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Voters expect Olympia, D.C. to get to work

A GOP victory in the state Senate has the governor and House leaders saying they will work out the answers themselves. That's the kind of partisanship that should be avoided in either capital.

Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire

Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire CTED

Speaker Frank Chopp leads House Democrats.

Speaker Frank Chopp leads House Democrats. Washington State House Democrats

Washington Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane.

Washington Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane. None

Especially in a campaign year, it is too easy for partisans to confuse their own opinions with general opinion, with sometimes disastrous result.

Examples of this danger occurred in several settings this past week:

  • Enacting a state budget: State Senate Republicans, with votes from three moderate Democrats, last Friday passed their own version of a state budget, expecting to take it to compromise negotiations with House Democrats, who had passed their own version earlier. This is what happens in the legislative process.

Surprisingly, Gov. Chris Gregoire and Senate and House Democratic leaders said they would negotiate among themselves and pretend the Senate had not passed the GOP's version. Say again? The Legislature is scheduled to adjourn this coming Thursday (March 8) and clearly will not be able to do so if normal Senate-House negotiations do not take place, with the bills passed in each house as the basis for discussion.

The three Democrats who voted with Senate Republicans say they will continue to caucus with their party but, on the budget issue, they believed their party was ducking rather than confronting the matter. This happens and the legislators certainly have the right to vote according to their conscience on the salient issue of the legislative session.

The governor and Olympia Democrats have overstepped badly, in my judgment, and are courting a backlash from voters this fall. They hold a majority in the state capital but cannot just ignore the rules of the legislative game when they dislike majority action in either chamber.

Legislators should get to the conference table now with the Senate- and House-passed budget bills as their point of departure.

  • Taxes and a birth control mandate:  Democrats and Republicans inhabit their own universes, in particular, when it comes to tax policy and the Administration's recent decision to require all health-care providers to cover birth control for women.

Independent polling last week by The Hill, the newspaper covering Capitol Hill, brought surprising results regarding public attitudes on the two issues.

An Associated Press poll, taken 10 days ago, found 65 percent of respondents favoring President Obama's so-called "Buffet rule" whereby millionaires would be forced to pay at least 30 percent of their income in taxes. A Pew poll last summer found 66 percent of adults favored raising taxes on those making over $250,000 annually, as a way to cut budget deficits. But the more recent Hill poll of 1,000 voters put the questions on tax policy another way, asking voters to specify "most appropriate" rates for each income group.

Some 75 percent of those polled said the right tax rate for top earners was 30 percent or below (the current rate is 35 percent). Only 4 percent thought it appropriate to tax at a 40 percent rate, appoximately the level President Obama seeks beginning in 2013.

Republicans were more likely than Democrats to support lower tax rates but not by much. When it came to corporate tax rates, 73 percent overall favored tax rates below 30 percent while only 21 percent favoared a top rate of 35 percent or more.  Interestingly, respondents earning more than $100,000 annually were least supportive of lower rates.

Demanding higher taxes of the rich and of corporations may not be the political slam dunk it seems. Americans voters, of all persuasions, historically have been wary of soak-the-rich policies — mainly because they have seen their kids, if not themselves, having the chance down the road to become rich.

The mandated birth-control coverage generated a firestorm of protests on both sides of the issue. One pro-choice spokesman said that "Republicans have declared war on women" by questioning the policy. Opponents said it constituted an unwarranted federal invasion of private and church boundaries. Media coverage tended to tilt to the pro-administration side.

A Gallup Poll last month of 1,014 voters found 48 percent sympathizing more greatly with religious leaders who objected to the mandate and 46 percent sympathizing with the administration's decision. The Hill survey asked voters whether they were more disposed to support Obama or the GOP presidential nominee because of the decision. Some 36 percent said they'd be more likely to support the GOP candidate, 35 percent the president, and 28 percent said it made no difference. Gender differences were surprisingly small.


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Comments:

Posted Mon, Mar 5, 8:03 a.m. Inappropriate

"The governor and Olympia Democrats have overstepped badly, in my judgment, and are courting a backlash from voters this fall."

....which will be instantly quelled when the GOP vote on county fairs--Carnies vs. Kids--is thrown back at them.

There were no winners Friday night.

