Friday, August 27, 2010

The Art Of Reframing

Cathy McMorris Rodgers started off her town hall meeting with some remarks about how she has lived the American Dream and her role as representative to ensure we continue to have that dream and that our children and grandchildren would have the same opportunities. She described how we--you and I--want to leave a better America for our children and grandchildren and that for too many of us that dream is in danger.

Transitioning to a description of today she said we were "in the midst of one of the worst economic crisises (sic), recessions that we've experienced in decades." We've had record unemployment for a record amount of time. The average household has lost 20% of its wealth. The federal deficit has tripled in size reaching an all time high and the federal debt has also reached an all time high. She continued painting a we're-in-dire-straits picture while the projector displayed the US National Debt Clock. We couldn't read the numbers, but their size in digits and the fact some of the big numbers were red helped convey the message.

So with the stage set she introduced everyone to America Speaking Out and it's importance in reaching out to Americans and getting their thoughts on how to move forward. She said this town hall was a good opportunity to give ideas to her. After her short hype of the site we watched a brief video about the purpose of the site. Her own comment in the video was that the site would "revolutionize the use of new media as we engage with our constituents." She also mentioned You Cut and encouraged everyone to visit that site as well, the emphasis being on getting public help in identifying ways to save money. Then we moved on to questions.

First up, Ron Wright presented a letter and a CD to be passed on to the Senate Judiciary Committee in opposition of Michael Ormsby's appointment as the United States Attorney. She took the letter and promised to pass it on.

The second person was a man who expressed disillusionment at both sides of the aisle, that for the last 15 years neither party had cut spending and asked why voters shouldn't go with a third alternative other than the two major parties. He also asked what parts of the budget would be reduced. McMorris Rodgers stated that Republicans and Democrats have both spent too much. She said that when she ran for office in 2004 she pointed out the need for a balanced budget amendment and she's all for pursuing that today. Moving on to which party we could trust to do that, she says she can only speak for her efforts. She's advocating that the first vote be for a balanced budget amendment. She encouraged all of us to make our voices heard "because representatives do respond to the people that they represent." So while she stressed that voters should demand a balanced budget amendment, she never explained which party they could trust.

The next questioner was upset that Social Security had been raided to much over the years and the money replaced with IOUs. He wanted to know what could be done to prevent that from happening in the future. Cathy said we have reached the point where Social Security is paying out more than it's taking in. According to the latest Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund report, Social Security won't suffer from reduced income until 2025 and will probably be unable to pay scheduled benefits in full on a timely basis in 2037. McMorris Rodgers emphasized she will always stand to protect the Social Security benefits of our current retirees--almost everyone present--and near-retirees. She did not address Social Security for the those of us coming after the near-retirees.

One gentleman, a realtor, said there's an email going around saying the health care reform act includes a 3.8% tax on all real estate sales and he was concerned about the effect this would have on housing prices and sales. McMorris Rodgers seemed surprised to learn about that, as was I, but it turns out the "real estate tax" is bogus.

The health care reform act imposes a new 3.8 percent Medicare contribution tax on the investment income of higher-income individuals which would include capital gains resulting from the sale of a house. It is not a tax applied to every real estate transaction. You can read more about it here.

Next, when asked if the expiring Bush tax cuts will help with job creation, McMorris Rodgers was quick to reframe that.

"I'm not sure everyone in America realizes that we are facing a huge tax increase, almost four trillion dollars come January 1. 2011."

Mentioning "small business" throughout, she emphasized that business owners claim they're disturbed by the uncertainty. They don't now what their tax bill will be next year or five years from now. I didn't find that to be a convincing argument. It seems to me that if the tax cuts expire on January 1, 2011, you should be able to figure out your tax bill for the coming year.

The next questioner asked if McMorris Rodgers would support legislation that would bring all federally elected officials into the same retirement and health care as those in Social Security. With a finger raised in the air and her eyebrows popped up.

"I've never voted for a pay increase."

What she didn't say was that Congress gets an automatic pay raise every year and must submit and pass a bill to forgo that pay raise. Congress has turned down a pay raise during seven of the last twenty years. After explaining a little how retirement and health care work for Congress she then reframed the subject into overpaid federal employees. While she mentioned the lower pay and benefits of the private sector, she didn't address the why and how. I'll refer you to a post I did back in February on this subject.

The next question concerned overturning bureaucrat control of health care decisions. That set McMorris Rodgers off on all the talking points about freedom, government control of health care decisions, etc., but to her credit she didn't bring up the death panels. She expressed concern about the lack of cost drivers but that never seemed to be a Republican issue while private insurance skyrocketed over the years. She hopes the health care reform repeal will be one of the first votes in 2011.

"Just know that we did everything possible to keep it from passing."

Health care talking points were repeated for the next questioner. After that a man asked,

"Do you support the official federal policy of not pursuing law breakers from other counties? Illegal aliens."

"No," she answered firmly, reinforcing the fallacy that the federal government is going nothing about illegal immigration while the opposite is true.

While there was much more to cover, I think the most telling moment was near the end when a gentleman said he believed the Republicans have a plan and when they regained control of the House and Senate in November they would put that plan in place. He asked her to describe what the plan contained.

McMorris Rodgers rambled for a bit and said it was disappointing to meet with people and find they weren't aware of the Republican's plan for a given issue. She described it as a problem where they were not getting the word out to the public. And while she nattered about how they had a plan for the stimulus bill and health care, she never answered the question.

And nobody said or asked anything about America Speaking Out. I guess the revolution will not be televised.

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