It's The Economy, Stupid

Jay Cost tries to convince and persuade that it's health care reform, not the economy, that has led to Dems' political woes:

It would be difficult for any strong partisan to admit that such an accomplishment was so deeply unpopular. Yet the polling is pretty unequivocal on the relationship between the Democrats' fortunes and the health care bill. It was during the health care debate that the essential building block of the Democratic majority - Independent voters - began to crumble. It was evident in the generic ballot. It was evident in the President's job approval numbers. It was evident in Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts.

Reconstructing the Democrats' meme, we can fairly say that the economy is a huge problem for the party. Of this, there can be no doubt. We can also say that the stalled recovery denied the Democrats a chance to win back the voters they lost over health care. But the process and passage of health care reform were crucial elements in the story. That's when the party started losing the voters it needs to retain control of the government.

I'm no fan of the health care bill but if you believe this nonsense, I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn. I would love to think that the American People are thinking beyond their wallets, to civil liberties issues, or the intricacies of the health care debate, the wars, or even the deficit. They're not. The economy drives public opinion on all the issues. So while numbers for support for the health bill fell in August, that obviously has to do with the economy, and the lack of confidence in the Obama Administration's competence seeping over into other Obama initiatives. Yes, it's the economy, stupid.

Speaking for me only

< Wolfowitz: Iraq Debacle Like Korean War | Boehner Claims Iraq Debacle As GOP Victory >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    It's HCR, Too, But Indirectly (5.00 / 4) (#6)
    by The Maven on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 10:00:59 AM EST
    The Dems' woes are indeed tied to the health care reform effort, but primarily to the extent that many Americans are legitimately frustrated that such vast amount of time and effort were spent towards enacting a weak measure that's had virtually no discernable impact on anyone's lives, while relegating the economy to a secondary role.  And even when the economy was the subject of attention for the Administration and/or Congress, far too often the concern related to very broad macro elements and their potential impact on GDP growth (or the budget deficit), rather than a laser-like focus on, say, jobs, jobs, jobs.  It's not quite like fiddling while Rome burns, but it wasn't exactly rushing to assist the fire brigade, either.

    As a result, many voters will feel -- correctly -- that the Dems' priorities were all screwed up and thus there's no reason not to punish them for it.  So, yeah, health care, but to the degree that voters would look at the misguided priorities and conclude that Dems don't deserve the control the government.

    Cost argues that (none / 0) (#11)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 10:08:15 AM EST
    people turned against the Dems based on their opposition to the health bill on the merits.

    That's nonsense. If the economy was going great, the approval for the health bill was be 20 points higher.

    It's the economy.


    "Opportunity cost" (5.00 / 4) (#17)
    by Cream City on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 12:33:57 PM EST
    is the applicable term, though, that the commenter is raising -- and the argument has merit as well:  That voters saw it as opportunity lost then, and now the costs of fixing the economic woes mounting then (it costs more to get people into new jobs after unemployment; it costs more to get people back into new homes after foreclosure, etc.) may mount up to more as well.

    Had the White House and the Dems shown ability to multitask, to handle short-term emergency needs as well as long-term wish lists, it would have helped.  People were in pain then (and are now), and it was immediate economic pain, not the sort of pain served by health insurance coverage coming years from now.


    They did show an uncanny ability (5.00 / 5) (#19)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 12:54:09 PM EST
    to multitask implementing demands of lobbyists though and understanding lobbyist pain and suffering.

    Gotta disagree with you there (none / 0) (#35)
    by Romberry on Wed Sep 01, 2010 at 09:59:30 PM EST
    The HCR reform bill, while it does some good things, is a dog of a bill. It does not deliver what people wanted. In fact, it seems as if the most popular ideas with the broadest support were the first things that had to go. Regardless of the state of the economy, that bill would never poll 20 points higher.

    Are they mutually exclusive (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by jbindc on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 10:03:56 AM EST
    The economy is bad - REAL bad on some parts.  The Dems wasted a year concentrating on HCR and all people know right now what mist voters know ;or think they know) is that health care costs continue to rise and if they don't have insurance right now, they are going to have to but it and spend money they don't have.

