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Another Setback for the Opponents of “Obamacare”

7:00 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Those on the right who had hoped for a speedy review of President Obama’s healthcare reform before the U.S. Supreme Court will be rather disappointed by this latest bit of news: “Supreme Court rejects call to put review of health care law on fast track”; http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/supreme-court-rejects-call-to-put-review-of-health-care-law-on-fast-track/2011/04/25/AF7Y42hE_story.html and also, Supreme Court Rejects Early Review of Health Care Law; http://thepage.time.com/2011/04/25/supreme-court-rejects-early-review-of-health-care-law/#ixzz1KaiBWgLF

You see it is out of the ordinary for the SCOTUS to fast track judicial review outside of moments of wartime or in the event of a constitutional crisis. Quoting from the article:”The Supreme Court rejected a call Monday from Virginia’s attorney general to depart from its usual practice and put review of the health care law on a fast track. Instead, judicial review of President Barack Obama’s signature legislation will continue in federal appeals courts…So far, five federal judges have ruled on challenges to the law. Two Republican appointees, in Florida and Virginia, have declared it unconstitutional in whole or in part. Three Democratic appointees, in Michigan, Virginia and Washington, D.C., have upheld it.” At the current rate “Obamacare won’t reach the high court until sometime next summer. What’s apparent in all of this is that for all of the blather on the far right about Obama circumventing and jeopardizing the Constitution, those who are charged with it’s interpretation know otherwise and thus have dismissed this sort of nonsense for what it is.

SJG

4/25/11

The Tea Party Agenda: Is It Already Slip Sliding Away ?

8:00 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

As the 112th Congress gets down to business, a major element of the Tea Party agenda, deficit reduction, seems to have already been reduced in scope, now seemingly becoming the object of negotiation and political theater. Having reached the halls of Congress it’s a bit ironic to see such a major plank of the Tea Party platform slipping away so soon. It reminds one of that old Paul Simon refrain: “Slip sliding away, slip sliding away. You know the nearer your destination, the more your slip sliding away.” According to Jackie Calmes of the New York Times: “Many people knowledgeable about the federal budget said House Republicans could not keep their campaign promise to cut $100 billion from domestic spending in a single year. Now it appears that Republicans agree.” This new found reluctance to enact budget cuts is a function of several factors. First, the federal fiscal year is already one third over so the amount of time left to affect meaningful cuts is greatly reduced. Second, lacking control of the Senate effectively stymies any attempt at drastic budget reductions over the next two years. Moreover, there is a reluctance on the part of Senators on both sides of the aisle to enact deep budget cuts during a time of severe recession as such measures may derail the weak but building recovery. Again to Calmes: “a House vote would put potentially vulnerable Republican lawmakers on record supporting deep reductions of up to 30 percent in education, research, law enforcement, transportation and more.” This degree of debt reduction would take millions of dollars out of the economy in the short run in spite of the longer term concerns about debt levels. While we can’t ignore the deficit problem indefinitely, any attempt to reduce the simulative effects of government spending in a weak economy may be just to risky for those currently occupying the halls of power. Thus the new line coming out of Republican leaders on Capitol Hill is that the $100 Billion number was a hypothetical figure to begin with. So much for a radical new day in Washington.

 
Then there is the fact that many of the proposals favored by the Republicans may do little if anything to rectify the budget deficit issue. According to Brian Beutler of Talking Points Memo: “Republicans’ deficit reduction platform, which may have helped catapult them into the majority, is about to run headlong into a hard reality: Many of their key policy goals will increase the deficit dramatically. To get around this fact, they’ve included measures in their new rules package to exempt some of their biggest legislative priorities from deficit consideration. Among the exceptions, which the House is likely to consider in the 112th Congress, are the health care repeal bill, the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts, an AMT patch, extending the estate tax, and more…. The health care law, according to the Congressional Budget Office, will reduce the deficit by $143 billion through the end of the decade, and more so in the decade after that. Thus, repealing the law will blow a similarly sized hole in the deficit.”  Likewise a recent editorial appearing in the Washington Post comes to a similar conclusion. Quoting from “New pay-go rules reveal GOP’s misplaced priorities”; “ARE HOUSE Republicans serious about dealing with the deficit? You could listen to their rhetoric – or you could read the rules they are poised to adopt at the start of the new Congress. The former promises a new fiscal sobriety. The latter suggests that the new GOP majority is determined to continue the spree of unaffordable tax-cutting. The ominous signs come in the wording of the new majority’s version of its pay-as-you-go rules, which normally require that new programs or tax initiatives be covered with cuts to other programs or new revenue. In the GOP concept, pay-as-you-go applies only to spending programs. When it comes to tax cuts, it’s all go, no pay. Taxes can be cut, and the national debt increased, without any offsetting savings.” Now granted it was not the newly elected Tea Party backed lawmakers who engineered this shift in strategy, it’s their new found partners within the Republican establishment. Thus it would appear that we are on the verge of a three way fight in the halls on Capitol Hill between the Democrats and the G.O.P., and between the G.O.P. and the Tea Party. That begs the question, what does this mean for the future of the Tea Party agenda and the movement’s ability to produce the single most important product a party creates, policy.
 
