WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 22, 2021
How about with Romney and Thune?: Mitt Romney is a Republican senator from Utah.
He opposes the Build Back Better bill. Have you ever seen anyone ask him why?
How about Senator Collins (R-Maine) or Senator Murkowski (R-Alaska)? They oppose Build Back Better too. Has anyone asked them why?
How about Senator Thune (R-South Dakota), a "nice guy" Republican, the second highest-ranking member of the GOP Senate leadership.
In this morning's New York Times, a profile of Thune suggests that he may retire next year, at the age of 60, in part because of fatigue with Trump-era politics.
"[Mr. Trump] lashed out at Mr. Thune early this year when the senator rejected his attempts to overturn the election," the Times notes at one point.
In that sense, Senator Thune is a "nice guy" Republican—but he flatly opposes Build Back Better too. Has anyone ever asked Senator Thune why he opposes the bill? Have you ever heard anyone say how angry they are with him?
In fact, over half the United States Senate opposes Build Back Better, at least as the bill currently stands. (Is Senator Sinema now on board? Have you seen any discussion of this point?)
More than half the Senate opposes Build Back Better! But the anger, indeed the fury, is all directed at Manchin. Depending on the way you teach it, this may or may not make sense.
This may or may not make good sense. (As with most things, it probably doesn't.) All in all, we're trying to sketch a basic point—a basic point about anger.
Does it make sense to be angry at Manchin about his current stance? While we're at it—see yesterday's report—does it make sense to be "furious" at the "scum" who still aren't getting vaccinated?
Charles Blow didn't use the term "scum" when he declared that he was now expressly "furious" at all such people. For ourselves, we thought he may have been a bit slippery at one point, or possibly even slick, in identifying who those people are, the people concerning whom he is now proudly "intolerant."
We thought he may have been a bit slick. At any rate, does it make sense to be furious at those people? Does it make sense to be intolerant?
Getting back to Build Back Better, does it make sense to be furious with Manchin? Does it make sense to be furious with him while no one says the first freaking word about the fifty (50) other senators who flatly oppose the bill, with no hope of breakthrough concessions?
Does it make sense to be so angry about Manchin's stance on this bill? For today, we're going to quote at length from Kevin Drum's latest post.
Drum makes a series of points about Build Back Better. We're not sure why he has chosen to speak in the past tense, since the bill may not be dead. At any rate, he starts with the sweep of the bill:
DRUM (12/21/21): I've made this point before, but I want to say it again to bang it into people's heads: BBB was wildly unprecedented. Nothing like it has ever been done in American history.
There were three things that made it so. First, depending on how you count, it created seven or eight big new programs in a single bill. Child care. Pre-K. Climate. Obamacare. Paid leave. Long-term care. Expanded, work-free child tax credit. Hearing and vision in Medicare.
In the past, any one of these would have been a major victory for liberals. The prospect of getting half a dozen of them in one go was breathtaking.
The sweep of the (original) bill was "breathtaking," Drum says. We can't speak to the perfect accuracy of every statement we're going to post, but we're willing to ask you if you actually know that any of Drum's assessments are wrong.
The sweep of the bill was breathtaking, Drum says. As he continues, he speaks to its very large cost:
DRUM (continuing directly): Second, it was expensive. The initial version of the bill probably would have cost more than $500 billion per year, though that number depends a lot on what assumptions you make. Even the cut-down final bill, using realistic assumptions instead of smoke and mirrors, probably would have come to $300 billion or so.
This amounts to 1-2% of GDP compared to less than 1% of GDP annually for FDR's New Deal during its first decade. So the plan was to pass a bill that was astonishing in scope and cost more than the New Deal.
The proposed bill was very expensive, Drum says. We can't speak to the perfect accuracy of those statements, and we can think of at least one quibble. But can you actually say that those statements are factually wrong?
The original bill was breathtaking in its scope. It was also very expensive. Now, Drum suggests that it was always a stretch to think that any such bill could have passed through the Senate. We'll place one of these claims in context:
DRUM (continuing directly): Third, this was to be done in a Senate with precisely 50 Democrats, not FDR's 60 in 1933 (soon to be 70 in 1935).
This was crazy! What on earth convinced liberals that they could pass something like this? And why did so many of them consider it a vast betrayal as it eventually got cut down to "only" three or four big programs? Even that would have represented the biggest boost to the liberal program in decades. It would have been cause for celebration no matter which programs eventually made the cut.
So why did it go down the way it did? This isn't really about taking sides in the endless and tedious portioning of blame between centrists and lefties. After all, the vast majority of both supported the full bill. In the end, just as political science and common sense suggests, it was brought down by the two or three most conservative Democrats in the Senate.
Under the circumstances, was it "crazy" to think that the original bill could have been passed by the Senate? Given the fact that the Democrats hold a 50-vote pseudo-majority, was it crazy to think that?
We don't know how to answer that question. Within the realm of professional politics, a competent White House would have proceeded based on indications from the more conservative Democratic senators. We don't have the slightest idea what those private communications may have been like at the start of this process, assuming they even existed.
That said, it can certainly seem like the Democratic leadership was taking a bit of flier in thinking it could pass the original bill: And by the way:
When FDR had those 60 senators, that was 60 votes out of a mere 96! Alaska and Hawaii didn't even exist at that time! There were only 48 states—and soon, he had 70 votes!
(On the other hand, the Senate didn't march in partisan lockstep to the same extent at that time.)
Were Democrats whistling past the graveyard when they advanced the original bill? We don't know how to assess that possibility—but we do agree with Drum's final point, if his one speculation makes sense:
DRUM: Long story short, we should all stop feeling like the world has collapsed around us—and drop all the circular firing squad crap while we're at it. Manchin says he's open to further talks in January, and I wouldn't be surprised if they finally produce a compromise of three or four fully funded programs along with enough offsetting tax hikes to make the bill more-or-less revenue neutral.
And if this happens? "Only" three or four programs? Then pop the champagne. No other president in recent memory has done anything like this. And by any reasonable standard, it would make Joe Manchin quite a liberal senator.
Will Manchin ever vote for anything? We have no way of knowing.
But how about Romney, Thune and Murkowski? How about Sasse and Susan Collins?
How about Senator Shelley Moore Capito, the other senator from West Virginia? How about their votes against the bill? Why doesn't anyone ever say a word about them?
At least half the United States Senate is flatly opposed to this bill! That said, our fury is all being aimed at one person—at a person who, unlike The Untouchable 50, "also believes that the rich should pay higher taxes, the government should modestly expand social services, and Medicare should impose price controls on prescription drugs."
No one is asking a single question about the fifty senators who stand in flat opposition. In part, this is because of the mountains of bullshit which get shoveled at us in the liberal world each night by our "cable news" stars.
We live in a world of Storyline, and also of "corporate capture." The children feed us neatly sculpted tales. As with the "scum" when they watch Fox News, we tend to believe every word.
We live in a world of (profit-driven) corporate capture. We also live in a world of anger—a world of anger and fury.
We live in a world of anger and fury, but also of limited judgment. Our favorite stars play us every night. Their thumbs are all over the scales.
We loathe the "scum" who get played on Fox. We're unable to see how this syndrome works with ourselves and our own cable stars.
Tomorrow: That column from 2019
Friday: There but for fortune (two cases)