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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Morning After The Morning After

Some more thoughts on the worst piece of legislation "since the Great Depression," in no particular order:
  • Democrats won the messaging war. Democrats succeeded in portraying the bill as being about "giving" people "health care." Even Republicans used the terminology. In fact, everyone has hospital care and almost everyone has other health care services paid for either through private insurance, existing government programs, voluntary services, charities, etc. The bill was, at best, about providing health care insurance to about 10% of the population who already have health care, half of whom go directly on Medicaid; as reimbursement rates remain low, and providers cannot recoup the costs from private insurers, these patients will experience a shortage of providers, and decreased health care services even though they have insurance. This is a complicated message, but true.

  • It's the taxes, debt and deficit. The CBO score was a joke because of the unrealistic assumptions the CBO was required to follow. The news in the coming months will be about higher national deficits and debt. As the "doctor fix" and other unrealistic assumptions play out legislatively, Republicans need to make the public understands that the Democrats lied about the true cost of the legislation.

  • The "doctor fix," and other costs which should have been included in the bill, but were not included in order to deceive the public, should be opposed. Obamacare should have to live on its own merits, which means it dies fiscally.

  • It's also the jobs, stupid. If, as seems likely, the job market does not improve or slightly worsens, the blame needs to be placed -- as it correctly should be -- squarely at the feet of a President and party whose priority has been a deceptive and destructive health care plan, not helping the private sector grow. Democrats can talk their way out of almost anything, particularly with the help of the mainstream media, except the job numbers.

  • It's about the children and grandchildren. Is all the doom and gloom warranted? Yes and No. The bill really is that bad, and it is true that entitlements rarely are scaled back, much less eliminated. But it also is true that we are living in interesting times. People are motivated by and scared of the national debt and our trillion dollar deficits. If given the choice between national bankruptcy and giving up some promised future benefits, I believe that the vast majority of Americans will be willing to give up something they have not yet received in order to secure the nation for their children and grandchildren.

  • Elections matter. Those of you considering third parties need to understand that we are at a crossroads. A third party will ensure that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid continue to frame national policy, and any chance of salvaging the nation from the destruction of Obamacare (and cap-and-trade, and so on) will be lost. If you want that, then by all means run third party candidates. If you do not want that, then work to restore fiscal discipline within the Republican Party, and support Republican candidates.
The morning after the morning after, and Obamacare still stinks.

Update - The "messaging" war: Numerous commenters think I am off point in stating that Democrats won the messaging war, based on the unpopularity of the bill. It is true that we won most of the battles, but the overall message that this bill does not "give" 30 million people "health care" was lost. The debate should have been over the damage to the 255 million people who have health insurance coverage, but it wasn't. Would it have made a difference? Perhaps not for the vote, but just you wait and see how the Democrats will oppose repeal or even a scale back - "You are taking health care away from 30 million people!"

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  1. Yeah, Democrats won the message war. Where were the ads against this thing? I didn't see any until the last day or two. We need to band together, Tea Parties and 912 orgs and start buying time for issue ads. State by state, or even Cong. district by district and hammer these guys for their vote and ask: What other tricks do they have up their sleeves?

  2. I can't agree with your first assertion or Editor's comment regarding Democrats having won the message war. Winning a message war would mean that people were convinced of your message, right? I haven't seen data that indicates that a majority of any general domestic population was in favor of passing this bill into law.

  3. "If given the choice between national bankruptcy and giving up some promised future benefits, I believe that the vast majority of Americans will be willing to give up something they have not yet recieved in order to secure a nation for their children and grandchildren"

    I'm starting to believe that we fortunate late baby boomers 1955-1965, who were too young to serve and defend our country militarily, are about to find out the degree and length of our patriotism and the unique American character we possess. In complete agreement with your statement, Prof Jacobson, I feel more hope.

  4. If the Dems had won the messaging war, the bill would be popular. Instead, all polls show people oppose it by margins of 7 - 15 percent, depending on the poll you are reading.

    What very few on our side understood is that the Dems were willing to take a short term electoral hit to get their long term goal, turning America into Europe. It was fascinating to watch the GOP, most of whom cater to whatever media wind is blowing, insist the bill couldn't pass because it was so unpopular. The Dems are all about power, they have never given a tinkers damn about the public, all this crying about "the children" and "the uninsured" is so much eyewash to cover up their real goal: power over us.