Ryan

Posted Mon, Mar 5, 10:05 a.m. Inappropriate

TVD conveniently ignores the polls showing that the public overwhelmingly supports President Obama's compromise position requiring contraception coverage paid for by insurers rather than employers that object to paying. And to the polls that show the public overwhelmingly favors having contraception covered by health insurance. He also conveniently leaves out the latest GOP move to allow employers not to cover any health care service they object to, which goes far beyond contraception and abortion. More false equivalence by TVD on who's really uncompromising in Washington, D.C. BTW, if wealthy people like Rommey actually paid 30%, that would be a big increase in what they're paying, given that Romney and many others use the low capital gains rate and other tax loopholes to bring their actual rate to 15% or less, lower than people who make a lot less money.

Posted Mon, Mar 5, 11:23 a.m. Inappropriate

Bravo Ted. From your lips to Olympia's ears. On the D's decision to take their marbles into a closed room and play be themselves: my parents used to laugh at me when I pouted. It was one of their greatest gifts to me. Wish we could do the same for the governor and legislative leadership.

Posted Mon, Mar 5, 12:58 p.m. Inappropriate

Here's the new Republican reality that TVD and others involved in the "bipartisan centrism" ideology and the practice of false equivalence can't bring themselves to acknowledge.
http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/03/12/120312fa_fact_lizza?currentPage=all

Santorum’s CPAC declaration has the ring of truth. As Geoffrey Kabaservice writes in “Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, from Eisenhower to the Tea Party,” his careful new history of moderate Republicanism, “The appearance of a Republican Party almost entirely composed of ideological conservatives is a new and historically unprecedented development. It is only in the last decade or so that movement conservatism finally succeeded in silencing, co-opting, repelling, or expelling nearly every competing strain of Republicanism from the party.”

The polls back up Santorum and Kabaservice’s claim. In the past ten years, as self-proclaimed conservatives have increased from sixty-two per cent of the Republican Party to seventy-one per cent, the percentage of Republicans describing themselves as moderates has declined from thirty-one per cent to twenty-three per cent. The number who call themselves “liberal” is now close to the number who describe themselves as Aleut or Eskimo.

Posted Mon, Mar 5, 9:59 p.m. Inappropriate

The Senate Dems have been talking with the Senate Republicans about a budget since the session. The Dems held hearings on the issues, with the publics' input heard. That lasted for weeks. The Republican budget was introduced 5 days before session was scheduled to end, without hearings and without even providing a copy of it to the Dems. Just who ignored the rules of legislative action?

sarah90

Posted Tue, Mar 6, 8:16 a.m. Inappropriate

I am sympathetic with Sarah90's comments. Yes, as the majority party, Democrats held budget hearings. Yes, the GOP budget was introduced late in the game. But it was the budget that passed, thanks to votes by
Democratic legislators who preferred it to their own party's budget.

I understand that Democrats were initially stunned and disappointed by this development. But this stuff happens and legislators have an obligation to pass a final product---by Thursday, if possible, in a special session, if necessary. The governor, it is hoped, will participate actively to move negotiations along. The final budget will not be one that either Democrats or Republicans will like. But they have no option but to get to work on it. I had thought this would happen over the past weekend but, now, appears to be slowly getting underway.

Perhaps, in the long run, this will serve the public interest. Democratic legislators have gotten a wakeup call. The eventual, compromise budget no doubt will reduce red ink more quickly than the original Democratic versions, which essentially pushed difficult decisions down the road another year. Affected interest groups will complain but will have no choice but to accept the product that is eventually produced. Perhaps some longstanding tax expenditures may even be tagged for elimination.

Nothing concentrates one's mind, as Samuel Johnson said, like the imminence of hanging.

Posted Tue, Mar 6, 8:27 a.m. Inappropriate

"Americans voters, of all persuasions, historically have been wary of soak-the-rich policies"
Which is why the effective top rate was greater than 50%, and as high as 94%, for roughly half of the 20th Century.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Income_tax_in_the_United_States#Historical_income_tax_rates_.281913.E2.80.932010.29
But then, it is easy for bi-partisans to confuse their own opinions with general opinion, generally with misleading results. David Broder would be proud of TVD.

NickBob

Posted Tue, Mar 6, 9:18 a.m. Inappropriate

A final thought on issues raised in the comment stream.

It is important that political leaders have a clear view of genuine public opinion and not confuse true believers' views with those of the general electorate.

