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Democrats - Partying like it's 1995?


In 1995, Bill Clinton and House Speaker Newt Gingrich faced off over Newt's proposed budget, which included spending cuts in non-essential government services and proposed reductions in the rate of growth of entitlement spending.  At the time, the country was facing a roughly $300 billion budget deficit, and Republicans were serious about getting federal spending under control.

But Bill Clinton, the master of phony tear-wiping, lip-biting "I feel your pain" sentimentalism, fought hard against Gingrich and led the Democrats in a brutal portrayal of Republicans as evil hate-mongers bent on starving children, poisoning the environment, killing AIDS patients, and forcing the elderly to skip medical treatments and eat dog food, all so that their evil rich cronies in corporate America could pay less income tax to the government.  To this end, Clinton refused to compromise with Gingrich and refused to sign a continuing resolution to keep the government funded while Congress wrangled over the budget.  This effectively shut down the government and provided ample fodder for the press to publish daily "why do the Republicans hate poor people and public employees" stories, until Republicans caved and handed Clinton a major political victory.

Fast forward to today.  President Obama's proposed budget, released earlier this week, utterly fails to address runaway government spending, and reduces deficit spending only by a combined $1.1 trillion over the next ten years.  Under his proposal, Federal spending grows appreciably every year, reaching nearly $5.5 trillion by 2020 and adding another $8 trillion to the national debt.

Republicans responded by accusing President Obama of avoiding tough decisions until after the 2012 elections.  They have countered President Obama's budget with a short-term plan that includes $100 billion in immediate across-the-board spending reductions, including reductions for government entitlement programs, and an attempt to again address the issue of Social Security and Medicare solvency.  Naturally social justice liberals and Big Labor are screaming.  And Democrats are excited, because this is a fight that they have always won.  One Democratic strategist called Republicans "suckers" for daring to bring up entitlements and Social Security/Medicare reform.  They think they will stomp Republicans as decisively as they did in 1995.

Are Republicans ready this time?  Well for one thing, we learned a hard lesson in '95.  And we know the Democrat playbook a lot better now.  Rush Limbaugh spent a great deal of time yesterday discussing the government shutdown of 1995.  And 'Lexington Green' of the Chicago Boyz blog discussed 1995 at length in an excellent post two days ago:

Obama is betting that he can force the GOP to make their proposed cuts, which he can blame them for, which he can truthfully say he does not support. Then he can attack the Republicans for making the cuts. He will appeal to the people who are suffering from the cuts, and strip away GOP support. They will be angry and mobilized.

Obama then plans to force the GOP into a funding crisis just as Clinton did. Obama plans to destroy the GOP reform wave of 2011 just as Clinton destroyed the GOP reform effort in 1995.

Obama's team attempted to use the Tucson massacre in the same fashion that Clinton used the Oklahoma City bombings, to discredit the GOP. Obama is acutely aware of the Clinton playbook. This is another re-run.

If Obama wins, then the GOP / Tea Party effort is over and the Democrats have won the whole ball game. Obama gets reelected, the GOP is finished as a political party, and we have a mess for some number of years while a new party forms. But odds are it will be too late by then. A majority of people will be dependent on the Government.

It is that serious. Obama's brazen, no-cuts budget proposal is not a sign of weakness.

It is a bold chess move that demands a strong response.

I agree with this analysis, but Obama has several things working against him that Bill Clinton did not have to deal with in 1995. 


First of all, Obama is no Bill Clinton.  He has neither the political experience, nor the intra-party leadership ability, nor the widespread likability with the general public that greatly benefited Clinton in 1995.  He will have to rely on others in the party, particularly leaders of special interests like Big Labor, to keep his political base energized.  There is simply no way that he can be as effective as Bill Clinton.

Second, Obama faces a full-fledged opposition media.  He has to deal with Fox News, which didn't exist in 1995 and today is the most watched news network.  And he has to deal with the conservative blogosphere, also nonexistant in 1995, and which today represents a major public resource for news and political opinion.  Then there is the Internet itself, which forgets nothing and remains a repository of every broken campaign promise uttered by Barack Obama and the Democratic leadership of the 111th Congress.

Finally, there is the economy.  We are currently in the longest and deepest recession since WWII.  The unemployment picture, particularly the outlook for long-term job market growth including re-hiring those who have been laid off, is the worst since the Great Depression. Millions upon millions of hard working Americans who once had good jobs and who dilligently saved for retirement and invested in home ownership have been financially devistated by job losses and the stock market crash.  Many who lost their jobs in 2008 - 2009 were forced to cash in their retirement savings at the bottom of the bear market in order to pay the bills, and subsequently lost most -- if not all -- of what they had saved.  Millions have lost homes to foreclosure or now hold an underwater mortgage.  

All of this has created a new class of Americans, mostly Boomers and older Generation X, who were previously financially independent, but are now financially strapped -- and fear that they will be forced to depend primarily on Social Security and Medicare when they reach retirement age.  They are also deeply resentful of government employees with generous salaries and benefits and guaranteed retirement plans, all funded by their tax dollars.   The middle and upper middle class Americans who have been hit the hardest during the past three years are also those who are most likely to turn up at the polls as issue-driven voters.  Their new home is the Tea Party, and their primal scream was heard loud and clear in the 2010 elections.  

Obama's failed $800 billion stimulus plan, his trillion-dollar deficits, and the looming insolvency of Social Security and Medicare are serious issues, and Boomers and Gen X'ers want serious solutions to those problems, not "starving-children-and-killing-grandma" propaganda.  The long term financial stability of the United States government is more important now than ever before.  If Democrats want to treat it like a political game, then they no longer have the right to be considered "leaders."  And they will deserve to lose.

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Comments (15)

Problem for Barry is, Slick... (Below threshold)
914:

Problem for Barry is, Slick Willie was good at selling a fraudulent tearjerker. at this stage of the game, Barry has no street cred. Albeit 37% of the country will probably vote for lackswit again, but that wont cut it.

Shut it down!

"If Obama wins, then ... (Below threshold)
John S:

"If Obama wins, then the GOP / Tea Party effort is over and the Democrats have won the whole ball game. Obama gets reelected, the GOP is finished as a political party..."

One other major difference from 1995: Look at the growth curve of the national debt since 2008. It has gone logarithmic. Even if the Dems win this cynical game, we're already at the point where a financial collapse is a mathematical certainty. In reality, both political parties are finished. Look at Egypt and plan accordingly. I suggest we are looking at martial law and military dictatorship, probably before the 2012 elections.

"I suggest we are looking a... (Below threshold)

"I suggest we are looking at martial law and military dictatorship, probably before the 2012 elections.

2. Posted by John S"

No chance it happens that soon. I tend to figure it will happen around 2016, just in time for the elections that year, just like they happened in 2008, just in time to disrupt the elections then. John Syphilis McCain could have won, up to that point. He could have won even after that point, but his Mavericky predilections caused him to buck the conservative and right path of not bailing out the bad actors and vote for an unprecedentedly large budget destroying fuzzily written bill that was destined to become the new yardstick for federal action.

At one level you have to ad... (Below threshold)
Tsar Nicholas II:

At one level you have to admire this blog's author's optimism. Sadly, however, it's in large part a function of naivete and of the related issue of being immersed in the detached echo chamber of the Internet's blogosphere.

Unfortunately the parallels between 1995-1996 and 2011-2012 greatly outweigh the discrepencies. To the extent that's not already apparent it will become clear as crystal next January, when the GOP primary contest quickly devolves into a pissing match about various social issues (virtually none of which move people on Main Street), whereas the Obama-Media conglomerate will be busy pounding simple sound bytes about jobs, education, health care and like items, into the empty and malleable heads of the general public.

I certainly hope to be proven wrong, and of course I'll happily vote for whomever the GOP nominates, but I wouldn't bet on anything other than a decisive victory for Obama.

One big difference between ... (Below threshold)
Les Nessman:

One big difference between 1995 and now - the economy. "It's the economy, stupid" still applies.
Things were ok then, now they are bad. No amount of spin or 'official' unemployment stats or 'official' inflation stats are going to change that. Most people see it and feel it.

Sadly, comments 2 and 3 have some (a lot maybe?) truth to them. Chances of a collapse are better than 50%. When, I don't know.

