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Posts Tagged ‘health care’

‘There’s A Double Standard When It Comes To Israel’: An interview with GOP senatorial candidate Jay Townsend

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

The November midterm elections may well alter the political face of this country. Opponents of Obama administration policies have galvanized their forces and are eager to make their voices heard to the American electorate.

One of those people is Jay Townsend, a GOP candidate for the U.S. Senate from New York who will be seeking to unseat incumbent Sen. Charles Schumer.

The Jewish Press: You started your career as a political consultant. What made you decide to throw your own hat into the ring?

I was very inspired last January when the people of Massachusetts elected Scott Brown to fill the Senate seat that had long been held by Ted Kennedy, a liberal Democrat. Massachusetts voters were outraged by the prospect of the health-care reform bill that was looming in the Senate and wanted a candidate who vowed to vote against it.

I called GOP party leaders in New York and asked if we had anyone who could or would challenge Sen. Chuck Schumer – a fervent supporter of the health-care reform legislation and the Obama agenda. The president’s plans for “change” in America scare me and many others to death and I decided to become a candidate.

Concerning the Obama administration’s position on the burgeoning Iranian nuclear threat, do you think the latest round of economic sanctions will prove fruitful and what path do you believe the U.S. should take on this?

I don’t think that we’re serious about enforcing these sanctions. We must come to the realization that we have enemies in the world and we have to stop pretending we can negotiate with these enemies. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad only understands brute strength. Clearly, the nuclear threat emanating from Iran is indeed imminent. The imposition of sanctions on Iran will only prove to be another feckless attempt at stopping the nuclear threat unless we convince other countries to participate fully.

We should try and enlist the help of the European Union, Japan and state owned banks and we must make the sanctions systematic. Basically, my argument with the Obama administration is that you cannot be patient with a tyrant and that is what Ahmadinejad is. He is never going to like us and we had better get accustomed to that.

There has been a dramatic shift in U.S. policy toward Israel, with the administration pressuring Israel to relinquish parts of Jerusalem for a future Palestinian state along with the settlements in Judea and Samaria. Do you think the creation of a Palestinian state is in America’s best interest and would you support an Israeli strike on Iran as former UN Ambassador John Bolton has suggested?

Israel is our closest and best ally and deserves to be treated as such. I felt Obama used the first year of his presidency to rub Israel’s nose in the dirt. Senator Schumer refused to voice his opposition to this. Look, if President Bush had done to Israel what Obama is doing, Schumer would have vociferously protested.

I don’t believe Israeli settlements are an obstacle to peace in the Middle East. That is patently ridiculous. I don’t believe the creation of a Palestinian state will bring peace to this war-torn region and I vehemently oppose the creation of a state that would represent an existential threat to Israel’s security. I would certainly support Israel’s right to defend itself against the Iranian nuclear threat; that would be in America’s best interest as well.

Over the last six months, Senator Schumer has held press conferences on such inane issues as airline baggage fees, the increase of salt in cheeseburgers, sunscreen and Facebook but he won’t utter a word of protest regarding the president’s treatment of Israel. Senators can make noise and they are indeed in a unique position to make such noise and I plan to do just that.

The demonization of Israel is growing at alarming proportions not only on our college campuses but also throughout the world, especially in Europe. What would you do in the Senate to help stop this phenomenon and how would you work to support Israel’s position vis-a-vis the U.S.?

I believe our support for Israel cannot be limited to uttering platitudes. It is America’s best interest to ensure that Israel possesses access to the best military technology available. The prime minister of Israel’s responsibility and obligation is to the safety, welfare and health of his nation and its citizens and he should not be excoriated for doing so.

Israel should never be held to a standard we wouldn’t hold ourselves to. Can you imagine what the reaction would be if Israel demanded that the U.S. negotiate with leaders of countries that deny our right to exist? That would never be tolerated, so why should Israel be expected to tolerate that kind of nonsense? There’s a double standard when it comes to Israel and Schumer knows this. Why is he afraid to call his president on the carpet for doing this? Why doesn’t he finally stand up for the constituency that elected him?

