Election '10: Earlier in the year, congressional Democrats were gushing about their historic legislative achievements. But if they've done such great things for the country, why aren't they campaigning on them?
It was only in May that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared, "Health care reform is my proudest achievement in Congress." Now it's America's long, hot summer of discontent, and pride in their legislative record is the last thing Democrats want to campaign on as they face a popular uprising and the possible loss of their House and Senate majorities.
"In an effort coordinated with the White House," the Los Angeles Times reported Monday, "congressional leaders are urging Democrats to focus less on bragging about what they have done — a landmark health care law, a sweeping overhaul of Wall Street regulation and other far-reaching policy changes — and more on efforts to fix the economy and on the perils of Republican control of Congress."
In other words, never mind what the Democrat-run Congress has been up to for four years, and never mind about the "Change We Can Believe In" Americans have experienced courtesy of President Obama during the past two years. Let's try to blame our failures on the long-gone Bush administration. Let's forget about "Obama's Cracked Stimulus Crystal Ball," as AOL News opinion editor and former IBD Washington bureau chief John Merline calls it.
A year and a half ago, in a speech to Caterpillar employees, the president promised that as soon as Congress approved his $862 billion "stimulus" plan, "a new wave of innovation, activity and construction will be unleashed across America" that "will ignite spending by businesses and consumers," because the "goal at the heart of this plan" is "to create jobs."
For the vast majority of Americans, of course, the stimulus was anything but. It not only failed to cap unemployment at 8%, as also promised (the jobless rate is still 9.5%), but the few jobs it did protect were concentrated in government, Obama's political base.
Another part of that base — unions — also benefited, according to an IBD/TIPP poll that ended Sunday. Asked if "the job of a member of your household has been saved or created as a result of the economic stimulus program," only 6% of the 837 adults surveyed answered "yes." But for households with at least one union member, 19% replied in the affirmative. Many of those union members, of course, could also work in the public sector, where organized labor has made the most headway in recent years.
The failure of the stimulus effort and the passage of such unpopular legislation as health care reform (Americans still oppose it 48% to 38% in our polls) are weighing heavily on consumer confidence.
The IBD/TIPP Economic Optimism Index (see chart above) fell an additional 2.5% this month to 46.3 — its lowest level since October 2008, the middle of the financial crisis. Dragging the index down was a 9.6% plunge in the subcomponent that measures confidence in federal economic policies.
Now, instead of facing understandably angry voters at town halls back home, House Democrats have scurried back to Washington to pass yet another stimulus. This one totals $26 billion and is aimed at averting layoffs in — you guessed it — state and local governments.
Some may detect a panicked attempt here to use taxpayer money to buy votes.
The "Blame Bush" election strategy was recently expressed in a nutshell by the president: "When you get in your car, when you go forward, what do you do? You put it in 'D.' When you want to go back, what do you do? You put it in 'R.'"
Pretty clever from the man who bought GM with the taxpayers' hard-earned dollars. But for nearly 10% of workers, "D" stands for the dole of unemployment benefits.