Commentary Magazine


Topic: Daniel Henninger

Democrats Freak Over ObamaCare Opposition

The Obami spinners can’t quite decide whether to exaggerate or ignore the backlash to ObamaCare. On one hand, they seize upon random lunatics (well, not so much with regard to the Democratic donor who went after Eric Cantor, spouting anti-Semitic venom: “Remember Eric … our judgment time, the final Yom Kippur has been given. You are a liar, you’re a Lucifer, you’re a pig, a greedy f—— pig, you’re an abomination, you receive my bullets”) in order to paint an atmosphere of violence perpetrated by unhinged extremists who dare demean the wonders of ObamaCare. But then again, they don’t want to make such a big deal of the opposition because, well, the legislation is historic! As to the latter reaction, Daniel Henninger comments:

In his “Today Show” interview this week, Mr. Obama with his characteristic empathy acknowledged there are “folks who have legitimate concerns … that the federal government may be taking on too much.”

My reading of the American public is that they have moved past “concerns.” Somewhere inside the programmatic details of ObamaCare and the methods that the president, Speaker Pelosi and Sen. Reid used to pass it, something went terribly wrong. Just as something has gone terribly wrong inside the governments of states like California, New York, New Jersey, Michigan and Massachusetts.

The 10th Amendment tumult does not mean anyone is going to secede. It doesn’t mean “nullification” is coming back. We are not going to refight the Civil War or the Voting Rights Act. Richard Russell isn’t rising from his Georgia grave.

But we are witnessing a populist movement and a potential wave election, both of which are legitimate and heartfelt expressions of disgust and horror directed at the liberal elites. So the Democrats are in a bind — excoriate the opposition or win them over? Prepare the troops for a drubbing or pretend as if everything is going according to plan? If they seem a bit schizophrenic these days — alternately alarmist and oblivious — it is the outward manifestation of the contradiction at the heart of their agenda. They defied the will of the public, reveling in their political “courage.” But, alas, they have not quite come to terms with the consequences of that decision, namely that they face a thumping at the polls and a repudiation of their handiwork. There is, after all, a price to be paid for brazen contempt for the will of the voters.

The Obami spinners can’t quite decide whether to exaggerate or ignore the backlash to ObamaCare. On one hand, they seize upon random lunatics (well, not so much with regard to the Democratic donor who went after Eric Cantor, spouting anti-Semitic venom: “Remember Eric … our judgment time, the final Yom Kippur has been given. You are a liar, you’re a Lucifer, you’re a pig, a greedy f—— pig, you’re an abomination, you receive my bullets”) in order to paint an atmosphere of violence perpetrated by unhinged extremists who dare demean the wonders of ObamaCare. But then again, they don’t want to make such a big deal of the opposition because, well, the legislation is historic! As to the latter reaction, Daniel Henninger comments:

In his “Today Show” interview this week, Mr. Obama with his characteristic empathy acknowledged there are “folks who have legitimate concerns … that the federal government may be taking on too much.”

My reading of the American public is that they have moved past “concerns.” Somewhere inside the programmatic details of ObamaCare and the methods that the president, Speaker Pelosi and Sen. Reid used to pass it, something went terribly wrong. Just as something has gone terribly wrong inside the governments of states like California, New York, New Jersey, Michigan and Massachusetts.

The 10th Amendment tumult does not mean anyone is going to secede. It doesn’t mean “nullification” is coming back. We are not going to refight the Civil War or the Voting Rights Act. Richard Russell isn’t rising from his Georgia grave.

But we are witnessing a populist movement and a potential wave election, both of which are legitimate and heartfelt expressions of disgust and horror directed at the liberal elites. So the Democrats are in a bind — excoriate the opposition or win them over? Prepare the troops for a drubbing or pretend as if everything is going according to plan? If they seem a bit schizophrenic these days — alternately alarmist and oblivious — it is the outward manifestation of the contradiction at the heart of their agenda. They defied the will of the public, reveling in their political “courage.” But, alas, they have not quite come to terms with the consequences of that decision, namely that they face a thumping at the polls and a repudiation of their handiwork. There is, after all, a price to be paid for brazen contempt for the will of the voters.

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The Engine of Spending

As Jennifer referred to this morning, Andy Stern, the head of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is not happy with the idea of scaling back health-care “reform.” It is not exactly hard to see why Stern is upset. He represents over one million health-care workers. He also represents over a million government workers and a government takeover of health care is very much in his interest.

Andy Stern and the SEIU are the exemplars of the modern union movement, as the old union movement, personified by Walter Reuther and John L. Lewis, that was so influential in the mid-20th century is a shadow of its former self. Union membership peaked in the early 1950’s at about 35 percent of the nation’s workforce, virtually all of them in the private sector. It’s been declining ever since and is now at 7.2 percent of the workforce in the private sector, about where it was in 1900. What has been growing is union membership among government workers and non-profits such as hospitals: 37.4 percent of the public sector workforce is now unionized and these public-sector workers now constitute more than 50 percent of all union members.

As Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal made clear on Thursday, this is a very dangerous situation. The public service unions have acquired disproportionate political influence, pouring millions in dues money (more than $100 million in 2008) into political campaigns to elect Democrats, the party of government. They pour millions more into ads opposing any reform in government spending, even in states on the brink of bankruptcy, and pushing for higher taxes instead. In Massachusetts public safety spending is up by 139 percent in the last twenty years, education up by 44 percent, Medicaid up by 163 percent.

A big part of the problem is that the laws in place that cover collective bargaining were devised in the 1930’s when public-sector unions didn’t exist. A corporation is a wealth-creation machine and collective bargaining is a negotiation over how to divide the profits between stockholders and labor. Each side knows that if they drive too hard a bargain, they will injure the goose that lays the profit eggs. If labor is paid too much, the company will be less competitive. If it is paid too little, good workers will leave for better-paying jobs elsewhere. But in the public sector, unions and the bureaucrats who negotiate with them are playing with someone else’s money (yours, to be precise), and have overlapping interests in spending more of it. Bureaucrats, after all, measure their prestige by the size of the budget they control and the number of people who report to them.

The result has been an explosion in public-sector compensation. Federal workers now earn, in wages and benefits, about twice what their private-sector equivalents get paid. State workers often have Cadillac health plans and retirement benefits far above the private sector average: 80 percent of public-sector workers have pension benefits, only 50 percent in the private sector. Many can retire at age 50.

The public-sector unions have become the engine behind ballooning state and federal budgets. There will be no cure for excess government spending until their power is decisively curbed. It would be a winning issue for a Republican presidential candidate in 2012. The Democratic candidate, deeply beholden to Andy Stern, who has visited the White House more than anyone else not in government since Obama has been in office, will be very hard pressed to defend against such an attack but will have no option but to try.

As Jennifer referred to this morning, Andy Stern, the head of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is not happy with the idea of scaling back health-care “reform.” It is not exactly hard to see why Stern is upset. He represents over one million health-care workers. He also represents over a million government workers and a government takeover of health care is very much in his interest.

Andy Stern and the SEIU are the exemplars of the modern union movement, as the old union movement, personified by Walter Reuther and John L. Lewis, that was so influential in the mid-20th century is a shadow of its former self. Union membership peaked in the early 1950’s at about 35 percent of the nation’s workforce, virtually all of them in the private sector. It’s been declining ever since and is now at 7.2 percent of the workforce in the private sector, about where it was in 1900. What has been growing is union membership among government workers and non-profits such as hospitals: 37.4 percent of the public sector workforce is now unionized and these public-sector workers now constitute more than 50 percent of all union members.

As Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal made clear on Thursday, this is a very dangerous situation. The public service unions have acquired disproportionate political influence, pouring millions in dues money (more than $100 million in 2008) into political campaigns to elect Democrats, the party of government. They pour millions more into ads opposing any reform in government spending, even in states on the brink of bankruptcy, and pushing for higher taxes instead. In Massachusetts public safety spending is up by 139 percent in the last twenty years, education up by 44 percent, Medicaid up by 163 percent.

A big part of the problem is that the laws in place that cover collective bargaining were devised in the 1930’s when public-sector unions didn’t exist. A corporation is a wealth-creation machine and collective bargaining is a negotiation over how to divide the profits between stockholders and labor. Each side knows that if they drive too hard a bargain, they will injure the goose that lays the profit eggs. If labor is paid too much, the company will be less competitive. If it is paid too little, good workers will leave for better-paying jobs elsewhere. But in the public sector, unions and the bureaucrats who negotiate with them are playing with someone else’s money (yours, to be precise), and have overlapping interests in spending more of it. Bureaucrats, after all, measure their prestige by the size of the budget they control and the number of people who report to them.

The result has been an explosion in public-sector compensation. Federal workers now earn, in wages and benefits, about twice what their private-sector equivalents get paid. State workers often have Cadillac health plans and retirement benefits far above the private sector average: 80 percent of public-sector workers have pension benefits, only 50 percent in the private sector. Many can retire at age 50.

The public-sector unions have become the engine behind ballooning state and federal budgets. There will be no cure for excess government spending until their power is decisively curbed. It would be a winning issue for a Republican presidential candidate in 2012. The Democratic candidate, deeply beholden to Andy Stern, who has visited the White House more than anyone else not in government since Obama has been in office, will be very hard pressed to defend against such an attack but will have no option but to try.

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What Will It Take?

