Since Tuesday's elections, media figures have increasingly suggested that the President and Congress should set aside things like health care and energy reform in order to focus on the economy. As MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan put it yesterday: "Jobs are job one." Earlier today, another MSNBC anchor said "The debate is whether they should focus more on job creation instead of ambitious items on the President's agenda." Other examples abound.
But this doesn't really make much sense when you think about it. "The economy" isn't some narrow, discrete thing like turning off a kitchen faucet. It's more like building a house -- there are a lot of things that go into it; far more than just twisting a knob.
One of the big things that goes into the economy is ... Health care. Not only is health care spending a massive part of the economy, but inadequate access to health care has all kinds of ripple effects. A low-income worker who doesn't have health insurance gets sick, loses wages (no sick days, either) and eventually loses a job. That isn't just a public health issue, it's an economic issue; a jobs issue. (Earlier this year, for example, the White House Council of Economic Advisers estimated that "genuine health care reform" would save or create 500,000 jobs a year in the "short and medium run.") Likewise, energy policy has huge economic implications.
Saying that politicians should stop worrying about energy and health care and focus on the economy is like saying a homebuilder should stop screwing around with walls and build the damn house already: It isn't going to be much of a house without walls.
It's one thing to say elected officials should spend their time trying to address jobs and the economy rather than guns and abortion and gay marriage. Whether or not you agree with the prioritization, or agree that is necessary to choose, those are basically different things. But health care and the economy are fundamentally intertwined in a way that guns and the economy are not; it makes much less sense to say "forget about health care and focus on the economy."
So here's a challenge to journalists and pundits who insist the White House and Congress should forget about health care and energy to focus on the economy and jobs: Spell out what that means. What do you suggest they do to address the economy and jobs that doesn't involve health care or energy policy? Why will it be more effective? Or do you just expect them to pass some magical bill decreeing that the economy must be robust, as though it is a faucet to be effortlessly turned on and off?
Yesterday, the U.S. Senate voted to renew the government's $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers. Fox News' America's Newsroom - mind you, one of the channel's very serious and straight news programs - bashed the program by claiming it's so inefficient, even liberals oppose it:
STU VARNEY: Question, is it effective, and at what price? I'm going to quote for you the Brookings Institution study. Now, Brookings is left of center, they would normally be in favor of this kind of government program. They found that if you look at the houses which were really sold because of this home buyer credit, it cost $43,000 per home. Repeat, $43,000 per home.
So in other words, your typical liberal policy wonk.
Now, you can certainly argue for and against the tax credit. (For what it's worth, the Senate voted to renew the program 98-0 - something left unmentioned by Varney.) But remember how Varney presented his criticism of the program: 'Hey viewer, I have ammunition against this big government program and it's even more powerful because it's from the liberals!'
*Brookings has been ideologically described in a variety of ways - liberal, centrist, conservative - by news outlets. Indeed, Fox News' Shepard Smith has called Brookings "conservative leaning" (Studio B, 6/1/09). The L.A. Times wrote in response to the diverse ways it describes Brookings, "we should probably not be labeling" Brookings.
From Redstate.com managing editor Erick Erickson's Twitter feed:
Digby notes a question Andrea Mitchell asked David Axelrod yesterday, about whether Tuesday's Republican victories in two gubernatorial races will make it "much more difficult" to build a congressional coalition to vote for health care:
Andrea Mitchell: Is this going to make it much more difficult for you on the hill to build the coalitions for health care in the immediate future
and there may even be a vote this Saturday
do you think that Blue Dogs and moderates are going to be wary of the White House lead on this because they see these warning signs?
That reminded me of something Mitchell said a little earlier in yesterday's show: "There are warning signs here for him in term of building a coalition on health care ... because they're [the public] getting impatient."
This doesn't seem to make sense. If Tuesday showed us* that people are getting impatient for health care, shouldn't that make it easier to get the votes needed in congress to pass health care?
Over the last day and a half, it has frequently seemed that reporters reached the conclusion that the election results were bad news for health care reform, and then began desperately feeling around for an explanation for that conclusion. And so they end up with arguments like Mitchell's: People are getting impatient for health care reform ... which is bad news for health care reform!
* It probably didn't. We're taking about two governor's races and two congressional elections. Journalists are almost certainly reading too much into the results.
Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is holding an anti-health care reform protest today on Capitol Hill to revive the largely manufactured fervor of the August town halls and to tell Congress "to vote no to a government take-over of one-fifth of our economy." The slate of speakers and attendees include Republican congressional members, far-right radio host Mark Levin, who has equated the Senate Finance's health reform bill with "economic slavery," actor and frequent Fox News guest Jon Voight, and... Betsy McCaughey.
McCaughey's participation and consequent endorsement of the Bachmann-led opposition to health care reform really shouldn't come as much of surprise given the falsehoods, distortions, and outright lies that she has told about health care throughout the year. However, this event should serve as final notice to any in the media who still believe she is a credible health care expert.
Rick Moran at Right Wing Nut House, unloads on what he sees as the increasingly deranged push by right-wing bloggers and others in the far-right media to turn the GOP into a permanent minority status party by purging all but the true believers from its ranks.
Moran's post from earlier this week--a must read--opens with a bang:
What is it that possesses certain conservatives to fool themselves so spectacularly into believing that they can create a majority out of a minority?...In the case of far right conservatives who think that they can turn their meager numbers into a ruling majority all by themselves, the disconnect from reality would normally call for an intervention - except they reject anything from anybody who doesn't agree with them 100%.
Moran's description of anti-reason conservatives is priceless, as well:
Those who reject reality in favor of persecution complexes, wildly exaggerated hyperbole, and a frightening need for vengeance against their imagined "enemies."
Psst, Michelle, I think he's talking about you.
It was the gem that on Tuesday night our (read: narcissistic) president watched an HBO documentary about himself, rather than following the results coming in from N.J., VA. and N.Y. The boys at Newsbusters got a thrill up their leg when they heard that one.
From (cough, cough) FNC news anchor Martha MacCallum:
"Robert Gibbs said, well, he was actually watching, you know, the HBO special about his year-long campaign and how it all went...we know that Michelle and the girls went to the Miley Cyrus concert last night... So he's all alone in that big house, right? Nothing to do but sit back and watch - reminisce about the long campaign and watch HBO and the special."
UPDATED: Here is video of Martha MacCallum's retelling of the phony story - which Rush Limbaugh also ran with -- followed by Major Garrett's explanation later in the day that he "misheard" Gibbs:
From Erick Erickson's November 5 post on RedState.com:
Last Thursday, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-MN) urged Americans to go to Washington today and protest Obamacare. Well, Mark Levin picked up the charge and others joined her.
Today, thousands will pour into Washington to tell Nancy Pelosi and the Congress to send Obama to a death panel (that's section 1233 of the original legislation). If you need details on where to go in D.C. or if you can't go, but want to show up at your Congresscritter's local office, go here.
And Americans owe a huge thank you to Michele Bachmann for sounding the call to action.
UPDATE: Erickson has since changed the text of his post. Below is a screenshot of the original.
Eighty advertisers have reportedly dropped their ads from Glenn Beck's Fox News program since he called President Obama a "racist" who has a "deep-seated hatred of white people." Here are his November 4 sponsors, in the order they appeared: