Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer: Democrats Made a Mistake Putting Health Care Reform Before the Economy


Photo credit: Atomische * Tom Giebel /Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

At a speech at the National Press Club yesterday morning, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) argued that Democrats were wrong to take on health care reform so soon after the 2008 election.

"Unfortunately, Democrats blew the opportunity the American people gave them" after electing Barack Obama president and Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress, Schumer said, according to Bloomberg News. "We took their mandate and put all our focus on the wrong problem—health care reform." Democrats, he argued, should have focused on jobs and the economy first, and tackled health care reform later. It wasn't a mistake the pass the health law, in other words, but a mistake to put it at the top of the to-do list. 

These remarks are already getting a lot of attention, but Schumer isn't treading entirely new ground here. 

In 2010, after Democrats took a beating at the polls, retiring Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh wrote in The New York Times that his party "overreached by focusing on health care rather than job creation during a severe recession."

Bayh was more of a moderate than Schumer, of course, but by the time the 2010 midterm campaign kicked into gear, Democrats seemed to understand where the nation's political priorities lay. In the runup to that election, Democratic strategists tacitly admitted that the health care overhaul was not a big political winner, and that the economy was more important, with one party strategist telling the L.A. Times,  "I am not one who thinks our candidates should go out and sell healthcare reform. They have to stay focused on jobs, the economy and shaking up Washington." The Democratic strategy that year, which mostly avoided talking up Obamacare, more or less confirmed this thinking. 

This idea had actually started to seep into the political conversation earlier, around the beginning of 2010, right after the surprise election of Republican Sen. Scott Brown in Massachusetts put the passage of the health care in jeopardy. Democrats at the time, especially moderates, were scared, and some viewed the election as a referendum on the not-yet-passed health care bill, and a signal, perhaps, that the economy should have come first. Pundits like Charlie Cook argued explicitly that the mistake had been to focus on health care and not prioritize jobs—a version of what Schumer is saying today. 

Indeed, this isn't even very new for Schumer. The Senator told The New Yorker in 2010 that "if I were President I might not have [tried to pass health care legislation]."

Democrats, of course, initially thought they had put job creation and economic boosterism first. Remember, the first big item of the Obama era wasn't the health care law, which didn't pass until March of 2010, but the stimulus, which sailed through the legislative process in less than a month after Obama's inauguration, and was touted constantly for boosting the overall economy and creating millions of jobs. 

It's possible, I suppose, Schumer's statement, which is relatively detailed about the ways the law has cost the party, could signal that Democrats are starting to grapple with how politically problematic Obamacare has been, and may continue to be, for Democrats. While some rank and file Democrats were worried about the law's political prospects around the time of passage, the message from the party was that it would be a political success after passage. Obviously that has yet to prove correct. Obamacare probably cost Democrats the House in 2010. And as Schumer also noted today, the disastrous rollout of the exchanges last year contributed to the public disillusionment that helped Republicans take control of the Senate in this year's midterm.

But other parts of Schumer's statement suggest that he still has a few things to figure out. 

 "Republicans and the anti-government Tea Party filled that vacuum and spent 2010 convincing the average American that not only did Obamacare not work for them, not only would a parade of horribles emerge," Schumer also said today, noting the botched rollout of Obamacare's exchanges, "but they turned Obamacare into a general metaphor and falsely convinced the electorate that government couldn't work anywhere."

Democrats are "a pro-government party," he said. "We have been all along. We can't run from it."

So the problem was that Democrats embraced a big-government solution—Obamacare—thinking it would be a political advantage. It wasn't. Democrats ran from it, botched the implementation, and suffered as a result. 

And his proposed solution is to…embrace big-government solutions, because this time they'll work, and be good politics? 


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  1. How is the weather under that bus Barry? Say ‘hi’ to Clapper and the rest.

  2. Does Obamacare not cover his mammograms?

    1. We really could have ended the thread here….

      Hat Tip GMSM!

  3. Short of getting out of the way by repealing legislation and regulation, is there anything the government can do for the economy that won’t make things worse?

