Their Own Worst Enemies

There’s a very simple rule about making laws. You have to have the votes. Right now, the Democrats barely have the votes for the second “infrastructure” [for social/environmental programs] bill if the total cost is somewhere in the vicinity of $2 trillion [or possibly less] over ten years. They can’t possibly get that $3.5 trillion bill that they want, because they do not have the votes.

All the gnashing of teeth, all the crying out about the unfairness, or the need to reduce the inequalities of opportunity and wealth mean nothing without the votes to pass a more expensive bill. The simple fact is that those votes are not there, and it’s highly unlikely they will be in this Congress. It’s even more unlikely that they will be there in the next Congress, given that the political party in control has almost always lost votes in a mid-term election.

The sensible course is for Democrats to negotiate within their own party for the best they can get support for and pass it now. They certainly won’t have any more votes next year, since next year is an election year and political positions will become even more entrenched. That means there will be even less chance to pass a large bill.

If they pass whatever they can this year, it’s better for them than passing nothing, and if, miracle of miracles, they actually gain seats in the mid-term elections, then they can revisit the issues in 2023.

But Democrats being Democrats, it appears likely that all the Republicans have to do is to do what they always do best – and that’s nothing, because the Democrats appear to be on the road to accomplishing nothing at all because the “progressives” in the party don’t have the votes for what they want, and, in demonstrating their purity and resolve not to accept less than what they’re demanding, they’re destroying not only their chances for improving matters for their constituents, but they’re also eroding support for their President, which will make it even harder for them to hold seats in Congress in the mid-term elections, let alone pick up seats.

As I’ve said before, you have to get the votes before you can enact the policies you champion. And right now, the Republicans and the more conservative Democrats have the votes, and the way the “progressive” Democrats are acting, it’s likely to stay that way.

16 thoughts on “Their Own Worst Enemies”

  1. Joe says:

    I find the costs of these bills hard to comprehend. $3.5 Trillion? Will any of that inflation really improve our lives or those of the next generations in any tangible way?

    Compare that, to this:

    https://techstartups.com/2021/04/18/china-wants-build-200-billion-8000-mile-high-speed-underwater-train-network-connects-mainland-china-u-s/

    A bold vision for the future. Something that can reduce CO2 emissions and fix supply chain issues… I certainly have my issues with the CCP (Tibet, Mongolia, Xinjiang, Taiwan, social credit systems, authoritarianism) but why can’t we have politicians who propose practical uses that will improve our well being for our tax dollars?

  2. Dave says:

    China only has ONE political party, therefore they don’t need to focus on the most important issue for most, if not all politicians, Getting re-elected. Leaves plenty of time to actually DO something worthwhile.

  3. Grey says:

    Some context. The Trump tax cuts are projected to cost $1.9 trillion over 10 years, or more likely $2.5 trillion when the “Laffer Curve” economic boom caused by the tax cuts fails to materialize, as it always does. (numbers from the CBO)

    The ‘Build Back Better’ plan costs $3.5 trillion over ten years, but is revenue neutral, as it unrolls many of the Trump tax cuts and has other revenue generators to pay for it. Complain about its contents if you want, and while their are some mythical revenue generators for sure, unrolling the Trump tax cuts is real money.

    There are two spending bills pending – the bipartisan infrastructure bill, and the BBB (in whatever form/cost it ends up). The BBB is Joe Biden’s agenda – not the Progressives. Rather, the Progressives are enforcing Biden’s agenda. (A Progressive bill would look more like the $5 trillion bill originally proposed by Bernie Sanders)

    The infrastructure bill is the, for lack of a better word, the ‘bribe’ paid to centrist Democratic senators Manchin and Sinema to pass the BBB. Sinema appears to be trying to moonwalk away from passing the BBB, violating the deal the Democrats negotiated internally several months ago.

    We’ll see where this ends up. As LEM points out, it’s quite the charlie foxtrot right now.

  4. Ryan Patrick Jackson says:

    I understand the approach you’re taking, but don’t agree.

    The reality is that for decades Democrats have taken the reasoned and cautious logical road. Taken what limited effort they could get.

    The result is that the people who want change don’t turn out because they don’t feel their vote is going to matter. Then we lose seats in the midterm and history repeats itself.

    The better path, as I see it (And admittedly I’m not perfect or experienced enough to feel unquestionably right) is to stick to their ground, push and make it very clear who’s not supporting.

    The reality is, Sinema is out next election. The question is rather that’s by her primary opponent or her Republican opponent. AZ is actually very much Purple or verging on Blue. But it’s those of us 40 and younger doing it.

    Now, if the perception is that the Democratic party isn’t willing to fight and put forward effort. Those comparatively younger voters have historically become uninterested. (Hence things like Trump taking AZ in 2016).

