Critical Condition

Will Kathy Hochul Vote to Repeal Obamacare?

The surprise victory of the Democratic candidate in NY-26’s special election yesterday teaches a curious lesson: Seniors who rose up against Obamacare’s Medicare cuts at town-hall meetings in the summer of 2009 appear to have risen up against Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan in the spring of 2011.

Or maybe they didn’t. Certainly the faux Tea Party candidate who won 9 percent of the vote confused the outcome, as did the Democratic candidate’s “conservative” attacks on the Republican candidate, Jane Corwin. Kathy Hochul’s ads criticized Corwin for voting against Governor Cuomo’s budget cuts in the state legislature; and one of Hochul’s deficit-cutting promises is slashing foreign aid to Pakistan.

Nevertheless, it may well be that voters have hopelessly short-term political memories. In fact, Ryan’s plan would restore some of the cuts to Medicare already legislated by Obamacare through the early 2020s (as shown clearly in these charts). How soon we forget!

It looks like the Medicare debate — at least on 30-second TV ads — has settled into Republicans accusing Democrats of “cutting Medicare and raising taxes” and Democrats accusing Republicans of “cutting Medicare and giving tax breaks to the rich” (neglecting that President Obama has already extended the Bush tax cuts for a couple of years).

In her TV ads, Hochul promised to protect Medicare. Does that include rolling back Obamacare’s almost half trillion dollars of cuts to the program? Surely not. But even repealing Obamacare cannot solve Medicare.

Medicare cannot go on unchanged. Since at least 2009, we have received reports of physicians declining to accept new Medicare patients (as I wrote here). Asking the American people whether they want any flavor of reform versus “Medicare continuing the same as it is now” is like asking the Titanic passengers if they’d like the same dinner menu every evening until the ship docks.

Maybe NY-26 was a referendum on Ryan’s Medicare proposal. But the job of a leader, as Ryan recently put it, is to change the polls, not to follow them

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