Congressman Ozark Billy Long: Cheap Shot Artist? Nope. He’s No Artist

cheap shot artist:
An individual who raises the act of taking a dishonorable, lowbrow, disrespectable action to an artform. This is accomplished either through frequent and conspicuous use of cheap shots or a particularly noteworthy low blow.

—from the Urban Dictionary

Geeze.

I had heard that my congressman, the former auctioneer Ozark Billy Long, participated in the farce that was Wednesday’s hearing conducted by the House Energy and Commerce Committee on “implementation failures” of the Affordable Care Act. But even I, a long-time critic of the congressman, never dreamed he would make such a cheap shot-shooting splash on the national stage.

Here is the painful transcript of Ozark Billy’s moment in the anti-ObamaCare sun. And keep in mind that he had plenty of time—almost three and a half hours during the hearing itself—to formulate his questions:

OZARK BILLY LONG: …thank you, Secretary, for being here today and giving your testimony. Earlier in today [sic] you said that “I’m responsible for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.” I’ve heard you referred to, maybe yourself, as the point person for the rollout, the architect of implementing Affordable Care Act, so you are kind of the President’s point person, are you not, for this rollout?

SECRETARY SEBELIUS: Yes, sir.

OZARK BILLY LONG: I, uh, earlier, you were asked—and there’s a lot of things striking about the rollout of this and about the Affordable Care Act altogether—but the thing that’s most striking to me is that when we have the point person for the rollout here, and you’re not going into the exchange. Now, I’ve heard you say that—and you’ve got some advice from the folks behind you—but I’m asking you today could you tell the American public, if your advisers behind you, if they happen to give you some wrong information, if it is possible for you to go into the exchange like all these millions of Americans that are goin’ into the exchanges, will you commit to forgo your government insurance plan that you’re on now and join us in the pool? Come on in, the water’s fine, all the congressmen, all of our staff, have to go into the exchanges. We have to go into the D.C. exchanges.

And I will say that I tried to get on the website, I was successful during the hearing earlier, and I got to the D.C. exchange, which is where I have to buy from, and I got part way through and then when I got to the point where I had to enter Social Security number, billy long cheap shot artistI could not bring myself to do that from what I’ve heard from people like John McAfee and folks about the security, will you tell, if your advisers are wrong, and it is possible, for you, and I’m not saying it is, but if it is, if it is possible for you, to forgo your government program you have now, will you tell the American public that, yes, I will go into the exchanges next year like everyone else?

SEBELIUS: Sir, the way the law is written—

LONG: It’s a yes or no—let’s say that you’re wrong on that. Yes or no. If you’re wrong, will you yes or no…

SEBELIUS: I don’t want to give misinformation to the American public…

LONG: You what?

SEBELIUS: I don’t want to give misinformation…

LONG: I want you to go on and research it…if, if, if you’re wrong…will you go into the exchanges? If you can, will you? That’s a yes or no; if you can, will you?

SEBELIUS: I will take a look at it. I don’t have any idea…

LONG: That’s not an answer. That’s not a yes or no.

COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN FRED UPTON (R-Michigan): The gentleman’s time has expired…

LONG: You’re the architect of the whole program and you won’t go into it with the rest of the American public…

SEBELIUS: I did not say that, sir. I think it’s illegal for me—

LONG: —If it’s not illegal, if it’s legal will you go in? …Come on in, the water’s fine…

UPTON (R-Michigan): The gentleman’s time has expired…

CONGRESSMAN HENRY WAXMAN (D-California): Mr. Chairman, Mr. Chairman, I have a unanimous consent request…

SEBELIUS: (turning to someone behind her and muttering) …don’t do this to me…

WAXMAN: …Madame Secretary, I’d like you to answer for the record: if you were able to do what the gentleman just suggested…and went into the [exchange] to buy an individual policy, would you be able to find one that would protect you from cheap shots…?

Yikes. Cheap shots, indeed.

