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OPINION | JOHN BRUMMETT: Oldies golden again?

by John Brummett | August 10, 2022 at 3:48 a.m.

All of a sudden the Democrats in Washington--ridiculed in this space as impractically liberal and tactically inept--have it going on a bit.

They have Republicans sputtering about "radical programs" when Democrats are about to pass at long last the authority for Medicare to negotiate prices at least for some expensive drugs, though not insulin.

Democrats also are extending for three years the pandemic-era subsidies placed in the Affordable Care Act.

They also will pass energy-conversion stimulants designed to attack climate change. But they can't be all that radical if Coal Man Joe Manchin from West Virginia is all right with them.

And it's all paid for, mostly with a new tax on large corporations. The bill is estimated, in fact, to reduce the deficit.

The Congressional Budget Office, famously credible in its bipartisan analyses, says the bill's effect on inflation is "negligible."

Add to that the pro-choice referendum in Kansas and that a robust jobs report has economists wondering if the definition of recession applies to what's weirdly going on post-pandemic in the country. It has Democrats permitting themselves to wonder if they might be competitive enough to survive the midterms in November.

Probably not, because good legislation doesn't change public attitudes that fast historically, and independents are still thinking Joe Biden and gang caused inflation and blundered otherwise.

But voter motivation is big in midterms, and Democrats may kind of have some on abortion choice.

And all of that goes to show what Democrats can do when they get smaller, focused and pragmatic--when they take out all those hundreds of millions of dollars for vague programs in a massive bill, and, instead, settle on three clear, affordable concepts one can describe in four or five paragraphs.

Or in five clear, short phrases: Save old folks money on expensive drugs. Keep poor people insured for health costs. Encourage new forms of energy generation and use. Cut the deficit. Don't fuel inflation.

Or six phrases, with this added: Ain't none of that radical, Bub.

What's radical is an abortion ban that contains no exception for pregnancies from rape and incest. And a vote against paying for insulin. And a vote against health coverage for veterans poisoned in service to their nation, the latter so egregious Republicans ran over themselves in mass high-speed reverse.

Oh, and doddering old Joe came down with covid and got over it, like a normal healthy person, without having to go to the hospital like his blustery predecessor.

And another thing: The story wasn't that Biden fell off a bike. The story is that he was on one. And that he's nearly 80 and got up from falling off a bike and went on about his business.

There still is widespread sentiment among Democrats for Biden not to run again. That's not primarily for any weakness he's shown other than the halting speech to which he was prone as a younger man. It's because of how old he'd become during the second term to which he'd be elected.

I love old people. I am one, and becoming more of one every day. But there's a point soon at which Democrats need not be led by the octogenarian brigade of Biden and Nancy Pelosi.

But a couple more weeks for Democrats like the last two and maybe even that would change.

John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at jbrummett@arkansasonline.com. Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.


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