I’ve been outside the world of politics for the past year, and what a year it has been! When I started my job, Obama’s approval ratings were still sky-high, and the Tea Party movement was just getting started. Now, we face a political dynamic that’s looking a lot more like 1994 than 2008. What a long, strange year it’s been!
The passage of the health care bill was a Pyrrhic victory for the Democrats. They sold their souls for a watered-down version of the single-payer European-style system they wanted and will likely lose the House as a result. The health care bill was the classic version of why laws and sausages are made in much the same way. It was an unholy mish-mash of bad ideas wrapped in false promises, and presented as though it were the greatest bill ever. It was a 2,700 page monstrosity that has already begun wreaking havoc with private employers. What the Democrats failed to realize is that many employers have their open-enrollment periods in November—which means that the immediate effects of the health care bill will be felt right around Election Day. When employees, who are already struggling, learn that their insurance premiums are going through the roof and their HSAs are less useful than before, that’s not exactly going to make them happy.
The economy is the albatross around the Democrats’ necks. Unemployment is stuck at 9.5%, and the real figure (counting unemployment, discouraged workers, and workers taking the only jobs they could get) is more like 20%. We’re facing a crisis of unemployment. And the reaction from the Democrats has been to do exactly the wrong things. More taxes, more regulations, more social experimentation. The results have been predictable: the level of joblessness is at crisis levels. We can’t have a functioning economy when we’ve got a developing underclass that are essentially shut out of employment. If this trend continues, the effects on both our economy and society will be dire.
As I write this, the last combat troops are leaving Baghdad. Remember when Sen. Harry Reid said that the war was “lost?” Thank heavens that we didn’t listen to him. We still have 50,000 troops left in Iraq, and we may have close to that number in the country for a very long time. The truth is that Iraq’s journey is just beginning. But what has happened in Iraq is something extraordinary: in 7 years Iraq has gone from the iron grip of tyranny to a failed state, to a developing nation that has the chance to prosper and flourish. The future of the Iraqi people is now in their hands, as it should be. We can and should help where asked, but now the main threat to the future of Iraq isn’t related to terrorism, but corruption. That may be a more dangerous enemy than al-Qaeda, but the Iraqi people have the ability to fight corruption and establish a better life for themselves. I cannot, nor can anyone else, say whether or not they will succeed in rebuilding their country. I hope and pray they will. But a chapter has been turned, and a battle has been won. Our military did an amazing job under intense pressure. We have never fought a war quite like this, and the conflicts of the future will be far less deadly because of the lesson’s we’re learned in Iraq.
Afghanistan is another story. I don’t know if we can “win” in Afghanistan. I’m not sure what the goal is—other than to keep the Taliban and al-Qaeda at bay. Can we rebuild a nation that’s never really been a nation in modern times? I’m not so sure that we can. Especially not when elements of the Pakistani government are working to destabilize Afghanistan. Yes, we need more troops and a better strategy to have any hope of success—but we also need to realize that Pakistan is part of the problem, and to find ways of ensuring that Pakistan is an ally rather than an enemy.
Finally, some site news. I’m planning on revamping the site in the next few days to have a new HTML 5 template that will look great on all sorts of devices from Droids to iPads. So forgive the dust as that transition gets underway.