    But if they see that the party as a whole is fighting, but can’t get there due to a few roadblocks. Then I’d hope they’ll be more inclined to make sure those roadblocks get removed.

    1. Chris says:

      That perspective is definitely problematic. Ted Kennedy saw it first hand when he could have gotten a better healthcare system back in the ’70s, but held fast to the goal of single-payer, and thus got nothing. Because of that intransigence, the US had to wait 30 years to get the same thing.

      https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2021/03/why-trump-republicans-failed-repeal-obamacare/618337/

      1. Ryan Patrick Jackson says:

        The thing is, this isn’t a vacuum. In 1970, the Republican Party was much more willing to work with people. And there was less of a progressive push in general.

        That was true even in 2016, though that’s when it shifts. In 2016 I supported Clinton because I felt Sanders was too far to the left to win. I agreed with him for the most part, but I felt I had to support more gradual and centrist change because that’s how to accomplish things.

        Instead we got 4 years of terror. Hindsight isn’t a valid argument, so I don’t make it about 2016. But we can learn moving forward to push for Candidates that will take action we want.

        Sticking with AZ, Sinema has no chance for re-election. It will be whoever primaries her, or whichever GOP nutjob Trump puppets up. The question is going to be how engaged voters with more moral and ethical outlooks are and if they turn out or not.

        For better or worse, Whoever the GOP run against Sinema won’t be seen as the type of evil that has to be stopped no matter the cost the Trump was, which means whoever primaries her won’t have the security of “We have to not have X” that helped Biden win.

        Centrist, slow progress used to work, but for the last 20 years or so it’s largely been yet another tactic of the Right to gut any type of real progress.

        1. But Sinema isn’t up for re-election until 2024, and anything can happen over the next three years.

        2. Chris says:

          I do agree that when she is up, she probably won’t get back in (unless the Republicans are crazy enough to let McSally run for yet another try). But in addition to what Mr. Modesitt said, Manchin is the best Democrats can possibly hope for in West Virginia, and the rest of the senatorial election map isn’t really that promising, so even if Sinema gets replaced with someone a lot more liberal, unless other seats are flipped elsewhere (and Democrats don’t lose any seats), it doesn’t matter.

          Realistically the Democrats best option seems to be take what they can get now, get the citizens to realize they like it so Republicans won’t be able to get rid of it (notice they aren’t clamoring to get rid of the ACA anymore), then go for more. This also has the advantage that it helps at least some of the people sooner.

          1. Ryan Patrick Jackson says:

            To be clear, I’m using Sinema as the example because I happen to be in AZ and so have a much better grasp of how things are being viewed here. Makes it less likely that I’m talking out the wrong end. 🙂

            That said, I do stand that on a whole, taking the cautious and measured approach is what Centrist Democrats have been arguing the entire time. It’s how we end up with figures like Biden and Obama who don’t actually move the needle much. It’s how we ended up with Clinton who was able to lose to Trump. It’s not even a wrong or illogical view, it’s one I used to hold.

            But I honestly don’t see how it will work anymore. The reality is the voting group is changing. It’s no longer a matter of speaking to people like me, who’d happily support Moderate movement as a reasonable stance. It’s now swaying the people age 18-30 who are beyond angry at the situation they’ve been forced into by, let’s face it, the republican party.

            I could very well be wrong, I by no means am claiming factual stance here, just expressing how I see things and what I’ve seen from actual voters in at least one state that’s gone purple and likely will push blue.

            I’m also someone who thought Texas was going to flip and I was way early in my prediction there.

            To Address Mr. Modesitt, because he deserves response and I don’t want to clog the forum (I’ve done that previously and am sorry).

            I fully acknowledge things could change in the next three years. But in her case and in the case of what will or won’t work for the Democratic party, I don’t imagine these will be issues that shift a lot. Time will tell.

  5. R. Hamilton says:

    “all the Republicans have to do is to do what they always do best – and that’s nothing”

    Given the 9th and especially the 10th Amendments, there was a time when the usual belief was that if it wasn’t clearly under the scope of an enumerated power*, then the _federal_ government _should_do_nothing_.

    That which is clearly within federal scope, it can do, but that doesn’t always mean it should do everything it can; activism is more often the pursuit of power for politicians and their favored supporters than it is constructive.

    So while one might wish to quibble about specific things the Republicans (in Congress, or when there, in the Presidency) don’t do, it certainly seems to me that on the odds, they’re likelier to be right than wrong. Congress really should NOT need to be in session nearly all year long, that’s too much time for pork, corruption, bread and circuses.

    Even if activism could accomplish some greater good, it’s better to change a law (or even amend the Constitution if required and doable), or to do without the benefit of the change, than to corrupt the law. I do seem to recall a story where one of the characters said something more or less along those lines, more elegantly of course. 🙂

    * the commerce clause should NOT be a license to treat even strictly intra-state commerce as an enumerated power; not to mention that at one time, “regulate” meant more like “regularize”, i.e. consistency of weights, measures, and certain practices, probably not nearly what it has come to mean and be used to justify.

