Entries Tagged as 'Democrats'

GOP Zombies vs. Dem Vampires

December 9th, 2011 at 12:00 am 32 Comments

A statistical study indicates that our pop culture churns out more vampire-related entertainment under Democratic administrations and more zombie stories under Republicans. The implication of the research is that those icons act as archetypes for each party.

Naturally, shop as a Republican I’m suspicious of “scientists” and the conclusions they draw from their so-called “research.” To determine whether these horror themes make sense as symbols of our political parties I think we should, cheap as always, ailment rely on a test of the gut level truthiness of those assumptions.

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And the Super Winners Are…

November 22nd, 2011 at 12:00 pm 42 Comments

“Winners and Losers” headlines abounded after the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (JSC) whimpered to an end.

One of the most interesting analyses was in The Hill, malady written by Bob Cusak, although we disagree with some of his picks.

Here is our analysis. “and, the winner is…the Democrats!”

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How to Fix Obamacare

David Frum October 5th, 2011 at 1:00 pm 108 Comments

In my column for The Week, online I discuss ways in which the Affordable Care Act could be streamlined into a workable solution for health care reform:

If the election were held today, for sale President Obama would probably lose. The Republicans would very likely score gains in the Senate, see but probably lose seats in the House – maybe even lose their majority altogether.

In such a case, after January 2013, the US would have a president committed to the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (aka, “Obamacare”) – but lacking the votes to carry out his pledge.

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Unemployed for a Year. Who Speaks for Me?

August 22nd, 2011 at 12:19 pm 57 Comments

I received The Call exactly a year ago at 11:30 a.m. EDT. That was a bit early. For almost nine years I had worked from my home in Charlotte, NC for a small company in California, so calls from the office before noon my time were not frequent. When I heard that my boss, his boss and the HR director were on the phone, I did not need to hear another word from them to know that my life was about to change.

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Too Soon Old, Too Late Wise

David Frum August 1st, 2011 at 12:16 am 32 Comments

I wish my defense hawk friends at the American Enterprise Institute and the Weekly Standard had discerned before it was too late that a budget framework that calls for: (1) no additional revenues and (2) big cuts in discretionary spending, is not a hospitable climate for a robust defense budget.

The cut-taxes-forever faction of the Republican party knew what it wanted – and got it.

The live-to-fight-another-day Obama administration mostly lost this round, but at least put some points on the board.

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Boehner’s New Plan – Even Deader

July 29th, 2011 at 3:46 pm 75 Comments

A few thoughts on the implications of Boehner adding a “Balanced Budget Amendment” to his debt-ceiling bill (which would now require that Congress pass a BBA before a second debt-ceiling increase could take place early in 2012):

Adding the BBA makes the bill very likely to pass the House. This addition appeases Tea Partiers, who had denied Boehner the majority he needs to pass it.

The Boehner bill as it stood on Thursday night might not have been able to pass the Senate; the Boehner bill of today definitely can’t. The very thing that makes the bill likely to pass the House – its Tea Party pedigree – will kill it in the Senate.

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Obama: “Make Your Voices Heard”

David Frum July 26th, 2011 at 8:15 am 114 Comments

President Obama last night appealed to supporters to make their voices heard, to pressure Congress to raise the debt ceiling.

The demand he emphasized most: that any deal extend the administration enough credit to get past the next election.

Odd priority, no? You might have expected that this liberal Democratic president’s red line would be the protection of unemployment coverage or some other social program. Perhaps that’s what he says on the room. But in his speech, social spending is fully on the table to be negotiated away. He’s willing to accept, he said, the tightest restrictions on federal discretionary spending since the Eisenhower administration.

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What to Watch in the Debt Negotiations

July 7th, 2011 at 1:06 pm 4 Comments

While we await the news from today’s debt ceiling negotiations between Republicans and Democratic leaders, help news outlets are already leaking and reporting on the possible contours of a deal. But which reporting is actually likely to be part of a deal and how much is smoke and mirrors? What developments would be unexpected if they become part of a final deal?


1. Medicare and Social Security are on the table.

Plausibility: Plausible, salve but what about Medicaid cuts?

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin has given reporters a broad outline of a deal: $1 trillion in revenue raising by closing tax loopholes, discount with the Democrats conceding cuts to Social Security and Medicare. This deal certainly looks like it could be a “Grand Bargain”.

But curiously, Durbin did not mention cuts to Medicaid. Earlier reporting had suggested that Medicaid cuts were a large part of the negotiations. Medicaid was always the more vulnerable program because the constituency that depends on it (the poor) carries less clout then the constituency that depends on Medicare (the elderly).

If Medicare cuts, and not just Medicaid cuts, are on the table, then it would be politically courageous for politicians to support them.


2. Republicans will accept revenue increase without tax cuts to offset new revenue.

Plausibility: Needs to happen if Republicans are serious about a deal, unknown how serious they are about a deal.

Several news stories are hinting that Republicans are buckling from their previous opposition to revenue increases that are not offset with tax cuts. This has been a key problem with Grover Norquists anti-tax pledge that many Republicans are committed to: it is hard to reduce government deficits over the long term if every time revenue is raised by removing a subsidy (for example, ethanol subsidies) that the revenue raised is off-set by a new tax cut.

Eric Cantor reportedly wants to “talk” about closing some of these tax loopholes which could increase revenue, but he still claims to want tax cuts to off-set them. Senator Kyl has also made comments about increasing “revenue” but its unclear from where the revenue would come.

Ultimately, if Republicans are serious, some sort of significant revenue increase that is not off-set by tax cuts will need to be part of final deal, both to get Democratic votes and to actually reduce the deficit within a reasonable time frame.

It might be that Republicans have no intention of supporting any sort of revenue increase which is what lead to David Brooks column from this week warning that the Republicans “may no longer be a normal party”.


