Yesterday the Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted once again to repeal Obamacare in fullâ€”a vote that passed 229-115 on party-lines besides two democrats who crossed over.Â Not the least bit surprising was that Rep. Bruce Braley once again voted in favor of Obamacareâ€”but my how much different this must have felt than his first vote for it three years ago.
A Different Landscape
Besides the obvious fact that Braley is now a U.S. Senate candidate, a variety of things made yesterdayâ€™s vote a much bigger political gamble.
Consider this, on the day the Senate passed Obamacare through the Reconciliation processâ€”March 25th 2010â€”the Real Clear Politics approval rating for Congress was a shocking 17.4% approve to 77% disapprove.Â As bad as that seems, at that time in 2010 there was still a residue of â€œchangeâ€ excitement in the air, theÂ Tea Party wasÂ only just forming, Democrats had not yet lost theÂ House,Â and President Obama could still credibly make the argument (especially to Independents) that he had successful solutions to the nationâ€™s problem.
Since that day however the absolute failure of the trillion-dollar Stimulus Bill has been fully revealed, the implementation of Obamacare has been continually problematic, the economy has not recovered, and the national debt has further ballooned.Â And this is not even to mention the numerous scandals and mini-scandals that have surrounded the administration for the past week and a half.
Perhaps even more troubling for Braleyâ€™s Senate candidacy is that the mood of the public is remarkably similar to the grim view they had the day Obamacare passed.Â The following are the RCP polling averages from then and now: Congressional approval on March 25th 2010 wasÂ 17.4% approve to 77% disapproveâ€”Congressional approval from 5 days ago on May 9thÂ stood atÂ 16.8% approve to 76% disapprove.Â Public approval of the Obamacare legislation one day after it passed on March 26th 2010 was 50.7% oppose to 39.4% support–and 8 days ago on May 9thÂ it was 49.8% oppose to only 39% who support.
For Braleyâ€™s purposes what perhaps will be the biggest difference from then and now is he has left the friendly confines of Iowaâ€™s 1st Congressional district (D+ 27,356) and has entered a statewide contest (D+ 4,952).Â On top of this he has just voted in favor of one of the largest and most expensive initiatives in American historyâ€”oneÂ which onlyÂ 39% of the public currently support.Â
Braley no doubt believes in this legislation to his core and will neverÂ vote against it.Â Nevertheless itâ€™s a safe bet that as he pushed the â€œnayâ€ button yesterdayÂ he was keenly aware that the circumstances had changed drastically since his first vote on the legislation.Â What has transpired since then has not been kind to the bill nor to any purple stateÂ legislators voting for it.Â
Though President Obama and many Congressional Democrats were not heldÂ accountable forÂ their economic and policy failures in 2012, at some point their luck will run out.Â IfÂ in November 2014 Obamacare still can’t even muster 40% support and implementation keeps getting more and more messy–the RepublicanÂ who emerges to challenge Braley will need less and less luck.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
Last week liberal blogger John Deeth scored an interview with Democrat Rep. Bruce Braley as he embarks on a bid for the U.S. Senate.Â Though youÂ may notÂ agree with Deeth often on policy (or ever)â€”he is an excellent writer out of Iowa City and he knows his stuff.
Most of the interview was standard liberal fare (read here), but on the topic of immigration reform Braley made a pair of false claims, the second of which was a real whopper thatÂ couldÂ haunt him later in this campaign.
Why No Reform?
When asked generally whatâ€™s happening with immigration reform and how it will be resolved Braley said this:
â€œOne word has kept us from having meaningful immigration reform, and that word is amnesty. That is always thrown out as an excuse for not moving forward. Where I grew up “amnesty” was where you broke the law and there were no consequences. The reform that I have supported and that many others in both the House and the Senate, Republicans and Democrats support, is something where there is accountability. If you break the law you are required to pay a fine, accept the consequences, be placed on probation, and if you satisfy the terms of your probation you get an opportunity for a pathway to citizenship.â€
So according to him the one word preventing legislation from passing is â€œamnestyâ€, and moreover Republican confusion on the wordâ€™s true definition.Â Point of correction hereâ€”there are two words that explain why no bill has passed and they are â€œgovernment incompetenceâ€.Â More specifically the publicâ€™s utter lack of faith Washington will deliver on border-security promises has been this efforts downfall, not mere Republican opposition on the meritsâ€”allow me to prove the point.
â€¢Â Though 51% of Republicans oppose a â€œpath to citizenshipâ€ in theory and without conditions, when asked about eventual citizenship with the conditions of passing a background and paying back taxes (which are in the bill) a whopping 73% of Republicans said they would support this. (NBC/WSJ 4/5-8/2013) (ABC News here)
â€¢Â (USA Today poll 4/18-21/2013)â€”â€œWhich problem concerns you the most: the problem of preventing illegal immigration in the future or the problem of how to deal with illegal immigrants already in the U.S.?”Â – 55% responded â€œprevent in futureâ€ to 33% â€œones already here.â€
â€¢Â (ABC News/Wash.Post poll 3/27-30/2013)â€”80% support â€œstricter border control to reduce illegal immigration in the futureâ€, only 17% opposed.Â This reflects the findings of several other polls asking the same general question.
â€¢Â And here is the cementing detailâ€”in most polls a whopping 80% of Americans say they donâ€™t believe the federal government will fully secure the border even if reform is passed that promises it.Â Only 27% say our borders are more secure than 5 years ago, and pollster Scott Rasmussen conducted a poll in April in which only 9% said our government would succeed in sealing the border.
The Real Problem with Reform
This proves theÂ hurdle facing pro-immigration reform efforts is a glaring lack of credibility by those offering itâ€”Washington politicians.Â This skepticism is both a hopeful sign and completely logical.Â It appears Americans are not dense enough to forget the reason we are having this debate now is because true amnesty was delivered in the 1986 Simpson-Mazzoli bill along with promises of border securityâ€”and of course since then at least 11 million more individuals have over-stayed visas or snuck into the country.Â If Bruce Braley really wants to advocate for this bill he better start selling Americans on the specific security measures it contains, and more importantly, admit the ’86 effort was a failure and explain why this time will be different.
While it is true that a decent segment of Republicans will never support a bill that leads to citizenship (about 20-25% in most polls), the real news is that if the feds delivered a secure border going forward over 70% of Republicans would swallow hard and sign on.Â What Republicans are certain on is that they want the border sealed (supporting this 93% in some polls), and they rightfully donâ€™t envision it happening.
Itâ€™s good to know that Mr. Braley has great faith in the federal governmentâ€”and with its stellar track record who wouldnâ€™t right?â€”but the fact of the matter is he is way out of touch with the vast majority of Americans who have a microscopic level of faith in the federal enterprise.Â When you look at the situation itâ€™s hard not to notice the delicious bit of irony that liberal Democrats would be able to accomplish a major political goal of theirs relatively easilyâ€”if only the behemoth institution they built and believe in was a capable and trusted one.
He Said What?
Now on to the real stunner offered by Braley in the interview.Â Extolling the virtues of passingÂ a bill he said the following:
â€œSo that says to me that reasonable people should be able to get their handle on how we bring people out of the shadows, get them paying taxes at the state and federal level, paying into Medicare and Social Security, to stabilize those programs. To me there’s a lot of huge upside benefits.â€
Yes you read that correctly and yes this is fully in context.Â Weâ€™ve heard some real beauties from Liberal Democrats recentlyâ€”â€œwe donâ€™t have a spending problemâ€, unemployment checks “create jobs faster than any other initiative you can name” etc.â€”and this one ranks right up there.
You see the solvency problems we have with Social Security and Medicare can be addressed by legalizing 11-15 million illegal aliens, the vast majority of which are low-income earners.Â I honestly donâ€™t even know where to begin with this.Â Letâ€™s start with some statistics on the population we are talking about that even the most partisan wouldnâ€™t dispute, after all illegal immigrants arenâ€™t â€œdoing the jobs Americans wonâ€™tâ€ because they pay too well:
â€¢Â Average median family income for non-citizen in 2010= $36,401 compared to $50,288 for native born Americans (2010 US Census)
â€¢Â Per person median household income for non-citizen=$12,991 compared to $28,185 for American citizens (though this is a CIS study, an anti-amnesty group, the numbers are similar to less partisan studies)
â€¢Â 24.8% of Hispanics (citizens and non-citizens) are living at the poverty level (2010 Census via government office of OMH)
â€¢Â Hispanics in the U.S. are the single biggest group currently without health insurance with 30.7% uninsured (Office of OMH)
Look, there are several legitimate positive arguments for granting citizenship to this groupâ€”some cultural and some economicâ€”but implying that 11-15 million low-income workers being legalized will help any entitlement program is absurd.Â And to be clear this has nothing to do with ethnicity, it would apply to any group with similar income traits if they hailed from Canada, Australia, or Europe instead of Mexico.
The only conceivable way Braleyâ€™s statement could be parsed to have a shred of truth is if he was referring only to the small number of years after legalization was granted and before benefits were claimed.Â I know politicians are accustomed to thinking one election cycle at a time, but even still this level of short-sighted deception would be off the charts.Â There is no question whatsoever that the net impact of legalizing up to 15 million low-skilled, low-wage earners would be a mid and long-term disaster to the existing entitlement system.Â Period.Â You donâ€™t have to be a mathematician to figure this outâ€”especially considering that not one of these programs is even currently solvent.
Ironically, after citizenship is granted Social Security and Medicare would lose the only current benefit these twoÂ programsÂ are receiving from illegal immigrationâ€”the taxes that go to these programsÂ via fraudulent Social Security numbers that go unclaimed by the illegal immigrant and instead get paid out to American citizens.Â Democrats are right in making the case this specific reality is unfair to the immigrant,Â but in a perverse way itÂ does mathematically help the system.
Furthermore, entitlements already pay out more to citizens on average than each citizen pays in.Â As it stands now a typical retired couple pays in $122,000 to Medicare and on average can expect $387, 000 in benefits, for Social Security itâ€™s $600,000 in and $579,000 out (Ezra Klein site here).Â Obviously these discrepancies would be multiplied for this illegal population for two reasons.Â First the median family income for illegals is between $15-20,000 less than the median American citizen family income, and second, obviously, this population would not have been paying in their entire lives yet would receive benefits until their deaths (Politifact deals with a similar scenario here).
Final Word & A Challenge to Democrats
Braleyâ€™s claim here is totally ludicrous and falseâ€”and if he’s seriously only referring to the period before we pay any benefits out and is ignoring the eventual consequences, it is even more ridiculous and disingenuous.Â I challenge any Liberal/Democrat writer or policy wonk in the state of Iowa to explain how amnesty for illegal immigrants would be a â€œhuge upside benefitâ€ that will â€œstabilizeâ€ any one of our entitlement programs, and I will even grant youÂ the waiver that you donâ€™t have to deal with the disaster that will become of Medicaid.Â This is an open and standing challenge.Â Write it, send it to the contact info on this site, and I will print it in full.
I know Bruce Braley is desperate to sell this immigration reform bill, but claiming this federal bill will â€œstabilizeâ€ other insolvent federal train wrecks from the past was a bridge way too far.Â He will have to explain this on the campaign trail, it will come up in debates and TV spots, and it will not help his chances.Â Itâ€™s a long time till November 2014 and if he continues making undisciplined remarks he canâ€™t back upâ€”and wouldnâ€™t want to try even if he thought he couldâ€”then he is more vulnerable than I ever thought.
I break from a majority of Republicans on the current fiscal cliff negotiations and believe the rate increases that Democrats are seeking should eventually be agreed to. More specifically I would support John Boehner signing on to taking the top bracket from 35% to 37-38% (short of the 39.6% Obama wants).
Of course the argument against doing so is the superior oneâ€”essentially that the Senate and the President want more money to spend while having not passed a budget in 3 years and having not yet put any real spending cuts or entitlement reforms on the table. But the two Parties have been at a stalemate over this issue for years and in my view the trump card is that last month they held the Senate, picked up seats in the House, and won the Presidency. To me the bottom line is that if a political party never agreed to anything they didn’t think was 100% ideologically or philosophically accurate we would never reach any compromise. This in fact is the definition of compromise, and in light of the election results anyone who thinks Republicans weren’t pushed into a position of forced compromise is fooling themselves.
The reasons for swallowing this bitter pill are multiple. First off, though often times the winner of an election pushes for the passing of legislation saying they ran on it when they really didn’tâ€”that is not the case here. There is no question that President Obama ran on raising taxes on rich people and Mitt Romney ran on lowering rates and capping deductions. Secondly,Â over 60% of the American people in poll after poll say they want the wealthier among us to pay more taxes. Unfortunately, the alternative of refusing to budge on this issue in favor of tax increases on 98% of Americans is simply not good policy.Â All sides agree it would be devastating, not to mention it plays into all the awful stereotypes of Republicans and is politically fatal.
Not helpful here is that this whole discussion echoes the earlier scene at a Republican Primary debate where all 10 candidates on stage said they would not take a deal of $10 in spending cuts for $1 of revenue increasesâ€”the majority of non-hardliners in this country just flat out won’t deem a political party serious about solving a problem with this kind of position.
Just to be clear, the above is not at all to say I agree with raising any rates, but the facts are the facts. The Democrats have a far stronger hand hereâ€”and it’s certainly strong enough to yield this specific tax increase they desperately want.
Looking on the bright side, after suffering the defeat we just had nationally if the only direct price Republicans have to pay is to raise taxes by 2-3% on one bracket in order to get the Bush tax cuts made permanent (until we have a majority to do real reform), then I think one could argue that is not an obscenely high cost.Â The big part of making this an acceptable outcome is of course what will be given by the other side to reward this concession?
As of now clearly Democrats have not offered anything and are not acting in good faith. Since they don’t have to give on entitlement reform in this situation, essentially Democrats are going to have to agree to hundreds of billions in non-discretionary, non-defense spending cuts. My position is if Boehner gets this in exchange for the small bump in rates, that is an acceptable outcome. If he isn’t able to achieve thatâ€”then caving on this position is a major defeat.
The Media Fails Us Again
So far in this “negotiation” Republicans and John Boehner in particular have been getting killed for letting the whole debate revolve around a portion of revenue increase that would fund the government for about 8 days. This is such a great and obvious point, and frankly the shallowness of our national debates in general makes it hard to have much hope for the future of the Republic.
I fully agree with the criticism for Republican leadership losing the messaging war on one hand, but on the other I wonder what more they can do about it. Time and time again they speak of Washington not having a revenue problem but a spending problem, and they certainly are publicly making the case this would fund the government for only 8 days. The reality is that of all the power and influence the liberal media has over this country, perhaps the most lethal and subtle is their ability to decide what the focus of the debate is. For obvious reasons the President wants it to center on a rich vs. poor construct, and low and behold that is exactly what we have.
My Advice To Boehner
If I were advising Republicans I would suggest putting this debate in context by making an obvious point that I have not heard made yet. The absolute proof that we have a spending problem and not a revenue problem is that just to balance the budget in one fiscal year we would have to raise tax revenues by 40%. Yes that’s right, 40% more dollars into the treasury just to get to the point that we are not running a deficit every yearâ€”that is without paying down a penny of the $16 trillion in National Debt.
This of course is because in past years we have borrowed 40 cents of every dollar we spent (so far this year it is up to 46 cents of every dollar). The notion that tax rates would have to be raised on the entire country to a level generating 40% more money each fiscal year is so insane that just maybe it could break through the media machine and into view of the population.
The End Game
Whatâ€™s so frustrating for Republicans, including myself, is how much sense these arguments make and that we can’t even get the Party that controls the majority of our government to even discuss the bigger more frightening picture.
That being said, the reason we have elections is so that each Party can make their case and the people can make their choice. Even though it’s not sound policy, given the fact that this choice has just been made, conceding a few percentage point increase for one tax bracket is not the end of the world.
In spite of all the venom being directed toward the Republican leadership in the House we need to be rooting for them to succeedâ€”which in this case means getting the least destructive outcome in a tough situation.
The post The Harsh Republican Reality of the Fiscal Cliff appeared first on The Conservative Reader.
