Friday, June 01, 2007

Nick Lampson Speaks At Rosenberg-Richmond Area Chamber of Commerce

I was sent a calendar by Jessica, Nick’s media coordinator in Stafford, last week. Among other things, it showed that he was going to address a local chamber of commerce today. Another thing I can’t attend, I thought. Little did I know that Don bought a table and was helping to sponsor this event. He invited me along with Bev, Geri, Marsha, Tony, Veronica and Vince to sit at his table.

I don’t get to go to the Pecan Grove Country Club much. On the 4th of July, they have the best fireworks show in the area so I always sponge off of them for that. But the place is elegant in a southern genteel sort of way. The upstairs meeting room was packed; a grand majority of them were middle-aged and older white men.

The menu for the day was mystery chicken and sautéed veggies. Really good sautéed veggies.

Marvin Marcell, who is Chairman, introduced various elected officials who were scattered around the room. First to be recognized was a guy who is not actually elected, but just announced his candidacy for Fort Bend County Sheriff. Billy Frank Teague. The office is partisan, and he is apparently going to oppose Sheriff Milton “Uncle Milty” Wright in the primary. I asked Susan about him, and she said that he is a stand-up guy and would be a better county sheriff than Uncle Milty.

Then he went around the room and had Tom Olson, Sugar Land city councilman stand up, Tom Stavinoha, Fort Bend County Precinct 1 commissioner, Andy Meyers, ditto for Precinct 3, Bob Hebert ditto County Judge, Jeff Council, ditto County Treasurer (looked like he just came in off the links), and Gary Gillen, ditto Republican Party Chairman – Marcell added that he was there taking notes, ha ha.They also introduced about 3 or 4 people from Dora Olivo’s staff. They also gave special recognition to Don because of his sponsorship.

It was interesting to note that they had table signs for each sponsor. The sign at our table had Don’s name and then below it “& Fort Bend Democrat”. It meant that either Don was also the Democrat in Fort Bend, or it was a reference to the rest of us sitting at the table, the Fort Bend Democrats. I thought it most probably was the latter, so I got out my pen and added an “s”. But it gives you a taste for how mean-spirited these people are - it is a kind of fashion with people in the Republic party to mis-spell our party's name. Don gives forth with his financial support and gets a nice slap in the face in return. I later noticed that the omission was also printed on the meeting agenda.

Lunch was served, then they introduced Nick.

Nick talked about a variety of issues but first concentrated on small businesses. Ever throwing out the numbers, Nick said that while small businesses comprise 99.7% of businesses in America, they employ 50% of the workforce. He mentioned legislation that would provide billions of dollars to small businesses, well, legislation that would level the playing field and allow small businesses to bid on government contracts along with the big boys. Nick said small businesses lost out on $10 billion due to lost bidding opportunities due to unfair competition with major corporations.

Two other issues that affect small businesses, he said, were education and healthcare issues. Education, to provide an intelligent and informed workforce, and healthcare, to help small businesses grapple with soaring health insurance.

Nick said that the United States was ranked 39th in the world in terms of math and science education. Unless we better educate our children in math and science, the United States “will lose its standard of living”. Nick called for an increase in the number of math and science teachers.

I can get behind that. Texas needs an additional 80,000 teachers next year. But, and this is a big, big but, you have to provide incentives. The Texas legislature this week passed HB 1, which among other things, gives a 1.1% salary increase to its educators. That’s a huge insult to teachers statewide. As a result, part of my pay bump is going to go to becoming a sustaining member of the Texas Democratic Party.

OK, rant’s over.

Healthcare also affects small businesses, says Nick. Nick is calling for refundable tax credits for healthcare costs. He cited the 46 million people who are without health insurance, who get free care in hospital emergency rooms, free for them, that is. Insurance companies make up the difference, and that drives up our health insurance premiums. But he didn’t bring up the “U” word. Not to this crowd. The emergency room issues are brought up time and time again by advocates of Universal Health Care.

But not in this room.

Leaving small business matters, Nick attacked the national debt, immigration issues, and Iraq.

Nick announced that he allies himself with a caucus known as the “Blue Dog Democrats”; a group of fiscal conservatives who advocate “pay as you go”. No more deficit spending. Citing an $8.8 trillion debt, Nick explained that is why he has consistently voted against raising the debt ceiling, and supports deficit cutting. He cited several cases of waste of government funds, for example $100 million in unused plane tickets, along with “chicanery in our budget”.

Nick is another of the many voices in DC that doesn’t support the Senate compromise immigration bill. He didn’t use the “A” word that his more conservative colleagues have used, but he doesn’t hold with the notion that illegal immigrants don’t have to go to the back of the line. There is one thing that I think I would agree with Nick on this issue: nothing will be resolved on this issue this year, and probably next.

On Iraq, Nick stands where he has stood all along. He will always support the troops with funds. He cited two conditions that were included in that weak sister bill sent to the White House for signing: the president must report to congress in July about Iraq’s readiness, and General Petraeus must report on results of Plan B in September.

