Why the Democrats are increasingly becoming politically vulnerable is a topic that pundits are dissecting in great detail. A general consensus is that the root cause of the public’s growing discontent is a lack of progress on the economy and jobs.
While the economy and the job market have stabilized somewhat – even if they haven’t rapidly rebounded – the President and Congress haven’t gotten much credit for not letting the ship sink. In addition, most of the President’s and Congress’ major accomplishments occurred in the first part of 2009, while towards the end of the year the focus shifted to the very slow moving health care bill – which also included many real and concocted controversies.
Even the most recent Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update took a shot at the lack of accomplishments by quickly scrolling past these three items:
- Cash for Clunkers
- Defunding the F-22
- Credit Card Accountability Act
However, National Journal’s January 16th issue had a side-bar with a much more extensive list of 2009 accomplishments:
- Protections against wage discrimination (President signed on January 29)
- Expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (signed on February 4)
- The economic stimulus package (signed on February 17)
- A fiscal 2009 omnibus appropriations bill covering unfinished work from the previous Congress (signed March 11)
- A public lands package designating more than 2 million acres as protected wilderness (signed March 30)
- Expansion of national service programs (signed April 21)
- A fiscal 2010 budget resolution (Congress approved on April 29; President does not sign)
- Home mortgage reforms and foreclosure assistance measures (signed on May 20)
- Curbs on abusive credit card practices (signed on May 22)
- Pentagon acquisition reforms (signed on May 22)
- Sweeping tobacco regulations (signed on June 22)
- A fiscal 2009 supplemental appropriations bill to fund the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, flu-prevention efforts, and the “cash for clunkers” auto-rebate program (signed on June 24)
- Confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court (sworn in on August 8 )
- The fiscal 2010 Defense authorization bill, including an expansion of hate crime laws to cover offenses based on a victim’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability (signed on October 28)
- Extensions of unemployment benefits and the homebuyer tax credit (signed on November 6)
- The fiscal 2010 appropriations bills (signed on various dates in October and December)
So while the SNL skit was good comedy, it only picked up 3 pieces of 16 substantive Congressional actions – which were not just political talking points that could be written on the palm of a hand.
The bottom line seems to be that the President and the 111th Congress got handed a bucket of turds at the starting line, (e.g. crashing economy, dramatically deepening Federal deficit, and two wars), and they’ve been aggressively trying to keep things from stinking too much while making as much fertilizer as possible.
But no matter how much sugar and sweet smelling spices anyone could toss over the bucket, it still has a bunch of turds. Despite the progress made and the sweeteners tossed about to help people and companies maintain themselves through the economic crisis, the public still perceives that something is rotten and smelly with the government, (as well as financial institutions and some other large companies and organizations), and their response is to want to throw out anyone they can connect to the ongoing stink.