First of all, besides the cheap shots and incoherent mess that was Long’s questioning, when he asks Sebelius, “will you go into the exchanges like everyone else?” we know that “everyone else” will not be going into the exchanges. It will typically be only those Americans (about 15 million) who don’t get coverage through their employers or through Medicare or Medicaid or who are self-employed or who are owners of small businesses trying to provide insurance for their workers (or members of Congress and their staff who were, unfortunately, put into the exchanges by a Republican provision that Democrats adopted).

Second, Sebelius already has health insurance and doesn’t need to go into the exchanges. Her employer is the federal government and, by law, her employer must provide her with affordable insurance, which it does. And since apparently she is enrolled in Medicare Part A, she couldn’t go into the exchanges without withdrawing from that program, which would be dumb since it is, uh, free. Thus, in order for her to sufficiently prove to Billy Long that she loves ObamaCare, she would have to give up her government-provided health benefits, quit Medicare, and start paying out of pocket for her health insurance. Dang, I wonder why she doesn’t do that?

Third, when Long says that Sebelius “is the architect of the whole program,” he is either lying or he doesn’t realize that the architects of this program were largely Republicans, who, before Obama embraced their enhance-the-private-insurance-industry scheme, were all in favor of enhancing the private insurance industry. And if Sebelius were the architect of the program, she would understand it much, much better than she does and would be able to explain it much, much better than she has so far.

Fourth, when Ozark Billy referenced John McAfee, I thought he was kidding. John McAfee, besides being the founder of the anti-virus software company that used to haunt our computers, is actually a “person of interest” in a murder case in Belize. He is one weird cat. House Republicans solicited his “expertise” on October 14, those Republicans being in desperate need of a clown to complete their anti-ObamaCare circus act.

Instead, they settled for Ozark Billy Long, whose cheap shot artistry was long on cheap and short on art.

Geeze.

Here is the entire hearing in front of the House Energy and Commerce Committee,  and you will find the complete display of Long’s lack of artistry near the end, at 3:23:22 or so:

Here is a clip:

“Colonel” Ozark Billy Long Had A Tough Week

It’s been quite a week for “Colonel” Ozark Billy Long:

Last Saturday he voted to shut down the government. 

On Wednesday, the auctioneer took a few minutes on the House floor to give a scintillating speech that lauded auctions, auctioneers and auctioneering, saying that the first bill he would introduce in his fledgling legislative career would be one that makes the third Saturday in April “Auctioneer’s Day” across these United States. 

I, for one, have always wondered why we’ve never had an auctioneer’s day, and after Long’s speech, now I know.

By the way, if you haven’t seen the dazzling speech, you missed Ozark Billy doing his auctioneer routine on our national debt.  He has talents most legislators only dream of.  If you want to feel proud of southwest Missouri and our newest representative, I suggest you don’t go to YouTube and watch it. If you want to know why I now begin to refer to Ozark Billy as Colonel Ozark Billy, I suggest you do.

On Thursday, despite a plea to start listening “to folks in the middle” (!) from a supporting local newspaper, the Springfield News-LeaderOzark Billy voted against the 2011 budget deal, using a rationale that Long’s own leader, John Boehner, called “total nonsense.”

Today, Friday, Colonel Billy voted to kill Medicare and disfigure Medicaid, and give his rich friends another tax break.

My guess is that, after such a trying week, the proud auctioneer will—belly-up or belly-down—slink to some D.C. bar for a celebratory toast to the end of socialism in America and the possibility of enacting America’s first Auctioneer Day.

Congratulations, Colonel Billy!  And congratulations to all you southwest Missouri voters who made such an obviously inspired choice last November. Rejoice and make merry on your new Auctioneer Day.

But for those of you under the age of 55 who aren’t independently wealthy, pray to the Republican gods that either you die young or that Democrats win in 2012.

Ozark Billy Long And Republicans Compromising Our Safety

Republicans continue to attempt to make us less safe with their budget cuts. 

Last week it was revealed that the GOP budget plans include billions in cuts for the National Weather Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which according to CBS News’ Political Hotsheet, “would potentially cripple the effectiveness of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii,among other things.

