Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY), a Tea Party-backed candidate, was elected in November and he just held his first town hall meeting in Brooklyn – after voting for the Republican budget plan developed by Paul Ryan. Most of those who attended weren’t very happy with his support for Ryan’s Medicare plan:
The crowd lay in wait for him with sharpened reports from the Congressional Budget Office, incendiary printouts from liberal blogs, and even a few lethal rolled-up newspapers with articles about the House plan. Mr. Grimm was left standing, but only after 90 minutes of high-decibel debate, during which a school security guard had to threaten to remove several citizens vibrating with anger about Medicare.
It began when he asked the crowd of about 100 people whether they believed the nation faced a debt crisis. A woman near the front row responded that the nation faced a revenue crisis. Someone else shouted out that taxes were too low, and a third person shouted that it was all President George W. Bush’s fault for cutting taxes on the rich. There was a big round of applause, and with that the evening became a battle of statistics and worldviews, in perhaps the only section of the city divided enough to match the national debate.
“Adjust Medicare, don’t kill it!” shouted one woman. “The program just isn’t sustainable,” Mr. Grimm said, trying to control his meeting. “That’s a flat-out lie,” said a man in a Communications Workers of America shirt.
Around the country, Republican lawmakers on recess have encountered bitter opposition as they meet with constituents infuriated at their Medicare vote. Republicans have complained that the town meetings have been targeted by Democratic activist groups like MoveOn. It’s true, but the criticism is no less legitimate than when members of the Tea Party swarmed town halls in 2009 at the height of the health care debate.
Many of Mr. Grimm’s critics at the Brooklyn meeting were wearing union shirts, or reading from printouts. One woman who almost got thrown out for shouting is a regular contributor to the Daily Kos Web site. A few said in interviews that they lived in more affluent sections of the borough. But just as many appeared to be Mr. Grimm’s constituents, and said they had grave concerns about his vote to cut the safety net while benefiting the rich.
“If this whole budget is about trying to get out of debt,” asked one woman, “then why are we still providing tax cuts to the people who need it less?”
Mr. Grimm responded in a depressingly familiar way: “What this debate has turned into is class warfare — let’s be honest about it,” he said. Lower taxes across the board would increase government revenue, he maintained, in the face of loud catcalls from those who pointed out that that economic theory has long since been discredited
According to one show of hands, nearly half the audience voted for Mr. Grimm, and while they occasionally applauded, they were far quieter than the critics. None stood up to support his vote on Medicare. At his Staten Island meeting the next night, someone even rose to accuse him of trying to “kill Grandma.” Mr. Grimm, who won election by only three percentage points in 2010 (and who lost the Brooklyn section) may find his vote makes the task quite a bit harder in 2012.
By the way, here’s a video from Grimm’s campaign days where he tells a potential voter his opponent is lying, he “doesn’t want to privatize Social Security or Medicare” (starting at 1:08). You know, even though he voted for the Republican’s Ryan Medicare plan which does just that by calling it something else: