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Conservatives are coming for the Democrats on their blind side — the left. The evidence is everywhere. At tea parties and town halls, conservative demonstrators oppose health care reform with signs bearing the abortion-rights slogan “Keep your laws off my body” or the line “Obama lies, Grandma dies” — an echo of the “Bush lied, they died” T-shirts worn to protest the Iraq war. Conservative activists are yelling “Nazi!” and “Big Brother!” where they used to shout “Nanny state!” and “Big Government!”
Conservative protesters from around the country flooded Pennsylvania Avenue Saturday, railing against what they called President Obama’s plan for government-run health care and Congress’s tax-and-spend policies. Police officials declined to release a crowd estimate, but the number of protesters along the route appeared to number well into the tens of thousands. The overwhelmingly white crowd ranged widely in age, and has been orderly, with no arrests reported. By mid morning crowds had poured into Freedom Plaza, just blocks from the White House, for a pre-march rally to the steps of Congress. Demonstrators held up signs reading, “Public option is the death of freedom,” “No nanny state,” and “Where’s the birth certificate?” One person held up a placard picturing a gun next to the head of an elderly woman. “No triggers for me,” read the sign. “I see our nation changing into something the roots of us don’t want,” said Jim Bryant, an aviation consultant from Trenton, Georgia. “Why turn the greatest nation in the entire history of mankind into something else?” People traveled to the protest from around the country, with some spending as much as half a day in commute by bus or train. Adam Brandon, a FreedomWorks spokesman, said the organization had begun planning for today’s event in March. Glenn Beck, the conservative talk show host, also rallied his listeners in recent weeks, urging them to make the trek to Washington in a show of force against Obama. Judy Spann, who came to Washington from Fort Myers, Florida, said she had not been politically active before but had decided to make the trip to Washington because she was furious over what she characterized as Obama’s plan to stage a takeover of the nation’s health care system. “I have never been involved in political issues, but I’ve been really fired up seeing America going off course,” she said. “I really think [Obama] thought the American people were sleeping, but he’s awakened a sleeping giant.” Jack Boyle, who traveled here from Allentown, Pennsylvania, said he had to come to Washington because he was infuriated by what he saw as Congress’s lack of spending discipline. “We can’t sleep at night.” It was spending that also motivated Steve and Synthia Cobb to come here from Cordele, Georgia. “We have to take a stand to save our country,” he said. “The silent majority is being ignored.” “Ladies and Gentlemen: Welcome to Waterloo!” Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) said to the cheering crowd, referencing his July remark that health care reform could be Obama's Waterloo. "Friends, this is a critical battle for the heart and soul of America, and for freedom itself," said DeMint. "Freedom fighters are outnumbered in congress, but not in America. If you continue to stand up and speak out, we will save freedom in America,” Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), who chairs the conservative Republican Study Committee, explained that most of the people at the protest were upset about fiscal issues. Price is one of a handful of fiscally conservative Republican officials scheduled to address the crowd, along with Sen. DeMint (whose political action committee is listed as a march co-sponsor) and Reps. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Mike Pence of of Indiana. Beck is scheduled to speak via video, though there have been logistical issues, and it's not yet clear if Freedomworks will play the video. “Americans are smart people. They understand that you can’t mortgage your future on the backs of their children and grandchildren,” he said. As they walked down the street, people chanted “You Lie!”, echoing a phrase South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson directed against Obama during a joint session of Congress last week. “No more czars!” yelled others. The rally was organized by FreedomWorks, a small-government organization run by former House Republican Leader Dick Armey that took a large role in putting together the conservative backlash at town hall-style events over the August recess and the spring tea parties.
