I Called My Senators...For The First Time Ever

Feb 12, 2009

I’ve never done this before, but today I called my senators and representative of the U.S. Congress.

I’ve been reading about this “stimulus bill” and I don’t like it. Two weeks ago I saw the mayor of Virginia Beach on the television and he was trying to get part of the stimulus package for his town. He said that for $3.4 million he could employ 11 new employees to repaint their water treatment plant. WHAT? $308,000 is the going rate for a painter these days? Give me $3.4 million dollars and I can employ 50 new people and bring broadband internet to all the places in Southeast Missouri that don’t have it.

Fox News is reporting tonight in their article, Bacon Hunt?, that the following items are in this stimulus:
— $100 million for the Lead-Based Paint Hazard Control Grant Program
— $200 million to the Leaking Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund Program
— $300 million for “Violence Against Women Prevention and Prosecution Programs”
— $900 million for the IRS for the “Limitation on Administrative Expenses”
— $1 million for the Railroad Retirement Board for administrative costs
— $2 billion for the Drinking Water State Revolving Act
— $50 million for Health and Human Services to carry out injury prevention programs
— $1.1 billion for studies on the effectiveness of different medical treatments — $200 million to upgrade labs and facilities for the Department of Agriculture “to improve workplace safety and mission-area efficiencies”
— $10 million for urban canal inspection
— $16 billion to pay for student financial aid
— $1 billion to pay for the U.S. Census
— $600 million to pay for a fuel-efficient federal auto fleet
— $650 million for the Digital Converter Box Program to help the constantly delayed transition from analog television
— $485 million to the Forest Service for “hazardous fuels reduction and hazard mitigation activities in areas at high risk of catastrophic wildfire”
— Up to $1 billion for “summer activities” for youths as old as 24
— $40 million for the occupational research agenda
— $3 billion for the Centers for Disease Control wellness programs and vaccinations
— $410 million for Indian health facilities
— $2.4 billion for carbon-capture demonstrations

The above list equates to more than $30 billion dollars or about 4% of the stimulus package. Give me a break! I believe that Steve Forbes has a great idea to cut the payroll tax in half for the next two years. That would definitely get the economy going. No one I have spoken to about this disagrees.
Sure, the government takes in less money in taxes…but not when you compare it to this massive “stimulus package.”

I’d heard and read enough…I pointed my browser to house.gov and looked up my representative’s phone number, and I went to senate.gov and looked up my senators phone numbers. I called and asked for the following message to be relayed:

Please do not vote to approve this stimulus package. This is not what our country needs. Put the money in the hands of the people by cutting the payroll tax immediately. It will stimulate the economy so much more than carbon-capture demonstrations, a fuel-efficient federal auto fleet, or urban canal inspection.

I’ve never done that before but it was simple. No matter what the outcome, I feel like I’ve been heard.

Do you?

  1. Bridgett

    Brian, I couldn’t agree more about the payroll tax – my husband and I have been preaching reformation of the tax code for awhile. You might find the following to be interesting: http://www.fairtax.org.

  2. Stephen Segall, MD

    Hey Brian. Nice post.

    Say, suddenly Republicans have transformed from being like Paris Hilton – spending without wondering where it comes from or if it will ever run out or need to be repaid – to talking like CPAs (not those Arthur Anderson kinds either – the real ones) possessed with the ghost of Jack Benny.

    What happened? I hadn’t seen anything like this post from you before. Now you’re Mr. Line Item guy from your keyboard, a regular H and R Block. Good for you – I’m all for it. But why have we waited so long?

    Judging by the last eight years, I was under the impression that the Right had transcended economics. That’s based on what kinds of things I heard from our conservative politicians, the most visible political talking heads in the media, and my conservative friends, neighbors and patients. Frankly, I don’t remember president Bush use the phrase “fiscal responsibility” until he was vetoing the bill to keep physicians’ Medicare payments from plummeting another 10% last year.