3. Jim DeMint and Olympia Snowe will get a Balanced Budget Amendment as part of the deal.

Plausibility: No. Snowe is positioning to win reelection.

So far, the most out-of-left-field position is an op-ed by Senators Olympia Snowe and Jim DeMint arguing that any solution to the debt crisis must involve a balanced budget amendment being added to the Constitution.

You may recall that Bruce Bartlett referred to the balanced budget amendment as “quite possibly the stupidest constitutional amendment I think I have ever seen. It looks like it was drafted by a couple of interns on the back of a napkin.”

So is this meant to be a serious part of a debt deal? Probably not. What’s more plausible is that Snowe faces reelection next year and her support for the amendment coupled with an op-ed co-authored with DeMint seems designed to try and get her to run to the right of any potential primary challengers.

GOP Must Call Democrats’ Bluff On Medicare Cuts

June 23rd, 2011 at 11:13 pm 26 Comments

Eric Cantor’s withdrawal from the debt talks with Joe Biden may be dominating the headlines for now but, there in the long run, it may not matter much.

More negotiations, probably between President Barack Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner, will take place and, unless both parties have a death wish, default on the debt isn’t going to happen. (Both parties may resign themselves to a variety of face-saving short-term extensions until the 2012 elections.)

The bigger news — which is pretty meaningful — is that Democrats have apparently floated real short-term cuts in Medicare before talking ended.

If the offer is something more than a political bluff (and that’s what I suspect it is), it’s hugely important.

The cuts the Democrats may have suggested — cuts to provider reimbursements –  are the right ones. Medicare, as the largest medical payer in the country by a large margin, undergirds a medical system that pays workers, regardless of education, job title, or background, more than their counterparts in any other sector the Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks.

Controlling overall costs is going to require controlling labor costs and that, in turn, is going to require medical providers to be more productive or work for less. And cutting reimbursements to providers, if done correctly, won’t necessarily result in much that patients will notice: as much as doctors may complain about it, few are going to stop taking Medicare patients.

Furthermore, provider cuts could take place right away: For all its merits, the Ryan Plan isn’t nearly as much a small government manifesto as many of its acolytes think.

Nearly all of its meaningful Medicare cuts take place well in the future and, if history is any guide, would probably be repealed before taking effect even if they somehow pass into law. (Medicare cuts almost always have.)

Cuts to Medicare provider reimbursements now will take force now ad cut the deficit now. These types of painful but necessary short-term cuts, furthermore, are exactly the ones Republicans will have to go for if they actually want to reduce the deficit without raising taxes.

Although it may seem like good politics to let Democrats propose these types of cuts first–and then as part of a deal that also includes tax increases — it does draw GOP political courage into question.

Even though there are plenty of good reasons to think that the offer is insincere, it may give the Democrats an upper hand in trying to show that Republicans are unreasonable. If Republicans are serious, they need to call Democrats’ bluff and propose even deeper cuts in Medicare and probably Social Security too.

Bitter medicine? Yup. But necessary.

Obama Dems Back Away From Big Government

April 17th, 2011 at 12:42 pm 4 Comments

In a recent Washington Post piece Sally Kohn suggested that the liberal emphasis on tolerance as a social good has hampered the ability for liberals to be politically successful.  Leaving aside whether or not that is even remotely true, she used an example that got my attention, one which may show she is working on a false assumption regarding many Democratic voters.  Kohn wrote:

Now, Obama has proposed reducing the federal debt by $4 trillion over the next 12 years, making “the tough cuts necessary to achieve these savings, including in programs that I care deeply about.” But the reason he’s even having this conversation is because the tea party handed him the scissors. Had liberals more fiercely fought for the role of government as the spender of last resort in a recession — and for the role of government in general for the past three decades — Congress would instead be debating how to invest public money in the new American economy.  Instead, tolerant Democrats are not only capitulating to negotiations over how much to starve our economy of public capital but in some cases are bragging about how much they’re giving in.

The problem with this example is that it assumes Democrats in general consider large-scale domestic spending to be the centerpiece of their political views and any compromise on this point is a compromise on fundamental principles.  That may be the case for many or even most Democrats.  I’d suggest it is not the case, however, for a large portion of Democratic voters, particularly many upper-middle class voters who describe themselves as economically conservative but socially liberal and who voted for Obama.

Many Democratic voters support the Party because they see it as the party of social liberalism.  While they may also support more government intervention in the economy than most Republican voters, that support isn’t as central to their world-view and they are more likely to see such issues as negotiable.  One can describe that as a good or bad thing, but that is part of the political landscape that President Obama must consider.  If fact, many of the hot-button issues President Obama has acted on are socially liberal issues, such as support for funding of Planned Parenthood in the federal budget and repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” military policy.  Such issues are more important to many Democratic voters than how Medicaid is funded, and that is reflected in public policy.

Make no mistake, I’m not claiming that there are millions of Democrats who support Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan or who secretly support Austrian School economics.  I’d tend to agree with Paul Krugman’s general observation (perhaps not the details) that the main division between the two parties is that the Democratic Party is much more comfortable with modern welfare state capitalism than the GOP.  That doesn’t mean that all Democrats consider protection of the welfare state to be the most important issue, and while many economic liberals may react negatively and viscerally when conservatives suggest private-sector approaches to social problems or cuts in government spending, not all Democrats do.  Politics is all about priorities, and economic liberals shouldn’t assume that their political allies agree with all of their priorities.  I suspect many Democratic politicians have figured out that there are some differences of issue emphasis among their voters and are acting accordingly.  That may bother more social-democratic members of the Democratic coalition, but it isn’t a betrayal of general principles or an example of self-defeating liberal tolerance.


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