Is the Internet the end of political waffling? Not quite

Long ago politicians earned the moniker of being 2-faced and envisioned as “oil can Harry’s”. But in the age of the Internet, where the public has almost instantaneous access to voting records, video of speeches, and transcripts of campaign pledges one might assume modern politicians would be more straightforward. You may recall what happens when you assume.

Case in point, Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY22). In just the last few months he has either supported both sides of an issue and/or directly reversed his position or ignored constituent concerns. This justification of his ranking as the 5th most moderate Republican member of Congress [Bipartisan Policy Center - July 2012], though he ran in 2010 as a Tea Party conservative, has been achieved through careful wordplay and the assumption that voters aren’t paying attention to the details, in my opinion.

Here are some facts:

March 2013 -

  • The Drone Caucus (which Rep Hanna is a member) fails to mention legislation protecting 4th Amendment Rights in its 5 mission statements –
  • 25th – Rep Hanna is pushing to get Unmanned Aerial Systems in sky by 2015 to promote job growth –

    April 2013

  • 24th – Rep Hanna skips Joint Economic Committee meeting on solutions to long-term unemployment –
  • 24th – Rep Hanna publishes article promoting immigration reform to provide visas to foreign workers to gain STEM jobs –

    May 2013 -

  • 10th – Rep Hanna raises concern about impact of immigration reform on the unemployed seeking a job –
  • 16th – CBS News reports 32 States considering legislation to limit drone use, 4 other have passed laws (not New York), Rep Hanna makes no comment –

    June 2013

  • 18th – H.R 1917 receives NO vote from Rep Hanna, who is on record as against late-term abortions. H.R. 1917 would deny abortions as late as 20 weeks unless the life of the mother is at risk –

    July 2013

  • 24th – H Amnd 413, the Amash Amendment to restrict NSA from blanket gathering of phone and internet domestic data of general public, was voted on – Rep Hanna voted NO –
  • 25th – H.R. 2397, Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2014, passed. Rep Hanna, in discussing his vote YEA, states he also voted for restricting NSA –

    4th Amendment, abortion, immigration, and jobs all in just the first half of 2013. Plus pushing for technology to invade privacy without regulation and taking credit for a vote on an issue popular with the public that didn’t happen – a full roster of questionable actions. No matter what position a voter may have on these issues, Rep Hanna appears to have covered every base without actually taking a position that might endanger re-election hopes one may infer.

    The question should be asked if the lack of political fortitude stems from a lack of connection to constituents and their concerns on these issues? Is it shrewd political calculations to help fend off 2014 election challengers? Or is it a lack of understanding of the ramifications for the issues and legislation at hand?

    With all the advantages that modern technology affords it is still difficult enough for a voter to understand 2000+ page laws, secret courts, new technologies that are unaddressed by current law and so on. It is infinitely worse when elected politicians live up to the popular negative stereotypes that contribute to a 75% DISSAPROVAL rating of Congress.

  • Rep Hanna voted for Amash Amendment – well not quite.

    On July 24th, the House of Representatives voted on H. Amdt 413 – otherwise known as the Amash Amendment. Created by Republican Justin Amash of the 3rd Michigan District, the purpose of the legislation was

    “The Amash-Conyers amendment ends NSA’s blanket collection of Americans’ telephone records. It does this by requiring the FISA court under Sec. 215 to order the production of records that pertain only to a person under investigation…

    The amendment does not restrict the types of records that the government can collect under Sec. 215…The amendment simply requires that there be a reasonable connection between the documents sought and the person under investigation…

    The amendment does not take away a tool that has proved effective in the fight against terrorism.”

    The vote on July 24th ended up 217 against (134 Republicans, 83 Democrats) to 205 for (94 Republicans, 111 Democrats). In New York State, my home State, the vote was 1 Republican (Rep. Christopher Gibson of the NY-19) and 11 Democrats for the Amash Amendment, 5 Republicans and 9 Democrats against the Amendment. 1 Democrat, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy did not vote at all.

    While you may or may not be upset by the voting results, this article is about something far different. Something that I find even more important.

