Composite Letter to the Speaker of the House

Mr. Speaker,

Thank you for responding. Forgive the delayed response. Norton security updates had tripped up my ability to connect to the internet for a while, as so I had been utilizing public library computers, and I had also been more than unusually busy during this time of year. Not nearly as much yourself, it seems…

I am not sure whether your office will get to read this before a deal on the so-called fiscal cliff will be reached, but I felt compelled to respond nonetheless…

Mr. Speaker, we live in the Information Age. Yet, one concern I keep having regarding our lack of compromise these days is how some Republican constituents in particular choose not to fact-check their representatives or listen to more impartial sources of information. For instance: http://www.npr.org/player/v2/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=165186992&m=165186957

As you may have listened here, as stated from my previous message, there are still quite a few oversights in citing this Ernst & Young study, as cited in your response regarding tax cuts amongst the very wealthy costing the country roughly 700,000 jobs over ten years. The Congressional Budget Office indicated the around 200,000 jobs which would initially be lost towards the beginning of 2013 would quickly be regained, and also indicated a strong chance of about 12 million jobs being created over ten years as a result of the increase in the tax-revenue among the top 2% income earners.

Anytime a member of the GOP starts with doomsday talk at the prospect of higher tax revenue, on account of the very rich, I have come to hear this as a sign of promise. Please tell me you are not afraid of losing the small percentage on the far-right who unfairly deem the President as a ‘socialist’, for there are many on the left as you may happen to know who view his first four years in office as that of a moderate Republican. (Some of them claim to be conservatives—pundits, business owners—who again claimed to have voted for Mr. Obama in hopes the Republican Party might reach some sense of normalcy again.)

Now, just hear me out, if you will, for I sincerely do not wish to come across as an ideologue. Of your citing Ernst & Young in your radio message and Governor Romney citing the National Federation of Independent Businesses in the first of the 2012 Presidential debates, both organizations happen to be right-of-center organizations funded by opponents of the President. And the CBO is non-partisan. (Also, I still cannot help find it coincidental how Mr. Romney towards the end of his campaign boasted that he would create 12 million new jobs, in just his four years as President.)

One of my favorite bits of banter throughout this last campaign was how the President had two years, with a Democratic House and Senate, to ‘fix things’.[1] Well, Republicans have had about 32 years to prove their rugged-individualist/survival-of-the-fittest socio-economic interpretation of the American Dream—supply-side, or ‘trickle-down’, economics—could work.

Under this economic philosophy, under every Republican administrator over this time-period, the national deficit has managed to significantly increase partially due to tax-cuts along with an inability to lessen government spending in order to help offset the lack of tax-revenue. This last Republican Presidential nominee was very close to winning the election with a palpably near mad-scientist interpretation, proposing to cut everyone’s tax-rate (including the very rich) by 20%. But, he fell very short in teaching leadership-by-example without so much as intending, for example, to offer specific adjustments to a tax-code that further benefit the uppermost income-earners. This left a lot of faith in the private sector to create jobs, generate revenue, and pay down the deficit.

Republicans threw everything they could at President Obama in this past election so to prevent him from obtaining a re-election-free, second-term agenda, and then some: obstructionism courtesy of this “silent” filibuster in the Senate (not of your particular concern, but just as a matter of principle, I believe, in need of reform), desperate disinformation, attempts at voter suppression in Florida as well as in other swing-states, shallow media coverage, knucklehead distractions like the 24% of white evangelicals who still believe him to be a Muslim (in other words, closet-extremist) or that he was not born in this country. All of this, yet the President still managed to win.

The Tea Party’s beginning was not so much a grass-roots combustion but something considerably funded and advanced along by the hugely billionaire, long-armed triumvirate of the Koch brothers. George Will fashionably cited “journalistic malpractice” in “underestimating” the Tea Party on an episode of ABC’s “This Week”, close to Election Day. Apparently he meant overestimating. Going back to their beginning in 2009-10, apart from predictable wins in red states, so-called Tea Partiers have now lost Republicans at least four Senate seats, ultimately to Democrats, and arguably played a considerable role in helping Republicans lose the White House. Seeing them predominantly win nothing more than Congressional districts is understandable, from this point forward, as well as not worth politically fighting too much for.

After a brief coming-up for air, post-Election Day, as an unnecessary epilogue to a campaign that felt like watching two parents argue over money, every day, for about six months, again we came face-to-face with the looming repercussions of the 2011 Budget Control Act, aka, the ‘fiscal cliff’: a procrastination of federal budget challenges drawn up by leaders as a motivational tool to reach a compromise.

I am writing to you because this matter is clearly now more in the hands of Republican leadership, based upon impartial sources of information as well as consistent polling numbers. Mr. Speaker, it is time to focus together on seeking to address many another big challenge facing our present and future rather than impose personal or ahistorical political will at such an inopportune time. Challenges, such as: http://www.npr.org/2012/12/07/166713194/world-bank-issues-alarming-climate-report.

As stated in my previous message, I have never known the Republican Party to be more the symbol of regular folk. I am told that it once had been. I find it morally imperative to work for a living and as well put a high premium on personal responsibility. But it is certainly more than on an intellectual level that I find the Republican Party to be the party that favors the rich. Under the current White House proposal, people making $400,001 per year, would probably get the worst of the whole fiscal deal. But, $400,000 is still a lot of money, no matter where in the country a person may live. It is the one percent of the one percent—the multi-billionaires in charge of energy and hedge-fund management, among other ventures—like David, Charles, and William Koch, Steve Schwarzman, and Harold Simmons, to name a few—who have been able to get away with selling the rugged-individualist message yet not so much working harder than many amongst the working-poor but by virtue of buying ginormous amounts of political influence.

The interpretation of the American Dream I hear every so often, that every person deep-down aspires to be rich, always makes me quite uncomfortable. This has never been my interpretation. Don’t get me wrong, I can be a fervent competitor and am definitely a better person as a result of being challenged in ways I would have probably never sought to on my own. But even winning the lottery (which I generally don’t participate in) comes from a pool of hard-earned participant’s earnings. Opportunity creates itself, but I certainly do not believe it is considered equal from birth. I just feel that personal growth is not necessarily measured by individual wealth. And the hard-bitten reality in our culture is that tax-cuts as well as tax-breaks for the very top still tend to cater to the dark dalliances of accumulating more in terms of greed—not quite so much towards opportunism, as recent history evidences.

There is nothing wrong with being rich, so long as one does not use their money to buy, influence, control, or manipulate power. If one makes $25 billion per year in oil and spends roughly $60 million on just trying to unseat the President during a campaign, while having his foundation-people speak around the country as to the value of free-enterprise, there are simply no wind and solar CEOs who can compete with this level of clout. David Koch, alone, seems clearly out to bury the competition and to stifle these growing trends which recognize the reality of climate-change as well as new and growing sources of cleaner energy.

With technology continuing to make access to information faster and more portable, I try to insist that more Republican constituents fact-check their representatives. For instance:

  • Lloyd Blankfein recently lobbied on Capitol Hill on behalf of privatizing Social Security and Medicare. He had taken in between $16-17 million in personal earnings last year, while Goldman Sachs appeared to have lost money. I find this level of placating on his part as a clear representation of short-sighted values.
  • Senator Chambliss of Georgia expressed more care for his country than for a twenty-year tax pledge and then said pledge’s author responded with a veiled threat that the Senator is at risk of losing his job? …How telling is this? Like the Ambassador Rice-Benghazi matter, this is simply bizarre. We are not talking about breaking from a treaty or a doctrine or a law of any sort, but from something that simply has no greater clout than a pinky-swear. I wonder if the Senator is thinking of a warm place for his foot to join the lobbyist’s head and would thus rather not wish losing his job over allowing taxes to go up on everyone, come January 1, 2013.
  • You mentioned as one of your goals here in your response, that “repealing the president’s health care law – which is raising costs and making it harder for small businesses to hire new workers – must be on the table as well.” Now just for the sake of clarity, you did not mention negotiating to repeal aspects of the Affordable Care Act, but to repeal the whole law which happens to be nicknamed after the very person you are sitting across from. This is very unrealistic from an initial negotiating stance.

The repercussions of going over the cliff would not really kick in until the end of January 2013, yet some postulate how over the very long haul it might be the hard medicine this country would need towards reducing our deficit. However, even temporarily sinking back into recession is too great a risk.

We are $16 trillion in the hole. The visceral trust-issue the right has with the left is with alleged, wasteful spending and/or a need for entitlement-reform—people getting a bargain for how much government spends on each individual’s behalf. For one, the amount in Medicare benefits received is a little over three times the amount for which a taxpayer making $40,000/year puts in, in Medicare taxes. Regarding healthcare spending, in general, I am insured, and always conscientious of agreeing to more than what I need. But, of course, I cannot speak for everyone on this.

I recently asked my father what exactly is considered ‘wasteful spending?’, and he was quick to reply: it is whatever a particular congressperson says is wasteful. I also have to admit that I just didn’t think it was possible for a Democrat to be referred to as a ‘bully’, but I guess it is. It was not made perfectly clear to me until this past week how the birth of the Tea Party was not only a more cynical result of President Obama’s initial, first-term spending but also to the W. Bush years’ spending and general inability to lessen it. A catalyst for President Obama’s spending was the stimulus package. The original amount, if I can recall, was tapered down for the sake of Republican interests. Yet, the final, lessened amount was still passed on a Democrat-party-line vote and as predicted by more Keynesian economists, in the end, did not spend enough to make enough. Also, some economist’s outlook of the recession was worse than they had initially imagined, when the package was drawn up.

 

It is my understanding that in a time of economic crisis, the federal government is pretty well expected to be the tide that lifts all boats? Yes? No? We all know we had a surplus going at the beginning of the 21st century that was virtually flipped on its head. We entered into two wars—one, without proper evidence—without knowing fully how we were going to pay for them. And, accountability for the lending/banking crisis has been practically non-existent.

But here we are, in the here and now. We need to cite and examine the mistakes both ideologies have made over the past twelve years from an honest philosophical perspective. It stinks, but I am willing—no, I am in fact eager—to make the reasonably hard as well as assuredly not-so difficult sacrifices in order to help get us out of this hole and contemporaneously maintain a balanced budget and responsibly create jobs, provided we STOP with the presumptive, overreaching ambition, political posturing, or half-implementations of what worked in the recent past. We cannot cut or raise taxes if we cannot be expected to lessen spending.

There has been enough quarreling to prove we should now move on with a clean slate. Enough information is there for every adult to—provided we are properly treated as such—be self-sufficient and responsible.

Also, on a side-note, based upon this President’s first-term record, I doubt fear of a financial increase in regulations would be any more drastic than past Presidential second-terms.

The visceral trust-issue the left has with the right is with the disparity of wealth. We just went through the housing and banking crisis to reaffirm that. I firmly doubt those who significantly helped bring our economy to its knees—and then some who had the nerve to shamelessly, personally incentivize their public bailout money—are registered Democrats. Not to mention, the average worker salary, adjusted to inflation, has not changed since just before 1980 while the CEO-to-average-worker ratio has risen from 20:1 in 1965, 383:1 in 2000, and 231:1 in 2011 (all numbers according to a May 2012 report by the Economic Policy Institute, “CEO pay and the top 1%”).

Nowadays, when people seem to go onto any political talk show and are asked questions about the economy, they’ll make a good case for the first part of their answer. But then the second part will veer off into blaming the other side and political posturing. Maybe this is done out of habit; whether it reflects genuine fear (which I kind of doubt), insecurity, or general uncertainty, but it defeats the whole purpose of the first part of the answer. It’s just completely redundant. And so then it’s: stay tuned next week for the same set of answers in our ongoing economic saga. …Make a strong case, and either own up to either of one’s own party’s faults or just zip it!

Our national conversation cannot continue to remain so default-polarized, on this or any issue, but certainly one that seems quite shallow compared to others, in order to reach common ground. Congress’ overall approval rating, as well, cannot remain averaging in the teens as a representation of the new normal.

If anything, the corporate tax-rate is too high and significantly lowering it might be worth discussing in order to boost job creation, to go with discussion of entitlement reform. Revisiting some of the President’s jobs bills from his previous term might be worth reconsidering. (The Veteran’s Jobs Bill, for instance, which the Senate voted in favor of 58-40 [not enough to break the filibuster-proof 60], was a proposed bill to be funded with $1 billion in imposing penalties on Medicare providers delinquent on their taxes against an $800 billion aforementioned, as-yet-to-be-funded war.)

How we determine how government should or should not spend our money reflects—as with practically everything else—personal responsibility. Look around, see what opportunities do and do not exist, and ask how exactly certain opportunities are going to surmise. Perhaps we can break apart the big banks? How can we get private investment and entrepreneurship interested in neighborhoods that have always been relatively desolate? How can we get people left under their own, individual devices to realistically operate under a similar moral and civic code?

Give in to popular opinion now and in the future we can all learn to be better teachers through open, honest, and civilized discussion and debate.

There just seems to be very little established, fundamental decency between either party, towards policy, right now, for which this ‘cliff’ matter is a direct result.

Thank you very much again for your time.

Sincerely,

Douglas Conroy


[1] One other bit was the omnipresent political weasel Newt Gingrich contending, among other voices, the amount of times Congressman Ryan was interrupted during the Vice Presidential debate—the operative word, of course, being ‘debate’. But, anytime Congressman Ryan speaks in front of a camera, his coolness tends to shift into a sort of frustrated rock-star conviction and it is almost imperative someone be there to ‘interrupt’ him.

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