You’ve said you will work toward repealing the health-care reform bill. You call this an “entitlement” that this country cannot afford. What kind of reforms would you replace it with that would lower health care costs?

I don’t oppose health insurance reform – I oppose the way it was done. I think we should encourage our free market to work. Let’s allow the sale of health insurance policies across state lines. Let’s give individuals the same tax breaks as those who work for large employers. The small business owner should have the same tax breaks as someone working for IBM. Let’s allow people to purchase health savings accounts and what they use will come out of their health and savings account.

The health care plan rammed through the Senate will swell the ranks of the jobless, raise taxes on those who can least afford them, cause health insurance premiums to skyrocket, and place federal bureaucrats between doctor and patient. It will deprive millions of Americans of access to the quality health care they have come to expect, retard the development of new miracle drugs and medical devices, force doctors into early retirement, and ruin the best health care system the world has known.

In New York State, we will see the skyrocketing rates in our health insurance plans. The quality of health care will not improve and I expect that it will decline tremendously. Right now, in New York State, doctors are leaving by the droves and going to such places as Texas because of the exponential rise in their medical liability insurance. We’ve got to stop the frivolous lawsuits being filed against doctors and we’ve got to reduce the cost of defensive medicine.

Quick Takes: News You May Have Missed

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

   The Egyptian government believes July will be a decisive month that may see an Israeli military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, according to a senior Egyptian security official speaking to this column.
 
   The official said Egypt already has implemented security measures that take into account an Israeli strike against Iran within the next month or so.
 
   The Egyptian estimation could not be verified by officials in Jerusalem contacted for comment. Also, officials in the Palestinian Authority said they did not have any indication of a Middle East war erupting in the summer.
 
   But Mahmoud al-Zahar, Hamas chief in Gaza, told this column he believes a Middle East confrontation is likely, possibly in the next few months.
 
   “You don’t need to be a fortuneteller to see that Israel is planning something soon,” said al-Zahar, speaking on his cell phone from Gaza
 
   The Egyptian security official, meanwhile, said his country has bolstered its security forces along the border with Hamas-controlled Gaza, believing Iran will urge Hamas to retaliate against Israel during any war with the Jewish state.
 
   The security official said the Egyptian military has been placed on a general high alert. He said a decision two weeks ago to open the Egypt-Gaza border took into account the possibility of an Israeli military strike against Iran next month. He said during any future war between Israel and Iran, the Gaza-Egypt border will need to remain closed due to likely security threats from Gaza.
 

   Egypt’s estimation of a Middle East conflict may be particularly relevant since Israel has recently coordinated military training exercises with the Egyptian government. The drills were clearly aimed at Iran.

 

U.S. Makes Israel A Proposal

 

   The Obama administration is pressing Israel to allow future activist flotillas reach the Gaza Strip, according to an official in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office speaking to this column.
 
   Separately, an Israeli government official said the White House asked Netanyahu for concessions in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in exchange for U.S. opposition to the establishment of a United Nations commission to investigate Israel’s commando raid of a flotilla earlier this week that resulted in the deaths of nine violent activists.
 

   Previous UN commissions investigating the Jewish state were seen as biased against Israel, including a probe earlier this year that claimed Israel carried out war crimes during its defensive war in Gaza in 2009 targeting the Hamas terror group.

 

More Revelations From

The Manchurian Candidate
 
   A convicted felon and political consultant with close ties to the Obama administration helped provide a blueprint for the president’s health-care legislation, according to this reporter’s recently released, New York Times bestselling book, The Manchurian President: Barack Obama’s Ties to Communists, Socialists and Other Anti-American Extremists.
 
   The book reveals that Robert Creamer, husband of Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., who was one of Capitol Hill’s most visible cheerleaders for Obama’s health-care bill, later wrote that his health-care platform and strategies are not about “policies” – “they are about the distribution of wealth and power.”
 
   Creamer also recommended the president “create” a national consensus that the country’s health-care system is in a state of crisis in order to push a radical new health-care plan.
 
   Creamer was sentenced to federal prison in 2006 after pleading guilty to bank fraud and withholding taxes while heading Citizen Action of Illinois. While in prison, he wrote a book titled How Progressives Can Win. Obama’s chief adviser, David Axelrod, touted Creamer’s book as providing “a blueprint for future victories.”
 
