Budgetary Smoke and the Long Con

With media outlets determined to interpret and spin Congresses recent actions, it should be interesting to see what they have to say about the one week budget extension, along with the Republicans’ inability to pass any significant legislature.

Will they ignore that this temporary spending measure passed only because House Democrats voted to keep the government from shutting down? Will they gloss over how Mitch McConnell insisted on a voice vote, lest any Senator be recorded? 

These kind of craven deeds are typical of right-wing theocrats utterly convinced of their place in the elite, and totally committed to the notion of massive tax cuts and windfalls for the wealthy. Believing their misdeeds can be hidden in plain sight.

Who despite having six plus years to come up with a replacement plan for the ACA came to the table with nothing. So it wasn’t surprising to see Speaker Ryan fail for the second time in three weeks to bring Zombiecare 2.0 up for a vote.  And when such missteps are combined with his inability to pass a budget resolution, it’s yet another reminder of their inability to govern responsibly.

Circumstances which remind me of the villain’s remark in James Bond movie Goldfinger; “Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, the third time it’s enemy action.” And how will their failures to exploit majorities in both chambers play on the Drumpf’s compulsive need to be seen as a winner — as someone who “gets things done.”

An illusion he goes to great lengths to maintain; starting with his many signing statements, half of which are calls for reviews, commissioned reports or established panels to issue recommendations that collectively represent a dizzying schedule of 90-, 120- and 180-day increments for federal agencies to evaluate the feasibility of White House goals.

While there’s nothing wrong with collecting information to make better policy decisions, considering how little this administration has actually used information (aka, facts) to drive their policy decisions, it’s more likely that his true “intent” was to use these signing statements as opportunities to play to his audience, letting them know he’s “making his priorities clear.”

Like his racially charged con … I mean promise to restore the white male industrial wage-earner to their rightful place in society. Returning to an era where rigid social hierarchies ruled, where harsh punishments were the norm.  And true to form, he delivers the easiest part of this punitive formula — using his attorney general to crack down on those he calls threats.

Meanwhile, his tax proposal will blow a massive hole in the federal budget, starving the government of revenue and saddling future generations with the burden of fixing the social safety net. It would slash tens of billions of dollars from anti-poverty programs, leaving tens of millions of Americans without health insurance, and does nothing to bring jobs to this country.

Surprisingly his brand of scorched earth populism has almost no effect on his supporters, where despite all of his broken campaign promises, and lies; they are determined to support him in greater numbers than last Novembers election.

Whether it’s because they watch too much FOX Noise —

Or don’t think they will be affected by the coming economic regime, or are too culturally conditioned to understand it, all that matters to them is the perception that his racist and nativist crusade against people of color and Muslims is working.

Given the centrality of racism and white supremacy in today’s Republican Party specifically, and movement conservatism more generally, his overt hostility to people of color is widely considered a sign of “success” by his supporters.

That poll also signals a deeper problem. In many ways, voters of all persuasions are unable to make consistent and coherent voting decisions, unable to connect their personal decisions to questions of institutional power and political outcomes, a crisis of civic literacy which threatens the foundations of American democracy.

A set of circumstances which masks the danger behind the Drumpf’s clownish veneer, his ways of lying are not just the actions of an impetuous man-child. They are part of a deliberate strategy designed to cloud our capacity to think, to live in the realm of truth.

And while many of the Drumpf’s supporters understand his policies will hurt people like them, they will continue to overwhelmingly support him. According to a recent ABC/Washington Post survey 96 percent of his supporters said they would vote for him again.

Whether it’s because he so brazenly flouts the truth … I mean tells it like it is, or promises to put “people” in their place has never been clear.  And because his presidency is essentially a rebellion against liberalism itself — his language, tone, personal behavior, and policies are all designed to foster a sense of resentment.

Considering that he has the attention span of a hummingbird, his ability to maintain his supporter’s sense of anger is a testament to his skills as a demagogue. And since he is already siphoning wealth from public coffers, through petty graft and public policy, his familiarity with how taxes cuts work, and ability to speak the lingo, offer him a chance to pull off his biggest con.

Make no mistake, any “compromise” he makes with the Republican’s over tax reform will promise much while delivering little. For example, his initial one page proposal would have cost the Government an estimated $5.5 trillion in lost revenue over the next 10 years, while adding another $20 trillion to the national debt by 2036.

Money that were it going towards infrastructure and investment — in health care and education — is sustainable, since there are substantive benefits to such spending, and it has been shown to promote long-term prosperity.

Unfortunately, regressive taxation also happens to be a topic where his self interest is most in line with conservative ideologues and radical Republican governance particularly at the state level.

Where for the past eight years, they have conducted a Dr. Moreau laboratory of economic experiments which have brought them: stagnant growth, rising poverty, higher income inequality, and recurring budget crises. Bringing us to this inescapable conclusion; Republicans across the country are really bad at governing, and Congress is even worse.

Both of their plans for enacting tax changes are based on irreconcilable models. So will it be the Cheeto faced Twittler’s tax cuts with nothing to offset lost revenues, save rosy future forecasts? Or will it resemble Speaker Ryan’s proposal; a dedicated tax generating revenue over time, offsetting some of the top corporate rate cuts?

When Paul Krugman’s recently compared an episode of the Twilight Zone” called “It’s a Good Life,” to the current administration, he wasn’t being facetious. He was pointing the similarities between this tale about an immature 6-year-old with monstrous superpowers who terrorizes a small town, with the inhabitants constant fear made even worse by the need to pretend everything was fine, lest any hint of discontent bring down terrible retribution.

Considering how determined Congressional Republicans are to avoid conflict with the Drumpf, their public proclamations of “finding areas where they agree,” there could be more truth to Krugman’s comparison than we realize, especially since they are equally determined to slip out of town before anyone notices their entire “plan” for spurring faster economic growth, creating millions of new jobs and raising wages is based on magical thinking.

Just like believing he  won’t do as little as possible, shifting whatever responsibilities he can to the next sucker. As long as he gets to bask in the adulation of his audience, he doesn’t give a shit about anything Congress does or says; just so long as they hurry up and do their damn job.

Jon Taylor

 

Spoiled children need time outs

Virginia’s 7th Congressional district is made up of nearly three quarters of a million people and we are represented by a man acting like a child who has been caught misbehaving. Dave Brat ran on a platform of being accessible to his constituents. While it is true that you can contact his office, what he did not say is that you will not get a direct response to your concern.

Congressional recesses are also known as “district work periods.” They exist to make sure legislators do not lose touch with constituents. Town halls are a time honored tradition and a basic part of our democratic heritage. During this past recess, Mr. Brat elected not to hold any town halls, not even one, despite numerous requests. It is his job to do so. Instead, he has held “pop up” meetings with 24 hours notice during the work day. His office says his schedule is not public ahead of time and they seem unable to do any long term planning.

Mr. Brat knows he has been caught breaking his promise and he is running and hiding to those who will support him and provide photo opportunities for his Facebook page. Avoidance is his top strategy. As a voting constituent and small business owner, I have emailed, faxed and telephoned. I receive back form letters thanking me for my support which do not answer my question, only dodge it.

I viewed both of his Facebook live events, which was much like sitting in a large college class listening to the professor drone on and hawk his book. I attended the town hall in Blackstone, was fortunate to get in, and even had one of my questions asked of Mr. Brat. He did not answer it, or any other questions posed to him. He talked around the subjects so that when played back later his answers could be construed as both for and against.

I next requested a meeting with his office on April 3. After submitting all of my contact information and my questions ahead of time, I was scheduled for a meeting on April 18. Two hours prior to the meeting, I got a call that the meeting was cancelled and they were unable to reschedule. I believe my questions were just too hard to answer.

Avoiding constituents’ concerns and breaking campaign promises is a clear and consistent pattern with Mr. Brat unless you are a big donor or blindly follow the Republican platform. While immediate consequences are most effective in addressing bad behavior, November 2018 is coming, Mr. Brat. Our opinions on your representation or lack thereof will be “accessible” to you then and you will be sent to time out.

Aleta Strickland

Editor’s note: this first appeared in the 4-27-17 edition of the Central Virginian, and is re-posted with the author’s permission, and is only available via hard copy or online to paying subscribers.

So, just what is “democracy?”

I was asked by the Culpeper Persisters to give a talk the other day on our system of representative government (find them on Facebook—they would be glad to welcome any of you who might care to join their ranks). I know a thing or two about government, having spent many years, not only in the Army, but as a senior executive in the Department of Energy, where I interacted extensively with the Department of State, the National Security Council, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the International Atomic Energy Agency, foreign governments and, very importantly, the legislative branch.

Do you have your own handy pocket-sized copy of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence? They are worth your detailed study and understanding. In my opinion, the best one is “The U.S. Constitution, — And Fascinating Facts About It,” available for free although you have to pay for shipping and handling. You can get a free copy from Hillsdale College. There are also apps that you can download to your phone.

Thomas Jefferson wrote, “I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves: and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.”

In that vein, my assignment from the Culpeper Persisters was to lead a discussion of how our government is supposed to work, and how we, as citizens, can affect its direction and course. For those of you who grew up in Virginia schools, how many of you remember what was taught in your senior year “Virginia and U.S. Government” course? Here’s a brief refresher.

Simply put, “democracy” is government by the people. Because government by “town hall” is not practical except perhaps in small villages, the Founding Fathers devised a representative democracy where the people elect legislators to speak for them in the halls of government. A “republican” form of representative democracy means that we don’t have a monarch, but a president elected by the people through the institution of the Electoral College—imperfect as it may be.

The Founders chose a federal form of government where those powers not granted to the national government nor denied to the states, are reserved to the state governments or to the people. The federal government is divided into three equal branches—the “separation of powers”—legislative, executive and judicial, that are vested in the Congress, the president, and the Supreme Court, respectively. This is what provides our government with the checks and balances that are supposed to protect us from abuses of power.

Thus, we might best be described as a “constitutional federal representative democratic republic.”

Do you know how our laws are written? Laws are initially proposed in “bills” that originate in one of the two houses of our “bicameral” legislature. They are proposed by either our senators or our representatives, based on proposals from constituents, the members of Congress themselves, the president or, increasingly, from powerful lobbyists representing vested interests in wealthy multinational corporations and banks.

Bills are referred to committees for further investigation and discussion and, if they don’t “die” there, they are reported to the Senate or House of Representatives for debate. If a bill passes one house, it must go to the other house for its committee work and debate. If a bill passes both houses, differences are settled in a conference committee, the bill goes back to both houses for a final vote, and if passed by both houses, it goes to the president for his approval and signature.

