Holding the Democrats’ Feet to the Fire On the Economy and Health Care

This is not a polling analysis.  Instead, I thought it important to share two key strategic message points on the blog.

The first is, there has been a move afoot among Democrats and some in the media to claim that the economy has turned around.  And, of course, they point to select stats to make their case.  They also give the stimulus package credit. 

Republicans can not allow this message to go unchallenged.  And there’s a simple, historical model for challenging it — the 1992 elections.  After the Gulf War, and before the impact of the peace dividend was realized, the country dropped into a major recession during the last 18 months of President George H.W. Bush’s term.  As we recall from the admonition that “it’s the economy, stupid,” Bill Clinton rode unhappiness with the economy into eight years in the White House.

Back then, as the Democrats are doing now, Republicans pointed to slivers of good economic news and said that the recession was over.  The Democrats slammed back effectively, however, pointing to still high unemployment rate as proof change was needed and that the economy was still a wreck.

The adage is that a recession is when you lose your job, and a depression is when I lose my job.  Republicans need to aggressively point to the unemployment rate as proof that the Democrats running Washington (or the state) are out of touch with reality. 

(This is NOT to say Republicans are rooting for the recession to continue.  It IS to point out that 9.7% unemployment is no time for the Democrats to be claiming that things have turned around.)

The Obama Administration is claiming that the stimulus package has already created or saved one million jobs.  Remember, the Democrats promised that passing the stimulus would hold the unemployment rate to 8%.  If voters couldn’t trust Democrat math then, they sure shouldn’t trust it now.

The second strategic message point has, spontaneously, received a lot of attention since the President’s health care speech last week.  And, that is Republicans can not allow certain aspects of the Democrat health plans to go unchallenged. 

Many in the media have already weighed in on this — and yet they also keep contradicting themselves.   They claim Republicans are making up attacks on aspects of Obamacare to scare voters. 

Democrats, including the President, are calling Republicans liars.  There’s already been enough written about Joe Wilson’s outburst (and next to nothing written about Dems saying Republicans are lying), so let’s skip over the whole “liar, liar, pants on fire” attack between the two sides.

The media has come down foursquare on the side of the Dems.  Republicans can not afford to be cowed on fighting back against these attacks.  There have been numerous articles noting that there is nothing in the legislation that deals with the policy concerns of the GOP on illegal immigrants or taxpayer funding of abortion.  In fact, the Democrats in the House voted down numerous clarifying amendments. 

Instead, the Democrat message is — “trust us on this, since we’re running the government we’ll make sure taxpayer dollars aren’t spent on abortion, and we’ll ask illegal immigrants  not to use taxpayer health care.”  That’s not a credible message, so Republicans need to continue holding their feet to the fire on these issues.

It’s also important to note that many of the Democrat claims are simply not true.  As Robert Samuelson pointed out today, you can’t restrain costs and the impact on the deficit if you try to do all three legs of a three-legged stool — keep quality, keep choice, and cover everyone. 

From his column:

The problem is that you can’t entirely believe Obama. If he were candid — if we were candid — we’d all acknowledge that the goals of our ideal health-care system collide. Perhaps we can have any two, but not all three.

. . .

Studies of various health proposals conclude that their long-term costs exceed their long-term financing. In its second decade (2020-29), H.R. 3200 — the main House bill — would increase federal budget deficits by $1 trillion, estimates the consulting firm Lewin Group. Total health spending would reach 28 percent of GDP by 2029. How can Obama claim to control costs and never add to the deficit? Well, he’d adopt a provision requiring “more spending cuts if the savings we promised don’t materialize.” Sound convincing?

It isn’t. Congress often enacts automatic triggers to control spending. The triggers usually don’t work. When they might bite, Congress delays or modifies them.

The media is in the tank for Obama on what they call Republican untruths about certain aspects of the health care.  That’s a fight worth having because it energizes the GOP base, and has the added benefit of being true (or, at least arguably true) despite the media refs turning a blind eye to it.

We can have a fight over illegal immigrant coverage and abortion funding with the Democrats.  The media isn’t really keeping an open mind about that fight.  However, at the very least the press can agree that there is no way this bill won’t cost a LOT more than Obama and the Democrats are admitting.  They don’t have a way to pay for anything close to the entirety of their program.

But, the bigger fight on health care is simply the Dem promise to provide something for nothing, when all along that something is going to cost a whole lot of money.  The reason voters are expressing concern about Dem leadership of the country is that they are growing government too much and spending recklessly.  Hold their feet to the fire.

Public Opinion Strategies