The Campaign Spot

Chuck Schumer: Obamacare Was a Mistake, but Only in the Timing!

From the Wednesday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Chuck Schumer: Obamacare Was a Mistake, but Only in the Timing!

Let’s take a story like this and figure out what the real angle is:

Sen. Chuck Schumer upbraided his own party Tuesday for pushing the Affordable Care Act through Congress in 2010.

While Schumer emphasized during a speech at the National Press Club that he supports the law and that its policies “are and will continue to be positive changes,” he argued that the Democrats acted wrongly in using their new mandate after the 2008 election to focus on the issue rather than the economy at the height of a terrible recession.

There’s some truth to Schumer’s theory, of course. Obamacare never polled well. Deep-rooted national economic anxiety exploded in late 2008 and never dissipated completely.

Remember that thing called “the stimulus”? Schumer’s theory of “How It All Went Wrong” requires us to think the stimulus was a success, and Obamacare was a success, and that the problem for the Democrats was just the order of things:

“After passing the stimulus, Democrats should have continued to propose middle-class-oriented programs and built on the partial success of the stimulus, but unfortunately Democrats blew the opportunity the American people gave them,” Schumer said. “We took their mandate and put all of our focus on the wrong problem — health care reform.”

If Americans continue to feel such widespread, deep-rooted economic anxiety, just how much of a success was that “partial success” of the stimulus?

Most Democrats — following the lead of their president — passed the stimulus and believed they had fixed the economy. Do not forget this anecdote from New York magazine, November 29, 2009:

But the most damaging consequence of all may have been inside the White House, where bullishness about how rapidly the stimulus would kick in led to foolish projections that unemployment would peak at 8 percent — and where the bill’s passage bred a certain cockiness and complacency about the need to drive a sustained economic message in the months thereafter. “I recently talked to a very senior friend of mine in the White House, and I said, ‘How did we not spend a year talking about the economy?’ ” a Democratic think-tank maven recalls. “And he said, ‘Look, I think Barack did the stimulus and he thought he checked the box and he moved on.’ I said, ‘That’s not governing, dude. That’s some other thing.’ ”

The ailments of the American economy are too big, interconnected, and complicated for any one giant Keynesian spending spree to fix — particularly one that that ends up as the usual crony-capitalist, special-interest giveaway. Do enough of our workers really have the skills to compete against foreign competition? How can we expect wages to increase when we’re importing workers — particularly low-skilled and unskilled workers — from other countries? Are great ideas being born in some big dreamer’s garage? Haven’t underwater mortgages made it harder for workers to move to areas of the country with job growth? Are our universities churning out too many sociology majors and not enough engineers? Aren’t too many schools at every level failing to prepare students for the workforce?

Schumer needs an explanation for two consecutive blowout losses in the midterms that indicate Democrats have a difficult time winning without Obama’s personality on the ballot. He’s in the right neighborhood, by recognizing that economic fears are still strong, but he can’t quite bring himself to acknowledge that neither the stimulus nor Obamacare lived up to the hype for the average American.

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