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Analyzing a Consequential Vote


Here’s a thought experiment for you: Imagine for a moment what might have happened last November if candidate Obama had made the so-called stimulus bill the centerpiece of his presidential run. And suppose that Democrats running for House and Senate seats had joined in the fun.  

If candidate Obama had posted this $1 trillion-plus hodge-podge of new spending and tax pork on his website and had vowed to make its enactment his #1 priority, would things have turned out as they did on Election Day?

Is it even remotely conceivable that Obama would have won the support of 22% of conservatives? Or that he would have carried a comfortable majority of political Independents? Would Democrats have prevailed in contested House races in Idaho, Alabama, New Mexico, Florida, and Virginia? Or Senate seats in North Carolina, Virginia, Colorado, New Hampshire, and even Louisiana?

No, if the election had been a referendum on whether the new president should double federal education spending immediately, add a quarter trillion dollars in new entitlement spending, dramatically expand the entire welfare state, and bail out the most profligate state governments, Obama would still be in the Senate and Rod Blagojevich would still be governor of Illinois.

With that in mind, three things stand out from Wednesday’s House vote:

First, the loyal opposition was the unanimous loyal opposition. Because Republicans lined up unanimously against the Debt bill and all 244 of the votes for it came from the Democratic side of the aisle, we might as well cut and paste H.R. 1 into the Democratic-party platform. They own it, politically as well as substantively.

Second, the House Republican substitute offered a clear, bright line alternative. The Republican alternative was simple to understand because it had only three moving parts – tax relief, tax relief, and tax relief. It’s now readily apparent that the Republican approach to the economic crisis is to reduce the tax burden on all American taxpayers and (most) American employers, and that Democrats see more government spending as the solution to our economic ills.

This came as a pleasant surprise to those of us who were watching the process unfold. Why? In the weeks leading up to this week’s vote, the conventional wisdom was that the Republican substitute would ultimately contain a significant amount of new spending, though not as much as was in the Democrats’ bill. Kudos to the House Republican leadership team, which worked constructively with back-bench conservative members to convince their entire caucus to stick together and rally around a principled, vastly superior approach that  won the support of all but nine House Republicans.  

Finally, the vote lifted the spirits of conservatives outside the Beltway, who now believe it’s possible to influence the outcome in the Senate. Speaking at the Heritage Foundation yesterday, Sen. Jim DeMint (R., S.C.) was optimistic that the vote would inspire frustrated constituents to create a groundswell of opposition to the Senate Debt bill, thereby uniting Republicans in opposition and even convincing some Democrats to reconsider their stands.

DeMint plans to offer a pro-growth alternative plan, one that generates so many new jobs it practically short-circuited Heritage’s econometric model when we analyzed it. It already boasts the support of two key Senate Republicans — Sens. Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.), the Minority Leader, and Thad Cochran (R., Miss.), the senior Republican appropriator. His plan would drop the top marginal tax rate to 25% on wage earners, mom-and-pop business owners, and other employers, maintain the top rate on investment income at 15%, keep the children’s tax credit at $1,000, and impose a modest 15% tax on estates valued over $5 million.  

Once our model cooled down, we learned the DeMint plan would lead to the creation of 1.3 million new jobs in 2010, 7.5 million by 2013, and an astounding 18 million within ten years. Residential and commercial real estate activity would also soar, by almost $300 billion over 5 years.

With enough constituent unrest, anything is possible. Scott Rasmussen, for example, reported Thursday that the Debt bill seems to be losing support among likely voters. It registers only a three-point edge – 42% favor it  and 39% are opposed — down from an eleven-point margin just last week.


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