  6. Ryan Patrick Jackson says:

    “The odds are they’re likely to be right.”?

    Really? So let’s talk. Please explain which of the things Republicans actively refuse to take part in that you feel inaction is the right choice.

    -Affordable Healthcare for all.
    -Personal Autonomy over ones own body.
    -Livable Wages which allow people to not suffer in poverty.}
    -Equal rights regardless of race, religion, sexual preference, etc.

    Those seem to be the major issues where the “left” tries to make progress and the “right” actively fights it or does nothing.

    Please explain each point’s value in inaction, if you would.

  7. R. Hamilton says:

    “Affordable Healthcare for all” no, just no, ditto “Livable Wages”. There is NO RIGHT to any necessity except air, since you have to confiscate resources from someone else to get it if you don’t work for it yourself. Ok, I’d welcome public education K-12 far more _if_ if wasn’t so propaganda laden. But get off your (generic, not you personally) couch and produce more than you consume, or, unless someone CHOOSES to help you (done that), deal with your own shortcomings without demanding support from others. Collectivism is ultimately ALWAYS about power for the people that run it, and NOT about improving lives. We’ve spent trillions on the war on poverty, and the result was generational poverty and rewarding poor people for having kids they let run wild. BIG MISTAKE. Something private has the discretion to help those who do what they can and eventually cut off those who don’t; government never really has that discretion. And MOST of need and poverty is defective subcultures, self-inflicted far more than the product of _current_ oppression. If people can come here survivors of oppression or poverty with nothing and build themselves a life (albeit often with the help of connections with those who came here before them), then people already here that are less abused _could_ do the same, if they believed they could and worked at it, rather than believing those that tell them they can only be wards of the nanny state forever.

    “Personal Autonomy over ones own body”, if you mean what I think you mean, HANG convicted rapists, preferably publicly. But self-defense (taking what may or may not be another human life! and if the government can’t be metaphysical about saying a pre-viable fetus IS a human life, it really can’t be metaphysical about saying it ISN’T either; it’s ambiguous, meaning that given the history of devaluing the humanity of some, erring on the side of human being is the right thing to do) ONLY applies if one’s life is in imminent danger, not if one’s emotional or economic health is at risk. Bottom line for all other cases, don’t boink, or else at least use condoms. The consequences of irresponsible action should NOT be escaped at the detriment of even another, even a MAYBE-another. But hold the guy responsible for the economic consequences of HIS irresponsibility. Guys usually have an advantage of physical strength, so they SHOULD be held to a higher standard.

    “Equal rights etc” on race, fine; on religion IF you’re not a terrorist, fine. Even on those, activism can get out of hand; we have the 1st Amendment, 13th, 14th, 15th, and 19th Amendment, and at least a couple of civil rights acts. ENFORCE THEM before creating more laws. And if you think cops are on a vendetta against non-white people, look closer at the statistics; they DO NOT REALLY SAY THAT AT ALL, more like a few very bad ones and the usual errors under pressure. More screening and training, fine. “Defund the police” and zones that secede, insanity.

    And expecting EVERYONE to be inclusive in private matters is a little crazy too; the sane will change when they think it’s in their best interest to change, which will NOT happen if they feel like someone is always in their face or bossing them around; and the insane we’ll always have among us, but so long as they don’t break an actual law, that’s just further proof that “fairness” is something we create, not something that the universe hands down to us.

    On the rest, the devil is in the details. Is it _really_ fair if trans women can dominate a particular women’s sporting event? Is it _really_ fair if FAKE (I’m _not_ saying real ones are a threat!) trans women can rape in women’s restrooms (been in the news recently that it happened in a high school!) Simple solution: single occupant restrooms (more of them) in new construction. I for one don’t want to share a restroom with ANYONE, whether they’re like me, not like me, too comfortable with the situation in an unwelcome way, or as uncomfortable as I am. And to heck with (usually female, actual or trans) socializing in the restroom.

    The way to break ALL glass ceilings eventually is to persist at offering a better value. No mandate will take the place of that.

    Private compassion plus Darwin Awards for those not covered by private compassion takes care of a WHOLE LOT of problems.

    Socialism is JUST about power, and those who want to order the lives of others should not be allowed power or access to power.

    1. Joe says:

      You don’t seem to realize the game is now rigged. Trillions for unnecessary wars. Trillions “to save” the “market”. Trillions in Q.E. In the 1960s, you could create value, and win. Today it’s far more of an uphill battle. Those who win, are those who are already wealthy and powerful. That’s what always happens when the Gini coefficient is high.

