Leslie Danks Burke Declines Run for 23rd Congressional Seat

 According to an April 6, 2015 Corning Leader article, Tompkins County Attorney Leslie Danks Burke was considering campaigning  for our congressional seat in 2016. The following is a Press Release explains that Ms. Danks Burke has decided not  to run.

Leslie Danks Burke photoReached for comment following speculation that she may seek the 23rd Congressional seat, former Democratic primary candidate Leslie Danks Burke has confirmed that she will not run for the seat in 2016.

“While it is greatly flattering to have so many Party leaders, activists, and voters consider me a viable alternative to Congressman Reed, I have to consider how best to serve my community. My priority is working toward a better economy in the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes, and I have come to the conclusion that running for Congress is not the best way for me to serve the community in 2016,” Danks Burke said.

“Solutions that will secure our future are sustainable investment in our farms and infrastructure, access to quality health care for more of us, and making sure we have good schools for our children, our families can afford community college and higher education, and our small businesses have people to hire. It matters to me that the work I’m doing now makes a difference in our community. As I continue to work toward these solutions, I wish those who do enter the race for the 23rd Congressional District the best of luck. I will do whatever I can to assist the effort to return the House of Representatives to a body that represents the interests of hard-working American families like those who live here in the Finger Lakes and Southern Tier region of New York.”

Danks Burke serves on the agriculture and the infrastructure subcommittees of the Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council. She serves on the regional board for the 10-county Planned Parenthood of the Southern Finger Lakes, which provides health care and education services to 24,000 people per year. Danks Burke also sits on the boards of the Tompkins County Public Library Foundation and the Tompkins-Cortland Community College Foundation.

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Voices at “First in the Nation Republican Leadership Conference”

My Vote CountsVoices at “First in the Nation Republican Leadership Conference in Nashua, New Hampshire April 18, 2015.” The candidates explain themselves.

  • “We will not win if we just complain about how bad things are.”–Jeb Bush
  • “Large corporations don’t pay taxes but single moms working two jobs do.”–Rick Perry
  • “They’re living paycheck to paycheck. They have what was a great job 10 years ago, but now it doesn’t go far enough. They literally live one unexpected expense away from disaster.”–Marco Rubio
  • “If you want to win elections, you’ve got to get the people who work for the people who own businesses.”–Rand Paul

Is a tax cut, likely accompanied by a cut in benefits, all “single moms working two jobs” need? Are those “living paycheck to paycheck” some unfortunate others or is it the majority of us? “The people who work for the people who own businesses?” Is that a good definition of the 99% of us?


Posted in 2016, Economics | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Rep. Tom Reed, Man of Mystery

Genetically Engineered Food

(Click on the letter twice to enlarge it)

Is Rep. Reed in favor of GMO labeling?

We can not tell from his response to Peter. It tells him that he (or someone on his staff) knows about the Genetically Engineered Foods Act. It tells him that Agriculture is an important industry in New York, and that his staff will monitor the bill (Shouldn’t they monitor all bills?)

The New NY 23rd has pointed out our congressman’s inconsistence stances. William Hungerford has written numerous articles about how other congress members ( Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) and Rep. Michael Capuano (D-MA) ) inform their constituents about how they feel about the bills in congress. It is a mystery to constituent Peter on how ours feel about a bill he finds important. Granted I don’t know what Peter asked Rep. Reed, but this form letter response doesn’t give much information.

With a little research responded to Peter with this:

Reed has NOT co-sponsored it. (There are 37 co-sponsors, 36 are democrats) The person who introduced the bill is a Democrat. There was a similar bill in 2013, which died in committee which Reed also did not co-sponsored. (Only Democrats co-sponsored it in).  My guess is that Reed is banking on it not getting out of committee and wants you, and others think that he would support it. My bet is If that cost companies more money he will be against it.

Peter has attended a few of Rep. Reed’s Town Hall Meets with me since Reed’s early days when we were the NY 29th.  He has commented on how much Rep. Reed has improved his demeanor at those events. That has not carried over in his written communications. Rep. Reed remains a man of mystery.

