Denver Post Takes a Cheap Shot at Buck

I worried that, with the loss of the Rocky Mountain News, the Denver Post would get even worse. In the good ol’ days, generally I loved the News and hated the Post. But then I had a chance to chat with Post editor Greg Moore, who generally impressed me, and the Post also hired Rocky favorites Vincent Carroll and Lynn Bartels. Add to that the solid work of David Harsanyi and Chuck Plunkett, plus generally good news reporting, and the Post has slowly won me over.

Yet obviously sometimes the Post makes mistakes (such as when it rushed to report a possible secondary plagiarism scandal that didn’t pan out).

The paper’s editorial board erred (in a small way) in taking a cheap shot at Ken Buck while endorsing Jane Norton in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate.

Now, it doesn’t bother me that the Post endorsed Norton, and several of the paper’s arguments are fairly strong ones. For example, the Post notes that Buck received “a letter of reprimand… for bad-mouthing a felony case to defense attorneys,” an issue that will be used against him by Democrats regardless of the justice of the attack, and Buck “helped launch a questionable raid on a tax preparer’s office that was the subject of a Supreme Court rebuke” (which bothers me rather more).

I am no party man; indeed, I’m not even a registered Republican voter, so I have no say in the primary vote. I will mention that, initially, I thought Norton was the stronger candidate despite her endorsement of the Referendum C tax hike, though recently she has quite irritated me by smearing Buck and (following Buck) endorsing the horrific “personhood” measure.

My problem with the Post’s endorsement stems from the following language:

When we asked the two Republican candidates about spending, Norton zeroed in on the problem: federal entitlements.

She offered ideas about how to shore up Social Security and talked about means-testing Medicare. She wasn’t afraid to say that even military spending should be on the table.

Buck went for the easy gotcha, offering up the standard Republican line about cutting the National Endowment of the Arts and other small programs that are unpopular on the right. Perhaps they should be cut, but they represent only a tiny slice of government spending. When we asked him to be more specific, he had trouble.

“There are issues like Medicare, I just don’t know how to right this ship,” he said. “I mean, let’s be honest, we are beyond a simple solution to this. We have to call in the experts and figure this out. I can’t sit here and say this is the answer in Medicare.”

Judging from this analysis, Norton offered ideas for how to solve the entitlement crisis, while Buck said nothing about it. But that doesn’t square with the Post’s own published interviews with the candidates.

In fact Buck offered a good basic plan for reforming Social Security:

But I think in terms of Social Security . . . I have told my 19- and 22-year-old, you are not going to retire at age 62 with Social Security as life expectancy continues to increase. We have to put off the date of receiving benefits. Now, we shouldn’t do that with someone who’s 58 years old. But we should make sure the expectations for a 19- and 22-year-old are further down the road than 62 or 65. And we’re probably looking at a date like age 70 or something along those lines.

My only complaint is that Buck wants to raise the pay-out age only somewhat; I want to keep slowly raising it until the program is completely phased out.

Meanwhile, what did Norton say about Social Security?

One would be [look] at the automatic cost of living increases, the COLAs, in Social Security. … I think you’d have to look at increasing the age of retirement for the Medicare programs, Social Security, but not for those people who are close to retirement. So for young people coming into the system, I think that’s one of the things we’re going to have to do in the short term. In the long term, voluntary investment accounts if people want to do that. But again it’s going to have to be phased in, but we truly have to start talking about it.

So Norton wants to raise the pay-out age, which is exactly the same thing Buck wants to do. Sure, Norton mentions “voluntary investment accounts,” but no federal program is required to “allow” people to “voluntarily” invest their money, so on this point Norton’s suggestion is entirely vacuous. Norton’s answer is no more “specific” than is Buck’s, contrary to the Post’s editorial claim.

And what is Norton’s plan for Medicare? “You would have to look at means-testing in the Medicare program.” That’s it. That might be more than what Buck offered, but it hardly takes a Hasan Family Foundation fellow to parrot the term “means-testing.”

Now, if you want to complain about Buck’s interview, I offer the following exchange for consideration. The Post asked Buck about insurance. Buck said some nice things about health savings accounts and tax-deductible insurance premiums for individuals. Yet he also had the following to say: “I think it makes sense to not ban people that have pre-existing conditions.” The Post asked, “So how do you pay for that? Buck answered, “The same way you pay for a lot of things. We’re going to spread the burden out across the rest of the people who are insured.”

In other words, just as Obama wants to forcibly “spread the wealth around,” so Buck wants to forcibly “spread the burden out.” That is an anti-free market position. The real solution is to end the political controls that have destroyed long-term health insurance, thereby creating the problem of uninsurable pre-existing conditions.

Norton apparently wants “a high-risk pool for people who really need it, for people that aren’t insured and have a pre-existing condition;” it is unclear to me whether she wants to force insurance companies to “spread the burden out.”

On practically all policy matters, there’s really very little difference between Norton and Buck.