Posts containing my opinion of the race.

Reed on the Issues

Tom Reed's campaign site has now posted its "issues" page, which contains a short run-down of Reed's positions on eight issues of the day.

Since healthcare is driving our current discussion, it's interesting to take a closer look at Reed's statement. He begins with this:

The current proposal, HR 3200, has been changed a number of times and likely will change many more times. At this point, the debate is not about the specifics of HR 3200. It’s about private care vs. socialized medicine.

He goes on to point out that Massa is in favor of single-payer healthcare, and Reed isn't. Fair enough, though even Massa agrees that single-payer is off the table. Reed wants the debate to be about socialized medicine, but it isn't -- it's about the way that the market for private insurance should be structured, and whether that market should include a public option to ensure competition.

Reed ends with :

We should subject health insurance to competition in the free market. Instead of being forced into a particular plan by their employer, people should be able to choose. Choose their own plan that allows them to work with their doctors, not a government board, to determine what treatments are necessary and when.

Allowing patients to choose health plans in an open market will force health insurance companies, healthcare providers and pharmaceutical companies to compete by offering plans, services and products based on market needs and demand. Free market competition will inevitably drive costs down.

Am I missing something here? Hasn't the free market led to rescission and denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions? How will Reed address that? Though HR 3200 contains no "government board" to determine treatment, why is it better to have an insurance company board making decisions, as they do today?

Also, even though employees can't choose their insurance, employers who purchase insurance can probably strike a better bargain, because they have the bargaining power of purchasing a good in volume. Xerox gets a better price from GM for fleet trucks than I do because they're buying thousands rather than one, and the same is true of insurance.

It's good that Reed is engaging on healthcare instead of just saying "No", but we need more meat on this topic.

Morning News

The Messenger-Post's Saturday editorial supports Massa's remarks at Netroots nation, saying:

Should Massa listen to his constituents on the subject of health care? Yes, and he has — most visibly through town hall meetings that have attracted hundreds at a time. Should he pander to popular opinion — or any opinion, for that matter — when it comes time to the vote? No.

In the end, Massa should be trusted to draw on his research on the health-care issue and make an informed decision. That’s what he, and other politicians, were elected for. And informed decisions sometimes run counter to public opinion.

The YouTube of Massa's remarks has provoked an avalanche of negative posts in out-of-district right-wing blogs. In the district, however, one of the most conservative papers (the Leader) and one of the most liberal (the Messenger-Post) have a completely different take.

The D&C has a long story about Rochester-area town hall meetings. The story concentrates on Massa's meetings, since Maffei, Lee and Slaughter are having nothingburger phone-in meetings.

Polls and Representative Democracy

In reading through the comments on newspaper sites in the district, I see a lot of remarks to the effect that Eric Massa isn't listening to his constituents at town hall meetings, that he's holding positions contrary to his constituents, and that he represents a small minority in the district.

The obvious counterargument to these commenters is that this a representative democracy, and that the last accurate poll taken in the district was in November, 2008, when Massa was elected. But let's forget that for a moment and find out what polls can tell us.

The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News Poll says that 36% of Americans think Barack Obama's health plan is a good idea. However, once respondents are read a one-paragraph description of Obama's plan, 53% of them approve of it. Here's the paragraph:

The plan requires that health insurance companies cover people with pre-existing medical conditions. It also requires all but the smallest employers to provide health coverage for their employees, or pay a percentage of their payroll to help fund coverage for the uninsured. Families and individuals with lower- and middle-incomes would receive tax credits to help them afford insurance coverage. Some of the funding for this plan would come from raising taxes on wealthier Americans.

We've heard a lot of talk about socialism and death panels, and the reason is clear: once people hear the modest reforms that are actually contained in the healthcare bill, they think it's sensible. I don't know if 53% is the number in the 29th, but the notion that a vast majority of 29th residents oppose Obama's healthcare reform is simply ludicrous.

Reed Reads

Tom Reed says he's now read HR 3200, the healthcare reform bill, and he still doesn't like it.

The Star-Gazette report on Reed's decision doesn't say what he didn't like about the bill. It will be interesting to see if Reed can come up with specifics. Most of the critique we've been hearing from the right is straw man arguments. The bill is not single-payer or "socialized medicine", so all the Canadian and British comparisons are off-the-mark, for example.

I'd sincerely like to have someone like Reed, who's a lawyer, come up with some sensible, sane objections to the bill. Or, if he thinks that the bill is a wrong approach entirely, what's the right approach? And how will his approach deal with a middle class that's increasingly unable to afford insurance, and is denied insurance by private insurers?

Neither Surprise nor Gaffe

Mustard Street thinks he's caught Eric Massa saying something out-of-bounds, specifically "I will vote against the interests of my district".

The remark is taken out of context. Massa was being asked whether he'd vote for a single-payer bill, even if sentiment at town hall meetings was against it. His final answer is "I will vote against their opinion if I actually believe it will help them."

Anyone who's watched Eric Massa for the last 4 years knows his position on healthcare: he supports a single-payer option. If you don't know that about Massa, you're not paying attention. He won the election espousing that position. It's no surprise that he'd say that he'd vote for single-payer, no matter what people say at town hall meetings.