   His book was endorsed by other leading Democrats and by Andy Stern, a close ally of the president who, as head of the Service Employees International Union, has visited the White House more than any other individual.
 
   The Manchurian President found that during Creamer’s trial, more than 200 people provided letters of support to the court on Creamer’s behalf, including Axelrod and Carol Browner, who is now Obama’s energy czar.
 
   Creamer has served as a political consultant to multiple Chicago politicians, including the city’s mayor, Richard Daley, and its fallen governor, Rod Blagojevich.
 
   Creamer’s explicitly proposed that his health-care plan, written in 2006, be carried out in 2009, once a “progressive Democrat is elected President” and once Democrats could count on 60 votes in the Senate.
 
   Creamer wrote: “If we succeed in winning health insurance reform we will have breached the gates of the status quo. We will demonstrate that fundamental change is possible. Into that breach will flow a wave of progressive change.”
 
   In a July 10, 2009, Huffington Post article Creamer wrote that “progressives” needed to remember seven things to succeed. Foremost among them, that “the critical battles being fought in 2009 are not about ‘policies’ – they are about the distribution of wealth and power.”
 

   Creamer wrote that the money to pay for “exploding health-care costs for families” should come from the pockets of insurance and pharmaceutical companies and that they, the companies, will fight to maintain the status quo.

 

   Aaron Klein is Jerusalem bureau chief and senior reporter for Internet giant WorldNetDaily.com. He is also host of an investigative radio program on New York’s 770-WABC Radio, the largest talk radio station in the U.S., every Sunday between 2-4 p.m.

Obamacare’s Bitter Pill For Israel

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

For American taxpayers, the devil is in the details of the new health care law. But for the Jewish people and the State of Israel the devil is in the comparison between Barack Obama’s steamrollering of health care legislation and his developing Middle East policy.

The president succeeded in enacting health care reform – something many of his predecessors had attempted but failed. But that’s not because those past presidents didn’t want universal healthcare or weren’t as passionate or concerned about the need for reform. It was just that – for them – the proposals were either unworkable or the cost was simply too high. Or perhaps a mixture of both.

But for Obama, none of that mattered – not that the legislation was viewed by many as deeply flawed, or that there would not be enough doctors to handle the new system, or that it appeared there might not be enough votes to get it through, or that the cost was so high it might bankrupt the country. The data could always be fudged, and the numbers double-counted. And if there weren’t enough votes they could use devices like “reconciliation” or “deeming.” And to heck with the price – what’s a trillion dollars anyway? Not that much more than the stimulus package, and Americans swallowed that one without a murmur.

For Obama, no flaws, no negative data, no voting problems and no financial limitations were allowed to get in the way of delivering his momentous piece of “change.” Let the consequences be damned.

In quick succession we see Obama applying the same tactics to the Middle East. American presidents have long tried and failed to find a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Obama means to show up his predecessors once again by forcing through an agreement no matter what the cost or consequences.

It’s plain that Israel cannot return to the pre-1967 “Auschwitz borders” or absorb Palestinian refugees without committing national suicide. But that is exactly the plan Obama seeks to impose – and no price is too high to pay for delivering this second stunning achievement where all other U.S. presidents failed.

Fresh from signing Obamacare into law, he wants his Jimmy Carter Moment on the White House lawn. And if America goes bust on health care or Israel is overrun, who cares? It will probably be on the next president’s watch anyway.

And so with immigration. This is being widely touted as Obama’s next port of call – to confer citizenship on millions of illegal immigrants at a stroke. For the time being, most people are focusing on the further strain such a move would put on America’s new health care reality. Looking at it from my British perspective, however, this next Obama coup may be a lot more sinister.

Everyone knows the United Kingdom, like other European states, is rapidly losing its identity as a Christian country. Over the last decade, nearly three million migrants have swamped the country. Last year the Times of London published national statistical data showing that the Muslim population in Britain had grown by more than 500,000 between 2004 and 2008. In fact, the Muslim population multiplied ten times faster than other population groups in British society. And during the same four-year period, the number of Christians in the UK actually fell by more than two million.

