Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Congressional Circus

Congress will be back in session this week, and the new Republican House majority is promising swift action to repeal health care reform.  Many have also promised to vote against increasing the debt ceiling. Both these actions will get lots of attention in the weeks ahead. Both are substantively meaningless, and the Republicans know it. House Republicans might be able to repeal health care reform, but that repeal bill will most likely die in the Senate, and even if it passed the Senate, would be promptly vetoed. So the only purpose of the movement to repeal health care reform is to appease the new Republican representatives' constituents, and set up the issue for 2012, if they think it will have any traction at that time. As for voting against the debt ceiling, Republicans have made a sport out of this threat for decades (whenever they don't control the White House), but they always vote to increase the debt ceiling in the end. They have to, or they would cause financial chaos. Causing a big political showdown over the debt ceiling is just a way of avoiding facing the hard decisions about spending cuts and tax increases, which are what is what you would be talking about if you were actually serious about wanting to reduce the national debt. Which Congress is not, or else Congress would not last month have racked up the biggest bi-partisan majority of the year in favor of adding hundreds of billions more to the deficit in the form of tax breaks and unemployment benefits.

The last two years in Congress were years of great substantive accomplishment. The process was often ugly, but a lot got done. If the early talk is any indication, the next two years promise to be years of political grandstanding and theatre--all show and no substance. It will be surprising if this Congress creates any lasting legacies on the order of TARP, the stimulus, financial regulation, and health care reform. The funny thing is that the public, both the left and right, will probably like this Congress better than the last one. Liberals will not have to face their disappointment at the compromises necessary to pass reform legislation, and can direct their anger at the obstructionist opposition that will prevent pretty much anything from getting done. And conservatives will be happy that no big government programs will be launched, and will likewise be able to direct their anger at the Democrats (and some Republicans) who will prevent any radical Tea Party reforms from making any headway.

Maybe it's a good time to tone down the anger and outrage.  To my Democratic friends, I would say, it's not necessary to make fun of John Boehner's name or impute dastardly plots to the House Republicans.  They are just going to be doing what they believe they were elected to do.  And maybe you can be a little more forgiving of the administration and Democratic Congressional leadership, because now the limits of their power should be more readily apparent to anyone.  To my Republican friends, I would say, spare me your outrage at the Senate where many good House bills go to die.  You've been killing Democratic House bills in the Senate for years.  The best thing for everyone right now is probably to grab some popcorn, sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.


  1. I don't agree with your premise that the debates about health care and debt ceiling are meaningless. I want the debate and I want changes made in both areas. If you don't, we simply disagree. That doesn't make you right and me wrong or visa versa. I happen to think the center agrees with me. We will see in 2012.

    On health care, I like the pre-exisitng conditions coverage. I'm okay with mandated insurance coverage. I'm okay with young adults covered under their parents insurance. I think there ought to have been tort referm included in the bill. Interstate competition should have been included. And there are another 2000 pages of that bill that need to be unwound. Lets get to it.

    On the debt ceiling; we ought to decrease discretionary spending. I am in favor of raising retirement to age 68 for SS. I am in favor of a national sales tax. I am in favor of increasing taxes on those making over one million dollars back to Clinton era levels.

    Do Democrats and Republicans want to solve our problems or just get re-elected? Why don't you want a new Congress to discuss these issues?

  2. Joe, I like the changes to the blog! Looks great.

  3. I am very hopeful. The threat to the health care bill may cause folks to learn more about it. Those who support the bill will organize and get the word out, a little adversity can be a good thing.

    I also believe that one of President Obama's strengths is compromise and discussion. Those qualities will stand out as Congress bickers.

    Finally - regardless of what Congress does, or doesn't do, non profits will continue to do good work, individuals will be generous, and communities will work together.

    But them I am an optimist

  4. I don't disagree with your comments, KP, but I think we are talking about two different things. Of course we should continue to improve the health insurance system. The bill was a starting point, not an end point. What I was saying is that the idea of repeal is going nowhere. But if Republicans want to talk about improving the delivery of health care, by all means we should engage in that discussion.

    Similarly with the debt ceiling. It would be useful to have a grown-up discussion about spending and taxation. But the debt ceiling debate is just a distraction from that issue.

    Glad you like the new fonts. I'll probably keep fiddling with them.

    Thanks for visiting and introducing me to your blog, WhatIsWorking. I will have to start following it, since we seem to have some of the same interests.

  5. I think everyone understands that repeal is not happening. However, the attention a vote gets is helpful to promoting discussion and increases awareness of both the public and congress. I want to know exactly who is going to vote ‘yes or no’ on the 12th. So do their constituents. Let’s find out where everybody stands -- right now. Let the people know; the people can then go about letting their views known directly to their elected officials; either their support or their disagreement as we move to fix the health care issues.

    I have been hearing plenty of grown-up conversations for a long time; granted, mostly from the center but some from the far right as well; but the far left keeps calling the discussion childish. That in itself borders childish. As if any discussion but discussion the left offers is not worthy. It's all worthy. Again, those in the center are is in the majority and they see value in center left opinion and center right.

    I am not singling you out, but the left talking heads use the derogatory term "grown-up" (as in childish and grow up!) on television, in print over the radio. It is very frustrating to those of us who can see more than one point of view.

  6. KP - thank you for providing this blog which encourages rational discussion. I am new to your site, but plan to visit often. Joe, thanks for your comment on my blog. I can be reached at whatisworking@gmail.com

    I am working with another blog to brainstorm ideas on how we can promote the productive discussion of health care issues. I volunteered to provide guidelines for letters to the editor on health care. I did a google search and to date have not many letters that discuss the issue in a calm rationale manner. It is mind boggling.

    Have either of you ever written a letter you could share or do you have any suggestions for resources in this area?

  7. Hello WhatIsWorking. I'll give your interest in additional health care input some thought in coming days.

    To be clear, Joe is the host of this blog. For sure, he has more creative energy than I do. It's takes of a lot of things (brains, guts, patience just to name a few) to run an intelligent blog. Joe has all of those qualities and more. He is an attorney and I have worked in the medical arena and as a medical-legal expert witness as a chiropractor. He might agree we are both get exposed to each others fields over time, but I don't seek to argue law with Joe to often (or my brother who is an attorney).

  8. Thanks for clearing up who is who. I am a newbie to blogging. I hope to talk to you both again on this blog or another.