Thursday, February 21, 2013

Walberg Town Hall Report – Surreal!

Last night US Congressperson Tim Walberg (R-Tipton) met with Monroe County constituents in Temperance and I was in attendance. Most of us have watched clips of conservative politicians speaking to their audience and we shake our head in disbelief at what we hear them say. This Town Hall meeting was an amazing 60-minute clip that left me with a stiff neck form shaking my head “No” and a sore face from all the jaw-dropping I did.

Walberg says you are going to need your guns

Tim Walberg preached the good word of the 2nd Amendment to the delight of his supporters. Most of us believe that we have the 5th Amendment right to defend ourselves, our life, our liberty and our property, including self defense with a weapon. Walberg and his supporters believe that they have a so-called 2nd Amendment right to arm a private militia to overthrow the government.

The 2nd Amendment reads, “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

A "well regulated militia"
A “well regulated militia” is the regular military as opposed to the volunteers. The difference between the two is that the regulars have an officer appointed by the Governor; they are provisioned (made regular) with uniforms, weapons and other supplies by the state government; and they are under the control of (regulated by) the state government.

The “people” referred to in the 2nd Amendment are not all of the people, but they are a specific subset of the people; they are the people who serve in the military unit of the state. The 2nd Amendment does not recognize any right of people outside of the regular military units to keep and bear weapons of any kind; weapons for self defense are properly a 5th Amendment issue.

My personal position is that I will defend your right to have a handgun, rifle, shotgun or any number of weapons suitable for self-defense, for hunting or sport shooting or even as a novelty for collection, but I will not defend anyone’s right to have weapons for the purpose of overthrowing the government that we have established by election.

That being said, some weapons should clearly be off limits, such as nuclear missiles, bazookas and fragmenting grenades. Where a person’s right to a weapon for self defense ends and the weapon is clearly for military purposes is a question worthy of debate.

Anyone who can’t have that discussion, either because they cannot tolerate any allowance for the ownership of weapons or because they cannot tolerate any restriction on the ownership of weapons, has earned my contempt.

Walberg thinks a low minimum wage is a good thing

Tim Walberg told us how important low minimum wages were to unskilled workers looking for entry level opportunities, especially young people just getting out of school. His audience loved it! But there are serious problems with this belief.

First, while a very high percentage of young workers without college degrees have minimum wage jobs, they are not the majority of the people holding these minimum wage jobs. Let me reword this, most of the people who have minimum wage jobs are not new entrants to the workforce who lack skills, education and job experience.

Second, he pointed out how grateful he was for his first job which was a minimum wage job. But in 1968 or slightly later when Walberg was looking for that first job as a teen or young adult, the minimum wage was $1.60 per hour; expressed as 2013 dollars that would be $10.58.

Supporters of a minimum wage increase are asking for $9 per hour adjusted over a period of several years which would be less than what Walberg and others his age earned at their first minimum wage job.

Finally, most minimum wage jobs are not entry level jobs. The people who take these jobs have little or not opportunity for upward mobility over time. 

Walberg acknowledged that young people entering the workforce were competing for jobs with people who are trying to live on two or more low wage jobs, were dependents of people with better income or people who might have retired by need a little more income to subsist.

What this means is that the profits of businesses that employ at minimum wage are being subsidized by primary wage earners or retirements.

Walberg excuses businesses that evade new taxes established by “Obamacare”

Walberg seemed to literally praise business owners who employed part-time, minimum wage, no-benefit people and had taken action to avoid having to help pay for the tax credits and Medicaid benefits that these underpaid employees depended on.

One employer was reducing all of their employee’s hours to less than 30 hours per week. Another employer was reorganizing as three companies all working from the same business address.

I am no expert on the tax issues, but it looks like they were trying to reclassify their business so that they would look too small to have to pay the tax. Technically, what they are doing is called tax avoidance, but I think it is damned close to being tax evasion.

In a recent interview for the Monroe News, Walberg referred to the Republican Party as one that stood for personal responsibility and high moral values. These business described by Walberg are neither! They do not pay their employees enough to live without government assistance and then they avoid paying the taxes to cover the cost of government assistance provided to their underpaid employees.

Walberg says that government is growing and that it spends too much

The brilliant satirist H. L. Mencken said, "For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." The message that government is too big and spends too much and is growing, growing, growing, never gets old but it has just plain incorrect for many years now.

Non-defense spending as a percent of GDP is stable
The cost of healthcare is going up, but this is not because government is buying more healthcare, it is because healthcare companies including, insurance companies and payment processors and big new corporate healthcare networks are driving up the cost to create more profits for themselves.

The cost of maintaining a wartime military is high, especially the cost of outsourcing services to big corporation that are profiting from war in the Middle East.

The cost of borrowing money to run the government is going up, but only because one Congress after another has refused to be fiscally responsible and tax from wealth to pay for government instead of borrowing from wealth to pay for the same government.

Deficits would have been small without Bush Era tax cuts
Excluding healthcare, military, and debt related expenses due to tax breaks for the wealthy, the size and cost of government relative to the economy (population and GDP) has either been stable or shrinking.

Walberg supports the flat tax

The so-called flat tax never stops being attractive to ignorant people who lack math skills or just don’t care about the impact of the tax on the working poor. When one Walberg support volunteered that she supported the flat tax, Walberg was quick to agree.

First. The myth shared by conservatives is that the bottom 50% don’t pay any Federal Income Tax, but I went to the IRS web site and based on the latest data that was available I learned that every tax bracket in the bottom 50% except for the very lowest one (under $10,000) pad roughly 10%. This is actual payment of taxes versus actual earnings.

Second. People who don’t do math well can’t seem to grasp the difference between income and disposal income after cost of living. A single parent earning roughly $20,000 and support one child has no disposable income whatsoever; $2,000 in taxes would devastate them. A double-income, no children household with two professional incomes totally $500,000 would hardly miss $50,000 in taxes and in fact would be in a better position to pay $175,000 than the single-parent would be to pay even $175.

Walberg blames the President for Congress’s failure to budget

How is it even possible that Obama could be responsible for Congress’s unprecedented inability to budget? This is an explicit duty of Congress; not the President!

Walberg told his audience that very reasonable Republicans had offered the President budgets and that the President rejected them out of hand and refused to make any concessions. Democrats no better, but the Republicans in the audience were eating this up.

Here is how government works: Congress tells the President what government must do and how much it must spend to do it. Then, Congress tells the President how much he can collect in taxes and how much he can borrow. Then the President has to figure out how to pay for the government that Congress has told him to pay for with the money that Congress authorized him to spend.

I’m sure all of you got it; Congress is responsible for the budget, not the President. But Walberg’s audience is hopelessly stupid and they will never get it.

Walberg is still running against the President

I was amazed that Walberg was still wasting time on rhetoric about how they lost the election to Obama. Oddly it hasn’t occurred to him that the reason they lost the election was because more people wanted Obama to be president than didn’t. Instead he focused on how low voter turnout by Republicans cost them the election.

Let me just say this, the Republicans turned out in numbers. Republicans were not turned away at the polls and were not discouraged in any way from voting. The Republicans lost! They are in the minority! Republicans only dominate representative government because of very clever design of districts … gerrymandering.

Beyond that, it is time to quit running against Obama and start working with him. Well it would be for any rational human being, but that might be too much to expect from Walberg.

The trip home

We left after one hour. I have no idea how long the Town Hall went on, but we had as much as we could take. We spent most of the trip home taking turns shouting at the windshield. I spent the last part of the trip have a phone conversation with a fellow Democrat in the 7th Congressional District about what we need to do to make sure that Tim Walberg doesn’t get reelected in 2014.