A recent Rasmussen poll revealed substantial support for small government amongst Americans:
Sixty-six percent (66%) of U.S. voters prefer a smaller government with fewer services and lower taxes over a more active government with more services and higher taxes.
Even if they prefer a small government, Americans are faced with a country in which the federal government is the largest employer and the pay afforded its employees dwarfs that of a private worker:
While many workers in the private sector have despaired of a pay increase in the past few years, Congress takes care of federal employees with annual raises, awarding 3.9 percent in 2009, 3.5 percent in 2008 and 2.7 percent in 2007.
The average pay for the nation’s 1.9 million federal workers is a little over $71,000, with the 372,041 federal workers in the Washington area earning an average of $94,047. The average salary for the nation’s 108 million private-sector workers is $50,028.
Government employees are often unionized and have infrastructure built to keep them from being fired even if they fail to perform their job functions. They tend to vote Democratic and their unions are among the biggest contributors to the Democratic Party. Is it any wonder then that the average American continues to face a vacant job market while a Democratic Congress provides increasing raises for federal employees?
Taxpayers were got slapped in the face three times yesterday by President Barack Obama and the Democrat-controlled Congress.
The first was the president signing a bloated $1.1 trillion spending bill, which passed Congress over the weekend:
President Barack Obama has signed into law a $1.1 trillion bill that increases the budgets in many areas of the government by about 10 percent, including health, law enforcement and veterans’ programs.
Obama signed the bill privately at the White House on Wednesday after receiving the bill from Congress on Sunday.
The bill lumps together six of the 12 annual appropriations bills for the 2010 budget year that began Oct. 1.
The House on Wednesday narrowly passed a $290 billion increase to the amount of debt the Treasury is allowed to have. Currently, the debt ceiling is set at $12.104 trillion, and if the Senate passes the House-approved increase, it would rise to $12.394 trillion.
The increase would cover Treasury’s borrowing needs through Feb. 11, 2010. That is a far cry from the $1.9 trillion increase that lawmakers last week said they wanted to pass.
It doesn’t look like things are all well and good among Democrats in the Senate:
Fissures between liberal and centrist Democrats cracked open on Sunday in the aftermath of a procedural vote, which paved the way for the estimated $848bn draft Senate bill to be debated on the floor. Leaders hope there will be a vote on the bill by Christmas. If passed, the House and Senate versions will have to be mashed together.
If this weekend is anything to go by, it will not be a pretty process. All Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents voted to push the bill forward – creating a filibuster-proof majority of 60 – but some of those votes came far from quietly. A group of centrist Democrats, unhappy about elements of the bill such as a public insurance option, managed to wring concessions from the leadership in return for their acquiescence.
In what wags have already dubbed the “Louisiana Purchase”, Mary Landrieu was offered at least $100m in extra federal money for her state. Ben Nelson won the omission of a provision that would strip health insurers of their anti-trust exemption. Blanche Lincoln won more time.
The weekend’s vote was a victory for Harry Reid, Senate leader, but he acknowledged that it was simply an opening skirmish in a battle that is now set to break into full force. Much of that battle will take place within his own party.
“Tonight’s vote is not the end of the debate,” he said on Saturday night. “It is only the beginning.”
Does anyone not believe that Sen. Mary Landrieu was not bribed for her vote? She obviously says she wasn’t, but it pretty transparent what went on there. Unfortunately, that’s how Congress works. Funny thing was listening to Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) talk about how it was ethical because it was within Senate rules.
David Boaz offers a few quick quips, jokingly called, Tax Tips for Democrats:
After yesterday’s report that Democrats were considering a “go it alone” strategy on health care, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that they are considering dividing the reform package up into two or more bills:
The White House and Senate Democratic leaders, seeing little chance of bipartisan support for their health-care overhaul, are considering a strategy shift that would break the legislation into two parts and pass the most expensive provisions solely with Democratic votes.
The idea is the latest effort by Democrats to escape the morass caused by delays in Congress, as well as voter discontent crystallized in angry town-hall meetings. Polls suggest the overhaul plans are losing public support, giving Republicans less incentive to go along.
Democrats hope a split-the-bill plan would speed up a vote and help President Barack Obama meet his goal of getting a final measure by year’s end.
The main reason they’re considering this appears to be the idea that they can get some parts of the package passed more easily if they aren’t part of a larger bill:
Most legislation in the Senate requires 60 votes to overcome a filibuster, but certain budget-related measures can pass with 51 votes through a parliamentary maneuver called reconciliation.
In recent days, Democratic leaders have concluded they can pack more of their health overhaul plans under this procedure, congressional aides said. They might even be able to include a public insurance plan to compete with private insurers, a key demand of the party’s liberal wing, but that remains uncertain.
Other parts of the Democratic plan would be put to a separate vote in the Senate, including most of the insurance regulations that have been central to Mr. Obama’s health-care message.
