Substance Abuse


Substance Abuse


Leonard Zwelling

What is going on in Congress right now with Democrats fighting over two infrastructure bills and Republicans relishing them doing so is nothing short of moronic.

First, as Michelle Goldberg points out in The New York Times on October 5, Arizona Democratic Senator Krysten Sinema has tied the debate up in knots simply because no one knows what it will take to get her to vote for anything in the social welfare package, if she will. Considering her past as a progressive activist, that’s pretty humorous. I think she became enamored of money—hers and her campaign’s.

Second, as Nobel laureate economist Paul Krugman points out in the same issue of the Times, it is the substance of the legislation that matters not the price tag and both the Democrats and the media are guilty of substance abuse—that is ignoring it. This is another example of the Pelosi quote about the ACA: “we’ll have to pass it to see what’s in it.” Wrong, Nancy!

At this point is there anything that could be done to save any of this legislation and with it the Biden Presidency which is in great danger of flaming out within a year of inauguration day?

There is, but it will be very hard for everyone.

Let’s start at the top. President Biden has got to get some real skin in the game by button-holing the progressives in his party with the solemn message to get on board with the road and bridges bill now and we will get to the social programs later or he will actively run against them in 2022. AOC needs to be brought to heel. She is only a young Congresswoman from the Bronx who goes to rich galas wearing dresses with liberal messages on them and expects to be taken seriously. Not by me. Rein her in and if she refuses, find a centrist Democrat to challenge her in a primary next year and make it clear that when she vies for Chuck Schumer’s Senate seat, the party will not be with her. Mr. Biden has to begin to act like someone who actually won last year, not a nice guy. No one will care if he’s nice if he gets nothing done.

Next, the centrist Democrats need to articulate exactly what they want in the social package and then develop a process wherein each aspect of the program is reviewed separately with congressional hearings so the American public can understand what a program will do, what it will cost, and what the benefits are likely to be. As Krugman points out the benefits derived from legislation on improving child care and eliminating child poverty as well as legislation to reduce climate change are good ideas that will pay for themselves. Why lump that in with hearing aids on Medicare?

Then the liberal Democrats have got to articulate what is a deal breaker and what they can live without. That’s called negotiating and compromising.

Now given that this is Congress and the four P’s still reign, personalities are shaping a lot of the debate and that’s the problem.

Biden seems tired and old and appears to be an inept political hack. Nancy Pelosi is even worse on all counts. Bernie Sanders is both grating and uninformed. The country rejected him a few times already. What’s it going to take to make him realize he lost? Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy are simply obstructionists who only want to sabotage the legislation for their own selfish political ends. These are not our best or brightest. In fact, they are about as far from best or bright as one can imagine our politicians can go.

If the Democrats want to make it easy for Donald Trump to make a comeback, keep going the way they are right now. If they want to try to hold onto their slim majorities in 2022 and win the White House again in 2024, get with the program and work it out. And Mr. Biden needs to lead. Thus far, he’s the dog whose tail is being wagged by AOC and Bernie and that’s not going to get it done. Bow-wow!

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