I am an American

Is anyone surprised that I am somehow deemed unworthy to speak about American foreign policy? Or that they see me as a powerful voice that needs to be silenced? Frankly, it is expected. Because when you push power, power pushes back.

I am an American. An American who was sent here by her constituents to represent them in Congress. A refugee who survived the horrors of a civil war. Someone who spent her childhood in a refugee camp. Someone who knows what it means to have a shot at a better life here in the United States. And someone who believes in the American dream and the American possibility and the promise and the ability to participate in the democratic process.

I will continue to speak up because representation matters, I will continue to speak up for families around the world who are seeking justice whether they are displaced in refugee camps or they are hiding under their beds somewhere like I was waiting for the bullets to stop. — Rep. Ilhan Omar

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A three party system would be better than two

A three party system might work well with a major party at the center. A moderate, centrist party might be the largest of three. It could often pass needed legislation without pandering to left or right. If moderate bills lacked votes, deals could be made with left or right. Legislation could be blocked only in the unlikely event that both left and right opposed it.

How we could get there isn’t clear. Our two parties are entrenched. We haven’t seen a significant new national party in decades, and then not a party of the center. A third centrist party would need to start small: perhaps independents could form a voting block. The Problem Solvers Caucus isn’t a party, but perhaps could become one. It already votes as a block on the rare occasion that it reaches consensus. Because its members are Democrats and Republicans, they don’t often agree.

A three party system might be more stable than a two party system, avoiding policies oscillating between opposing views. It might be better at passing necessary legislation, at funding authorized programs, at protecting civil rights. We might see less partisan political posturing. I’d like to see it tried.

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Reed, Sempolinski, Langworthy

 A Member . . . [or an] officer, or employee of the House [paid at or above the “senior staff” rate], may not –(d)  serve for compensation as an officer or member of the board of an association, corporation, or other entity; House Rule 25, clause 2.

I ran for Congress to be a serious legislator and to fight back against this culture of doing things for the TV soundbite.–Rep. Langworth

Reed, Sempolinski, Langworthy, all three poorly qualified for Congress. Reed has a law degree from a little known college; he worked as a bill collector. Sempolinski and Langworthy have Political Science degrees; they worked as party functionaries. New members have much to learn.

Tom Reed got in dutch for clinging to his law business after election. Nick Langworthy clings to his job as party Chair. Both favored term limits before they were elected; afterwards, not so much. All three offered simplistic solutions for intractable problems.

An article by Jeff Murray titled High hope for S. Tier appeared today, Jan. 23rd in the Elmira Star Gazette. Murry reports on our new representatives’ ideas. Here are some excerpts:

Langworthy said he plans to relinquish his role as Republican Party chairman as soon as a suitable successor is found.

I’m a big supporter of local control. I want to talk to locals and find out their priorities, ” he said. “I want resources for local governments. We have a fairly poor area. I want the (spending) pie to be as small as possible, but I want to fight for the biggest piece we can.”

“We have natural gas reserves in the Southern Tier that rival Saudi Arabia. The left won’t allow us to harvest that,” he said. “We need to get real about their dreams of electrification. It’s a fairy tale. The blizzard proved that. The technology isn’t there. We need American energy independence.”

“This institution is based on seniority. I don’t think people need to be here 25 years, but I don’t see this as a short stint,” Langworthy said. “The challenges are great, but I am looking forward to getting the job done.”

Jeff Murray’s article and Nick Langworthy’s facebook page make clear that Nick is focused on divisive politics rather than serious representation.

Note: Saudi Arabia and the United States each have about five percent of the world’s natural gas reserves; the Southern Tier of NY has a negligible fraction of that.

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Federal “government spending” is an empty phrase

Indeed, one of the reasons we need an increase in the debt ceiling is that the 2017 Trump tax cuts, especially the cut in the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%, dramatically increased the deficit without promoting growth. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated in 2018 that the tax cuts would increase the deficit by about $1.9 trillion over 11 years.–Heather Cox Richardson, Jan. 19th

Federal “government spending” is an empty phrase intended to mislead. Programs are authorized by Congress; when Congress acts responsibly, it also appropriates the necessary funds. If money is spent, it is when funds are appropriated rather than when the bills come due and are paid. Better call it funding.

We frequently read about government spending, particularly in the phrase “wasteful spending,” as if bill paying were optional. “Spending” suggests that government acts rashly and impulsively. This isn’t the case. The Treasury pays bills when they come due, as any person or organization does. When we pay for something we need, we say we are paying rather than spending. We “pay for” something when we need it.

