Friday, April 29, 2011

An Evening With My Congressman

Last night I attended a Town Hall meeting hosted by my Congressman, Rep. Frank Guinta. Guinta won his seat last November defeating Carol Shea-Porter. I did a little volunteering for the Shea-Porter campaign and remain a fan. I haven’t been such big fan of the Frank Guinta.

Guinta the former Mayor of Manchester. He rode into office on the Republican wave with Tea Party support and has had a predictable Republican voting record his first few months in office. I was curious how he would represent that record.

A good sized crowd of several hundred people filled much of the Exeter High School Auditorium. The crowd skewed to towards senior citizens and I recognized some faces from the last Town Hall I attended. Judging by the volume of cheers and boos I would guess three quarters of the attendees were not there to support the Congressman.

I enjoy the Town Hall meetings.  I like taking the measure of my representatives as they try out their talking points on the rowdy, messy crowds. I like the democratic spirit of these events.

The tone was set with the first question about the Ryan Budget Plan. The question was “Why in the world did you ever vote for the Paul Ryan Medicare plan?” which got substantial applause. Guinta’s vague, half-hearted defense of his vote did not generate similar enthusiasm. The crowd showed outright hostility to the Congressman’s assertion that “the plan won’t have any effect on people over 55.”

Maybe he was just responding to the audience, but most of the event Rep. Guinta was a picture of bland equanimity. Everything was a good idea, or something he would be happy to look into, or something he wanted to work on with his friends across the isle. He was calm but slippery. He gave the general impression of someone more interested in running out the clock than in defending his votes or articulating his principles.

This is the tragedy of American democracy*. In Washington, the parties will refuse to agree to blindingly obvious. When you get finally get someone in front of you they won’t admit to any disagreement.

I didn’t get to ask any questions.  I do have some I would like to have answered. Here are a few:

On the deficit:

In 2000 we had a budget surplus. Since then we have cut taxes multiple times. We have gotten involved in 2 (or more) wars and run up defense spending. We have watched as medical costs rapidly increase. We had a massive financial crisis that had a devastating effect on private enterprise and government revenue. We now have an annual budget deficit of $1.4 trillion.

Congressman Guinta, in your few months in office you have voted to reduce taxes further. You have opposed serious cuts in defense spending. You have voted to eliminate government cost control measures for health care. And you have voted to to eliminate the recent financial regulations.

Why, exactly, should we regard you as someone who is serious about deficit reduction?

On the debt ceiling:

Congressman Guinta, you voted for the budget deal that calls for $1.4 trillion in deficit spending this year. And you voted for the Paul Ryan budget plan that calls for another $6 trillion in deficit spending over the next decade. All of that deficit spending, that you voted for, will require the government to borrow money.

Furthermore, if we don’t raise the debt ceiling the U.S. government will default on it’s debt obligations. Our nation’s place as the world’s financial leader will be forever destroyed. And our economy will collapse. Again.

In light of these facts will you reconsider you position on voting to raise the debt ceiling? If you will not, how can you justify your position as anything but a display of reckless disregard for your country and your constituents?

Event video:

This video isn’t from our Town Hall meeting. It’s pretty great though and shows Guinta at his most slippery:

* I bet I’ve said this before about something else. Maybe I should say “Among the great tragedies of American democracy...”