Thursday, September 1, 2011

Meehan's town halls sap the soul

Abandon hope all ye who enter here.  Having sat through two of U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan’s town meetings yesterday – and all credit to him for even holding them, most congressmen didn't – I can predict right now that there will be no letup in the current gridlock in Congress until after next year’s election, if then.

Government will continue to be dysfunctional to the point that it is not even certain that communities hard-hit by Hurricane Irene will receive significant federal help to rebuild their battered infrastructure or that Congress will pass a routine transportation bill to repair and rebuild highways, airports and railroads nationwide – a bill overwhelmingly approved by every Congress since Republican President Dwight Eisenhower first launched the federal highway system in 1956. 
It is crystal clear to me that Meehan will continue to march lockstep with his Republican House brethren down the path to hell, leading this country into the new Great Depression, firmly believing all the while that his is the true path to salvation.
He traveled around the county yesterday with his slide show of Republican talking points: sense of uncertainty (for business), record debt, complicated, uncompetitive tax code (for business), if the government were a family…, yada, yada, yada.
At each point he mentioned a Gallup Poll that showed that 80 percent of those polled are frustrated with government, but he seems blissfully unaware that it is the relentless Republican/Tea Party assault on President Obama and the Democrats that has caused that frustration.
“I’m frustrated too,” he told about 50 people in Concord and roughly 250 in Springfield, but he never concedes that his lockstep voting with the Republican Party on every major issue contributes to that frustration.
“Where are your jobs bills?” voters asked.  They never got a single straight, specific answer.  Here are Meehan’s solutions instead:
1.      Get our fiscal house in order (cut government spending) and strengthen Social Security and Medicare  He never says how, but he did vote for the Ryan budget that would turn Medicare into “insurance support” payments, a proposal that the Congressional Budget Office says would cost seniors an addition $6,000 or more a year for health insurance. $6,000.  Think about that.
2.      Bring certainty to job creators – reform the tax code and cut corporate taxation (more on this in a minute) and cut bureaucratic red tape (that is, cut environmental and business regulations).
We got lip service, lots and lots of lip service and vague answers and “I don’t know where I stand on that issue, I’ll have to look into it.”  
Tax the wealthy? Never.  Taxing them their fair share would only bring in $75 billion a year, which he fails to note would be $750 billion over 10 years, or roughly the same amount as the taxpayer bailout of the banking industry and their ultra-rich, thieving executives, none of whom have seen a day in jail because, as Meehan observed, what they did was not illegal.
The best question asked at the Concord meeting:  “Given the Republican declaration from Day One to make sure President Obama is a one-term president, would you vote against improving the economy if it hurts Obama or would you vote to improve the economy even though that would make Obama look better?”
Meehan allowed as how that was a “loaded question” (It’s not considering on Day One, U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell declared that the Republicans’ top priority is to ensure that Obama is a one-term president).
Eventually Meehan said he “would like to work with Obama” to improve the economy.  It was as half-hearted, self-serving, vague “what I think you want to hear” response as you can imagine. 
The best question from the Springfield meeting: “How can you lead us out of trouble when you’ve lost the trust of the American public?”
Meehan noted that “That is an observation well-stated.”  He didn’t say anything else.  How could he?  Politicians of every stripe, including Obama, really have lost the trust of the American people.
Here are three words I never heard Meehan say at either meeting: “fairness” “Middle Class.”  Nor did he ever acknowledge that it is consumer demand that stimulates job creation, not tax policy, and you can’t have increased demand for goods and services when people are unemployed or unsure if they soon will be.
He is adamant that our tax code places a “punishing burden” on business, you know, the job creators who haven’t been creating jobs for the past 10 years.
Punishing burden? Read this report put out yesterday by the Institute for Policy Studies that found that in 2009, 25 of the biggest American corporations not only did not pay any federal taxes, many actually received millions in federal subsidies and  paid their CEOs very handsomely, so handsomely that CEO pay now is now 263 times the pay of America’s average worker.
How is a 35 percent corporate tax rate punitive when, as Meehan says, each corporation has an office full of lawyers whose sole jobs are to ensure that the company pays zero?  What is he doing about that?  Oh yeah, he’s going to simplify the tax code and LOWER the corporate tax rate.
I think Pat Meehan is a decent man, what we in other times would have called “a moderate Republican” and I think he wants to do the right thing by his constituents.   He’s a former federal prosecutor who does know something about the corporate thievery that has brought this nation to the brink – perhaps over the brink – of destruction.
But he’s a freshman congressman who feels he  must toe the leadership’s line and he needs those corporate/law firm/insurance/real estate/Republican re-election campaign committee donations to be re-elected.
How glorious it would be if Meehan voted in the interests of the voters each and every time, if we could see him doing that and if, as a result, we would sweep him back into office election after election without his having to constantly shill for contributions and dance for lobbyists.
But that’s not reality.  In reality, the game is fixed, the system is profoundly, perhaps irrevocably, broken, the people lose and Meehan or someone like him will continue to represent the powers that be while the rest of us do whatever we can to survive.
Abandon hope.

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