As the first day of the 112th Congress came to a close, two veteran political observers in Washington, both appearing on the News Hour with Jim Lehrer, took stock of the new Congress, its Tea Party contingent and what could be expected going forward. Norm Orenstien of the conservative American Enterprise Institute said that the Republican Party had the “freedom” to pass whatever they wanted to in the House so as to attempt to undo the legislative achievements of the past two years. However, they also know that anything too radically to the right won’t survive the Senate or the President’s veto pen. That said, all that the newly radicalized lawmakers could accomplish was to ”bollix up the health care debate and the legislative process”, to paraphrase Orenstien. Presidential historian, Michael Beschloss, cautioned that it was unwise to read too much into the stunning Republican victory of 2010. Beschloss pointed out that while the Tea Party crowd ran for office on a radically rightwing agenda, the historical record shows that undoing the type of legislation just enacted doesn’t happen too often. Pointing to the G.O.P.’s similar victory in 1952, Beschloss said that while this victory was freighted with ideas such as dismantling Social Security and rolling back the Soviet Union militarily in Eastern Europe, none of that ever came to pass. In fact the Democrats regained Capitol Hill and basically held onto it until the election of 1994. Likewise Kimberley Strassel of the Wall Street Journal in her “after action report” on the 2010 election pointed to the fact that last November’s results don’t politically guarantee anything: “History doesn’t inspire optimism. Over the past 100 years, every time a president two years into his first term lost Congress, he went on to re-election: Truman in ’48, Eisenhower in ’56, Clinton in ’96. Newt Gingrich even wrote a book, “Lessons Learned the Hard Way,” about the GOP mistakes in the wake of 1994. It boiled down to Republicans over-promising and under-delivering—becoming the foil off of which President Clinton was able to skillfully pivot away from his own liabilities.” Thus we are about to witness some of the most interesting politics, political theater and political oratory to come onto the American scene since the end of the Second World War. At the very least is should be interesting as well as colorful.
 
Steven J. Gulitti
1/5/11
 
 
Sources: 

Republicans Lower Goal for Cuts to Budget;

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/05/us/po … 1&emc=eta1

GOP Exempts Deficit Busting Policies From New Budget Rules;
http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011 … -rules.php

New pay-go rules reveal GOP’s misplaced priorities;
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/co … s_opinions

House GOP Backtracking on Promised ‘Reforms’ Before They Even Get Started;
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/0 … 04227.html

The GOP’s 2012 Game Plan;
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142 … 93940.html

Facts vs. Fiction: The Big Lie About the Government “Takeover” of Health Care

9:30 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Back on December 9th, in a post entitled Fox Fair and Balanced” on Health Care Debate…..NOT!I pointed out how the Fox News Network had deliberately tried to skew the national discussion on health care reform in such a way as to discredit the concept of a public option. Well just yesterday The Saint Petersburg Times’ Pulitzer Prize winning affiliate, PolitiFact.com published:”PolitiFact’s Lie of the Year: ‘A Government Takeover of Health Care”. This article pointed out how, when the facts are objectively analyzed, that for all of the rhetoric surrounding health care reform as being Socialist, it was in fact far from it .

