Last summer, my family took what we would later decide was our favorite family vacation thus far. We packed the car and headed north of Washington, DC, to Chautauqua Institute in New York state. I didn't know it at the time, but our trip took us through New York's 29th congressional district, represented by Republican congressman Tom Reed — a big "zero" on middle class issues.
The 29th has an interesting history. It was a "packed" Republican district until 2002, when redistricting turned it into a "cracked" district where neither party had a significant voting bloc. The 2008 election reversed the "crack" in Democrats favor. An unfortunate series of events in 2010 opened the "crack" in the 29th again, and Tom Reed fell through it.
In other words, a big zero fell through the crack and landed on the middle class. Tom Reed (R, NY-29) is one of "worst of the worst," who never sided with the middle class on a single important vote in this congress. That record earned him a "zero" score on TheMiddleClass.Org 2012 Voter Guide, which looks at 10 votes in the 112 Congress that encompass the real-life concerns of middle class and low income Americans. Reed came down on the side of the 1% every time.
- Tom Reed voted for the Republican FY 2013 Budget, aka "the Ryan Budget." As he fell into lockstep with the House GOP, Reed issued a statement claiming that the deficit and "Washington's spending" is "threatening critical programs like Social Security and Medicare" — even as he supported a "smoke and mirrors" budget that wouldgut Medicaid. end Medicare as we know it, and add $6.8 trillion to the federal debt.
- Meanwhile, Reed voted against the FY 2013 Progressive Caucus "Budget For All." Instead of supporting a budget that would reduce the federal debt and boost employment by millions, Reed chose the "Budget for Billionaires."
- Reed voted to extend the Bush tax cuts. As his reason for supporting a tax cut that would give millionaires a $106,000 bonus, Reed offered this: "Bottom line, the message is real clear: tax increases cost jobs." Here's a few things we know about taxes that Reed doesn't: Tax cuts for the wealthy don't stimulate the economy, and tax cuts don't create jobs, because the wealthy don't spend their tax cuts.
- Reed voted to take student borrowers hostage. Student debt is a growing problem for families. Graduates struggle to find jobs amid grim job prospects, while saddled with massive debt that could follow them to the grave (and beyond). Reed and the rest of the GOP held student borrowers and their families hostage, with legislation that would keep student loans at their current levels — at the cost of ending a vital public health program.
The rest of Reed's record on the MiddleClass.Org Voters Guide fills in the rest of the picture. Reed sided with big banks when he voted to gut the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — the agency charged with protecting consumers from the kind of predatory banking practices that caused the financial meltdown in 2009, and led to the economic crisis and recession. Reed put corporate interests ahead of the needs of working-class Americans, when he voted to lower tariffs on auto exports to Korea while maintaining incentives to outsource American jobs. Reed voted against the health and well-being of millions of Americans when he voted to repeal health care reform.
This year, voters have a unique opportunity to make sure there's one less "big zero" in Congress, voting against the needs and concerns of middle-class Americans. I mentioned earlier that Reed's district — New York's 29th congressional district — has an interesting history. Well, it has an even more interesting future: it's going away.
After the results of the 2010 Census, New York lost two congressional seats. After one of the hottest redistricting battles in the country, New York's 29th congressional district will be replaced by the 23rd congressional district — was redrawn to include 54% of of the 29th district. Incumbent Democrat Bill Owens is running in the 21st district instead, and Reed is facing off with Democratic challenger Nate Shinagawa — who promises to be a vote for health care reform, reproductive rights, pay equity, and preserving Social Security and Medicare.
According to BallotPedia, the 23rd is considered to be "leaning Republican." Perhaps with a strong enough push it might lean towards a candidate who will fight for the middle class, and away from another "big zero" for middle class Americans.