NickBob mentions the late David Broder, a longtime Washington Post columnist, apparently with less than admiration. Broder was a former research director of the Democratic National Committee. But he did not let his own leanings and preferences color his commentary. He presented and interpreted facts as objectively as he could. I spent most of my lifetime actively engaged in national Democratic politics. But, in that role, I never considered that my own views necessarily were those of everyone else. When I gave political advice, I gave it straightforwardly and on the basis of realities as I saw them.

For example, I am both pro-choice and pro-gay marriage. But I also understand that there are millions of Americans--probably approximating about half the electorate---who have religious, ethical, and/or other
reservations on those issues and that they cannot be summarily dismissed as know nothings. On the specific issue cited, that is, the federal mandating of birth-control coverage, I am genuinely perplexed. Women now have general access to various birth-control options. The question is: Who should pay for them? Should religious institutions be required to provide them? If so, is this a precedent which later might cut the other way, when people with a contrary view control federal power?

It is quite true that tax rates often have been higher than they are today.
But recent experience has shown that lower rates provide incentives which
pay off in economic growth and employment. Economists disagree on the rate levels which do so most efficiently. The first thing President Kennedy did, to "get America moving again," as he promised in his 1960 campaign, was to cut both personal and corporate rates. It is important to know, in any case, as The Hill survey told us, just how present-day citizens favor and reject various tax rates at various income levels.

It is possible to make fervent arguments on behalf of federal compulsion of birth-control coverage or of higher federal tax rates---with accompanying expressions of scorn for those who take an opposite view. But that often leads to nothing but anger, polarization, and gridlock on a host of wholly unrelated issues. Better to think through the policies you think are important to the country and, then, to figure out how best to get majority suppport for them in the country and Congress. Success usually comes from patient attempts at education and persuasion and reachouts to people who are undecided or initially skeptical. That is how
the Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act, Medicare, Medicaid, federal aid to education, and other historic breakthroughs took place. They could never have happened in a polarized, angry environment.

Posted Tue, Mar 6, 9:44 a.m. Inappropriate

TVD, you keep repeating the same false history about Medicare and you ignore my many attempts to set you straight on this. The establishment of Medicare was not the result of "patient attempts at education and persuasion and reachouts" to opponents. That was a solely Democratic legislative proposal which was opposed fiercely by conservatives, Republicans, and the AMA, whose spokesman was Ronald Reagan. The conservatives derided Medicare as socialism or worse (which of course conservatives, including GOP presidential candidates, still do). In 1965, even though moderate to liberal Republicans still walked the earth, no House Republicans voted in committee for the Medicare bill until it reached the floor, and only several Senate Republicans voted in favor before it reached the floor. Ultimately a relatively small number of Republicans in the House and Senate voted yes on the final bill because the train was leaving the station and the bill was enormously popular with seniors and most voters. LBJ and the Dems were able to muscle the bill through because they had a huge majority in both chambers. Contrary to what TVD says, Medicare is hardly an example of "bipartisan centrism" carrying the day.
Here's PolitiFact's 2009 account:
http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2009/aug/28/howard-dean/dean-claims-social-security-and-medicare-were-pass/
We all wish that we could return to the days when wise leaders of both parties could work things out. But as even some Republican observers have said, their party has gone haywire.
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/28/opinion/brooks-the-possum-republicans.html
And, TVD, you still haven't acknowledged that Republicans responded to Obama's compromise on contraception coverage -- which has overwhelming support in polls -- by passing a House bill that would have allowed employers to refuse to pay for ANY medical service they have religious or moral objections to, going far beyond contraception coverage. Now that's extreme and dangerous. Think about it.

Posted Tue, Mar 6, 2:34 p.m. Inappropriate

"patient attempts at education and persuasion and reachouts to people who are undecided or initially skeptical. That is how the Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act, .... and other historic breakthroughs took place. They could never have happened in a polarized, angry environment."

No polarization or anger around Martin Luther King, the NAACP, SNCC, Freedom Riders, Medgar Evers, George Wallace, Lester Maddox, Birmingham, and on and on and on. Or in the Senate in those days where Dixiecrats did not fail to filibuster when Jim Crow rule was threatened. Those 2 acts were passed because of the work of many activists and ordinary people acting in support of these causes in the face of strong, angry and polarized opposition and with the support and leadership of an exceptionally strong minded and able legislator deciding to do the right thing despite the high political cost he knew would be exacted- and even then this was only possible because of the sense of grief and increased national unity following the assassination of the president.
Mr. Van Dyk, your work in support of these causes is greatly to your credit, and I've enjoyed your memories of those times on these pages, but by misrepresenting the difficulties of those accomplishments you do a disservice to history and those that would learn from it in order to accomplish new gains for humanity.