When the Democratic agenda stalled in July and it became clear that Congress would not vote on health care reform before the August recess, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) asserted that she was “not afraid of August. It’s just a month.” As Congress returns from recess this week, Pelosi and the Democratic leadership will be greeted by anxious members who got an earful from voters at town hall meetings. Far from the optimism Democrats felt after the past election, they are singing the old Hank Williams tune, “The roses have faded, there’s frost at my door. The birds in the morning don’t sing anymore.” If only former President George W. Bush was still around to blame. What happened? The United States has a national debt just under $12 trillion — and that is growing by roughly $4 billion a day. We are broke and on an unsustainable fiscal course. These numbers do not even fully reflect the catastrophic shortfall in our existing entitlement programs, which will come under increasing pressure as the baby boomers begin to retire. Both the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and the White House agree that President Barack Obama’s budget will add an additional $10 trillion in red ink during the next decade. Outside of the 10-year window, the budget projections only get worse. This reality fills Americans with anxiety as our fiscal health eerily resembles Argentina. Citizens ask themselves: How will we pay this debt down to manageable levels, and who will pick up the tab? Will debt be paid back through higher taxes, or will the government just turn on the printing presses and attempt to inflate itself out of this fiscal time bomb? As a nation, the time has come to live within our means, and that is the message concerned citizens delivered during the congressional monthlong recess. This is the anxiety that drove the tea parties in April and continued into the town halls. In light of the fact that we cannot cover our existing commitments to Medicare, where are we going to get the money for a new health care entitlement, as proposed in H.R. 3200? The administration and Congress are playing a shell game with the true cost of the program, claiming that over a 10-year period it is only an additional $1 trillion in spending. But when you read the details, the true cost after the first 10 years of full implementation brings the price tag much higher, to more than $2.4 trillion, according to the Senate Budget Committee. And to pay for the plan, Democrats are proposing $500 billion in Medicare cuts. But these cuts are being sold as “savings.” On one hand, supporters of H.R. 3200 claim that Medicare is more efficient than private insurers, but on the other hand, they claim there is $500 billion in fat to be trimmed that will not harm seniors’ care. Which is it? Americans are concerned the bill will have the long-term consequence of phasing out private health insurance, forcing citizens to reveal confidential financial and health records to some government bureaucracy and failing to address the core issue of cost.
Republican leaders fired up hundreds conservative activists outside the Capitol today, reveling in the opposition to President Barack Obama and promising that their efforts were just the beginning of a conservative renewal that would hit its peak in November 2010. But their man of the hour, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), was a no show. Wilson was expected to attend to the rally, sponsored by the activist group FreedomWorks, but decided to take a lower profile amid the media frenzy surrounding his “you lie!” charge at Obama last night. The crowd, however, used Wilson’s words, creating a chorus at several points chanting “You lie! You lie! You lie!” House Republicans who did show up stoked the crowd. “Was that an August or what?” Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said to wild cheers. “The only thing better than August is going to be next November.” About 800 activists gathered for the rally, which was sponsored by FreedomWorks a small-government organization that helped to stir up a conservative frenzy that spilled over on angry town hall meetings last month. Coming the day after Obama’s dramatic joint address to Congress, the group was trying to gin up opposition to a government health insurance option and other spending plans. House Minority Leader John Boehner and House Minority Whip Eric Cantor praised attendees for their efforts, and urged them to keep up the fight in the months to come. “The American people can stop this nonsense in Washington,” Boehner said to whoops. “It’s going to take the involvement of the American people to say, ‘Enough is enough.’” “We’ve got a situation where we’ve got to speak up, we’ve got to speak up for America,” said Cantor. Activists also celebrated the downfall of former Obama green jobs czar Van Jones, who was forced to resign last week after conservatives, led by talk show host Glenn Beck, criticized Jones for flirting with a September 11 conspiracy group. “No more czars! No more czars! No more czars!” the crowd chanted. Attendees, many of whom railed against Obama’s health care reform push, carried signs reading, “Who owns your body? You or your government?” and “Liberty or Death, don’t tread on me.” But the rally, just two days before FreedomWorks’ scheduled “March on Washington,” was largely meant as a call to arms for conservatives ahead of the 2010 campaign season. “Remember what Ronald Reagan said, ‘You ain’t seen nothin’ yet,’” said former Rep. Dick Armey, who heads up FreedomWorks. “We’re going to take back Congress in 2010 and we’re going to take back this country in 2012,” House GOP Conference Chairman Mike Pence declared to hoots of approval. Democrats have called FreedomWorks an Astroturf group, charging that it has been funded by corporate interests. But the conservatives today fired back. “I don’t care what they call you. I call you patriots,” said Pence.
