John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


Two Articles

Posted on June 7, 2010
Two articles caught my eye this morning. The New York Times has a front-page article about a new strategy from House Democrats, which presents a clear contrast from the House Republicans. Where Republicans announced an aggressive push to interact with the voting public with a new campaign called America Speaks Out, the Democrats chose a different tactic. They avoided the people.

Specifically, according to the Times, they avoided town-hall meetings. Here is what the article said: “Of the 255 Democrats who make up the majority in the House, only a handful held town-hall-style forums as legislators spent last week at home in their districts. It was no scheduling accident. With images of overheated, finger-waving crowds still seared into their minds from the discontent of last August, many Democrats heeded the advice of party leaders and tried to avoid unscripted question-and-answer sessions. The recommendations were clear: hold events in controlled settings — a bank or credit union, for example — or tour local businesses or participate in community service projects.”

The second article gave me a good insight into why the Democrats are not too excited about interacting with taxpaying voters. Chris Cillizza had a very accurate reading as to what is facing Sen. Blanche Lincoln (Ark.) and other centrist Democrats this primary season: an onslaught from government labor unions. “Ostensibly, Lincoln's opponent is Lt. Gov. Bill Halter. But the practical reality is that she is running against a handful of major labor unions — the Service Employees International Union and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, to name two.”

This is happening in primary after primary around the country. Government labor unions are purging pro-business Democrats who believe that somehow, private enterprise has a role to play in our economy.

This election is setting up to be a battle between Republicans who believe in limited government and private-sector expansion and Democrats who are fighting to protect the labor contracts of government employees.

Across the nation, well-funded teachers unions are running hard-hitting ad campaigns against governors like Chris Christie in New Jersey and even Arnold Schwarzenegger in California for daring to cut back on teachers’ benefits, despite the fact that both states are getting ready to go bankrupt.

But these campaigns are not just aimed at Republicans. These days, they are run against Democrats who don’t toe the labor line. They have run brutal ads against New York Reps. Mike McMahon and Michael Arcuri. They are forming a third party to pressure Democrats in North Carolina.

But it is in Arkansas where big government labor is really flexing its muscles. It knows that if it can take Lincoln’s scalp, it can send an unmistakable signal to any Democrat who may want to coddle up to the business community.

Much has been reported about the so-called negative impact of the Tea Party movement on Republican chances this fall. Tea Partiers are motivated to vote because of the excessive government spending at the local, state and federal levels. They are sick of their taxes going up to pay for government pensions, more government workers, more government intrusion.

And in Republican primaries, the Tea Party has had some success. Sen. Bob Bennett (Utah) was one example of a politician who wasn’t quite conservative enough to please the primary voter.

So this election in November should set up to be an interesting clash of ideological opposites. On one side, you have the government labor unions, which have a vested interest in keeping government expanding, in keeping government spending growing, of protecting government benefits. On the other side, you have the taxpayers, who are sick and tired of paying for all the government and, worse, all of the government benefits.

It is interesting to note that with the Obama administration and congressional Democrats in charge, the government expanders are winning. In fact, in the latest jobs report, which came out last Friday, more than 90 percent that were created were temporary government positions. Private-sector employment expansion, by contrast, was anemic at best.

The reason taxpaying Americans are so frustrated with the Obama administration is that they understand the economics of it all. A government that expands at a far greater rate than the private sector is destined for bankruptcy, because without the private sector to pay the taxes, there won’t be a public sector. The public sector cannot sustain itself without a growing and vibrant private sector.

There is also the issue of fairness. Taxpayers who see that they no longer have secure, defined benefit pensions and easy access to healthcare have grown angry at the relatively posh lifestyle of the government bureaucrat. They see their localities and states going broke paying out the pensions and healthcare benefits of their local government retirees, just as they see their government services getting steadily worse. And frankly, they are growing tired of it.

So this fall will shape up to be a fight for the economic future of the country. On one hand, you have the protectors of government union workers who are fighting for bigger government and better benefits for government employees. On the other, you have the taxpayers, who are saying loudly and clearly: “Enough already.”

Democrats don’t want to face the taxpayers, because they don’t have any good answers for people who want the expansion of government to stop. They have to do the bidding of their government worker unions or they will face the same fate as Blanche Lincoln. For them, it is far better just to avoid the voters and hope for best this fall.