Rep. Capuano on Passenger Rail Reform

capuanoRep. Michael Capuano (D-MA) writes on Passenger Rail Reform:

Today the House considered H.R. 749, the Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act of 2015. This legislation reauthorizes Amtrak for 5 years, providing close to $2 billion for improvements to the Northeast Corridor. H.R. 749 also provides $3.9 billion in funding and grants for passenger rail service. It requires Amtrak to submit a yearly operating plan and examine its decision making process for choosing long-distance routes. H.R. 749 will improve passenger rail service which is an important component of an effective transportation network. Increasing investment in rail service not only leads to a better customer experience, it also creates economic benefits and employment opportunities. While I would have preferred a higher funding level, H.R. 749 has bipartisan support and represents a compromise between those of us who would like to see more investment and those who prefer lower levels of funding. I addressed this in my remarks on the floor about the legislation. I voted YES. H.R. 749 passed and the entire vote is recorded below.

Rep Reed also voted YES.


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Portland townhall meeting Feb. 21, 2015

i_love_portland_new_yorkLast week I held five town hall meetings covering issues related to property rights and ISIS. I always look forward to hearing from the people of the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes. Know I am taking your thoughts and suggestions back to Washington. On such important issues as terrorism and national security, it is vital to hear from you.–Rep. Tom Reed

This report was written by Cath Kestler, a resident of Silver Creek in NY-23, and is shared here with permission.

There’s been a sighting of Tom Reed in Chautauqua County, in February, no less; this occurrence is about as rare as the groundhog we see once a year. We saw his shadow looming large against a snowy, grey day in a Town Hall meeting where we were greeted by two armed plain-clothed sheriff officers.

One of the first questions asked was regarding the long term changes Reed is seeking for SSDI, because according to Reed, reallocation (a common practice that has been done since the inception of the SSDI program) isn’t an option he will back. He says it needs Congress’ approval and they will not approve it.

According to Reed’s pie chart he is tying Social Security to the deficit and the federal debt. By law, it is prohibited to be counted as part of the federal budget. Therefore, Social Security and its Disability Insurance Trust Fund do not contribute a single cent towards the federal debt. [Federal law clearly states that Social Security “shall not be counted…for the purpose of-(1) the budget of the United States Government as submitted by the President (or) (2) the congressional budget…” Pub. L. 101-508, title XIII, Sec. 13301(a), Nov. 5, 1990, 104 Stat. 1388-623]. So, Reed’s pie chart is smoke and mirrors. In fact, it is a lie.

Reed raised the question: ‘What is disability?’ He was dumbfounded to know we knew the answer. Social Security pays benefits averaging more than $16,000 a year to more than 9.6 million veterans—about four in ten veterans. Nearly 5,000 children who lost one or both parents in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are now receiving survivor’s benefits and many more of the children of the roughly 777,000 wounded service men and service women are receiving disability dependents benefits.

Reed believes in retraining those that are collecting SSDI. I have nothing against retraining when it can be done, but the last I looked Reed, by trade is a lawyer in the medical debt collection business. Just because you collect medical debt doesn’t give you the credo to assume that you know what is best for the disabled; when did he have the time to become a MD? A spin doctor, yes, a medical doctor, no, no, no.

His blasé attitude presented to the crowd; definitely wasn’t invited. As questions were raised, Reed showed a proclivity to throw those same questions back at us to answer. Transparency was thrown out the door. At one point he was asked to stop using political rhetoric and posturing and answer more precise and with facts; he took this to a whole other level and proceeded being extremely facetious towards the audience.

During one volley of questions regarding SSDI he brought up the selling of bonds to secure SSDI, this tactic is taken from the page of the Libertarian book of privatizing Social Security. Once that dirty word “privatization” was whispered, quick as a crack of the whip, we were shut down from further posing any more questions regarding this matter.

Look, Congress hasn’t been able to come up with a 5-year funding plan to restore the Highway Trust Fund since 2008 when it ran out of money and our infrastructure began crumbling; what makes you think Congress can restore sustainable funding for the SSDI Trust Fund before it supposedly runs out in 2016? Reed is trying to undermine the confidence in a government program and pit the elderly against the disabled. SSDI is run under the Social Security Trust, it is ONE fund and it is a payroll deduction you have made and are entitled to; don’t believe the rhetoric Reed’s camp is spewing. He is pandering to his base, no questions about it.

