Harry Reid’s Miscalculation

Lamest Turkey ever.

It was Mr. Reid’s flawed pre-election strategy that landed his party with this undercooked fowl, and his post-election floundering has even his own members worried.

You wouldn’t know this from listening to Mr. Reid, who has laid out a lame-duck agenda that bears no connection to time, reality or election results. According to the Nevadan, Senate Democrats are going to confirm judges, rewrite immigration law, extend unemployment insurance, fix the issue of gays in the military, reorganize the FDA, forestall tax hikes, re-fund the government, and ratify a nuclear arms treaty—all in two, maybe three, weeks. This is the same institution that needs a month to rename a post office.

And how did this happen? Political strategy.

This legislative pileup is what happens when a majority leader chooses to hijack the Senate—to use it not on behalf of the country, but on behalf of a midterm campaign. The first part of Mr. Reid’s strategy was to introduce legislation specifically designed to rev up a liberal base for the midterm vote. To pep up gay rights activists, the majority leader promised legislation to change the military’s don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy. To inspire Latino midterm voters, he also embraced the Dream Act, which would offer a path to citizenship for some immigrants.

Part two of Mr. Reid’s strategy: Make sure nothing, including these highlighted bills, then passed. Much of today’s unfinished business is legislation that could have earned GOP support. But the majority leader deliberately included poison pills that would cause Republicans to balk. The entire goal was to tag Republicans with obstructionism, turning off average voters and further inspiring the base.

That didn’t turn out so good.

So focused was his party on health care and financial regulation, and so determined was Mr. Reid to tar Republicans, that urgent national priorities were shoved aside. Democrats failed to pass a single appropriations bill, and in one week the government runs out of money. Democrats want to pass an omnibus or a continuing resolution that would lock in their high levels of spending for months; Republicans understandably want a shorter fix, so their new majority can then shape spending cuts. Congress must act to avoid a government shutdown, and that issue will dominate next week.

If that weren’t enough, come Jan. 1, America is set to be hit with extraordinary tax hikes. The pain will be immediate, as employers withhold more from workers’ paychecks. This deadline has been coming for nine years, yet Democrats still haven’t acted.

In short? The Democrats have screwed us all.

And totally unrelated, but two Detroit stories that I find worth noting.

Detroit musicians continue to strike.

The musicians rejected a new offer that would have added $1 million toward the musicians’ three-year comprehensive economic package, the DSO said in a statement. The additional money would have brought the total offer to $34 million.

The musicians countered with their own offer of $38.9 million. The musicians also demanded a return to nine weeks of paid vacation and no health-care co-pays or deductibles.

Nine weeks paid vacation and no health-care co-pay or deductibles. The DSO is broke. Go figure, right?

The other story involves Hamtramck, which is broke.

Hamtramck suffers from high unemployment and falling income, but its budget problems go deeper than the recession. The town began running million-dollar deficits 10 years ago due to union contracts that would make Greeks blush. City workers were entitled to annual wage increases at four times the inflation rate and eight paid weeks of vacation each year. That’s in addition to 15 paid sick days, three paid emergency leave days, three paid personal days and one paid birthday.

That was ten years ago, but they’re really no better off now.

In 2000 the state appointed an Emergency Financial Manager who in five years managed to balance the budget by cutting the city work force, privatizing services and selling bonds. He got the unions to renegotiate some benefits by promising retirement service credits and promotions, but that set the city up for future pension woes.

Fast forward and the city again teeters toward bankruptcy. Workers still receive five weeks paid vacation and their health plans have no co-pays or deductibles. City health costs have risen nearly 40% this year and are expected to shoot up another 40% next year. Pension costs have climbed 36% in a year.

Unions aren’t budging, and declaring bankruptcy looks like the only way out. If the state will allow it.

While many cities blame their deficits on the recession, their insolvency is the natural result of politically dominant public unions. By allowing workers to collectively bargain, states and cities have ceded control of the public purse to workers whose main interest is enlarging government. Hamtramck is a harbinger of bankruptcies to come, and a case study in why politicians from FDR to Fiorello LaGuardia opposed the creation of government employee unions


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One Comment on “Harry Reid’s Miscalculation”

  1. MCPO Airdale Says:

    It is going to be interesting as many, many towns and cities around the country realize they cannot afford the perks they gave away to the unions.

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