Jewish World Review July 27, 2009 / 6 Menachem-Av 5769
Obamacare haunted by unkept promises of stimulus
By Byron York
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | If Barack Obama fails to enact national health care, it will be because he sowed the seeds of his own demise last Feb. 17 -- the day the president, surrounded by Democratic leaders, signed the $787 billion economic stimulus bill. In the legislative campaign leading up to that moment, both Obama and congressional Democrats made promises and took actions that are now coming back to haunt them as they pursue their goal of remaking the nation's health care system.
"We have another trillion-dollar bill with the same strategy of passing it before people even have a chance to read it and know what's in it," says Republican Sen. Jim DeMint, who has emerged as a leader of the opposition in the health care fight. "It's becoming clear that they misunderstood the economy, and now Americans are wondering whether they misunderstand health care."
"People are less trusting now."
That diminished trust can be traced directly to the stimulus. When Obama and his Democratic allies pushed it through Congress, they spoke constantly of "crisis" and warned of "catastrophe" if their bill was not passed. So the public, ready to give the new president a chance, supported him, even though the stimulus spent billions on the pet projects of Democratic lawmakers.
Now, to judge by the polls, a lot of people view things differently. In the latest Gallup survey, 64 percent say the stimulus has had no effect at all on their family's financial situation. Twenty-two percent say it has made their financial situation worse. Just 14 percent say it has made their situation better. Even when asked to predict the long term, more people say the stimulus will have no effect or make the economy worse than say it will make the economy better.
The stimulus has also pushed the issue of the deficit near the top of the public's concerns at precisely the time the Congressional Budget Office has concluded that Obamacare would make the nation's rising debt worse, not better. "Our annual deficit this year [is bigger] than all of the previous five years combined," says Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. "We saw what happened when some rushed and spent a trillion dollars on an artificial deadline with the stimulus. The American people don't want the same mistake to be made again."
The Drudge Report got zillions of hits recently when it posted examples of runaway stimulus spending. In the House, Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner has used Obamacare as a chance to revisit the stimulus' greatest hits, from the John Murtha "Airport for No One" to the San Francisco salt marsh harvest mouse. Local Republicans around the country are sharpening their rhetoric as candidates gear up for next year's elections.
Finally, the stimulus results so far have dealt a blow to Obama's core credibility. He claimed his program would "create or save" millions of jobs, but now he can't say with any specificity what it has done for employment. All people know is that he claimed the stimulus would keep the unemployment rate below 8 percent, and it is now headed toward 10 percent. "It's clear that the policy of the stimulus did not match his promises," says DeMint.
This week radio host Rush Limbaugh found himself in the odd position of expressing gratitude for the fact that Obama used his honeymoon to pursue the stimulus bill, rather than the even-more-expensive health care proposal. "He got that stimulus in two weeks," Limbaugh said. "We better thank our lucky stars -- I never thought I would say this, but we better thank our lucky stars -- that they did the stimulus first. Because if they had done [health care] first, it would be signed into law already. He would have gotten it."
There's something to that, although it's debatable whether Obama, even at the height of his honeymoon, could have made the case that health care reform was the first thing he needed to do for the economy. But there's no doubt that the president spent much of his early political capital on the stimulus, and now he needs it back -- badly. His problem is, a growing number of voters don't want to make the same mistake twice
Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
Comment on Byron York's column by clicking here.
© 2009, NEA