By Bob Lowerre
We political junkies usually have strong views, along with a strong impulse to share them with others. Since I detest electronic "marvels," I deeply appreciate the print media that continue to publish letters to the editor. For many of us ordinary types, it's the only affordable way to exercise our First Amendment rights and reach a sizable audience.
Since this is a major election year, my urge to write is motivating me. When the subjects of my comments are national or even state figures, the job is relatively easy. That's often not the case when the subjects are more local. Then, those you know personally may be involved. So it is in 2012.
Our Congressman Bob Goodlatte has been a member, and chairman, of the House Agriculture Committee. We share some common ground. I was once a staffer of that committee, a counsel, before Bob's tenure. We have discussed those times, and other matters. No one could treat me more cordially. That makes it more difficult to criticize his performance as a politician. However, I do it because I believe many of his votes are not in the best interests of most of the constituents he's elected to serve.
Bob Goodlatte has been in office for about 20 years, notwithstanding his early term limits commitments. It's obvious most of his constituents have agreed with him. He - and they - are basically conservatives. But I wonder if they are aware of his entire record, and the adverse impact it has had on his district as well as the nation.
There is broad agreement that we must deal with the deficit. There is also broad agreement that doing so will take both spending cuts and revenue increases. Mr. Goodlatte endorses spending cuts, to be realized largely by shredding the safety net for the least fortunate among us. However, he rejects a dime of tax increases for the most fortunate among us.
For years, the percentage of national income and wealth going to the tiny fraction of the richest has exploded; the portion going to the rest of us - the middle class and the other workers - has shrunk. The policies of Bob Goodlatte and his GOP colleagues are the main cause of this historic shift. We might well consider how the actions summarized above square with the familiar Biblical injunctions.
Then there's health care. The congressman just voted to repeal the current law. He would, by one stroke (1) deprive tens of millions of Americans of health coverage; (2) let the insurance companies deny us coverage because of preexisting conditions and cut off our insurance if we become ill; and (3) end the requirement that our kids be covered under our policies through age 26. What would take its place? Further, Mr. Goodlatte is an enthusiastic supporter of the so-called Ryan Budget that, among other things, would abolish Medicare as we know it and convert it to a voucher scheme run by the insurance companies. Do these votes benefit us all or just the top 1 or 5 percent, whose vast power and wealth are never enough?
This year, Bob has a worthy opponent, Andy Schmookler of Shenandoah County. Andy's no politician; he's never run for public office before. But he's spent a professional life studying the country's political and economic scene. He's been an award-winning author, a commentator on National Public Radio, and he has written for the Christian Science Monitor, The Baltimore Sun, and the San Francisco Chronicle. He also has worked for the U.S. Army on a project to prevent biological terrorism. He comes with some impressive experience.
He has serious concerns about some of the issues mentioned above - none more than the increasing hold of Wall Street, the big banks, and the richest among us on our country, at the expense of average citizens. The facts support his concerns. Consider, too, the Supreme Court decision that turns our election system over to the wealth of the powerful corporations.
We are familiar with Bob Goodlatte. But we may not be familiar with the consequences of what he has done. We are not so familiar with Andy Schmookler. Before Election Day rolls around, it behooves us, in our own interests, to get to know him and what he stands for.