Only then does a bill become a law and then it is recorded in the United States Code. If the president vetoes the bill, then it can only be overridden by a two-thirds vote by both houses of Congress. Would you like to know more? Check out “Schoolhouse Rock” version —or the more detailed PBS rendition.

Our country is facing enormous problems: the war on women, immigrants, LGBTQs, and other minorities, inadequate health care, climate change denial, gross income and tax inequality, voter disenfranchisement, gerrymandering, crumbling infrastructure, and the undue influence of big money thanks to Citizens United. The present government, now in the hands of the 1 percent, is not addressing these problems.

The Republican-led Congress has become dysfunctional and is enjoying its lowest popularity in a hundred years.

Even at the state level there is no relief for the middle class. The Virginia General Assembly has passed so many frivolous and ill-advised bills that the governor felt obligated to veto 91 of them.

As Abraham Lincoln so aptly described it, the Founding Fathers created a government of the people, by the people and for the people. So what can you, as a citizen, do to try to influence today’s issues? Become an activist. Hold your elected representatives accountable at every level of government. Write letters and emails, post on your representatives’ social media pages, go to town halls and similar meetings for those brave enough to hold them.

Most importantly, vote. The primaries and elections in 2017 and 2018 will be the most important in our lifetimes.

Resist, insist, persist, enlist. An admonition that was widely quoted in the 19th century has never been more applicable than it is today: “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”

Mike McClary

Editor’s Note: This piece has been re-posted with the author’s permission, and originally appeared here.

 

 

Tax Cuts — by any means necessary

As Congress and this administration continue to stumble over the legislative basics, more and more Americans are starting to realize that like death and taxes, their claims of repealing and reforming health care has only one outcome; “tax cuts for America’s wealthiest;” particularly CEO’s of healthcare/pharmaceutical companies, and more tax cuts.

After years of years tapping into public frustration with how the ACA fell short in order to drive sentiment against it, Congressional Republicans are doubling down on their bait-and-switch agenda of repealing but not replacing it. Pointedly ignoring the fact that they are moving even further away from what voters of all political persuasions want — rather than closer.

And as strategies go, it’s a reasonably clever misdirection, assuming you accept their premise that all these tax cuts will be financed by reducing government waste, cutting social programs, etc. Unfortunately, the reality is they won’t come anywhere close to covering those lost revenues, or do much to stimulate the economy.

And since Republicans must keep their benefactors happy with tax cuts, they are going out of their way to ignore that their plan is not popular among their rank-and-file. A task which is becoming increasingly more difficult because their inability …. ahem natural reluctance to communicate honestly about what they’re doing, lest they end up undermining their own efforts.

As Republicans continue to encounter more legislative difficulties, perhaps they will be “reconsidering” their use of the filibuster. Knowing full well that it’s the only way they will be able to pass bills which would otherwise never made it through the Senate.

Over the past few months, we’ve had to listen to shills like Dave Brat claim that, “The sooner we get to a free market solution the better,  we all want to succeed with a plan that truly lowers healthcare costs for all Americans, so that small businesses can start hiring again. Then watch and see the economy take off and create jobs and opportunities all across the board.”

Remarks which are typical of what his Party has to offer, carefully crafted buzz words,  pointedly designed to ignore the reality of what will happens once their “reform” passes.

Fourteen million American’s will loose their health care, with another 10-12 million more in the decade that follows.

Considering that the health care industry represents roughly 1/6th of the nation’s economy, one would think that containing those costs would be a desired outcome . Unsurprisingly, Congresses “free market” reforms of the health care system will do nothing to contain those costs.

And despite claiming for decades that deficits were our government’s biggest problem, and their biggest concern, their notion of reform has  such a minimal impact on the deficit that it has exposed that ancient claim as one of their biggest distractions … I mean lies.

What most people don’t know is that for the past two years, our government has been kept afloat via a series of continuing budget resolutions, the latest of which expires at the end of this month. Negotiations everyone should pay attention to, since there is every indication that Congress plans on making extensive use of the REINS Act to shove an extreme legislative agenda down the American peoples throat.

Ever since they went out of their way to pass this act during the first days of this year’s legislative session, Republican claims that it was because of their deep seated fear of executive overreach have been  sounding increasingly insincere.  Keep in mind that when it comes to bills in Washington DC, a good rule of thumb is that the more pernicious the intent, the more high-minded the title.

Republican’s will use the REINS Act, along with a slew of other bills such the pending Regulatory Accountability Act to undermine past regulatory legislation. They will also abuse the existing Congressional Review Act. Under the C.R.A., rules issued by the White House in the previous six months — could be rescinded by a joint resolution of Congress. Any regulation rescinded under C.R.A., then, under the same law, agencies are barred from issuing a similar regulation in the future.

According to Alison Cassady, domestic energy policy director at the Center for American Progress, “Given the partisan gridlock in Congress, this could result in a de facto ban on new public interest safeguards.” With the Posts James Hohmann pointing out, any replacement regulations would require congressional approval, and “if you know anything about the Hill, you know that will happen—when pigs fly.”

It is hard to overstate what a big deal that is,” especially since this is how House Republican’s intend to write the payroll tax that funds Social Security out of existence, along with cutting corporate tax rates. Whether the opportunity to kill Social Security under the pretense of enacting tax reform proves to be an irresistible temptation for them remains to be seen.

Speaking of big deals, how many of our local and state representatives not only share similar attitudes about governance, but act in a similar manner?

