Jewish swing voter Ed Koch pans Romney-Ryan ticket on budget, entitlements


Commentary’s Jonathan Tobin acknowledges that Jewish liberals will be a receptive audience for Democratic attacks on Paul Ryan’s Medicare proposals. But, he argues, the sort of Jewish voters who would consider voting for the GOP because they’re worried by President Obama’s approach to Israel are not going to be persuaded by these Democratic attacks (which Tobin considers to be unfair).

Tobin writes:

…those Jewish voters who are most vulnerable to Mediscare tactics were already going to vote for Obama. If you are the sort of person who truly believes the Republicans are going to throw Bubbe over the cliff, you probably were never sufficiently concerned about Obama’s pressure on Israel and unwillingness to confront Iran to cross over to the GOP. The minority of American Jews who consider Israel’s security to be a major influence on their votes are not going to be so easily bulldozed by the Mediscare routine. Voters who believe the president will sell out Israel are not the most receptive audience for a Democratic campaign based on the idea that Romney and Ryan will sell out the elderly.

Well, there is at least one Israel-driven Jewish swing voter who has in the past gone over to the GOP and who is riled up over Paul Ryan’s positions on budget and entitlement issues: Ed Koch.

The former Democratic New York City Mayor in 2004 backed President Bush’s reelection (citing Iraq, Israel and other foreign policy issues) and in a special congressional election last year backed Republican Bob Turner to send a message of dissatisfaction with President Obama’s Israel approach. This year he’s backing President Obama.

In one of his regular commentaries that was sent out via email yesterday, Koch wrote:


Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and so many other programs are in great danger if the philosophy of the Romney-Ryan team prevails at the polls. The lack of Romney-Ryan compassion is also highlighted by their support for the Republican House-adopted budget, which slashes food stamps that are provided to poor children and others. …

True, Koch isn’t really a swing voter in this election — he was already firmly committed to Obama’s reelection and is even planning to campaign for him in Florida.

Still, the example of Koch gets us beyond the commonly posited division of Jewish voters into those-who-are-motivated-by-Israel and those-who-are-motivated-by-domestic-issues, the latter being the large majority in most surveys.

There are probably significant numbers of Jewish voters who, like Koch, would likely have a hard time pulling the lever for a candidate they didn’t think was solid on Israel. But since they don’t necessarily perceive such a huge difference between the parties on Israel, they tend to rank domestic issues as more important to determining their votes.

Here is Koch’s full column:

Ed Koch Commentary
August 13, 2012

1964 Is Back: A Redo of the Johnson-Goldwater Election

Mitt Romney has done this country a great service by selecting Paul Ryan as his running mate. He has changed the nature of the election from one that is about who is the best candidate to lead us out of the aftermath of the Great Recession to one that concerns fundamental party policies and philosophy. He has turned the election into what we had in 1964. President Lyndon B. Johnson was finishing the term of our martyred President Jack Kennedy and running for his own first term against Senator Barry Goldwater, Republican from Arizona. Goldwater was the leader of the conservative wing of the Republican Party and ultimately the leader of the entire party in that election.

The 1964 race became a referendum on whether the United States should jettison the principles of the party of hope – the Democratic party — created by FDR that united the aspirations of the middle class and addressed the needs of the poor and the concerns of women, blacks, Jews, other minorities, and farmers. FDR, a wealthy man, was denounced by many of his peers as a traitor to his class.

What FDR gave to our country was the promise of greater fairness for all of its people. One of his greatest contributions, many would say, was the Social Security program that was intended to assist these who had worked all their lives to retire at 65 with dignity. That concept was extended by President Johnson in 1965 with the creation of both Medicare and Medicaid. The former is basically for the elderly and the latter is for the impoverished of all ages.

Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are the very programs that the Republicans and Conservatives beginning with Goldwater have been seeking to chip away at and ultimately eliminate. For example, President George W. Bush rightly recognized that Social Security needs to be changed to make it solvent. However, his proposal to privatize the program, making payments dependent on stock market performance, makes no sense, particularly in view of the affects of the Great Recession on the stock market. A better approach would have been and still would be to gradually increase the eligibility age (we fortunately live much longer today than we did in 1935), and apply the current Social Security tax to our entire personal income – it stops now at $110,100 — with such additional fiscal measures as are necessary to bring in more revenue. The program eligibility could also be made subject to a needs basis. Those who are wealthy don’t need the employer subsidies which could be added to and used for those who do.

There are changes of a fiscal nature short of privatization that could similarly protect Medicare from going bankrupt. Unfortunately, privatizing Medicare is the signature proposal of Paul Ryan and his budget adopted by the Republican House of Representatives. Ryan would give those 55 or younger vouchers to buy health insurance policies to replace the current Medicare entitlement program. Already the Romney-Ryan team is screaming it is unfair to attack Ryan on this his signature proposal. But he cannot run away from it and his philosophy. Listening to the talking heads, I hear a little buyers’ remorse setting in.

The Republicans, at the urging of Paul Ryan, want to change Medicaid into a limited block grant to be provided to each state to take the place of the existing entitlement program which provides benefits to an unlimited number of eligible beneficiaries.

Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and so many other programs are in great danger if the philosophy of the Romney-Ryan team prevails at the polls. The lack of Romney-Ryan compassion is also highlighted by their support for the Republican House-adopted budget, which slashes food stamps that are provided to poor children and others. And then there is the matter of a woman’s right to choose. The Republicans are trying in every state to deprive women of all their rights under Roe v. Wade, seeking to make it more and more difficult for a woman to exercise her right in consultation with her doctor to obtain a legally permissible abortion. The Republicans in many states are seeking to depress the black vote, requiring unneeded identification papers for voting. The effort to roll back citizen rights goes on.

The Times this morning summed up the philosophy of Paul Ryan, reporting, "though best known as an architect of conservative fiscal policy, Representative Paul D. Ryan has also been an ardent, unwavering foe of abortion rights, has tried to cut off federal money for family planning, has opposed same-sex marriage and has championed the rights of gun owners."

The Democrats have made their share of mistakes over the years. However, they have recognized them, made needed changes and are willing to make more changes for the good of the country. We Democrats led by President Obama support the "grand bargain" entailing revenue increases and expense reductions. The Republican leadership, on the other hand, is largely interested in cutting spending for social programs, while rejecting revenue increases, particularly if such increases include higher taxes on the rich.

I am a proud Democrat but not an ideologue. I have identified myself through the years when I served as a member of Congress and mayor of New York City, as a Liberal with Sanity. When I thought it appropriate and in the best interest of my country, state and city, I have crossed party lines; for me, the people always come first.

I look around and see millionaires and billionaires thriving and while most of us don’t resent their wealth, we do object to their not paying their fair share of taxes. We are supposed to have a progressive tax system and instead the Congress bought by their wealthy supporters has provided loopholes that permit the wealthiest corporations and individuals to pay in some cases nothing at all. People who get their income from stock trading, unlike those of us who receive salaries, pay at a rate of 15 percent when a salaried employee receiving the same income could be paying at a 35 percent rate. This is simply not fair.

Thank you Mitt Romney for selecting Paul Ryan as your running mate and thereby unwittingly turning this election into a crusade by all Americans who put country first and are willing to join hands across party lines to fight for fairness for all of our fellow citizens.

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