Locally, our own Ozark Billy Long is personally making us less safe. The southwest Missouri Republican has managed to piss off amateur radio operators and Amateur Radio Emergency Service volunteers (severe-weather spotters who stand guard to relay vital information).

It seems Ozark Billy signed on to co-sponsor a bill that included a provision that would authorize the government to sell off part of the radio spectrum used by the amateur radio operators.  The sale would be to commercial users, of course.  Imagine that.

The Springfield News-Leader wrote:

The amateur radio enthusiasts have [sic] for the most part spend their own money, use their own equipment, and spend hours of their time training and volunteering during emergencies. They say that losing this frequency would require costly changes to their infrastructure and equipment, and could jeopardize their ability to assist during emergencies…

The section emergency coordinator for Missouri’s Amateur Radio Emergency Service, Kenneth Baremore, reportedly said,

every time there is a tornado watch, local ham radio operators assist the National Weather Service and emergency management offices until it passes.

The paper also reported:

Part of the system is a repeater network, set up with antennas throughout southwest Missouri, that radio operators use to communicate from Springfield to Rolla, Joplin and Nevada.

Most interesting is Long’s explanation, as reported by the News-Leader:

…when asked about the provision in the bill that would sell off the frequency used by amateur radio operators, Long said that was news to him. He said he co-sponsored the bill because [Peter] King, the homeland security chairman, asked him to and because the bill is supported by many organizations that are committed to public safety, something he values.

News to him.” “Co-sponsored the bill because King…asked him to.” The question arises as to whether Ozark Billy or his staff actually read the bill he co-sponsored, but then I don’t expect his hometown paper to ask such basic questions.

This is, after all, southwest Missouri.

Belly-Up With Billy Or Relax With Roy

Most of you probably missed Ozark Billy Long’s fundraising breakfast this morning.  If you did, you saved at least $500, possibly as much as $1,000, depending on how much love you wanted to show the Ozark’s biggest congressman. A PAC would have cost you double.

In any case, next Tuesday you can join him at the Capitol Hill Club for Happy Hour, which starts at 5:30.  Hurry, though. The event is limited to only “5 attendees.” And before you can even so much as belly-up to the bar with Billy, you will have to fork over at least $500. 

If you miss that one, for $500 or $1,000, you can join Billy for lunch on March 30.

I’m so glad that Billy is our “citizen” legislator who promised not to become part of the Washington machine.  If he were, he might be hosting elaborate fundraisers like Senator Roy Blunt does, speaking of which:

For those of you area conservatives who can afford it—which is not many—I thought I would alert you to our local-boy-made-good Roy Blunt’s “Fall Retreat” fundraiser, which will be held at The Sanctuary Hotel at Kiawah Island Golf Resort from October 21-23. 

For those of you not in the know, that resort is described as being,

Situated on a Lowcountry island of spectacular natural beauty just 21 miles from Charleston…

Just to tempt you, I’ll provide this description from the resort’s website:

Cost, you asked?  I couldn’t find one for this year, but last year’s same event was a mere $5,000.

Now, don’t worry if you can’t make that retreat.  Next week, perhaps you can attend a dinner to support Friends of Roy Blunt at a private home in NW Washington, D.C.—that is, if you can cough up $2500.

Can’t make that one? How about March 29th, which provides another chance to rub wallets with the Senator for $2500? 

Or April 14 at Charlie Palmer Steak in D.C. for a stout $5000 from your PAC (you have one, don’t you?). That one is hosted by The Walter Group (telecommunications consultant) and Regions Bank.

Or maybe you can make it on May 26 at another private home for a PAC-fee of $5000, hosted by retailer Target’s PAC.   

Or possibly on June 23 for $5000 from your PAC or $2,500 from your pocket, hosted by U.S. Oncology.

Look. Democrats do this stuff, too.  It’s just a sad commentary on our system that politicians spend so much time eating, drinking, and playing golf with people who can afford to drop a few grand or more to share air with elected officials.

We should end this madness now.

