Light at the End of the Tunnel: The Passing of the Age of Obama

Light at the End of the Tunnel: The Passing of the Age of Obama
May 19, 2014

Peter Ferrara

Peter Ferrara is senior fellow for entitlement and budget policy at The Heartland Institute, a... (read full bio)
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Conservatives need to wake up and start thinking past the rapidly passing age of Obama. Increasingly likely every day is that voters this November will remove Harry Reid as Senate Majority Leader. By electing a new Republican Senate majority, the voters will also render Barack Obama a lame duck, one of the lamest in history, as he will have no prayer of getting any of his legislative proposals — increasingly recognized as hard left — through Congress. (Despite his early national rhetoric, Obama doesn’t do bipartisanship.)

That new Republican Senate majority will also be a new check and balance on Obama’s appointment of federal judges, reversing the effect of the Reid rule change eliminating Republican judicial filibusters. That is especially crucial given that the five remaining Reagan/Bush appointees on the Court constitute the slimmest of majorities, with a couple of occasionally weak sisters among them. If just one of these five is replaced by another Elena Kagan or Sonia Sotomayor, the resulting shift from a Reagan majority on the Court to an Obama one would mean a longer-term Obama transformation of America.

Given the long-term cycles of American political history, Obama’s second midterm this year should be even worse for Democrats than the disastrous Obama first midterm in 2010. And the polls are bearing out that possibility.

The latest is a Pew/USA Today poll finding that 47 percent favor the Republican candidate for Congress in their district or state, while 43 percent favor the Democrat. That is a sharp turnaround from last October, when Democrats held a 6 point lead in the same generic midterm preference poll, 49 percent to 43 percent. The new Pew poll also finds a 16 point GOP lead among independent voters.

Moreover, the Pew poll finds that “65% would like to see the next President offer different policies and programs from the Obama Administration while 30 percent want Obama’s successor to offer similar policies,” as reported by Jason Riley in the May 5 Wall Street Journal.

In an April 27 Washington Post/ABC News poll, President Obama’s approval rating was down to an all-time low of 41 percent. That poll featured an 11 point Democratic advantage in the sample, which indicates further weakness in that Obama support, especially as compared to the 2010 midterm turnout rather than the 2012 turnout.

For context, in April 2010, President Obama’s job approval in that Washington Post/ABC News poll was 54 percent. In October 2010, just before the voters administered their first midterm beating to Democrats, Obama’s job approval was still 50 percent.

Similarly, the April Gallup poll showed an Obama approval rating of 43 percent, compared to an April 2010 Obama approval rating in that poll of 49 percent, and an early November 2010 approval rating of 44 percent. The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC poll found Obama’s job approval at 44 percent, compared to a May 11, 2010 approval of 50 percent, and an October 30, 2010 approval of 45 percent. So consistently in all these polls, Obama was doing better in 2010 just before that year’s Democrat blowout than he is doing this year.

The Washington Post/ABC News poll also found only 42 percent approval of Obama’s handling of the economy, lower than the 44 percent in the October 2010 poll. Most damning of all, 53 percent in the 2014 poll say it is more important to have Republican congressional majorities to check Obama’s policies, compared to 39 percent who believe it is more important to have Democratic congressional majorities to support those policies.

Bottom line in that poll, 45 percent say they plan to vote for Democratic candidates for Congress this fall, compared to 44 percent who say they plan to vote for Republican congressional candidates. But in October 2010, the Washington Post/ABC News poll showed Democrats with a 5-point advantage on that question, just before voters granted Republicans a 63-seat gain in the House, and a 6 to 7 seat gain in the Senate (depending on how you count the November 2010 affirmation of Scott Brown’s special election pickup of Senator Ted Kennedy’s seat).

These polls above, and state by state polls, are consistent with a Republican pickup in this fall’s midterm of as many as 10 Senate seats, establishing a new 55 to 45 Republican Senate majority, and 20 more House seats. To maximize that victory, Republicans need to campaign on a pro-growth platform of specific reforms to get America booming again as under Reagan. But in designing those proposals, conservative and Republican candidates, think tanks, publications, and policy intellectuals need to think past what can possibly be compromised with President Obama, and take their case for populist, pro-growth reforms directly to the people.