Posted in Constituents, Farm Bill, Reed's Views | Tagged , , | 19 Comments

Rep. Reed: “America’s Law has to be Primary”, but…

There have been articles posted recently on the NewNY23rd debating the Trans-Pacific-Partnership trade agreement. Although they focused on many TPP issues, one that problems-3I one I find most disturbing is trade agreements have  Investor State Dispute Settlement Tribunals. They are  three arbitrators that makes final, binding decisions when conflicts arise between multi-national corporations and an Agreement Partner Country. One article described the tribunals “secret, corporate…to protect profits”. The other article compares them to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Rep. Reed had  Town Hall Meetings last Saturday. I was able to attend the Town of Wheeler meeting. Between discussing audience concerns about the lack of jobs, lack of Fracking, lack of highway salt, lack of a tax base, lack of EMS Volunteers, too much Obamacare, and one bad Iranian deal, Reed’s sidekick Joe, picked my TPP question for our congressman to reply to.

“Could the United States be sued by a country like Viet Nam if we raise our minimum wage, or change an environmental regulation?” After Reed explained the question and trade agreements to the audience he gave the following response

Q: So you are saying that the trade agreement will not trump United States  laws?

Reed: That’s my understanding. If the trade agreement is negotiated property, the  dispute resolution mechanism s part of the agreement   When the Australian Supreme  Court came in on that case that is brought up a lot, the Philip Morris case, the packaging with the  cigarette case, the Supreme Court said “no”that the agreement doesn’t trump “our law”. Now it is going through this mechanism and in theory…

Q: Australian doesn’t…

Reed: Australia said their laws apply. The agreement does’t go around Australian Laws. Now they are trying to go going through this Dispute Resolution process to say that “we disagree with Australia.” and we are going to let the agreement dictates otherwise. It’s complicated but the bottom line is any agreement we negotiate America’s Law has to be primary. We need to make sure that when we negotiate these things everybody recognizes that we are playing by America’s laws.”

Although Rep. Reed said that in the treaty the Country’s law trumps the negotiated treaty, that “America’s Law is primary”, and “everybody recognizes that we are playing with America’s laws”,  he also said that after the Australian Supreme Court made a decision, Philip Morris appealed their decision to the Dispute Resolution Tribunal.

If someone can appeal the Supreme Court’s ruling, then the Surpeme Court really isn’t Supreme. The Tribunal will look the language in the negotiated Agreement, and international law, and decide if the Australian Law is upheld. (Please note: It was reported in a comment to one of the articles that the Philip Morris appointed one of the arbitrator, Australia appointed one and  The Secretary-General of the Permanent Court of Arbitration appointed the third arbitrator.)

Rep. Reed gets summaries of the negotiations but they are still in progress. I understand that the multi-national corporations need to know the rules and each country has different rules. But are trade agreements so important to us that we give a group of three the power to negate our laws?

If the TPP is fast-tracked Congress has to either vote for it, or against it. They an not create amendments. It is either a “Yay” or “Nay”. Will Rep. Reed feel that “America’s Law has to be primary” and vote against this agreement? Or will he only see the profits being made by the multinational corporations change his mind?

Posted in Constituents, Constitution, Economics, Ethics, Protests | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Tom Reed on Taxes

Ailes-truthWith April fifteenth right around the corner, the taxpayers in the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes do not need a reminder it is tax season. Under the current tax code no one is being treated fairly. That is why I am committed to fostering a tax code that is simple, fair, and competitive. The current system is unfair and New Yorkers are fed up.–Rep. Tom Reed

This New Yorker didn’t know he was “fed up” until Tom told me. Thanks, Tom, maybe I should be fed up. Tom says our tax code is unfair to all; he has a point.

  • Profitable corporations avoid taxes.
  • Wealthy individuals benefit from numerous tax breaks.
  • By underfunding enforcement, Congress facilitates cheating.
  • A GOP proposal to repeal Federal estate taxes is more welfare for the rich.

Tom says he favors a tax code that is simple, fair, and competitive; what does he mean by that?

  • Simple probably means some sort of flat tax–more welfare for the wealthy.
  • Fair, probably means even less progressive rates than at present.
  • Competitive? Tom is known to favor low rates for businesses; could that be his point?