Daniel Henninger writes:

The only good news out of the Fort Hood massacre is that U.S. electronic surveillance technology was able to pick up Major Hasan’s phone calls to an al Qaeda-loving imam in Yemen. The bad news is the people and agencies listening to Hasan didn’t know what to do about it. Other than nothing.

Next week, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I., Conn.) will convene the Homeland Security Committee to find out if someone in the Army or FBI dropped the ball on Hasan. At Ford Hood itself, grief has been turning to anger as news of possible dropped balls has emerged.

Henninger says that this is the price we paid for the bend-over-backward effort to avoid casting aspersions on those with a take-offense-at-everything lobby on their side. He holds out hope that we will get serious about the nature of our enemy and put an end to the “rancorous confusion about the enemy, the legal standing of the enemy, or the legal status and scope of the methods it wants to use to fight the enemy.” His suggestion: “President Obama should do two things: Call off the CIA investigation. Then call in the guys who didn’t make the right call on Hasan and ask why not. Then, whatever set the bar too high, lower it.”

How likely is that? Obama has been a prime malefactor in fanning confusion about the enemy and the means we will use to defend ourselves. He ran for president on pulling the plug on Iraq, although that was a central battlefield in the war against the same Islamic fundamentalists. Once in office, he not only declared war on the CIA by re-investigating its operatives and disclosing their methods, but he proposed closing Guantanamo and bringing detainees to the U.S. for trial and possible incarceration. In his grand address on health care, he tells the country it’s a shame we have to spend money fighting in Afghanistan. He has excised “war on terror” and “Islamic fundamentalist” from our official lexicon. And he has declared we won’t be using enhanced interrogation techniques to extract any useful information from those who would carry out dozens of Fort Hoods.

The conclusion is inescapable: Obama has embodied the confusion and unseriousness that Henninger identifies. Some might hope that this or that event or crisis will shake the president and bring him to his senses. The obligation to develop a war strategy? That’s not done the trick; in fact, it’s brought out his worst qualities and revealed his faulty instincts. An act of terrorism by a homegrown jihadist? Maybe, but the Obami’s rhetoric suggests that they are still deep in the weeds of confusion and reality avoidance.

The invasion of Afghanistan shocked Jimmy Carter: Ah, the Soviets were aggressive! What will wake up Obama and impress upon him the need to put childish rhetoric and left-wing talking points aside? If the Fort Hood massacre doesn’t, nothing will.

Daniel Henninger writes:

The only good news out of the Fort Hood massacre is that U.S. electronic surveillance technology was able to pick up Major Hasan’s phone calls to an al Qaeda-loving imam in Yemen. The bad news is the people and agencies listening to Hasan didn’t know what to do about it. Other than nothing.

Next week, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I., Conn.) will convene the Homeland Security Committee to find out if someone in the Army or FBI dropped the ball on Hasan. At Ford Hood itself, grief has been turning to anger as news of possible dropped balls has emerged.

Henninger says that this is the price we paid for the bend-over-backward effort to avoid casting aspersions on those with a take-offense-at-everything lobby on their side. He holds out hope that we will get serious about the nature of our enemy and put an end to the “rancorous confusion about the enemy, the legal standing of the enemy, or the legal status and scope of the methods it wants to use to fight the enemy.” His suggestion: “President Obama should do two things: Call off the CIA investigation. Then call in the guys who didn’t make the right call on Hasan and ask why not. Then, whatever set the bar too high, lower it.”

How likely is that? Obama has been a prime malefactor in fanning confusion about the enemy and the means we will use to defend ourselves. He ran for president on pulling the plug on Iraq, although that was a central battlefield in the war against the same Islamic fundamentalists. Once in office, he not only declared war on the CIA by re-investigating its operatives and disclosing their methods, but he proposed closing Guantanamo and bringing detainees to the U.S. for trial and possible incarceration. In his grand address on health care, he tells the country it’s a shame we have to spend money fighting in Afghanistan. He has excised “war on terror” and “Islamic fundamentalist” from our official lexicon. And he has declared we won’t be using enhanced interrogation techniques to extract any useful information from those who would carry out dozens of Fort Hoods.

The conclusion is inescapable: Obama has embodied the confusion and unseriousness that Henninger identifies. Some might hope that this or that event or crisis will shake the president and bring him to his senses. The obligation to develop a war strategy? That’s not done the trick; in fact, it’s brought out his worst qualities and revealed his faulty instincts. An act of terrorism by a homegrown jihadist? Maybe, but the Obami’s rhetoric suggests that they are still deep in the weeds of confusion and reality avoidance.

The invasion of Afghanistan shocked Jimmy Carter: Ah, the Soviets were aggressive! What will wake up Obama and impress upon him the need to put childish rhetoric and left-wing talking points aside? If the Fort Hood massacre doesn’t, nothing will.

Read Less




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