Our congressman, Rep. Tom Reed, has complained about what he sees as excessive government spending for years; but lately, he seems to have become a advocate for big government. Reed has co-authored a bill with Democrat Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts to set up a network of regional technology institutes around the country, with a $600 million price tag. In Friday’s email to constituents, Reed brags that he is a co-sponsor of a bill to re-authorize the Older Americans Act for five years. This is a $2 billion per year program that began life as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society.
The OAA is wonderful piece of legislation, authorizing funds for a wide range of services for the elderly, including nutrition centers, Meals on Wheels, and Alzheimer’s support. Unfortunately, the OAA authorization expired at the end of fiscal 2011, and renewal has been languishing because of the strength of Tea Party budget cutters in Congress. Its particular programs have been continued on a stop-gap, year-to-year basis.
In Friday’s newsletter, Reed also boasted of his support for the purchase of surplus grape juice by the Department of Agriculture and expressed his satisfaction with provisions in the newly-passed Farm Bill that help fund the distribution of food through food banks, pantries, and meal programs.
What’s going on here? Does Tom Reed believe that the era of big government has returned? Will he soon declare himself a Democrat?
More likely, Reed is starting to realize that he faces a serious challenge in New York’s 23rd in the candidacy of Martha Robertson, a candidate with a strong record of support for seniors and a proven track record in promoting jobs and economic development. Reed may even hope that voters will start to see him as a moderate and forget that he favored draconian cuts in the SNAP program, voted to prolong the government shutdown, wanted to risk a default on the national debt, and repeatedly sought to repeal or undermine the Affordable Care Act.
The government programs Reed now says he favors, like the Older Americans Act, will fare far better in a House of Representatives controlled by Democrats. Speaker Boehner may not even allow a vote on the OAA re-authorization, and if he does, it will likely pass only because of the support of Democrats. If Democrats were in the majority, the OAA would have been renewed long ago — and that’s just one more reason for voters to choose Martha Robertson in November.