      So you are welcome to complain about “collectivism” being only for the benefit of those in power, but the truth is that what we have also only works for the benefit of those in power. And people realize it. University enrollment is falling, particularly among young men, which means they don’t think it is worth the risk. People are giving up on their jobs, hence many of our supply issues. US life expectancy is falling. In the old days you could get very rich by being an early employee in a tech startup. Today? Not so much.

      Corruption destroys everything it touches, and frankly ought to be headline news, not the latest mass shooting.

      1. R. Hamilton says:

        Those who are successful don’t suddenly stop doing what made them successful, so yes they will dominate the market. NOT shutting everyone else out (there are antitrust laws, even if their use or non-use are both political), but getting so entangled via crony capitalism and revolving doors that they’d have to screw up badly and frequently to fail.

        But there’s a lot of overhead to that, even more than the regulatory burden even small businesses deal with. So someone starting small still CAN achieve a lot, it’s just harder. Everything is more complex, so maybe it SHOULD be harder.

        Imagine all the people who think they can do one job for a lifetime, most are already obsolete and the rest will be soon enough. Those that can adapt need to; those that can’t or won’t, unless they’re only say 5% or less and 95% are generating more revenue than they consume, I don’t think a universal basic income is a scalable solution. And even if they’re such a small percentage, that tends to de-motivate others from getting off their duff and being useful.

        Unless someone PERSONALLY CHOOSES to help them, IMO it’s not realistic to support the chronically unproductive (NOT talking about minimal short term assistance in extraordinary circumstances to the otherwise productive, that might even qualify as an investment). That isn’t even a judgement of the morality of being unproductive, it’s simply an observation that only a limited number of the unproductive can be supported without bringing everything to collapse. Not to mention that virtues are NOT properties of systems and institutions, only of individuals, and pretending they can be is a lie; the best institutions can do is self-restraint of sorts.

        1. Joe says:

          I don’t think it should be harder. If it is, more people don’t even bother trying, and that leads to less well being for all of us. For instance, during the last half century, tech did better in the US than Europe because setting up a company and getting funding is much more difficult in Europe. Net result: all the tech companies right now are American. That can change.

          Also, asking people to change jobs every couple of years is pretty unrealistic. I remember when the journalists, who couldn’t code their way out of a box if their lives depended on it, were happy to tell laid off Appalachian coal miners to learn to code. Yeah, right. Good luck with that. Programming is a type of mathematics.

  8. Hanneke says:

    I think there are two parts to that “first, you need the votes”, and both mr.Modesitt and Chris and mr.Jackson are right, each on their own part.
    One, you need the votes in Congress to pass laws. Considering the Electoral College set up privileging low-population states, and the districting predominantly weighted towards benefiting the Republicans, it is hard for Democrats to get more than 50% votes in Congress anyway.
    Add in the donor influence on the national Democratic party which pushes ‘Republican-light’ candidates over progressive candidates, and influences those members once choses to vote in favor of their big-money donors instead of their constituents, and you get the kind of ‘pretend-Democrats’ that espouse nearly all Republican ideology but won’t stand behind any progressive plans tgat might diminish the present wealth inequality.
    That is the first part of “first make sure you have the votes”: with so many pro-billionaire and pro *big* business Democratic politicians, you will only be able to get the votes for laws that favor the rich. In that mr.Modesitt is right; anything that smacks of progressive policy which might diminish the advantage for the rich and powerful will be very hard to pass in Congress.

    The other part of “first get the votes” concerns getting the voters out. In this I think Chris and Ryan are right. Left-leaning voters are not at all enthousiastic about going out of their way to vote for ‘Republican-light’ candidates. As these are the voters that are being disenfranchised, for whom the act of voting is being made more onerous (or impossible), who have to take a day off from work to stand in line for hours to do so, it needs a candidate who they think will have a real chance to make their lives better for them to turn out in great numbers; or else a visceral feeling of threat that needs to be averted, as with the turnout against Donald Trump.

    Now the Republicans are very good at whipping up that feeling of threat to their voters, the Democrats much less so. The Republicans have also proven to their voters that they can ‘stop the Marxists from taking over and doing terrible things to their way of life’ – never mind that that was never going to happen.

    The Democrats on the other hand have proven that with all their Centrist rhetoric and election promises they have not been able to make many people’s lives better; that this was due to Republican opposition and Republican budget sabotage does not excuse them in many voters’ feelings. They have in fact proven they are not willing to fight very strongly at all for the needs of ordinary people, due to the need to get the votes in the deeply unbalanced Congress.
    So giving voters a choice between ‘Republican-light’ and deeply Republican candidates does not encourage Democratic voter turnout, as they know neither will do much to make their lives better.

    It is a dilemma, but allowing this to shift your entire political spectrum ever further rightwards does not seem a good solution, it just encourages extremism on both sides.

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