After that . . . ? Well, basically make decisions from there.

Don’t get me started, this posting is already too long.

Taking questions, Nick handled some old white guy’s question really well. He asked Nick if he would support the “Fair Tax Bill” aka the Republican plan to get rid of income tax and substitute a national sales tax. Nick’s answer: “Not yet.” He said that he had issues with real estate sales tax and that the real estate industry was against the bill. Old white guy pressed on, saying that the bill already had 64 sponsors, Nick replied that 64 was not bad but they had a way to go to get up to 435.

Marsha asked the last question. She had heard that a father received a call from his son who is deployed in Iraq, asking him to send him a helmet. That he had lost his in a skirmish and that it was replaced by an old style army surplus helmet. He also asked him to send food, that they were hungry and only got two meals a day. Nick’s eyes widened at that one. Nick replied that he had heard about the helmets and body armor issues, but that there wasn’t enough food there was a new one. He said he would look into it.

That one gave me pause, too. You know there are lots of us out there who are calling on congress to de-fund the war. No one in congress wants to do this because it calls up images of soldiers in battle running out of bullets. Here’s a link to an article at Salon that has been heavily commented on in the blogosphere. Here’s an excerpt:

“(a) de-funding does not even arguably constitute ‘endangerment or abandonment of the troops,’ but (b) ‘Americans have been convinced that it does.’ And therein one finds what is the most extraordinary and telling fact of our political landscape. Namely, our Iraq war policy was just determined, in large part if not principally, by a complete myth: that de-funding proposals constitute an abandonment or, more ludicrously still, ‘endangerment’ of the troops.”

In theory, de-funding the war is not about our troops running out of bullets or kevlar. But now I am starting to wonder. If this is the way a fully funded war is being run, and our troops are going hungry in the field, you wonder what these jokers would do if the funds were cut off. Like a kidnapper holding 165,000 abductees for ransom, what do you think Bush will do if we don’t pay up? I am truly beginning to wonder.

Oh, that’s right, I was writing about Nick’s speech.

He finished, we all clapped and left.


Anonymous said...

Nice writeup! Thanks to all of you for going to this!

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hal said...

I did.

It is hugely Republican. It's in the RPT's 2004 platform.

"We recommend the implementation of a national retail sales tax, with the provision that a two-thirds majority of the U.S. House and U.S. Senate is required to raise the rate."

It will shift the tax burden onto the middle class and away from the rich. So no wonder Republics back this abomination.

Unknown said...

Even though I supported Bob Smithers for this congressional seat, I respect Congressman Lampson for his service and wish him well, but I don’t think your report of this event was very well delivered.
I'm a FairTax supporter from Florida who objects to the way you characterized the most thoroughly researched piece of legislation to be put before the congress in decades. You say an “old white guy” asked a question about "a republican plan to get rid of the income tax".
First, I'm curious why you mentioned age, race and gender in regard to the questioner when you didn't mention the race or age of anyone else in the room, including your congressman (who looks a bit aged, decidedly male, and rather white).
Second, the FairTax is a comprehensive proposal that is the result of millions of dollars of research by the non-partisan Americans for Fair Taxation. The founders of AFFT donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to several independent university-based think tanks and asked them to determine what would be the most fair and equitable way to raise revenue in the country. Those founders have frankly admitted that what they expected was a confirmation that some sort of flat income tax would be the result. Instead, it turned out that a consumption tax with a poverty exemption was what came out of the studies. A couple million more dollars and another decade of research have produced what has been introduced in congress as HR 25 (albeit by a Republican) and is supported by congressmen (and presidential candidates) from both sides of the aisle.
You should do some research into the FairTax. It is the only proposal with any momentum in Washington that completely untaxes the poor and paves the way for upward social mobility. Here are a couple links.


Hal said...

No I don't delete comments unless they are my own.

But I am fair and I let through the full blown opus that you decided to inflict upon us.

I mention age and race because the Republic partisans who dominated the room were old white guys. It's significant, bubba. Look at any Democratic (the correct spelling, I might add) function and you will see men and women, young and old, brown, browner, black and white. The room I was in was occupied by a bunch of old white guys (like me).

And Tampa Bay, I don't give a rat's nether regions for how thoroughly researched your tax plan is, it is a transparent attack on the middle class at the expense of the wealthy. It is so incredibly obvious that it is no wonder that it is accepted by the radical fringe elements of the Republic party, and the truly politically sidelined Libertarians. Honest to God, Tampa, I read Ayn Rand's Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged when I was 15. I was moved. Then I got over it. You failed to move on. That's not something I want to deal with.

You need to deal with your idealogical problems and move on or not. But don't confuse this place with a Libertarian sounding board. It is not.

If it were not for the fact that Libertarians are against the Iraq war, I would write them off entirely.

On the Iraq War, we can agree.

Can't we?