    1. With all the Louis XIV memes around Obama, do you think someone could explain “lasseiz vous faire” to him? (apologies for butchering the spelling)

    2. Actually, the simplest way to improve the status quo is to provide a more stable regulatory environment.

      At this point even a huge dollop of progressive regulations that are static would be better than the let’s-legislate-dramatically-from-the-hip crap that politicians are engaging in. At least in a static environment, people can make long range plans.

      1. No.

        While disrupting the rent seekers may indeed by disruptive to the larger economy in the long run it will pay off.

        Plus, they are rent seekers.

        The taste of bitter medicine is tolerable in order to eliminate parasites.

    3. That’s the hilarity of Schumer’s claim. If they’d focused on “programs to help the middle class” and “jobs,” it would have come to an economic Obamacare.

      Having proven the incompetence and evil of government with Obamacare, he then says we should have had moar government.

      1. Chuckie is just trying to cover demoncrap a$$.
        The first thong Oblamo did was the bailouts,and his “stimulus” that they claimed would solve the problems with the economy.
        Plus, Oblamocare had to be passed as soon as possible, so that it would have enough time to be relied upon by enough people to make it something the media could call too popular to repeal.

  4. …Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) argued that Democrats were wrong to take on health care reform so soon after the 2008 election.

    Hey, no shit. Funny how getting your ass handed to you a couple times in Congressional elections makes even the assholiest asshole see the writing on the wall. Not that any of their economic solutions would have been anything but backing dump trucks full of taxpayer cash to teachers unions’ doorsteps.

  5. This might be a reasonable position, if there was any reason to think that the Democrats wouldn’t have made as big a cluster f*ck of any attempt to help the economy.

    The democrats made a mistake; they thought the government could fix something more complex than an outbreak of genocidal madness in Germany.

  6. Um…. They did try to tackle the economy and jobs, it cost a trillion dollars and made everything worse.

  7. the anti-government Tea Party

    That’s a bit disingenuous, don’t ya think?

    Democrats are “a pro-government party,”

    Hm, I’d wager that most people are not “anti-government”, per-se. It is a false premise to consider the R’s to be the opposite of “pro-government”. The D’s just claim to want the gov’t to do more than even the statist R’s.

    And his proposed solution is to…embrace big-government solutions…

    Don’t seem so surprised.

    1. Hm, I’d wager that most people are not “anti-government”, per-se.

      I would agree, and also be sad that I have to agree.

    2. That’s a bit disingenuous, don’t ya think?

      Not in the minds of statists.

      Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all.

      We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain.

  8. And his proposed solution is to…embrace big-government solutions, because this time they’ll work…

    Of course! If they can just get the right TOP MAN (or woman) in charge, everything will work just fine!

    1. And the right Framing or Messaging or some such. Clearly there’s nothing wrong with past Democratic legislation. So it must be poor communications to the wonderful stupid voters. /derp

  9. Obama is now saying he wants to help the middle class. When the Democrats controlled Congress they spent the first two years of the Obama Administration stealing for their cronies and fucking the middle class. Now that they are a minority in Cogress, they are going to get right on that middle class thing. These people are dispicae and anyone with a job who votes for them a dupe or just as dispicable.

    1. help the middle class

      I wonder if trannies ‘n’ shitters will have to stay on the back burner for a while.

  10. Obamacare was simply a hail-Mary shot to socialize the large part of the economy that is of life and death interest to everyone. It had nothing to do with getting Democrats elected; it was meant to ratchet up serfdom many more notches.

  11. Can concern for the homeless be far behind?

  12. I’ve seen it said that this means Senator Schumer is running for Democratic caucus leader but is there any doubt that Senator Reid has the exact same thoughts.

    Admittedly Reid cannot make these statements publicly but his staff can.

  13. So is Scummbum Jonesing for a shot at the Democratic presidential nomination now or what?

  14. The dems just keep ducking, and ducking, and ducking…no matter how many seats they lose defending Obamacare.

    What is so hard for Dems to understand? Obamacare has NEVER had even close to 50% support. NEVER.

    More people want to repeal it than want to keep it.

    It has only “helped” about 7 million people, while making insurance more expensive for the other 300,000,000 citizens (mine is up to $450/month!!! contrast this to my $25/month auto insurance from Insurance Panda? or my $15/month renters insurance from Eagle).

    It is hurting jobs.

    It is hurting the deficit.

    It is NOT bringing down costs.

    and yet, the Dems keep ignoring every bit of reality. thank god the dems are so stupid: their support for Obama’s desire to be historically significant have done more to boost the GOP than any set of policies the GOP could have implemented.

  15. Obamacare probably cost Democrats the House in 2010.

    Probably? I thought it was pretty clear that Obamacare cost the democrats the House in 2010 and the Senate in 2014. What else separates them from the republicans? Nothing much. The main difference between the two national parties is the democrat’s support for a massive government intervention into health care. Therefore, Obamacare cost the democrats control of the entire legislature. There is no probably.

    1. Denial is a strong force.

      Look at President Obama’s actions in the last few weeks. Do any of them strike you as the actions of a President who realizes he’s made mistakes? The only action that could be considered a change of course is firing the Defense Secretary Hagel. And that looks more like getting rid of somebody that wasn’t toeing to the line 110% than a mid course correct.

      And look at Reid and Pelosi, is there anything more than a pro forma hint that they’ve learned anything from their election night BBQ? Hell, they insanely tried to frame the issue as, “Well, the Republican’s might have won, but it’s really set the Democrats up for a huge win in 2016.” Anyone thinking that let alone publicly stating it is in serious denial.

      That kind of rhetoric for a few days after the election isn’t too surprising, because it always takes a little while to get past the butt hurt. However, it’s been 3 weeks now and still there seems to be no mass admission that their policies didn’t reflect the will of the majority of voters.

      1. And look at Reid and Pelosi, is there anything more than a pro forma hint that they’ve learned anything from their election night BBQ? Hell, they insanely tried to frame the issue as, “Well, the Republican’s might have won, but it’s really set the Democrats up for a huge win in 2016.”

        They’re middle-managers through-and-through. They’re the most odious type of ‘yes-men’ (and women).

      2. The demoncraps are counting on knowing what the 2/3 that didn’t vote wanted, instead of seeing it as an indication they don’t care enough to go out in early November.

  16. my best friend’s mother-in-law makes $62 /hr on the internet . She has been fired for six months but last month her check was $18735 just working on the internet for a few hours. visit site….

    ????? http://www.netjob70.com

  17. Why is this mess still referred to as “reform”?
    It is nothing of the sort. It is a power-grab and an ego prop for slimy politicos.

  18. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link,
    go to tech tab for work detail ????????????? http://www.jobsfish.com

  19. Democrats are “a pro-government party,” he said. “We have been all along. We can’t run from it.”

    I don’t know about ‘yall, but whenever I hear this, I smile.

  20. I actually listened to that spewage in its entirety.
    Throughout, I gagged, choked, yelled at the radio, shouted how could he contradict himself so many times within the same sentence?
    Wow, if anything clearly demarcated why I hate Democratic and progressive/liberal political theory it was that speech, and I thank him for that.
    It touched all my raw points about the presumptuousness of pro-government mentality, and all the magical thinking that goes with it.
    I did not think that Democrats represented socialist mentality as clearly as this speech established, and I did not despise them as much because I thought there was room for real (classical) liberal thinking; naw, it is all crap and nannystate “We know what’s best for you. We will make all your important decisions, and determine who the money we take from you will go to.”
    I never liked Schumer to begin with, I call him Smarmy Man, but he represents the opposite of my libertarian sentimentalities, both fiscally AND socially.

  21. Finally, Chucky’s staff found an opening in a home for the senile.

    Off to better places with Chucky. Be proud, hope you loaded up your gov. Car with federal pampers before you leave. No one likes a leaky Chucky.

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