Friday, October 17, 2008

"The Change That We Can Believe"... Is Coming

With all of the attention directed towards the Presidential race, we often miss the other story and that's the Congressional races. In what looks like will be another tidal wave year for Democrats in Congress, it is becoming increasingly likely that in addition to a President Obama, the Democrats will come very close to if not reaching the 60 seat threshold required to gain a filibuster proof majority. The last two times this occurred with a Democrat president was in 1933 in the New Deal era and in 1965 in the Great Society era.Both times saw unprecedented increases in the role and power of the welfare state. And this was when the parties were not as ideologically pure and there were still numerous Southern Conservative Democrats. I hope America realizes that out of its disgust for recent Republican governance, that it is about to hand a super majority to the left that has not been seen in a generation. This Congress will be an even greater rubber stamp for Obama then it was for Bush.

Considering that ideological shifts have not occurred nearly to the extent of party affiliation, voters might be in for a surprise in upcoming years. A recent WSJ/NBC poll showed that voters self identify themselves as:

43% Democrat
36% GOP
20% Independent/Other

While at that same time:

23% liberal
37% conservative
36% moderate

(sorry, I'm looking at the hard copy and can’t find the online page to link)

Today's Wall Street Journal has an overview of various bills that have either passed in the House recently but have been blocked in the Senate, or ideas that are being proposed by the majority that will likely get passed in a 60 Democrat majority. Though the article writes about these in a largely negative light, it still is a good summary. Some of the examples include:

Medicare For All- although Obama is not actually advocating a complete state-run medical system, his plan is a big step in that direction, "Mr. Obama wants to build a public insurance program, modeled after Medicare and open to everyone of any income. According to the Lewin Group, the gold standard of health policy analysis, the Obama plan would shift between 32 million and 52 million from private coverage to the huge new entitlement." The public program will be designed to displace privately insured individuals until the bulk of the populous is comfortable with state run health insurance. It is then only a matter of time before rationing and heavy taxation become a necessity as is the case in nations with national systems.

Union "Card Check" - In a blatant attempt to bolster a Democrat special interest, the right to a secret ballot for union organization will be removed so that union bosses can go back to the day of being able to intimidate workers into joining a union. This is such a blatant attempt to reward a special interest group that even stalwart of the left George McGovern has strongly come out against this.

Taxes Will Have to Rise Drastically - If the Democrats are going to deliver on all the new spending programs they are promising, unless they are going to greatly increase the deficit, taxes are going to have to be raised to a level much higher then what Obama is proposing.

Free Speech - The so called "fairness doctrine" could be returned, allowing the FCC to regulate political speech on television and radio.

Huge Intervention in Business - Everything from price controls on pharmaceuticals, increased government stakes in financial insitutions to arbitrary oil "windfall" profits taxes are likely. Free markets will soon take a serious blow.

Higher Energy Costs and Carbon Taxes - Whether or not carbon emissions are something we should worried about does not change the fact that by design, any cap-and-trade system or carbon tax will make energy and therefore everything else we consume more expensive. In addition there will be a huge new bureaucracy to manage this, which will be a lobbyists wet dream as every special interest will have a reason why they need "adjustment credits."

We are still paying heavily for the first two giant leaps in the welfare state, as Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid are both going insolvent. I hope we can afford the likely third wave that is about to come upon us.



Hmm, EJB...I don't think your post is nearly clear enough on how you feel about a possible Democrat super majority.

Anyway, let's get back to reality. I'm not going to sit here and try to argue that a liberal super majority would be an out and out good thing. No sane person would argue that ANY super majority is a good thing, because we all recognize the importance of internal checks and balances. But I do have a few things to add:

1) The WSJ argument is flawed in a few ways. First, it is a simple appeal to fear - something we see entirely too much in the news media these days. In fact the entire tone of the article is akin to "the sky is falling!" and almost seems to encourage voters to vote GOP simply to avoid a parade of horribles. This is not a good reason to cast a vote. If the Dems reach a super majority it will be because our republican system functioned properly - it will be the choice of the people, and likely, a consequence and direct reaction to the failed policy of the last regime. Second, the ONLY gauge the article uses to predict the impending future welfare state is that, when Dems had Congress and the Presidency, the power of the State increased. First, causation is NOT established by this reference to two time periods. The correlation is strong, to be sure...but many other factors played a role in the then Congress' decisions to back certain plans (the Great Depression, FDR's unique personality, WWII and Korea, for instance). Let's also not forget that both parties are very different from what they used to be, even from the 60's.

