The Accomplishments Of 2009

Via DougJ, Norm Ornstein touts the accomplishments of 2009:

There seems to be little to endear citizens to their legislature or to the president trying to influence it. It's too bad because [. . .] this Democratic Congress is on a path to become one of the most productive since the Great Society 89th Congress in 1965-66, and Obama already has the most legislative success of any modern president -- and that includes Ronald Reagan and Lyndon Johnson. [. . .]

Ornstein's idea is that passing legislation, ANY legislation, is accomplishment. The trouble with that perspective is the country does not look at "passing legislation" as accomplishment. They look at effects on their everyday lives as accomplishment. Ornstein is a smart guy, but he is of the Village, where "accomplishments" are measured differently than in the country. More . . .

Consider Ornstein's list:

The productivity began with the stimulus package, which was far more than an injection of $787 billion in government spending to jump-start the ailing economy. More than one-third of it -- $288 billion -- came in the form of tax cuts, making it one of the largest tax cuts in history, with sizable credits for energy conservation and renewable-energy production as well as home-buying and college tuition. The stimulus also promised $19 billion for the critical policy arena of health-information technology, and more than $1 billion to advance research on the effectiveness of health-care treatments.

The "accomplishment" of passing tax cuts (the biggest is not mentioned by Ornstein, the 80 billion dollar AMT fix, which has been "accomplished" by every Congress since there has been an AMT) that were ineffective stimulus is not something to be touted. It was actually a failure, political and policy-wise. Why? Because 10% of the already inadequate stimulus was wasted on the least stimulative policy available, a policy that would have been enacted, as it always is, no matter what. The stimulus is actually a great window into why the accomplishments of 2009 do not measure up. "Something" was passed to be sure. And it was better than nothing. But not what was necessary. So, today we have 10% unemployment, a fragile economy, and a hostile electorate unwilling to support doing the more that is necessary for job creation. The stimulus was an accomplishment, but an inadequate one which leaves the nation flailing.

Ornstein continues:

Education Secretary Arne Duncan has leveraged some of the stimulus money to encourage wide-ranging reform in school districts across the country.

Wide ranging reform means what exactly? Again, doing something is an "accomplishment," but of what? I admit I do not know what Arne Duncan is up to, but I bet Norm Ornstein does not either. To Ornstein, "doing something" is an accomplishment. To the country, accomplishing something worthwhile is an accomplishment. Maybe Duncan is doing that, but Ornstein does not tell us and I venture to guess he does not know.

Ornstein further writes:

There were also massive investments in green technologies, clean water and a smart grid for electricity, while the $70 billion or more in energy and environmental programs was perhaps the most ambitious advancement in these areas in modern times. As a bonus, more than $7 billion was allotted to expand broadband and wireless Internet access, a step toward the goal of universal access.

This sounds good. It even sounds like a real accomplishment. I'll take Ornstein's word for it - this is real accomplishment. That said, what about next year? Or is $70 billion it? What of the spending freeze to come?

Ornstein continues:

Any Congress that passed all these items separately would be considered enormously productive. Instead, this Congress did it in one bill.

In the Village I suppose. In the real world, the view is that the federal government dropped the ball on the employment problem in the stimulus and now there is the political will to do anything worthwhile is lacking. Again, passing legislation in and of itself is not considered "accomplishments" in the real world. Addressing the problems of the country EFFECTIVELY is the measure of accomplishment.

Ornstein continues:

Lawmakers then added to their record by expanding children's health insurance and providing stiff oversight of the TARP funds allocated by the previous Congress. Other accomplishments included a law to allow the FDA to regulate tobacco, the largest land conservation law in nearly two decades, a credit card holders' bill of rights and defense procurement reform.

The continuation and expansion of S-CHip, created during the Clinton Administration, is obviously a good thing. An "accomplishment" even. But so is funding Medicare, Medicaid and the Department of Education, etc. Continuing the good things that already exist is simply not going to be viewed as an accomplishment of this government.

Ornstein says:

Certainly, the quality of this legislative output is a matter of debate.

It is indeed. That is why it is silly to cite the passing of legislation as "accomplishments." The QUALITY of the legislation is central to whether the legislation is an accomplishment.

Of course NOT passing legislation is not an accomplishment either. But reciting the passage of legislation is a poor measure of accomplishment. Yet that is the measure Ornstein has chosen. That works in the Village, but not in the real world.

Speaking for me only

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    Yes quality not quantity (5.00 / 4) (#1)
    by mmc9431 on Sun Jan 31, 2010 at 11:57:30 AM EST
    Try and convinced a country that is racked with unemployment, bankruptcy and foreclosure how great the Congress is doing. There isn't enough lipstick for that pig.

    What the public sees is that they failed on the two most important issues of the year, the economy and HCR.

    "stiff oversight of the TARP funds"? (5.00 / 3) (#2)
    by ek hornbeck on Sun Jan 31, 2010 at 12:18:26 PM EST
    No oversight at all is more like it.

    BTD, you know as well as I do (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by Zorba on Sun Jan 31, 2010 at 12:27:27 PM EST
    that what the Village sees as "accomplishments" has nothing to do with what most Americans see as accomplishments.  The Villagers live in a bubble.

    Passing a stimulus that's too small... (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by lambert on Sun Jan 31, 2010 at 02:23:25 PM EST
    ... is an accomplishment? Why?

