Saturday, October 24, 2009

Blind Leading The Blind


Today a friend and I went to see Mike Capuano give an "Open Mike" talk in our town.  Mike is currently a US Congressman representing the 8th Congressional District of Massachusetts and running for the open Senate seat vacated by the late Ted Kennedy.  I wanted to ask his opinion on the Constitution and the current healthcare reform.

First, I want to talk about the event itself.  This was my first time ever going to see a politician talk and it was quite an event.  The talk was scheduled to start at 11:30am and was hosted by a local tavern down town.  My friend and I arrived early so that we were sure to get in (about 11:10am).  There were a couple of folks already there chatting amongst themselves and one came over to us shortly after we sat down.  At first I thought nothing of this guy coming over to chat - there were only 5 people at the tavern at this time that didn't work there, so he seemed like he was just trying to be friendly when he asked us if we were residents of the town.  Then he asked why we were there and if we were political activists.  Woah - what?  Right from townie small-talk to political activism?  As it turns out, most of the people that showed up (I'm estimating 80%) were advocates from some group or another trying to get the Representative to hear their pleas.  By the looks of it, everyone knew everyone else because they were all activists for some group or another.  The first gentleman we spoke with was advocating to escalate the war in Afghanistan and pull troops out of Iraq - another person we spoke with was advocating to end the "military industrial complex" (do people really talk like that any more???) - and someone else was advocating for gun rights.  I felt a little out of place.  The few people that weren't activists were town leaders from state representatives to the chief of police.

Around 11:20 the staffers for Mike's campaign came in and started posting signs all over the place.  It was a game to see how many "Mike Capuano for Senate" signs they could put in the little room we were all in.  We asked one of the staffers working near us what how she got involved with the campaign and her answer was a little interesting.  She was going to the Kennedy College and after the death of Ted Kennedy, she became more interested in politics.  She chose to work with Mike's campaign because his office was located near her home in Cambridge, MA and because he seemed like a good guy.  When we pressed a little more, she said the she agreed with some of his political views, but that she really liked him because he seemed like a good guy.  This was a common theme among the people at the event: they were mostly there to support Mike Capuano because he is a good guy.

Representative Capuano showed up around 12:10pm and things kicked off shortly after that.  Before anything could begin however, Mike walked around the room to everyone that was there and shook their hands to thanked everyone for coming personally.  He gave a very well delivered speech (without notes or a teleprompter) talking about how his orphan grandfather came over from Italy to live the American Dream (I'm paraphrasing a little bit, but you get the picture).  His strongest point seemed to be that you were voting for him because of his moral standings and judgment - not his political positions (because you won't agree with him on every point).  He was also very open that when voting on an issue of great importance to himself, he would vote towards his conscience even if it meant voting against his constituents.  He was very proud of his decision to vote against the Patriot Act even though he thought most of his constituents would have wanted him to vote for it.  He thought that if he was consistently voting against his constituents that he would be voted out of office.

There was a brief question and answer session after his speech.  There were a couple of things that I thought were interesting including his stance on immigration, a public option for health care, and education.  He felt that the immigration policy could be boiled down to economic policy - If the US economy is good, then we can accept a lot of immigrants and if the economy is bad, we can refuse a lot of immigrants.  The immigrants that are here should have available to them a path to citizenship... but the immigrant criminals should be deported.  Mike's stance on a public option was a little vague because he said that he hasn't heard any good options from experts yet.  He basically said that he gets one option for health care as a US Representative: Blue-Cross Blue-Shield.  He would support a public option that offers more choices.  I don't think the people there saw the connection that your bountiful choices would be between your employer's coverage and the government option.  Wonderful choices.  Mike also stated that there is only two ways to limit the cost of health care: a government-controller health care system or competition.  He doesn't believe the country is ready for a government-run health care system, but he thinks that it would be the best way to solve the current problems.  His stance on education was simply that the schools weren't receiving enough funding to implement No Child Left Behind and that all of the problems could be solved by increasing funding for education.

Here is my interpretation of his views: Immigrants are a drain on our economy, so we will only let them in while the economy can support them (except the smart immigrants... they will help are economy).  A public option health care will allow people to choose between the one choice they have now and a government option... but the government should really control the cost of health care.  Our schools are failing students because they don't have enough money, so just throw more money at them and everything will be fine.

I wasn't able to ask my question during the Q&A session, but thanks to the bold actions by my friend, I was able to ask Mike my question one-on-one.  I asked Mike to explain to me how any federal decision on health care fell within the powers mandated to it by Article 1 Section 8 the US Constitution.  Mike's response was that it was entirely within congress' powers because the Constitution outlines powers granted to the states and whatever powers weren't granted to the states fell under federal control... then he said that he respectfully disagrees with my opinion that Congress was overstepping its powers and was ushered off to his next appearance.  I feel like I've done a lot of reading regarding the powers of the federal government outlined by the constitution and never have I found anyone that even suggested that the US Constitution applied limits to state powers.  The US Constitution was created to protect the people from an oppressive government and to protect the states rights outlined within their own constitutions.  I've linked this blog many times to the direct text of Article 1 Section 8 which begins with, "The Congress shall have power to..."  That deffinetly sounds to me like the beginning of a list of powers that The Congress has (not what powers the states have and absolutely not "these are a few of the powers of the Congress, but they can make more if they feel like it").

Mike Capuano seems like a nice guy.  He spoke very clearly and passionately about things he believes in, and he really wants to help people.  In his own words, he wants to help people and he doesn't know any other way to do it other than through his work in the Federal Government.  I guess he doesn't care for charities or community help organizations because clearly they aren't doing any good.  The event was interesting to see, and I think I might go to a few more if my schedule allows... but Mike Capuano will definitely not be getting my vote.

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