Lessons from NY-26

Today in the metro I read a quote by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid about the election results in NY-26.  “Last night the people of New York’s 26th District resoundingly spoke.  My question to my Republican colleagues is very simple.  Will you listen to the American people?  Because their message could not be clearer.”

Democrat Kathy Hochul won running on a campaign that Paul Ryan’s budget would end Medicare.  The story is significant only because it happened in what has typically been a solid republican district.  I’ll address the Medicare issue shortly, but first a couple of words about Senator Reid’s utter hypocrisy.

Mr. Reid:  Were you listening when one million Americans marched on Pennsylvania Avenue to protest against the stimulus bill, Obamacare, and the out of control government spending that you and your colleagues shoved down their throats (and don’t think I’m singling out the democrats because many republicans were on board with TARP)?  Were you listening when Americans from across the nation showed up to town hall meetings to let representatives know that the atrocious government run health-care system you were pushing was not what the American people wanted?  Were you paying attention in November when the American people voted out liberal democrats (you were almost included in that number) and republicans alike to send the message to D.C. that we were fed up with the direction your senate and Pelosi’s house were taking us?  And now you have the nerve to suggest that one district in one state of this country somehow represents how the “American People” feel about the Medicare debate? 

Geography lesson for Senator Reid: most Americans don’t live in the 26th district of New York, and polls show that most Americans (as in those Americans from all across America) oppose a continuously expanding government that keeps racking up debt, destroying jobs, and refusing to admit that it is doing either.

But I wouldn’t hold my breath to see if the message ever reaches Reid.  The fact that 750 plus days have gone by and his party has yet to present a budget shows he clearly doesn’t care about fixing the economic catastrophe our country currently faces.  Had Senator Reid attended one of Rep. Ryan’s 19 town hall meetings he would have heard crowds of senior citizens standing in applause for the proposal, though I’m sure he would have written it off as mere “astroturfing” by Freedomworks.

In New York’s election, Kathy Hochul won on the message that Ryan’s plan would end Medicare.  In our world of political demagoguery this kind of statement is enough to win an election, even if the facts point to the contrary.  Granted, not everyone can defend Ryan’s budget as well as Paul Ryan, but one fact must be emphasized.  Here is a good talking point: ask everyone 55 and older to raise their hands.  Then say, “Medicare will not change for you.  Period.”  This fact alone was lost in the NY-26 election where reports said that seniors were concerned Medicare would be cut for them.  The truth is that seniors won’t be affected at all.  However, it is purely irresponsible to continue arguing that leaving Medicare alone is sustainable.  In truth Obamacare’s answer, and the democrats solution, is much more unpopular and a much dangerous approach for senior citizens.  Whereas in the Ryan budget seniors are left alone, in Obamacare the 15 member Individual Advisory Payment Board will make drastic cuts to Medicare in an attempt to reduce the financial problems.  Those under 55 will be given their Medicare dollars directly to decide how they want to spend it.  Now tell me.  Would you rather have some government bureaucrat in D.C. deciding what treatment you get or even if you’ll get it, or would you prefer to be left to decide for yourself what treatments you need? 

Opponents of Ryan’s plan know that there is no other way to save Medicare aside from increasing tax rates to economy crushing levels and decreasing the quality of care patients will receive.  They realize it would be unpopular to admit this to their constituents so instead they refuse to do anything besides criticize.  But what would it look like if Senator Reid put forth a serious budget to fix the debt problem?

The Peterson Foundation’s Solutions Initiative brought together six think tanks of various political leanings, i.e. conservative, moderate, liberal, and asked them to write out a budget.  To the credit of the liberal think tanks they did the task.  However, examining their budgets shows why house and senate democrats are so reluctant to present any sustentative ideas and so willing to criticize the ideas of others.  Both the Center for American Progress and the Economic Policy Institute wrote budgets that would demand much, much higher taxes.  In fact 23.8 percent and 24.1 percent of the economy would need to be taken by the government right off the top, respectively.  Noteworthy, as The Washington Examiner points out, is that the Economic Policy Institute’s budget still causes the debt to increase over the next 25 years.

So what do I take from the NY-26 election?  Opponents of Paul Ryan’s Medicare reforms probably don’t have as much support as they think (forgive me if you are from New York, but I’ve never used your state as a litmus test for the rest of the country).  A better job needs to be done defending the budget against attacks, but that doesn’t mean conservatives should back off from the fight.  For me the election primarily shows that liberals are going to keep refusing to recognize that America faces a debt problem, will keep criticizing those people who are trying to fix the problem, and will per usual refuse to offer any meaningful ideas for reform knowing that theoretically and practically their only options will be even more unpopular than any Medicare reform the republicans could propose.