    Health Care IS about the economy.

    Here's what drives public opinion: (5.00 / 2) (#18)
    by RonK Seattle on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 12:47:05 PM EST

    Some things influence some people more than others, but everything drives public opinion.

    HCR was bound to be a short-run loser no matter what the economy. Flawed as it is, it also had (and still has) potential to be a long-run winner.

    Problem is, there may not be any long run. R's are in position to smother HCR in its crib.

    Meanwhile, D's are led by the guy who told them all the hard stuff would be easy - indeed, that all the hard stuff would be done in year one.

    We're living in a different sequel now, and there's no script doctor in sight.


    Typos. Grrrr. (none / 0) (#8)
    by jbindc on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 10:05:00 AM EST
    There are a couple ways I which (5.00 / 3) (#12)
    by Anne on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 10:23:26 AM EST
    I think health care plays into all of this, not least of which is the fact that while Congress was tinkering around the edges of reform for months and months and months, playing footsie with the special interests, saying one thing and doing the opposite, they were also doing almost nothing on the economy and jobs.  While people were hearing that they were going to be required to have insurance, they were struggling to pay the bills they already have, losing their jobs, not being able to find a job, watching premiums continue to go up, were realizing that in the gap between now and 2014, insurance and drug companies were just going to squeeze the already wrung out even more.

    And it's got THE DEMOCRATS DID THIS written all over it.

    It's not that the system didn't need to be reformed; it did.  But the priority should have been getting people back to work.  I mean, how many times did we have to hear Obama say that "most Americans" get their insurance through their employers?  He said it all the time, usually in response to questions about why we couldn't do "the best" thing - single payer - but there seems to have been little or no recognition of the fact that while he was saying this, more and more people were losing those jobs, more employers were cutting back on benefits, reducing coverage: he was advocating for a tradition that more and more people could not take advantage of - and never really addressed that essential flaw.

    Yes, there was COBRA subsidy to help people pay for the coverage after they lost their jobs, but as time went on, it became more and more difficult to get the Congress to continue it; it may have been Republicans who were the stumbling block, and it may have been the GOP that helped get the economy where it was, but people are seeing the Democratic president and the Democratic majority Congress as the ones wielding the scissors on the safety net.

    And then, there's the Cat Food Commission...Democrats own that one, too.  

    No, it's not just health care, it's all of it, but I think people saw them fiddling with health care while jobs were going up in flames.

     It should have been jobs first, and I can't help thinking that it was more important to Obama to be able to claim "historic reforms," an oxymoronic term if ever there was one.

    You make it (none / 0) (#24)
    by NYShooter on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 07:45:50 PM EST
     a little too complicated, Anne. Most of the public certainly wasn't focused on all the detail & minutia of the health care debate of which you're so ably versed.

    It wasn't supposed to be that way, Health Care, I think, was seen by the W.H. as an easy, first victory to be used as a springboard for Obama's morphing into FDR's legacy. But a funny thing happened on the way...........

    What should have been an easy win; no need to repeat, ad nauseum, all the pluses he had going in, turned out to be "the gang that couldn't shoot straight." Then, when the R's answered O's sickening, groveling PPUS, with the middle finger salute, the W.H. panicked big time. They had gotten caught in a chipper-shredder and the word went out, "Please don't hurt me, I'll sign the Bill, you fill it in after, just please, please give me something."

    What finished Obama's chances of any sort of successful Presidency wasn't so much, which should come first, health care or the economy. It was the exposure of the utter incompetence, lack of any coherent vision, and yes, pitiful cowardice at the first sign of combat.


    I hate to write this, even as I think it: (none / 0) (#25)
    by jeffinalabama on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 07:51:33 PM EST
    the Eunuch Presidency.

    go ahead, I can take the punches. It's not personal. It's a description.


    You forgot . . . (none / 0) (#26)
    by nycstray on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 07:56:42 PM EST
    It was the exposure of the utter incompetence, lack of any coherent vision, and yes, pitiful cowardice at the first sign of combat.

    Lack of experience . . . .


    Alan Simpson of (none / 0) (#27)
    by MO Blue on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 08:17:37 PM EST
    "Cat Food Commission" fame now has his sites on Veteran's disability benefits as well as SS, Medicare and Medicaid. As digby so aptly puts it:

    Good news everybody. We don't have to let those Bush tax cuts for millionaires expire after all. Alan Simpson has found the money for it:

    The system that automatically awards disability benefits to some veterans because of concerns about Agent Orange seems contrary to efforts to control federal spending, the Republican co-chairman of President Barack Obama's deficit commission said Tuesday. ...

    "The irony (is) that the veterans who saved this country are now, in a way, not helping us to save the country in this fiscal mess," said Simpson, an Army veteran who was once chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee.

    Obama and the Democratic Party will own whatever cuts are made as a result of commission recommendations. By the time the commission is through, the Democrats will be lucky if their own families vote for them.


    And you think (none / 0) (#28)
    by gyrfalcon on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 09:14:19 PM EST
    Dems. in Congress are going to vote to cut veterans' disability pay?  Really?

    I got a nice bridge here on Lake Champlain.  It fell into the water, but it's still worth a lot...


    If it talks like a duck - From the link (none / 0) (#29)
    by MO Blue on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 09:21:23 PM EST
    Sen. Daniel Akaka, a Hawaii Democrat who currently chairs the VA committee, said Tuesday he will address the broader issue of so-called presumptive conditions at a hearing previously set for Sept. 23. The committee will look to "see what changes Congress and VA may need to make to existing law and policy," Akaka said in an e-mail.

    "It is our solemn responsibility to help veterans with disabilities suffered in their service to our country," said Akaka, who served in the Army Corps of Engineers during World War II. "That responsibility also requires us to make sure limited resources are available for those who truly need and are entitled to them."

    Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, a Democrat and Vietnam combat veteran, has also raised questions about the spending.

    Wanna bet? (none / 0) (#30)
    by gyrfalcon on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 11:09:42 PM EST
    Guess that would depend on (none / 0) (#31)
    by MO Blue on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 11:26:53 PM EST
    what exactly we were betting on. Whether there will be changes made to the existing law and policies to make it harder for vets exposed to Agent Orange to qualify for disability  benefits under the guise of strengthening the program. I believe that there is a real chance of that happening.

    Benefits now being received would probably be grandfathered, so I don't think that those will be cut. But who knows. Never thought a Democratic president would put together a commission to cut our so called "entitlement programs" either.


    Yeah way to save money idiots (none / 0) (#33)
    by beowulf on Wed Sep 01, 2010 at 09:33:36 AM EST
    Vietnam Vets are starting to hit 65, so what we don't spend on VA care will come  out of Medicare.  According to a 2009 Journal of Managed Care Pharmacy study, per patient coverage costs for the VA were 26% lower than for coverage of comparable patients under Medicare.  VA per patient spending is not increasing faster than inflation, while Medicare's is. Though as Jacob Hacker has pointed out, Medicare costs are  still less expensive and slower growing than private insurance costs.

    In other words, moving veterans from the VA to Medicare to save money will, in fact, cost the taxpayers money (after all we fund both the VA and Medicare). Its not as dumb as moving them  Paul Ryan-style to the private insurance market, but its still pretty dumb.


    I think what they are discussing is (5.00 / 1) (#34)
    by MO Blue on Wed Sep 01, 2010 at 03:51:19 PM EST
    service related disability benefits not VA health care benefits.

    I'm withholding judgment (none / 0) (#36)
    by gyrfalcon on Wed Sep 01, 2010 at 11:20:37 PM EST
    on the deficit commission because it is very strange.  The choice of Simpson is a big, fat red flag, but for the life of me I don't know for what.

    There are 18 people on the commission (none / 0) (#37)
    by MO Blue on Thu Sep 02, 2010 at 08:46:54 AM EST
    Most raise serious red flags. Here is TPM's run done on the 18 people on the commission. http://tinyurl.com/35maof7

    Here are highlights (or low lights) of two of the President's picks.

    Alice Rivlin
    She has publicly argued that Social Security benefits should be cut and means tested.

    David Cote (R) CEO of defense contractor Honeywell
    ...he has, according to commission sources, advocated cutting service member benefits to avoid other defense budget cuts that would harm contractors...like Honeywell.

    Personally, I couldn't find 4 people among the 18 that I would trust not to cut SS and other benefits.


    OK (none / 0) (#38)
    by squeaky on Thu Sep 02, 2010 at 03:05:30 PM EST
    Well tell me how many congress critters are going to vote to tinker with Social Security...?

    Anyone who votes for cutting benefits will be voted out of office on a rail, imo.

    But, I am sure you are getting a thrill from all the excitement about what could happen....  


    It is the economy. But, (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by KeysDan on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 11:51:59 AM EST
    HCR could have been a much more favorable offset if it had been a different one (as has been long discussed at TL). Even with the HCR as enacted, the political and economic strategy was a victim of its cleverness. By balancing a 2010-2020 budget with a serious kick- in not until  2013, whatever merits it may deliver, such as implementation of Medicaid expansion, go unrealized.

    The delayed onset, however, does not preclude advance criticisms and political exploitation. Moreover, the inclusion of Medicare in the HCR , essentially as a means to finance half of the program (the needed reforms could have been effected either later, or, mostly, by regulation) fed the Tea Party demographics and added to the politically unfavorable political environs.

    Aren't we coming up on the (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by nycstray on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 12:32:45 PM EST
    time of year when folks get their raise in premium notices?

    HCR is the economy (5.00 / 2) (#22)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 05:11:10 PM EST
    My health insurance as an individual insuree went up 17%.  My health CARE didn't go up one iota.

    An even larger chunk of insurees' disposable income is being sucked up by insurance companies (and yes, in many cases, for nothing).  I would say that HCR -- real HCR that frees up people's disposable income for other uses besides making already rich people even richer, would have a huge impact on the economy.

    WHERE'S THE CHANGE? (5.00 / 1) (#23)
    by reslez on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 06:53:49 PM EST
    We're still in Iraq, still in Afghanistan, still spying on Americans, Guantanamo's still operating, the economy is still terrible, obscene Wall Street fat cats still rule D.C. and cause economic convulsions whenever they feel like it. Even those bloody ridiculous color-coded terror warnings are still around. And in a lot of respects we're worse off: unemployment is worse, health care costs rise double digits year after year* with no hope of further reform, and the president now assassinates American citizens overseas at will. Where's the change everybody voted for?

    If only Obama had broken with Bush's evil empire ways -- extraordinary rendition, torture photos and Guantanamo. But he didn't. He grabbed illegitimate federal power with both hands and hounded whistleblowers with the DOJ. Citizens have nobody to protect them from government and nobody standing between them and corporate looters. This pack of cringing sellouts -- D or R -- can't get voted out soon enough. Good riddance.

    Thanks for letting me rant.

    * Here's a quick lesson in exponential rate of growth: If health care costs rise 15% a year, it means health care spending doubles in less than 5 years. And HCR holds down rate of growth in HC spending how exactly?

    Joe Sestak and his strategists (none / 0) (#1)
    by andgarden on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 09:29:05 AM EST
    IMO Obama shoul have concentrated on economy (none / 0) (#2)
    by Saul on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 09:41:43 AM EST
    first and not the health bill.  Maybe he felt that passing a major piece of legislation had a better chance in his early months since he had a lot of political capital and Kennedy was still alive.  Maybe he felt he knew he would not be able to pass it after the midterm elections.  Either way the economy and jobs is the only thing that matters to the American people especially when they are hurting.

