It Ain’t 1996 – Obama’s path to Reelection isn’t Quite the same Road Clinton Traveled

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 24th, 2011

Obama Doesn’t have the Healthcare and Economic Edge Clinton Had

Clinton was lucky.  Hillarycare (Clinton’s attempt to ‘nationalize’ healthcare) was a disaster.  It crashed and burned.  So it was off the table come reelection time.  And he had a smoking hot economy.  He had both a real estate bubble and a dot-com bubble.  Now, strictly speaking, bubbles aren’t good things.  Because they burst.  And recessions follow the bursting.  But until they burst, you got a smoking hot economy with low unemployment numbers.  Just the kind of things that gets presidents reelected.  REDSTATE has a list of other things, but let’s focus on items 3 & 4 in their list (see Why 2012 Is Not 1996 by Dan McLaughlin posted 1/24/2011 on REDSTATE).

3: Obamacare passed; Hillarycare didn’t: As unpopular as the Clinton Administration’s health care plan was, it wasn’t a major issue in the 1996 campaign because it had failed and, with Republicans controlling both Houses of Congress, it wasn’t coming back…Not so Obamacare, which remains very much a live issue.

4: The Economy: The unemployment rate is the most obvious of numerous economic indicators showing the U.S. economy in bad shape in 2011: unemployment, as low as 4.3% when voters elected the Democrats to control Congress in November 2006, was 6.5% when Obama was elected and 8.5% when he was inaugurated, and he expended much political capital arguing that his “stimulus” package would fix this with federal spending on “shovel-ready” projects; instead it peaked at 10.6% in January 2010, and remains above 9% a year later. These are very high numbers historically; since 1960, the unemployment rate has been above 6% on election day five times, and the only time the party in power wasn’t booted was 1984, when the 7.2% rate was the lowest it had been since before President Reagan took office and had plunged more than three points in two years. By contrast, the unemployment rate in 1996 was 5.4%, down from 7.4% when Bill Clinton was elected. If Obama can’t make the argument that Presidents Reagan and Clinton made – that they were not only making major headway on unemployment but in better shape than they were when elected (in Reagan’s case, the slight drop in unemployment was accompanied by an enormous drop in interest rates and inflation and a stock market boom) – he’ll face an electorate that is much more suspicious of entrusting him with the economy for four more years.

Historically speaking, history will favor who is not Obama in 2012 on these two issues.  And they’re about the biggest issues you can have.  A recession that just keeps on keeping on.  And a massive explosion in new spending.  Which can’t possibly help anything economic.

Old People and Jobs:  One Unpleasant Tradeoff

And there you have the ultimate showdown.  Obamacare versus the economy.  More spending and even more taxes.  Or less spending, less taxes and more jobs.  On one side you have emotional tugs of the heartstring (we have to help those poor uninsured people).  The other you have reality (we can’t raise taxes or borrow anymore without ending up like Greece).   

Obama may go Clinton.  And Clinton scored some big points with Welfare reform.  Obama has a chance to reform Medicare.  It is, after all, a part of Obamacare.  Gutting Medicare.  But Medicare is not welfare.  Those old people are a powerful voting bloc.  Will anyone, especially a Democrat, throw himself onto that ‘third rail’ (see Health care and the contest of credibility by Michael Gerson posted 1/25/2011 on The Washington Post)?

With Jack Lew and Gene Sperling in charge of its economic policy, the administration’s Clintonian direction is clear. It will seek higher revenue, cuts in defense, spending caps and more aggressive health-care price controls. When measuring deficit reduction, the last is the most important. It is the combination of cost inflation, an aging population and expansive health entitlements that push America toward the fate of Greece. Unless this problem is addressed, no tax increase or cut in discretionary spending will cause federal outlays to flatten at a sustainable percentage of the economy.

Higher revenue means higher taxes.  This is why Obamacare ‘reduces’ the deficit.  It has more new taxes than new spending in it.  But it’s a poor way to reduce the deficit.  If you have a problem because you’ve spent too much on your credit cards, what’s the easiest way to fix that problem?  Increase your revenue (i.e., your salary)?  Or cut your spending?  Of the two, you have far more power over spending cuts than you do on increasing your revenue.  So the smart money always goes on spending cuts to cut any deficit.  If you’re spending too much you just stop spending so much.  Pretty simple and straight forward.

But the 800 pound gorilla in the room is spending on old people (Medicare and Social Security).  We’re spending a fortune on increasing the life of the old so they can keep on collecting social security.  You’d have to be an idiot to not see the problem with that in an ‘entitlement-based’ government.

“The fact is,” says Yuval Levin of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, “Medicare is going to crush the government, and if Republicans leave it unreformed then the debt picture is very, very ugly. They might never – literally never – show the budget reaching balance. Not in the 10-year window and not if they take their graphs out a hundred years. Obama could probably show balance just past the budget window in the middle of the next decade because of the massive Medicare cuts he proposes, even if in practice they will never actually happen.”

Incidentally, those “massive Medicare cuts” he proposed was how he got CBO to favorably score Obamacare.  Without those cuts Obamacare would never have gotten any traction because of the massive cost.  Even with the massive tax increases.

So you see the grim picture? 

The Democratic approach to Medicare cuts would give doctors and providers less and less money while expecting them to cover the same services. “In reality,” says Levin, “providers won’t just provide the same care for less money – some will stop taking Medicare patients, some will go out of business, and some will reduce the level of care or amenities. That’s what we see in every system that takes this approach to cost control: waiting lines, dirty, unsafe hospitals with horrible food and amenities.”

And this is nationalized healthcare.  Healthcare for everyone.  All at an equally horrible standard.  Unless you’re in the government, of course.  Or are affluent enough to fly somewhere where there still is quality healthcare.

Pity the Poor Democrat son of a bitch Running in 2016

Obamacare benefits don’t really kick in until after the 2012 elections.  So when rationing kicks in and the ‘death panels’ start thinning the herd, it will be after the 2012 elections.  This may help.  The quality of our healthcare (Medicare and Obamacare) won’t really really suck until later.  However, taxes, regulations and mandates (and waivers) are kicking in before the benefits.  So the economy will still be in the toilet.  There might still be some tricks in the election bag to pull off reelection.  Who knows?  But one thing for sure.  Pity the poor Democrat son of a bitch running in 2016.  Because he or she will have to answer for the unprecedented mess their predecessor gave us.  Perpetual recession.  And horrible healthcare.

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