That should begin with pro-growth tax reform. Directly contrary to the Thomas Piketty/MSNBC socialists celebrating around massive, far left, anti-growth increases in tax rates on the most productive, Republican tax reform should involve sharp reductions in tax rates for everyone, in return for eliminating tax loopholes for special interest, crony capitalists.

A good model for that are the tax reform proposals developed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, already included in his budget proposals approved by the full House. For personal, individual income taxes, those proposals involve a 10 percent tax rate for annual incomes below $100,000, and a 25 percent tax rate for incomes above that. For corporate taxes, the top federal tax rate would be reduced to 25 percent as well.

Republicans should avoid the trap of promising that such reform would be revenue neutral, shifting the debate to that rather than the impact on growth. Their proposals should involve a net tax cut on a static revenue estimating basis (not taking into account the pro-growth effects), and a net revenue gain on a dynamic basis, considering the pro-growth effects.

Another pro-growth measure would be to repeal and replace Obamacare with the Patient Power health policy reforms proposed by free market health policy expert John Goodman, president of the National Center for Policy Analysis in Dallas. Those reforms would assure universal health care for all, with no individual mandate, no employer mandate, and a sharp net cut in taxes, spending, and cost-increasing regulatory burdens.

Those reforms would be based on a universal health insurance tax credit of roughly $2,500 per person, $8,000 per family, that every citizen could use to help purchase the private health insurance of their choice. For those who nevertheless still don’t choose to buy coverage with the credit, the unused funds would be sent in federal block grants to clinics and hospitals that serve the indigent. For those who get too sick while uninsured, perhaps with cancer or heart disease, to then buy private health insurance for the first time, the tax credit can be used to buy coverage from a state-based uninsurable risk pool, or from Medicaid, which would assure coverage for pre-existing conditions in any event. Medicaid should also be turned over to the states for further reform, with block grants as in the enormously successful, 1996 welfare reforms. That has also been endorsed by Ryan’s Republican budgets, and by the 2012 Romney/Ryan ticket. CBO estimates that would save $1 to $2 trillion in the first 10 years alone.

Some conservative analysts, and Republican health policy staffers, have been too pessimistic about the prospects for such reforms. They have succumbed to the fundamental mistake that under any market repeal-and-replace plan like the Goodman Patient Power plan, tens of millions of Americans will necessarily lose the health insurance plan they now have under Obamacare, doing to them what Obamacare just did to millions of Americans who were falsely told by President Obama that under Obamacare, if they liked their health plan, they could keep it.

The egregious error here is that since there is no mandate at all in the Patient Power market alternative to Obamacare, not a single health policy insurance plan in the entire country would be invalidated by repeal and replacement of Obamacare by the Patient Power market plan. Under that market plan, each individual chooses the health plan he will buy with the universal health insurance tax credit. The federal government does not specify what health plan anyone has to buy. So the Patient Power market reforms would not require the cancellation or invalidation, of any health insurance plans. Anyone who likes the health plan he has under Obamacare can simply use the tax credit to help pay for that one. The exact number of health insurance plans in the entire country invalidated if Obamacare is repealed and replaced by Goodman’s Patient Power market plan would be precisely 0.00, not 35 million as some analysts have misled their more credulous readers to believe.

With no employer mandate in the Patient Power plan, the effects of Obamacare in destroying jobs and full time employment are eliminated. With no individual mandate and no guaranteed issue or community rating regulation, the primary effects of Obamacare in increasing health costs are eliminated as well. The elimination of increased taxes and spending under Obamacare would be powerfully pro-growth as well.

Other important pro-growth reforms for Republicans to support would include a federal balanced budget amendment, fundamental reform of the Fed and monetary policy, possibly including a restored link to gold and other precious metals to at least guide monetary policy, comprehensive welfare reform based on work for the able bodied instead of guaranteed handouts, and personal savings, investment. and insurance accounts for Social Security and Medicare (instead of suicidal cuts in those highly sensitive programs).

Such reforms would involve a dramatic reduction in government spending and taxes over a generation, and restore booming, world leading, traditional American economic growth and prosperity, meaning millions of more jobs, higher wages and incomes for working families, and more real equality as a result.

[First published at The American Spectator.]

Peter Ferrara

Peter Ferrara is senior fellow for entitlement and budget policy at The Heartland Institute, a... (read full bio)