    So now he will pay a price in November and if they loose the house or the Senate and maybe both in Nov then he is a lame duck and will be a one term president. The only hope for him is if he can turn  the economy around before his term is over.  

    hmmm (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by CST on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 09:53:59 AM EST
    "if they loose the house or the Senate and maybe both in Nov then he is a lame duck and will be a one term president"

    you mean like Clinton?  Oh wait...

    But honestly, whether you think he will win in 2 years or not, why would he be a lame duck if Republicans win?  He's shown he is more than willing to "work" with them.  And this brand of republicans in the senate certainly has some red-dogs as well who may or may not be willing to toe the line with the national party.  Or at least not if they want to keep their seets.


    Cost's final answer is correct but his (none / 0) (#3)
    by BTAL on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 09:53:38 AM EST
    algebra is off.  He is assigning a greater value to the HCR variable, adding it to a smaller value of the Economy/Jobs to get the correct result.

    There could be an argument made for his algebra but described slightly differently, that being:

    The Ds wasted a LOT of time on HCR (producing a sub par product) when they should have been working on jobs - HCR could/should have waited until a recovery was in place.  Hence, HCR killed Jobs making it the higher valued variable.

    You are disagreeing with Cost (none / 0) (#5)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 09:57:01 AM EST
    Yes, with his logic (aka calculations) (none / 0) (#9)
    by BTAL on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 10:06:11 AM EST
    but not his end result which is the Ds are in trouble in Nov.

    His work:

    5 + 2 = 7

    Correct work:

    3 + 1 + 2 + 1 = 7

    Seven being the correct answer.


    A reminder and some perspective on the prior (none / 0) (#10)
    by vicndabx on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 10:07:55 AM EST
    Heading the list of endorsements (none / 0) (#32)
    by Rojas on Wed Sep 01, 2010 at 06:53:39 AM EST
    Greenspan, Volker and Goldman Sachs...
    Grand ol' times.

    2014 (none / 0) (#13)
    by NealB on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 11:36:36 AM EST
    There's a correlation between health care passage and Democratic standing in the polls now; no doubt. When Congress set the start date of health insurance reform to begin in 2014, it became clear (if only subliminally for many voters) that the economy wasn't going to recover much before then. The Democratic Health Care fail will be the gift that keeps on giving to Republicans for years to come.

    Also planned (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by jbindc on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 12:11:25 PM EST
    (they hoped) to be in the middle of Obama's second term where he would be untouchable.

    He's putting the cart before the horse. (none / 0) (#20)
    by scribe on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 01:18:14 PM EST
    Go read my new diary to see the beginning of my take on how, when and why Obama screwed up.

    Short version:  it's jobs.  But I think the longer version's worth your time.

    But BTD (none / 0) (#21)
    by s5 on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 04:12:30 PM EST
    If we accepted this simple premise, then we'd lose even more jobs. That is, the jobs of political reporters who would have no choice but to keep stating the obvious instead of pontificating and debating worthless points.

    Then again, stating and restating the obvious would do a world of good. Maybe someone might start listening. And losing the jobs of a few political reporters here and there? This is sounding better all the time.

    Unfortunately, I'm in the camp that says Obama and Reid have had very little leverage against Senate Republicans. Once Democrats started calling them "the Party of No", they embraced it as a badge of honor rather than something to be ashamed of. And what threats could the leadership have made? Sink Republican districts and leave the people there to suffer? Take away their Congressional power when they were already in the minority?

    Well, the ONE thing we could have done was nuke the filibuster (or at least, threaten to). But the weak knees and limp wrists on our side have been too busy living in fear that an agenda we can never pass would hypothetically come up for a repeal vote in distant some future Congress. Now that's a public debate I would do anything to see. "This expansive social program we passed by majority vote and that you're currently enjoying? Republicans want to kill it, again by majority vote. What do you think, voters?" Instead we get "waaahhhh Republicans won't even let it come up for a vote" and voters wonder why our side can't get anything done. But hey, at least our NOTHING won't get repealed! Victory is ours!