It looks as if Americans -- already pummeled by an economic slide from dropping home prices to 10 percent unemployment -- may avoid the final knockout punch. Political pundits are forecasting increasing odds that that grassroots pressure may force President Obama and Congressional Democrats to give up on some of their top policy initiatives -- legislation that would have saddled already-strapped taxpayers with even greater economic burdens.
Sure, the trillions already wasted in stimulus and deficit spending are bad. But that price tag is nothing compared to the three worst potential policy threats that seem to be losing momentum as more voters read their newspapers and more politicians starting reading the bills they're voting on.
Global Warming/Cap and Trade
In the only economy-transforming plan to reach an official vote so far, House Democrats cajoled, coerced, and bought just enough support to squeak out a victory on the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill -- a policy ostensibly designed to combat global warming. According to the Heritage Foundation, this scheme would flush $9.6 trillion down the drain through 2030, and individual families would face a conservatively estimated $1,500 per year in higher energy costs.
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Many moderate Democrats were reportedly angered by their leadership's high-handedness, while others have felt the wrath of constituents for voting for the major tax hike. For instance, Rep. Harry Teague was rebuked in a townhall and Rep. Russ Carnahan is seeing the signs in his district. One opponent cited his constituents’ 19-1 calls in opposition.
It is a sign of the public's discontent that the Senate will not consider its own version until September (though that might only just be enough time for Sen. Barbara Boxer to live down going "racial" on a National Black Chamber of Commerce leader).
Card Check Union Organizing
The New York Times reported last week that union officials finally realize the "card check" provision of the grossly misnamed Employee Free Choice Act is dead. There is still the legislation's provision to allow government bureaucrats to set terms of employment when the business and the union cannot agree quickly to a contract, and alternative language may include quicker-than-reasonable elections. So the bill is not quite dead -- maybe undead or mostly dead is better -- but it's not a good sign for union officials who would have seen billions in revenue from the labor market-altering bill.
The price tag for the bill would have been huge, both in terms of employees' rights and the ability for firms to be profitable. A recent study concluded that every unionized employee decreases a company's equity value by $40,000. It is an unwelcome stroke of the pen that can make it so unattractive to employ U.S. employees. And a study by Dr. Anne Layne-Farrar estimated that the card check bill could reduce employment anywhere from 600 thousand to 5 million jobs.
"Public Option" Socialized Health Care
The Wall Street Journal's report that key centrist Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley's growing frustration with Democratic demands portends poorly for health care reform, even though most groups agree there must be some reform.
While many types of reform would not require new government intervention or tax increases, the administration and House Democrat plans would have jacked up Americans' IRS bills, with taxpayers facing a marginal rate of more than 50 percent in more than three dozen states. The cost of President Obama's health care plan during the campaign was estimated at $1.5 trillion by officials with the esteemed Lewin Group. But if it’s a prelude to socialized national health care, the true cost could be counted in lives.
Change We Can’t Afford
While President Obama was elected by sizable majorities, it is not clear the public sent him to Washington with any specific policy mandates.
Meanwhile, discussion of the nation’s leftward lurch has some support among polling on voter identification, but ideological identity still favors conservatism in America. Moreover, recent figures show more Americans think the Democratic party is too liberal.
It seems America voted for some sort of "change," though the Democrats' version has not been what the doctor ordered on health care, energy taxes, or increasing the influence of union officials. In no instance has the public shown an appetite for going socialist.
There are certainly a host of small policy problems likely to be passed by big-government types in both parties. But Democrats have firmly grabbed the "overreach" mantle, though now it fits like an albatross.
By seeking economy- and society-altering policy overhauls with combined price tags of trillions of dollars, a handful of political elites showed they lost touch with a public that is, by and large, conservative. They’re just not crazy enough to seek change we can’t afford.