    Rep Richard Hanna on July 25, 2013, by 8:30AM when I found it, explained why he voted for the Department of Defense Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2014. In that statement on H.R. 2397 is the following:

    “Finally, I supported an amendment that ensures the National Security Agency (NSA) may not target a U.S. person or acquire and store the content of a U.S. person’s communications, including phone calls and e-mails. I will continue to support Constitutionally-protected civil liberties and the right to privacy for all American citizens.”

    Reread that. Rep. Hanna voted AGAINST the Amash Amendment. He factually voted the exact opposite of what he is telling constituents he did!

    Regardless of where you may stand on the Amash Amendment, or even your political preference, I believe all Americans can agree that a member of Congress should always be clear and honest on how they voted. In 2013 alone, on immigration, late-term abortion, and now the NSA, Rep. Hanna needs to be held accountable.

    Did Rep. Hanna think no one would notice?

    ***Update 4/4/2014 – Rep. Hanna removed the above referenced article prior to 11/21/13. He allowed the article to remain absent from the public record, for unknown reasons, until at some point after February 2014 (the last time that I had checked) Rep. Richard Hanna finally put back the article referenced above. I count that as a victory, as Rep. Hanna can once again be held accountable for what he has voted as opposed to what he has said to the public.***

    While President Obama urges more of the same, a real solution stays on the backburner

    President Obama is poised to launch a new round of “focus on the economy and jobs.” On Wednesday July 24th, the President will talk about “Shovel ready jobs”, wait its called an “investment in America’s infrastructure.” Then again its been called “Fix it now” as well; plus a couple of other catchy phrases. But the point is it’s the same ideas that haven’t worked before, and no one truly believes will work now.

    Yet, that’s not what should upset the public. By now even the most ardent are inured to the droning promise that “jobs are priority 1″, only to watch as healthcare, illegal immigration, gun restriction, cyber security, even rounds of golf have filled the President’s time.

    What should upset people are the things that are being unspoken, even by political opponents of the President and his agenda. Like real solutions to unemployment. Let me explain that.

    The Obama Stimulus was promised to not only stabilize the economy, but improve the economy. Those shovel ready jobs were going to turn things around. Except they didn’t. In fact, if you look at all the charts and data, things didn’t start to improve until the impact of the Government intrusion (Stimulus) waned. As it reduced, the economy has improved. Slow as it has been.

    Perhaps one of the key things helping has been the fact that every attempt to double down on letting Government muddle things up has been blocked – with the big exception of Obamacare. Which has lead to job growth no one wants – part-time jobs without benefits because Obamacare is too expensive to run a business with.

    The burden of taxes, on people can companies is hindering the recovery

    The burden of taxes, on people can companies is hindering the recovery

    But a vital component of real sustainable economic growth, and full-time jobs, has been lost. In fact, it hasn’t been mentioned by the President, Congress, or essentially anyone since the day after the 2012 elections. The corporate tax rate.

    President Obama hasn’t mentioned the subject since virtually February 2012. Mitt Romney kept the issue flickering up til October 2012. The Representative of the New York 22nd Congressional District – Richard Hanna – gave up that ghost in November 2012 (other than his vote June 2013 for H.R. 9 – a bill NOT created by the Committee on Small Business, and that he did NOT co-sponsor). I have no doubt that a quick Google search of members of Congress – from either Party – will reveal a similar trend.

    I find the bi-partisan silence to be both deafening and disastrous.

    In 2012, every politician up for re-election, or challenging to be elected, agreed that corporate tax rates need to be cut. The U.S. leads the world in corporate taxes, a plan so anti-business one might believe that it was conceived in New York State (currently ranked 50th of all States in business friendliness). The only real question was how much to cut rates – Republicans wanted more, Democrats not as much.

    The reason that every politician made advances on this issue was because the benefit to companies and the American people was as blatantly obvious as the national deficit is large. Cut tax rates and companies can afford to be created, grow, and hire workers. Cut it enough and some companies might even entertain paying for Obamacare and not switch to part-time employees.

