Saturday, December 06, 2014

The Anti-Populist Wall Street Democrats Want A Little Populist Cover-- Just A Little


Last week we took a quick glance at Schumer's anti-Obamacare re-positioning, not because he's Chuckie Schumer, the consummate asshole from Brooklyn, but because he's in charge of DSCC massaging. In the last couple of days, the NY Times has run columns by both Thomas Edsall and then Paul Krugman on Schumer's pronouncements, each very much worth reading through.

Edsall went first and he was more sympathetic to Schumer's divisive position, almost calling it "populist." He wrote that "According to Schumer, President Obama and his party suffered defeat last month in large part because of the strategic decision to press for enactment of the Affordable Care Act soon after Obama won the presidency." Edsall never gets into the glaring and insupportable weaknesses of the Affordable Care Act, elucidated by Tom Harkin this week but instead sticks to a Schumeresque worldview, primarily banal electoral stratagems: "Only a third of the uninsured are even registered to vote. In 2010 only about 40 percent of those registered voted. So even if the uninsured kept with the rate, which they likely did not, we would still only be talking about only 5 percent of the electorate. To aim a huge change in mandate at such a small percentage of the electorate made no political sense. So when Democrats focused on health care, the average middle-class person thought, the Democrats are not paying enough attention to 'me'."

Pelosi's direct response was a slap in the face to the repulsive careerism that has defined Chuck Schumer ever since he was an assessing high school student at James Madison in Brooklyn: "We come here to do a job, not keep a job." She never mentions Schumer's pandering to whites against people of color-- but one of her top advisors, Wendell Primus, does. Edsall writes that "Primus contended that some of the economic benefits of Obamacare do flow to the largely white middle class, that 8.3 million seniors on Medicare have benefited from expanded prescription drug coverage by an average of $1,443 per person, for total savings of $12 billion, and that Obamacare has contributed to a sharp reduction in the growth of Medicare Part B premiums. From 2000 to 2008, Primus noted, these fees rose 112 percent, from $45.50 per month to $96.40 per month, while through the subsequent eight-year period, premiums are expected to rise by only 10 percent, from $96.40 to $106.50 a month. The views of Democratic advocates of Obamacare notwithstanding, public opinion has generally sided with Schumer."
The only way for Democratic Party leaders to stop the hemorrhaging [of white voters], in Schumer’s view, is to take on the task of using the government to intervene in the private sector, pushing to raise wages and revive job opportunities for working men and women.

“Large forces-- technology, automation and globalization-- are not inherently malign forces,” Schumer said, but the burden is on Democrats “to figure out ways for the middle class to adapt to these new forces-- to be able to thrive amidst these forces.” The only counterweight “that can give you the tools to stand up to the large tectonic forces, that can mitigate the effects that technology creates on your income, is an active and committed government that is on your side.”

Standing in the way of activist intervention is the fact that “the American public is so cynical about government that a Democratic, pro-government message would not be immediately successful.” To restore credibility, Schumer argued, the “first step is to convince voters that we are on their side, and not in the grips of special interests.” He specifically suggested the prosecution of bankers for “what seems, on its face, blatant fraud” and tax reform designed to ensure that C.E.O.s paid higher rates “than their secretaries.” In effect, he said, “an element of populism, even for those of us who don’t consider ourselves populists, is necessary to open the door before we can rally people to the view that a strong government program must be implemented.” [Note: Schumer has accepted more in legalistic bribes from the Financial Sector than any other Member of Congress in history other than presidential some-- though not all-- candidates, so far, $20,721,989.]

The ability of the Democratic Party to convince middle-class voters that it is on their side is by no means guaranteed. In mid-November, 2008, just after Obama first won election, 55 percent of voters had a favorable view of the Democratic Party. In the immediate aftermath of the recent election, according to Gallup, the favorability rating of the Democratic Party had fallen to a record low of 36 percent.

...By shifting the public focus to the party’s pro-work and pro-wage policies, Schumer wants to transform the negative association of the Democratic Party with Obamacare. Even as his speech has provoked an intraparty rift, Schumer’s argument has won support from some surprising quarters.

A spokesman for Senator Elizabeth Warren told reporters that Warren “agrees with Senator Schumer that there was an urgent need in 2009 and 2010 to help middle-class families who were struggling to get by, and that more should have been done.” Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island told Politico: “I agree with Chuck that the A.C.A. was essential, as our health care system was unjust and spinning out of control. I also agree that if we could have done more infrastructure first it would have connected more with working Americans, and our sales job was less than stellar.”

...Insofar as Democrats try to reduce hostility to Obamacare, they face two problems. The first is a Republican Party unwilling to support any legislation making the A.C.A. more palatable. The other is the danger that tinkering with any of the provisions that have provoked the strongest opposition could eviscerate the legislation. Among the provisions that have stirred opposition are the requirement that most Americans get coverage, the tax on medical devices and the excise tax on expensive, high-quality private health coverage. Removing existing provisions would require replacing lost funding with new revenue sources, which could provoke anger from multiple constituencies.

As if Democrats do not already have enough trouble, data released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services shows that many, if not most, of the seven million people who purchased insurance through the A.C.A. will either have to pay higher premiums or higher deductibles, or submit themselves to the complex process of switching plans.

