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Of course Congressional Democrats realize that Bush's veto of SCHIP is good for Democrats and bad for Republicans politically. But do they really have any idea just how bad it is? I doubt it. And because they don't recognize how bad it is, it won't be. Failure to capitalize on the political opportunity will largely squander it.

For example, it's a little known fact, but Bush was opposed to fully funding SCHIP when he was Governor of Texas, and Democrats failed to make an issue of that in the 2000 campaign. If they failed to fully capitalize on it then, they will surely do so again.

But what is it, exactly, that they will fail to do? Simple: They will fail to show how deeply out of step movement conservatives are with the rest of the country. And more importantly, that gap is growing, as younger voters are even more supportive of social spenging than older voters.

Bush Vs. SCHIP In Texas

In a 1999 article in The Nation, "Running on Empty", Lou Dubose wrote about an episode that should have blown the lid off of all that rhetoric about "compassionate conservatism" (remember that?):

But although Bush may be a good fit for Texas, is he a good fit for the nation? Consider, for a start, his legislative record. As guests of the Black Caucus settled in for lunch, the House was at work on the first piece of his 1999 agenda. "There's a lot of people hurting," the governor had said this past January when he requested that the Senate waive its procedural rules and immediately bring to the floor a $45 million tax break for the oil-and-gas industry. The decline in oil-and-gas prices, Bush argued, erodes the earnings of thousands of "stripper well" owners (most unaccustomed to seeing their annual individual income fall below $100,000). And it threatens the flow of tax revenue the wells provide to a number of Texas school districts.

Bush sure was compassionate, all right!

But then a Democratic lawmaker got a funny idea:

The relief bill for owners of these marginally productive wells was not going to be stopped in the House, the last redoubt of the Texas Democratic Party after Bush's defeat of hopelessly underfunded Land Commissioner Garry Mauro carried Republicans into all twenty-seven statewide elected offices, from attorney general to land commissioner. In fact, House Democrats couldn't even hold their six-seat majority together to limit oil-and-gas tax relief to $200,000 per individual. But a veteran black legislator from Houston did use the debate to direct legislators' attention to another bill, which the governor and his staff were opposing. The oil-and-gas bill is about relief, "about helping people out," Sylvester Turner said, praising perhaps too effusively the tax bill and its Republican sponsors. So he was going to vote for it. Then Turner challenged every representative who was going to cast a vote for the governor's oil-industry bill to vote for adequate funding of the federal/state Children's Health Insurance Program, which would be on the House floor within a few weeks.


And now the details that the American people never heard about in 2000:

While Bush and his staff were pushing the oil-and-gas tax bill through the legislature, they were also fighting to hold the line on health insurance for children whose families earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but too little to purchase private health insurance. There are 1.4 million children in Texas who have no health insurance. If eligibility were set at 200 percent of the federal poverty level, more than 500,000 of them would qualify to purchase low-cost insurance policies. Bush insisted, however, that the line be set at 150 percent, eliminating 200,000 children in a state second to California in the number of uninsured children and second to Arizona in the percentage of uninsured children. "It shouldn't even be a fight," said Austin Democratic Representative Glen Maxey, adding that Republican governors in Michigan, California, Florida and New Jersey all agreed to their states' participation in the program. "Christine Whitman is even going to 300 percent," he noted.

That is how the 76th Legislature began in Texas, with the governor flogging a tax break for oil-well owners while limiting a children's health insurance program that brings the state a three-to-one match in federal funds. The two bills illustrate Bush's dual welfare policies: expanding benefits for clients of the corporate welfare state while imposing harsh restrictions on people in need of help. They are also consistent with most of what Bush has set out to achieve since he was elected in 1994.

Bush's whole "compassionate conservative" narrative could have been utterly destroyed if Democrats had simply focused on this deeply telling event. But, of course, they did not.

The Growing "Socialism" Of American Voters

One of the biggest myths in American politics is that Ronald Reagan heralded a great sea-change in American attitudes. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Attitudes toward social spending tend to vary in a cyclical manner, and Ronald Reagan was elected when support had reached a low-point after declining throughout the 1970s. Almost from the moment he took office, support for social spending started trending up again. But even more significantly, there is a long-term trend that voters born in each succeeding decade are more supportive of social spending than those born in the decade before, and this did not change with the election of Ronald Reagan. Those who came of voting age while he was President were more supportive of social spending than voters of any previous decade, and those born while Reagan was president were even more supportive still.

This can be seen at a glance in this chart, based on a combined measure of support for social spending (including the environment) from the General Social Survey:

And in detail in this table:

Combined Attitudes On 6 National Spending Items
(Education, Environment, Health, Welfare, The Conditions Of Blacks, And Problems Of Big Cities)
By Decade of Birth
Spending Attitudes 1880s 1890s 1900s 1910s 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980sTOTAL
Too Little on 4 or more, Net7.116.918.421.022.724.729.832.835.134.035.628.9
Too Little on 1-3, Net50.038.636.040.442.442.044.947.148.749.850.745.0
About Right on All, Net21.411.615.413.812.812.710.
Too Much, Net28.632.930.324.722.220.714.611.
TOTAL R's142077521,7362,6793,0814,3425,4323,0471,61542423,328

As you can see, we don't have a large sample size for the early decades, but the overall pattern is consistent. These are truly astonishing figures. Voters who were born while Ronald Reagan was President were far more supportive of social spending than those who elected FDR in 1932. Almost a third of voters who were in their 20s during the Great Depression thought we were spending too much, on balance, on the 6 programs combined above when they were asked decades later by the GSS. But among voters who were in their 20s during Reagan's presidency, such opposition had dropped dramatically to one-fifth of what it had been--6.1 percent vs. 30.3 percent.

Perhaps even more dramatic is what's happened with the ratio between those who want to cut spending, and those who want to increase it most broadly--those saying we shuld increase spending for 4-6 programs. For voters in their 20s during the Great Depression, this ratio was 30.3 to 18.4--more than 3-2--in favor of cutting. But for voters in their 20s this decade, that ratio is 6.1 to 35.6, that's almost 6-1 in favor of broadly increased spending.

This is an epochal change in public attitudes. It's precisely what is meant when we talk about political realignment--at least in terms of fundamental attitudes. The fact that this doesn't show up in our political representation, in the policies our government enacts--that is a sure sign of a political system that is utterly and totally broken.

Originally posted to Paul Rosenberg on Thu Oct 04, 2007 at 09:56 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (30+ / 0-)

      "Don't you believe half of what you see,
      and none of what they say.
      Don't you believe half of what you see,
      and none of what they say.
      If you hear it on the radio,
      then you know that it just ain't so.
      Don't you believe half of what you see,
      and none of what they say."

  •  "Stupidier Than The Dems Realize" (6+ / 0-)

    My God, I can't begin to imagine that level of stupidity ;-)

  •  He wants $200 billion to kill people (8+ / 0-)

    and nothing to save little kids.

    Party of life lies.

    Molly Ivins wanted WHO for President? But WHY?

    by Positronicus on Thu Oct 04, 2007 at 10:06:13 AM PDT

  •  I hope the Dem Leadership (5+ / 0-)

    is catching on to this. The majority of Americans want socialized medicine.  They are suffering under the "free market" system and would happily settle for what the rest of the world takes for granted.

    "There are no happy endings in the Bush Administration". - Randall L. Tobias

    by MadRuth on Thu Oct 04, 2007 at 10:06:28 AM PDT

    •  hope are like pretty little birds, ready to (0+ / 0-)

      spread their tiny, soft, feathery wings, preparing, for the first time  to fly out of their home-like  nest,

      just as

      Maurice the Killer kat climbs the tree, jumps onto the nest, rips the baby bird out of said nest, leaps with a thud to the ground, landing full weight on said crushed and clawed baby bird, then chewing on the bones, carefully spitting out all feathers.

      In the United States, doing good has come to be, like patriotism, a favorite device of persons with something to sell. - Mencken

      by agnostic on Thu Oct 04, 2007 at 10:15:22 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I wouldn't say they want socalized medicine... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ...but they do want socalized coverage.  Which is exactly what programs like SCHIP take a step towards offering.

      Calling SCHIP, or even most universal health care proposals "socialized medicine" is ignorance at its highest point, on the part of people in government who don't know what the word "socalized" means, and are too goddamn lazy to look it up.  

      With universal health care, most of the health care system would remain "private" (doctors wouldn't "work for the state," for example).  All that would change is that every citizen would be assured of some form of coverage, to make sure they can take advantage of those private services.

      I don't call that "socialized" medicine at all.  The only thing you can convincingly claim that's been socalized has been the coverage.  And, even then, depending on which universal health care plan you've put in place, you may either be relying on private plans (with government grants and requirements to make sure that everyone is enrolled in one), or (under some forms of single payer) still have the option of enrolling in a private plan, if you wish to do so.

  •  SCHIP would be a MAJOR step toward single payer (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tgs1952, Paul Rosenberg, DaleA, TexDem

    And because we're so close to being able to override the veto, Democrats, and we, should make it our top priority over the next few days to get the veto overrode.

    I'm not part of a redneck agenda - Green Day

    by eugene on Thu Oct 04, 2007 at 10:10:07 AM PDT

  •  let's go back to the "STUPID" issue (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tgs1952, eugene, DaleA, TexDem, dallasdave

    Why is it that the Congress and Senate democrats refuse/are incapable/don't understand/miss the boat/or ignore this opportunity?

