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Friday, January 08, 2010

Will success with health care reform prove toxic for Democrats? 

Here in New York City (the bluest of blue domains) the big unions (the bluest of Democratic constituents) are already in open revolt against "success".

Democratic politicians hope, dream, (fantasize?) that when they finally pass the health care reform legislation, probably within the next month, it will be chalked up as a big victory giving them a permanent boost in the polls -- as did the enactments of Social Security and Medicare at earlier times -- after which all this will be behind them. And that then they'll be able to pick new, favorable political issues to ride to victory at the polls in November.

But there are big differences this time around. Social Security and Medicare were widely popular when acted, while most voters oppose the health reform bill.

And, critically, both Social Security and Medicare provided big benefits to masses of voters immediately, with the major tax increases needed to pay for them arriving only many years later. But with the health care bill, the painful tax increases and new regulations will arrive up front, and the benefits for most voters (if any) only years later.

"Pleasure first, pain only much later (so no need to think about it)", is a time-proven winner in entitlement politics.

"Pain first, pleasure only much later (if ever), so let's dwell on the pain", has already shockingly backfired once on the Democrats among their own entitlement constituents. Remember? Are they setting things up for it to happen again?
Unions warn Dems on health-plan tax

Local unions are waging war against President Obama's proposed "Cadillac tax" on higher-cost health-care plans -- with one leader warning New York Democrats who approve the levy to watch out at the polls this year.

"The proposed tax is both terrible politics and bad policy, and it's going to seriously undermine good health-care coverage for literally tens of millions of middle-class workers," fumed Bob Master, legislative and political director for Communication Workers of America's Northeast chapter.

"We are working furiously to ensure that the New York House delegation stand strong on this," he added.

"On the political side, I can tell you -- and this is not a threat -- that union members and middle-class voters whose taxes go up because of their health care, or whose health care gets cut, are not going to turn out for Democrats in hotly contested elections. I think they just stay home."

Master pointedly mentioned the wave of anti-Democratic sentiment in upstate elections last year, as well as the New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial races.

Of the 25,000 Verizon workers in the state who belong to the CWA, at least 20,000 active and retired members "will be very heavily hit," Master said ...

George Boncoraglio, regional president of the Civil Service Employees Association, the state's largest public union, railed against the proposed tax.

"The president is out of his mind for attempting to tax health benefits that labor unions fought to get for their working members," said Boncoraglio, whose union represents 300,000 workers in medical facilities and agencies...
With the new taxes and regulations hitting individuals, businesses (and union members!) years before any benefits result, passing the bill may be just the start of the pain for the Democrats.

Once it is locked into place so it can't be changed to mollify new objections -- and as people finally get the chance to review the text, learn of all the behind-the-scenes special-interest deals that will be made but be kept hidden this month, and figure out the countless "unintended consequences" that it must certainly produce -- the bill may becoming a fixed target for a growing number of critics and enemies, even from the left. If so, the Democrats who enacted it will be unable to separate themselves from it. And there will be nobody currently receiving benefits from the bill to form a special interest group that will rise to defend it -- and them.

Keith Hennessey says that the probability that the Obama will sign the health care bill soon is "high. Very high." But will that be the beginning of the end of the pain this bill has caused the Democrats? Or only the end of the beginning of it?