While there may be little to say one way or another about local officials up for election on the School Board, there is much to be said about our Board of Supervisors. Who’s shuffling off of several important responsibilities last year speak for themselves.

Should the people of this county desire a Board that is responsive to their concerns, and believes in responsible governance, then good start would be to clear out some of the deadwood, throwing the two most useless Supervisors into the brushfire.

And with Delegate Farrell unexpectedly resigning last month, the people of Louisa and the 56th House District will have a choice of candidates for the first time in decades.  Considering how many of these newcomers have hitched their wagons to Party extremists, it remains to be seen how successfully they will be able to hide their craven agendas behind graven platitudes.

One thing is for sure, it won’t happen without the assistance … ahem enabling of an incurious media who appear determined to ignore their “ethical obligation to minimize harm and not to pander to lurid curiosity.” Whether they justify it with there are always “two sides” to every argument, is irrelevant.

The fact remains, most regional media outlets continue to shamelessly promote conservative versions of legislative and political events. Something our local paper, The Central Virginian is not immune to, offering up a steady diet of low cost low informational content which allows them to pass off stenographing local official’s remarks, and not asking any follow up questions as informing their readers.

Whether they actually believe in their brand of cut and paste journalism, or that their readers enjoy being bombarded with conservative content is beside the point. 

By allowing propaganda like this FaceBook notice from Congressman Brat to appear unfiltered, they are as culpable as the political hacks who are determined to privatize and dumb down the internet.

This is not an isolated example; over the past few years, the CV has printed many other conservative politician’s  “notices” almost verbatim.

A journalistic enterprise is either committed to the truth or it is not. Unlike the New York Times, who after hyping itself themselves as an antidote to fake news are now trying to “defend” their decision to hire an extreme climate denier for their editorial staff, claiming that “millions agree with him.”

The notion that media outlets can be a fierce arbiters of the “truth” while skipping over that same diligence with their op-ed pieces has long been one of journalism’s biggest conceits, namely that the “truth” is the realm of the little people.

And it’s a conceit which allows them to hide in plain sight that they are looking for popular ideas to spread even if they are “alternative” fact — or that the authors of their opinion pieces are treating their readers as marks.

With the CV having revamped their coverage of local affairs, perhaps I’m being uncharitable in saying that the price we all pay for such minimalistic coverage is that most of their readers will remain virtually ignorant about the most important local issues and the deeds of their elected officials.

Nor does their renewed coverage alter the reality that such a systemic commitment to such so-called journalism is no longer a “bug” in the system, but has become a permanent feature of virtually every level of their reporting.

And it is precisely why Blue Louisa exists, to keep you informed since the media won’t.

Jon Taylor

 

 

Dave Brat Is An Abuser

It took me some time to get my thoughts in order because I wanted to make sure that I express my concerns correctly and to avoid the perception that this is a kneejerk reaction to Dave Brat’s outrageous behavior. This is not news, and certainly, it is not “fake” news; I attended the Town Hall Meeting in Blackstone VA on February 22, 2017, and what was reported by Patrick Wilson of the Richmond Times-Dispatch is basically correct.

I heard those comments; I took my own notes that coincide and fill in between what was reported.

So, why is he an abuser? Let me count the ways.

Dave Brat abused his constituents by holding a Town Hall Meeting at the edges of his gerrymandered 7th District, in Blackstone. The intent for this venue was not to accommodate the citizens, because some had to drive about 2 hours to get there; rather, it was in the hope that he would get a favorable response from what he likely considered his base supporters, and to avoid resistance to his positions and platforms. With the little disregard that he showed, by that act, it is obvious that he did not care about any inconvenience that he caused, but only how he would be perceived. He would have been perceived much better if he did try to accommodate a larger part of his constituency and treat them better than he did.

Dave Brat abused his constituents by wasting their time. It was a full 15 minutes – I timed it – before he finally listened to the crowd’s chants to get him to answer the questions, which was the expected purpose for the Town Hall Meeting. One of his real purposes was to convince the audience of his bona fides, which was completely unnecessary; that same irrelevant information is available on his website. You can imagine a Master of Ceremonies for a radio or TV program introducing Brat in this same way that he introduced himself; that program would be taken off the air quickly.

His other explicit purpose was to hawk his book; which had nothing to do with the Town Hall Meeting. He made too many references to his book as feeble answers to the questions that were asked. After wasting that 15 minutes of his constituents’ time, he offered another 15 minutes at the end to compensate, which was another 15 wasted minutes. At that time of night, when the Town Hall Meeting was supposed to end at 8:00 PM, that additional 15 minutes was inconsiderate to those constituents who took the time to drive 2 hours for this event. But, Brat was just being consistently inconsiderate and abusive of his constituents.

Dave Brat abused his constituents by setting up the Question and Answer process to the disadvantage of those who attended and wanted answers to difficult political questions. He did this by avoiding feedback to his answers. His answers were flippant, non-responsive, and impertinent. He did not have the Town Hall Meeting to listen to the people; he wanted the people to listen to him. And, the people he wanted listening were his base supporters. With feedback, he would have been able to verify if his answers were valid, satisfactory, or relevant to the rest of his constituency; he did not care. He prevented any meaningful discussion.

Dave Brat abused his constituents by intentionally giving answers to questions that had little or no substance. That may have been acceptable for his base; but when citizens who are concerned about the effect of legislation on their lives, their finances, their health, and their civil liberties received his responses, they have every reason to be outraged. Following are some paraphrased examples of those responses.

  • The future of Social Security was brought up as a question; he had as a response that Social Security should be privatized. The word “privatize” sounds good to his base, but they don’t understand what it means. Privatization means that the citizens will be funding their retirement through financial institutions that will be free to risk the money of the public in the form of corporate gambling, without consequences. The Executive Orders to weaken the fiduciary provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act will reduce those consequences to corporations and transfer the burden to the taxpayers. Fueling the “free enterprise” system, but leaving out the consumers, is the method Brat, and the rest of the GOP adhere to. The banal adage – what’s good for business, is good for America – doesn’t work well in the “trickle-down” myth of economics. With his claim of being knowledgeable in economics, you would think he could, and would, find an honest way to save the citizens of this country from corporate pillaging. Not Dave Brat. He listens well to his contributors, but not his constituents.
  • Reduced funding for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was raised as a concern. Brat managed to bring up his time at the World Bank – but not about any details of his work there – as a response to environmental concerns. He was trying to equate economic growth with polluting the environment, and using the World Bank as an authority for that. In his so-called response, he asked, “Do you want to be poor or do you want to be rich?” This kind of twisted option is an insult to citizens because neither of these are a reasonable option. Of course, almost everyone wants to be rich and no one I can think of will say they want to be poor. So what is the real option? The real option is an illusion. If you don’t mind being poor, you’ll be subjected to environmental insults – the most recent I can think of is the lead pollution disaster in Flint MI. That happened because of Republican cost-cutting measures.
  • The citizens of Flint MI never got the opportunity to be rich. No other normal citizens will get the opportunity to be rich under his lack of environmental integrity. What about the rich? No problem. All they have to do is find a suitable location that’s pollution free. If someone wants to pollute their environment, they have the wealth to simply say “Go away” and it happens. Where is the same advantage for the poor? How is he going to help? He’s not going to help. The simple reason is that the poor are ready-made victims and he’s ready to help exploit them.
  • Repealing the Affordable Care Act is one of his stated priorities, but he was unable, or unwilling, to provide any details for its replacement. After noticing the crowd’s opposition to that stand, he conveniently hid behind his position on the budget committee, where he’s allegedly waiting to see what kind of bill is written. If you have to wait for someone else, you don’t have to give an answer of your own to a crowd that wants real answers. In general, Brat wants to give the public “options” for healthcare. The options are very simple: you either pay exorbitant rates for healthcare or you can die. And there you have your “freedom of choice” according to Brat. Who could ask for anything more? The United States spends the largest amount of money, per capita, on healthcare; yet, it doesn’t rank first in longevity. It does rank first in the number of bankruptcies resulting from exorbitant amounts for healthcare. If you take a close look, there are no other countries where the citizens go bankrupt just to stay alive. “Only in America.”
  • He has a singularly unique solution to better education. If you think that you live in a district where the school system is inadequate, “change your zip code.” That’s right. That’s it. Move. How many people really have that opportunity? How many people really have the resources to move to a district with a better school system and resources? If you’re someone who has reasonable financial resources, and you’re young enough, you will be looking for a better school district to give your children the best advantage; yet, you still may not be able to do that because of job limitations. But, with all others in the lower economic status trying to get an education, how are you going to crowd all of them into elegant neighborhoods? The affordable housing won’t be there. Part of the changing zip code solution will likely include tax credits and vouchers – that’s if you have enough money to move – while the budgets for public schools are slashed. The money for those tax credits has to come from somewhere; it might as well be from those poor constituents who can’t change their zip codes. After all, they won’t be getting an education anyway. Those who are “fortunate” enough to be in the public school system for the short time that it’s going to be funded, will be subjected to Brat’s support of the Betsy DeVoss philosophy on education.

Dave Brat abused his constituents by intentionally staying uninformed about issues and the concerns of the public throughout his term. His script is written by his contributors, not the constituent voters. He may say that he was elected by a majority vote and considers that majority as his constituents while conveniently ignoring all others.

At the Town Hall Meeting he did his best to ignore “all others” but there may be more of them than he realized and expected. If he, so willingly, chooses to stay uninformed – that is, not even listening to those who voted for him – then, someone else who has the capability and ability to listen and stay informed, should replace him in office. The sooner, the better.

Joe Mikolajczak

General Assembly Wrap up — This is why we vote

The Vetoes

House Democrats sustained every veto, defeating bills that would:

  • Allow people to carry concealed weapons into emergency shelters;
  • Defund Planned Parenthood;
  • Allow homeschooled students to participate in public high school sports;
  • Increase the difficulty of voting by absentee ballot;
  • Permit discrimination against LGBT Virginians under the guise of protecting religious freedom;
  • Allow those who have gotten a protective order to carry a concealed weapon before being trained to use it;
  • Force localities to enforce federal immigration laws, holding detainees in jails after their release dates;
  • Transfer millions of dollars in tax credits to large coal companies and utilities (the Coal Tax Credit).

Coal Tax Credit Defeated

Of particular satisfaction to me was our vote to sustain the governor’s veto of the coal tax credit. In the last 30 years, Virginia’s taxpayers have sent almost $630 million to large coal companies and utilities, all designed to encourage the production of more coal and to generate more jobs. It has been a dismal failure! Production has dramatically declined and there are about 2,400 coal-mining jobs left in coal country, down from 11,000 several decades ago. Not only is coal dirty to burn and a huge contributor toward climate change, it is also now more costly than natural gas or, in some cases, even solar. Southwest Virginia is certainly hurting badly, and the state should be investing in training and new job creation in the region, but the answer is not to provide monies directly to the coal companies and utilities. You can watch a video of my speech on this issue here: Facebook or YouTube

Medicaid Expansion Fails Again

Despite persistent efforts by the Governor and Democrats, Republicans voted down a renewed attempt to expand Medicaid, thereby refusing to do what Signing Bill HB221731 other states have done, and rejecting efforts to provide some healthcare assistance to 400,000 Virginians who do not presently have coverage. Our failure to expand Medicaid has, over the last six years, cost the state $10 billion in federal money (about $6.6 million per day) that we could have otherwise used to help our citizens, hospitals, and state budget. This is not an issue that will go away, as access to reasonably-priced healthcare will continue to be a challenge.

HB2217 Bill Passed

We had a great crowd in Richmond for the signing of my bill to protect victims of sexual violence and trafficking. The bill makes it easier for the victims to keep their addresses confidential and prevent their assailants from finding out where they live.

Delegate David Toscano

Editors Note: reprinted with authors permission

Life with Trump

Well, well, well, what has America become with Donald Trump’s election? Now that many Americans, many of which are still hopeful that he will keep the jobs promise have figured out that they have been lied to and conned like never before.

This president and his wealthy, billionaire cabinet and staff have absolutely no intention of helping anyone but themselves – just follow the money now that we have information on their wealth coming into the White House and government and compare it to what they have exiting.

Trump certainly isn’t planning to fix our healthcare system. The Trumps, however, are planning on acquiring another DC luxury hotel, in spite of the fact that they claim not to be profiting from their official government positions.

The truth is that the initial legislative fiasco promoted as a “healthcare bill” was really a tax giveaway bill for the wealthy when it included total tax deductions for insurance/healthcare CEOs pay to the tune of $47 million plus every year. It was completely unaffordable and provided no healthcare for the elderly and most Americans.

If that wasn’t enough, now your internet provider can sell all of your personal internet browser information without your permission. So sit back with your popcorn and watch more of this embarrassing circus, the likes of which we have never witnessed.

Or get active and protest, write, call and shout from the streets and rooftops to stop these outrageous policies, regulations and legislation now!

Gloria Pope

Editor’s note: this letter appeared in the 4-6-17 edition of the Central Virginian, and is re-posted with the author’s permission, and is only available online to paying subscribers.

Don’t sit on the sidelines – get involved

With all the renewed excitement and enthusiasm among Democrats, Independents and very disappointed Republicans, it is more important than ever for Culpeper’s citizens to get involved in our democracy.

A good place to start is in all the preparations that take place before the extremely important “off-year” elections at the local and state levels that will culminate on Nov. 7 this year. It can appear complicated, but it is vital that all concerned voters take part, no matter what their political persuasions may be.

Here’s what Democrats are doing. There are two Democratic candidates for the 30th District House of Delegates seat that includes most of Culpeper County (the district is made up of 31 precincts with 12 in Culpeper County, 10 in Orange County and nine in Madison County). Ben Hixon and Annette Hyde are challenging the Republican incumbent, Nick Freitas. You can find out about their campaigns here: www.benhixon.com and “Ben Hixon for Delegate” on Facebook; and https://annetteservesva.nationbuilder.com/ and “Annette Serves Virginia” on Facebook.

Democrat Tristan Shields (http://tristanshields.com/ and “Tristan Shields” on Facebook) is the sole candidate, so far, challenging Michael Webert, the current Republican incumbent in House of Delegates District 18, that includes five precincts in northern Culpeper County (the rest of the 18th is made up of 12 precincts in Fauquier, six in Rappanannock and four in Warren Counties).

If other candidates emerge, the 18th District will hold a district-wide caucus on May 27.

If you are reading this (no matter what party, if any, you may align yourself with) and you don’t know what precinct you are in and where you’re supposed to vote, you can find out right here: http://www.elections.virginia.gov/voter-outreach/where-to-vote.html. Be sure you are registered to vote! You can do that on line at this same website.

The decisions on who will represent the Democratic Party against the Republican incumbent are made by county “delegates” to the “2017 30th House of Delegates District Democratic Convention” that is being held on Saturday, April 29 at 10 a.m. at the Culpeper County Democratic Committee (CCDC) offices at 102 North Main Street, Suite 201, Culpeper, VA 22701.

How does this work?

Do you want to have a voice at the convention in who represents Culpeper against Nick Freitas? Then you must become a delegate to the convention. To do that, you must fill out an application form and submit it to Harold Boyd, the CCDC Chairman, by April 10—that’s tomorrow. There is a $10 filing fee but it may be waived. On that form, you declare yourself a delegate for either Ben Hixon or Annette Hyde, or you declare yourself “uncommitted.” You can find the forms that you need here: http://culpeperdemocrats.org.

Citizens who wish to be delegates from Madison and Orange counties follow similar procedures and they should contact their respective Democratic Committees for filing requirements (https://madisondems.org/ or chair@madisondems.org; and http://www.orangecountydems.org/ or sheilaclark769@gmail.com). The deadline for Orange is 5 p.m. April 10 with Sheila Clark at 117 Parliament St., Locust Grove, VA 22508 and the deadline for Madison is 5 p.m. Thursday, April 13. Signed forms may be emailed to chair@madisondems.org or by surface mail to P.O. Box 66, Leon, VA 22725.