Irresponsible politicians complain incessantly about government spending and demand that spending be reduced. However, they seldom say what costs would fall on individuals if certain programs were eliminated. They seldom note that Congress has authorized those programs. When Tom Reed in 2013 advocated eliminating SNAP (food stamp) funding, he neglected to mention the impact that would have on his constituents.

Discussions of the Federal budget are invariably one-sided. The only option presented to reduce the budget deficit is to eliminate government programs. Few politicians dare suggest raising taxes, even when that is clearly necessary. Those who do, George H. W. Bush for example, are punished by fickle voters.

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Classified Documents

This document was officially declassified circa 1950.

There doesn’t have to be a process, as I understand it,” Trump said. “You’re the president of the United States, you can declassify just by saying it’s declassified, even by thinking about it.“–Politico

In the 1960s, I worked in an office where classified documents were kept. They were kept in locked file cabinets marked “classified.” I was cleared to see secret documents, but rarely had good reason to do so.

When a cabinet was unlocked, it was marked “OPEN.” If workers needed to see a document, we were allowed to take it out, read, and required to put it back. These documents were never to be left on a desk or mixed with other papers. We were warned of serious consequences for carelessness; as far as I know, the rules were followed.

If the Federal Government took the same precautions with highly sensitive documents my employer and fellow workers had to take with more mundane documents, a great deal of the current troubles over classified documents could have been avoided. The problem may be that officials in high places don’t know the rules for handling classified documents or feel empowered to ignore them.

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Think before acting

Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other, and scarce in that.― Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanack

In Travels with Herodotus, Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuściński tells the story of a Mogul Ruler, Hulagu Kahn (1216-1265) as I remember, who was asked to kill all the file makers. Before acting, he wanted to know how many file makers his army needed.

Before revoking a rule, Republican politicians ought to ask why it is there and when they might need it. Before embracing extremists or foolish ideas, they ought to consider the possible consequences.

Promoting radical ideas may create a backlash. Unworkable House rules, empowering extremists, divisive theatrics, culture war, Congressional term limits, balanced budget, low taxes for the rich, defunding the IRS, demonizing China, ignoring climate change, promoting fracking, excusing insurrection, threatening default on debt, government shutdown, cutting Social Security and Medicare, and the like might come back to bite, if there is a groundswell of support among Republicans and others for such foolish ideas.

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Rep. Langworthy vows to be “a serious legislator”

I think some of the people against him (McCarthy) are really looking for perfection when right now we need to really come together to solve the problems that our country faces.–Rep. Claudia Tenney

Now we move on to legislation: things that almost every voice in our conference will agree on.–Rep. Nick Langworthy

Rep. Langworthy vows to be “a serious legislator”

On Jan. 8th, in The Buffalo News, Jerry Zremski reports on newly elected Representatives Higgins, Langworth, and Tenney.

I ran for Congress to be a serious legislator and to fight back against this culture of doing things for the TV soundbite, Langworthy said.

He (Langworthy) said Republican lawmakers uniformly support an agenda that calls for repealing the funding for 70,000 new Internal Revenue Service agents, working toward energy independence, getting tough on China and bringing accountability to the Biden administration.

Here is Nick’s agenda:

  • repealing the funding for 70,000 new Internal Revenue Service agents
  • working toward energy independence
  • getting tough on China
  • bringing accountability to the Biden administration

These platitudes reflect partisan politics at its worst. The first item would hinder the IRS and delay processing of tax returns. The second is naive: with or without fracking, the vast majority of the worlds petroleum reserves aren’t in North America. The last two are too vague for consideration as stated. The Republican Conference may agree on these things as Nick maintains, but that doesn’t make them good ideas, important, or popular with the public.

You know, the next three months are going to be like the last three days, and that’s not good for the country,” Higgins said on Friday. “And when you compare that with what the last Congress was able to accomplish, it’s a stark difference. We had very, very significant legislative victories … But it doesn’t appear as though the Republican caucus is set up to be in any way effective, it’s going to be obstruction, obstruction, obstruction

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Human migration

Come visit, don’t stay.–Oregon Gov. Tom McCall 

New York State continues to suffer from record out migration. This is very concerning but comes as no surprise since Kathy Hochul and Albany Democrats continue to produce policies that drive hardworking families right out of our state.–Rep. Tenney

Much misinformation can be stuffed into a few sentences:

  • If NYS suffers somehow, Rep. Tenney doesn’t say how.
  • NYS’s population decline is recent, presumably temporary, rather than “continuing.”
  • What sort of record, Rep. Tenney doesn’t say.
  • Why concerning?
  • It would be “no surprise” if Gov. Hochul had little to do with people moving.
  • Most legislators, Democrats and Republicans, don’t represent Albany.
  • What policies, what evidence?
  • People move for many reasons–jobs, retirement, family reasons. They aren’t necessarily driven.
  • Not all who move are necessarily “hardworking.”

