Friday, June 19, 2009
Obamanomics Is Over
The Obama Administration is over, at least in terms of major legislation.
Socialized medicine disguised as a "public option" will not pass Congress. Neither will the beloved-of-Hollywood-airheads "cap and trade" energy tax bill. Ditto for the union-pushed "card check" payoff. This triad of massive government expansion, considered the crown jewels for Obama's New New Deal, are all walking dead. Forget about the Democrats having 60 Senate votes to block a filibuster; I doubt any one of the three could get to a bare majority, assuming they ever came to the floor. Which they probably won't.
The realization of all this clearly hasn't sunk in yet with all of the Administration, the Congressional leadership, or the Obamedia, and no wonder: they've thought for months that all of these things were going to be a slam dunk. They're just starting to realize that they could have had the whole megillah of Europeanizing the American economy, but instead, they blew it.
Obama and his party in Congress, wrapped up in a comfortable cocoon of media adulation, misread the results of the last two elections. Rather than examining public disgust at government overspending, overreach and general corruption, they chose instead to read 2006-08 as a mandate for Liberal governance. Running with that imagined mandate, they shoved through one waste-riddled spending orgy after another, culminating in a single-year deficit roughly four times larger than any other in history. Awash in one adoring magazine cover after another, Obama conveniently forgot that he didn't campaign on adding even one trillion to the federal budget, much less multiple trillions.
Their planned federal borrowing (which didn't even count added trillions for the socialized medicine scheme) produced the now-famous chart that half of Washington is still assiduously trying to ignore:
Anytime you might wonder why all these grand new schemes are failing to get support, just look at that chart.
It must come as a surprise to the incoming Chicago camp that the Little People are upset about having to foot the bill for all that spending, rather than simply expressing bovine joy towards their Ivy League-approved government benefactors. This isn't The Way Things Work for the Chicago machine: Democratic politicians are supposed to spend tons of money to buy votes, the money is guided to patronage pork, the interest groups turn out those votes in gratitude, and the suckers--er, taxpayers are supposed to shut up and pay for the whole thing.
It's not working out that way. People were shocked by the initial outlays of Obama's budget, and shock quickly turned out outrage when the Administration nationalized two failed car companies in a naked bid to prop up a major campaign contributor that also happens to be a hugely-disliked labor union. Trillions in boondoggle spending was bad enough, but throwing endless good money after bad to support Government Motors and Chrylser was sour icing on an unpalatable cake.
"Card check" never had any serious hopes of passage, and for good reason: it's a naked power grab that has the added bonus of encouraging intimidation and thuggery. Twentieth-Century unions swing a big bat in the Democratic Party, but for the country at large, they're an anachronism and a nuisance, and now thanks to the UAW, the poster children for government coddling and overreach.
The socialized medicine scheme is dead on the vine for similar reasons. Obama, as ever in love with the melodious sound of his own voice, is still pushing the nonsensical idea that we can save money on health care by... spending a lot more money on health care, and as an added bonus, putting government bureaucrats in charge of it. The shell game of adding a "public option"--one that's clearly designed to simply run private insurers out of business in short order--isn't fooling anybody. People understand that there's no such thing as a free lunch. The only way the government can lower its spending on health care is by paying for less of it. That means Canadian-style rationing by bureaucratic decree, which is something Americans will simply never stand for.
One way out of rationing is, as Mickey Kaus asserts, simply spending ever-more for health care to avoid the political backlash. The problem with Mickey's argument is, the money isn't there. Look back up at that chart if you aren't sure. The only way to get there is with a massive tax increase, and that's never going to fly in this fiscal environment. As soon as I saw the early estimate of $600 billion in new taxes to pay for Obamacare, I said to myself, "That's it--it's DOA." The cost estimate for Obamacare has since nearly tripled, effectively turning the plan into a political zombie.
As for "cap and trade," the massive energy tax disguised as environmentalism, as Sean Connery would say, it's as dead as Julius Ceasar. The monstrous, economy-killing child of Henry Waxman and his Hollywood constituency not only wouldn't do a thing to prevent alleged "global warming," it likely wouldn't manage a majority of Democrats in the Senate, and possibly not even in the House. My guess is that it never makes it to a vote.
Now, obviously, even though he's bleeding political support, Obama is far from powerless, and his party still holds big majorities in Congress. They'll get a lot done as far as passing new laws and regulations and pushing through a generation's worth of new liberal judges. What they won't do, though, is pass any massive new programs that cost tons of new money. That window has closed.