Friday, October 17, 2008

A Liberal Supermajority

From the Wall Street Journal

A Liberal Supermajority
Get ready for 'change' we haven't seen since 1965, or 1933.
If the current polls hold, Barack Obama will win the White House on November 4 and Democrats will consolidate their Congressional majorities, probably with a filibuster-proof Senate or very close to it. Without the ability to filibuster, the Senate would become like the House, able to pass whatever the majority wants.

Though we doubt most Americans realize it, this would be one of the most profound political and ideological shifts in U.S. history. Liberals would dominate the entire government in a way they haven't since 1965, or 1933. In other words, the election would mark the restoration of the activist government that fell out of public favor in the 1970s. If the U.S. really is entering a period of unchecked left-wing ascendancy, Americans at least ought to understand what they will be getting, especially with the media cheering it all on.

The nearby table shows the major bills that passed the House this year or last before being stopped by the Senate minority. Keep in mind that the most important power of the filibuster is to shape legislation, not merely to block it. The threat of 41 committed Senators can cause the House to modify its desires even before legislation comes to a vote. Without that restraining power, all of the following have very good chances of becoming law in 2009 or 2010.

- Medicare for all. When HillaryCare cratered in 1994, the Democrats concluded they had overreached, so they carved up the old agenda into smaller incremental steps, such as Schip for children. A strongly Democratic Congress is now likely to lay the final flagstones on the path to government-run health insurance from cradle to grave.

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. Like Medicare or the Canadian system, this would never be repealed.

The commitments would start slow, so as not to cause immediate alarm. But as U.S. health-care spending flowed into the default government options, taxes would have to rise or services would be rationed, or both. Single payer is the inevitable next step, as Mr. Obama has already said is his ultimate ideal.

- The business climate. "We have some harsh decisions to make," Speaker Nancy Pelosi warned recently, speaking about retribution for the financial panic. Look for a replay of the Pecora hearings of the 1930s, with Henry Waxman, John Conyers and Ed Markey sponsoring ritual hangings to further their agenda to control more of the private economy. The financial industry will get an overhaul in any case, but telecom, biotech and drug makers, among many others, can expect to be investigated and face new, more onerous rules. See the "Issues and Legislation" tab on Mr. Waxman's Web site for a not-so-brief target list.

The danger is that Democrats could cause the economic downturn to last longer than it otherwise will by enacting regulatory overkill like Sarbanes-Oxley. Something more punitive is likely as well, for instance a windfall profits tax on oil, and maybe other industries.

- Union supremacy. One program certain to be given right of way is "card check." Unions have been in decline for decades, now claiming only 7.4% of the private-sector work force, so Big Labor wants to trash the secret-ballot elections that have been in place since the 1930s.

The "Employee Free Choice Act" would convert workplaces into union shops merely by gathering signatures from a majority of employees, which means organizers could strongarm those who opposed such a petition.

The bill also imposes a compulsory arbitration regime that results in an automatic two-year union "contract" after 130 days of failed negotiation. The point is to force businesses to recognize a union whether the workers support it or not. This would be the biggest pro-union shift in the balance of labor-management power since the Wagner Act of 1935.

- Taxes. Taxes will rise substantially, the only question being how high. Mr. Obama would raise the top income, dividend and capital-gains rates for "the rich," substantially increasing the cost of new investment in the U.S. More radically, he wants to lift or eliminate the cap on income subject to payroll taxes that fund Medicare and Social Security. This would convert what was meant to be a pension insurance program into an overt income redistribution program. It would also impose a probably unrepealable increase in marginal tax rates, and a permanent shift upward in the federal tax share of GDP.

- The green revolution. A tax-and-regulation scheme in the name of climate change is a top left-wing priority. Cap and trade would hand Congress trillions of dollars in new spending from the auction of carbon credits, which it would use to pick winners and losers in the energy business and across the economy. Huge chunks of GDP and millions of jobs would be at the mercy of Congress and a vast new global-warming bureaucracy. Without the GOP votes to help stage a filibuster, Senators from carbon-intensive states would have less ability to temper coastal liberals who answer to the green elites.