We touched briefly on his proposed law that would force state governments to pay for potential money homeowners would think they could receive before the fracking ban in NYS. We asked who would be responsible for the payments to the aforementioned homeowners for those claims; he proudly answered; the taxpayers. Now, I understand why he needs those armed bodyguards at taxpayer’s expense!

A lot of questions were left unanswered and as usual, we’ll probably have to wait another couple of years for the answers. Reed needs to remember just who he works for—it’s not his big donors, it’s you and me, the taxpayers that foot ALL the bills.

In case you are interested the Town of Ellery is fighting an expansion of the Chautauqua County Landfill. There is a public hearing to receive comments on March 4, 2015 at the Jamestown Airport, 3163 Airport Drive, Jamestown, NY 14701 at 6pm. Bodies are needed to be present to support the Town of Ellery. It has been suspected that the reason for the expansion is that 30% of the industrial waste being dumped there is fracking waste from Pennsylvania. If it’s so safe, why don’t they keep it in their own backyard!?!

12:30 PM Febuary 21, 2015
Portland Town Hall
87 W. Main Street, Brocton, NY


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

Are we a nation or a confederation?

capitolAdvocates of State’s Rights and small government urge that as much as possible be left to the States.  A popular slogan is “Big government needs to get out of the way, give Americans chance to rise.” However, proponents of small government seldom if ever explain how big government is in the way of anything.

How would small government and States’ rights work for us?

  • State laws supersede Federal laws.
  • Disputes between states resolved by negotiations, sanctions or war rather than Federal Courts.
  • Rich states do well while poor states make the best of their plight.
  • No move than voluntary uniformity between state laws.
  • No Federal Department of Agriculture, Commerce, Education, or Energy
  • No Federal Department of Health and Human Services, or Homeland Security
  • No Federal Department of Housing and Urban development, or Department of Labor
  • No Department of the Interior, or Transportation
  • No Federal Lands: National Forests, National Parks, or Monuments

If the above accurately reflects calls for small government and States’ rights, we should be careful what we wish for.

Often calls for “small government” are no more than slogans suggesting opposition to whichever government programs one dislikes. Similarly, calls for “States’ Rights” apply just to those provisions of Federal Law that one happens to oppose. Thus Rep. Reed was recently caught in a dilemma–should the Federal Government override the NYS fracking ban or respect NY State’s rights?  He dodged this issue with an indirect attack on New York’s right to ban fracking.

We already tried small government and States’ rights once with the Articles of Confederation. It would be silly to try that again and expect different results.

© William Hungerford – March 2015




Posted in Congress, Economics, Environmental, fracking, Political, Reed's Views, Rights | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Koch brothers only seek to make America better for all Americans

c kochThe Koch brothers, Charles and David, only seek to make America better for all Americans; who knew?

  • The Kochs made their billions by growing their business–that’s real wealth creation, jobs for people and products people want.
  • The Kochs oppose government subsidies even for their own company.
  • The Kochs don’t oppose environmental regulations, they just think current regulations go too far.
  • The Kochs don’t oppose Social Security, they just want to save it from going broke
  • They are pro-immigration, anti-drug war, they want less defense spending.
  • They want fewer people in jail.
  • The Koch’s message is that government should spend less and get out of the way.

So who are the bad guys? That would be labor unions. Maybe you thought unions promoted the interest of workers, workplace safety, fair wages–that’s wrong. This is what they do:

  • Promote economic ignorance.
  • Favor rigid hiring rules, limits on firing lazy workers, “buy American” campaigns, and taxes on imports.
  • Push inefficiency.

Unions spend big money promoting the interests of millions of workers, so it is only fair that the Kochs spend to counter their ignorant views in the public interest. Why do the Kochs endow faculty chairs on condition that their ideas are studied and taught? Obviously, liberal faculty, unless paid off, would suppress honest teaching of biology, economics, history, and earth science. Why do the Koch’s support politicians who favor small government, and repeal of environmental regulations? Why, in the public interest, of course.

