January 3, 2009

"The political ground is already shifting under Big Labor's card-check initiative."

"The unions poured unprecedented money and manpower into getting Democrats elected; their payoff was supposed to be a bill that would allow them to intimidate more workers into joining unions."
Paradoxically, it's [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid's bigger majority that is now hurting him. In 2007, he got every Democrat (save South Dakota's Tim Johnson, who was out sick) to vote for cloture. But it was an easy vote. Democrats like Mr. Pryor knew the GOP held the filibuster, and that Mr. Bush stood ready with a veto. Now that Mr. Reid has 58 seats, red-state Democrats in particular are worried they might actually have to pass this turkey, infuriating voters and businesses back home.
I love this. The Democrats must now take responsibility for the things they've been promoting.
If Al Franken pulls out a win in Minnesota, Mr. Reid might be inspired to use his 59 votes to forge ahead. Some House Democrats are also suggesting union intimidation would in fact "stimulate" the economy, and that the legislation ought to be attached to the upcoming spending package.
I hope Al Franken does win — precisely and paradoxically because I want brakes on Congress. So that happened because a comedian — did he really win his election? — voted for it? The Senate Democrats will have to worry that's what we'll say about their bad legislation. So maybe they'll see the importance of looking like competent adults and exercise restraint. You know, they already have the problem of looking like clowns — there's the Blago-Burris nonsense and the prospect Caroline Kennedy. If a comedian arrives the fear of looking like clowns should kick into high gear. That fear gives me hope.

21 comments:

Michael_H said...

Theme Song.

Zeb Quinn said...

If a comedian arrives the fear of looking like clowns should kick into high gear. That fear gives me hope.

Not much of a reed to be grasping for.

Christy said...

Forget Professor Panarin's map and theory. Card check may well spark a civil war and the map will break down along the lines of right to work states.

Fred4Pres said...

Insane Clown Possee!


I am not as enthused about this.

Big Mike said...

Ah, so that's what you meant when you said you'd be voting for hope.

Lawgiver said...

I so hope Franken wins. Bush is a decent man portrayed as a lying buffoon while Franken is a lying buffoon portrayed as a decent man.

Ruth said...

Dream on! They have been acting like clowns for a long time and they still get re-elected. They have no shame and are not about to worry about what we really think. Unless the lobbyists start laughing there is no hope and they are not on the side of the public. I feel the most discouragement in the government in all my 72 years.

Pogo said...

To hope that an all-Democrat House, Senate, and Presidency don't actually follow through on the policies they stated they intend to vote for seems rube goldbergian, banking on a double-secret reverse psychology switcheroo, a plan-so-crazy-it-might-work.

And the Vikings might win the Super bowl this year.

An Edjamikated Redneck said...

Hell, I'd imagine even the Blue state Dems are worried about passing card check.

This is the first time in damn near 20 years the Dems have had to actually govern, and now is a helluva time to find out they aren't competent enough to actually do it.

The best news is the next four years may see the end the two party system, as the conservatives strengthen (and hopefully more mainline) the Libertarians, and the libs do the same to the green party.

After Bush the conservatives are fed up, and after teh Dem special interests are all thrown under the bus, I can see wholesale desertians from both parties.

The Drill SGT said...

Ann said...I hope Al Franken does win — precisely and paradoxically because I want brakes on Congress.

That's frankly idiotic.

By extension, to think that a Senate with a filibuster proof majority is somehow going to be more contrained because of one party's complete ability to ignore the minority doesn't speak well for your understanding of the Constitution or at least applied Politics.

SteveR said...

The idiotic conduct of the Congress, and in particular the Senate, is precisely because they are not influenced by fear.

OSweet said...

I wonder how much that 1980 Lincoln Medallion I got from Al Franken is worth now.

knox said...

I hope Al Franken does win — precisely and paradoxically because I want brakes on Congress.

That's frankly idiotic.


Or Frankenly, at the very least.

MayBee said...

So that happened because a comedian — did he really win his election? — voted for it? The Senate Democrats will have to worry that's what we'll say about their bad legislation.

So your theory is if Franken doesn't win, the Dems and their 58 seats will push ahead without fear of having the comedian/clownish connection made?