    It was a message of prosperity that opened up the pockets of big business, garnered the support of small business, and fed the aspirations of those dreaming of creating the next Microsoft or Facebook. But once the votes were made, the tallies done, and the politicians secure in holding onto their career positions, the concept of a corporate tax cut evaporated in a New York minute.

    On Wednesday President Obama should be held to his fleeting campaign promise. Representatives in Congress should have their feet held to the flame of public opinion. Americans deserve to hear the reason why corporate tax rates, the one solution everyone thought was the answer to this recession, have not been on the table. If the answer is just more political polispeak then we need to hold these politicians accountable and vote them out of office.

    America needs politicians bold enough to live up to campaign promises, strong enough to speak the will of constituents, and determined enough to blaze a trail down a path the nation hasn’t even seen in 4 years plus.

    At least that’s what I think. What about you?

    Part-time employment has been a problem longer than you think

    Growth in Part-time Workers - Source: BLS

    Growth in Part-time Workers – Source: BLS

    It’s been a very busy summer, speeches and a fundraiser taking up more than a little time and attention – and I’m not nearly done. But the rest of the world of politics has hardly waited for a break in my schedule. Thus I want to recap a few key points in the next few articles. I’ll start with the part-time employment bandwagon.

    On July 5th, The Wall Street Journal published the article Part-Time America. This highlighted a serious concern that seemingly no one else heard of. Or rather no one in the major media was willing to discuss. The growth trend in part-time jobs had become a stark and undeniable by-product of Obamacare. Businesses, facing the impending employer mandate, opted to pay the fine rather than pay the cost of healthcare for employees. As the WSJ stated

    “All of this gives businesses that operate on thin margins—and that’s most businesses—an incentive to hire more part-time workers.”

    The Washington Post, not to be left out, stated on July 8th that

    “Well, Obamacare creates a big new tax on full-time employees. So what does common sense tell us about that? It tells us there will be fewer full-time employees and more part-time employees as employers work to minimize their costs and vulnerability under Obamacare.”

    Even the L.A. Times and New York Times had to note the contribution of Obamacare – grudgingly.

    But is this a new result, an unforeseen or unpredictable outcome? Only if you are Rep. Nancy Pelosi or Sen. Harry Reid. Before announcing my exploratory committee I noted in my monthly review of the unemployment rate:

    March 12, 2013 – “The number of people that could only find part-time work, on average from 2003 – 2008 was 1.3 million people. On average from 2009 – 2012 that number increased to 2.35 million. As of February 2013 the figure is 2.47 million. This increase counts as a positive reduction in the official unemployment rate, though it is counted as a negative in the U-6 total figure…

    Lastly the data shows no conclusive benefit from the Obama Stimulus or the Health Care Reform. In fact much of the data shows that the Stimulus could have hindered the economic recession’s recovery, as improvement occurred only as the effect of the Stimulus dwindled. As for the Health Care Reform, it’s only immediate impact appears to be the seemingly direct increase in part-time workers…

    Perhaps this is why politicians and media stick to headlines on unemployment data. Looking deeper just highlights a reality that is not being addressed.”

    Of course it can be said that I found the numbers with luck. Except I started crunching the part-time employment numbers December 9, 2012

    “The number of part-time workers unable to get full-time work has continued to increase with the current to-date amount of 2.54 million per month for 2012. This is an increase vs 2002 (full year) of 126%, vs 2010 of 6.8%, and vs 2011 of 0.9%.”

    But my point isn’t a pat on my back for seeing a trend and causation literally months before the major media or politicians decided to really analyze the unemployment data. It’s that we have members of Congress, the Executive Branch, and the major media that are so busy posturing and trying to look like they know what they are doing (or passing out 30 second soundbites that obscure the fact they aren’t doing their homework) that the nation is suffering.

    The reward for empty promises and bad legislation? A 93% re-election rate, and profits for the media companies. Does anyone think that this is what our Government is supposed to be about? Does anyone feel like we should be treated better? Isn’t it time for Congress to do it’s job?

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