    The expansion of S-CHIP (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by andgarden on Sun Jan 31, 2010 at 03:13:13 PM EST
    was a handful of votes in the House away from being passed over W's veto.

    It takes many years to judge the quality (none / 0) (#4)
    by Politalkix on Sun Jan 31, 2010 at 01:30:20 PM EST
    of legislation. This fact was true before, it remains true now.

    Well (5.00 / 2) (#5)
    by Ga6thDem on Sun Jan 31, 2010 at 02:01:55 PM EST
    okay then the wingnuts actually have a good argument that George W. Bush will be seen as a visionary for attacking Iraq? that's the argument you are making.

    Comical logic (none / 0) (#9)
    by Politalkix on Sun Jan 31, 2010 at 02:30:08 PM EST
    Attacking Iraq and signing a stimulus bill (even if one disagrees with the amount of stimulus needed) that helps Americans and invests in America or attempting HCR are similar actions! Where did you learn your arguments, Ga6thDem? From your beseiged position in Repubicanland?

    You didn't get (5.00 / 3) (#11)
    by cal1942 on Sun Jan 31, 2010 at 02:41:49 PM EST
    what Ga6thDem was driving at.

    You'll have to think about it.


    You obviously (none / 0) (#15)
    by Ga6thDem on Sun Jan 31, 2010 at 07:17:52 PM EST
    completely missed the point. LOL. It wasnt about policy so much as saying that Obama will be proved right in the future just like the wingnuts say about Bush w/r/t Iraq.

    It takes no years at all... (5.00 / 2) (#7)
    by lambert on Sun Jan 31, 2010 at 02:27:24 PM EST
    ... to judge the quality of needed legislation that is not passed.

    If you're an insurance company CEO, then you would regard Obama taking single payer off the table, and then planning to guarantee them a market, as a tremendous success. To  these vampires, a legislative FAIL that still allows them to suck our blood is a success.

    Then again, if you're a citizen who's out of a job, whose insurance has lapsed, and who is at risk for loss of health or even life, you might regard the legislative FAIL as a real life FAIL.

    It's all how you look at it!


    If you consider (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by cal1942 on Sun Jan 31, 2010 at 02:39:50 PM EST
    your statement to be an absolute then I have to say that you are massively incorrect.

    You really expect the unemployed to wait many years for legislation to bear fruit.

    Not only are you wrong that it takes many years to judge quality you also are clueless about need and what legislation should do regarding need.


    No (none / 0) (#13)
    by Politalkix on Sun Jan 31, 2010 at 03:31:12 PM EST
    I do not expect the unemployed to wait many years for legislation to bear fruit, I am very sympathetic to their immediate needs. However, I feel that the quality of legislation passed in the stimulus bill should not judged only by those who were not helped immediately, just as the quality of SS and Medicare legislation (when they were enacted) could not be determined only by those it did not help, when they were passed.
    Please remember that it took even the great FDR, 3 years to pass SS legislation (at a time when there were no safety nets) after becoming President (and the Great Depression had raged for 3 years prior to FDR taking office).

    The difference (none / 0) (#16)
    by cal1942 on Sun Jan 31, 2010 at 08:58:12 PM EST
    is that Roosevelt got other immediate effect legislation enacted before Social Security was proposed.  By the time Roosevelt offered Social Security he had the confidence of the public.

    By the way, when SS and Medicare were passed their value was realized.  With a litle luck we all grow old.  We all have or will have a need for SS and Medicare.  You must be too young to understand that one day you'll (with luck) be old and need both.

    And what does proposing Social Security in 1935 have anything to do with your statement that good legislation takes years to recognize.


    A n Absolute Truth (none / 0) (#8)
    by cal1942 on Sun Jan 31, 2010 at 02:29:29 PM EST
    Ornstein is a smart guy, but he is of the Village, where "accomplishments" are measured differently than in the country.

    This is the absolute truth to be kept in mind whenever an Ornstein sounds off.

    At this stage in our history Washington has become a completely isolated place with it's own separate set of standards not based in reality.

    Assaulting the base instead of the opposition (none / 0) (#14)
    by pluege on Sun Jan 31, 2010 at 05:17:24 PM EST
    its underway and just typical of obama, obamafans, and democrats in general - scared sh*tless to go after the real opposition: republicans. Preferring to go after supporters for not enough cheer leading and not being satisfied with crap!

    Amazing, isn't it? (none / 0) (#17)
    by NYShooter on Sun Jan 31, 2010 at 10:48:09 PM EST
    Issues like the economy, which are comprised of empirical, data based components, are debated, and negotiated, not by experts, but by politicians. Paul Krugman, said from the beginning,  that TARP should have been at least 1.3 trillion dollars; that anything less wouldn't simply result in less good results, it would lead to almost no good result. He compared it to (paraphrasing here) putting 200 miles of gas into a car that's 400 miles into the desert. Presciently, he also said that by the time the Obama Administration realized that, it would be politically impossible.

    Now that Obama has expressed a new push to kick-start NASA, maybe we should ask Olympia Snowe how much hydrogen to put into our next planetary launch.

    passing a bill (none / 0) (#18)
    by cpinva on Mon Feb 01, 2010 at 03:23:23 AM EST
    proclaiming march 3rd "national disposable diaper day" may be a boon for the industry, and count on the overall tally, but is likely to not resonate with most of the population, save those with babies.