NickBob

Posted Tue, Mar 6, 3:26 p.m. Inappropriate

I was around and involved during many of the events discussed above. It is important to know what did and did not happen.

The prime leaders of the civil-rights movement exhibited passive resistance and appealed to "the better angels of our nature" in the face
of raw oppression by segregationists. The culmination of their efforts
was the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in which skillful efforts by Sen. Humphrey, the prime sponsor of the bill, and President Johnson succeeded in
attracting support by Senate Minority Leader Dirksen and other senior Republicans. GOP Sen. Kuchel of California was an especially effective advocate of the bill. It took 67 votes then--not the 60 required now---to break a filibuster. But it was broken. The moral force and persistent
non-violent efforts of pro-civil-rights advocates, with efforts such as the Civil Rights March on Washington, turned national opinion irrevocably against the old, racist order. It took years to create this change.

Likewise, historic Medicare and Medicaid legislation was a long time in the making. The same Sen. Humphrey's first legislative proposal in the Senate, in 1949, was for a Medicare-like program. Other national leaders and legislators, including President Truman, urged such a program. But
it was not enacted until 1965. It did not come into being because of attacks against the medical profession or insurance industry but because
of years-long efforts of public education by labor unions, progressives in health care, and private- and public-sector leaders who wrote, spoke, organized, and campaigned ceaselessly on behalf of such a program.
We got lucky in 1964 when Republicans nominated Sen. Goldwater for President. LBJ defeated Goldwater by a landslide and Democrats swept House and Senate races by historic margins. Afterward, Democrats had the power to legislate pretty much as they wished. But care was taken, nonetheless, to generate as much GOP congressional support as was possible.
We knew that the legislation was unlikely to last unless it had support beyond our own party. President Kennedy, in 1961, had organized a broad
private-sector coalition on behalf of freer trade, the Committee for a National Trade Policy. It generated broad support for the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. LBJ, likewise, organized a broad private-sector coalition
to generate support behind Medicare legislation. Health advocate Mary Lasker of New York and labor-union presidents were the prime movers.
Weekly, and then daily, White House meetings were held with these private-sector groups as the legislation was introduced and progressed.

Social Security was enacted in 1934 but Medicare and Medicaid could not be enacted until 1965. The Democratic Party, at its 1948 national convention,
irrevocably broke with its Old South, segregationist wing. Yet it took another 16 years before the Civil Rights Act could be enacted. Those were years of tireless, bottom-up, top-down public education and non-violent campaigning. The broadest possible bases of support for these programs
were built before their enactment. The task was not easy but the advocates were patient and dedicated. The programs have lasted and will never be reversed.

Posted Tue, Mar 6, 5:33 p.m. Inappropriate

TVD, all these "ceaseless efforts" you refer to did not succeed in getting a single Republican as far as I know to co-sponsor the Medicare legislation in 1965, or to persuade the AMA to support it. As you acknowledge, it passed only because LBJ and the Democrats had gained huge majorities in both chambers and were able to muscle it through. They got little to no support from Republicans during the committee process, and managed to get only a relatively small number of GOP votes for the final legislation, again, because the train was leaving the station and the legislation was very popular with the public. Medicare was a partisan Democratic triumph. Bipartisan reaching out had little or no success, and conservative Republicans, including prominent GOPers like Newt Gingrich and John McCain, have continued to express opposition to both programs in the ensuing decades. "Bipartisan centrism" did not bring Medicare into being. BTW, attacks against the medical profession and the insurance industry did not bring the Affordable Care Act into being either. Major physician groups including the AMA, major hospital groups like the AHA, major pharmaceutical groups, and even the insurance industry all were carefully cultivated by the Obama administration and congressional leaders, and they ended up signing on to the legislation. It would never have passed in 2010 over their opposition. TVD, you still refuse to acknowledge that the Dems, particularly Senate Finance Committee chair Baucus, worked strenuously for a year to reach a deal with Republicans, and got totally stiffed. Some conservative commentators like David Frum still criticize the Republicans for not being willing to compromise and cut a deal on health care reform. Finally, contrary to your statement that Medicare, Medicaid, and the Civil Rights Act will never be reversed, many of today's Republicans have pledged to do just that. Your confidence is misplaced because you do not seem to understand the nature of today's Republican Party.

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