If you don’t believe, you must be a liberal–possibly an extreme Ithaca liberal–sure to be wrong on every question.

© William Hungerford – March 2015







Posted in 2016, Campaign Finance, Congress, Economics, Environmental, fracking, Health Care, Humor, Immigration, Political, Reed's Views, Seniors, War | Tagged , | 1 Comment

How not to govern

boehner 1How to play a loosing game at politics:

  • Republicans set themselves up for a fall when they refused to include Homeland Security funding in the CRomnibus budget bill.
  • With short term funding running out, they passed a bitter partisan bill, H.R. 240, certain to be vetoed should it pass the Senate.
  • Republican intransigence proved unpopular with the public.
  • H.R. 240 didn’t pass the Senate.
  • The Senate removed the offensive provisions and sent it back.
  • Republican dissidents blocked a three week continuing resolution with most Democrats, playing hardball, voting NO ( H J RES 35: roll 104). Rep. Reed voted AYE.
  • A majority of the House, Republicans and Democrats, blocked a conference on the Senate bill (H.R. 240: roll 105). Rep. Reed voted NAY.
  • The Senate amended H.R. 33  Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act to avoid a shutdown for one week.
  • At two hours to midnight, the House agreed to H.R. 33 as amended with the support of most Democrats (roll 106). Democrats reportedly were promised a clean vote on the Senate bill, H.R.240, next week.

All this so the GOP can struggle with itself again next week.



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Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Education

childcareKevin McCarthy, writing in National Review February 25, 2015, discusses HR-5, Republican Education Reform:


It’s not easy for the average family to ensure that their child receives a quality education. And the federal government is not making it any easier.

How does the Federal Government make it hard? We read:

When kids start school, families often have little choice over where they can go. Sometimes, children are forced into a failing school simply because their parents live in a certain district and that school is the only option.

Ah, kids may be forced to attend public schools for lack of choice. That’s one way.

Then, schools are bogged down by federal bureaucracy and one-size-fits-all national standards. This centralized approach results in programs and standards that don’t work for everyone and can distract teachers’ focus from what matters: teaching.

So, National Standards are a problem. That’s another way.

It’s no wonder that despite the 2.7 million students already enrolled at charter schools, another 1 million kids remained on waiting lists for such schools last year.

Then charter schools must be the answer. Evidently any school called a charter school is guaranteed success.  What evidence supports that view, one wonders?

Outside of the family, education is the greatest determinant of social mobility. Yet for decades, Washington has attempted to fix our education system with more centralization, more bureaucratic control, and more tax-and-spend gimmicks, all yielding the same sad results.

The House has a different plan. This week, we will focus on expanding equal opportunity in education through two bills: the Student Success Act and a bill to improve and expand 529 college savings plans (H.R.529 – Savings Enhancement for Education in College Act).

To improve access to high-quality education before college, the Student Success Act (H.R. 5), authored by Chairman John Kline (R., Minn.) of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, takes control away from the federal government and puts it back in the hands of the states and local schools.

States’ rights–Oklahoma can teach American History as they wish.

First, the SSA expands America’s already-successful charter school system and allows federal funds to follow low-income students to the public school of their parents’ choice, not the school dictated by district lines.

Public funding for private schools; who would have thought Republicans would like that idea. The proposed charter school for Elmira has an unelected board. That is the antithesis of local control.

Second, the bill consolidates more than 65 duplicative and unnecessary programs into a single Local Academic Flexibility Grant that lets schools apply resources according to individual student needs.

Block grants give States and Localities money to spend as they wish.

Third, it preserves state and local autonomy by barring the Secretary of Education from forcing states to accept national academic standards like Common Core, and replaces federal school accountability schemes, including “Adequate Yearly Progress,” with state-led accountability systems that empower parents and local education leaders.

Funding without standards or accountability.

To reduce the college debt burden and promote a culture of saving, the House also passed a bill by Representative Lynn Jenkins (R., Kan.) to improve and expand tax-free 529 college savings plans.

