Saturday, August 8, 2009

Congress Disapproval Ratings: It's the Attitude, Not the Altitude

The country is in tough economic straits but you wouldn’t know it by how much Congress is spending on itself…The spending spree is so big that the House Appropriations Committee has just authorized $195 million for the Pentagon to buy three Gulfstream jets to ferry government officials around the country on “official business.”..You’d think the House leadership would have thought twice about such poor symbolism

John Fund, WSJ daily Policy Diary e-newsletter, August 7

John Fund has it wrong. It’s not the altitude; it’s the attitude. People are concerned about the federal debt's quadruptling under Obama and a spendthift Congress.

The attitude is: Congressional Democrats know best, and Republicans and grassroot Americans know least. This attitude is reflected in Charles M. Blow’s August 8 New York Times column, “Health Care Hullabaloo,” in which he derides Republicans for organizing disruptions of town health care meetings, “Let’s face it. This is no party of Einstein’s. Really it isn’t. A Pew poll last month found that only 6 percent of scientists said they were Republicans.” For me, this qualifies as a blow-hard comment.

Eric Hoffer, 1901-1983, the longshoreman philosopher, never bought the claims of political intellectuals to be for the common man, and said, “whether in Europe, Asia or Africa, treats the masses as raw material to be experimented on, processed and wasted at will." He never felt the president should be an intellectual, because such a president could never truly identify with the common man.

Presumably Democrats are health reform rocket scientists. Unfortunately Americans don’t agree with Mr. Blow’s appraisal. The latest Quinnipiac poll indicates only 39% approve of Obama’s handling of health reform.

The readers of Real Clear Politics, who are evenly split between Democrats and Rebublicans agree. Here is the readers' ratings.

Congressional Approval

- Approve 30.6%
- Disapprove 60.8%
- Spread -30.2%

Direction of Country

- Right Direction 38.6%
- Wrong Track 54.6%
- Spread -16.0%

So what’s wrong with Congress’ attitude towards health reform?

According to pollster Scott Rasmussen (“Health Reform and the Polls,” WSJ, August 7).

Most voters approach the health-care reform debate fearing they have more to lose than to gain…most voters are skeptical about the government’s ability do anything well. While the president says his plan will reduce costs, 53% believe it will have the opposite effect…And 50% fear that if Congress passes health-care reform, it will lead to a decline in the quality of care.

As the Democrats scramble to pass a health-care reform bill by the fall, they appear to have two choices. One is to stick with broad outlines of the plan that has been laid out by various congressional committees..The other option would be to pass small scale reform and declare victory.

Before they declare victory, Democrats would be wise to trust the American people who prefer incremental reform to Obamacare as now defined, and to give a little more respect for Republican minds. They may not be Einsteins, but they sense how the people feel.

1 comment:

John said...

Dear Mr. President:

Your vision of health care and insurance reform, a centerpiece of not only your campaign platform but of the other candidates as well, has gone into the Congressional sausage grinder and is being torn to pieces. You and the other candidates didn't talk a lot about the idea during the campaign except in the most general of terms. It was an accepted reality that health care reform would be on the to-do list of any new president.

The last few weeks have seen a level of fear and frustration spread among us faster than a flu pandemic. A natural fear of the unknown and a well-founded mistrust of elected representatives are being exploited by well-funded efforts on the part of many groups, each fighting in its own way for status quo.

Mr. President we need your leadership now more than at any moment since you were elected. This is not the time to delegate. This is a time for you to take the stage -- the bully pulpit, if you will -- and call upon your considerable gifts, not to calm, not to stop worrying, not to cool our passions, but to redirect this energy in a different direction.

Rage is good. Anger is justified. Frustration is in order. But as the president, you must now find a way to aim this negative energy in a positive direction. It is now time to reveal and explain the many conflicting developments that have brought us to a political impasse. We need you to put on your teaching hat and become our Professor in Chief.

You have about four weeks to conduct a seminar of unprecedented size. We need a syllabus, a schedule and a goal. It needs to be in writing and it needs to be simple enough that even the most illiterate among us can understand. We need feedback and interaction, one of your strongest attributes. This piece of the seminar must be delegated. Others will have to discover what is most critical. This is not the only item on your desk. But make no mistake about it. You are the one who must drive home the hard truths we now must face and explain how conflicting interests -- all with the best of good intentions -- cannot be reconciled without making compromises.

We are waiting for your next move. We don't want empty words that sound like "Ya'll need too calm down." We want to hear you say "I know you're mad as hell and won't take it any more. I know you are scared of what might happen. I know some of you think I have a hidden agenda and want to turn our country into a top-heavy bureaucratic monster that will eat you all for breakfast."

You must accept and validate this public rage and find a way to redirect it toward the real villains in our midst, the well-funded organized groups now spending millions of dollars on a war of television commercials, viral emails, social networks, scripted rage at public meetings and old-fashioned gossip that distort the realities of the status quo and what will surely come to pass if we fail to take action.

We don't need to "kill the bill" as so many are chanting. We need to fix the bill. And of all who can redirect public outrrage in a more constructive direction it is you, Mr. Pressident, who is best qualified.

This is not the playoffs. We are only part way through the game. This is "time out" an the ball has bounced in your direction. It came prematurely from the Legislative Branch to the Executive Branch and if you don't do something with it others will. Our two best competing teams in the House, Democrats and Republicans, have only succeded in making us afraid and angry. The playoff is the next game which happens in the Senate. It's not supposed to happen this way but the results of the playoff depends a lot on what you do with this out of bounds ball over the next four weeks.

We are waiting for your next move.

Concerned American