That bill would likely set new rules for insurers, such as requiring they accept anyone, regardless of pre-existing medical conditions. This portion of the health-care overhaul has already drawn some Republican support and wouldn’t involve new spending, leading Democratic leaders to believe they could clear the 60-vote hurdle.
Ezra Klein, who has been skeptical of the whole idea of using reconciliation to pass health care reform in the past, doesn’t think the strategy has much merit:
This strategy has always puzzled me a bit. Reconciliation is the most controversial move you can make in health-care reform, as it cuts the minority’s power entirely. If you go that route for most of the bill, it seems unlikely that a couple of Republicans will lend you their votes to finish the job. But if they would, or if you can get 60 Democrats to hold strong and break the filibuster, then why couldn’t you get that in the first place, bypassing reconciliation altogether? To put it simply, if you have the votes for this strategy, you don’t need to pursue it, and if you don’t have the votes for it, then you’re stuck anyway.
James Joyner, meanwhile, points out the contradictory nature of the plan:
If the Democrats have the votes to pass the more controversial parts of the bill on their own, why would they take the heat for doing it and then give the Republicans a free pass by allowing them to vote for a pain-free bipartisan bill?
Part of it, I think lies in the fact that there’s really no guarantee that reconciliation will work at all:
The problem with breaking the rules — or, more to the point, using them in unintended ways — is that anyone can do it. Remember when minority Democrats were threatening to “shut down the Senate” when Bill Frist eliminated the filibuster for judicial nominees? It wasn’t an idle threat. They could well have shut down the Senate. Nearly all Senate business requires unanimous consent to proceed. Republicans are no less aware of this fact than Democrats were. If Democrats try to invoke reconciliation and then override the parliamentarian and rewrite the Senate rulebook on the fly, the GOP will quickly and easily close down the chamber.
At that point, you’re in a standoff: The government shuts down. Everyone takes to the airwaves. And you wait to see which party breaks — or gets broken by public anger — first. In essence, you’re exactly where you would’ve been if you had just broken out the cots and decided to fight out an endless filibuster, but you face the added impediment that the media is kicking the hell out of you for cheating, and Republicans can argue — accurately — that you just attempted a thuggish takeover of the Senate.
As a general rule, if there were a foolproof way around the 60-vote threshold, the senators of one party or the other would have thought of it, and at least a couple of radicals would have loudly advocated for it
More likely then not then, as Marc Ambinder notes, the threat of reconciliation, whether for the bill as a whole or some portion of it as the Journal describes, is just that, a threat made in the hope that the other side will back down from any threat of a filibuster. In the end, the costs that the Democrats would incur in trying to ram any kind of major change to the health care system via reconciliation would be far greater than the benefits, which is why I doubt they’ll actually do it.
Democrats have decided to go it alone on health care:
Given hardening Republican opposition to congressional health care proposals, Democrats now say they see little chance for the minority’s cooperation in approving any overhaul, and are increasingly focused on drawing support for a final plan from within their own ranks.
Top Democrats said Tuesday that their go-it-alone view was being shaped by what they saw as Republicans’ purposely strident tone against health care legislation during this month’s congressional recess, as well as remarks by leading Republicans that current proposals were flawed beyond repair.
The White House spokesman, Robert Gibbs, said of Republican lawmakers, “Only a handful seem interested in the type of comprehensive reform that so many people believe is necessary to ensure the principles and the goals that the president has laid out.”
A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that only 25% of U.S. voters now say the stimulus plan has helped the economy. That’s a six-point drop from a month ago.
Thirty-one percent (31%) say the stimulus actually hurt the economy, little changed from a month ago. However, this is the first poll showing that more voters believe the plan hurt rather than helped.
A plurality (36%) says the plan has had no impact.
Just after Congress passed the plan, 34% said it would help the economy, 32% that it would hurt and 26% predicted no impact.
George W. Bush received a lot of criticism from a lot of people. That is an understatement. Much of the criticism echoed a sentiment that his administration repeatedly operated with a great deal of hubris. One area where this hubris was evident in his use of Presidential signing statements.
Signing statements have been used by Presidents for a long time. However, it has been recent administrations which have begun to push the envelope. A signing statement is authored to accompany the passage of legislation. Presidents have used them to challenge the constitutionality of legislation as well as indicate the administrations’ plans to downright ignore certain provisions therein. This has been viewed by many as an attempt by the Executive Branch to ignore the divisions of power vested in the Constitution.
While driving to Atlanta on Thursday evening, I caught part of an interview with Newt Gingrich on The Sean Hannity Show. Gingrich was speaking against ObamaCare, and rightfully so (to get an idea of what he said, you can read a transcript from Hannity’s television show later that night). The president’s so-called health care “reform” proposal will crowd out private health insurance and eventually lead to a takeover of the insurance industry. As Brett Bittner wrote yesterday, we need to work together to “flatline ObamaCare.” There is no disagreement there.