- Free speech and voting rights. A liberal supermajority would move quickly to impose procedural advantages that could cement Democratic rule for years to come. One early effort would be national, election-day voter registration. This is a long-time goal of Acorn and others on the "community organizer" left and would make it far easier to stack the voter rolls.

The District of Columbia would also get votes in Congress -- Democratic, naturally.
Felons may also get the right to vote nationwide, while the Fairness Doctrine is likely to be reimposed either by Congress or the Obama FCC. A major goal of the supermajority left would be to shut down talk radio and other voices of political opposition.

- Special-interest potpourri. Look for the watering down of No Child Left Behind testing standards, as a favor to the National Education Association. The tort bar's ship would also come in, including limits on arbitration to settle disputes and watering down the 1995 law limiting strike suits. New causes of legal action would be sprinkled throughout most legislation. The anti-antiterror lobby would be rewarded with the end of Guantanamo and military commissions, which probably means trying terrorists in civilian courts. Google and would get "net neutrality" rules, subjecting the Internet to intrusive regulation for the first time.

It's always possible that events -- such as a recession -- would temper some of these ambitions. Republicans also feared the worst in 1993 when Democrats ran the entire government, but it didn't turn out that way. On the other hand, Bob Dole then had 43 GOP Senators to support a filibuster, and the entire Democratic Party has since moved sharply to the left. Mr. Obama's agenda is far more liberal than Bill Clinton's was in 1992, and the Southern Democrats who killed Al Gore's BTU tax and modified liberal ambitions are long gone.

In both 1933 and 1965, liberal majorities imposed vast expansions of government that have never been repealed, and the current financial panic may give today's left another pretext to return to those heydays of welfare-state liberalism. Americans voting for "change" should know they may get far more than they ever imagined.
Just the thought of this scenario being played out is so horrifying. For the love of God all you crazy Obama supporters out there who think it would be cool to vote for a black man (it would be wonderful to a have qualified, non-Marxist black man be POTUS); for all of those who think it would be cool to have an eloquent man in the White House (sure that would be nice, but you need substance over style); for all those who are mental mad at Bush (don't cut off your nose to spite your face); think about what this article is trying to tell you.


BostonMaggie said...

OK, so I messed up. In editing my own comment for spelling errors, I deleted Stella's. I can't get it to come back, so I am reprinting it from the email blogger sent me.

So this is from Stella even thought it doesn't have here name or pic on it.
Maggie, since Murdoch bought the WSJ, a once great paper started leaning right. That's fine: I believe all journalism is slanted in one direction or another. However, this author is writing about a fantasy dystopia of the future. His emulation of Huxley is so obvious, I cannot take his accusations seriously.

Bush has significantly increased government size and spending: the federal payroll has 140,000 additional employees. Taxes have increased. Unemployment is at 7.7% in California (We have a Republican governor) and 6.6% nationwide.

During the Nixon Administration, unemployment was a 6.1%, and peaked at 7.5% during Reagan's Administration. Deregulation does not work. Although we were experiencing inflation during the Carter Administration, we had a booming economy during the Clinton, Johnson, and Kennedy Administrations.

The "change" in 1933, was the Depression Era into which Republican Hoover plunged us. Democrat FDR who saved the fiscal crisis of our nation. In 1965, despite his extreme escalation of the Viet Nam war with which I disagreed, LBJ signed more civil rights bills than any president in history.

LBJ made a horrific mistake in Viet Nam: however, he didn't cut, but increased, veterans' benefits. Bush cut them six years in a row, and you can find this information out at the GAO federal budget.

Will Obama be the same type of Democrat? I don't know. Either do you. This "writer's" entire article rests on supposition and fear tactics.

In other words, the election would mark the restoration of the activist government that fell out of public favor in the 1970s. If activism fell out of favor in the 1970s, then why are so many people, including life-long moderate Republicans, voting Democrat?

The Bush Administration is responsible for this "horrifying scenario," as you term it. I am not a "crazy Obama supporter" thinking "it would be cool to vote for a black man." I admire his intellect, bearing, and warmth.

I don't envy him: he will have a terrible job cleaning up Bush's bankruptcy, destruction of the U.S., and severe limitation of civil liberties, such as habeus corpus and FISA.

Even McCain is against this Administration's use of torture, a position for which I greatly respect him. I recognize the difficulty between his balance of politics and conscience.

