From The Hill @ 11:21 am
The president's poll numbers are down in Ohio, and while the pundits will be wrong as usual, the great debate within the Democratic Party is about to begin. As I argued in my column Tuesday, when banks refuse to lend, raise credit rates on customers, increase fees and lower credit limits while the economic stimulus program is far behind schedule, the result is obvious: almost half a million new jobless.
As Treasury secretary, the main difference between Geithner and Paulson is the hair. Similar policies, same result. Now the trumpet sounds from certain quarters about killing or diluting the public option in the healthcare bill, which will have the same result as the neutered credit card bill that allows all abuses to continue for nine full months from the effective date of the bill. More trouble.
The new Ohio poll, which shows Obama's popularity falling from 10 to 15 points on various issues, is important, coming at a time of higher unemployment, when certain Democrats want to make concessions on healthcare so far-reaching that I predict will predict they will set off a chain reaction of dissent from millions of those who supported the president in 2008.
Voters in Ohio are not disillusioned because the president has moved "too far to the left. This is nonsense propagated by partisans and pundits who are so far removed from mainstream America they couldn't find it on a map.
Voters in Ohio are disillusioned because unemployment keeps rising and their lives are not getting materially better from the government of change that has not delivered nearly as much change as promised.
We should not be debating a new stimulus, we should be debating why so little of the current stimulus has been spent. We should not be debating whether to compromise healthcare reform beyond recognition, we should be fighting for the reforms the president promised during the campaign.
As of now, I predict the Democrats make concessions on healthcare that are both dramatic and wrong and if they do, I predict a major backlash among Democrats who supported Obama the strongest during the campaign.
Forget the flim-flam in The Washington Post about "leftist bloggers" and forget the jib-jab from the pseudo-populist Joe Scarborough about "Middle America. The people who are increasingly disillusioned fall into two groups: grassroots voters who supported Obama early and strong, and Main Street workers in Ohio and elsewhere who do not see their lives getting materially better.
Stimulus money should be spent, now. Credit rates should stop rising and bank lending must increase. We must end bailouts in which those who pay get the shaft from those who receive the money. We should have healthcare reform that is real and strong and includes a serious public option.
The great debate is not between Democrats and Republicans, who have little to offer and whose numbers go down along with the president's. The great debate is between Democrats who believe that Democrats were elected to do certain things versus Democrats whose vision extends little beyond keeping power for the sake of keeping power.
This great debate will be triggered by one healthcare compromise too many, coupled with rising joblessness and declining polls.
When the president says, as he did Tuesday, that he would not do anything differently, he sounds suspiciously like another recent president, and this will not solve the problem.
As we consider the polls in Ohio, to paraphrase James Carville: Its the jobs, stupid.
As we consider the polls in Ohio, the one and only question is, to paraphrase Ronald Reagan: Are you better off than you were six months ago?
It is that simple.
Everything else is baloney.
Let the real debate begin.