This Islamic population explosion arises directly from mass immigration, a higher birthrate among Muslim communities and conversion to Islam. Significantly, Britain’s main attraction has been its free health care. Walk through any UK hospital and you will see who is benefiting in numbers vastly disproportionate to their share of the population.

Recently a former adviser to the previous British prime minister, Tony Blair, made the stunning claim that his Labor party’s opening of the immigration floodgates in 2000 had been a deliberate strategy of social engineering, for the purpose of turning Britain into a truly multicultural society.

A more cynical view would be that this policy was also intended to change the electoral landscape of the nation. After all, who would these recipients of British visas and welfare be most likely to vote for if not the Labor government hand that feeds them?

Could this be the thinking behind Obama’s immigration plan? With the ACORN vote-creation machine almost bankrupt, it is clear he will need to look for other options to win reelection in 2012. Assuming it won’t be as easy as “deeming” him reelected, he might need a few million real votes that weren’t there before. And how better to get those votes than by following Britain’s example? Open the floodgates to the joys of multiculturalism and the ballots of grateful immigrants are sure to follow.

Health Care Vote Could Mean Tough Prospects For Some Jewish Dems

Monday, March 29th, 2010

WASHINGTON – A window was shattered by a pellet gun in an apparent vandalism attack at her Tucson district office. Sarah Palin has put her on the list of Democratic lawmakers she is targeting this fall. Arizona Tea Party activists are pledging to help defeat her bid for re-election.

All this because Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) voted for health care reform.

Giffords is one of a few Jewish Democrats political observers say could have a difficult re-election campaign because of her vote for the controversial Democratic-backed health care bill.

The bill passed Sunday would provide access to insurance for more than 30 million uninsured Americans, provide subsidies for those who cannot afford it, eliminate the ability of insurance companies to deny coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, and require all Americans to buy insurance or pay a tax. Republicans have attacked the bill as too costly and portray it as government takeover of the health care industry.

While support for the health care bill represents a potential political liability if disaffection with the president runs high on Election Day, November is still far enough away that it’s not clear how much influence it will have.

The general mood of the country, which probably will depend on the state of the economy, will likely be the determining factor, said Stuart Rothenberg, editor of the Rothenberg Political Report. If the mood is sour, he said, voters “are going to evaluate health care in that light.”

Two-term congresswoman Giffords is in a more vulnerable spot than most. She hasn’t been in office long, and her district is not solidly Democratic. John McCain won it in the 2008 presidential election, with 52 percent of the district vote.

Helping those who cannot afford health insurance, rather than focusing on re-election, was Gifford’s paramount concern in deciding which way to vote, her spokesman said.

“The congresswoman is convinced it was the right thing to do, and good for the country,” said her communications director, C.J. Karamargin.

Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), who has been particularly outspoken on health care issues, is another potentially vulnerable Jewish Democrat. Grayson has called the U.S. health care system a “holocaust” – making him a darling of the left but a target of the right.

Grayson unseated a four-term Republican in 2008 to win the 8th congressional district in Florida, which includes part of Orlando. While President Obama carried the district in 2008, George W. Bush carried it in the prior two presidential races.

National Jewish Democratic Council CEO Ira Forman acknowledged that votes in favor of health care reform could be problematic for Jewish Democrats like Giffords and Grayson, but he is “doubtful it will be the determinative vote” for an incumbent’s prospects of survival this fall.

Victory on a historic reform of health care “is much better for Democrats in general” than a defeat, Forman said. However, the larger issues of the economy and the unemployment rate are likely to be greater factors for vulnerable Democrats come election time, he said.

The only Jewish Democrat to vote against the health care bill was New Jersey first-termer John Adler, who is also likely to face a tough battle in November. Hailing from a district in the Philadelphia suburbs, Adler will be facing off against former Philadelphia Eagles lineman John Runyan.

Adler said he did not back the legislation because it didn’t do enough to control costs and make health care affordable for his constituents. He also reportedly had encountered strong opposition to the bill at meetings throughout his district.

Obama carried Adler’s district by five points in 2008, but Bush eked out a slight win in 2004. Before Adler, the district’s congressional seat was held by a Republican for 16 years.

