Commentary Magazine


Topic: interest groups

The Party of the Nomenklatura

Steve Hayward over at Power Line has an interesting quote from Franklin Roosevelt:

The lessons of history, confirmed by the evidence immediately before me, show conclusively that continued dependence upon relief induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fiber. To dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit… It is in violation of the traditions of America.

Roosevelt wanted Social Security to be a contributory system, where people pay in when they are young and take out when they are old. What he didn’t want was a “dole,” to use the term he knew and which we call welfare today. When the original Social Security proposal didn’t meet FDR’s specifications, he ordered it rewritten. Robert Samuelson details in the Washington Post how Roosevelt’s conception was slowly turned into the Ponzi scheme that Social Security is today. The process began with an override of an FDR veto in 1942 of the Revenue Act of that year, the act that transformed the personal income tax from a tax on the rich to a tax on all but the poor.

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Steve Hayward over at Power Line has an interesting quote from Franklin Roosevelt:

The lessons of history, confirmed by the evidence immediately before me, show conclusively that continued dependence upon relief induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fiber. To dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit… It is in violation of the traditions of America.

Roosevelt wanted Social Security to be a contributory system, where people pay in when they are young and take out when they are old. What he didn’t want was a “dole,” to use the term he knew and which we call welfare today. When the original Social Security proposal didn’t meet FDR’s specifications, he ordered it rewritten. Robert Samuelson details in the Washington Post how Roosevelt’s conception was slowly turned into the Ponzi scheme that Social Security is today. The process began with an override of an FDR veto in 1942 of the Revenue Act of that year, the act that transformed the personal income tax from a tax on the rich to a tax on all but the poor.

It is a measure of how much the Democratic Party has changed since the 1930s. With millions out of work, their savings gone with thousands of bank failures, immediate help was needed (and, indeed, the federal government began to deliver that help, in unprecedented amounts, during the Hoover administration). But the help was intended to be temporary. The idea of a permanent underclass living off government handouts or dependent on government for their livelihoods was repugnant to Roosevelt and most people in his “brain trust.”

Today, the Democratic Party is not a party devoted to helping the poor help themselves, but one devoted to the interests of an American “nomenklatura” whose rice bowl is an ever-larger number of people dependent on government for services and income. This nomenklatura is made up of bureaucrats, public-service union officials, non-governmental organizations such as environmental and civil rights groups, some corporations, such as big pharmaceutical companies, that are dependent on government regulators, colleges and universities, and others.

The Democratic Party, which once had a valid claim to being the party of the little guy–even while headed by the quintessential American aristocrat–is now the party of a vast coalition of interest groups devoted only to ever larger and more intrusive government, the “traditions of America” that FDR championed be damned.

 

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Obama’s Polling Blues

The raft of bad polling data continues for President Obama. When voters were asked in a CNN/Opinion Research survey published on Tuesday to rate Obama’s performance since taking office, 48 percent judged it a failure while 47 percent saw a success. This corresponds with a new Quinnipiac University poll released today, showing voters split 45-45 on whether Obama’s first year was a success or failure. Earlier this week, a CBS News poll showed Obama’s job approval rating at 46 percent, marking the first time he had polled below 50 percent in that survey. The CBS poll also showed that Obama’s support among independent voters has fallen 10 points in the last few months alone.

Today’s Gallup poll has Obama’s approval rating on the economy – far and away the most important issue for the country – at an anemic 40 percent. His approval rating on health care – the issue he has devoted most of his presidency to – is at 37 percent. These numbers are the lowest of his presidency. In addition, Obama has the highest disapproval rating of any president in the January after the first year in office. And as Glen Bolger of Public Opinion Strategies points out, since Gallup first started measuring presidential job approval, every single president has had a lower job approval on the last poll before their first mid-term election than they did at the beginning of that year.

These data points continue a trend more than half a year old. There is hardly any good news to be found for Democrats anywhere – and things are likely to get worse before they get better. In fact, they may get a whole lot worse for Democrats  sooner than anyone thought just a week or so ago. I have in mind, of course, the Senate race in Massachusetts between Republican Scott Brown and Democrat Martha Coakley, with the latest Rasmussen poll showing Brown within two points of Coakley. (Brown is ahead by two percentage points among those who are absolutely certain they will vote). The conventional wisdom is that the national and state Democratic party has been awakened in the nick of time and that Coakley – with lots of outside help and money – will pull out a victory.