Democrats have a lot going for them in presidential years. Nonetheless, at the moment you’d have to say that they have their work cut out for them.

Even though midterm elections favor Republicans, the 2014 results show middle- and working-class dissatisfaction with the Democratic Party rising to dangerous levels, which threatens the party’s growing demographic advantages.

Perhaps most notably, Republican House candidates in 2014 won 37 percent of the Hispanic vote, their highest percentage since Republicans rejected immigration reform in 2005, and a slight majority, 51-49, of Asian-American voters, who had been moving decisively in the Democrats’ favor. Asian-Americans and Hispanics are crucial to future Democratic presidential victories.

In combination with the growing Republican allegiance of whites, these trends raise the possibility that the Democratic plan for victory by demographics could implode, which would make the case for a full scale re-evaluation of its strategies and policies glaringly obvious.

Whatever you think of Senator Schumer, you begin to understand why he spoke out as forcefully as he did.
Krugman stared by summarizing the continuing success of Obamacare, largely ignored by Schumer, Edsall, and most everyone else.
Earlier this week, the independent Urban Institute released new estimates of the number of Americans without health insurance, and the positive results of Obamacare’s first year are striking. Remember all those claims that more people would lose coverage than would gain it? Well, the institute finds a sharp drop in the number of uninsured adults, with more than 10 million people gaining coverage since last year. This is in line with what multiple other estimates show. The primary goal of health reform, to give Americans access to the health care they need, is very much on track.

And while some of the policies offered under Obamacare don’t offer as much protection as we might like, a huge majority of the newly insured are pleased with their coverage, according to a recent Gallup poll.

What about costs? There were many predictions of soaring premiums. But health reform’s efforts to create meaningful competition among insurers are working better than almost anyone (myself included) expected. Premiums for 2014 came in well below expectations, and independent estimates show a very modest increase-- 4 percent or less-- for average premiums in 2015.

In short, if you think of Obamacare as a policy intended to improve American lives, it’s going really well. Yet it has not, of course, been a political winner for Democrats. Which brings us to Mr. Schumer.

The Schumer critique-- he certainly isn’t the first to say these things, but he is the most prominent Democrat to say them-- calls health reform a mistake because it only benefits a minority of Americans, and that’s not enough to win elections. What President Obama should have done, claims Mr. Schumer, was focus on improving the economy as a whole.

This is deeply wrongheaded in at least three ways.

First, while it’s true that most Americans have insurance through Medicare, Medicaid, and employment-based coverage, that doesn’t mean that only the current uninsured benefit from a program that guarantees affordable care. Maybe you have good coverage now, but what happens if you’re fired, or your employer goes bust, or it cancels its insurance program? What if you want to change jobs for whatever reason, but can’t find a new job that comes with insurance?

The point is that the pre-Obamacare system put many Americans at the constant risk of going without insurance, many more than the number of uninsured at any given time, and limited freedom of employment for millions more. So health reform helps a much larger share of the population than those currently uninsured-- and those beneficiaries have relatives and friends. This is not a policy targeted on a small minority.

Second, whenever someone says that Mr. Obama should have focused on the economy, my question is, what do you mean by that? Should he have tried for a bigger stimulus? I’d say yes, but that fight took place in the very first months of his administration, before the push for health reform got underway. After that, and especially after 2010, scorched-earth Republican opposition killed just about every economic policy he proposed. Do you think this would have been different without health reform? Seriously?

Look, economic management is about substance, not theater. Having the president walk around muttering “I’m focused on the economy” wouldn’t have accomplished anything. And I’ve never seen any plausible explanation of how abandoning health reform would have made any difference at all to the political possibilities for economic policy.

Finally, we need to ask, what is the purpose of winning elections? The answer, I hope, is to do good-- not simply to set yourself up to win the next election. In 2009-10, Democrats had their first chance in a generation to do what we should have done three generations ago, and ensure adequate health care for all of our citizens. It would have been incredibly cynical not to have seized that opportunity, and Democrats should be celebrating the fact that they did the right thing.

And one related observation: If more Democrats had been willing to defend the best thing they’ve done in decades, rather than run away from their own achievement and implicitly concede that the smears against health reform were right, the politics of the issue might look very different today.
I wonder if Schumer reads the Times. I mean with an open mind.

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At 2:52 PM, Blogger TrumanTown said...

Schumer Should Be Taken Out By Zephyr Teachout! That Wall Street Whore While You're AtIt Take That Piece of Shit McCasskill With You

At 11:46 PM, Anonymous ap215 said...

Cenk Uygur says it best.

At 1:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Schumer seems to be supporting the latest reich-wing meme: anything and everything the Dems propose legislatively is simply a ploy to obtain more votes.

Of course, it would HAVE to seem that way to the GOP which panders solely to the 0.001% and not only ignores, but actually attacks, all the rest. For example:

Or is Schumer, at this late date, still trying to cover up the fact that the ACA was no more than another example of welfare for one wing of his corporate masters?

It really IS too bad that the ACA didn't provide for it's own version of "motor voter" - requiring that a must person register to vote (if eligible) to obtain med insurance coverage.
Talk about a perfect shit storm!!!

John Puma


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