Or do you think the American people won't notice the Dems have enacted clownish legislation if we don't have a comedian in office to make it literal for us?

Deb said...

Or do you think the American people won't notice the Dems have enacted clownish legislation if we don't have a comedian in office to make it literal for us?

They never noticed before, and there have always been comedians/clowns in congress.

Simon said...

The Drill SGT said...
"Ann said...I hope Al Franken does win — precisely and paradoxically because I want brakes on Congress. That's frankly idiotic." (Pogo said something similar, also.)

I'll defend this one. I think that what she's getting at is an entirely non-idiotic proposition - indeed, a public choice-friendly proposition - albeit one that I think is somewhat overstated.

As I understand it, her point is that so long as the Democrats don't have the votes to pass a given measure, it is easy for red state democrats to go along to get along; without the votes to pass, supporting cloture or even voting for the underlying bill is a cheap choice - a choice without consequences is barely a choice at all. But when the votes are present, red state Democrats may balk, unwilling to make the same choice when the choice has a consequence (viz. the bill passing).

I read Althouse to be denying that legislators will vote consistently over because their votes are premised on a cost-benefit analysis of their own needs that will shift in response to circumstances. To explore that further, I want to go back to a comment I wrote about a similar issue here here; since that site is so monumentally bloated, I'll say it again here. Shaw suggested, in a similar context, that the blue dogs will pose an obstacle to Democrats passing liberal legislation in the form they prefer; the Democratic caucus can't be treated as monolithic, he argued, because some of its members are much less liberal than others, and will balk at measures that are too far to the left.

My response was that this overstates how much of an obstacle the blue dogs will pose because it assumes an idealized model where legislators follow their proclivities. This misconceives the incentives and pressures operating on the blue dogs, and the tools available to their managers. To be sure, I agreed, when the votes of the blue dogs (or any subset of them) are not needed, they will be free to vote as they please. When their votes are needed, however, immense pressure will be brought to bear on them, and it is entirely foreseeable that they will buckle when one considers their incentives.

To see why, consider a board member faced with a choice between course A and course B; choosing the former will anger the corporation's managers, and choosing the latter risks angering the stockholders. A reasonable person will choose the former.* The managers are a direct, present, and actual threat to the person's fortunes, and although the latter can pose an equal threat, being divided and inattentive, they are less likely to use it. Put another way, managers are concentrated and strong while investors are dispersed and weak. See generally Berle & Means, The Modern Corporation and Private Property (1932).

The situation of a blue dog is much the same. She, too, has managers and stockholders of a sort. The people with the most direct say over the blue dog's day-to-day comforts and ambitions (i.e. her chances of advancement) are her colleagues, and particularly, her party's Congressional leadership. Like managers, this group is concentrated and strong; the blue dog's constituents back home, by contrast, are more like investors: dispersed, weak, and not closely-attentive (rationally ignorant, even). In ordinary situations, these pressures tilt the scales decisively, inclining the blue dog towards compliance with the leadership. And it is bolstered by practical political realities: the advantages of incumbency further limit the pull of voters vs. that of the leadership, while the need to raise campaign funds and the threat thereto of running afoul of liberal pressure groups, increases the pull of compliance vs. the threat of the voters.

All of this adds up, it seems to me, to a cost-benefit analysis that limits the threat to the majority's agenda from the blue dogs, assuming that the leadership is smart in picking its battles and deciding where to apply pressure.

With this in mind, let’s revisit Althouse’s point. Her theory, I think, comes to this: so long as a liberal bill will not pass, cost-benefit analysis will push the blue dogs to appease their leaders and liberal pressure groups by voting for the bill. Although they may receive criticism back home, it will be muted and largely ineffective; the electorate is divided and rationally ignorant, so it can be relied on to remain somnolent when their representative votes for something that does not actually pass.

If a bill passes, however, the scale is weighted differently. When something has actually happened, the benefits of considering the representative’s actions increase, and the costs will likely fall, too: political opponents of the blue dog (and national GOP operatives) will have strong incentives to lay information about the bill before the blue dog’s constituents. All of this increases the tug of the electorate on the blue dog, because she of course realizes that while their leaders can make their life in Congress less comfortable and successful, the electorate can end it entirely. In consequence, when a bill that will be very unpopular back home may pass as a result of their vote, the cost-benefit analysis changes, and if the shift is sufficient, so, too, will the legislator’s vote.