To quote Teh One, the big d... (Below threshold)
Sean P:

To quote Teh One, the big difference between 1995 and today is "now you've got me."

In 1995, Clinton had at least some credibility on spending. It should be noted that in the budgets Clinton proposed spending increases were roughly on par with inflation on the domestic side and actually a bit lower once the "peace dividend" was factored in. And he didn't start adopting the hard line tactic until he had negotiated the GOP into a corner (agreeing to some, but not all of their budget cuts, successfully recasting the slower growth of medicare spending as a cut, and tying that "cut" to the tax increases the GOP was proposing).

My point? Clinton didn't just demagouge the 1995 shutdown. I mean, he did, but he got away with it in large part because he looked like he was negotiating in good faith. Obama's posture, by contrast, is transparently obvious to even his strong partisan supporters, and he isn't conceeding ANYTHING. That kind of posture gives the GOP a lot of room to defend a shutdown as necessary to save the country rather than just a small tax cut. Plus, the public's opinion of public employee unions has taken a deservedly huge beating in the last 15 years.

In 1995, Gingrich made some... (Below threshold)
Jim Addison:

In 1995, Gingrich made some PR mistakes which predisposed the public to dislike him, and
Clinton was certainly more believable on spending - his big tax increase was sold as a deficit-reduction measure - than Obama, who has exploded spending and deficits. But the biggest differences are the public mood, and the Senate.

The Democrats control the Senate. If they block the cuts, it never gets to Obama. But the resulting shutdown can't be blamed on just House or Senate.

The public is fed up with the mounting debt, the socialist health care power grab, and the privileged position given government employees and union members. If the electorate won't support real cuts to set our fiscal house in order now, we are doomed to financial collapse, period.

Now, Obama will play it tougher than Clinton, too. Clinton allowed, as Reagan had before him, "essential services" to be funded by a partial continuing resolution while the big budget fight raged on. Obama won't. He will stop sending out all payments, including Social Security checks, and try to blame the GOP. That will be the moment of truth for America, fully equivalent in our history to the Revolution itself or Pearl Harbor.

If this is "Hope and Chang... (Below threshold)
914:

If this is "Hope and Change!" I'd hate to see the libs idea of "Love and Peace!"

Never underestimate the SPI... (Below threshold)
Oldpuppymax:

Never underestimate the SPINELESSNESS of Republicans

Wow, I'm getting whiplash f... (Below threshold)
john:

Wow, I'm getting whiplash from how fast this site has gone from Obama being an incompetent oaf to him being a strategic genius capable of "finishing" the GOP once and for all. Hysterical much?

The more I watch Obama the ... (Below threshold)
retired military:

The more I watch Obama the more I see Hillary being on the ticket in 2012. If not at the top then as VP out of nescessity to try to get him reelected.

I agree, we could muddle al... (Below threshold)
John S:

I agree, we could muddle along for a surprisingly long time. In fact, I think we could get to a national debt of $50 trillion before the wheels fall off. But if the Fed loses control of interest rates, $50 trillion could happen in a year or even a few months. Empty grocery shelves and sky-high fuel would add to the tensions and once the government checks stop, watch out!

Last year USD fell 3% while... (Below threshold)
gary gulrud:

Last year USD fell 3% while domestic inflation was at 3% having removed house prices from the CPI(added 2005, I think).

BLS flat out lies reporting U3 at 9% using every trick in the book. Gallup has it well above 10%.

Despite no recovery commodities have slipped orbit, mirroring M10 money supply. Fed is purchasing 75% of our debt, propping up stocks by printing $100 billion per month into June.

In China, food is up 5%--over the last 10 days!

Iran, feeling heat at home, is sending a frigate and supply ship up Suez while Nasrallah is "ready for war".

Our Strap-on POTUS is no Slick, and 2011 makes '95 look like 'Happy Times'.

For mee, I am really troubl... (Below threshold)
cali:

For mee, I am really troubled, and appalled, that politicians, incl Obama even consider this to be a game to be played.
Since when is it ok to play games with the existense of a country?

I've been struggling for ye... (Below threshold)
Pile of Pooh:

I've been struggling for years to understand how "shutting down the government" qualifies as a Bad Thing.




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