Mr. Anonymous Visits Washington

…or at least a guy who works in Washington.  This is going to be long, so yeah, the page break is included. Long story short, I saw my US House Representative speak today.  He’s hardcore republican, I’m moderate with some liberal tendencies.  This is an overview of the political arena of my area as well as my thoughts on things he discussed, as well as the general meeting itself.

A few days ago, I came across an announcement that my U.S. House Representative would be holding a town hall style meeting at my local chamber of commerce.  Being unusually (at least compared to most of the American populous in my age bracket) interested  in current events, I decided I’d make the Saturday morning field trip to the chamber and see what my congressman is all about.

Background of My Political District

For those not familiar with my congressional district, it’s dominated by republican politics.  When the state gerrymandered districts in 2003, then incumbent and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay reorganized his own district to not just include the rich, predominantly white suburbs of Fort Bend county, but strengthened the republican constituency by annexing a sliver along northern Brazoria county and into the Clear Lake area.  This opened up his district to many more GOP residents, solidifying the district as a republican bloc.

After Congressman DeLay’s resignation for political and fundraising scandals, he left office after being reelected in the 2006 GOP primary.  In his winning the primary, the republicans were left without a candidate to place on the ballot.  Republicans still managed to garner 42.79% of the votes in an aggressive write in campaign, but they would lose out to the Democrat Nick Lampson who also had the support of the few unionized petroleum plants in the southern portion of his district.

Lampson would serve only one term as congressman (06-08), being replaced by current congressman Pete Olson.  Olson is another one of the DeLay republicans, working for the previous majority leader a few years ago.  He holds the Texas republican beliefs in lowering taxes, limiting government, and strong military, as well as an emphasis on space funding.  All that seems pretty run of the mill for anyone talking about national offices around here.

The Meeting

So back to today.  This morning was a town hall meeting where Representative Olson outlined what’s happening in Washington, getting his name out to his supporters, and try to keep the momentum of the July 4th “tea parties” rolling in the GOP base.  The first of those was most interesting to me, but it was very limited in discussion.  The theme was definitely “democrats bad, taxes bad, republican’s strong!”

The meeting was actually very well attended.  The Chamber of Commerce is supposedly capable of holding 300 people, and it might have well reached that mark.  The large conference room had at least 75 people seated, another 30 or 40 standing in back.  The hallway to the side (glass walls) were lined with people as well.  I found myself in the front entry way having sound piped in through the PA system and having an angle to see him speak through the glass wall.

The crowd really impressed Olson, leaving him sounding much like Jimmy from South Park.  “What a great audience!”  Some people wondered why I started to laugh to myself, but really, I couldn’t help get the following image out of my head:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

I mean, what a terrific audience!  And boy did that audience love them some republican rabble rousing.  In Olson’s opening remarks on how we as Americans should be fighting to bring the GOP principles back to the halls of Congress, there was at least one guy yelling “YEAH!” at the end of every sentence.  To make it better, it sounded just like Randy Marsh from South Park as well.

Cap-And-Trade

Olson then started his parade through the topics at hand.  We started with cap-and-trade legislation, something I feel is a great investment in the world’s future, not just Americans.  Pete Olson starts out immediately pessimistic, announcing his name for cap-and-trade to be “cap-and-tax,” causing a huge grunt from the crowd at the sound of more taxes.  Was this planned?  The entire place seemed to “ugghhhh” at the same time.  It was like the perfectly timed “rabble rabble” at a South Park town hall.

Enough with the South Park references.  Olson produced a chart to show just how much the cap-and-trade program is going to cost states, and it seemed rather ridiculous.  They show only 10 states who would make money from this legislation just based off electricity emissions.  Thost states are California ($385 million), Washington ($204 million), New Jersey ($104 million), Oregon ($88 million), Idaho ($75 million), New York ($59 million), Connecticut ($26 million), Vermont ($21 million), South Dakota (5 million), and Rhode Island (1 million).

Meanwhile, Texas is estimated to be the biggest loser at -$1,159,300,000 (yes, that’s over a billion).  The next closes state is Indiana at -$763.5 million.  While the rest of the crowd grimaced at the swarth of states going into the red, I might have been the only one questioning just how bad our pollution levels are in the state.  If we’re dumping so much that it’s going to cost us that much money to make electricity, is there not some other form of energy other than CO2 emitting coal that could chop that number down drastically?

Olson then went on to discuss the statistics manufactured by the Texas State Comptroller’s office citing that Texas would lose 135,000 to 277,000 jobs in the first year of this system if it were to pass.  He cited that each family in Texas would see household good cost them an extra $1,136 per year.  I want to know how these numbers are decided.  Are we to assume that under this system, businesses are not going to innovate to lower their costs?

The rest of his anti-cap-and-trade rhetoric was a bunch of words with no meaning.  “Energy innovation and conservation are the keys to healthier, clearer environment – not massive tax hikes and trading schemes.”  Let’s here some of these innovations you’re proposing.

We’ve given the Exxon-Mobil’s the chance to invest in cleaner energy, but time and time again they fall back on oil and fossil fuels because they’re cheap to create and they make huge profits today.  Private business isn’t going to be motivated to change just for tax deductions.  They’ll only change if their current situation isn’t comfortable.  That’s what cap-and-trade does.