Conservatives will probably blame Obama's policies without realizing that policies take time to effect change. For at least the next two years, any difficulties this country experiences will be a proximate result of Bush's failed Administration.

Clinton signed NAFTA into law in 1999, with a Republican Congress in place. American did not discover how an increasing global economy would impoverish our nation due to many, many jobs outsourced overseas. Bush even gave these companies tax cuts for outsourcing.

I expected Henry Waxman's name to come up, given his oversight of the financial misdoings of KBR, Halliburton, and Bechtel, among others. I am keenly aware of Waxman's excellent record: he is my Congressman.

Maggie, I would like to finally have a president who can pronounce "nuclear," and not look down on education, another program he's cut. Testing increase does not provide education: it merely teaches children how to take tests. That's not learning.

We are both guilty of name calling, and we are both wrong to do so. I have always been willing to listen to you, and I would appreciate the same courtesy from you to think about some of the perspectives I've shared with you today. I have learned much from your blog, even when I don't agree.

Let us not fight about this. I don't want to fight with you but present a different perspective. Rhetorically, this article is based on overt scare tactics. Nothing more.
Sorry for the confusion.

BostonMaggie said...

It's not a great idea to have a super majority on either side.

I am not saying that this particular scenario would play out. You are correct that no one can know. But I beleive that friction adds to the process.

The statement on Bush cutting veteran's benefits being cut is incorrect.
the link discusses 1994 to 2005. There have increases every year since as well.

Deregulation in and of itself is not a solution or a problem. It's simply something that Republicans feel should be an option every where it will work.

The appeal to certain Obama voters did not mean you. I was speaking to people who are voting for Obama *soley* because they think it would be cool to vote for a black man, etc. If Obama, the man and his policies, appeals to you, then by all means you should vote for no one else. I was talking to those people for whom voting (unlike you and I) is nothing more than flipping a mental coin. I was talking to people who have not given enough thought to how Obama or McCain reflect their core beliefs. I am asking them to get past the fact that Obama is eloquent and exotic (as a candidate - young, minority, etc.) and look at the parts that I personally find disturbing.
I don't envy him: he will have a terrible job cleaning up Bush's bankruptcy, destruction of the U.S., and severe limitation of civil liberties, such as habeus corpus and FISA.
Bush did not cause our current economic woes. Perhaps he could have done more to stop it, but it started long ago and there are plenty of villians. The US is not destroyed. We are strong and vibrant and the greatest country in the world. My civil liberties are fine and I don't know of any rash of civil liberty violations in this Administration that could not be found in any Administration. There has been no suspension of habeus corpus for US citizens. If you are referring to GITMO, we will have to agree to disagree. They are enemy combatants and in my opinion, have no claim on American civil liberties.

It is very true that changing policies is like changing course at sea in an LHD. It takes a while to see the results. However, while I have my problems with NAFTA, I don't think it "impoverished" our nation. We are still adapting to the realities of globalization. But NAFTA or no, globalization is the future and we must go with it.
Maggie, I would like to finally have a president who can pronounce "nuclear," and not look down on education, another program he's cut. Testing increase does not provide education: it merely teaches children how to take tests. That's not learning.
I will gladly admit that everytime "W" mispronounces nuclear it is like fingernails on a chalkboard.
I don't know where you get the idea that Bush looks down on education. Because he had a different approach? Because the result wasn't perfect? No Child Left Behind may not have been the solution "W" hoped for but it was born of desire to solve problems that clearly exist in our education system. As far as cutting money - well more money is never going solve the problem. Time and again it's been proven that there is no correlation between how much money is spent per student and the quality of the education the child receives.
Testing is not learning but there has to be some way to have accountability. Until someone comes up with a better answer, testing it is. I know that when I was in school 30 years ago there was yearly testing and my school looked at it in a competitive manner as did the ity of Boston. We wanted a good showing. How is that different now? Why is it such a problem now?

For me the article was an illustration of why you would not want to further facilitate a Congress with a 10% approval rating

Stella said...

Damn, you're good. What an even-handed post after my rant. I appreciate your graciousness.

I'd like to get started, but I'm just too tired. How about that? Something short and bittersweet from me...

Be well, wise one.