Adler’s vote will make it easier for him to argue that he is “not a rubber stamp” for the president, said Rothenberg.

The executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, Matt Brooks, agreed that the health care bill is likely to be a big issue in the 2010 election. The RJC has called for repealing the bill.

More upsetting than the bill itself, Brooks said, is that, “with an exploding debt and deficit, the president is focusing not on jobs but on health care.”

Meanwhile, at least one Jewish Republican challenger is hoping that his opposition to the health care reform legislation will help him knock off a Democratic incumbent. Randy Altschuler, a contender for the GOP nomination in New York’s 1st congressional district, which includes much of Suffolk County on Long Island, said he backs repealing the health care legislation and replacing it with a different type of reform because the “spending, tax increases, and heavy government intervention” outweigh its “marginal benefits.”

Altschuler first must win a tough primary race against Chris Cox, Richard Nixon’s grandson, before being able to square off against incumbent Democrat Tim Bishop.

“That’s a race where these kinds of issues are going to resonate,” Brooks said of the brouhaha over health care. (JTA)

Health Care Vote Could Mean Tough Prospects For Some Jewish Dems

Monday, March 29th, 2010


WASHINGTON – A window was shattered by a pellet gun in an apparent vandalism attack at her Tucson district office. Sarah Palin has put her on the list of Democratic lawmakers she is targeting this fall. Arizona Tea Party activists are pledging to help defeat her bid for re-election.


All this because Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) voted for health care reform.


Giffords is one of a few Jewish Democrats political observers say could have a difficult re-election campaign because of her vote for the controversial Democratic-backed health care bill.


The bill passed Sunday would provide access to insurance for more than 30 million uninsured Americans, provide subsidies for those who cannot afford it, eliminate the ability of insurance companies to deny coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, and require all Americans to buy insurance or pay a tax. Republicans have attacked the bill as too costly and portray it as government takeover of the health care industry.


While support for the health care bill represents a potential political liability if disaffection with the president runs high on Election Day, November is still far enough away that it’s not clear how much influence it will have.


The general mood of the country, which probably will depend on the state of the economy, will likely be the determining factor, said Stuart Rothenberg, editor of the Rothenberg Political Report. If the mood is sour, he said, voters “are going to evaluate health care in that light.”


Two-term congresswoman Giffords is in a more vulnerable spot than most. She hasn’t been in office long, and her district is not solidly Democratic. John McCain won it in the 2008 presidential election, with 52 percent of the district vote.


Helping those who cannot afford health insurance, rather than focusing on re-election, was Gifford’s paramount concern in deciding which way to vote, her spokesman said.


“The congresswoman is convinced it was the right thing to do, and good for the country,” said her communications director, C.J. Karamargin.


Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), who has been particularly outspoken on health care issues, is another potentially vulnerable Jewish Democrat. Grayson has called the U.S. health care system a “holocaust” – making him a darling of the left but a target of the right.


Grayson unseated a four-term Republican in 2008 to win the 8th congressional district in Florida, which includes part of Orlando. While President Obama carried the district in 2008, George W. Bush carried it in the prior two presidential races.


National Jewish Democratic Council CEO Ira Forman acknowledged that votes in favor of health care reform could be problematic for Jewish Democrats like Giffords and Grayson, but he is “doubtful it will be the determinative vote” for an incumbent’s prospects of survival this fall.


Victory on a historic reform of health care “is much better for Democrats in general” than a defeat, Forman said. However, the larger issues of the economy and the unemployment rate are likely to be greater factors for vulnerable Democrats come election time, he said.


The only Jewish Democrat to vote against the health care bill was New Jersey first-termer John Adler, who is also likely to face a tough battle in November. Hailing from a district in the Philadelphia suburbs, Adler will be facing off against former Philadelphia Eagles lineman John Runyan.


Adler said he did not back the legislation because it didn’t do enough to control costs and make health care affordable for his constituents. He also reportedly had encountered strong opposition to the bill at meetings throughout his district.


Obama carried Adler’s district by five points in 2008, but Bush eked out a slight win in 2004. Before Adler, the district’s congressional seat was held by a Republican for 16 years.


