During last week's debate in the western New York congressional race, Democrat Kathy Hochul hammered Republican Jane Corwin for wanting to "end" Medicare and for somehow not caring about 10-year-olds with leukemia. I thought Corwin did an adequate job defending the Ryan Medicare reform, but never punched back and hit President Obama's plan to save Medicare by rationing care. It turns out that Hochul actually opposes Obama's cuts to Medicare, too. Dave Weigel, who's on the ground in NY-26, reports:
After she meets voters at a nearby Greek restaurant, I try to nail her down on how, exactly, she thinks Medicare can be kept in its current form into the indefinite future. For example, in her crusade to save the system, she opposes the $500 billion in savings that were part of the Affordable Care Act. Those savings were weaponized in Republican ads in 2010, but according to the Medicare actuary they keep the system alive an extra eight years. Why scrap them?
"I think we've got to make sure that it doesn't trickle down to hurt any of the beneficiaries," she says, "and I'm not confident of that."
So it seems that the debate over Medicare in NY-26--reforming Medicare v. leaving it as it is--is not representative of the debate that will be had in 2012. The Democrats who voted for national health care all voted for the rationing board that Obama believes will save the program. The 2012 debate on Medicare will be about how, not whether, to rein in spending on the program.
Of course, there were already other, better reasons why the NY-26 race is peculiar and shouldn't be seen as a referendum on Ryan's budget. But here's another.