Thursday, August 27, 2009

Report: Pingree Meeting at Brunswick Library

Pardon mois. It occurred to me as I was outside romping with Boo-boo and Sweety Bitch that I had not paid due homage to the subject of this post, nor would the broad national and international audience this blog reaches know who was being discussed.

So, as a point of order, it is appropriate to note that First District Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, (D) Maine, appeared in Brunswick today to meet with her subjects, check that, constituents. Pingree ran for the US Senate against Susan Collins some years ago, and lost. Her daughter Hannah is Speaker of the House in the Maine Legislature, so a dynasty may be a-building.

Now the report:

I attended this session today, arriving in town early to "beat the rush." I was expecting some entertainment from various public shenanigans, if nothing else.

What a major disappointment. Very low turn out....not quite enough to fill all the chairs. Nobody demonstrating, no signs, pretty much ho-hum.

The only group reaction was before Pingree arrived, and the MC for the meeting said that the session was arranged to discuss issues relevant to the Brunswick Downtown business situation. He said that if we came to discuss the health care issue, we "should find another meeting." This was not a popular announcement, and resulted in several cat calls, with people saying "I'm out of here." I don't know if any actually left or not, but someone pointed out that health-care is important to Brunswick Downtown business.

In particular, the gent sitting behind me, who had a complete copy of the house bill, had traveled down from Winthrop for the session. A retired attorney, he was not happy with the opening.

There were some very general questions and comments related to health care, but overall, the meeting was about a 9.3 on the snoozer scale. Lots of local pols around, but very low key.

I recorded the whole thing on a cheesy little voice recorder. The quality is not great; some distortion, but if you listen, you can pretty much make out most, if not all, of the discussion. If you would like me to send the audio file to you, either email me at, or contact me via comment or other means.

There was nothing I heard that was worthy of writing down. I will summarize at a higher level:

1) Pingree believes the health care situation in Maine and everything that has transpired result from public servants trying to make things right for the people, and that insurance companies have left the state because they don't like being told how to run their business.

2) Pingree and the rest have a horizon that doesn't extend much beyond the next election. Her comments on the economy, deficits, etc, which were very general, telegraphed an almost total lack of concern for the state of our Government's finances. Almost like it's monopoly money, and not much else. She seemed inclined to blame the deficits on the economy not growing fast enough, not spending growing well beyond the projected GDP growth. If she's at all troubled by this, she hid her anxieties well.

3) Similarly, I don't think she and her associates spend anytime thinking about the consequences of the policies they propose and enact. In the tax world, they lean towards static analysis, assuming that people don't change their behavior to account for tax policy changes. They seem to look at health care reform the same way, and that's how they argue that you can keep your plans, because they delude themselves into believing that nothing else would change with new federal policy.

Funny how if you flush an old style toilet, or drive a car that gets less than 100 miles a gallon, you're sure to cause the earth to die, but where Government policy is concerned, it's "don't worry, be happy." Nothing will change.

4) Both explicitly and implicitly, they consider the insurance industry to be villains.

5) She tried the "how many of you are on medicare" ploy to encourage support of Government operated health care. I later responded that I was on Medicare, and that it was a direct consequence of government policy enacting the program.

Before Medicare came to pass, my employer provided health care coverage for retiring employees. Once Medicare was enacted, that coverage ceased at age 65, and why wouldn't it? I retired at 56 and was on my employers plan until I reached 65, at which point I no longer had that option.

She responded by saying "there are still lots of companies that provide health care for their retired employees."

We know Government employees, especially teachers, get it for life. Beyond that, I'd be surprised if any private companies offer/provide group policy access beyond age 65. Why would they do such a thing?

6) It was clear to me that Pingree lives in a world where Government is viewed as one giant social program. Every time she mentioned hearing from people, you could file it under those people looking for Government to give them something they want. Either housing help, or health care help, or help with this and help with that.

This has been obvious for some time...the view that Government is a giant sugar daddy. But it's always useful to hear the comments of one of your elected benefactors to remind you just how pervasive this reality has become. I don't think they're a bit concerned about managing the enterprise, as I think of it. They're only interested in shoveling money and benefits around to those they deem worthy.

In conclusion, you missed nothing. Unless you like having your suspicions confirmed on a regular basis. I'm reminded of the Grover Norquist book of a few years back called "Leave Us Alone: : Getting the Government's Hands Off Our Money, Our Guns, Our Lives." In it, the author divides the country into two broad coalitions - the takings coalition, and the leave us alone coalition.

Your correspondent is in the latter group; sadly, it is abundantly clear that our "public servants" in Government are fully engaged catering to the former group. And almost no-one in office wants to face the reality that such an arrangement is doomed to collapse.

The only question is when. From my little perch in the yum-yum tree, it looks like when is much sooner than anyone will talk about.

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