How are these delegates selected once all the application forms are filed? This is where you, the voter, are once again, very important. Elections will be held at Democratic Caucuses in which all registered voters in the 30th District who declare themselves Democrats on the caucus participation forms will have an opportunity to take part. For the Culpeper County precincts, this caucus will be held at CCDC Headquarters on April 15 between noon and 4 p.m.

The Orange County Democrats will hold their caucus from 10 to 11 a.m. on April 15 at the Orange Community Center, 235 Warren St., Orange VA 22960. The Madison County Democrats will hold their caucus at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 20 at the Madison Chamber of Commerce, 110 N. Main Street, Madison, VA, 22727. The convention delegate candidates with the most votes shall be declared the delegates and the runners up shall be declared the alternates. If you don’t want to be a delegate, then voting for delegates is the other very important way you, as a concerned citizen, can make your voice heard.

And, you might have thought the Electoral College was hard to understand!

This, however, is democracy in action. It’s the way we prevent dictators and strongmen, corrupt officials, nasty outside influences and other dirty tricksters from despoiling our form of government. The voters at the ballot box determine who remains in power and who gets kicked out at every level of government.

There are other ways you can get together with like-minded citizens to advance what you think will benefit your community and your country.

“Nevertheless, she persisted” – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s unwittingly-coined rallying cry to women nationwide, after he tried to shut up Senator Elizabeth Warren, helped in naming the newly formed “Culpeper Persisters” progressive political action group. The organizers met after the Women’s March on Washington in January to discuss their shared frustration and the need to bring together progressives in Culpeper. They are one of many “huddles” that have formed all over the country in response to the draconian policies of the Trump administration. These groups have become more and more common even in places long considered republican strongholds.

The “Culpeper Persisters” are working locally to support justice, equality and conservation through self-education, community outreach and political activism. They are open to anyone, no matter what her (or his) political persuasion might be. Find them on Facebook and on Twitter at @culpeperpersist. Their next meeting will be held on Monday, April 17 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Culpeper County Library meeting room. Please consider attending.

There will be more to come on local elections at the town and county levels and on the state-wide elections for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. Please participate. You owe it to your town, your county, your state, and your country. “Resist, insist, persist, enlist.”

Mike McClary

Editor’s Note: This article is reprinted with author’s permission and originally appeared here.

A lack of manners in the highest office diminishes us all

There are many conventions in life that smooth social interaction. Nothing hard and fast that is codified in law, you understand, yet ingrained enough that we know when they are missing.

Mothers the world around teach their children to be polite. “Please” and “thank you” were uniquely important words to your mother, who taught that these simple phrases would help smooth your way through life — from getting the attention of the little red-haired girl to making a favorable impression on your boss.

Even Virginia, with its history of slavery and Jim Crow, had its genteel conventions.

There are other social conventions designed to show character and smooth the way. In the political world, the great senators of our history always spoke about their colleagues as ”the honorable.” You don’t hear that much anymore.

In the rhythm of American politics, the equivalent of “please” and “thank you” was the self-effacing candidate making his tax returns public. A small step perhaps, certainly not required by law, but a widely-held convention that showed character and forthrightness. That has suddenly stopped.

Making a campaign claim for how extravagantly rich he was, Donald Trump has shrunk away from the “please” and “thank you” of politics and the modest convention of making his tax returns public. “No one cares,” he reportedly sniffs, about his tax returns.

Trump’s appointees are put in a difficult position.

To get through a congressional hearing there is considerable paperwork that must be filled out and submitted in a timely manner. If the boss refuses, does the appointee bluff it out so as not embarrass the boss, or comply with standard procedure and expectations?

So, the paperwork is not filed in a timely manner, thereby holding up the constitutionally required hearings of “advise and consent.”

It would be impolite to ask how Trump knows that no one cares about his tax filings, current or past (of course, hundreds of reporters are doing just that). He does not have a good record of separating fact from fiction, anyway. He insisted for years that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States and then realized sticking with that fiction wasn’t good for the campaign so he admitted, just before the election, that, well, Obama was actually an American citizen.

Recently, the White House had to apologize to the British for Trump’s tweets in which he blamed British intelligence for bugging Trump Tower; press spokesman Sean Spicer still had to say that Trump believes what he believes and that facts are simply not pertinent.

Twice now, documents have appeared which are the first two pages of Trump’s Internal Revenue Service Form 1040 filed. Who has only the first two pages of a 1040 filing? The owner. They are of no use to anyone else. The Schedules A, B and others are the forms that tell the whole story of sources of income and deductions taken. Some other person who might have had and disclosed these records certainly would have had the entire filing, including all the supplementary forms.

Speculation is that Trump’s inner circle is the source of these disclosures as a ruse to divert attention from all the years when he probably did not pay any taxes at all.

It seems 2005 may have been the one instance in which he actually did pay them. We now know that Trump, as a young entrepreneur, used to call up the tabloids using an alias, to get his name in the papers. These tax forms are probably a paper version of the same game.

Trump’s language and conduct during the campaign and after the election seem to illustrate that his mother didn’t spend much time teaching him the social conventions — the “pleases” and “thank yous” of society. If she did, there is no evidence that it “took.” There certainly is no “please” or “thank you” in his demeanor. Everyone gasps at his treatment of his wife, who must take care of herself in the rain or entering a car. Don’t we all wish our husbands and fathers treated us like that?