Americans are free to move from state to state. There is no prize for the most populous state. Many prefer to live in rural places. If loss of population is a problem, it can be easily solved–there are many migrants who would like very much to live and work here.

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House Rules

I would rather be right than President–Henry Clay

In an article in The Hill, Jonathan Turley, Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University, discusses expected changes to the rules of the House. He says he doesn’t favor all of them, but praises the package nevertheless, evidently from a partisan perspective. He discusses the following:

  1. Restoring the ‘Vacate the Chair’ rule
  2. Restoring legislative review and deliberation
  3. Reinstate budget and tax procedures
  4. Committee reforms

1. Restoring the ‘Vacate the Chair’ rule

“Vacate the Chair” means fire the speaker. The question is how many supporters are needed to make the motion. It has been as few as one. Professor Turley wrote:

Pelosi eliminated the one-member rule and, instead, required a majority of either party to make such a motion. Some Republicans wanted that check on the speaker to be reinstated.

By attacking Rep. Pelosi, Professor Turley signals his support for a small number, perhaps only one. The events of this week show how this would work. Whether the motion goes to committee or requires an immediate vote, the minority party would vote in favor with the majority of the majority party opposed. Thus a few dissidents in the majority party would determine the outcome. The Speaker could be fired effectively by a small number of dissidents.

Turley continues:

Notably, what has unnerved so many in Washington is that this speakership debate was not just largely public but also unscripted. It was an actual deliberation, conducted in front of the American people.

I don’t believe there was any meaningful public discussion of the dissidents demands or Kevin McCarthy’s concessions, particularly on the question of “vacate the chair;” the debate occurred in private. Even if true, neither the majority of Republicans nor the public had any say in the outcome.

2. Restoring legislative review and deliberation

Professor Turley claims:

For years, some of us have called for smaller bills and more deliberation. Massive bills are a way to hide personal perks and pork projects under fraudulent packaging like the “Inflation Reduction Act” that had little to do with inflation. The omnibus bill recently pushed through the House and Senate is an example of this abusive, opaque process. 

Omnibus bills have proved effective for funding the government. Like it or not,  a 435 member parliament can’t operate like a rural town hall meeting. Again we saw this week what happens when a faction can delay and disrupt.

3. Reinstate budget and tax procedures

Professor Turley claims:

These are measures designed to control federal spending — a shock to a system that has abandoned any semblance of fiscal responsibility under both parties.

Implicit is the idea that Federal Spending should be limited possibly to a level that would restrict government’s ability to function in the public interest. That budgets are determined in committee isn’t necessarily opaque and wouldn’t be less opaque if all 435 members participated. The idea that all 435 need to read and understand the details of appropriation bills is unreasonable–most members aren’t qualified to do that. The idea that appropriation bills ought to be brief is also unreasonable.

4. Committee reforms

On this question, Professor Turley rambles. He neglects to say that the dissidents demanded assignments to important committees in place of senior members to further a minority agenda, which he seems to favor.

Professor Turley concludes:

Yes, there are demands in the concessions that some of us do not favor. However, we should be honest about the status quo: Today’s legislative system is a mockery of the deliberative process, characterized by runaway spending, blind voting and perfunctory debates. You can dislike or denounce the holdouts while still admitting they have a point — Congress has got to change.

Even if one agrees that Today’s legislative system is a mockery of the deliberative process, characterized by runaway spending, blind voting and perfunctory debates, Turley has given no persuasive argument that the proposed rule changes would improve it.

Reportedly, there are a number of additional agreements that Professor Turley didn’t discuss.

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The Party of Panaceas

What they’re really interested in is chaos.… They want to throw sand in the gears of the hated federal government until it fails and they’ve finally proved that it’s beyond saving.” And they are tied tightly to right-wing media: “Every time they vote down a bill, they get another invitation to go on Fox News or talk radio,” he said. “Its a narcissistic—and dangerous—feedback loop.–Former Speaker John Boehner

The GOP planted seeds for failure decades ago by embracing extremists and extremism.

  • Conservative Policies
  • Federalism
  • Originalism
  • Regular Order
  • Term Limits
  • Balanced Budgets
  • Laissez-faire
  • Trickle Down
  • Supply Side

These and similar ideas are panaceas–naive ideas that supposedly will solve all problems and cure all ills. GOP misleaders should know better than to embrace foolish ideas.

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