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Monday, December 01, 2008

Phil Hare town hall meeting

My congressman, Phil Hare (D-Ill.) had a telephonic town hall meeting tonight, which I attended. First of all, I just want to say how proud and glad I am that he is my representative. I had read his writings before, and read about him in the paper, but until I heard him speak tonight, I never realized how well versed and passionate he is about so many issues.

He made some opening remarks regarding our new president, getting the economy moving again, jobs, a possible Detroit bailout, credit, health care, tuition, and pensions. He specifically discussed how the tax code should be made more fair and eliminating tax cuts for millionaires and oil companies. He is very pro-union.

In both the opening remarks and in questions from the audience, he talked about all the jobs lost from his hometown of Galesburg. I blogged about the Galesburg Maytag plant moving to Reynosa, Mexico, back in April 2003.

After a question from Quincy about reforming the Veterans Administration's failures to deliver necessary services, he talked about getting more money for the VA last year. He also said that we need "assured funding" to make sure the VA has what it needs for health care. He hopes that Obama will appoint a VA secretary who will make sure every veteran gets what he or she deserves.

A caller from Bunker Hill wants some of the bailout money for people who have worked 30 to 40 years, and whose pensions have lost half their value due to the economic crisis. Hare talked about investing in Main Street versus Wall Street. He also talked about protecting retirees' health care. He'll do everything he can to help.

He didn't use the word "guaranteed," but had this been a one-on-one phone call, I would like to have interjected something at this point: I don't like the idea of pension losses due to risky investments - whether by the pensioner or the pension administrator - being guaranteed by taxpayers. The call wasn't set up for audience feedback.

Someone expressed concern with giving so much money to Detroit when they want top dollar for their cars. He was also concerned with government creating jobs because the government doesn't make anything. Phil Hare said when the auto executives came to Washington to beg for money, they should have car pooled instead of flying their jets. He said management has done a miserable job of managing their automobile companies and the industry has to get its act together. He wants management to take pay cuts. But, especially, he doesn't want all those employees to be out of a job. He reiterated the House Speaker's call for, "no plan? No money!"

He stated that while government can't create jobs, it can stimulate the economy. Instead of spending billions for people who are unemployed, let's get people back to work and building things. Rebuild the levee system from Minneapolis all the way down. Bottom line, he can't turn his back on the auto workers.

A caller from Viola said that since we're handing out money, how about some student loan relief. Phil Hare discussed past efforts to cut student loan interest from 6.8% to 3.4%. He talked about the possibility of a forgiveness program for first responders. He'd like to see a program for wiping out student loans for college graduates who locate to underserved areas for five years (not just 18 months) and become part of a community instead of just moving on. Hare expressed a need to invest in our young people and not just banks.

On the jobs front, there was discussion about free trade versus fair trade, NAFTA, certain countries lifting tariffs, subsidizing companies that move overseas versus rewarding businesses for staying and expanding. He discussed the Obama energy policy, building schools with green technology, and the hope that we can get FutureGen back in Illinois.

He talked about the recently passed rural health care bill, which allows for a one-year trial period for veterans to go to a local hospital in their hometown so they don't have to go 200 miles to a VA hospital for a chest x-ray (as an example). Some states don't even have one VA hospital. He is hoping Illinois will opt into it this program. I had never heard of this, and will be looking for the actual bill. In any event, it sounds promising and I hope it works.

The call went on for about an hour, and there were several more topics, but I stopped taking notes after that last one. All in all, it was pretty interesting, and I'm glad I went, especially since I didn't have to go anywhere.

Posted by Marie at December 1, 2008 10:01 PM


Interesting write up. I'd be much happier with Hare as my Congressman than Shimkus.

Its a rhetorical point but you write that he mentioned one of my political pet peeves. It always surprises me when someone in central Illinois repeats that old conservative line that government doesn't create jobs. Six of the top eleven employers in Springfield are units of government. Three of the rest are health providers, which are heavily subsidized by medicare and other government programs. If government didn't create jobs then Springfield would be about the size of Jacksonville.

Posted by: Will at December 2, 2008 12:56 AM

Will, Now that you put it that way, I think he was responding to the guy who said the government doesn't make anything. So, I think Phil Hare was talking about creating manufacturing jobs.

Don't even get me started on Shimkus. He isn't my rep, obviously, but I've tried to get on his mailing list to no avail. I've also followed him in Twitter when he (and others) tried to get the drilling leases thing going after Congress recessed this fall. Anyway, when I realized he wasn't into tweeting with Illinoisans (he mostly followed other pols), I heckled him a bit, then unfollowed him.

Thanks for commenting.

Posted by: Marie at December 2, 2008 1:15 AM

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