Republican attacks on the IRS are unrelenting, unjustified and seditious. Do they intend to undermine the people’s confidence in government? How far would they go and to what end? When Reed says he wants to “protect the American taxpayer,” I worry. Who will protect us from Tom Reed? If Congress would lower taxes for the 1% and raise them for everyone else, would that be fairer? Would our country be better off?

© William Hungerford – April 2015





Posted in Congress, Constituents, Economics, Political, Reed's Views | Tagged , , , | 12 Comments

Removing the Payroll Tax Cap & other Social Security Proposals

policiesIn January Rep. Reed began his campaign to “Save” the Social Security System. He attacked the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) by calling it a “failed program.”  Pulitzer Prize Columnist Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times responded:

“In the first place, SSDI is not “a failing federal program.” It does exactly what it’s supposed to do, which is provide sustenance for people who are too physically or mentally impaired to perform “substantial gainful activity,” defined as the ability to earn $1,090 a month ($1,820 for the blind).”

Hiltzik has also commented:

“Social Security’s disability standards are stringent. To be eligible you must have worked at least one-fourth of your adult life (typically from age 22 on), and been employed in at least five of the previous 10 years. Children qualify under Supplemental Security Income, and workers younger than 31 have to show employment in half the years since they turned 22.”

Rep. Tom Reed’s plan  is to reduce the number of people who are eligible to receive the Social Security Disability Insurance by limiting it to workers “with genuine “catastrophic” disabilities, those who “can’t find a job anywhere in America because of that disability.” The disabled Americans who are not catastrophically disabled will be dropped from Social Security Disability Insurance and placed in a different (new?) government program that helps them find jobs.

Rep. Reed is not the first person to contemplate ways to  improve the Social Security System; there have been many. The difference is that Reed focuses only on the Disability Funds  and has it competing with the Retirement Funds. Others view it as ONE SYSTEM. The deductions from our pay goes into one fund, which is then divided up by Social Security Administration according to a formula dictated by law.

The following are options that have been debated as ways to “improve” the whole Social Security System:

The proposal that has probably been brought up most frequently is to increase the Payroll Tax Cap. Presently 6.2 percent of our salary goes to towards our benefits. Currently the 6.2 percent Payroll Tax applies to annual earnings up to  $118,500. Any wages earned above that amount go untaxed for Social Security. That figure is adjusted yearly for inflation. All earnings above that amount is not taxed. According to an AARP article, “One commonly mentioned goal would raise the cap to cover 90 percent of all earnings,” which would mean to raise it to $230,000. Only 6 percent of workers earn more than that.

Coupled with increasing the tax cap, is the idea of removing the cap entirely. That would mean that every dollar earned would have 6.2 percent deducted for the Social Security System.  This topic came up at  Rep. Reed’s Town Hall Meetings in Prattsburgh (Steuben County) in February, 2014, and surprisingly he said that he supported it. Then, as a true politician, he explains why it is not a good idea.

Q: What are your thoughts on removing the income cap?

Reed: Yes, I’ve been supportive of that.

Q: You have?

Reed: Yes, I have. Everybody know what we are talking about? When you remove the $106,000, it’s now $109,000 because it is a new year (Feb 2014). When you remove the cap, that means  right now everybody up to $109,000 of wages they contribute to Social Security. Anybody above that amount doesn’t contribute any further amount. They pay up $109,000 and nothing else. Why is that? Because they limit their benefit based on $109,000 worth of contributions. OK?

Then Rep. Reed begins to explain why it is not a good idea to remove the cap.

When people talk about raising the “Cap” you also need to have the conversation how are you going to adjust the benefit for people. Because you may be able to remove the cap, and this is where a lot of people want to go. Remove the cap, and if you don’t adjust the benefit—take it to the extreme—someone is making $100 million a year and they are contributing money into Social Security at $100 million a year. What’s going to happen if you don’t change the benefit calculations? That person is going to get $100 million out of Social Security. Because Social Security was designed you contribute in your money  and you get your money back out. Right? The reason that we have the benefit conversation needs to be in the equation is because if I contribute $100 million today but 15 years from now I have to pay out $100 million, have you really solved the problem? You haven’t because money went in, you’ve created a liability and—garbled sound—. Some people who don’t talk about removing the benefit calculation, not adjusting the benefit calculation accordingly, the benefit  that you get a $100 million today, so you contribute a lot of money into social security, but it is robbing Peter to pay Paul. And that is not a long term fix. (You can see this clip on Youtube.)

