Look, the fact of the matter is there are not the votes in the U.S. Senate for the public option, there never have been," Conrad said in an interview on "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace."

"So to continue to chase that rabbit is, I think, a wasted effort," Conrad said.

Considering that several notable members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus who have been pushing single payer are far from svelte, Conrad's image of them as a racing greyhound fruitlessly chasing a mechanical rabbit brought a huge grin to my face.

  • Upon this making the news, the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) doubled down on the public option, telling the administration in a letter that if the public plan was not included in the final bill, at least 60 Democrats would vote against it. 
  • The gasoline on the fire, or the barbiturates in the big pitcher of gazpacho to go with Pedro  Almodovar's plot device, may have come from CPC member Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY).  He seems to have done the protesters work for them, announcing on MSNBC that  "health care is not a commodity," Weiner went on to state that his aim is to eliminate all private insurance because

What is their value? What are they bringing to the deal?

With 3300+ registered lobbyists working this issue, a lot of voters are asking precisely that question, of who is bring what to this deal, albeit from an entirelydifferent perspective.  They don't want the best health the drug and insurance industry lobbyists can buy any more than they want government run health care.  No action at all is seen as preferrable to the current bill.

MASSA: I will vote adamantly against the interests of my district if I actually think what I am doing is going to be helpful.

(inaudible participants' comments regarding the "interests" of the district statement from Mr. Massa)

MASSA: I will vote against their opinion if I actually believe it will help them 

recent Gallup poll reports that self identified conservatives out number self identified liberals in every state.  A recent Battleground poll reports that the number of Americans identifying themselves as somewhat or very conservative increased by 2% from a year ago, now standing at 59%.   These numbers make a look at the membership list of the CPC highly  informative.  Most of them are from seats that are so gerrymandered they make specimens in an ink blot test look compact and contiguous.  A few are notorious dim bulbs.  Some of them are as old as Methuselah in political terms while others have been reelected despite behavior that would have forced a Republican out of office years ago.  A large number of them are in leadership positions because of the seniority that goes hand in hand with the practice of gerrymandering urban districts to increase the representation of Democrat special interest groups.  

The Congressional Democrats elected in 2006 and 2008 often promised voters that they were fiscal conservatives. Much of the voter activism in these districts comes from the feeling that they were played for suckers by the Democrat Congressional Campaign Committee.  They voted for people who seemed to be a lot like themselves.  Then the Democrats structured House leadership and rules so that the power to impact legislation is all in the bands of old time and mostly far left urban dinosaurs like Rangel, Waxman, Frank, Conyers, Murtha, et al. Those moderate newcomers from middle America can vote as they are told or face well funded primary opposition. 

Representative Massa is correct that in a Republic like ours he can vote whatever way he feels is best. His position on this issue, however, seems both arrogant and stupid in additional to being suicidal for his chances of reelection.  At every level of representative government, from village board to the U.S. Senate it is one thing to ignore the advice of the usual cranks on both the left and right with too much time on their hands, those who are forever protesting something.  There are also times when one should ignore both a well informed minority, or even an ill informed majority.  To ignore the express wishes of an informed majority aroused to participate in the process simply because you think your ideologically driven solution is best threatens the very underpinnings of government, the consent of the governed.  

There are voices out there urging Democrats to pass a Health Care reform bill with single payer because by the time the next election rolls around the voters will have changed their minds and accepted government run healthcare as a good idea.  That analysis badly misreads the results of the last two elections.  The Republicans lost power not because the nation shifted to the left.  They lost power because they failed to control spending.  The voters protesting the Health Care bill and just starting to protest Cap and Trade understand what the economic illiterates in the White House and Congress do not understand. Private financial capital cannot be assumed into the equation of revenue growth.  It has to be nurtured by wise tax and spending policies. Too much government spending and regulation impairs capital formation. So does uncertainty and arbitrary enforcement of policies.  Deficit spending over an extended period actively destroys financial capital and leads to economic stagnation for current and future generations.  

The Tea Party movement began when a stimulus bill that promised big payoffs for Democrat interest groups and little for private capital formation ballooned the deficit. The protests are now spreading beyond Health Care to Cap and Trade.  Any Health Care bill that increases the long term deficit will lead to continued protest and a major political backlash.
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