Well with the health care debate behind us and with those facts on the table, the folks at PolitiFact’s.com have detailed the inaccuracies of this conservative claim, labeling it the political lie of 2010. This falsehood was second only to Michele Bachmann’s bizarrely absurd claim that Barack Obama’s trip to India would cost 200 Million Dollars a day. Politifact.com deconstructs the logic behind the argument that “ObamaCare” represents a “government takeover of health care” with the following facts:

“Government takeover” conjures a European approach where the government owns the hospitals and the doctors are public employees. But the law Congress passed, parts of which have already gone into effect, relies largely on the free market:

Employers will continue to provide health insurance to the majority of Americans through private insurance companies.

• Contrary to the claim, more people will get private health coverage. The law sets up “exchanges” where private insurers will compete to provide coverage to people who don’t have it.

• The government will not seize control of hospitals or nationalize doctors.

• The law does not include the public option, a government-run insurance plan that would have competed with private insurers.

• The law gives tax credits to people who have difficulty affording insurance, so they can buy their coverage from private providers on the exchange. But here too, the approach relies on a free market with regulations, not socialized medicine.

PolitiFact reporters have studied the 906-page bill and interviewed independent health care experts. We have concluded it is inaccurate to call the plan a government takeover because it relies largely on the existing system of health coverage provided by employers.

It’s true that the law does significantly increase government regulation of health insurers. But it is, at its heart, a system that relies on private companies and the free market.”

This very argument was raised last February when the renowned health care economist Uwe Reinhardt published an article entitled: ”A Government Takeover of Health Care? Reinhardt came to the following conclusion: “A common refrain among critics of the health reform bills passed by the House and the Senate is that they constitute a “complete government takeover of 17 percent of the American economy.”How could this be so? Start with the $950 billion price tag over the next decade for federal subsidies toward the purchase of private health insurance.  Divide that amount by $34 trillion, the current projection for total national health spending over the next decade even in the absence of health reform. You will get 2.8 percent.  Does that, then, constitute a government takeover of our health system?” Reinhardt concluded that the proposed reforms at the time, while certainly representing a major intrusion by the Federal Government into the health care process, were necessary as the system was “wasteful and unwieldy” and ”would require substantial intrusion of government into the system, as evidently the system cannot correct itself.”

Thus with the benefit of hindsight and with the 2010 elections where “ObamaCare” was certainly a topic of discussion now history, the question arises: To what extent have the American people been misled, if not outright bamboozled by the ultra right campaign against health care reform and it’s conflating of that topic with the conjured up ”specter of creeping Socialism?” To my mind the conservative attack on health care reform fits very neatly into a pattern of history that stretches all the way back to Theodore Roosevelt’s first mention of the need for some type of national health care system. Since that time, health care reform has dovetailed neatly into more than one of the “red scares” that have accompanied this debate and that of progressive reform in general. Then like now, health care reform was seen as something that was tied to a decline of freedom in America and its replacement with that European import labeled “Socialism.” Remember how Ronald Reagan once told us that the enactment of Medicare would bring about the decline of freedom in America and how we would all one day tell our grandchildren what it was once like to live in a free country? And just like then, these claims have now been proven by facts to be far fetched at best and fictitious at the very worst. Thus have those Americans who bought into this rhetoric of fiction and fear become nothing more than the “useful idiots’ for those on the far right who have a vested interest in the status quo? Have they in so doing sacrificed their own best interests so as to avoid a “Socialist” threat that doesn’t even exist in today’s America? Or, have just so many Americans become fooled by the likes of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh as to be unable to distinguish fact from fantasy and what does that say about the future of American Democracy?

 Steven J. Gulitti

12/17/10

 Sources:

 PolitiFact’s Lie of the Year: ‘A government takeover of health care’

http://politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2010/dec/16/lie-year-government-takeover-health-care/

 The ‘Government Takeover’ of Health Care, and Other Whoppers

http://www.newsweek.com/blogs/the-gaggle/2010/12/17/government-takeover-of-fiction.html?GT1=43002

 A ‘Government Takeover’ of Health Care?

http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/26/a-government-takeover-of-health-care/

Progressives, Its Time To Take The Offensive!

8:00 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Conservative columnist, David Brooks once pointed out that the Internet has had the net effect of not bringing us closer together, but rather, driving us further apart. By allowing individuals to coalesce into narrower, self-reinforcing groups – based on political, ideological, religious or regional sentiments – the Internet has created a society that is characterized by many separate groups where communication is largely within and between group members. Brooks went on to say that one could get up and watch Fox News from dawn to dusk, read conservative newspapers or magazines and listen to Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck or Sean Hannity on talk radio and thus, never come across a competing idea all day. Likewise, the same sort of thing happens amongst the denizens of the left. It reminds me of a comment made by Norman Mailer after the Bush victory in 2004: “How could Bush have won, I don’t know anyone who voted for him.” Mailer was reflecting the fact that as a resident of New York City, one of the Bluest in America, you would never find a Bush supporter, unless you deliberately left the insularity of your own social group.