For these reasons, the Democratic caucus can’t be treated as monolithic. The paradox is that the closer it gets to a majority, the more likely marginal members of the caucus are to vote against it on specific bills, even if that member has previously “supported” the bill. As my comments above imply, I think that Althouse overstates just how much of a limit on the majority’s agenda this effect will pose, but I think she’s correct – decidedly non-idiotic – to identify the effect.


____________________
* Which is to say a rational actor; we can assume that society is comprised of people "striving to satisfy their respective wants," acting rationally to maximize their satisfactions, see Hart & Sacks, The Legal Process 4 (Eskridge & Frickey, eds. 1994); Mercuro & Medema, Economics and the Law 57 (1998), and "when people or institutions begin to behave in a manner that seems to be entirely against their own interests, it’s because we don’t understand what their motives really are."

Pastafarian said...

Simon said: "In consequence, when a bill that will be very unpopular back home may pass as a result of their vote, the cost-benefit analysis changes, and if the shift is sufficient, so, too, will the legislator’s vote."

This is a very good explanation and defense of Althouse's position, but I think that it all falls apart when you factor in this fact: The electorate will be told over and over again by the liberal media that the shitty economy isn't the fault of card check or any of the other anti-business moves of the current Democrat congress or administration -- anything bad will be the lingering effects of the Bush administration.

And the electorate is stupid enough to believe this; and the Democrats know that they'll believe it.

And even if they lose a few percent of their constituency with their ultra-leftwing agenda, they know that they'll be able to cement in place and make permanent all of those great voter's rights initiatives that they used in the last election -- 200,000 fraudulent votes in Ohio will make up for a lot of blue dog defection.

I don't think that Althouse's proposition is idiotic, but it's certainly a miscalculation -- if this is really what she thinks. It seems more likely to me that she's still trying to justify, either to commenters or to herself, her irrational choice of voting for a socialist megalomanical naif (twice -- not just against McCain, but against all other Democratic candidates) in the last election.

Eli Blake said...

There are of course also several moderate Republicans up in 2010 in union-heavy states (Voinovich and Specter spring immediately to mind.)

Probably it will go like the Senate usually does and end up with a compromise.

This started with unions specifically focused on one company in particular that has vigorously (and at times illegally) resisted unionization: Wal-Mart. So likely a very narrow version of 'card-check' will be written (maybe stipulating a high minimum number of employees before it applies) that will in effect give the unions an avenue to organize Wal-Mart but won't apply to most other businesses.

Ralph said...

And the electorate is stupid enough to believe this; and the Democrats know that they'll believe it.

Yes, they got the New Deal tax increases on top of Hoover's, and it took 50 years to get the top rates under 40% again, which had nothing to do with the prosperity of the last 25 years.

I'm hoping Detroit's problems have killed card check.

MadisonMan said...

Be careful what you wish for.

cubanbob said...

Card check if passed will be a boon to the Republicans. It will almost guarantee them a takeover of Congress in 2010. The backlash against coerced unionism might be so great that it actually results in a repeal of card check and a national right to work act. Soon enough when the pension obligations of state and local employees comes to ahead, the result may well be the banning of government workers unions when the tax payers rebel.

IF GM management had any brains they would hold a half price sale for all their unsold inventory, turn it to cash and file for chapter eleven. The cash raised would far exceed what Congress will grant them and would be more than adequate for their DIP financing and insuring factory guarantees. They would be able to set aside all of the unions contracts, close the unprofitable plants, trim the redundant workforce, eliminate the 'job bank' workers, shed their absurd medical insurance and pension legacy obligations muscled by the unions. Then could actually compete and be profitable like their German and European competitors. And like them, pay the CAFE fines and sell the vehicles the public actually wants. They can always import the econo cars from their foreign subsidiaries in Mexico and Brazil and sell them at a competitive price to the Koreans.

The business of business is to make money for their owners; not to be a charity.