--Police Officer: "Well, Denham, it looks as if the planes got him".
--Denham: "No, not the planes, it was beauty that killed the beast". (King Kong).
There is a lot wrong with the Democrats' political strategy that needs fixing. Hopefully, this loss will prompt them to do so. I shall address that in a subsequent article.
But, at its most simplistic, the Democrats lost the House, and Nancy Pelosi the Speaker's gavel, because of the Senate's dysfunction. Many, if not most, I would wager, of the 400+ bills passed by the House had simple majorities in the Senate.
Enter, stage right, the filibuster. The Republicans abused it. Had there been no, or a quite different, filibuster rule, or had the Republicans behaved normally as a loyal opposition, many of those bills would have improved the economy, provided aid or addressed social problems that would have contained the anger stirred and then propelled by FOX and Republican hit groups from spreading as widely through the populace as it did.
Moreover, a larger stimulus package with more infrastructure jobs could have passed and would have repaired our decaying roads, bridges and built high-speed rail, and so forth. The jobs would have reduced unemployment. Moreover, all these are good investments to lay the foundation for a future economy.
Tax credits for investments in small business would have been passed 6 months earlier and had a chance to provide a positive impact for the economy. A law would be in place disallowing tax deductions for costs of offshoring US jobs. Tax haven abuses would have been closed.
The President's appointees would have been in place, working at their jobs to help the government function. At the time of the failed Xmas crotch-bomber, 11 months into Obama's Presidency, Republicans had blocked a Director for Transportation Safety who was superbly qualified.
The process of passing the Affordable Health Care Act would not have been as long, tedious, and required as much horse-trading. The Republicans derisively call it "Obamacare", but the negative taint it carries arises much more from the long, drawn-out process than from its specific provisions, most of which are so popular that Republicans pledge to re-pass them after repealing the current Act! (Sure, they will). Moreover, the Republicans lied and continue to lie about healthcare reform, but its approval rating--those that approve + those who believe it should have gone further--is nearly 60%, and most of the good stuff has yet to be implemented.
A public option would have been included in the Act, resulting in lower costs and greater savings to the budget.
Unemployment benefits would have been extended, and so people would not be living in fear of those running out. (Jim Bunning would have retired as a harmless old joke, rather than being able to get his last licks in by beaning the unemployed as a swan song).
Subpoena power would have been granted to the commission investigating the BP oil spill. Republicans blocked granting subpoena power.
Our budget deficit may have been higher in the short-run, but long-term debt projections would have been much lower.
Tax cuts for incomes up to $250,000 could have been passed, without adding an unnecessary $1 Trillion to our national debt by providing tax cuts for incomes above that level. That, too, would have strengthened our economy, and sent a signal to financial markets--just as Reagan and Clinton did when they raised taxes--that the US was serious about its debt.
The inheritance tax would have been permanently fixed at a reasonable level for the 0.5% of households it even effects--and Christine O'Donnell would not have had to cast a spell on the person who defeated her to eliminate that tax as the most important thing he could do in the lame duck session. In fact, there would not have had to be a lame duck session.
And, so forth.
There were other ways of overcoming the filibuster, and it is surprising the President never employed them, such as using the 14 million text message numbers from the campaign to mobilize the American people with direct calls to action. Many had anticipated that he would use that immense power, but he never did.
In the final analysis, however, despite all the hate and screaming stirred by the radical right, the Democrats had simple majorities to pass a lot of desperately needed legislation to hasten the recovery, ameliorate dislocations, and provide more clearly support for the middle class.
And, for many of these bills, Republicans would have voted for them as well, primarily out of fear of handing campaign issues to their opponents--they really would vote against a bill designed to reduce abuse of the elderly??
And, paradoxically, without cutting a single deal, the President would have demonstrated the bipartisanship that seems to be his most ardent desire.
Perversely, most of the angst arising from the need for supermajorities in the Senate, and the Republicans' abuse of minority power, was visited upon the House of Representatives, where the Democrats lost about 25% of their seats.
But, it--plus $250M of anonymous corporate cash--also cost the country Russ Feingold and Joe Sestak, and gave it Rand Paul.
Most tragically, it cost millions of Americans their jobs and, along with them, their dignity. It cost a generation of young adults the work experience they will need to develop their careers. It cost a generation of children the world class education they will need to compete in this world. It cost everyone an even more affordable health care system and greater security that Wall Street cannot include you in their risk-taking without your prior consent.
Thankfully--with the victories of Chris Coons, Michael Bennett and Harry Reid--it stopped just short of costing the country its soul.
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