Chuck Schumer let the cat out of the bag on Monday, but only Democrats found his remarks surprising in the least. Schumer, a member of the Senate Democratic caucus leadership that will have to transition to the minority in January, tried to acknowledge the verdict delivered by voters three weeks earlier.
In a defense of big-government solutions, Schumer allowed that Democrats let their enthusiasm for nanny-state policies get the best of them in 2009, after winning the presidential election, the House, and a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.
“Democrats blew the opportunity the American people gave them,” declared the senior Senator from New York. At the time, the middle class had just experienced the economic shock of their lives, and the election was a mandate to change direction from Bush-era economic policies, Schumer told the National Press Club. “We took their mandate,” Schumer explained, “and put all focus on the wrong problem – healthcare reform.”
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That’s not to say that Obamacare itself was a mistake, Schumer took care to add, but that the rush to pass a big nanny-state program ahead of economic issues in the middle of a crisis made Democrats appear out of touch with voters. “We should have done it. We just shouldn't have done it first,” Schumer explained.
“We were in the middle of a recession. People were hurting and saying, 'What about me? I'm losing my job. It's not health care that bothers me. What about me?’" Even worse, Schumer argued, the program only provided benefits to “about 5 percent of the electorate,” while “only about a third of the uninsured are even registered to vote.”
Coming from a senior member of Democratic Party leadership, the admission that Democrats blew it with Obamacare contradicts everything the party has argued since the 2010 midterms. It also contradicts what Schumer himself was saying seven months ago. While appearing on MSNBC’s Morning Joe in April, Schumer dismissed Obamacare as a major problem for Democrats, thanks to the enrollment figures at the end of the first season of the program. The supposed success "undoes the mistakes of the initial rollout," Schumer argued, and the political impact of Obamacare was already “fading.”
Schumer argued at that point that the middle class felt more alienated by Paul Ryan’s budget reforms than by Obamacare. In fact, Schumer revealed the Democrats’ strategy for the upcoming 2014 midterms. "The main strategy we have to have,” he told the panel, “is who's going to help the middle class get out of this morass?"
Schumer’s reversal left his fellow Democrats fuming. Former Obama advisors took to Twitter to accuse the Senator – up for re-election in 2016 – of being self-centered. “So what exactly does Chuck Schumer believe was the error?” Jon Lovett asked on Twitter. “Does he believe that the goal of winning office is winning office?” Jon Favreau accused Schumer of hypocrisy.
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“Funny, I don't remember Chuck Schumer giving that advice when he was privately and publicly championing the Affordable Care Act in 2010.” Tommy Vietor provided a helpful translation: “Shorter Chuck Schumer - I wish Obama cared more about helping Democrats than sick people.” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi chided Schumer, “There are more than 14 million reasons why that's wrong.”
The admission didn’t surprise Obamacare opponents, though. Those opposed to Obamacare since its inception know that Schumer offered no arguments that hadn’t been made repeatedly during that period by the program’s opponents. Five years ago, Gallup found that 85 percent of Americans had health insurance coverage, 87 percent were satisfied with it, and 67 percent were satisfied with the costs. Half of the uninsured were satisfied with their health care, if not the costs.
Yet Democrats imposed a top-heavy government bureaucracy that upended the entire existing structure to address, as Schumer now acknowledges, 5 percent of the population. The costs for this system will be borne mainly by the middle class; the wealthy can afford a wide range of options, while most of the government benefits will apply to the small percentage of the population.
On top of that, we now know that the architects of this program held Americans in low esteem, considering them idiots to be misled into accepting a massively expensive intrusion on their freedom of choice that will only drain our resources more and more over the years.
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This, however, has been typical of the Obama administration and Democratic majority, especially in the Senate. Their agenda has focused on wedge issues that have little to do with the middle class, but everything to do with demagoguing for narrow activist interests.
While holding the majority in both chambers of Congress, Democrats pushed through a stimulus bill without any Republican input that supposedly would direct $800 billion of borrowed money into “shovel-ready jobs” that would boost infrastructure projects. Instead, it acted as a cash transfer to state governments, while Obama admitted years later that there are no such things as “shovel-ready jobs” in government. The bill, which Obama promised would hold joblessness below 8 percent, saw the rate soar above 10 percent and had no appreciable impact on the chronic unemployment and wage stagnation that has hammered the middle class since.
Even after getting “shellacked” in 2010 and losing the House majority, Obama and his colleagues continued their divisive strategies. They spent the better part of the last three years declaring that Republicans wanted to ban birth control as a way to provoke single women to vote Democratic. At the same time, Obama’s economic message of “income inequality” has been pitched at college students and far-left progressive activists, sparking the Occupy movement that trashed urban areas for several months.
The executive action on immigration, announced by Obama last week shows that the White House still isn’t listening to Schumer or anyone else. Democrats could have produced a comprehensive immigration reform bill in 2009-10 rather than Obamacare or Dodd-Frank, but chose to renege on Obama’s 2008 campaign pledge of making it a first-year issue.
Obama now plans not just to ignore undocumented workers when it comes to deportations, but to issue them work permits without any statutory authority from Congress to ignore their status. That means they will be competing for jobs with current legal working- and middle-class residents. And they’ll be eligible for both Social Security and Medicare.
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There are good arguments for normalizing current long-term undocumented workers as part of a comprehensive reform, but this stunt from Obama makes that less likely to happen now, thanks to Obama poisoning the well even before Republicans take control of the Senate in January.
Obama prioritized that provocation for his own political purposes over working with the incoming majority on issues like tax reform, which would provide businesses with a more competitive position globally and unlock American innovation and expansion at home.
Democrats have spent the past six years attempting a divide and conquer strategy aimed at small slices of the population while ignoring everyone else. Schumer learned a belated lesson from the midterms, and acknowledged it this week. Some Democrats still haven’t gotten the message.
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