Billy Long: A Profile In Courage?

Yesterday I mentioned that Colonel Ozark Billy Long, my congressman, attached his name to a letter addressed to the cut-the-deficit supercommittee, a letter that was signed by 40 House Republicans—37 of whom have at one time signed the Grover Norquist pledge not to ever, ever, ever raise taxes—and 60 House Democrats suggesting that,

To succeed, all options for mandatory and discretionary spending and revenues must be on the table.

That word “revenues” has impregnated many folks with hope that Republicans, at least some of them in the House, have come to their senses about the need to increase government revenues. (Jim DeMint has attempted to abort that hope with a list of 33 Senators who pledge to keep having political intercourse with Grover Norquist, however.)

One of my favorite pundits, Lawrence O’Donnell, even had a segment last night in which he posted the mugs of the 40 House Republicans under an approving header:

You may have noticed that red circle around the mug of Ozark Billy, which I put there to indicate that I don’t agree with the suggestion that Long’s including himself in the letter to the supercommittee constitutes some kind of profile in courage.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, I thought about it. It is something like progress that 40 Republicans were willing to step out of the Norquistian shadows and see reality perhaps for the first time in their lives.

And I wanted to write a nice piece praising my congressman for his courage, for his political valor, for his willingness to give the finger to Grover Norquist.

But then I started thinking.

If someone who had been holding a hostage suddenly decided to let him go, would we be obliged to reward the hostage taker by giving him or her a medal of honor?  Republicans, including most of the signers of the letter, have been serial economic hostage takers. The fact that a few of them may have put the gun down and decided to try another way does not merit uncritical admiration.

Then, I noticed that the letter did not include any specific proposals or any definition of what “revenues” meant, in terms of raising them.  I’m sure most of the Republicans had in mind some kind of tax reform that would lower rates and eliminate deductions, thus possibly—and I say, only “possibly”—resulting in a net increase in government revenue.

And then I started thinking about what Billy Long has said this year.

During the debt-ceiling debate in July, he was quoted in the Springfield News-Leader as saying,

We are not going to raise the debt limit and they need to know that now instead of August 2nd.

The debt-ceiling fiasco nearly everyone now recognizes as one of the low points in American history. On the floor of the house, as the debt-ceiling nonsense raged, he said on July 19, “The people have spoken. The business community has spoken. When will the President and the Democrats listen?” and then he finished with this:

I would like to close with one of the hundreds of letters from one of my constituents:

 “Dear Congressman Long, do not budge. We put you in office to stop these big spenders. Go ahead and call his bluff. I am in tornado-ravaged Joplin and rebuilding my house. I’m glad you are covering my wallet in Washington.”

Call his bluff,” Billy!

As for jobs, in late summer he was quoted in the Joplin Globe as saying that the nation “doesn’t need a jobs project” and,

Now, we over-regulate, overtax-ate and over-litigate.

Overtax-ate“?  In two months has he suddenly changed his mind about the amount of taxes the government collects?  Huh?

On September 22, 2011 on the floor of the House he said,

We don’t do much right up here, and trying to run businesses is not something we should be doing. We should be reducing taxes, reducing spending, reducing regulation.

So, six weeks ago he was saying we should be “reducing taxes” and now he has come to Jesus on the need to raise revenues? Huh?

Then, this Wednesday, the same day the letter to the supercommittee was released, he said (my emphasis):

Mr. Speaker, I came to Congress as a small business owner. And as any small business owner will tell you, the government can’t create jobs, only the private sector can

…the reality is that government spending trades productive private sector jobs for usually wasteful public sector jobs….

As part of the House GOP Plan for America’s Job Creators, we’ve opposed the President whenever he wants to create new taxes or more regulations…

Since President Obama has been the champion of tax cuts, and since he has also been on board with reforming the tax code—as Long himself has said is necessary—it’s hard to say what Ozark Billy means by Obama wanting to create “new taxes,” except new taxes—which really aren’t “new”—on the wealthiest Americans.

Is the Colonel now, by virtue of his letter to the supercommittee, suddenly supporting increased taxes on the wealthy? It’s hard to believe that.

Thus, it’s also hard to give him any credit for courage for putting his name on a letter to the supercommittee that quite generically mentions “revenue” as being on the table.  I do hope, however, that it is a sign of a new phase of reasonableness in the political life of our congressman from Springfield, but I’m not ready to pin a medal on his chest just yet.

Once A “Dream” City, Neosho Now A Nightmare

It’s something like poetic justice that a Republican-dominated, small-government lovin’ place like Neosho, Mo., is among the first in our Southwest Missouri enclave of ultra-conservatives to experience what all of America would be like, should the Tea Party movement become dominant across the land.

Rejecting a property tax increase last Tuesday, 60% of Neosho voters said, “Go ahead, make our day,” to Mayor Richard Davidson and others in positions of responsibility, as they warned of even more drastic budget cuts coming, if voters refused to pay for city services.

According to news reports in the Joplin Globe and in today’s editorial, it’s possible that Neosho could lose up to half its police and fire contingent, and fee increases will likely place some activities previously subsidized by the city out of reach for a lot of folks.

The editorial mentioned something I had forgotten:

Several years ago, under the administration of [Republican] Gov. Matt Blunt, Neosho was tabbed as one of Missouri’s “Dream” cities. It was a program aimed at supplying selected towns with the tools to help improve quality of life and infrastructure.

Dream, indeed.

It’s time that people around these parts stop dreaming extremist conservative Republican dreams and join the world of the responsible.

Government is not evil; the people who run government are not thieves trying to steal every last penny from taxpayers. Policemen, firemen, teachers, food inspectors, air-traffic controllers, and so on, are part of what makes modern life relatively safe and stable.

Public golf courses, airports, museums, municipal sports leagues, libraries, and other trappings of civilization, are part of what makes modern life more enriching and enjoyable.

Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and access to health insurance make modern life a little less scary.

Civilization has a price.  Neosho residents will get as much of it as they are willing to pay for. Right now, that isn’t much.


The Hatch Act

Rush Limbaugh call your office.  Orrin Hatch is stealing your shtick. 

Today on Morning Meeting with Dylan Ratigan, the senior Republican senator from Utah said the following:

One of the big goals of the whole Democratic Party is to move people into that category—the bottom 50% that basically don’t pay taxes—and a high percentage of them get money from the federal government, who think everything they are or ever hope to be comes from the almighty Democratic Party.

Such disgusting rhetoric usually flows from the mouths of the right-wing talkers, as they perform daily for the 5% of Americans who gather under the circus tent of extremism.

But since the Republican Party has almost totally succumbed to the extremist performance artists, it shouldn’t be surprising that “respected” figures within the party have joined their act, like circus elephants, and dutifully make such offensive—and false—statements about not only Democrats, but about exactly one half of the American people.

Just for the record, everyone pays taxes.  Even if one is part of the 43% who don’t have any federal income tax liability, there are still state income taxes and fees, county taxes, Social Security and Medicare taxes, sales taxes, excise taxes (like on gasoline), and the taxes that are hidden in the price of goods and services.

Orrin HatchSo, not only has Senator Hatch insulted the Democratic Party and the American people by accusing half of them of freeloading and placing “everything they are or ever hope to be” in the hands of the Democrats, he has done so by bearing false witness—which used to be against Mormon sensibilities.

But then, again, so did monogamy.  

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