    [Full disclosure: I admit it, I’m an unrepentant liberal, which means that I get none of my news or opinions from TV or radio – you know, the liberal media – because there’s nothing there that is comprehensive, trustworthy or resonant with liberal philosophy. For that I have to go to Internet sites and a few postal subscriptions. That doesn’t mean that don’t hear Rush, Sean and Bill regularly, since my car can’t get pick up anything that I would like to hear on the liberal, drive-by media. See, I do listen. ; )]

    Welcome back. We on the left have been spending most of the last eight years gnashing our teeth about wasteful spending against a backdrop of near silence and what appeared to be relatively little emotional response from the right. First there were all those tax cuts right estimated to cost tens of trillions after someone had just balanced the budget putting it out of alignment again. My people were worried, but the right was as calm as a Shaolin monk. Then the wars. We never heard a peep about cost from the right, just stay the course. Then the bailouts, where you guys seemed to exorcise Paris Hilton right between AIG and GM. Somehow, everything changed right between throwing hundreds of billions without strings or accountability with no questions asked at the financial industry (that was the Paris Hilton stage) and a few days later when they were making the auto makers grovel and produce business plans for their own rehabilitation for about one twentieth that amount. I heard about nothing but $75/hr pay and the Teamsters, and I knew you guys were back.

    Since I know you would ask if I was there, here’s the liberal take. All spending and tax relief is stimulatory, but only if it ends up in the pockets of people who will spend it. That’s not me. If you send me a stimulus check or raise the payment rate for my patients, it’s going right into the bank. That excludes businesses that buy principally from foreign manufacturers, or that outsource services jobs or move manufacturing offshore. It also not illegals who mail it out of the country. And it’s certainly not commercial banks, which will deposit it ion Zurich instead of loaning it. Concerning cutting the poor loose, it’s not necessary or even helpful. Remember, they spend it all, every cent. The single most stimulus you can get for a buck is to issue $1 worth of food stamps with it. Tax breaks are good, too, but for reasons I don’t understand, $1 in optimal tax breaks is about 2/3 as potent as $1 in optimal spending. I say optimal tax breaks, because the have to end up as dollars in pockets that won’t hold on to them. If you cut my share of the payroll taxes, I’ll bank them. Cut my employees share, and they’ll be spent, some right at Semo.net. Also, they don’t pay a lot of luxury tax, estate taxes or capital gains taxes either, so if you want to stimulate the economy with cuts, make them in income, sales, or property tax.

    That’s what the liberals are saying, but not me. They’re all into hope now, as you know. As for me, I think that ship has already sailed. Stimulus spending has to offset the losses in revenues that derive from the vicious layoff – reduced receipts – layoff cycle, which lime a tornado, begins as an eddy, then is a dust devil, and eventually a level 4 tornado. Stimulus spending is like barriers in whirlwind. You can throw a mattress or a school bus at an eddy and break the cycle, but eventually, if you wait too long, it takes a mountain, and we don’t have a mountain. So, I’m with you guys. Don’t spend it, not if you goal is to prevent a recession from becoming a depression. It’s too little way too late.

    It’s nice when we can agree on something political, isn’t it? Please say hi to Toni and the kids, and give Sarah Palin a pat on the head for us too, please.

    1. Brian Becker

      Great stuff. For the record, I opposed the October bailout. And our puppy’s name is just “Palin.” <grin>

  3. Jim Swinger

    Are we hiding our heads in the sand? Providing health care absoloutley stimulates the economy. I hear about broadband, internet coverage, do you realize that southeast Missouri is one of the poorest regions in the country. Do you realize how many people in our area that live without running water, electricity in their homes. Are they worried about broadband, do they have computers, I don’t think so. They are worried about how they are going to feed and clothe their children. Our elderly are choosing between medication’s or food. I work 5 days a week in Jefferson City fighting for the disabled and poverty and homeless issues. I just returned from Washington and thank God for Representatives like Jo Ann Emerson who cares about these issues, and yes I know she voted against the stimulus package but I respect her for her views on why she voted no. Brian you and I are fortunate enough to live in a home with electricity and water and yes even windows in our homes. We each have our agendas, but we all have a responsibility to our children and seniors not to live in poverty. I would be glad anytime to take you and show you how and where people are living in these conditions. Our Legislator’s are proposing sending $400 million of the stimulus money back to Washington and use the other half for road and bridges. So we are saying broadband, roads and bridges are more important than our people in this country. And yes we need jobs, I would be curious to how many area buisneses actualy employ people with disabilities, or even make their buisnesses accessible to people with disabilities. ILC’s in this state are looking at a 25% cut in state funding, that means 40,000 people with disabilities will lose transportation, and services critical to their everyday lives.

