SHEA-PORTER’s FIRST 100 HOURS

by Peter Bearse Ph.D.

What should one expect of a new Representative who has been elected by the media, aided by their relentless onslaught regarding Bush and Iraq? Should one expect a proactive approach, like introducing a House bill to deny financing for a “surge”?, or mobilizing Congressional District (CD) constituents for anti-war demonstrations? Or voting like the previous go-along, get along Congressman, like a good Party regular? Or playing to the media to give people the impression that one is doing things for them?

The answer? -- the last two – the sorts of Congressional activity that has given the U.S. House of Representatives a bad name. Here in New Hampshire’s First C.D., a least, the 2006 Congressional elections have provided another round in the game of musical chairs. The music goes on but nothing has really changed. How sad -- voters sold another bill of goods by a media-made Member of Congress!

The evidence? Look at the Democratic Party’s “First 100 Hours” of accomplishment, including Rep. Carol Shea-Porter’s votes to approve:

Ø new ethics rules

Ø implementation of several 9/11 Commission recommendations

Ø an increase in the minimum wage

Ø increases in federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research

Ø letting the government negotiate the price of prescription drugs under Medicare

What do these votes represent? Let’s look at each one.

The “new ethics rules” are a gloss or band-aid to cover the gaping, fundamental corruption of Congress. They try to lend a new aura of respectability to an institution that is still “the best Congress that money can buy.” Big money continues to dominate Congressional politics. Corporate lobbyists were buzzing around the heads of the Republicans. Now they’re buzzing around the heads of Democrats. Democratic fund raisers that include lobbyist invitees are already going on to pay off 2006 campaign debts and gather funds for 2008 reelection campaigns. The House is the house of big donors, not “the people’s house.” Nancy Pelosi and Carol Shea-Porter are peddling a false populism.

The 9/11 Commission Report was “dead on arrival” at the White House. Passage of a resolution to urge the “implementation” of the Report’s recommendations is nothing more than political posturing, especially since the Democrats had no plan for Iraq to present before, during and after the 2006 elections. A marker as to real performance by Rep.Shea-Porter on the Iraq issue? -- Call and ask whether she has introduced or co-sponsored a bill like that introduced on the Senate side by Ted Kennedy – a bill to withhold funding for the President’s “surge” of additional troops to Baghdad.

The “Yes” vote to raise the federal minimum wage also represents show and tell rather than a meaningful move. First, only 2.5% of the nation’s hourly workforce is affected and 1/4 of these are youth. Second, the attention paid to the issue obscures the fact that the Democratic majority has assigned lower priority to the far more important issue of another adjustment affecting the incomes of many more people – the “COLA” for Social Security payments to reflect true increases in senior citizens’ cost of living.

Shea-Porter and her fellow Democrats also postured on the issue of embryonic stem cell research. They seem to pretend to voters that their left-over good intentions are on the right side. They and their media allies overlook the fact that the vote insulted the moral sensitivities of many others, for no good reason. Scientists have found that stem cells to generate remedies for most major diseases can be extracted from many, non-embryonic sources, including placentas and amniotic fluids.

Asking the Federal Government to negotiate drug prices is another hypocritical farce, playing to the seniors’ gallery while providing nothing but fodder for media editorialists and talking heads. Leave it to Democrats to deny market forces, especially when the “force” they point to, the Federal Government, is not the one buying the drugs in question. Federal bureaucrats as price setters? Next stop: price controls?

Fellow economist Robert Samuelson calls all of this “The Politics of (made for media) Symbolism…mostly about gestures…long on self-promotion...not about hard choices.” So, people may well ask: When is the Congress going to stop playing the media game, move beyond ‘Reality TV’ and start producing real solutions to real, hard problems? When are Nancy Pelosi, Carol Shea-Porter and other Democrats, who now claim to be promoting a “people’s House” in Washington, going to inform and empower us rather than themselves?