    Partly, they are terrified, deep inside the petrified oasis that used to contain brain matter, that Bush will equate a voice against him with support for terror. It is that simple.

    It is also so foolish and unbelievable, that one wonders with an Arizona's growing mental disability was contagious.

    The GOP, on the other hand, is more properly afraid of another group - the electorate. They see the same polls that we do, even the same ones that the democrats in office see. It affects these three groups very differently.

    a) the GOP office holders
    They are effin scared. They KNOW just how bad 08 will be, even if the Rovian machine continues to steal votes on pace with 06, 04, and 00. They see the writing on the wall, and view this presidential race as the same kind of throw away that democrats did before King Ronald's re-election campaign.

    b) the electorate
    They (we) are effin pissed. If some democrats, AND some GOPers start fixing the mess they made, a lot of changes will happen. The natives are restless, the pot is boiling, and if the pols aren't more responsive, they could be lunch.

    c) The democrat office holders.
    WHAT A COLLECTION OF BUFFOONS AND IDIOTS. This Krass Klass of Killer Klowns makes one remember the grand old book entitled "The Madness of Crowds".   Individually, each of them sound sane and capable, even Reid and Pelosi. individually, they talk brave, they take honorable stances, and they make sense.

    But put them into a room where they HAVE THE MAJORITY, and they go nuts.

    Perhaps new leadership would help. Perhaps not. Perhaps the illegal domestic spying has so much dirt on Reid and Pelosi, Hoyer and others, that if they did try to do the right thing, they would be indicted the next day. Perhaps they are simply misguided.

    I don't know, but I do know that when 72% of America strongly supports SCHIP, and the democrat leadership in the house cannot muster a mister to deal with the most boneheaded veto I have seen since the Stem Cell crap, something is indeed rotten in the state of denmark.

    In the United States, doing good has come to be, like patriotism, a favorite device of persons with something to sell. - Mencken

    by agnostic on Thu Oct 04, 2007 at 10:10:32 AM PDT

    •  The Real Culprit Here Is Versailles (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      eugene, howd, DaleA, agnostic

      IMHO, The American political establishment--of which elected officials are but one part--has to be viewed as a whole in order to really understand what's going on.

      The independent Italian Marxist theorise, Antonio Gramsci, explained this best in his theory of cultural hegemony and culture war, which he conceived of in two stages, a war of position and a war of movement.  The war of position consists largely of institution-building, and that's what the right wing has devoted billions of dollars to over the past 30+ years.  What we are seeing is the result of that.  This is why they have such media dominance, why they have their own networks, as well as dominating the opinion pages in all the papers, and the opinion panels on all the networks.  All that, and much, much more.

      Against such power, mere public opinion is not very strong, because it is not organized.  Now, none of this is meant to excuse the Dems in Congress.  But I think it does a better job of explaining what they are up against--and in some cases, what they are part of.  And with that better picture, we should be able to intervene more effectively.

      •  Paul can you recommend an english version? my (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        italian reading is painfully slow, and I'd rather speed read and get the full pleasure in english.


        Your point holds a lot of weight. Clearly, the GOP/neocon class spent time, money, effort and a great deal of planning.
        I still recall when they build thinktanks and began providing their work product free (at first) to every member of congress. At first it was laughable, but over time, they had an impact. Then they started charging for their services. The liberals and moderates had nothing like it. Heritage, federalists, and others soon had that industry wrapped up.

        They also picked and chosed kids in college, and began an early mentoring and training program. The Democrats had nothing like that, and still don't.  Condi Rice is a prime example of how they nurtured someone, only to use them later.

        It was not just money, but a very well planned application of resources, mental energy, planning and preparation.

        In the United States, doing good has come to be, like patriotism, a favorite device of persons with something to sell. - Mencken

        by agnostic on Thu Oct 04, 2007 at 10:37:46 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Can we *make* the Dems use it? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    agnostic, Hey BB

    A lot of phone calls on this one might actually help for a change.

    The Bush Administration isn't there to create disorder in the world. The Bush Administration is there to preserve disorder in the world.

    by iconoclastic cat on Thu Oct 04, 2007 at 10:27:46 AM PDT

    •  well, yes. Recall what happened with the US atty (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      iconoclastic cat, Hey BB

      fiasco. the NETROOTS caused Gonzo to resign, eventually. And that is just the surface. All the crap from his tenure and programs is just begining to bubble up like texas tea and Ole Jed.

      In the United States, doing good has come to be, like patriotism, a favorite device of persons with something to sell. - Mencken

      by agnostic on Thu Oct 04, 2007 at 10:39:45 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  * (0+ / 0-)

    This needs to be a HUGE campaign issue along with the Iraq occupation.

    I'm very disappointed with Kucinich.

    Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president or any other public official... ~Theodore Roosevelt

    by Pam from Calif on Thu Oct 04, 2007 at 11:10:30 AM PDT

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