Below is the full text of the “Letter to the Editor” I sent to several newspapers in Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District.Â I believe it makes the case against re-electing Leonard Boswell in a concise fashion.Â If there is anyone you know still on the fence in this race feel free to forward it to them.
For the last ten years I have been represented in the U.S House by Rep. Leonard Boswell.Â During this time I have often disagreed with his positions, but never have I been more convinced that he has grown out of touch with the challenges facing my fellow Iowans, and our nation at large, than I am this year.
The number one piece of evidence proving this has been his approach to our countryâ€™s fiscal matters over the last few years.Â The reason I am so disappointed in Leonard Boswell is because I did something that has seemingly gone way out of style these days, something even nearly unthinkable actuallyâ€”I looked up his voting record.Â More unbelievable perhaps is that I didnâ€™t stop there; I had the nerve to continue doing my civic homework by looking up the record of his opponent Tom Latham as well.
Anyone choosing to do the same will find out that since 2009, the self-proclaimed fiscally conservative â€œBlue Dogâ€ Democrat Leonard Boswell has cast yes votes on the following pieces of legislation:
â€¢Â Economic Stimulus Billâ€”over $800 billion added to the national debt, more than a trillion dollars with interest included (passed the House 246-183 on Feb. 13, 2009).
â€¢Â Obamacareâ€”price tag of $900 billion over 10 years at passage, most recent CBO scoring nearly doubled this amount to $1.76 trillion (passed the House 219-212 on March 21, 2010).
â€¢Â Raising the debt ceilingâ€”passed the House 218-214 on December 16, 2009.
â€¢Â Cap and Tradeâ€”according to the Obama administration itself, would have cost Americans up to $200 billion a year (passed the House 219-212 on June 26, 2009).
Meanwhile in the same span he voted against the following measures:
â€¢Â Cut, Cap, and Balanceâ€”passed the House 234-190 on July 19th, 2011
â€¢Â Debt ceiling bill â€“ This is the John Boehner version that would have raised the debt ceiling in exchange for limits on discretionary spending (passed the House 218-210 on July 29, 2011).
â€¢Â Reducing spending to F.Y 2008 levelsâ€”passed the House 256-165 on July 25, 2011.
Two things of note here are, 1) Tom Latham had the foresight and fiscal decency to vote against all the above bills that Leonard Boswell voted for, and 2) Though Mr. Boswell may have been a fiscally conservative Democrat at some point during his career in Washingtonâ€”over the last three years he has shown zero concern for the massive debt that has crippled this economic recovery.Â In fact, he remarkably couldnâ€™t even bring himself to support spending at the level we did just four years ago.
Besides being pleasantly surprised at how rock-solid Tom Latham has been on Federal spending, the thing I took away most from researching these two candidates is how disingenuous it is for Leonard Boswell to claim the mantle of â€œBlue Dog Democratâ€.
The reason this should matter to voters of all stripes on November 6th is it invites the following question:Â How can we expect our political leaders to do what they say they will once elected, if they are not even who they claim to be while running for office?
Especially since 2009, only one man in this race has had his eyes on the future fiscal health of this country, and by extension the next generation who will inherit this futureâ€”and that man is Tom Latham.
I cast my ballot early. I didnâ€™t vote third-party and therefore my vote isnâ€™t being wasted. It also isnâ€™t going to matter.
Since 1990, the United States has run aggregate trade deficits above $8 trillion. This is funny, because in 1990 the M2 metric of currency supply was only $3 trillion. There should be nothing but dust coming out of the ATM machines. We have purchased entire merchant-fleets full of foreign goods, and paid for it by quite literally printing money.
Foreign countries, being more blatant about their currency devaluation policies, have been willing to go along with this arrangement. The result is this dynamic: The US prints dollars to buy goods from China, and the Chinese central bank prints yuan to buy the dollars. We get cheap Chinese stuff, the Chinese central bank gets huge dollar reserves, and the Chinese people get jobs and lots of inflation.
As the years went by, this dynamic absolutely shattered the productive impetus in the American economy. There is no reason to manufacture anything, or engage in productive activity in general. There is also no reason to hire people to help you be productive.
