NY-26: A Victory for Medi-Scare Tactics

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According to much of the media, Kathy Hochul’s special election victory by a 47-42 percent margin over Republican State Assemblywoman Jane Corwin in New York’s 26th congressional district, a traditionally Republican area which encompasses the suburbs of Buffalo and Rochester, was a “referendum” on Republican Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) plan to reform Medicare. Was it? Certainly the final Siena Research Institute poll taken May18-21 shows that 21 percent of the voters believed Medicare was the most important issue — but not in the way Democrats describe it. Nor was it the only issue. Not by a long shot.

The architect of Medicare reform, Rep. Paul Ryan, illuminates the real story behind that component of Hochul’s win. “There is a Medicare story to be told here,” Ryan said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe Show on Wednesday. “And the Medicare story that’s being told here is the president and his party have decided to shamelessly distort and demagogue Medicare. So we’re going to see a new ‘Medi-scare’ reform campaign here.”

More importantly, during the same conversation, both Ryan and host Joe Scarborough illuminated the fundamental problem Republicans face in countering such demagoguery with facts. After Ryan patiently explained what his reform program was all about, Scarborough said, “So Paul, so that took you two, two-and-a-half minutes to explain the problem… and for [Americans] to really understand this problem, we would need at least ten, fifteen minutes. So you put that on one side, on the other side you run 30-second ads and say, ‘Paul Ryan wants to push senior citizens over the cliff’…how does anyone reform an entitlement program?”

Democrats did in fact run a commercial showing an elderly woman in a wheelchair being pushed over a cliff! This is the essence of demagoguery because nothing in Ryan’s program applies to anyone 55 or older, all of whom are exempt from any reforms that would go into effect. “Here’s the problem,” Ryan said. “If we keep demagoguing each other… [Medicare] is going to collapse, it’s going to go bankrupt, and we’re going to have a debt crisis. The people who get hurt the first are the elderly and the poor.”

Yet demagoguery was the centerpiece of Hochul’s campaign. In the final debate between the two front-running contenders (third-party candidate Jack Davis was a no-show), Corwin tried to explain what Ryan’s plan is and why she supported it. “The plan I am supporting is not a voucher system,” she contended. “We have to take action now, because what my opponent is advocating for is to do nothing. If we do nothing, the plan goes bankrupt in 13 years.” That is an intellectual argument. Hochul’s counter-argument? Pure emotionalism. “I have made a commitment that I will take to my grave,” she said. “I will fight any plan that tries to decimate Medicare.”

Yet, the clear influence of Hochul’s hysterical misinformation campaign has been obscured — or ignored — by the mainstream media and Democrats. ABC News characterized Hochul’s victory as “the first referendum on the House Republican budget authored by Rep. Paul Ryan” and a “bellwether for 2012.” The Associated Press said Hochul’s win “revolved around the key issue in the race: the preserving of Medicare.” The Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne called it a “big setback for Paul Ryan’s budget and a warning for Republican incumbents everywhere.” Slate Magazine claimed it was in part a “referendum on Medicare — there’s really no spinning away the fact that voters panicked over losing it.” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) claimed, “New Yorkers of all political persuasions do not want to destroy Medicare.” Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) offered up his usual hyperbole: “Democrats in Congress and even some candid Republicans know the plan to kill Medicare is irresponsible and indefensible. Last night, voters showed the country and the Congress that they know it too,” he said.

But Medicare was far from the only factor in the race. The same Sienna Research Institute poll which showed Medicare as the chief concern of voters in NY-26 also revealed that their second biggest concern was jobs, followed by the federal budget deficit. And here’s the kicker: Medicare garnered 21 percent of the vote in the poll, while jobs and the budget deficit received 20 percent and 19 percent, respectively. The poll’s self-published margin of error? 3.9 percent — meaning all three issues, statistically speaking, were of equal importance.

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  • Chezwick_mac

    If Republicans run scared on the issue of entitlement reform after this singular election, there's no hope we'll EVER climb our way out of our fiscal black hole. Instead of back-tracking, we should be doing much more to convince seniors and prospective seniors that passing along trillions in debt to their children and grand-children so they can live well is the height of immorality…that the entire edifice of our civilization will soon come crashing down unless we restore some sanity to our finances.

    But motivating people to sacrifice can only succeed if the sacrifice is shared. Far from being too ambitious, Rep Ryan's plan is not ambitious enough…particularly from an ideological prism. Republicans should be 1) accentuating the necessity of across-the-board cuts to convey a sense of shared pain,…and 2) hammering home to the public the head-in-the-sand irresponsibility of Democrats who would rather pass the buck than make the hard decisions necessary for the survival of our nation.

    I like to believe Americans are capable of sacrificing for the common good. World War 2 certainly showed it was possible. But perhaps almost fifty years under the entitlement culture that began as the 'Great Society' have corrupted us beyond redemption.

  • Gamaliel Isaac

    How about these soundbites
    Democrats, buying votes on the backs of our children.
    Inflated currency hurts seniors too.

  • Gwen, upstate NY

    One point totally lost in the discussion at this point is that there was a third-party spoiler in this election. The candidate running on the "Tea Party" ticket was not a true supporter of Tea Party ideals. He was much more of a RINO, and I believe that many voting never took the time to discover exactly WHO he was and what he really stood for. Rather they voted for the "Tea Party" candidate on party only. If you had his votes and the Republican candidate's votes together the Republican candidate would have won.

    • mattogilvie55

      Whatever the DNC paid him, they got what they wanted.

  • Michael

    Just stumbled onto this site, almost by accident, and I cannot believe what I am reading here. Is this site a joke? I can't believe the ignoranace and level of crackpot thinking here. Geez!

    • pagegl

      So, tell what is ignorant and crackpot in regards to this article.

    • Liberty2

      What a crackpot ignorant statement!

  • tanstaafl

    The problem that all Americans face is that if we don't reign in spending on entitlement programs, granny is going over the cliff with the rest of us.

  • Anamah

    Ryan proposal do not change anything to 55+seniors. This is a dishonest propaganda. Those responsible should be obliged to recognize that it is a scam, that they made it based on an untrue argument to scare the public, nothing to do with Paul Ryan project. It needs a more accurate version showing the man pushing that women over the cliff is Mr. Obam.

  • Liberty2

    great idea; the RINO's are too chicken to do it!

  • Ammaneus

    It appears that the country is fairly divided politically between right 35%, left 35% and the muddled middle 30%. One can of course debate the exact percentages but the principle holds. After oftentimes holding their noses, the people on the right and left will generally vote for the Republican or Democrat candidate respectively. The muddled middle consists of people who are either too busy, too lazy or too ….. to pay attention to the issues. Unfortunately a percentage of the muddled middle have enough residual sense of civic responsibility to vote calling themselves independents or moderates to masquerade their ignorance. They are quite susceptible to the inane 30 second sound bites that make our electoral process so insipid. The article is quite right in that the demagogues on the left are much better at this irritating but necessary game than we are. We need to be more creative. The future of our children depend on it.

  • Rifleman

    If so, we'll just learn it the hard way, because they're running out of other people's money much faster than they predicted.

  • Amused

    LOL…..they fell for it ! Just like that ole "kill grandma bit " …..aint it ironic ! This crap works both ways , or did you folks think that you were on a one way street ?
    This political back and forth goes from the pathetic to the comedic .Republicans and conservatives take note /.Dems play the game just as well as you . If Ryan had any brains , he should've went ot of his way to be specific ……but he didn't .And who were one of the biggest victims ? LOLOLOL……TEABAGGERS !!!!
    Here's a point everyones seems to be forgeting ….Social Security and medicare are things that PEOPLE HAVE PAID FOR , IN EVERY PAYCHECK . And they dont have the goldplated medical plans like Ryan and the rest of the politicians . Expect a very hard kick back .

    • coyote3

      They can pay for it, but that doesn't change the fact that it is illegal, in and of itself.

      • Amused

        in and of yourself , you're an imbecile .

        • coyote3

          Tee hee, can't debate the issue, and on the losing side of an issue, so go ahead, call names.

  • Amused

    How can I debate a moron who says Social Security and Medicare is illegal . I am merely describing your mentality chump . How'd you get so stupid ?

  • Amused

    The TRUTH of the matter IS , thwe government has been borrowing [LOOTING] Social Security and Medicare SURPLUS for decades . What IS illegal is the fact that those funds have been "borrowed to the tune of approximately 2 TRILLION DOLLARS , and replaced with phony Govt.IOU's .
    So get the facts straight jackass .

  • Amused

    Silence eh ? You bet .That comes from talking out your arse coyote . .

  • Liz

    Republicans trying to make the case for Medicare right now is ludicrous. Why can't they wait till they've won the WH and the Senate before tackling such a large albatross. IMO it's not Medicare that's breaking the bank. What's breaking the bank is the grossly indulgent food stamp program with all the abuses. I don't want people to go hungry but I don't want money shoveled into a black hole of corruption. Can we fix Medicaid's corruption and abuses and illegals getting entitlements up the wazoo first? Come on Ryan get with the program. Knock off the badly timed Medicare reform. I don't want another 4 years of Obama! And stop sending aid to the Middle East.

  • Amused

    There's plenty of room for improving Medicare without threatening to take it apart . Vouchers are B.S. the people know it …so should have Ryan . Fraud is the biggest problem . Lack of vigorous prosection of that fraud is just as big . After all, in Florida we just elected a Governor whose Company was convicted of Medicare fraud ! Stiff prison terms , realistic policing , and most of all NO MORE BORROWING FROM SS AND MEDICARE SURPLUSES ,which has been going on for decades and never repaid ,so politicians now whine that they are not solvent ……pay back the the 1.5 trillion that itis owed with phony Govt.IOU's and Medicare and SS will be just fine . Medicaid Fraud is the responsibilty of the States but it is obvious that Federal oversight is necessarry since it is Federally subsidized .Heaven knows federal agencies have grown 16% through ALL Administrations , we now have 2 million Federal Employees . Hows about an Agency to SAVE the governments money by detecting fraud in these areas ? Propositions like Ryans will crash and burn everytime , and that even among Tea Party people . Time for the republicans to get smart.

  • C K Watt

    I gather this web page is news from another planet. Either that it's news extruded from some wealthy fascists rear.