Amid White House concerns that it’s losing the message war on both its left and right fronts, President Obama on Thursday tried to rally his grass-roots army to regain momentum and redefine the battle for health care reform. In a conference call with Organizing For America activists, the 13-million-strong grass-roots wing of his machine, Obama told supporters they must battle misinformation being spread by opponents of his plan, such as claims that the bills in Congress would cover illegal immigrants or amount to a government takeover of health care. “Now, come on. We can have a real debate because health care’s hard and there are some legitimate issues out there that have to be sorted through and worked on,” Obama said. “The best ambassadors for true information, factual information is all of you. You have more credibility than anybody on television when it comes to your family members and your friends and your neighbors and that’s why you being involved is so important,” Obama told supporters. For many Democratic activists, Tuesday call raised the question: What took the White House so long? “I have no explanation for this,” said Joe Trippi, a supporter of the Obama plan and grass-roots activism expert. “I cannot figure out why they didn’t start the mobilization effort earlier and why it does appear that the right got the jump on it.” Conservative attacks about rationing and “death panels," however, are only half of the White House’s problems. In recent days, Obama’s own liberal base — and their powerful talk-show host allies — have opened a new front by attempting to define health care reform as the creation of a government-run insurance program. Without a so-called "public option," it’s not real reform, they argue — even as White House officials have said that while a public plan is "the preferred option," its not "the essential element" of a successful plan. The dual fronts have left the normally silver-tongued Obama administration nearly stuttering with frustration. Asked about if the White House had failed to effectively galvanize its base, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs on Wednesday opened his answer with: “Well, again, I'd — I think I would dispute the beginning characterization. I think, again, particularly at the events that you saw the president do, I don't — I don't think you noticed a lack of support for providing health care reform among those that were outside of the president's events,” he said. This isn’t the first time that the Obama machine has been ambushed in a message war by the opposition. In the administration’s earliest debate over a stimulus bill, the White House messaging machine seemed to be humming along — until the Republicans found a wayward provision related to abortions and used their own powerful talk show host allies to begin driving down public support for the economic recovery package. In that case, the president managed to slug his way through the rough patch and go on to win. The White House now needs a similar turnaround to preserve his chief domestic policy — and his supporters are anxiously awaiting the plan. Ahead of the call, Organizing for America’s Pennsylvania Director Elizabeth Lucas said she hoped to hear the president’s take on the situation and to “talk about some strategy.” It’s not that Obama’s grass-roots army has been standing idle. Jeremy Bird, the organization’s deputy national director, can tick off a host of behind-the-scenes accomplishments: More than 1.5 million people have taken more than 3 million actions — including canvassing, phone banking and hosting local events — to promote the president’s plan.
When CNBC’s Rick Santelli argued last week that President Barack Obama’s mortgage bailout plan would force hardworking Americans to pay for their neighbors’ mistakes, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs dismissed him as a know-nothing derivatives trader out of touch with Main Street. But if the White House simply dismisses Santelli’s point, it may do so at its peril: A Rasmussen poll released Monday found that 55 percent of those surveyed thought federal mortgage subsidies to those most at risk of losing their homes would be “rewarding bad behavior.” Santelli’s “Network”-style diatribe has already spawned a Facebook group and plans for “tea parties” protesting the bailout in major cities including Chicago and Washington. Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey’s group FreedomWorks has spun off a site called angryrenter.com to organize those who don’t own their homes to oppose the mortgage plan. And it’s not just Republicans who are complaining. Although Obama still floats on air among Democrats generally, he’ll need to use Tuesday night’s unofficial State of the Union address to build support for his housing plan even among members of his own party. According to the Rasmussen poll, even 49 percent of Democrats oppose mortgage subsidies like the ones Obama has proposed. Among them: Lynn Powers, 39, a Bethesda, Md., resident who describes herself as a “liberal Democrat” who has been hardworking, prudent and responsible — and now feels “like a fool.” “We were in the market,” she says. “We put out eight bids and got outbid every time. It was very upsetting for us. I want to see some accountability and responsibility across the board. The only way for me to have an affordable home, and I’m not looking for a McMansion at all, is if we let the chips fall, in a sense. This is still the bubble — the prices have to come down. You can’t just subsidize some of the people. I don’t know how you deleverage. It is going to be painful, but this is also hurting the people who behaved responsibly.” What does she mean by “responsibly”? “People who didn’t overbuy. Who stuck to their guns. Who read their contracts,” she says. She and her husband wound up buying a 600-square-foot studio and moved to a rental when they had their daughter, now 18 months old. “My husband and I paid for our cars in cash,” she says. “We have no credit card debt. We have no student loans. I don’t buy Starbucks, but that’s because they’re non-fair trade, nonenvironmental.” When they tried to buy a house, she said, “We just felt outgunned.” And now, she says, “I feel very outgunned as a citizen.”
