In 1993, Clinton tried to raise taxes. Bad idea. In 1995, Gingrich tried to cut Medicare. Bad idea. Both of those moves set up a resounding rebuff from voters. As Kristol explains, Pelosi is setting herself up as a classic overachiever and trying to do both, plus a little bit more:
Politicians aren’t altogether stupid. No president or congressional majority has tried to raise taxes since 1993. No president or congressional majority has tried to slash Medicare since 1995.
Until now. With Barack Obama as her front man, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi–the real power in the Democratic party–has gone Clinton and Gingrich one better. Clinton tried to hike taxes. Gingrich sought to cut Medicare. Pelosi wants to do both at once. This is quite a feat: She’s combined the most unpopular Democratic and Republican proposals of the last generation in one piece of legislation.
And her timing is impeccable. Pelosi has decided to raise taxes and discourage employment just as joblessness approaches 10 percent. She’s decided to cut Medicare reimbursements just as seniors’ retirement accounts have shrunk. She’s decided to advance a huge spending bill just as the deficit is at historic highs. She’s decided to insist on federal funding of abortion just as the issue seems to have reached some sustainable middle ground. And she’s decided to put forward a 2,000-page piece of legislation with a mind-boggling array of scary instances of bureaucratic coercion and farcical examples of nanny-state liberalism–all nuggets of political gold for Republicans–at a time when the public is sick of statist overreaching and big-government meddling.
The big question, of course, is whether Pelosi will succeed where both Clinton and Gingrich, the star politicians of the 1990s, failed. Pelosi does have something neither had back then, which is party control of the White House and both branches of Congress. She also has an utterly compliant media. Kristol thinks that, offsetting these aids to power is something new: Swine Flu.
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