Posts Tagged With: john boehner

Blaming Government Easier Than Connecting The Dots, Solving Problems

19538914179_75e5bb8346_oAlthough they are often idealized, small towns have problems — usually economic ones. As a blogger, one of the downsides of reading reports and statistics is the information can be overwhelmingly depressing, especially when you try to make sense of the conflicting numbers.

For example, despite a four percent unemployment rate in Preble County (where I live), 45 percent of the residents cannot afford a two-bedroom apartment. The low unemployment coupled with the housing situation, suggest that the employed are under-employed and attempting to get by on low-wage jobs.

But we Americans are slow to accept reality or change our perception — we prefer to quote stats. After all, they are the facts. Preble County does have a four percent unemployment rate.

Seeing, But Not Seeing

One of my favorite literary figures is Sherlock Holmes. Part of the universal appeal of Sherlock is his uncanny ability to see the obscure in the obvious. Most of us are more like his sidekick Dr. Watson, we see all the same elements as Holmes, but we cannot connect the dots, because just like Watson, we see but do not observe.

But, I Know What I See
young-woman-old-woman-illusion We are familiar with the various double images that challenge our visual perception. One classic example is the photo to the right which is either an elderly or young woman depending on your viewing angle. We get a sense of satisfaction when we uncover both images.

When I began writing about history, politics and genealogy it was out of a sincere desire to better understand my heritage and my country. That drive has only deepened as I have delved more thoroughly into America’s past and her politics. But it is also disheartening at times, when I see the same old arguments being levied against this or that position. These old, familiar claims have been used, and reused, by political powers of all persuasions to keep people agitated, irritated and confused, but mostly to keep people just where they are.

Who Do You Know?
When I look at the community I handed off to my daughter and her peers, I question what they were given. I also question who they look up to – do they know anyone who has achieved the American Dream? Do you know anyone? Do I? Results speak much louder than political policies.

I live in a District that does not have a Congressman in the House. Former Speaker John Boehner stepped down after 25 years in office and the Ohio governor decided we would elect a new Congressman in June. Even though experts say the length of vacancy is excessive, I’m not sure it matters.

Boehner is a powerful man and a money-raising machine. In the last election cycle Boehner generated more than $100 million for the GOP (Boehner’s Democrat counterpart is just as successful in this game). Today, though, Boehner is not retired playing golf in Florida, he is fundraising. It’s almost as if his sponsors said, enough with your day job, John, we need new funds.

Zero Sum Game
And when it comes to money, politicians have convinced Americans that the U.S. economy works like their checkbook. With our checkbooks, money comes in, money goes out. We make choices – often difficult choices. Do I pay for this and put off paying that? It’s what’s known as a zero-sum game. At the end of the day the checkbook must balance.

The U.S. economy is significantly more complicated than that – it is filled with elements like currency manipulation, tariffs, inflation, deflation and the federal reserve, to name just a few. It is not a zero-sum game. It is not a checkbook. Because of its complicated web of rules and regulations, some companies can thrive for years, like Amazon, without posting a profit.

Simply put, it is a different set of rules.

Your Hometown
Politicians, though, love to explain the American economy as a zero-sum game because people understand a checkbook. Astute politicians exploit this, telling people that to pay for this — funds must be taken from that — all the while hiding the fact, that in many cases, the money is sitting in the till — or that an untapped source of income is simply forgoing tax abatements for wealthy corporations. (According to U.S. law, corporations are citizens, but unlike flesh-and-blood citizens, many wealthy corporate citizen enjoy a tax-free or tax-subsidized life.)

Look at your own paycheck and add up the tax dollars being skimmed off the top. Before you fall back onto some political position or argument – and say this or that group is getting all your tax dollars — take a drive through your community — down the main street of your hometown. Look at the employment opportunities in your region. What kind of jobs exist for you or your children. Look at the infrastructure. Look at the hard scape – those buildings, roads, water-processing plants and other essential elements needed for a strong economy. Look at your home and the homes in your area. Look at the level of affluence, wealth or poverty that exists near or around you.