You can see this dynamic in your own communities, with factories that are closed, the kids that canâ€™t find jobs, and farmers – busy producing inflation-sensitive commodities on land, which canâ€™t be outsourced – buying new trucks with cash. The illness in our economy is bad monetary policy.
In a normal economy, if there is demand for consumer goods, entrepreneurs have to take land, labor, and capital and combine them in a way that produces goods efficiently, and at a price the general public can afford to pay. The American economy has another option – we can simply print money and spend it on imports, which is much simpler, requires no investment of capital or any hiring, and is much cheaper.
The result was the largest consumption binge in history, and an economy dependent on investment bubbles – tech stocks, housing, government bonds. The Federal Reserve poured new money into the financial system. You could get a home equity loan to cover your credit card debt, rung up at retail outlets selling almost exclusively imported goods.
Since manufacturing was on the way out, the service sector was the place to be, and the best service sector jobs require college degrees, so the answer is to go to college. Both parties agreed; the answer wasnâ€™t to address the problems with our monetary system, but to attend college. Every young person was told that college is critical.
Now, we have more people in their 20â€™s living with their parents, more college graduates than ever are working part time, if they can find jobs at all, and the only policy solutions coming out of our elected officials is to double down on college, fund green energy schemes ( Iâ€˜m talking about you, Chuck Grassley) and economic development kitsch projects at all levels, building economic Potemkin Villages designed to try and keep the consumption binge going.
Close down Maytag? No problem! Build a race track! Remember when Nancy Pelosi said that unemployment checks would stimulate the economy? People need to spend, spend, spend, because there is no work, work, work.
Without the inflationary monetary policy coming out of the Federal Reserve, the government could not run the enormous deficits, the trade deficit couldnâ€™t have gotten this large (currency would have become scarce, and productivity more valuable), and the government would have to be honest about the absurd arithmetic surrounding our entitlement programs.
Therefore, neither party will countenance a serious challenge to our current monetary system. Even Paul Ryanâ€™s budget plan – so maligned by the left – doesnâ€™t eliminate the deficit nor tackles entitlements. Sound money might even threaten the defense budget, and is therefore terrorism.
So, Barack Obama champions stimulus programs to re-inflate consumption and crows about tariffs on Chinese tires; Mitt Romney labels China a currency manipulator for being willing to bite the inflation bullet themselves and hold our currency as a reserve.
Work in a factory keeps their people busy and gives them the illusion of progress – a bit like how college keeps young people in America busy and gives their parents the illusion that their children will â€œamount to something.â€œ Concerns that college diplomas are worthless and that the wages of the Chinese factory worker are shredded by inflation are secondary.
Offshoring is not the machination of evil capitalists; it is a phenomenon of monetary policy, plain and simple. Other countries are willing to hold our currency as a reserve, so we can buy imports with inflation. According to the Examiner, Jeep is next on deck to offshore.
So, services and technological expertise is the key to success in America, as long as another large, developing economy doesnâ€™t devalue their currency and start holding dollars as a reserve.
Especially not one with a large, English-speaking population, and definitely not one with a past influenced by British rule. Why, if that happened, we could just print money and buy our services from that country, and you would run the risk of not fully understanding the technicianâ€™s accent the next time you have to call tech support, which is simply unimaginable.
I cast my vote. I ended up voting for the one that I figure is less likely to throw me into a gulag. I suppose this makes my vote â€œidealistic.â€
Here we are. We have an economy that cannot produce wealth, based on consumption, with a government that we cannot finance and cannot change. We are consistently running trade deficits in excess of $40 billion per month but are told that we lack demand for stuff, almost 50 million people are dependent on food stamps, and an entire generation is shacked up at home, paying their student loans and otherwise too poor to participate in the consumption economy. Yet, there is no stomach for change.
When debating Walter Mondale in 1984, Ronald Reagan cited Cicero and remarked, â€œIf not for the elders, correcting the mistakes of the young, there would be no State.â€
What are the young supposed to do when their elders who run the government have lost their minds?
The post Waechter’s Final Pre-Election Weigh In: No Matter How You Vote, the Economy Will Not Improve appeared first on The Conservative Reader.