Wednesday, October 25, 2006

NY-25: Of Earmarks, Values, and the Rotten Rubber Stamp

NY25: Of Earmarks, Values, and the Rotten Rubber Stamp

Dan Maffei, the Democratic challenger for James Walsh's long-held Congressional seat, has asked why our district has stayed in recession for the last 20 years if the appropriations of which he boasts [the kind of earmarks that were at the heart of recent lobbyist scandals] have meant so much. Maffei has also pointed the contrast between Rep. Walsh's ability to 'turn on the federal spigot' and the heavily-weighted negative offset of steep cuts in areas of social spending such as Medicare, Medicaid, and student loans that have been approved by the "Bush agenda rubber-stamp" Republican Congress and have been signed into law - with Rep. Walsh's support an overwhelming 9 out of 10 times. While seeing his own pay raised each year, he voted to permanently reduce taxes on multimillion dollar estates, holding the federal minmum wage initiative hostage in what many see as a Congressional double-cross.

Don't we have the right to expect more of our representatives than the promise of fat earmarks dedicated to selected projects with a decades-long faltering Upstate economy and an anti-social "drown-'em-in-the-bathtub" Bush agenda trade-off? Shouldn't we dare have the imagination to hope for more?

Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne recently observed that "the entire Democratic ticket, led by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Eliot Spitzer, the party's candidate for governor, is expected by just about everyone to sweep the state" in November. How will this translate in the race for Jim Walsh's Congressional seat? It's now conventional wisdom among pundits that the Bush administration and the Republican leaders who have made the mistake of employing partisan pack-mentality when voting with the publicly unpopular Bush agenda will have a surprising effect on local races. Mr. Dionne quotes Dan Maffei:
Maffei sees the immediate trend toward Democrats powered by frustration with President Bush and the Iraq war. But it is also rooted in long-term factors: the economic troubles of many Upstate communities, the area's "libertarian" leanings on cultural issues and the homelessness felt by many moderate Republicans in the face of a national party increasingly dominated by conservatives.

"Bush Republicanism," Maffei says, "is not for them."
Mr. Dionne compares the political environment in Upstate New York to be far more Midwestern in nature than what is seen in downstate politics. Values are important to Upstate citizens. Values, to the Upstate New Yorker, means more than the two issues one automatically thinks of in the the national political 'Conservative values' vein: Life and Gay marriage. Values encompass every walk of life and require not merely lip service, but serious contemplation, moral leadership, and righteous action by our representatives.

When citizens see their representatives scrambling on a national level to bring tax cuts to the richest while voting for bills like the bankruptcy bill (now law) to protect the predatory lenders and banks - putting the crush on families who experience serious illness and job loss - don't we have to ask what values really means to those who are making our laws?

I'm hoping for real change in Upstate New York politics this November. I want my son to go to college and come back home to a thriving economy and burgeoning opportunity in Upstate New York. I don't want my neighbors to have to lose their family businesses that are unique and treasured to Upstate citizens. I also want a leader who will answer my pleas for sanity in our foreign policy. I'll be voting for Dan Maffei.