That brings me to the point of this piece. Many of us who utilize the blogs to traffic in political thought tend to stay on those blogs that are user friendly. We tend to blog on those sites that are supportive of the ideas we ourselves promote and favor. At the same time there are those on the far right who are doing the same thing, peddling their ideas or attacks against the current administration and Progressive ideas in general. These attacks on the very essence of Progressive thought go largely unchallenged with no more than a handful of stalwart progressives waging a counterattack and enduring a tremendous amount of vitriol and abuse in the process. Thus it is time for us to sally forth and bring the battle to the opponent’s home turf. Anyone who has had a peek at the latest trio of reports from the Southern Poverty Law Center knows full well just how violent the rhetoric on the right has become. All one need do is to look at the attacks against those who voted for health care or consider the case of the Hutaree Militia as proof positive that things are getting more confrontational and vicious.

I regularly dust it up with the wing nuts on TownHall.com but there are also several others like AmericanThinker.com; Human Events, and RedState.com to name just a few.
It would be great if we could get some help battling lies and misinformation on these sites and others like them. Townhall.com in particular is easy to deal with, as they don’t restrict your participation unless you engage in bona-fide hate speech. AmericanThinker.com screens your input and RedState.com will redact your comments if they don’t agree with you. I had an article dispelling the lies on health care redacted and I have since been barred from this site so you may only be able to get one shot at them and then you are done. If you’re up for the fight, and you ought to be, considering the stakes, the links are below.

We just fought and won some semblance of a health care reform program and there are plenty of other important battles ahead. As Progressives we need to learn how to throw a punch, figuratively, and stop being seen as a bunch of kumbaya signing pushovers who let the right push us around. My advice to you is the same that Stonewall Jackson gave a group of cadets at the outset of the Civil War. When asked just how bad he expected things to get he replied: “If I were you I would draw my sword and throw away the scabbard.”

Steven J. Gulitti
April 11th, 2010

Rage on the Right
The Year in Hate and Extremism

http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2010/spring/rage-on-the-right

Fear of FEMA

http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2010/spring/fear-of-fema

Midwifing the Militias – Resurgence of the Patriot Movement.

http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2010/spring/midwifing-the-militias

Townhall.com

http://townhall.com/columnists/

Human Events

http://www.humanevents.com/

American Thinker

http://www.americanthinker.com/

RedState.com

http://www.redstate.com/

Coming Unhinged On the Far Right

2:32 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

I for one am not surprised at the reports surfacing over the last twenty four hours that there have been attacks, threats and vandalism aimed at Democrats who voted in favor of health care reform. As of this morning there are ten such reported cases, including one that suggested Congressmen (D-MI) should drown himself. Congresswoman Giffords (D-AZ) had the windows of her hometown office broken by some unidentified projectile. There has also been a report of an attack on a Congressman’s family member that if accurate, would constitute a federal crime. Having witnessed Congressmen and Senators being spit upon and subject to racial and homosexual slurs by anti-government fanatics this past weekend, why would anyone be surprised by this latest display of incivility?

Shortly after the inauguration of Barack Obama the Department of Homeland Security issued a warning that an increase in domestic anti-government violence was a distinct possibility. This report was the subject of much derision from the Right at the time but consider what has happened since then. Since the election of Barack Obama we have had a guy in Pittsburg kill policemen because he was angry that the government was now “Run by Jews” and that it would “take his guns away”. We had a guy kill a doctor who performed abortions and then try to frame himself as a patriot in so doing. Sorry but murder is not patriotic. We had a murder at the Holocaust Museum by an individual who when captured said: “This is how you’ll get my guns from me”. Another anti-government zealot crashed his plane into the IRS building in Austin Texas as if that would in some way actually contribute to the abolition of the agency. In reality, all that this action accomplished was the killing of an innocent man. Only the Pentagon subway stop shooting can legitimately be classified as the work of a mentally incapacitated person, regardless of his anti-government rant. All summer long we had to watch the farcical spectacle of Tea Party patriots playing minuteman by bringing loaded weapons to rallies while holding signs that suggested it was time for a second American Revolution. There are many who will read this and try to make an argument that political violence is now somehow justified, alluding to some sort of Revolutionary War fantasy. There has been all manner of infatuation with ideas of an armed “citizens revolt”; a military coup, even talk of an attempt on the life of the President, all of it being nothing more than the pipe dream of people who have now become political dead enders. It is to be noted by all that these far right fanatics have been aided and abetted in their dangerous fantasies by the reckless rhetoric of Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the professional political entertainers on the far right who masquerade as legitimate political commentators.

The Republican Minority Leader, John Boehner (R-OH) has already issued a statement condemning violence on the floor of the House of Representatives. That is surely commendable as no informed observer of American politics would for a moment believe that the G.O.P. is in favor of such a thing. But I would also urge Congressman Boehner to direct his comments to some in his own party, like Michele Bachmann (R-MN) or those like her who have a history of incendiary anti-government rhetoric in their political track record. When an elected official engages in blatantly reckless and inflammatory behavior it only serves to stoke up the sentiments of those on the far right fringe and can serve, in their minds, as a “call to action.” In his assessment of the Republican debacle that has arisen from the passage of health care reform, the veteran conservative commentator David Frum observed: “We followed the most radical voices in the party and the movement, and they led us to abject and irreversible defeat. There were leaders who knew better, who would have liked to deal. But they were trapped. Conservative talkers on Fox and talk radio had whipped the Republican voting base into such frenzy that deal-making was rendered impossible… So today’s defeat for free-market economics and Republican values is a huge win for the conservative entertainment industry. Their listeners and viewers will now be even more enraged, even more frustrated, even more disappointed in everybody except the responsibility-free talkers on television and radio. For them, its mission accomplished. For the cause they purport to represent, its Waterloo all right: ours.” The degree to which increasing levels of political violence detracts or derails the message of the Republican Party in the future is unknowable at this time. But for an organization that is polling the lowest favorability numbers in its history, it is just one more reason for people to disregard the G.O.P. message on Election Day and one more problem the Republican Party can do without.

There will be those on the Right who will issue the counter argument that all one need do is to look back to the sixties and you will find plenty of violence perpetrated by the left. Some will conjure up the various red scares of the past and say that there has been more than on instance in American history where Communists in labor unions and among university professors sought to overthrow or subvert the American way of life. But you can tally up all of the left wing violence in the history of this country and you won’t put a dent in the death toll from the Oklahoma City Bombing, an act perpetrated by a violently anti-government fanatic. It is for that reason that it is now the patriotic duty of every American to stand up to the fanatics on the far right, be it at political rallies, on the streets, in the blogs, by calling in to talk radio, by text messaging the Glenn Beck show, etc., or by writing to the media organizations that sanction such programming and registering you opposition to this virulent rhetoric that only serves to fuel politically driven violence and intolerance. The next time some right wing crackpot tells you that he and his compatriots are going to “take back their country” ask them from whom, the people who voted in the majority for change. It is time for Progressives to stand up to thugs and fanatics of any stripe, be they far to either the left or right, and to no longer tolerate threats of violence on the part of those who having lost out in the political arena, have chosen to attempt change through extra legal means.

In an interview following the attack on her office, Congresswoman Giffords said that America was a beacon around the world because we create change via the ballot box and not through political violence and intimidation. In thinking back upon much of the rhetoric from the right that has surrounded the advent of the Obama Administration, I can not help but to recall the warning that Sinclair Lewis made back in the 1930s: “If Fascism ever comes to the United States it will be wrapped in the flag and borne upon a crucifix”. In spite of the fact that the country was in a far more perilous position then than it is now, Lewis’ words were as relevant today as they were in the midst of the Great Depression and they should be on the minds of every true American patriot.

Steven J. Gulitti

March 25, 2010

Back to the Future in Massachusetts

12:57 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Congratulations to Scott Brown in his history making upset victory in Massachusetts, it surely shows that no seat is safe or certain in the age of the independent voter or amid the shifting tides of anti-incumbent sentiments. The one thing that is abundantly clear is that Brown rode to victory on a wave of independent voter support and not because large numbers of Massachusetts voters have suddenly embraced the principles of the G.O.P. and switched their party affiliation. In his acceptance speech Brown acknowledged: “Tonight the independent voice of Massachusetts has spoken.” Also, let us take a moment to thank Mr. Brown for putting the Republican Party back in the game of creating meaningful legislation for now they will no longer have the political cover of hiding behind the excuse that the Democrats control everything due to their filibuster proof supermajority. The arrival of Scott Brown in Washington means that the G.O.P. will now be held accountable for actually producing some sort of legislative product. The days of just saying “no” to every proposal put forth by the Obama Administration are over.

The degree to which the Massachusetts election is a repudiation of the Obama Administration is less than perfectly clear. A post election poll by Peter Hart, Election Night Survey Of Massachusetts Senate Voters, produced findings that reveal evidence of a working class revolt arising from unaddressed economic concerns; a continued desire to fix health care with no support for an abandonment of reform efforts; the sense that Obama has done too little rather than too much; that local issues trump the issue of Obama’s overall approval and; that there is no evidence of any endorsement of the Republican agenda on the economy or otherwise. According to Democratic strategist Steve McMahon, Obama’s approval rating in Massachusetts was 60 percent before the election as well as thereafter. In contrast a poll by The Washington Post, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University’s School of Public Health found, as per the Post’s Dan Balz: “Dissatisfaction with the direction of the country, antipathy toward federal-government activism and opposition to the Democrats’ health-care proposals drove the upset election of Republican senatorial candidate Scott Brown in Massachusetts.” Interestingly, 52 percent of Brown’s supporters said that Obama was not a factor in their decision to vote. Balz points out another noteworthy finding from this poll: “Among Brown’s supporters who say the health-care reform effort in Washington played an important role in their vote, the most frequently cited reasons were concerns about the process, including closed-door dealing and a lack of bipartisanship. Three in 10 highlighted these political maneuverings as the motivating factor; 22 percent expressed general opposition to reform or the current bill.” There is also an element of misconception in Scott Brown’s opposition to Obama’s health care initiatives. In an article detailing Brown’s involvement in Massachusetts’s health care reform, David M. Herszenhorn points out: “Mr. Brown, as a state senator, voted in favor of the Massachusetts universal health care law in 2006, when the state became the first in the nation to pass a far-reaching overhaul guaranteeing coverage for nearly every state resident and requiring everyone in Massachusetts to obtain insurance. Mr. Brown, in campaigning against the health care legislation emerging in Washington, has sought to portray it as fundamentally different from the Massachusetts plan. But Massachusetts was actually an important model for what Congress has developed, arguably the model for what Congress envisions.” It is hard to make the argument that the Massachusetts voters are against health care reform when 68 percent of the voters in Tuesday’s election say they support the existing state plan. Slightly more than half of those who voted for Brown also favor that plan. Even Jennifer Nassour, the Chairman of the Massachusetts Republican Party, said on the New Hour (1/20/10): “We have health care in Massachusetts and we do want quality health care for everyone, like we have it here in Massachusetts.” Beyond Massachusetts there is new evidence in a Kaiser Family Foundation poll that reveals that while Americans are evenly divided over the health reform proposals being debated in Congress, they are actually more supportive of reform generally, when specifics are examined.

Like the Hart poll above, the Washington Post/Kaiser/Harvard polling shows, according to Balz: ”GOP policies prove even less popular, with 58 percent of Massachusetts voters saying they are dissatisfied or angry about what Republicans in Congress are offering. Among those voting for Brown, 60 percent give positive marks to the policies of congressional Republicans, but a sizable number, 37 percent, offer a negative appraisal.” To date, the Republican Party on Capitol Hill continues to trail the Democrats on the issue of overall approval ratings. Likewise, the numbers of Americans who identify as Republicans is at historically low levels. The latest political identification polling results available on Pollster.com reveals that just 22.5 percent of those polled identify as Republicans. What does this all mean for Scott Brown? I think the simple answer is that if he wants to get re-elected in 2012 he will act more like Olympia Snowe of Maine than South Carolina’s Jim DeMint. In fact Snowe has indicated a renewed interest in a health care compromise and Scott Brown my very well be the ally she has been looking for on her side of the aisle. Deep in their hearts, Republicans know that the health care system is broken and unsustainable in its current form and ultimately they don’t want to be the ones associated with continued failure.

