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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press NYT Enters Fantasy Land to Criticize Democrats

NYT Enters Fantasy Land to Criticize Democrats

Tuesday, 04 January 2011 22:11

Given that the unemployment rate is 9.8 percent, that more than 1 million people a year are losing their homes to foreclosure, and that corporate profits are back at pre-recession levels, one would think that there are plenty of legitimate grounds to criticize President Obama and the Democrats in Congress. But, the NYT decided not to restrict itself it to reality.

In a piece warning the Republicans not to misread their mandate the NYT explained that this is exactly what the Democrats had done:

"It’s also how Democrats elected in 2006 and 2008 came to enact a series of expensive new programs without ever really bothering to explain to the public why such investments were necessary or how they would be paid for. They wanted to believe the voters had risen up to demand a resurgence of liberal government, when in fact all the evidence suggested that all anxious voters really wanted was a government that seemed to work."

It would have been great if the NYT could have given 2 or 3 examples of "expensive new programs" that the Democrats had enacted without paying for. The only expensive program that sticks out at the moment is the health care reform bill. This bill is paid for, at least according to the Congressional Budget Office, even if not according to the NYT.

Given the fact that this piece is completely out of touch with reality perhaps the NYT has decided to introduce a comics section.

Comments (7)Add Comment
New Deal? What's that?
written by Union Member, January 04, 2011 11:35

Matt Bai has no historical reference points by which to measure the Democrats he's critiquing with real Democrats of the past who had soul and purpose. It's sad, but it probably isn't his fault: the party, the Obama Administration, and the NYTs itself are rife with impostors, identity thieves, and interest conflicts.

Bai is trying to analyze something which he - nor anyone else - can see very clearly; because it isn't what it pretends to be. It's some sort of Neo Deal.
my god
written by Brett, January 05, 2011 12:06
Matt Bai is unbelievably horrible. How did the editors let that one through. Every article he writes is terrible, but that paragraph might be the worst paragraph he's ever written, and that's saying a lot for a conventional wisdom spouting village idiot. Amazing that the Times would publish such nonsense.
Who needs comics?
written by JHM, January 05, 2011 6:03
When we already get Don Davidito de Brooks, and Mynheer van Douthat, and Little Tommy Wobble with the big moustache?

Happy days.
written by izzatzo, January 05, 2011 8:50
Included in the mandate will be a John Boehner Tears Program, designed to replace health care reform after it is repealed.

Since health insurers and providers will continue to be shielded from competition and regulation to protect their huge economic rent, would-be patients will be trained on how to cry on demand to create soothing endorphines that heal everything.

Republicans noted the incremental cost of the program was very low since most candidates are crying already.
written by Arne, January 05, 2011 10:12
it says "without ever really bothering to explain ... how they would be paid for"

Unfortunately, they did not do a good enough job of explaining to overcome the Republican spin.
It's All About Turnout
written by Ron Alley, January 05, 2011 12:01
Krugman's concept of very serious persons is inspired and right on the mark. Matt Bai's columns place him in the running for the title. His analysis reflects the orthodox logic of those anointed "very serious". Unfortunately his analysis misses the key points.

1. Elections are all about turnout. In the 2010 elections, turnout was about 40%. http://elections.gmu.edu/Turnout_2010G.html
In the 2008 elections, turnout was about 61%. http://elections.gmu.edu/Turnout_2008G.html Only those eligible voters who actually cast ballots matter.

The Republicans with their Tea Party movement brought a large number of "conservative" voters to the polls. In contrast, the Democrats failed in their efforts to bring a large number of voters to the polls. Turnout must be inspired. In the Presidential elections, voters focus on a candidate and an inspiring candidate will carry the day. In the Congressional mid-term elections, the parties must rely on their performance to inspire voters.

The bottom line is that if 22% of the electorate are diehard Republicans and they all voted in 2010, that was enough to carry the day.

2. The Republicans won the 2010 elections because so few of those who voted for President Obama in 2008 actually bothered to vote in 2010. The best explanation for the low turnout is that the governance of the Democrats failed to inspire voters who are willing to vote for Democratic candidates. There are, of course, a clearly identifiable minority of voters who are conservative GOP loyalists and will always refuse to vote for a Democratic candidate. Therefore, the success of the Republicans and the failure Democrats is not determined by the votes of that minority. The opinions of that minority of the electorate, however strongly held, do not reflect the opinions of the majority. Analysis that focuses on that minority is not enlightening. The only valid analysis is one that considers why such a large portion of the electorate failed to vote.

3. The dismal record of the Democratic Congress failed to inspire the majority of the voters who are willing to vote for a Democratic Party candidate. While the Democrats did actually pass significant legislation, they failed to inspire voters. The three most important reasons are: their failure to frame legislation in way that connects with willing voters; their failure to conduct the business of Congress in a way that demonstrates competence; and their failure to administer the federal government to meet the expectations of those who voted for President Obama.

The healthcare legislation is the poster child for the Democratic Party's failure to frame legislation in way that appeals to voters. The key features of the legislation appeal to a broad majority of the electorate. But such a distressingly broad range of features were combined into the 2,000 page bill, that few, if any, voters understand the legislation well enough to be willing to declare to their support for all 2,000 pages.

The failure the Democratic majority in the Senate to curtail the abuse of the filibuster in the Senate led to failure to conduct the business of Congress competently. The filibuster permitted the Republicans to criticize Democratic initiatives and to completely obstruct the Democratic agenda. This gave the Republicans repeated opportunities on each significant piece of legislation to belittle the legislation and to show which party actually controlled the Senate. Conducting the affairs of Congress in that matter emasculated the Democratic majority and convinced most voters that the Democrats in Congress had failed miserably to take up legislation that addressed the immediate needs of the electorate.

The Obama administration failed to bring about the change that voters who willing voted for Obama expected. The operative question the Obama administration apparently asked on each major issue is, "What would W do?" In fact, the performance of the Obama administration on virtually ever significant issue closely tracked programs, policies and actions initiated by the Bush administration. When a politician promises change, he better not give out chump change.

written by Rich2506, January 05, 2011 12:45
"They wanted to believe the voters had risen up to demand a resurgence of liberal government, when in fact all the evidence suggested that all anxious voters really wanted was a government that seemed to work."

Erm, I don't understand. "a government that...work" is precisely what turning to liberal solutions would provide! To stick with the old, failed Republican policies, the ones that G.W. Bush tried for eight years and that failed so badly, we have nearly 10% unemployment, is by definition, to refuse liberal solutions and to stick doggedly to what we know does not work!
Yes, the voters did ask for a liberal resurgence! It was two years ago, but I seem to remember a candidate talking of the need for "Change" and of a candidate making good electoral progress by accusing the other guy of wanting a "third Bush term."

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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.