Last month Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) second-guessed President Obama’s decision to turn to health care reform after passing the Recovery Act in his first term. He told the National Press Club:
“After passing the stimulus, Democrats should have continued to propose middle-class-oriented programs and built on the partial success of the stimulus, but unfortunately Democrats blew the opportunity the American people gave them. We took their mandate and put all of our focus on the wrong problem — health care reform … Americans were crying out for an end to the recession, for better wages and more jobs; not for changes in their healthcare.”
This is a strange critique, because pursuing health care reform did not stop President Obama from building on the stimulus. Congress did.
In fact, President Obama proposed legislation in June 2010, three months after the Affordable Care Act was signed, that would have invested $80 billion of additional stimulus to prevent civil servant and teacher layoffs, extend business tax breaks, and aid the long-term unemployed.
Fifty-three senators rejected it, 41 Republicans and 12 Democrats. A Senate majority made clear: The stimulus spigot is turned off.
And without additional deficit spending in 2010, there was nothing else that could be done to expedite the end of the recession.
Schumer was not the problem in 2010; he voted for the bill.
But he should not distort the history of what happened. Obamacare was not the problem.
The problem was the 53 senators who refused to do what it took to end the recession as quick as possible, because Republicans wanted to blame Obama for a bad economy and some Democrats lacked the courage to explain to voters that fighting recessions takes spending money and bigger deficits.