Are Republicans overplaying a losing hand? Former Bush (fils) speechwriter David Frum thinks the GOP is screwing up big time - the latest example being the losing battle over health care reform legislation. I doubt Frum will make himself popular with party regulars but he contends that that the Republicans' near-solid wall of opposition to any compromise with Democrats - he describes it as a "furious rejectionist frenzy" - has boomeranged.
"We're getting worse and less conservative results out of Washington than we could have negotiated, if we had negotiated," he writes, adding that the party has made a bad assumption.
"As is, we're betting heavily that a bad economy will collapse Democratic support without us having to lift a finger. Maybe that will happen. But existing party strategy has to be reckoned a terrible failure. Most Republicans will shrug off that news. If polls are right, rank-and-file Republicans feel little regard for the Washington party, and don't expect much from it. But it's the rank-and-file who are the problem here! Republican leaders do not dare try deals for fear of being branded sell-outs by a party base that wants war to the knife. So we got war. And we're losing. Even if we gain seats in 2010, the actions of this congressional session will not be reversed. Shrink Medicare after it has expanded? Hey- we said we'd never do that. I hear a lot of talk about the importance of "principle." But what's the principle that obliges us to be stupid?"
Frum was reacting to the Senate Democrats' decision to refashion their healthcare reform proposal to feature an expansion of Medicare to include age 59-64 year-olds as well as an expansion in Medicaid.
"So now instead of a new system that attempts to control costs, we're just going to have a bigger and more expensive version of the old system, with a few tinkers around the edges. Republicans could have been architects of improvement; instead we made ourselves impotent spectators as things get radically worse. Plus – the bad new Democratic proposal will likely be less unpopular with voters than their more promising earlier proposal. Nice work everybody."
Meanwhile, President Obama's Council of Economic Advisors is already out with a statement that the health insurance reform proposal will help the labor market.
The CEA projects "that if the annual growth rate of health spending slows by 1.5 percentage points per year, then the unemployment rate could fall by 0.24 percentage point and jobs could rise by 500,000," according to CEA chair Christina Romer. Along with the administration's decision to use savings from the TARP program bailout to invest in job creation, the White House has more ammo to defend its economic record after inheriting a deep recession from the Bush administration. (Earlier in the week, the Treasury Department said that it expects to recoup nearly all but $42 billion of the $370 billion so far lent out (most of the recipients being financial companies.)