    What *I* don't understand is how the average conservative gets this -- but our leadership is more clueless than Margaret Dumont in a Marx Brothers movie. Our grassroots understand we are in what amounts to a slow-motion civil war with ballots instead of bullets -- but our GOP elected officials *DON'T* get it. McCain calling Obama "a good man" even though those of us volunteering in the trenches knew bloody well he was a Marxist tyrant underneath the faux Frank Sinatra poise. Did the health care cram-through finally wake up our guys? Do they get these are NOT nice people, they are completely vicious, amoral lying scum who want to feel their Manolo Blahniks on the throats of the American people? I hope so, since as you keep saying third parties are not the answer -- but what is attractive is they at least get we are in a struggle for survival, not a vote over who gets to be president of the garden club.

  5. I mostly agree that we lost the message war. Where I slightly disagree is that it would have made any difference. The people already understand this is a mess. The politicians were going to do this regardless of what we thought any way. Therefore the message was received just not by the right group of people.

  6. The Republicans did let the Democrats win the message war. They needed to keep hammering Obamacare for what it was - an entitlement program that would hurt regular Americans. Instead they let Obama phrase this as "healthcare reform," which the statute is really not, except for several provisions that actually help all American's.

    However, at the end of the day, the Democrats had too many votes, and nothing Republicans could have done would have mattered. They lost too many elections in 2006 and 2008. Then, losing Coleman's and Steven's seats killed the Republicans as well. So, in a way, after the 2008 election, Sunday night was inevitable.

    Finally, the idea of third party is the worst idea of all time. A third party would do nothing but split the Republican vote and allow Pelosi and Reid to keep their majorities. If you dont like RINO's, work with local officials to nominate better candidates, or if you are passionate, and can, run for public office yourself. Otherwise, people need to stop complaining about RINO's, because they are usually not as much of a problem as people think.

  7. Indeed, Obamacare stinks!! And, the Republican Party IS slow, as Editor notes, above. Here are some suggestions:

    There needs to be a no-letting-up strategy, outlining what this bill, what the Democrats, have done TO us. That includes: ads online, ads on TV, and in newspapers; Conservative op-eds in all major papers; people writing letters to editors of newspapers big and small outlining the devastating effects of this bill. From now till November, no letting up!

    There MUST be a Conservative Republican candidate in each of the 219 districts for the voters to choose to vote for, so the cowards who caved to the Pelosi/Obama pressure can be fired. Step up, people!

    Technology is our friend, Republicans. Get some savvy guys and gals on board and smoke the Dems and Liberals on the emerging Tech Strategy used so well in the past by the Libs. They have some talent and expertise on their side - but it is NOT an exclusive commodity! There are plenty of techies on the Conservative side - find them and USE these tech tools to destroy these tyrants in November!

    There MUST be a merging of the Tea Party and Republican party. The Republican Party MUST move to the Conservative's standpoint or there will be a split in November.

    Fight! They've walked the plank. It's time they meet their end, while we take back our country!

    As always, the question is: Will they do it?

  8. The Dems won the message of 2008 and like Dorothy wearing ruby slippers, they could have done this anytime since Jan. 2009.
    No one could prevent this. The arrow had left the bow election night of 2008.

    Bob Beckle told Tom Sullivan last year this was a done deal because the Democrats may not see another chance.
    Rush Limbaugh has stated repreatedly he has no power to make people do anything.

    People are not getting health insurance, they are being forced to pay for prepaid medical expense plans for themselves and possibly, if their income is high enough, others.

    In the analogy about car insurance, it is required mainly to pay for bodily injuries and lawsuits, not everything related to the owning of a car. Our medical insurance excludes paying for injuries suffered in a car accident. What are the odds a young person will be chronically ill and require health insurance, or get injured in a wreck. Most young people do carry car insurance, so the argument they are completely uninsured is also false.

  9. The Dems didn't win the messaging war. They simply had a lot more votes. Indeed, the most encouraging thing about this sad episode is the fact that most Americans UNDERSTAND what a terrible piece of legislation this is, and they are seriously angry about it. If Obama had won the messaging war, his poll numbers wouldn't have been tanking all these months. (Polls show that more people strongly disapprove of Obama's job performance than approve of him at all.)

    Frankly, a comment like "the Dems won the messaging war" is rather Frumian, is it not? It strikes me as an implied criticism that the GOP leaders tasked with managing the "messaging war" didn't do a very good job, and therefore we Republicans are partly to blame for this monstrosity. Sorry, I don't buy that. Every single Republican in Congress opposed Obamacare. Moreover, the leaders -- guys like McConnell, Boehner, Alexander, and Ryan -- did a terrific job pointing out the problems with both the substance of the bill and the process of enacting it. And, for once, the Republicans managed to draw a line in the sand WITHOUT seeming impetuous, overtly political, crazy, or hypocritical. I'm for one am not going to blame the GOP for what the Dems have done. Let THEM own it.

  10. Professor, I disagree on your assertion "Democrats won the messaging war" - they unsurprisingly won the competition against the GOP in the media, which is akin to going up against your spouse for your mother-in-law's affection. An eleven-year-old kid reading from an astroturf group's script about his late mother is so much easier to report than Paul Ryan's wonky decimation of the deceptive Obama accounting, and absent any horrendous activity of protestors, the Dems had to literally invent it with apocryphal accounts of racial slurs and spitting at black politicos. Still, at no time during the run-up to Sunday's vote did support overcome opposition in the general public. The Dems decided their majority in the media was all that mattered -- after all, it is the MSM that will write the "history" of the "historical" legislation, explaining to future generations how great the sausage looks but not explaining the unsavory ingredients or how it got made.

  11. "restore fiscal discipline within the Republican Party"
    Come on, the Republicans were just saying all those things to take advantage of the anger that people had against this bill.
    They haven't changed at all and if they do end up getting a majority in the house they will slip right back into their irresponsible/corrupt ways. Forgive me for not believing anything a politician says.

  12. As I pointed out in my comment to your Pep Talk post, you are likely going to be wrong about jobs.

    Look at this Conference Board chart of the leading economic indicators.


    Or the ISM Purchasing Managers index:


    Both of those charts imply gigantic capital "V" shaped recoveries from the bottom. This rebound is going to be stronger than the rebound after the '90-'91 recession.

    On it's last conference call, Cicso said it's order book is strong enough that it will re-hire 3000 people. Tenneco was on the verge of bankruptcy a year ago. It's stock traded below $1.50. Now it's over $20 and it will rehire 300 people. Consumer discretionary spending is turning up. Capacity utilization rates started turning up months ago. Industrial commodity prices like iron ore and copper have been on a tear the past year. The Federal Reserve has targeted the Fed Funds rate at 0% -0.25% for the past year, creating the loosest financial conditions in history. Corporate credit spreads are also as tight as I've ever seen them. There was a story yesterday that Berkshire Hathway's borrowing costs for two year paper is less than the federal government's.

    I think we're going to see some good job creation numbers in the coming months. That's why the President sent out 3 members of his economic team last week saying exactly the opposite. They were lowering the expectations bar. When actual job creation turns out to be moderate to strong, they will look like heros going into the elections in November.

  13. Bill

    Unless I'm reading you wrong, you are way off the mark about Democrat messaging.

    Democrats were nearly buried under the weight of their own bad messaging. That they weren't stands as a testimony to the compliant Main Stream Press and their own steely determination to get what they want. But they most certainly did not win any prizes on messaging.

    Nearly 60% of the public thinks the HCR Bill stinks on ice, and even more have serious reservations. All the graft, corruption, weasel wording, bad economics, possible federal funding of abortions, and Constitutional issues means the Bill contains plenty to offend everyone.

  14. The assumption that Americans will be willing to give up something they do not yet have to protect their children is becoming less likely as we continue down the entitlement road. Just see how willing the public unions are willing to cut back to enable states and municipalities to balance their budgets. There are not the revenues but the unions still expect to live on the largess of the private economy. The mine set of individualism is gone.

  15. The message about the impact of the health care bill can be complex and difficult to convey. One approach I've devised is a Medical Coverage Index, along the lines of the Consumer Price Index. Medical coverage is defined as Supply divided by Demand. We pick a base point, say March 20, 2010, where the MCI is set to 100: Supply and Demand are both 100.
    Now, Demand must increase, since more people will be getting insurance. We can argue about how much, but for the sake of the exercise, let's use the 15% claimed by the advocates of the bill as being the increment they would cover. So, Demand has moved to 115. If nothing else happens, our index drops to 100/115, or (roughly) 86.
    But the bill is also likely to lead to reduced supply, as doctors, finding less satisfaction in their careers, opt to leave practice. (There was a survey that indicated 46% of doctors would leave if the bill passed.) Again, we can quibble about the size of the move, but the direction will be toward lower supply. Let's use a 40% decrease, somewhat less than the survey indicated. Our MCI is now 60/115, or 52.
    A drop in the MCI from 100 to 52 is easy to explain and to understand, and is (I think) a dramatic way to make the point.