I’m not so sure. She obviously has enormous advantages working in her favor. But the entire feel of this campaign is very bad for Democrats, including the lurching shift from complacency to over-the-top attack ads; the fact that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has purchased more than $550,000 in ads in the Boston and Springfield markets; the need for Coakley to rush down to Washington to speak before a group of lobbyists and special interest groups only a week before the election; the fine, confident performance by Brown in Tuesday’s debate versus the sub-par performance by Coakley; the spontaneous enthusiasm Brown is generating in Massachusetts; and now the roughing up of a Weekly Standard reporter by a Coakley aide/mercenary, exactly the kind of thing Coakley’s campaign does not need.

An enormous backlash against Obama and Democrats has been building in the country for months; that will continue regardless of what happens in Massachusetts on Tuesday. But if Scott Brown pulls out a victory, it would have enormously far-reaching consequences for Democrats and for modern-day liberalism. It would shake their confidence to the core. It would trigger panic and recriminations in the Democratic party. It might convince a few more lawmakers that passing ObamaCare is just about the worst thing they can do. And when combined with the results of the gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia, it would lead many Democrats to conclude that embracing Barack Obama and his brand of liberalism is a political death sentence.

Liberalism’s “sort-of God” is crashing before our eyes. So, it seems, is his party. It is really quite an extraordinary thing to witness.

The raft of bad polling data continues for President Obama. When voters were asked in a CNN/Opinion Research survey published on Tuesday to rate Obama’s performance since taking office, 48 percent judged it a failure while 47 percent saw a success. This corresponds with a new Quinnipiac University poll released today, showing voters split 45-45 on whether Obama’s first year was a success or failure. Earlier this week, a CBS News poll showed Obama’s job approval rating at 46 percent, marking the first time he had polled below 50 percent in that survey. The CBS poll also showed that Obama’s support among independent voters has fallen 10 points in the last few months alone.

Today’s Gallup poll has Obama’s approval rating on the economy – far and away the most important issue for the country – at an anemic 40 percent. His approval rating on health care – the issue he has devoted most of his presidency to – is at 37 percent. These numbers are the lowest of his presidency. In addition, Obama has the highest disapproval rating of any president in the January after the first year in office. And as Glen Bolger of Public Opinion Strategies points out, since Gallup first started measuring presidential job approval, every single president has had a lower job approval on the last poll before their first mid-term election than they did at the beginning of that year.

These data points continue a trend more than half a year old. There is hardly any good news to be found for Democrats anywhere – and things are likely to get worse before they get better. In fact, they may get a whole lot worse for Democrats  sooner than anyone thought just a week or so ago. I have in mind, of course, the Senate race in Massachusetts between Republican Scott Brown and Democrat Martha Coakley, with the latest Rasmussen poll showing Brown within two points of Coakley. (Brown is ahead by two percentage points among those who are absolutely certain they will vote). The conventional wisdom is that the national and state Democratic party has been awakened in the nick of time and that Coakley – with lots of outside help and money – will pull out a victory.

I’m not so sure. She obviously has enormous advantages working in her favor. But the entire feel of this campaign is very bad for Democrats, including the lurching shift from complacency to over-the-top attack ads; the fact that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has purchased more than $550,000 in ads in the Boston and Springfield markets; the need for Coakley to rush down to Washington to speak before a group of lobbyists and special interest groups only a week before the election; the fine, confident performance by Brown in Tuesday’s debate versus the sub-par performance by Coakley; the spontaneous enthusiasm Brown is generating in Massachusetts; and now the roughing up of a Weekly Standard reporter by a Coakley aide/mercenary, exactly the kind of thing Coakley’s campaign does not need.

An enormous backlash against Obama and Democrats has been building in the country for months; that will continue regardless of what happens in Massachusetts on Tuesday. But if Scott Brown pulls out a victory, it would have enormously far-reaching consequences for Democrats and for modern-day liberalism. It would shake their confidence to the core. It would trigger panic and recriminations in the Democratic party. It might convince a few more lawmakers that passing ObamaCare is just about the worst thing they can do. And when combined with the results of the gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia, it would lead many Democrats to conclude that embracing Barack Obama and his brand of liberalism is a political death sentence.

Liberalism’s “sort-of God” is crashing before our eyes. So, it seems, is his party. It is really quite an extraordinary thing to witness.

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