Perhaps where “thank you” is most evident is in Trump’s public policies.

Doling out $500 million in tax breaks to health company CEOs, and cutting 24 million people off health insurance certainly demonstrates where his sympathies lie. Zeroing out the budget that helps protect the Chesapeake Bay, or frankly, appointing the fox to watch the EPA hen house, certainly says “thank you” to major polluters. These are ways of saying “thank you” to the rich and famous, and are invitations to despoil, not restore.

We hear complaints about coarse, corrosive and condescending language in our politics. We seem to be tiring of treating each other with respect. We might want to more diligently practice those long ago instructions about the value of “please” and “thank you” and begin acting in a more socially responsible way.

Shame on us if we don’t see that someone who flaunts social convention is diminishing himself and us. “Please” and “thank you” should never go out of style.

Dave Reuther

Editor’s Note: This article is reprinted with author’s permission and originally appeared here.

 

Personal Justice Denied

Last month was the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066, which led to the roundup, relocation and incarceration of virtually every Japanese American on the West Coast during World War II.

Three of these American citizens, Fred Korematsu, Gordon Hirabayashi and Minoru Yasui, are best known for their principled resistance to the internment, because in 1943 and 1944 the Supreme Court ruled against them and sent them to jail, ruling that the government had the authority to do so while completely avoiding the issue of the incarceration of U.S. citizens without due process.

Forty years later, the cases were reopened after the discovery of Justice Department documents that showed the government purposely withheld materials that would have helped the defenses’ cases.

The papers included intelligence reports that said Japanese Americans posed no threat to the United States. As a result, the federal courts in California overturned these convictions. All three men were awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Don’t just take it from me — you can start your own fact-checking right here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internment_of_Japanese_Americans.

President Gerald Ford issued a proclamation in 1976 which called upon the American people “to affirm with me this American Promise — that we have learned from the tragedy of that long-ago experience forever to treasure liberty and justice…” The Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians that was established by Congress in 1980, blamed the incarceration on “race prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership” — its report, “Personal Justice Denied” was published in 1983.

In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill apologizing for the internment policy and awarding more than $3.2 billion (in 2016 dollars) in reparations to the survivors of the concentration camps. In a 2014 speech in Hawaii, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia unequivocally stated that the rulings were “wrong.”

The philosopher George Santayana famously wrote: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Last month, the Department of Homeland Security began implementing the President’s Executive Orders 13767, entitled “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements,” and 13768, entitled “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States.” The rationale for these orders was that undocumented immigrants were rapists, gang members, murderers and a primary threat to public safety.

President Donald Trump has said thousands of Americans have been killed by immigrants living in the country illegally. PolitiFact has rated this claim as only “Half True,” because it is so vague and unsubstantiated that it leaves the reader to “fill in the blanks.” “It is like saying, thousands of Americans have been killed by men.”

The president underscored his oft-repeated campaign rhetoric by inviting family members of three individuals reportedly killed by these illegal immigrants to his first address to the Congress two weeks ago. The facts are that the crime rate among first-generation immigrants — those who came here from another country — is significantly lower than the overall crime rate as well as with the second-generation.

Here in Virginia, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers started their efforts by waiting outside a church warming shelter in Fairfax County and arresting six men. None of these men have been identified as rapists, murders or gangsters. ICE does not seem to be targeting people who are a danger to public safety.

An El Paso, TX woman who was in a courthouse to get a restraining order against her domestic abuser was detained and deported. A DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipient who had recently moved to Seattle to provide for his 3-year-old child was detained.

A Phoenix, AZ woman without a criminal record was suddenly detained; her deportation came so quickly that her 14-year-old daughter — an American citizen — had to pack her suitcase the next day. A Hispanic man in North Carolina who drove a friend to court as a favor so he could complete community service was asked if he “had papers,” and when he said no, he was detained.

Stories around the country have yet to identify any persons that fell into the categories that were used to justify these new, robust efforts.

ICE conduct does not enhance public safety. Anyone from these communities will now avoid contact with the police at all costs because alerting the police could get you deported. Splitting up families and demoralizing communities for these dubious reasons recalls for me images of jack-booted storm troopers.

The statue at the entrance to the National Archives is inscribed with “What is Past is Prologue.” Are more concentration camps in our future?

Like the executive orders of 75 years ago, Trump’s executive orders were born of fear, ignorance and hostility. The government’s actions are once again stripping people of their homes, their property, their jobs and their dignity. This is a stain on America’s proclamation of itself as a proud immigrant nation. America does itself no favors by repeating these historic mistakes.

Former Supreme Court Justice Tom C. Clark, who represented the U.S. Department of Justice in the wartime “relocation,” writes in the epilogue to the 1992 book Executive Order 9066: The Internment of 110,000 Japanese Americans:

The truth is—as this deplorable experience proves—that constitutions and laws are not sufficient of themselves…Despite the unequivocal language of the Constitution of the United States that the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, and despite the Fifth Amendment’s command that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law, both of these constitutional safeguards were denied by military action under Executive Order 9066.

The American way of life may be more fragile than we think. I have one thing to say to this president, his henchmen in the administration and the goons from ICE: “Don’t Tread on Me.”

Mike McClary

Editor’s Note: This article is reprinted with author’s permission and originally appeared here.