H.R. 529 affects a few percent of Americans, mostly wealthy people. Tom Reed supports this bill. Reed writes:

Despite President Obama’s assertion that 529 plans only benefit the wealthy, the Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that 85% of accounts are owned by families earning under $250,000, and 52% by families earning under $100,000. This is a fair solution that will benefit every family saving for a child’s higher education.

Note that “every family saving for a child’s higher education” isn’t quite the same as “every family.” It is more like “wealthy families using the 529 tax provision.”

McCarthy continues:

Real education reform starts with taking power out of Washington’s hands and giving it back to the people. That means school choice. That means local control. That means more college savings and less college debt.

Rep. McCarthy is the peoples’ representative in Washington. It seems strange that he has so much faith in others and so little in his fellow Representatives and in himself.

To get that done, we just need President Obama to get on board.

Rep. McCarthy, like Rep. Reed, delights in telling just his side of the story. President Obama has suggested he will veto H.R. 5 saying it is a step backwards. Some Republicans want to retreat even further from education reform by repudiating and defunding No Child Left Behind.

© William Hungerford – February 2015



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Bipartisan Support to Amend the SAFE Act?

safeact1The most viewed article on the New NY 23rd has been  Repeal the SAFE Act—More Hype than Bite?, It has been viewed 685 times since it was posted on February 18, 2014. The point of the article was that there are many reasons that the SAFE Act  would be very difficult to  repeal. It was suggested that Gun Rights activists should work to amend it.  To repeal the law many New York State legislators would have to change their minds, or,  elect enough pro-gun Senators and Assemblymen to become a majority. Both were a mighty difficult task.

I don’t think I need to review how the SAFE Act devastated the democratic Upstate landscape.  

Jim Miller, the political journalist for the Finger Lakes Times, had an interesting slant in the SAFE Act in his weekly  “Eye On Government” last Sunday, February 22.  The title was “Maybe amend, not repeal, SAFE Act”.

Miller gave reasons the Republicans should try to amend it (One was that the downstate Democrats might take them more serious if they proposed reasonable fixes). He also explained why the Democrats should try to amend it—and this is where it gets interesting. (“…the party (Democrats) does want some upstate Republican votes to safeguard its hold on the governor’s mansion. If it cannot get those Republican votes, it wants them to stay home…” )

Miller also pointed out that Wayne County Board of Supervisors  passed “partial repeal bills” which  aimed at reducing the cost of some of the Act’s mandated provisions. He cited verifying gun ownership every five years and processing pistol permits as costly measures that could be adjusted. The Supervisors also noted that the seven-round limit is unrealistic since there are not seven-round magazines available. They must have not gotten the memo that in December 2013 a federal judge in the Buffalo eliminated the seven-round rule from the SAFE Act.

I contend that the Democrats should want more Upstate support in the legislature. In the 2014 State elections 10 Upstate Senate races had no Democrats running–3 in the NY-23rd Congressional District (#54, held by Sen. Mike Nozzolio, #57; held by Sen Catherine Young; and #58, held by Sen. Tom O’Mara). There were 19 Upstate Assembly Districts  with no Democrat candidate on the ballot –5 in the NY-23–(#124, held by Rep. Chris Friend; #131, held by Brian Kolb; #132, held by Re.p Phil Palmesano; #133, held by Bill Nojay; and #148, held by Rep. Joe Giglio). Having a viable Democratic Senate or Assembly candidate at the the top of the ballot, and a rousing Presidential campaign might bring out a high voter turnout in 2016. That might help democrats at both the State and Federal levels.

Does the Republican Party really want the SAFE Act amended? Would they be satisfied changing the law to verify gun ownership every ten years instead of five? Would they be willing to make money saving changes to the pistol permit portion of the SAFE Act? I think not, because the SAFE Act is such a political wind-fall for the Republican Party.

Would the Democrats be willing to weaken what they perceive as a life-saving law to gain Upstate support? I think not because that would be putting politics above protecting the public–and that is what government is suppose to do.

To quote the present Speaker of the House,  “If ands and buts were candy and nuts, every day would be Christmas.”







Posted in 2016, Constituents, Constitution, Gun Violence, Political, Rights, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments