Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Nancy Pelosi, National Hero

I say three cheers to House Speaker Pelosi for shepherding the Health Care reform bill through the house this weekend, to get it to senate reconciliation. Just a couple months ago the bill was all but moribund after the senate lost its Democratic majority.

Pelosi is a fierce partisan, much reviled by Republicans, but that’s exactly what was needed in this case. She is often criticized, even by Democrats, for not being more accommodating to the other side in her work. But I think that is na├»ve. Not a single Republican voted for the health care bill. Not one. They are apparently against health care for all Americans, satisfied that the affluent have care. Nor did Republicans propose any serious alternative, or engage in any serious debate of the substantive issues. They behaved merely as petulant obstructionists and continue to do so.

People who say Pelosi should have been more accommodating of Republicans to avoid the brinksmanship of this past weekend are not aware that we are in the era of “Fuck You politics.” There is no cooperation. There is no possibility of compromise. Conversation is not even possible. Pelosi knew that from the start and played her cards accordingly.

Some Democrats criticize her for being greedy. They say she wasted a lot of valuable time and political capital trying to get American health care grounded on a public option, rather than on private industry. Had the house supported a more moderate bill, the deal would have gone through earlier, more easily, and without the political fallout that some representatives will now suffer. But that is the fallacy of hindsight.

Pelosi had a large majority in the House and there was a narrow majority in the Senate, and Democrats were in the White House, so why NOT go for the brass ring? I would have done the same. It was not unreasonable to set the sights high. It was Republican propaganda that killed the public option, that, and Democrats’ characteristic inability to sell their ideas. Pelosi was not wrong going for the whole garbanzo. And she was smart enough to rein in her aspirations when the reality on the ground changed.

So I say, when it comes to the toughest, most junkyard-dog of a partisan legislator around, I am grateful she is on the right side.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Hail Mr. Moderate

Senator Chris Dodd unveiled his financial reform proposal today – alone. No one else would stand with him at the podium to announce it.

The proposal is deeply unpopular with all Republicans, who favor laissez-faire economics, despite the historical evidence that such policy is absolutely devastating to the country. They're not much on history, Republicans. Dodd can probably expect zero support from them on his bill.

On the other side, the bill is not popular with Democrats either, at least the radical left wing. They favor iron-fisted, almost Stalinistic government control of every aspect of the economy, an approach that is not only impractical, but dangerously disruptive and historically destructive. For example, many Democrats would like to expand again the size of government bureaucracy to create a consumer financial protection agency. That is the Nanny Government at its worst. Caveat emptor is a better policy. How about we take all the money we would have spend on administering a new government agency, and instead spend that amount on financial education for high school students?

Dodd’s bill is well summarized at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/economy/dodd-unveils-financial-overhaul/article1501089/

It is a down-the-middle approach that will curtail some of the most egregious financial offenses without trying to remodel the entire financial system. In that it is reasonable, moderate, and safe.

Whether he can get it passed is a whole different question. There is no middle ground any more in American politics.