Then ask yourself, who let this happen? Your neighbor?

Probably not.

Whenever decline is slow and steady, it’s difficult to pin all the blame on any one person or one party. The root cause is more complicated. This is because the source of long-term decline is a series of people and a series of choices over the course of decades. In short, there’s plenty of blame to go around.

Maybe, instead of just blaming ‘the government,’ it’s time all of us who vote, connect the dots like Holmes — and figure out who’s winning.

We already know who’s losing.


cast-asideCast Aside: How Political Games Destroy The American Dream

In my youth, I went to a newly constructed elementary school, played ball at the new Little League field that was adjacent to the community swimming pool. Although the local village was small, it had nice amenities, like the pool, and a unique local flavor with its mom-and-pop diners, taverns, sundry store, grocery, filling stations and barber shops. Today, the pool is filled in with dirt and a couple national chain stores have replaced the mom-and-pop businesses. I examine why in Cast Aside.

Categories: 8th congressional district, Current Events, Personal Essays, Preble County | Tags: , , ,

Those “Damn Emails” Bring Political Life Full Circle For John Boehner

-flagsLike many people inside Ohio’s 8th Congressional District I was surprised when Congressman John Boehner willingly walked away from one of the most powerful — and prestigious — positions in the country. Inside the District, Boehner is unstoppable. Ohio’s 8th has been represented by a Republican since 1939 and with the gerrymandering of Ohio’s districts, the 8th could easily remain Republican for decades.

So why did Boehner walk away?

Religious Awakening Or Political Disgust?

Did the Pope’s visit spark some type of religious awakening in Boehner? The Pope was critical of many of the platforms and views of the GOP. However, In Boehner’s first TV interview after the Pope’s visit his resignation seems more about hardcore right members of his Party. Boehner, in a rare moment of righteous indignation, blasted Party members like perennial nemesis Ted Cruz, as false prophets. He also correctly pointed out, some factions of the GOP are making political promises to their voters, that are impossible to implement. Fortune magazine summed up Boehner’s thoughts this way:

The House Speaker says the right-wingers who forced his hand cynically inflate voters’ expectations of what Republicans can accomplish in a divided government.

But is it possible that Boehner’s exit is simply a case of “you reap what you sow?” His career in the House began with the House Banking Scandal and is ending with the Hillary Email Scandal and sandwiched in between those two events are years of partisanship.

In The Beginning

Despite Boehner’s indignation at Tea Party and Freedom Caucus members, as a member of the Gang of Seven Boehner cast the first seeds of the current era of partisan bickering by refusing to compromise in the non-scandalous House Banking Scandal. As a freshmen Congressman, Boehner and six other freshmen spearheaded the 1992 House Banking Scandal investigation. The incident, which was more an issue of poor protocol than scandal, was an effort to expose the commonly held practice of floating money (kiting) by taking advantage of the antiquated paper-based banking system used by Congress (which, in the computer age, was the real scandal).

Boehner and his cohorts let the public know that they, like the average American, were angry that members of Congress were not playing by the same rules as everyone else. The message resonated with Americans — after all, if the average Joe overdrafts his bank account he is forced to pay absurdly high ISFs. Even though both Parties had engaged in the check-kiting practice, the GOP was quick to politicize the situation. In fact, Republican whip Newt Gingrich (who, by his own admission, kited 20-30 checks) said,

“the scandal reveals ‘systemic, institutional corruption’ created by a Democratic Party that is a ‘reactionary liberal system made up of a coalition of bankrupt big-city machines, out-of-touch union bosses, trial lawyers, left-wing activists and professional politicians.'”