2) It isn't anywhere near clear that this liberal super majority is even feasible. Estimates from different sites and polls are all over the place in terms of just how many seats the Dems will pick up.

3) The Democratic Party is NOT monolithic. Let's give some credit to the different factions and philosophies that are amalgamated into what we call the Democrats. I fully expect the Blue Dog's to strengthen their voice in a super majority because we they would understand the downsides of absolute, unchecked power. In fact, many of the new Dem Congressmen would likely be of the same type as Heath Shuler, not Ted Kennedy. Also, "Democrats" like my own Senator Lieberman or Bernie Sanders have shown no problem with taking sides against the party line.

4) There would be some positive benefits to a Democrat super majority. The education system would be drastically improved as we could finally get rid of the failure that was "No Child Left Behind." Obama's plan to improve and repair the national infrastructure would bring a much needed technological upgrade to our nation's highways, railroads and airports (much like FDR's infrastructure plan did - sans the airports). Anyone driving up 95 from NYC to Boston could tell you that they wouldn't mind paying a little more in taxes if it meant a safer and wider highway. Bridges and overpasses are literally crumbling all across the country. I also must disagree that the implementation of a State-run Health Care system would be a negative consequence of this supposed super majority. The quality of life for many of our poorer citizens would improve with Democratic policies. I'm not going to go into a full list of every possible beneficial policy that could get enacted.

Nobody should be arguing that a Dem super majority (or any super majority) is the best possible scenario for our country. But come on, EJB (and NTC), have some faith in our electorate. You guys are libertarians, you're supposed to believe in the power of people to choose the path that is most right for them. Thus a super majority would be right simply because it was so elected. And if they really do screw things up like you say they will, it'll only last two years because the people will shuffle them right out. The sky is not falling...we are not heading for a totalitarian welfare-state...let's get real.



Few things. First, I definitely acknowledge the tone of this article upfront saying, "Though the article writes about these in a largely negative light, it still is a good summary."

Second, you set up a straw man when you say, "
Second, the ONLY gauge the article uses to predict the impending future welfare state is that, when Dems had Congress and the Presidency, the power of the State increased. First, causation is NOT established by this reference to two time periods." The major premise of this article is that the bulk of the things listed are bills that have already been passed in the Dem controlled House in the past two years, but were blocked in the Senate. Or, they are things that Obama supports and the House would likely pass. This is not mere correlation, it is based on very recent history. The correlation only compares past historical precedent.

Third, though yes the Dem party is not monolithic, it is far more uniform then it had been in the past two time periods shown. There are the Blue Dogs, but they are far from the old southern democrats which in the Senate, we probably saw the last real one retire in Zel Miller. The legacy of the Southern Democrats is largely now in the Republican Party (for instance Sen. Shelby from AL was initially elected as a Democrat). The only current Dem Senator currently which I would argue could be called a conservative democrat is Ben Nelson from Nebraska. If he wins, Musgrove from Mississippi might be considered one too, maybe. I don't see many Democrats, particularly in the Senate, blocking anything the leadership puts through with the exception of some decisive social issues. As far as spending and social programs, they will pass just as they did with all the Blue Dogs currently in the house.

Fourth, I'm not saying a super majority is definitely going to happen. But its quite feasible. I even use language as "increasingly likely that they will come close if not reach" and place a "?" on my chart. I am only discussing a possibility that is quite feasible but not guaranteed.

Neither am I arguing that a Dem majority necessarily brings all bad things, but it brings the list that I discussed (though I would argue that No Child Left Behind needs to be totally scrapped).

Fifth, you seem to not get what "libertarian" means when you say, "
But come on, EJB (and NTC), have some faith in our electorate. You guys are libertarians, you're supposed to believe in the power of people to choose the path that is most right for them. Thus a super majority would be right simply because it was so elected." I do believe in the ability for the individual to chose the path for themselves. I don't believe in the ability of the individual to dictate that an authoritative power decide whats right for another individual.

Lastly, I am not making the argument that we are going to become the Soviet Union or an "authoritative welfare state." What I am arguing is that assuming that the Democrats get 60 seats, we are very likely to see the next major leap towards the expansion of the welfare state, just as the the last two
occurrences did, and what has been passed in the House already is a very good indicator of what will happen if the Senate and President are on the same page. We will further move more in the direction of a European Social Democracy and away from a Liberal Republic.