If you Googled “stimulus” earlier this month, you probably stumbled upon a collection of ads blasting the Democrats’ economic recovery plan. Search the phrase “card check” and Google turns up labor union ads backing the controversial Employee Free Choice Act. The “Roy Blunt” Google search, meanwhile, sends you straight to a sponsored link for the Missouri Republican’s new Senate campaign. This isn’t an accident. Campaigns and other political organizations are finally getting Google-savvy, latching onto an advertising tool that most companies have been using for years. The campaigns are using targeted search terms — acquired in Google auctions — to put their message in front of interested online readers in hopes of influencing the political debate outside traditional media and advertising outlets. The stimulus debate offers a case study in how special interests push their spin on Google to reach people who care about the topic of the day in Washington. “Savvy political marketers are looking at this as a way to build their base,” said Peter Greenberger, who helms Google’s elections and issues team in Washington, D.C. “The stimulus was the perfect example of this.” FreedomWorks, an anti-tax group that crusades against government expansion, pegged a series of online campaigns to words like “stimulus” or “stimulus package” the week of the big vote. These include an online petition against the plan, a campaign to call congressional offices and an ad campaign criticizing conservative Blue Dog Democrats who voted for the bill. House Minority Leader John A. Boehner also used targeted searches to highlight a GOP alternative to the Democrats’ stimulus bill. His political action committee, the Freedom Project, sponsored links to popular search terms to spread the Republican message online. “It’s very user-friendly and very effective,” said Don Seymour, a spokesman for the Freedom Project. “The beauty of this is that you can change the campaign on the fly.” The GOP alternative is one of three campaigns Boehner’s Freedom Project has pegged to Google search terms this year. The first was an online petition opposing the release of the second $350 billion of a Wall Street bailout. The last protested the Democrats’ decision not to post the stimulus online for 48 hours, as they had promised. Companies have employed this advertising strategy for years as a business tool, but they have also lagged in using Google as a tool to influence voters. Automakers, for example, have used Google advertising for quite some time to market their cars online. But the auto giants have been less aggressive about taking their case to voters online until last fall, when the automakers used targeted searches to make the case for what became $17.4 billion in federal loans. “They are very savvy marketers about selling cars,” Greenberger said. “They have not done as much on the issues game.” Google started building its political market in 2007 in the early stages of the presidential campaign. Greenberger and his team set out to give the presidential campaigns a vehicle to target potential voters, donors and volunteers. The Google staff also helped the campaigns tailor online searches to target the most sympathetic audience.
When you get beyond the rhetoric of change, it is astonishing how close President Barack Obama is following his predecessor in economic policy. Just as George W. Bush attempted to jump-start the economy with a jolt of hundreds of billions of dollars, Obama is doubling down on the bailout bets. In the Troubled Assets Relief Program process, the legislative branch is authorizing nearly a trillion dollars in spending.But isn’t this backward? Doesn’t Congress have the sole power to authorize executive branch spending, and the president, the power to veto congressional spending authorizations?I opposed the $700 billion bailout legislation because, among other objections, I believed it to be an unconstitutional delegation of congressional authority to an unelected official in the executive branch. Both the short history of the legislation’s implementation and a new legal analysis published by FreedomWorks Foundation confirm my original fears. This dramatic role reversal, with the executive telling Congress what to do, is exactly why the bailout is unconstitutional and must be stopped.The bailout legislation violates the bedrock constitutional principle of nondelegation by investing the treasury secretary — an unelected member of the executive branch — with too much discretionary authority to exercise too much power. In a recent legal analysis prepared for FreedomWorks Foundation, attorneys note, “Rather than making the policy choices necessary to guide the secretary’s discretion, Congress has given the secretary far-reaching power to intervene in the nation’s economy and effectively to nationalize American businesses — upon the thinnest reed of statutory constraints. And in doing so, Congress has effectively chosen not to make law but, rather, to make the treasury secretary the lawmaker.”The debate over the second half of the bailout being authorized continues this backward approach to lawmaking. It has members of the Congress asking the Treasury Department to make promises that it will do better this time than it did before. But it is Congress’ constitutional duty to tell Treasury what to do, not ask.Critics may say government being bound by the Constitution is a quaint idea, and the current crisis allows no time for it. But the Constitution is as relevant as ever. Drawing on their firsthand experience with King George, the Constitution’s Framers made the exercise of power difficult by design to protect liberty, to force deliberation, and to ensure accountability — all of which are threatened by the continuation of the bailout.
<p>As the holiday season commences, it’s worth taking stock of the last gift that President George W. Bush and the 110th Congress have left for U.S. taxpayers. </p> <p>It’s a package of about $8.7 trillion dollars’ worth of potential taxpayer commitments for loans, guarantees and other bailout goodies for businesses and distressed homeowners. </p> <p>Amid the tissue paper: </p> <p>• More than $1.5 trillion in Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. loan guarantees, including a $139 billion assist to the lending arm of General Electric Corp. </p>
<p>It’s not an easy week to be a Bailout Buster. </p> <p>The loose coalition of free market conservatives and congressional staff opposed the government-sponsored rescues of investment bank Bear Stearns, insurance company American International Group and mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Now the Bush administration is proposing the largest government-funded bailout in American history. And the Bailout Busters are bracing themselves for defeat once again.</p>