In a satisfying moment of intramural recrimination this week, Sen. Charles Schumer of New York pointedly second-guessed President Obama’s decision to push sweeping health care legislation in 2010, when Americans were more concerned with the state of the economy and their economic futures.
“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. We took their mandate and put all of our focus on the wrong problem — health care reform. Now the plight of uninsured Americans and the hardships caused by unfair insurance company practices certainly needed to be addressed, but it was not the change we were hired to make. Americans were crying out for the end to the recession, for better wages and more jobs, not changes in health care. …
“To aim a huge change in mandate at such a small percentage of the electorate made no political sense. So when Democrats focused on health care, the average middle-class person thought the Democrats are not paying enough attention to me.”
OK. … But wait. Senator Schumer admits the Democrats got “another chance ” in 2013 to convince the middle class the Democrats had “an effective way out of [its] morass.” Incomes were still stagnant, Schumer points out. Voters were still overwhelmingly concerned with their economic prospects. And in 2013 Schumer chose to push … “comprehensive immigration reform.” Legalization! Guest workers! Imported high-skilled tech labor! Schumer’s “Gang of 8” immigration bill consumed much of Washington’s media-political energy for 2 years.
Even if you don’t think (as I do) that the “gang” bill would actually hurt the economic fortunes of many middle class Americans by importing competing, cheaper workers to bid down their salaries, it was hardly the sort of economic fix Schumer says the middle class was demanding. Even more than Obamacare, it failed to give ordinary mid-income voters the impression that Democrats were “paying enough attention to me.” Quite the contrary. They were paying attention to Rep. Gutierrez, the Chamber of Commerce, and David Brooks.
Schumer’s immigration push conspicuously flunks the first two of the five tests he gives for a successful Democratic policy–it doesn’t “directly benefit” middle class incomes and any effect is not”simple and easily explained.” (It also doesn’t satisfy the middle prong of a separate three-prong test Schumer announces: it doesn’t show that Democrats will “take on … special interests.”)
Just like Obama, it seems, Schumer had a his own agenda — stimulus, check! global warming, check! amnesty, check! — and he was determined to go down this desk-work checklist no matter what the economy or the electorate seemed to require. Maybe he was especially determined if it was a bill he and his staff had largely written — a bill that would get him on the Sunday talk shows with some regularity.
We’re always most righteous when we are guilty ourselves.