  4. Donald Beale

    I agree with all of you. It makes me sick, but what do you expect form a commerce secretary with a masters in business, oh wait that would make too much sense he has a degree in law. How about are secretary of health and human resources. I would think he should have a medical degree, but no he is the one with a business degree. How about the secretary for higher education. You would think she had a masters in education, but instead has a degree in journalism so she knows all about the media and putting a spin on things. Department of agriculture. Of course that one has a law degree. I don’t know about all of you, but if I have a question on how to raise livestock proffitably and effectively, I am not going down to the local lawyer’s office. Is everyone seeing the pattern here? We are ruled by people with no job qualifications. The next time I need an experienced tool and die maker I think I am going to try hiring a lawyer. He won’t be able to manufacture anything, but maybe he can get me a grant for doing nothing. Ok I am too mad to type anymore.

  5. Dennis Long

    Hang in there. If you and the other small ISP’s don’t go after the money that is available, most of it will go to Verizon and ATT with no benefit to us in the rural areas. Whether or not we like it, the stimulus bill will be approved and become law. Looks like it is up to us to make lemonade from the lemons they have handed us.

  6. Dennis Long

    Brian, I agree with almost all of your comments, however they did include several Billion for expansion of broadband internet in underserved areas. If you were able to tap into several million of these funds, would you increase coverage and speed in the SEMO area and how would you do this?

    1. Brian Becker

      Thank’s Dennis. Yes, I heard that Rural ISPs were earmarked. However, to do that, I will have to employ a high-dollar lawyer/lobbyist to even get a voice in the mix to get those funds. I know of one company that finally qualified for RUS (Rural Utilities Service) funds after petitioning for three years. Cutting the payroll taxes helps EVERY company, not just the ones with the loudest lawyers. Cutting payroll taxes helps EVERY employed person. And both of those together mean more people will be re-employed.

  7. Mark Massingham

    Well, Brian I did almost the same thing. I emailed both of our sentors, I commended Kit Bond for voting against the first bill a few days ago and told Senator McCaskill SHAME ON HER. Sean Hannity suggested last night that no one pay taxes for one year. Let’s say the average person in Poplar Bluff pays $50.00 per week in federal taxes multiply that times say 7,000 people in the city limits times 52 weeks that would be about $18 million pumped into the local economy and I think that’s being conservative. Think what that would do if you include our entire trade area.

  8. Brian Becker

    Jim, thanks for your comments. I certainly wouldn’t have minded pointing out those spending items as well because they are spending on “programs.”

    Even Medicaid extensions and educational IDEA programs should not be “stimulated” in my opinion. Those programs should definitely be on the table for discussion when our country has cash to spend, but we don’t have that cash right now.

    Spending on programs like COBRA and Vocational Rehabilitation are not going to stimulate this economy like it needs stimulated. After 18 months of unemployment, few people can afford to make their COBRA payments. People don’t get employed because they are rehabilitated, they get employed because there are employers who need help (and have cash).

    Stimulating the economy by giving money to governmental agencies, governmental programs and state governments, in my opinion, will not give the desired effect and is detrimental to health of our country.

  9. Jim Swinger

    It is easy to pick out of an article the things you perceive to be questionable. But what about Medicaid FMAP: $87 Billion all states receives a 4.8% increase with high rates of unemployment.
    $275 Billion in individual and buisness tax cuts.
    8.6 billion for 100% funding for optional Medicaid coverage for certain receipients who are involuntarily unemployed.
    Cobra $30.3 Billion to extend health insurance coverage beyond the 18th month limit
    Health Information Technology: $20 billion.
    $3 billion to prevent chronic disease and increase immunization programs
    Education $13 billion for the IDEA State Grant Program
    Teacher Quality $300 million for teacher and administrative incentives.
    But who can object to Healthcare, Special Education Students, Teachers and administrtors incentives , Vocational Rehabilatation $500 million to help with employment. And many more programs for our seniors, disabled and poor citizens. It’s easy to pick out a few things out of many priorities and misrepresent what is really the truth about the stimulus package. And if this is the first time you have called you Representative why? Even though I think you misprepresented the whole plan by just picking out a few things that are wasteful. All bills have pork in them, that’s the way the system works. It doesn’t work when you remain silent and not question those who work for us, our Senators and Legislators. Go online and read the full content of a bill sometime and you will understand what I am saying. Shame on you for misleading everyone who read your comment. Whether a person agrees or not he should have all the facts presented not just the ones you don’t like.