July 15, 2009

July 15, 2009 | Commentary on Economy

The Overstimulated Left

America's left wing is in hyperdrive. Energized by last fall's ballot box success, they reject the increasingly popular notion that politicians in Washington are going too far.

Even President Obama has asked the Left to cool some of their rhetoric, at least the portion that hits fellow Democrats. But, like the Energizer Bunny, they keep going and going and going. They're overstimulated.

A new letter signed by 42 Blue Dog Democrats in the House asks their leadership to slow down on health care legislation. Odds are it will only prompt the uber-liberals to castigate moderate Democrats even more loudly. Voices of the left are strident indeed:

  • Paul Krugman of The New York Times leads the pack calling for yet another "stimulus." He claims the $787-billion package was "too small."
  • Global warming demi-god James Hansen of NASA castigates the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade energy tax as not going far enough despite its $9.4-trillion costs. He labels it "counterfeit" not because it does too much, but too little in his view.
  • Moveon.org has bought full-page ads claiming the House-passed energy bill needs to be expanded in the Senate. They complain it "will provide a lifeline for coal," which they prefer to see killed outright.
  • The labor-led Health Care for America Now (HCAN) is televising ads that pound on any Democrat who won't embrace the "public option" to replace private health care with a new government-run program.

Pushed by his own friends who worried he was softening on the public option, President Obama issued a special statement last week to reassure them, "[I] still believe, as I've said before, that one of the best ways to bring down costs, provide more choices, and assure quality is a public option that will force the insurance companies to compete and keep them honest. I look forward to a final product that achieves these very important goals."

When even Obama must placate the left wing, its power should not be ignored. As public opinion polls show support for government-run health care, over-regulation and big spending decreasing dramatically, the overstimulated left knows its window of opportunity may be closing. To them "change" must be total transformation into European-style socialism, or worse.

HCAN, for example, has already spent millions running ads in Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington, pushing uncommitted senators to support the "public option." They include the message, "Keep insurance companies honest." Evidently, they believe any business that doesn't have a government-run competitor must be crooked!

President Obama, in a conference call with his allies, "complained that liberal advocacy groups ought to drop their attacks on Democratic lawmakers," according to the Washington Post. But that was before 42 Blue Dogs signed a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi expressing "strong reservations" about her gargantuan health care bill. Even as tax specialists are trying to design a trillion-dollar tax hike to pay for it, the Blue Dogs wrote: " . . .health care reform must start with finding savings within the current delivery system and maximizing the value of our health care dollar before we ask the public to pay more."

Stunned, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) delayed plans to roll out her bill. The Associated Press speculated whether the delay will be for only a week or perhaps longer. With the August congressional recess approaching quickly, concerns among Democrats are that delay will allow public angst to build and will kill prospects of Obama's number one goal. The Clinton health plan met a similar fate back in 1993.

Expect the left to ignore Obama's request for a rhetorical stand-down and to ratchet up their pummeling of any Democrat who won't help their big government push.

An example is the ad from Howard Dean's group, Democracy for America, and from ChangeCongress.org, labeling Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La) a "sellout" because she has received $1.6 million in campaign contributions from the health-care industry and has yet to endorse the concept of a government-run health insurance plan.

The 1,000-pound gorilla, though, may be the 1,000-group strong HCAN -- Health Care for America Now. The coalition has a steering committee dominated by labor interests such as the SEIU, National Education Association and AFL-CIO, and other groups ranging from ACORN to the Children's Defense Fund, LaRaza and NAACP.

HCAN plays hardball. In a recent press release, it attacked Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.): "Rep. Cooper is infamous as the Democrat who led the charge against President Clinton's health care plan. Clearly, he thinks he is going to make a name for himself again by trying to thwart the Obama plan. One thing is clear. No one on either side of the aisle can trust Jim Cooper."

But for these busy activists on the left, it's still not all health care all the time. Witness the latest from Dr. James Hansen, the NASA scientist who Huffington Post labels "the country's top climate scientist" and who has been praised and condemned as "the father of global warming."

Hansen now calls Waxman-Markey, "the counterfeit climate bill." He says, "[I]t's no more fit to rescue our climate than a V-2 rocket was to land a man on the moon," and calls it "a monstrous absurdity hatched in Washington after energetic insemination by special interests," that features "a Ponzi-like "cap-and-trade" scheme."

So there's good news within the discontent on the left. Perhaps it's for different reasons, but at least there's something with which conservatives can agree.

Ernest Istook is recovering from serving 14 years in Congress and is now a distinguished fellow at The Heritage Foundation.

About the Author

Ernest Istook Distinguished Fellow
Government Studies

First Appeared in Human Events