Playing The Political Game

When the story initially broke, it was as if these freshman Congressmen hit the ground running determined — on a holy mission — to rid the House of its impurity (think Jesus and the moneychangers). In reality, though, the Gang of Seven and Newt Gingrich held onto the information for months (Newt for years) while they strategized how to proceed.

It became a game of political treachery — and invoked a ‘throw the bums out’ mentality among voters. And, just like Tea Party members of the current era — Gingrich and his Republican minions refused to compromise or work with members of the Democrat Party, because the GOP had calculated the risk — and knew as a Party they would win. By taking the no-compromise approach to the issue a handful of GOP Congressmen reversed the balance of power and, in effect, nullified the average American’s vote as everyday citizens came to sincerely believe the ordeal was, in fact, scandalous.

Inoculating the Herd

To convince the public of a story’s truth, information must be released carefully (but this approach can backfire as two Tea Partiers recently learned) and in a dose the herd can handle. Boehner and Gang, with the guiding hand of Gingrich, kept the ‘this isn’t fair’ message in the public arena — minimizing the protocol while inflating the number of bounced checks.

Had the GOP been able to break the story when they learned of the practice (because all the political ducks were in a row), they could have claimed Providence was on their side, but since the information was uncovered at a politically inopportune time, the GOP leadership patiently waited and released the story just in time to interfere with upcoming primaries. They rightly understood that since the Congressional Districts were redrawn (due to the Census) any incumbent tainted by the Scandal would face an uphill battle for re-election. More importantly to the GOP — they knew more Democrats than Republicans were implicated in the ordeal.

Only One Guilty of Check Kiting

With the advantage of history, it is apparent that very few Congressmen ousted by the ordeal actually bounced any checks (no one bounced a check) or committed any crime. Five members were convicted in the fallout: one for check-kiting and the other four on loosely connected crimes associated with the House Bank — like illegal campaign funding issues. One unintended (or possibly intended) by-product of the change in power was an extremely large class of Freshmen Congressmen in 1992 and 1994, which undermined the continuity of power inside the House.

Fast Forward: The Benghazi Committee

This political gameplay of ‘whatever-it-takes-to-win’ worked exceptionally well, giving the GOP control of the House for the first time in four decades. The approach was successful enough that it became a reusable template — as seen in the current email scandal surrounding Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (except this time it is desecrating dead Americans by using them for political gain). Just like ISFs, Americans understand email, Americans understand the need for email to be secure, but the finer issues of accepted email protocol is minimized — and even more tragic — what really happened in Benghazi is no longer the focus.

New reports suggest Boehner is the mastermind behind the “use Benghazi to bring Clinton down” approach of the committee. The investigation — which at this point has taken longer than the Watergate Investigation — was indirectly responsible for Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s failed run for Speaker of the House, because he said,

“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s un-trustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened had we not fought and made that happen.”

In this environment, members have started to turn on each other. As the Freedom Caucus blocks, stalls or threatens to shut down the House to force a candidate they like to be chosen as Speaker, Republican whistleblower and member of the Benghazi committee affirms what has long been assumed — the committee is a thinly veiled effort to derail Hillary Clinton.

GOP — Afraid To Govern?

And the current inability of the House to elect a new Speaker suggests that the GOP — although highly skilled at saying No — is incapable of governing. Despite being given complete control of Congress last November, moving legislation forward (even their own agenda) has taken a backseat as bickering House members embark upon an epic, chaotic showdown between the moderate and extreme factions of the Party. It appears the ‘Southern Strategy’ implemented by president Richard Nixon is unraveling.

How the election for Speaker will pan out is anyone’s guess. Some say Boehner outplayed his opponents while Gingrich says his former protégé is an idealist who, by removing earmarks, lessened his leverage with House members. As the infighting continues, will we have another government shutdown? Will all this lengthen the era of gridlock? Who knows.

The real question many want answered is: When will politicians learn that to govern one must be willing to compromise?

Categories: 8th congressional district, American History, Ohio | Tags: , , , , ,