The Massachusetts "Miracle on Ice" hit Democrats like an avalanche crashing in on a downhill skier. Gone is their 60-vote, filibuster-proof Senate supermajority. Likely dead is the Senate version of health care "reform," if not ObamaCare altogether. Stunned and confused, Democrats now scramble around trying to decipher "what it means."
President Barack Obama's hard-left base calls the loss of Teddy Kennedy's seat a wake-up call -- for bigger spending. They see the defeat as a referendum for broader and bolder "health care reform" that includes a so-called public option, higher taxes and an expansion of the number of insured through Medicare. Their argument goes like this: People are unhappy, not about reckless spending, but because Obama has governed like a "centrist." He's "caved in to special interests," hasn't gone far enough and hasn't increased government fast enough. He abandoned his "progressive agenda," and voters punished him. Voters, wanting more government, elected a guy who promised less.
A Hofstra University professor represents this view in his analysis of "what it means": "The obvious solution, of course, would be a sharp turn to the left. Go where the real solutions are. Fight the good fight. Call liars 'liars' and thieves 'thieves'. Do the people's business. Become their advocate against the monsters bleeding them dry. Create jobs. Build infrastructure. Do real national health care. End the wars. Dramatically slash military spending. Produce actual educational reform. Launch a massive green energy/jobs program. Get serious about global warming. Kick ass on campaign finance reform. Fight for gay rights. Restore the New Deal-era regulatory framework and expand it. Restore a fair taxation structure. Rewrite trade agreements that undermine American jobs. Rebuild unions. Fill the spate of vacancies in the federal judiciary, and load those seats up with progressives. Rally the public to demand that Congress act on your agenda. Humiliate the regressives in and out of the GOP for their abysmal sell-out policies." Good grief! So much for voters telling Obama to slow down and move toward the center.
Obama didn't get elected by being that stupid -- although his immediate comments on the GOP Massachusetts victory came close: "Here's my assessment of not just the vote in Massachusetts but the mood around the country: The same thing that swept Scott Brown into office swept me into office. People are angry, and they are frustrated -- not just because of what's happened in the last year or two years but what's happened over the last eight years." Uh, whatever.
It's really, really the economy. Voters are suffering -- double-digit unemployment, upside-down mortgages and shrinking 401(k)s. They oppose tackling this with more spending, bailouts of imprudent companies and "stimulus" that primarily "saves or creates" government jobs.
So Obama dashes into the phone booth and re-emerges "Fiscally Responsible." An across-the-board "spending freeze"! As a candidate for president, Obama, in all three debates against GOP candidate John McCain, called such a freeze irresponsible -- akin to "using a hatchet" rather than "a scalpel." Nice pivot -- utterly inconsequential.
As with McCain's proposed freeze, Obama's exempts everything that could conceivably halt spending, let alone reduce the size of government. In a time of war against Islamofascism, funding for defense, military pay and benefits and homeland security is necessary. Our European allies, post-9/11, now actually spend less on defense as a percentage of their budgets. Until and unless the other members of the "coalition" wake up and start pulling their weight in this global battle or until and unless we tell Europe, Japan, South Korea and Israel to "protect yourselves," we carry the burden of this fight. So reducing defense spending is out.
Interest on the growing debt is also built in. Unless government spending truly goes down, it cannot go down. Non-security-related "discretionary" spending, the category that Obama wants to freeze -- with a bunch of exemptions -- is less than 20 percent of the budget. And this proposed freeze would go into effect after the greatest domestic spending binge in history. The '09 budget deficit -- the gap between what the government takes in and what it spends -- is more than three times that of '08.
What about the national debt -- what we owe? According to the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation: "The public national debt -- $5.8 trillion as of 2008 -- is projected to double by 2012 and nearly triple by 2019. Thus, America would accumulate more government debt under President Obama than under every President in American history from George Washington to George W. Bush combined."
The Big Entitlements -- Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid -- remain the incredible spending faucets set on automatic growth. Neither Obama and his party nor most "fiscally conservative" Republicans offer anything resembling a way out. Meanwhile, the band plays on.