Lincoln Spinning-In-His-Grave Days

Perhaps you didn’t hear what our two area House Republicans, Ozark Billy Long and Vicki Hartzler, were saying this weekend at the NObama-Fest, also known as Lincoln Days, the annual gathering of Missouri Republicans, which this year was in Springfield.

Ozark Billy, swelled with what looked like pride, but it could have just been the free ice cream served at the University Plaza Hotel, said:

We promised we’d cut a $100 billion dollars. Last week we made the largest cut since WWII. We got the $100 billion cut!

Well, I won’t quibble with his numbers here—the actual cuts are about $61 billion—because there are nifty ways of claiming that 61 = 100, but I will point out again that the House GOP budget which Ozark Billy is so darn proud of will kill about 700,000 jobs, according to John McCain’s former economic adviser, Mark Zandi, who is chief economist at Moody’s Analytics.

Fortunately for American workers, Ozark Billy’s job-slaughtering budget achievement has as much a chance of surviving the legislative process as the Bacon Wrapped Pork Chops with Pancetta and Apple Cream at Metropolitan Grill ($36), when Billy’s in town.

As for Rep. Vicky Hartzler, still glowing from her whoopin’ of long-time 4th District Democratic congressman Ike Skelton, she did not disappoint her tea party fans. She also enthusiastically embraced the job-killing House budget resolution, but to be fair to her, Hartzler isn’t much worried about the resulting job losses.

True to her conservative Christian beliefs, she demagogued the Obama administration’s move to stop defending in court the Defense of Marriage Act:

This week our president shockingly…instructed his Justice Department to not defend the law of the land, which is to protect marriage between a man and a woman…

She claimed that the “few men in robes” who changed the definition of marriage were “throwing out a 5000-year tried and true—what we consider wise policy…This could be the Roe vs. Wade of our generation.

Now, I don’t know about you, but 5000 years is a long time ago. I’m glad we’re not using 5000-year-old medicinal techniques today, for instance.  We’ve made progress.  Learned a few things.

Except when it comes to understanding homosexuality. 

According to the Hartzlers and the Longs, we haven’t learned a damn thing in 50 centuries of human thought, at least when it comes to sharing the sometimes mixed blessings of marital bliss with those who enjoy up-close-and-personal time with someone of the same sex.  How can that be? 

Oh, I know. For most Christians, it’s that Old Testament thing. The Christian version of Sharia law.  Vicki Hartzler would be the first in a long line of Christian hypocrites to oppose even the implementation of Sharia flatulence laws, yet she joyfully celebrates codification of an ancient biblical view of human sexuality.

And speaking of flatulence, Hartzler also had some unkind and untrue things to say about the root of all evil for the anti-choice movement:

Planned Parenthood doesn’t care about young women. They’re all about profit. It’s time we defunded them and take that money back.

That line received much applause.  But when the applause died down, I waited for Hartzler to tell us who would help the almost 2 million income-poor women who get medical care and family-planning assistance via Planned Parenthood, should her and Ozark Billy’s cuts survive. As Gail Collins put it,

There are tens of millions Americans who oppose abortion because of deeply held moral principles. But they’re attached to a political movement that sometimes seems to have come unmoored from any concern for life after birth.

How true.  Hartzler said,”Planned Parenthood doesn’t care about young women.” Using her reasoning, neither does she. And neither does Ozark Billy. And neither does the Republican Party.

And as Collins pointed out at the end of her column, through a misplaced and untimely fixation on abortion—and now it will be gay marriage, again—the GOP has become unmoored from any real concern about jobs, jobs, jobs.

Did I mention that the party’s budget will kill 700,000 of them?

While We Were Away, Republicans Were Trying to Kill The Economy

While the mess in Wisconsin drags on, the economic recovery remains fragile and anemic.

And the Republicans in Congress—almost unnoticed—are doing everything they can to exacerbate its fragility and deprive it of much-needed iron—government spending.

Most every economist this side of Rush Limbaugh understands that there is a deficiency in demand in our economy.  That’s one reason (but not the only one) why American businesses are sitting on a Chris Christie-size pile of cash.   But what to do about the demand problem is the issue.

