Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Come On In -- An Invitation

We tax all the others and pass the revenue on to you

Got something on your mind and want to see it in cyber-print? You are invited to submit an entire column (that's what I still call these blog posts) or just a paragraph or two. I prefer that it be emailed to me so I can devote main blog space to you but you can also submit it in the form of a comment.

I got this idea from Dr. Russ Burgos at UCLA. When I objected (perhaps overly rudely, I might add) to some things he said in his blog Splunge! (if you want to find my several posts search the blog for Chuck S or just click the link) he invited me to do what I am inviting you to do. Prof B and I don't agree on much. I'm a neocon to him and he's, well, at least he was polite enough to allow me my say.

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Count Switzerland in the group of tax havens that have new disclosure agreements with the IRS., as early as next week. If you have big bucks hidden in a Swiss bank account and don't move it by say, this afternoon, you might be in for a big bite of IRS-style justice. Of course, your records will still be there and be shared but your money could be in, say Dubai. Just sayin'. I don't admire MSNBC but this is a pretty good overview.

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As long as you asked.

My darlin' youngest daughter, a TV news producer, writes:

hi pops,

so dad, i know you're a republican and everything, but i also know that you're not a lunatic. so could you weigh in a little bit on these crazy town hall meetings about health care reform that are practically devolving into riots? what kind of a discussion can be had if people are acting like disgruntled toddlers?

i want to hear a debate, no question, even though i am for reform. but this seems wacky. it's about something else, i just can't figure out what. is it racial? is it party-driven?

enlighten me. please. you're the only republican i trust.

To which I replied:

Good Morning My Dear Youngest Daughter

Thank you for the question. I have been following this issue.

If I understand the format of town hall meetings it is as follows: An elected representative takes a position on an issue. S/he makes it known by public statements and voting record. "Town hall meetings" (THMs) have devolved (I like that word) to a sales pitch for said positions. They originally were meant for an elected official to hear the views of constituents and then to vote according to their wishes as s/he understood them from the meetings.
Keep in the forefront of your mind that this is the way a representative democracy is supposed to work. We vote them in, tell them what we want and they vote our wishes within the boundaries of their own consciences, national policy and our Constitution, as ever was. If they don't, we vote them out the next time around and pick someone who will.

i want to hear a debate" THMs were never intended as a debate forum and they are not now such a forum. It would be peculiar indeed for a constituency to elect a representative, then enter into debate with said rep. I can't recall ever hearing of an ad hoc debate between an elected representative and anyone else and I don't expect one now. Neither should you.

As you know, the administration failed in its initial attempt to re-structure/reform American health care, promising a resolution by the August congressional recess but unable to deliver. The majority leadership in both houses decided that "town hall meetings" (with few if any actual town halls involved) would be an effective way to quiet opposition and sell the plan before they re-convene in September, when they envisioned claiming to vote according to a ground-swell of support and demand from their constituents. They seem to have forgotten, inter alia, that almost none of them are effective public speakers. That has hurt them.

The administration wants either health care reform or health insurance reform. They can't make up their minds and we see Ms. Pelosi (for instance) and others demonizing the very health insurance and health care industries they are concurrently working with. The administration has been unable to explain and justify its plan in terms of coverage, cost, benefit, changes and constitutionality. Now elected representatives from Harry Reid (but not Nancy Pelosi, yet) are back in the hustings trying to sell the current plan that was, BTW, rejected a couple of weeks ago by them. They're not doing a good job.

The reps open their THMs by reading a prepared statement for the record (and one wonders why they don't speak extemporaneously), then allow time for attendees to speak. What the media (you, for instance) has been showing are vocal objections from presumed constituents (they have been pretty carefully screened for that and asked in advance what they want to say) who are mostly in opposition to the health care plan as currently envisioned by the administration and supported by the rep of the moment.

The THM plan has backfired, as you have seen with the angry objections to the sales pitches of some of the reps. "Eggs on their faces" comes to mind. It is the right and expectation of constituents that their reps will vote as I outlined. Voting Democrat or Republican is not a rubber stamp for every Democratic or Republican measure that is floated or submitted to Congress. People want to be heard on critical issues. Thus, THMs.

"Is it racial?" No.

"Is it party-driven?" To some extent, yes. The THMs on this issue are almost (but not quite) exclusively being held by Democrats, who have done a poor job of it. I have seen no anti-reform THMs from either side of the aisle. Reform opposition is encouraged by some conservative elements, no doubt about it, but that isn't necessarily party-driven even though it may be ideologically driven. However, it would be terribly mis-informed to think that all those vocal constituents do not believe what they are saying or have a right to say it, even within the tightly controlled confines of a THM. As you may have noticed, many reps who have yet to hold a THM are now declining to do so, even after they committed to them. Others simply refuse to meet in the open at all. As I wrote, that isn't the way representative democracy is supposed to work. Another thing to notice is the lack of popular support for the administration's/rep's position on reform. Where are the "pro" people? They have an equal right and invitation to appear and speak. Let them. I'll listen.

"what kind of a discussion can be had if people are acting like disgruntled toddlers?" It's not supposed to be a discussion as we might generally think of discussions, as you may have gleaned already.

Disgruntled toddlers"? I suppose that depends on whose ox is being gored. Such characterizations may serve the intent of the speaker or writer but are the factual or do they only further an "us" versus "them" approach?

"you're the only republican i trust." I'm sorry to hear that. There are many trustworthy Republicans and Democrats. For instance, I trust my representative Peter DeFazio, a Democrat. If health care reform was only an issue of party loyalty then it would already have been decided along party lines. It's not. It's an issue that will fundamentally change 1/6 of our economy and people want to know why and how and whether their reps read the bill before they voted on it. This one issue will change Lucy's life and she will bear the cost, along with her children. Isn't it fair that people want to know why and how and how much will it cost?

Thanks for asking. Keep an open mind and read my blog.

Love, Daddy

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