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Now I'm Really Getting Pissed Off

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View Ratings | Rate It Headlined to H2 12/19/09

And he doesn't even seem to realize it.

Did you see him tell Oprah that he gave himself "a good solid B+" for his first year in office? And that it will be an A, if he gets his healthcare legislation passed?

Somebody please pick me up and set me back on my chair, wouldya?

I am seriously beginning to worry that this cat is delusional. He has lopped off twenty full points from his job approval rating in less than a year's time, falling now below fifty percent. His party, once dominant in generic congressional election poll questions, is today almost even with hated Republicans in the public mind. Last month, Obama's inverted coattails (don't even ask where those go) got two Democrats clobbered running for governor in New Jersey and Virginia. The otherwise obnoxious George F. Will (very) rightly points out that in Kentucky, "a Republican candidate succeeded in nationalizing a state Senate race. Hugely outspent in a district in which Democrats have a lopsided registration advantage, the Republican won by 12 points a seat in Frankfort by running against Washington". Wow. Obama is now wrecking state senate races! What's next? Will local Republican candidates for sheriff win office just by opposing the embarrassment in the White House who chooses abysmal policies and then refuses to fight for them, lest he should ruffle any feathers?

"For Democrats, the red flags are flying at full mast," said Democratic pollster Peter Hart in a recent AP article. "What we don't know for certain is: Have we reached a bottoming-out point?"

Au contraire, Peter. Au contraire. I think anyone more sentient than a newborn amoeba can answer that question. The first thing to note is that the economy is not coming back anytime soon, if it comes back at all. Unless, of course, you're a fat cat Wall Street banker. Then you're just fine, because the Bush-Obama administration took care of you quite nicely, thanks very much. The rest of us poor slobs out here in real-world land, on the other hand, got a "jobs summit".

I can't even begin to describe how insulting Obama conducting a "jobs summit" is to me, or what an unbelievably ham-fisted piece of public relations that was for the White House, which is increasingly showing itself not just to be sickeningly regressive, but also fully inept. I think I speak for a whole lot of Americans when I say that, one year into his stewardship over a destroyed economy that was actually atomizing for at least six months before inauguration day, I don't want my president sitting around a table, running a dog-and-pony show, pretending to kick around ideas on how to generate jobs. I wanted him to have those ideas, himself, before he was inaugurated. I wanted those to be real ideas, that produce real jobs for real Americans who are really hurting. I wanted that to be, and still be, the be-all and end-all of his presidency, not some distant fourth-place priority, behind healthcare and the White House dog selection process. And, especially not some fourth-place priority behind jive healthcare reform.

Which brings us to the second answer to Mr. Hart's question. If Democrats think they'll be screwed next November because of unemployment, wait till Congress passes this healthcare monstrosity. Or doesn't. At this point, either way they're gonna get slammed for it, and rightly so.

If they don't pass anything, they will be seen as unable to govern. This perception will be quite true because they will have failed to pass a major piece of legislation, despite having 60-40 majorities in both houses of Congress and control of the presidency. It doesn't get much better than that for a governing party in the American system. But it will be true in an even more profound sense, because the whole priority structure of the Democratic agenda is wrong. Sure, people want healthcare reform right now (especially if it were to miraculously also have the virtue of being authentic healthcare reform), but what they really want, overwhelmingly, is jobs. This choice of priorities is the equivalent of, say, invading Iraq when you've been attacked by people in Afghanistan. Surely no president would be that stupid, right? Surely any political party would realize the costs of having priorities so divorced from those of the voters, right?

On the other hand, the Democrats and their hapless president are probably in worse shape if they actually pass this legislation. Especially now that it's been stripped of nearly every real progressive reform imaginable, it has become an incredibly stupid bill, from the political perspective. It will force people who can't afford it to spend a giant amount of money on lousy insurance, without any real choice to hold down costs, and it will fund this by hacking away at the Medicare budget. No wonder an insurance industry lobbyist broadcast an email last week declaring: "We WIN. Administered by private insurance companies. No government funding. No government insurance competitor."

But here's a little riddle that any sixth-grader can easily figure out, although it seems to have eluded the brain trust at the White House: If insurance companies are winning big-time, then who is doing the losing? Something tells me that if Democrats are dumb enough to pass their own legislation, voters will provide them the answer to that puzzle in November of 2010, and then again two years later. What could be stupider than saddling thirty-five million Americans with a new monthly bill that will probably represent the second or third biggest item in their budget, in exchange for crappy private sector health insurance that is unlikely to pay out when needed, and wastes a third of the dollars paid in premiums on bureaucracy and profits anyhow? Slapping big fines on them if they don't pony up for the insurance, perhaps? Yep, that's in there too.

This bill alone could mobilize legions of people to go to the polls and vote for whichever party didn't do it, and I'm pretty sure the GOP won't be shy about reminding Americans who that is. I mean, if Democrats were searching for legislation less likely to win them votes, why didn't they just bring back slavery or the debtor's prison? Why not come out for pedophilia? It would have been so much more efficient. At least they wouldn't have spent the last year looking like idiotic bunglers who, in addition to sponsoring really unpopular ideas, also inadvertently left their testicles at the coat check and have spent the last thirty years trying to find their way back to the gala.

Ah, but wait! If you order now, there's more!

As I understand it, the bill doesn't even actually force insurance companies to cover people, at least in the sense that they can charge prohibitive amounts to those with whatever they define as pre-existing conditions. You know, like the young woman who had a policy but died when she was denied cancer treatment because she had a bad case of acne as a teenager.

This will be a total train wreck for the Democratic Party. Already, the public opposes the plan by a ratio of 47 to 32 percent. And they haven't even been handed the bill for it yet. And they haven't even had their premiums skyrocket yet. And they haven't even seen insurance corporation executives buy small countries for use as second homes with the increased compensation they will be floating in. And they haven't even found out what this does to their Medicare yet. And they haven't even seen the impact on the national debt yet. And they haven't even realized that the "good' parts of the bill don't go into effect until FOUR YEARS from now.

You know, elite Republicans may be sociopaths, and they may be lower on the moral totem pole than your basic cannibal, but they're not stupid. I bet they're salivating at the idea that this thing passes. I bet they'd even have Olympia Snowe vote for it if necessary, just to put it over the top. They must be laughing their asses off at this gift. All they have to do is oppose it right down the line, then say "Told ya so!" at the next election, squashing the pathetic Demognats, one after the next. Hey, even if worse comes to worse and the thing eventually becomes popular, they can always wait a decade or two and become champions of the new publically beloved healthcare system just like they did for Medicare, Social Security, civil rights, etc.

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David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York.  He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles (, but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. His website is (more...)

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