But don't trust me, watch the video or read the transcript. It's pretty clear that Massa's responding to a specific, hypothetical question.

OMG! Poor people getting money!

Eric Massa has weighed in on the crisis of the day: $200 back-to-school grants for "children across the state whose families are on welfare, receiving food stamps, or whose parents are unemployed". Massa thinks that the money is spent without accountability.

In case you've been under a rock, this story has been all over the national, regional and local news. Because the money was dispersed into food stamp accounts rather than as vouchers for back-to-school items, there was chaos at local grocery stores. Also, a local Wal-Mart reported a "run" on high-end electronics.

Though I agree with Massa that this could have been done better, I have to laugh at the agida over this relatively minor, and completely stimulative, expenditure.

The press on this was golden. Is it really a front-page story that some poor people have bad financial judgment? What's next, a treatise on the sun rising in the East? (And please let me know which "high-end" electronic device can be purchased for $200, at a Wal-Mart.)

This little controversy was also a classic New York political moment. It begins with a David Paterson fuckup. It involves Maggie Brooks bitching about welfare allocation. And it ends with Dean Skelos saying that the money could be better spent on STAR tax rebates. Even wicked George Soros got involved, by having the gall to chip in $35 million on this giveaway. The only thing missing was Pedro Espada, but I'm sure he's involved somehow.

Evening News

The Hornell Evening Trib reports on a well-attended two and one half hour meeting in Canisteo.

The NRCC is targeting Massa because he supports closing Guantánamo. Apparently Leavenworth isn't strong enough to hold terrorists, even though it has housed Nazi spies, gangsters, and serial killers.

Finally, the Star-Gazette has a Massa/Reed story on healthcare. I don't think this bodes well for Reed:

Reed said he took a quick look at the bill on the Internet and decided not to waste his time reading it because health care that is run and controlled by the government is philosophically the wrong direction for the nation to go.

When you're running against a guy who believes (with some merit) that he can outwork anyone, saying you didn't bother to read the bill leaves a big hole for an attack, especially when your take on the bill (that it is government-run healthcare) isn't what the bill says.


According to this WETM story, Tom Reed doesn't like the Cash for Clunkers program. Reed says that "the program is artificially interjecting the government into the economic model and he doesn't think that's money well spent in the long term".

This raises an interesting question: is Reed against stimulus in general? After all, the point of stimulus is to "interject" government money "into the economic model" during a severe downturn, because private spending has fallen off. If he is, then he's way out of the mainstream of economic thinking about recession economics, and he needs to explain why he opposes something that almost every economist supports..

If Reed isn't against all stimulus, I don't see why Cash for Clunkers is so objectionable. Unlike almost every other stimulus provision, Cash for Clunkers gives the government a little leverage. For every $4,500 the government spends, someone buys an automobile, worth on average $28,400. This means that Cash for Clunkers will inject far more than its $3 billion pricetag into the economy -- that's a heck of a lot better than paving roads or building bridges.

Also, unlike the tax rebates of the last recession, every dollar in Cash for Clunkers will go into the economy. Consumers won't have the option of banking their $4,500, as they did with their rebate checks. And unlike the SUV tax credit of the last administration, Cash for Clunkers encourages buying vehicles that will decrease pollution and lessen our dependence on foreign oil.

I'm sure there are many little details about Cash for Clunkers that can be criticized, but it seems a hell of a lot more reasonable than spending millions to pave remote airports in Alaska, for instance.

Massa Gets Attaboy from D&C

The Democrat and Chronicle has an editorial commending Eric Massa for having an open town hall meeting, and dinging Slaughter, Lee and Maffei for choosing "telephone town halls" and other types of non-public meetings.

This brings up a point on the politics of protests: the reaction is just as important as the action. Noisy or unruly protests are provocative events. If the target of the protest doesn't over-react, but instead addresses the protest head-on (and calmly), a lot of the anticipated political fallout just doesn't happen.

Anyone watching the 29th district in the past couple of years learned this lesson, which was taught by a couple of peace activists and Randy Kuhl. An unruly action (a sit-in) by a few fringe elements provoked a major reaction (locking doors, canceling town halls). So far, this hasn't happened in the 29th in 2009.

The Raised Hands Myth

Both the teabagger email posted by Rochesterturning and the comments on this D&C story contain the same myth:

When a show of hands went up (requested by someone in the audience) showing that the majority of the attendees did not like the bill and the federal takeover of our medical system there was no acknowledgment of the lopsidedness of the hand vote.

I've also seen a comment where the vote was spun as showing that everyone at the meeting was on the side of the teabaggers.

What really happened was that an audience member asked Massa to poll the audience on whether he should vote yes or no on the current bill. Both the Glenn Beck crowd and those who had been waving HR 676 signs (indicating support of single-payer health insurance), didn't raise their hands. Only a couple hands went up.

The reason the teabaggers didn't raise hands is obvious: they want Massa to vote "No" on everything. The reason the HR 676 supporters didn't raise their hands is also obvious: they want a tougher bill.

It's pretty weak tea to spin it as anything meaningful, but that's the level of honesty we've come to expect from the same crew who try to convince people that Barack Obama wants to smother old folks with a pillow.

Update: Anyone who's inclined to swallow the whopper about euthanasia should read this debunking by the non-partisan

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