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New York Special Election

In a special congressional election to fill the seat vacated by the disgraced Anthony Weiner, citizens of New York's 9th congressional district--encompassing parts of Queens and Brooklyn--voted for businessman Bob Turner over Assemblyman David Weprin, electing a Republican for the first time in its history by a handed 54-46% of the vote. In a district with a large Jewish population and where Democrats outnumber Republicans 3-1, the fact that Weprin, an Orthodox Jew and established member of the Democratic Party's NYC political machine, lost can at first seem surprising. While I do not think Republicans should get too hopeful over the victory--wedge issues like gay marriage and Israel were substantially more important in this race than they would be nationally, I think--it does indicate massive problems for Democrats in particular elections next year. The citizens of this district do not trust Democrat's leadership on the economy right now, and even voters who typically vote for Democrats they disagree with on major issues--Jews with Obama on Israel, for example--because they're good on everything else, are not buying into that "they're good on everything else" line anymore. Losing a district with a heavy Jewish and Catholic population may indicate that there could be damage to Democrats in their traditional strongholds--cities--and also hamper fundraising efforts.

Additionally, it appears that the Democratic strategy of using GOP entitlement reform attempts to defeat opponents--as in the New York 26th District special election earlier this year, where Democrat Kathy Hochul ran more against Paul Ryan's plan than her actual opponent--is not a winning bet at this point. Weprin attempted to pin Turner with the same thing, but it did not work in exactly the same way as now Democrats have said in the ongoing debt negotiations that entitlement reform is not off-the-table, but have otherwise not been really forthcoming in how exactly they plan to address it. While voters may disagree with various Republican plans to fix the problem, this indicates they seem to trust the GOP more for at least having a plan. Obama's jobs bill also did not seem to assuage worries that the Democrats lack a feasible plan. Democrats still have a year to figure out their message on this, though, and Perry's schtick with "Ponzi scheme" probably isn't going to be helping the GOP case.

All in all, I think after this race you may see congressional Democrats begin to distance themselves from Obama, particularly on Israel. One example that springs immediately to mind is in California, where several Democratic lawmakers may have to challenge each other in primaries due to new redistricting. Congressman Howard Berman, one of the most senior Democratic voices in foreign policy (who once famously said, "I was  Zionist before I was a Democrat"), and Congressman Brad Sherman have both been placed in the same Los Angeles district; both are Jewish Democrats, and both have defended President Obama's foreign policy. As they battle each other for the new seat (I've handicapped Berman in the race given his experience, influence, and more charismatic persona), it will be telling if one or the other begins to distance himself from Obama (disclosure: my voting address is currently in the district they are fighting over, hence my particular attention to it). I'd say this joins other indications that the Republicans will have complete control of Congress in next year's election, and that the race for the White House is a toss-up (still leaning Obama, in my opinion) at the moment-- all cause for serious concern among the Democrats. As said, though, don't get too wrapped up in this victory; it is probably not so much a rebuke of Obama (except for explicitly on Israel) as it is frustration with the party in power during a bad economy. That is to say, Republicans appear to be "worth a try" to fix the economy-- not exactly safe footing, but it is an open window to try move the electorate their direction.
Categories > Elections

Discussions - 11 Comments

Wow. Never saw this post coming (but this guy did).

Apart from "All in all, I think after this race you may see congressional Democrats begin to distance themselves from Obama, particularly on Israel" and "I think this joins other indications that the Republicans will have complete control of Congress in next year's election", the post appears mostly cautious. Even that last line about having control of Congress isn't much out there at all. No one really thinks that the House is going to switch hands in 2012, and with the amount of Democrats playing defense in 2012 compared to Republicans in the Senate, it is in the Repub's favor anyways.

Perry is right. Social Security is a Ponzi scheme. The majority of Americans NOW agree with him.

If Social Security is not a Ponzi scheme, the Bernie Madoff needs to be let out of prison.

Social Security is an income transfer program that is quite sustainable so long as the retirement age is increased so as the ratio of statutory retirees to the working population remains constant.

I would like Social Security replaced by a forced savings program where each person gets back what they saved, period. Why forced? Well, because their are millions of people out their who simply won't prepare for their retirement in any other way, and as a society/government we won't let them starve. Regardless of how you cut it, we need a national retirement system that 1) is sustainable, and 2) doesn't rely on "income transfer."

Again, it is a Ponzi scheme.

Pace Art Deco, it's worth pointing out that in 1940, when Social Security started paying out monthly retirement benefits, average life expectancy was roughly 63 years, while the age at which full benefits would be paid was 65. Today average life expectancy is 78, while the age for full retirement benefits has increased only to 67.

What is your point? That politicians have not taken all the necessary measures to aright the system does not mean that they cannot nor does it mean that the system is inherently unstable in the manner of a genuine Ponzi scheme.

The inputs - payroll taxes - can and have been adjusted to reflect changes in demographic parameters. While we are at it, the salient data would not be life-expectancy at birth but rather the evolution in the size of birth cohorts (supplemented by immigration), the share of contributors who live to old age, and old-age mortality rates. Up until the last thirty years, the life expectancy of the elderly changed much more slowly than life expectancy at birth.

That term does not mean what you think it means.

My point is that I'm agreeing with you. The problems with Social Security today stem from the fact that there is now a considerable disconnect between the retirement age and average life expectancy. It's nothing that can't be fixed by jacking up the age at which full benefits can be received.

Yes it does.

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