Adler’s vote will make it easier for him to argue that he is “not a rubber stamp” for the president, said Rothenberg.


The executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, Matt Brooks, agreed that the health care bill is likely to be a big issue in the 2010 election. The RJC has called for repealing the bill.


More upsetting than the bill itself, Brooks said, is that, “with an exploding debt and deficit, the president is focusing not on jobs but on health care.”


Meanwhile, at least one Jewish Republican challenger is hoping that his opposition to the health care reform legislation will help him knock off a Democratic incumbent. Randy Altschuler, a contender for the GOP nomination in New York’s 1st congressional district, which includes much of Suffolk County on Long Island, said he backs repealing the health care legislation and replacing it with a different type of reform because the “spending, tax increases, and heavy government intervention” outweigh its “marginal benefits.”


Altschuler first must win a tough primary race against Chris Cox, Richard Nixon’s grandson, before being able to square off against incumbent Democrat Tim Bishop.


“That’s a race where these kinds of issues are going to resonate,” Brooks said of the brouhaha over health care. (JTA)

An Immigrant’s Tale

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

A friend of mine came to this country from China back in the eighties. China had little opportunity for people like him he tells me, especially after Chairman Mao had destroyed the country. To get anywhere you had to know people and pay them off. Everything, he adds, was corrupt and there was no freedom. America looked better and so he emigrated, married and raised a family here.

Today he works for a city agency as an air conditioning technician making a good salary with an excellent benefits package (including a health insurance plan and a government pension). And he gets lots of opportunity for overtime that supplements his already substantial regular income and contributes to the baseline against which his pension will eventually be calculated. He’s also active in the stock market and is a fairly successful investor.

Still he’s soured on this country of late. Americans live beyond their means, he complains. They spend more than they can afford and finance the difference by borrowing from countries like his former homeland. But why should China keep lending to us, he asks. The Chinese have to be crazy to do it because we’ll never be able to pay them back. Americans are living off the largess of the rest of the world and someday we’ll have to pay the piper, he points out.

In fact, he’s so frustrated over the recent turn of events that he has found himself wondering whether he made the right decision in coming here. When he did, America looked like the future to him but now it seems China is where the economic growth is. America is too full of financial inequities, too, he argues. A confirmed Democrat, he despised George Bush and the last Republican administration. Bush, he insists, spent too much. That’s why we’re in the hole we’re in.

And Barack Obama? In fact he’s a fan of the current president, especially his health care initiative. We need national health care, my friend tells me. When I protest that most people in the country are already covered, one way or the other, he responds by pointing out that there are still some who aren’t.

When I remind him of the good coverage he has for himself and his family under the current system, he reminds me of those who don’t.

What’s wrong with America, my friend goes on, is the big gap between the wealthiest and those who have less. On a personal level, it bothers him that while he is as competent as, or more competent than, the electricians and stationary engineers in his department, they get paid much more than he does while not having to work as hard. That’s a discrepancy that really galls him.

It’s due, of course, to the clout of the unions that represent these workers and the contracts they’ve extracted from the city. Although my friend is a one-of-a-kind tradesman in his agency – the sole staffer on board equipped to maintain and repair sophisticated refrigeration equipment in-house, an essential to that organization because of its heavy reliance on lab equipment, computers and major air conditioning systems – he has no powerful union to represent him as these other workers do and so watches with envy as people he believes less qualified work fewer hours while out-earning him.

Weren’t there inequities in China, I ask? Sure, he says, but in China such gaps are not so obvious. In this country, he says, you have all these Wall Street bankers and insurance industry executives making way more than the rest of us. That, he points out, simply isn’t fair. Are they really worth hundreds of millions of dollars while he is barely worth $80,000 a year before overtime and all the extra work his job requires of him?

And this is to say nothing of those electricians and stationary engineers, the latter of whom basically sit and monitor electronic signals on various pieces of equipment all day while he is running from site to site, getting his hands dirty. Why should others make more than he does if he’s just as smart and qualified?

Americans need to level the playing field, he says, and they need national health care like they have in other countries, including China, so everyone can have equal access to the same level of medical services.

