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Oct 19 2008

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What “Barry, Harry & Nancy” Would Look Like

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Most surveys show President Bush as an unpopular figure, with approval ratings of between 25-30%. The President’s lack of popularity is a ready source for the uncertain fortunes of John McCain as he seeks the White House.

Less commented on, the latest CBS News poll shows that the approval rating for the US Congress is 12%.

 By way of comparison, it was 26% when the voters threw Republicans out of power in 2006. Yet, in a stunning reward for bad behavior, American voters are on track to significantly expand the Democratic majority in both the House and the Senate in a manner that will profoundly affect government policy and average Americans over the next two years.

In the Senate, recent polling indicates that the Harry Reid and the Democrats are very close to securing the nine seats they need for a filibuster-proof majority. While both parties have abused the filibuster over the years – Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn is the current, consensus champion of filibuster perversion — under Senate rules, the threat of filibuster is the only formal vehicle available to the minority to influence legislation.

In the House, Nancy Pelosi looks to expand her majority by between 15-20 seats, giving her a majority of over 250, a caucus nearly as large as the Democrats enjoyed in 1992.

 Significantly, these new seats will dilute the influence and power of the 47 “Blue Dog” Democrats who are more center-right than the Party at large. Beyond favoring fiscal conservatism, the Blue Dogs were instrumental in brokering a compromise that renewed the FISA wiretapping program that was strongly opposed by the Party’s liberal wing. The expanded majority will necessarily allow the Speaker, under the much stricter rules of the House, to push left-leaning legislation through the body.

If Americans wake up on November 5th to President-elect Barack Obama, it will be the first time since 1976 and the election of Jimmy Carter that Democrats have held both the Executive and Legislative branches without any check on their power to pass legislation.

More worrisome, ideologically, it would be the most liberal governing majority in America since 1937 or 1965.

The impacts here for average Americans would be significant.  Without a manner to object to legislation, an Obama administration and its congressional allies could accomplish the following:

Taxes: raise the tax rate on individuals and LLCs that make more than $250,000, raise the corporate tax rate, raise taxes on capital gains and dividends, enact a windfall profits tax on energy companies.

Obama mentioned then quickly shelved a proposal from earlier in the campaign to uncap the payroll tax that funds Medicare and Social Security. This may gain currency in a political atmosphere attuned to income redistribution.

Regulation: create a new bureaucracy under the Obama plan for a Cap & Trade system to regulate greenhouse gas emissions for the United States. By holding public auctions for carbon credits, and forcing biggest emitters to pay the most from the beginning, the system will hit the very companies that provide our energy resources now. It is a tax in all but name on an industry we will ostensibly depend upon to reach energy independence.

And other, non-renewable forms of energy production, off-shore drilling, clean coal and nuclear, all will be regulated into marginalization. One need only look at the energy plan put together by the Democrats in the face of public outrage at energy costs this past summer to realize how toothless and uncommitted Democrats and their environmental lobbyists are to fossil fuel production or nuclear as any part of energy independence.

In addition, a unified and left-leaning Democratic government poses a unique threat following the unprecedented government intervention in the financial and housing sectors to stabilize markets.

As Free Marketers, the Republicans see the moral hazard of permanent government ownership and involvement in the private market, and have committed to move out once the market stabilizes. However, during debates on the federal bailout, Democrats have said that it was the market itself that was the moral hazard. This may lead to more instead of less sustained government intervention in the housing and financial markets with fresh sectors of opportunity such as drug manufacturers and telecoms on the horizon, with burdensome regulations and a focus on producing outcomes as opposed to opportunity.

Government Spending: vastly expand government spending.

That line by line review of the budget that Obama proposes doesn’t include his $150 billion increase in “green investments”, public works projects, or begin efforts to channel American health care into a Medicare model, but eventually into a single payer system, modeled along the lines of Canada.

That is a system were care is notionally available and less costly, but substandard when not rationed.  And of course, this does not mention educational “investments.”

Judicial Nominations: reconfigure the US courts system. The damage here could be far reaching.  With 60 votes, the Senate could confirm any Justices that pleased the Obama administration and Congressional Democrats, without fear of opposition, significantly refurbishing the hard left on the Court with young liberals who would sit for a generation or more. The same is true with federally appointed judges.  The Supreme Court is one Justice away from a conservative majority. That will be in tatters with the government controlled completely by Democrats.

Speech & Unionization: require the government to guarantee equal time for all political opinions. The Reagan administration overturned the “Fairness Doctrine” which required equal time for political points of view on the airwaves. This regulatory change created a bow wave of innovation in talk radio and the rise of the new Right on radio and cable television.

Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid have openly discussed re-imposing the Fairness Doctrine, which as a practical consequence, would require stations to provide opposing view points, regardless of interest. Obama regularly criticizes Fox News for its “biased” coverage. Where Air America failed in the free market, it would now be mandated by law.  Want to watch Hannity?  Colmes will get his own show, ratings be damned – paid for by Fox – as a counter point.

In addition, a unified Democratic government would also mean the practical end of secret ballot for unionization. Union representation in the US has declined to 7.4% in 2008.

Instead of refocusing union efforts on meeting worker needs, unions have instead come to support methods to force unionization. Under the “card check” system that is being proposed by the AFL-CIO, company employees would only need to sign a petition, under observation and pressure from peers, to unionize a company.  No longer would there need to be a secret ballot, as is now the case. According the Wall Street Journal this would be the biggest pro-union shift in the balance of labor-management power since 1935.

In sum, the agenda would engender jobs-destroying high taxation, regulation-limiting economic growth, productivity, and particularly, innovation. It will affect where and how your children are educated, how you get your news and how you work.  It is nothing short of a bonanza for the Left.

And don’t be fooled. The new agenda won’t be post-partisan.  In fact, it will be the most toxically partisan, liberal agenda since the Great Society or New Deal. If it were to appear post-partisan it would only be by the absence of any legislative method to protest or block its implementation.

When Obama talks about unity he is not talking about compromise. Indeed, he has no record of compromise; only of towing the Party line. Bringing people together is not intended as an acknowledgement of views at variance with his own, but rather a rhetorical model to bring his supporters together with those that can be convinced. The irony here is that instead of Bush-Cheney partisanship based on small majorities, this is partisanship based on larger majorities.

It is many things, but bipartisan is not one of them.

If the American public truly craves bipartisanship, it will elect McCain as President. Only with a Republican Executive check on such unrivaled Democratic congressional power can there be the balance necessary to prevent the most egregious excesses of Democratic wish lists from becoming law.

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