The Republican answer is austerity.  Crippling austerity, it turns out.  Last week, Speaker Boehner famously said he doesn’t much care (“so be it”) if the GOP spending cuts kill jobs, because they would be government jobs.

But yesterday, the Financial Times published a story indicating that it won’t just be government workers who take a hit from Republican budget-cutting hysteria. The headline was:

Goldman sees danger in US budget cuts

The story began:

The Republican plan to slash government spending by $61bn in 2011 could reduce US economic growth by 1.5 to 2 percentage points in the second and third quarters of the year, a Goldman Sachs economist has warned.

Even if—to avoid a government shutdown—Democrats managed to whittle down the budget cuts in a compromise deal with Republicans, say, to $25 billion, that will still “lead to a smaller drag on growth of 1 percentage point in the second quarter.”

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, and former John McCain campaign adviser, concurs:

The betting is that we’ll see cuts somewhere close to $25-, $30 billion that take affect beginning in the second quarter of this year. And that could shave growth by as much as a percentage point. So it would weigh on growth. It would have longer lasting affects, but near-term it would be a negative.

Kudos to at least one Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer, who said,

This nonpartisan study proves that the House Republicans’ proposal is a recipe for a double-dip recession. Just as the economy is beginning to pick up a little steam, the Republican budget would snuff out any chance of recovery. This analysis puts a dagger through the heart of their ‘cut-and-grow’ fantasy.

Unfortunately, the cut-and-grow fantasy is not that easy to kill.

Paul Krugman, wrote a few days ago:

It’s amazing how this whole crisis has been fiscalized; deficits, which are overwhelmingly the result of the crisis, have been retroactively deemed its cause. And at the same time, influential people around the world have seized on the idea of expansionary austerity, becoming ever more adamant about it as the alleged historical evidence has collapsed.

Since the fall of 2008, there has emerged two diametrically opposed approaches to solving our (and the world’s) economic predicament:

(1) Stimulate the economy through government (deficit) spending until consumer demand picks up sufficiently to sustain a strong recovery

(2) Drastically cut government spending because deficits are a drag on the economy

It appears to me that the balance of economic opinion—from real economists—agrees with (1).  But Republicans—energized by anti-government deficit-phobes in the Tea Party movement—have successfully changed the debate from nurturing the economy back to health and creating jobs to killing labor unions, dismantling government programs, and making draconian cuts in government spending.

It’s fair to ask: What does killing Big Bird and collective bargaining have to do with lowering the unemployment rate?

Mark Thoma, Professor of Economics at the University of Oregon, wrote in The Economist:

Policymakers are not taking proper account of the risk of an extended period of stagnation. We should be pursuing additional fiscal stimulus along with quantitative easing as insurance against a stagnant economy that persists into the future, in fact this should have happened months ago.

He wrote that in October of 2010.

But Thoma is a real economist.  He doesn’t just play one on TV or radio.  And as Krugman said,

From where I sit, it looks as if the ascendant doctrines in our policy/political debate are coming precisely from people who don’t know and don’t care about technical economics. The revival of goldbuggy sentiment, the fear of hyperinflation in the face of high unemployment, the continuing force of the notion that tax cuts don’t increase the deficit, aren’t coming from some subtle battle among mathematical modelers; they’re coming from the same people who reject evolution, climate science, and more. They don’t need no stinking technical analysis. The truth is that the economics profession is proving far less relevant to public debate, even in the face of economic crisis, than was dreamed of in our philosophy.

Now, whether you think it good or ill that professional economists have lost their clout, the fact remains that in their place have come fiscal and monetary policy geniuses like Michele Bachmann and Glenn Beck and, God forbid, Ozark Billy Long.  People like these three have more to do with how we are fighting this crisis than those who have spent a lifetime studying economics.

And if that doesn’t scare you, then you must be a wealthy Republican.

[J.S. Applewhite / AP (left, center); Cliff Owen / AP]
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