WE THE PEOPLE: Mr. Turner Goes to Washington

There is a lot of finger pointing going on by Democrats inQueens after Republican Bob Turner handily defeated David Weprin ina special election to replace Anthony Weiner in Congress. There isno doubt that Mr. Turner will be a breath of fresh air in Congress,but he brings little legislative experience with him at a crucialmoment in Congressional history. There is no doubt that our newcongressmember will do his best to do a good job for all NewYorkers. It would be a mistake to make the result in this specialelection of a doomed district a harbinger for the 2012elections.

This was a chance for voters to vent their frustration with thedysfunctional process in Washington, D.C. Both Republicans andDemocrats have responsibility for the gridlock in our legislature.Voters have little to be happy about in Washington, D.C. nowadays.President Obama and Speaker Boehner should pay attention to thismessage of discontent and increase their efforts to lower publicdebt and stimulate the economy.

An area where we could do much to improve the quality of life andreduce spending is Medicaid. New York State Medicaid spending isestimated to shrink slightly. It would still be an unbearable $52.6billion in 2012.

New York City Medicaid spending is headed for an all-time high of$6.2 billion in 2012. Yet, no one says that this incrediblyexpensive healthcare system is wonderful! We need to come up with aprogram that provides more care and costs a lot less.

While we wait for the details of how a half trillion dollar jobstimulus bill will be paid for and what it would accomplish, ourpolitical leaders could work on alternate plans. How about spending$200 billion to start a national public medical university withregional teaching hospitals to train doctors in exchange for a freeeducation? The GOP — with no reasonable alternatives to thepresident’s job plan — is equally responsible for our stagnanteconomy.

At least there are signs the New York City economy is picking up abit. New York City added more than 2,000 computer service jobs in2011, New York City private sector jobs grew 1.6 percent in thepast 12 months, tourism rebounded and 50 million visitors areexpected to come to New York City in 2012, Wall Street is stillprofitable, and many financial service companies have fully repaidall TARP government assistance including Goldman Sachs, Bank ofAmerica and Citigroup.

We must sensibly approach financial services regulation whilefiguring out how to restore financial sector jobs in back officesaround the greater New York City area.

Hopefully, Mr. Turner will moderate some of the extreme budgetpolicies he included in his campaign rhetoric. He must rememberthat you can’t merely cut taxes to stimulate growth and hopeprosperity will trickle down to workers. That is a failed idea fromthe Reagan-era budgets that tripled our national debt in eightyears.

We have a $14.5 trillion dollar debt that is a weight on oureconomy. We must work together to reduce it and government mustchange the way it spends our money to assure that necessaryservices are delivered. Our political leaders must work together,because if they continue to work separately we are certainlyassured of failure.

Brian Kieran is a community activist who works for the Stateof New York and is a Democrat.

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