By Robyn Blumner: No matter what the voters of Massachusetts were or weren't saying by electing Republican Scott Brown to the Senate seat of the late liberal lion Edward Kennedy, the Democrats have reason to feel like a Mack truck ran over their last "Yes We Can" sign.
No matter what the voters of Massachusetts were or weren't saying by electing Republican Scott Brown to the Senate seat of the late liberal lion Edward Kennedy, the Democrats have reason to feel like a Mack truck ran over their last "Yes We Can" sign.
That this could happen a year after President Barack Obama took office with such hopes and popularity indicates that voters have memories about as long as a tweet.
The pro-waterboarding, tea party-friendly Brown, a veritable unknown state senator, blew into high federal office in the bluest of blue states by harping on the deficit and promising to defeat health care reform. But the undercurrent of Brown's campaign was the dire economy.
Brown claimed in a piece in the Boston Globe earlier this month that he was running because "more of our people are unemployed today than ever before."
How about remembering a few things about the mess we are in? The economic meltdown happened under President George W. Bush as a direct consequence of the hands-off, free-market, deregulation philosophy touted by Republicans like Brown. Cleaning up the destruction is going to take government investment in the economy. But the $787 billion stimulus package that is currently being spent to build roads and retain teachers throughout the nation passed Congress without a single Republican vote in the House.
The Council of Economic Advisors estimates that, with a third of the stimulus money out the door, between 1.7 million and 2 million jobs have been created or saved. Even if these numbers are not precise, the upshot is that without the stimulus, the suffering would be greatly magnified.
More is needed, but that will take more spending, which is precisely what Brown and his party oppose. In Brown's words, there should not be another stimulus because the current one has "failed to create one new job," a statement so demonstrably false that it raises questions about the wits of its author.
Brown also complains about the public debt. Once again he should be pointing his finger at the elephant in the room. Bush added nearly $5 trillion to the national debt during his two terms after having inherited a healthy 10-year projected budget surplus of $5.6 trillion. He did it through reckless tax cuts and the prosecution of two wars, one a war of adventurism. Remember that two weeks before Obama was sworn into office, the Congressional Budget Office projected the annual deficit to be $1.2 trillion.
Obama was left Bush's wars, debts and a near-collapsed economy. In the past year, he's methodically tried to tackle this pile of trouble, and beyond cooperation in increasing troop levels in Afghanistan, which Republicans pushed, Obama has come up against a solid wall of Republican resistance. Now, with Brown's election, Republicans in the Senate have what they need to keep Obama from advancing on jobs, economic fairness, strong regulation of the financial sector and climate change. Even health care reform is in jeopardy.
Brown, the 41st Senate Republican, makes his party cloture-proof, allowing him to block any future vote on a combined House-Senate health reform bill. Brown's incoherence on this is stunning. The Senate-passed plan is similar to the universal health care model in Massachusetts — a state program of mandated health insurance coverage that Brown supported. But Brown campaigned against extending that beneficial structure to the rest of America, scaring voters over new taxes and Medicare cuts.
How exactly would Brown get us to universal coverage without cost controls and new revenues? Magic wand?
The challenges facing our nation are so great that it would be a Herculean endeavor if responsible people of goodwill came together to solve them. With the election of Brown, we have added an obstructionist senator who holds positions based on politics, not the public interest, and who fails to see that his own party's disregard for average people is what got us in our current fix. Brown will use his power to bar Obama's good-government initiatives, our problems will fester, and the Democrats will once again be blamed.
You can respond to Robyn's column at email@example.com.