“No Man’s life liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session”.

- attributed to NY State Judge Gideon Tucker

Monday, November 1, 2010

Now They Tell Us! Brian Baird Comes Clean About Pelosi

This past weekend's Wall Street Journal in-depth interview, by John Fund, was with retiring Washington state Democratic Representative Brian Baird. He alleges that he's retiring "because the brutal congressional commute makes it impossible for him to see his twin five-year-old boys grow up." Fair enough. As a 12-year veteran, he's not running out just because he'll be in the minority come January.

I find Baird's comments totally disingenuous. Consider these passages from the interview,

""It's been an authoritarian, closed leadership. That style plus a general groupthink mentality didn't work when Tom DeLay called the shots," Mr. Baird says. "We've made some of the same damn mistakes, and we were supposed to be better. That's the heartbreak."

Mr. Baird, 54, is a loyal Democrat who voted for all of Speaker Nancy Pelosi's legislative priorities, including the stimulus bill, cap and trade and ObamaCare. But he admits all three have serious flaws."

So for all his sanctimony in the interview, remember, Baird was a party-line Pelosi soldier. He is one of those morons who believes that passing bad legislation on which people must rely, and must obey, is okay. Then serially fixing said flawed legislation, creating even more uncertainty- well, that's okay too.

"Democrats also watered down efforts to practice fiscal responsibility. "We initially had numbers a bit more honest than the Republicans—we at least included war costs in the budget," he says. "Now we're authorizing programs for three years instead of five in an attempt to pretend we're saving money."

When President Obama was elected in 2008, Mr. Baird was again optimistic that Democrats could bring real reform. But fierce Republican partisanship and the White House decision not to focus on job creation as its "number one, two and three" priority dashed that hope.

"Obama decided we weren't going to have a highway transportation bill because it might have required a gas tax increase," he recalls. After passing a misdirected stimulus bill, Mr. Obama made the fatal error of pushing forward with other priorities: cap and trade, financial services reform, ObamaCare. Each became compromised quickly.

For some of the shortcomings of financial regulatory reform, Mr. Baird blames the disillusioning battle over ObamaCare. "When the House had to pass the Senate version of health care unchanged, some members asked why should they invest the mental effort in mastering the details" of financial reform. Mr. Baird found parts of the bill mind-numbing.

Although he voted for it, he says he was troubled that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the entities at the heart of the housing meltdown, weren't addressed. They have clearly exercised undue influence on Capitol Hill, he notes. "When I was first elected I was puzzled why they were holding events in my honor as a mere freshman. I asked myself, why is a federal entity so involved in political activity?" "

I find these statements, again, disingenuous. So Baird had all these insights about and issues with various legislative proposals. But where was he on CNBC, Fox News, CNN, etc., complaining about them? Did he do so, and I missed those interviews? The last comment is hilarious, except it indicates how stupid Baird must be. Only "troubled" that Barney Frank's magical bill omitted Freddie and Fannie? C'mon, is anyone really this dense? They started the housing meltdown, led by Frank's directives from Congress. Was, and is, Baird so naive about the GSEs that he really 'asked' why they held an event for a freshman Rep?

"Regarding health care, his specialty, Mr. Baird gave House Democrats real heartburn. He voted against the first version of ObamaCare in November 2009, because the Congressional Budget Office and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services hadn't yet analyzed the bill's impact on insurance premiums and medical costs.
"What the hell were we doing voting on this? I had labor groups come to me and insist the bill was so important we couldn't wait to know what was in it," he recalls. "I asked them if they were handed a new union contract and told it was so important they had to agree to it without reading it, would they go along?" They continued to insist he vote for the bill and threatened him with a primary challenger.

Mr. Baird had developed his own health-care proposal that drew on his 23 years of experience as a licensed clinical psychologist treating patients with cancer and brain injuries. His plan would have provided universal health care but held down costs through vouchers for the poor, medical savings accounts for the middle class, and reform of malpractice insurance.

He admits to being frustrated that ideas like his never got a fair hearing in a Congress dominated by inertia and interest groups. "Our problems are now so grave we can't afford petty partisanship and closed thinking," he tells me."

All well and good, but, again, why was Baird silent? So long as these back-benchers remain silent, the parties will both continue to behave badly. Baird was elected by people in Washington, not Pelosi, Hoyer, Frank, et.al. Whose interests was he really serving with his silence?

"Mr. Baird stands by his vote for ObamaCare, noting that something had to be done for those denied insurance due to pre-existing conditions. But he acknowledges that the bill carried within it the seeds of its unpopularity. These include the nightmare mandate that all companies report to the IRS all of their business-to-business transactions over $600, so the government can capture unreported business income. At a recent forum with small business owners in his district, Mr. Baird was stunned at the complexity of the rules they now must follow.

"I warned my fellow Democrats that the insurance companies they were whacking could increase premiums just before the midterm election and blame them for it," he sighs. "I pointed out that the major benefits wouldn't kick in till 2014, but the costs were up front. I asked them, where was the political win? There was no real answer.""

Again, nice sentiments....now. Where was he nine months ago with this stuff in public? It's great to be brave now. How about when it mattered and might have affected legislative results? Sorry, Brian, you get no credit here for after-action honesty and 'courage.'

"In his new book, "Character, Politics and Responsibility," Mr. Baird argues that in order to afford caring for the needy, liberals will have to challenge "unsustainable entitlements." "I would eliminate the concept of entitlements and move to needs-based social insurance," he says. "The key is to both promote personal responsibility while lowering expenditures by not promising or giving money or other benefits to those who don't need it.""

Nice. Why wasn't this published online as an alternative view, rather than silently voting for Pelosi's bill?

"I ask Mr. Baird what he would tell the incoming class of freshmen Republicans if given the chance to address them before the new Congress convenes. He summarized his bottom line:

"Governing isn't as easy as you think. Many of you have taken pledges that are contradictory—to balance the budget and cut taxes, for example. You must be honest about the numbers, since our annual deficit now exceeds all discretionary spending combined. If you set as your goal to roll back the size of government, you have an obligation to answer the tough questions and show real courage, not just appeal to ideology. Treat the voters like adults." "

Not as easy as you think? I don't know about that. That pledge is feasible. The fact that Baird believes it is not means he is in the camp of believing people work harder as you raise tax rates. What an idiot!

Sure, honesty about numbers is important. So is treating voters as adults. But, as his former colleagues will likely see tomorrow/Wednesday morning, that's probably going to be the rule now, no longer an exception. And it will go for Republican in two more years, as well.

A different kind of tipping point, politically, may now have been reached.

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