If it is not a long term fix, why would Rep. Reed support it? If he supports removing the cap, why does he explain that it doesn’t work? Spoiler Alert: Maybe he wants to have it both ways.

David John, of the conservative Heritage Foundation does not like the idea of removing the tax cap, but not for the same reason as Rep. Reed. In the AARP article, he said:

 If millionaires pay Social Security taxes on all of their salary income, the maximum annual benefit payment could reach over $150,000 a year. This development would not bankrupt the program, but it would change its nature. Social Security was not intended to provide such large benefits.

Our Social Security System has change with needs of society. Removing the Payroll Tax Cap would not only increase its revenue, everybody would be paying the same rate into the System. Presently those earning over the Cap is paying a lower rate than those earning the lowest amounts.

Social Security Works has information about  Removing the Payroll Tax Cap (or “Scrap The Cap” as they call it). They have a PDF article, “Scrap the Cap: Strengthening Social Security for Future Generations” and a “Just Scrap the Cap (We’re Moving In)” two-minute music video.

Another way of firming up Social Security System would be to gradually raise the tax rate. If we raise the 6.2 percent payroll deductions to 6.45, a $50,000 salaried worker would pay $175 more a year. Slowly increasing the rate to 7.2 percent in 20 years would keep the funds viable for a long time.

Some state and local governments have opt-out of the Social Security System. They provide their workers with a lucrative retirement plan. Those employes and the government do not contribute to the Social Security funds. A plan has been proposed to begin having  newly hired government employees become part of the Social Security System. This would not affect those already in the local government retirement plans. The Federal Employees went through the same process in 1983.

Virginia Reno of the  National Academy of Social Insurance, agrees with this plan. She said in the AARP article:

 Social Security works best for everyone when it covers everyone. Workers gain seamless, portable life and disability insurance as well as basic retirement income protection.

There are many other ideas about improving the Social Security System.  Some plans, such as Rep. Reed’s, starts the steps to destroy it. The Social Security System is too important to  too many people to destroy it. Remember at the beginning of the Bush Recession of 2008, some financial institutions were “Too Big To Fail”? Well, many would agree that Social Security is “Too Big To Fail” too.

Real change to the Social Security System takes cool heads and time to shift through the many options. Changes should not be decided quickly while facing a mid-August, 2016 Disability Fund Crisis deadline.  A Presidential Campaign, along with one-third of the Senate and all of the House members in campaign mode could complicate any last minute Social Security System negotiations.   President Obama’s plan to boost Social Security, the one that President Reagan used three times in the 1980’s, to reallocat revenues to make both funds viable, would provide time for Congress to have in-depth negotiations. Rep. Reed’s House Rule amendment forbids this common sense reallocation  from happening.

Note: I used the AARP article, The Future of Social Security: 12 Proposals You Should Know About, for much of the information in this post. To find out more about those proposals you can read the article here.

U.S. News and World Report has an article “5 Potential Social Security Fixes

Posted in 2016, Congress, Constituents, Constitution, Economics, Ethics, Reed's Views, Seniors | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

Marc Jampole: House budget funds war and cuts everything else


There has been very little chatter on the New NY-23rd about the proposed House Budget. This article takes the wrappings off of this horrible present from your loathsome Uncle(s).

Smiley Face Button Emoticon Family

Originally posted on Vox Populi:

Snip, snip, snip. They’re cutting down the nets.

I’m not talking about overjoyed college basketball players standing on ladders to cut down the basket nets to the cheers of rabid fans after advancing to the next round of the National Collegiate Athletic Association basketball tournament.

No, that loud and constant snipping sound we hear comes from our nation’s capital where Republicans in the House of Representatives have voted to shred the social safety net.

Healthcare aid to the poor. Cut.

Food stamps for families who can’t otherwise afford a decent meal: Cut.

Special education. Cut.

Pell grants to help poor students afford a college education. Cut.

Job training. Cut. Housing assistance. Cut. Federally-funded research. Cut.

The one government function not to get the hatchet is defense. The House budget actually gives the Pentagon more than it requested, including $96 billion that the generals can spend without telling Congress why. They…

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