No analysis of the 2010 Massachusetts election can be complete without acknowledging that the Tea Party Movement has moved, at least for the time being, from the fringe into the mainstream of American politics. When you sift out the gun toting crackpots living out their “Minuteman” fantasies and the ideologically challenged that sport placards about Fascism, Socialism and Marxism thereby revealing their utter lack of understanding of these ideologies or there applicability to the present, there are actually people within the movement who know how to make a difference. In Massachusetts they did. But the real question for the G.O.P. is has it made a deal with the Devil in jumping onboard the Tea Party tiger? It is one thing to embrace the Tea Party Movement when the opposition is a Democrat, but what about the prospect of intra-party challenges during the upcoming 2010 Republican primary process. The Tea Party crowd has been up front about its wanting to “purify” the G.O.P. of those who don’t hew to a far right agenda. Even Republican heavyweights like John Cornyn R-TX are in their cross hairs. Likewise, for Scott Brown, getting too close to the Tea Party Movement may result in a one-way ticket back to Massachusetts in 2012. A new group within the Tea Party Movement called “The National Precinct Alliance” aims to take over the G.O.P. from the bottom up by capturing local committee leadership positions which will allow the movement to endorse candidates, formulate policy platforms and control asset allocation. The net result may be either an all out civil war within the G.O.P. or a restructured party far to the right of center. As conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer recently pointed out in one of his editorials, politics in America is played within the 40-yard line, on either side of midfield. When either party tries to push past that 40-yard line there is push back within the electorate. That said, it is hard to imagine a G.O.P. reformed by the Tea Party Movement as occupying any turf around midfield which would have a net affect of alienating independents and pushing the G.O.P.’s favorability ratings even lower than they are today. When you combine the Tea Party Movement’s penchant for ideological purity with the likes of it’s leading personalities: Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and Jim DeMint, you have a formula for driving independent voters into the hills and thereby affecting a drain off of support for any type of centrist Republican agenda. Mark my words, the G.O.P. may be celebrating the election of Scott Brown now but they will soon rue the day that they got onto the Tea Party tiger, especially when they see where the ride is taking the G.O.P.

Beyond the challenges facing the G.O.P. the other relevant question is: Can Barack Obama’s new found populist campaign drain some of the steam out of the collective Tea Party kettles? Political commentator Sam Tanenhaus recently opined that the Tea Party surge in Massachusetts was a combination of two forces, anger over deficits and a drive for ideological purity. As I already said, the ideological purity issue is a poison pill for the G.O.P. and a subject beyond the control of the Obama administration as it is an internal G.O.P. issue. If Democrats can regain the initiative in crafting health care reform that truly reduces the deficit and successfully combines that with some degree of positive results stemming from the new populist push, then a large part of the Tea Party message will begin to dissipate.

One thing that the election of Scott Brown does not change is the embedded problems that beset health care and thereby deficit growth in America. Again, David Herszenhorn lays out the predicament: “Here’s what has not changed about the health care system in America. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, by 2019 there will be 54 million people in the United States without health insurance. The chief actuary of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services says it will be even worse: 57 million people without insurance. In 2017, just seven years from now, the Medicare hospital insurance trust fund will be exhausted. Empty. Dried up. Done. Total national expenditures on health care will continue to soar, according to the chief actuary, to $4.7 trillion in 2019 from $2.6 trillion today. The average cost of an employer-sponsored family health insurance policy will rise to $20,300 in 2019, or about $10,000 more than today, consuming an ever growing portion of family income and continuing to put downward pressure on wages.” The average American would do him/herself a favor in asking their employer a simple question: How much does my health care cost and how much has its cost increased over the last ten years? Then they might ask: If not for the cost of health care, how much would my income derived from my employment with this company gone up and with it my standard of living? Thereafter, they might just want to go over the fine print in their coverage to see what kind of health care they actually have and to what degree it protects them and their family assets from insurance coverage shortfalls.

When the dust clears and the supporters of Scott Brown emerge from their celebratory hangovers and head out onto the street to again address the issue of deficits and health care reform etc., they will see, sitting there on the horizon the same broken health care system with its runaway costs feed by a failure to address what are now the inherent inadequacies of the “free market” to provide affordable coverage to all. It seems that the more things change, the more they stay the same and so we are back to where we were a year ago, we have gone back to the future.

Steven J. Gulitti
New York City
January 24, 2010