Tsunami In Massachusetts?

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

With the outgoing and endlessly embattled Bush administration showing signs of exhaustion in 2008 and the onslaught of an unforeseen financial crisis, Democrats won the U.S. presidency while gaining an overwhelming majority in the House of Representatives and 60 veto-proof seats in the U.S. Senate (thanks, in part, to a disputed Minnesota election putting TV comic Al Franken over the top in his state and the inclusion of Vermont Socialist Bernie Sanders and Connecticut Independent Joe Lieberman).

The new Democratic majority quickly began to make up for lost time by ramming through a number of big spending bills culminating in a push for a massive overhaul of the American health care system. But a funny thing happened on the way to nationalized health care: Americans, who had voted for total political overhaul in Washington a little more than a year ago, were overtaken by buyer’s remorse.

After the Reagan years the lines had blurred between the two major parties when Democratic President Bill Clinton tacked right (under pressure from a Republican-led Congress demanding fiscal restraint) and his successor, Republican George W. Bush, tacked left with increased spending in hopes of broadening his political appeal.

But Democrats in Congress, embittered over their narrow presidential loss to Bush in 2000, were having none of that and Bush’s moves fizzled – except for encouraging Congressional Republicans to forget they were supposed to be the party of fiscal responsibility. But Americans didn’t forget, roundly turning Republicans out of power in all three branches of government in ’08.

Now, though, Democrats are suddenly the ones on the receiving end as Republicans scored two upset wins for off-year gubernatorial races (New Jersey and Virginia) and then a surprising come-from-behind success in the truest of blue states, Massachusetts, snatching the Senate seat long held by Edward M. Kennedy from the hands of the Democratic Party’s anointed, Martha Coakley, in a special election on January 9.

Billed as many things, including a referendum on the presidency of Barack Obama, on the leadership of a tone-deaf Democratic Congressional majority, and as a clear rejection of current Democratic policies, that election’s outcome has shaken the political firmament.

But surprisingly, and in spite of evidence that Scott Brown’s win against the Democratic State Attorney General of Massachusetts, Martha Coakley, reflected a shift by independent voters (more than 50 percent of the Massachusetts electorate) away from Democrats’ commitments to massive deficit spending and tax increases, pundits on the political left played this reversal differently. It was, said many, really a rejection of President Obama’s failure to grow the federal government even more.

If only Democrats had simply ignored Republicans in Congress from the start in pushing health care, said MSNBC television election eve commentators, Coakley would surely have won. According to Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddow, Obama’s problem wasn’t that he had ceded policy on things like health care to geniuses like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid who seemed intent on throwing fiscal restraint to the winds, it was that Pelosi and Reid, in combination with Obama, hadn’t been ruthless enough. Matthews added that the solution now must lie in parliamentary maneuvers to erase the role of super majorities in the Senate and thereby make Scott Brown’s win irrelevant. Talk about hubris.

During the Bush administration, when Democrats were using the filibuster threat to block Bush’s judicial appointees, Republicans who even broached the same idea were roundly excoriated. The Republicans actually had a case, though, since filibusters had not historically been applied to judicial confirmations until Democrats introduced them during the Reagan years to block conservative judicial appointments. And today’s Democratic case? According to Matthews, filibusters should just be disallowed on “really important issues” – decided, of course, by the current Democratic majority in the Senate!

It’s passing strange when Democrats and their sympathizers make the argument that moderates in Massachusetts really wanted more, not less, big spending and government expansion given that Massachusetts Senator-Elect Scott Brown pitched his whole case on explicit opposition to the Democrats’ health care reform package, a package set to increase costs and taxes for middle class Americans while jeopardizing benefits to seniors and the quality of care for all.

While the Bush administration pushed through an unpopular bailout to save major financial institutions in the wake of a collapsing economy in ’08, Democrats have tripled down since coming to power, blowing the nation’s budget sky-high with auto industry takeovers, ineffective stimulus spending, and health care legislation that requires a thousand pages of description to contain it. Democrats, during their years in the political wilderness, used to tell us how much they cared about the deficit. But that was then. This is now.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/tsunami-in-massachusetts/2010/01/27/

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