Nationalized Health Care

From this point, we went to health care, which I’m slightly less informed and therefore, less opinionated about.  Olson used two tactics in this presentation fell into two categories: taking your choice away and confusion.  The first slide on the “Democrat’s health plan” summarized the whole process in three steps:

  1. Give government bureaucrats power to make your health care decisions
  2. Ration Care
  3. Raise Taxes

I’m really not sure what the health care plan will look like, but I’m really hoping this isn’t it.  I suspect this is just the republicans playing the fear card.  If you watch FoxNews or keep up with any other Murdoch media device, they continuously drum the weak points of systems such as Canada’s. I can’t imagine the proposed plan to be forcing people into the poorest coverage plan. If anything, I have to wonder if much of this propaganda isn’t just put forward by doctors and health insurance companies who are just protecting their paycheck.

Olson then went on to show the flow chart put forward by Kevin Brady, the Republican on the Joint Economic Committee of the House.  While you may have seen it, take a look at the cleverly pieced section below:

That looks fairly confusing, but its also made to look that way. Being one who thinks nationalized health care needing to be provided, I’m very fine with this.  If it is the case, it seems to be well though through.  But like I said, I just don’t know enough.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

What I do know is that video is total garbage. Half of the lines he drew don’t even connect on the chart. It’s unfortunate that news media would infer false meanings like that. Yes, the chart is complicated, but each part of the chart offers something important to the system. Note every department is going to be consulted for every medical need, but they are there for the guidelines.

Olson did a poor job explaining the supposed Republican plan for health care, or at least the parts I could hear over the Cubs scouts that became restless and loud.  According to a handout, it sounds like the republicans want to promote healthy lifestyles and leave the current system in place, but somehow lower the cost.  That seems a bit like saying we’ll just ask these companies to lower their profits.  It doesn’t sound like a very solid plan to me.

I would ideally like to see an owner society type health care system, taking the responsibility away from the employer/business, I think the cost of medical services has just sky rocketed too far too fast.  Medical costs aren’t going to come down any time soon, especially when the rich are willing to pay the prices available today.  This leaves the poor and middle class to wallow in crappy plans, many of which take the decision out of their hands already.  And that’s why I’m for the nationalized health care.  As far as I’m concerned, there should be a secondary market for non-insured that can pay to have things done even faster, and I’m pretty sure this would happen regardless of government intervention.

NASA Priorities

The last part of the meeting centered on Olson’s desires for NASA. As a ranking member of the science and aerospace related committee, Olson heads a lot of the talk related to NASA, which makes sense with Mission Control in his backyard.  Olson is really pushing for more funding, especially with an administration that is less friendly toward space exploration than the previous.  Bush’s plans to send America back to the moon by 2020 are in jeopardy, as well as the shuttle program.

Olson is pushing hard for more funding to the Constellation class rockets which are being designed for lunar and martian travel in the next 15-20 years.   The Constellation rockets (using Ares V rockets) have been criticized for being too expensive along with having technical problems by critics inside and outside of NASA over the last few years.  The costs alone have been enough to deter even former president Bush from putting money towards NASA.

With the rising debt from the stimulus and health care bills looming, I think we can afford to put NASA on the back burner as it were.  We will need to explore more in the long run, but until NASA can innovate their rocket technology, the shuttle program should be kept alive.

Post Talk Questions

None of the questions that came after his speech were thought provoking or interesting.  Most questions were just “how do we put pressure on the democrats,” or, “Let me go up to Washington and I’ll set dem’ dems straight, boy howdy!”  None of it was constructive or informative.  One guy did ask if Olson had been approached by any of the democrat leaders about compromising on health care.  Olson told the crowd, “[the democrats know not to waste their time.”

Side Story

So during this entire thing, there is this grizzly old veteran standing in the entry way hoping to speak to Olson or anyone on his staff.  The guy looked goofy as hell.  He looked like the stereotypical fat Hell’s Angels member in body type.  He had an arm cast extending all the way up his right arm up past his short sleeve button down.  His suspenders were black and raggedy.  He wore a confederate army style green cap that looked to have seen some miles.  I think one of his eyes might have been glass as it looked a very odd shade of yellow as he squinted around the room.  His skin was worn as if he’d worked in the sun his entire life.  Skin rough and cracked.  His hair was thin on his head, with layers of dark and light gray.  His beard was a good six inches, coming to a point right above his collar bone.

He was like a grizzled and sun-beaten Colonel Sanders who had a way too much fried chicken.  I really thought finding a picture to compare this guy to other stereotypes like him would be easy.  It isn’t.

The guy was there to ask help from his congressman.  Apparently he was listed as dead and was denied medical help at hospitals here in the area, and then denied the right to purchase a gun (he mentioned the second amendment).  The police officer on duty at the place was eying down the guy the entire time.  I assume everything went down well as I haven’t heard about any problems on the news since I left.

My Take on Olson

I left after that to skip the traffic.  After having listened to him talk for the first time, the guy himself seemed alright; he just doesn’t share my political beliefs.  I don’t think me writing him for anything will ever amount to a difference.  I may end up writing him when it comes down to the recent talk about money to community colleges, but something tells me he’ll be against any government spending.  We’ll see.

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