Give Ann Marie Buerkle points for tenacity. In the debates for the 24th Congressional District seat, Buerkle has steadfastly held to her positions and articulated them better than her major party rival Dan Maffei, who, after three campaigns, still has not figured out how to get out of his own way when speaking in public.
Maffei’s dilemma in this campaign is made clear by a Siena College poll earlier this year that indicated that a healthy majority of voters in this district share Democratic views on the major issues, and would prefer to have a Democrat represent them in the House. Nonetheless the same poll showed Maffei and Buerkle in a dead heat. Sometimes the problem really does lie with the messenger.
But if Maffei comes across as a flawed vessel carrying some sort of liberal hybrid politics for the 21st century, Buerkle’s presentation, while smoother and more appealing (she understands that people like stories better than statistics), displays difficulty with what I would like to call “facts.”
None of our local debate moderators figured out how to make this clear, but on three key issues Buerkle is either obscuring what she knows to be true or is out of touch with reality. This is not analysis, it is not bias, it is simply up or down. On Medicare, on the budget deficit solution, and on climate change, Buerkle’s repeated statements contradict that which is known and verified. As somebody once said, “You could look it up.”
The most dramatic departure from reality is in the area of climate change (global warming) and the contribution of our species to the phenomenon. In the Oct. 24 debate, which was taped and broadcast on WCNY-Channel 24 as well as WSTM-Channel 3 and WTVH-Channel 5, Buerkle again repeated her assertion that there is no scientific consensus that “man” is responsible for the change in our climate that has been the subject of endless scientific studies for the past 20 years.
She responds to questions about climate change by attacking Dan Maffei on his record on “cap and trade,” legislation that would charge fossil fuel burners for the greenhouse gases they emit. Buerkle’s stance on climate change is supported by zero scientists.
Buerkle fiddles while the atmosphere burns, and for the life of me I can’t figure out why Maffei can’t take a moment’s break from saving the middle class to point that out.
On Medicare, Buerkle continues to assert that the president’s healthcare plan, which Maffei supports, cuts more than $700 billion in benefits to seniors. She announces this frightening statistic while accusing Maffei of scaring seniors by talking about cuts to Medicare. But this is a nonsense statistic.
She should watch Soledad O’Brien arguing this with Romney campaign supporter John Sununu on CNN back in August: youtube.com/watch?v=2A4YOfj0qaw. O’Brien was right then and Buerkle is wrong today. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the Affordable Care Act—Obamacare—is projected to reduce Medicare’s growth rate over the next 10 years, through efficiencies, by as much as $716 billion.
We’ll see if the savings materialize (Paul Ryan seems to think they will), but it will not cut services. Nor was Obamacare “shoved down the throats of the American people,” as Buerkle tells anyone who will listen. It was passed by Congress, signed by the president and upheld by the Supreme Court. (Just in case you’re wondering, there are no death panels either.)
On the budget deficit, Buerkle continues to advocate for supply-side economics even while she voted for a House bill that recognizes that tax cuts alone will not resolve our deficit problems. In the recent debate she proudly trumpeted her vote for “Simpson-Bowles” (not exactly accurate, but close enough), but declined, as she did in an interview with the Syracuse New Times, to address the most salient feature of the bill: a raise in tax rates paired with a drop in spending.
Actually, Rep. Buerkle voted for the Cooper-LaTourette budget bill, which went nowhere in the House, but which was the only bipartisan attempt to address the deficit along the lines of the Simpson-Bowles Commission. The Simpson-Bowles formula was a balanced combination of tax increases and spending cuts. Buerkle voted for it; Maffei says he would have voted against it.
It made sense, but she now she talks proudly about that vote at the same time she says she wouldn’t raise taxes. That vote does raise taxes, as any independent analyst says we must do. Does the representative know this and not want to admit it to us, or does she inhabit some sort of alternate universe in which things can be both true and not true at the same time? It’s your call. Polls open Tuesday, Nov. 6, at 6 a.m.
Read Ed Griffin-Nolan’s award-winning commentary weekly in the Syracuse New Times. You can reach him at email@example.com.