A sunny day, particularly one during a summer of incessant rain, will normally cut into newspaper readership. Last Sunday was apparently an exception. Readers saw what was published and they responded. Several asked that we give them a forum to express their reaction to my column of last week.
I agree with them and with a gentleman I spoke with last week. Civil or not in their rants at members of Congress brave enough to face them in town hall meetings — which are a great idea — Americans are showing up in droves to express one thing in common: frustration with government.
A Washington Post/ABC poll released Friday confirms the electorate’s frustration with Washington. President Obama’s approval numbers are dropping as reported by the Washington Post. At least half of those surveyed now disagree with him on his health care initiative.
Here’s what the story said: “The president’s overall approval rating stands at 57 percent, 12 points lower than its April peak, as disapproval has ticked up to 40 percent, its highest yet. On specific issues, Obama received more mixed marks. A majority, 53 percent, now disapprove of his handling of the federal budget deficit, and his ratings on health care continue to deteriorate. On the marquee issue of the economy, 52 percent approve of his actions, unchanged from June.
“Despite the decline in general confidence in Obama, there is still little competition in the battle for public trust: Just 21 percent say they think congressional Republicans will make the right decisions for the country’s future, while 35 percent have confidence in Democrats.
“Disapproval of Obama’s handling of the health-care issue reached 50 percent in the new poll, the highest of his presidency, and 42 percent of those surveyed say they now ’strongly disapprove’ of the way he is dealing with his main domestic priority. Views of the president’s actions on reform have dropped most sharply among seniors and independents.”
In response to my column of Aug. 16 that proposed that we react to our frustrations in a more civil manner, here’s what one reader said:
“The town hall meetings were very valuable to the democratic process because they gave new information to members of Congress about the level of popular disgust with federal spending. Time after time, legislators were shocked at the level of public dismay at the orgy of federal spending. Surrounded by sycophants in D.C., these legislators had no clue what much of the public was feeling. So the legislators learned.
“Also, the debate as framed by the White House has been disingenuous in several ways. First, there are not 45 to 50 million uninsured people; the only way to get to that figure is to include illegal immigrants plus young people who volitionally elect not to pay for health insurance. Secondly, you cannot give 45 to 50 million people anything (much less total health insurance) and not have it cost a fortune. It defies common sense to say, as Obama has, that health care can be revamped while remaining deficit-neutral and not raising taxes on the middle class. Obama’s claims in those respects simply don’t square with common sense.
“The debate about health care transpired in the context of massive federal bailouts. The staggering deficit posted by Bush Jr. last year (454 billion) will be quadrupled this year under Obama.
“As to Specter’s ‘character,’ he served stateside in the Air Force and went to law school. I served in a war in Southeast Asia and graduated from law school. Specter has no special claim to character or intellect.
“Indeed, one might credibly argue that Specter has had his snout in the public trough far too long.
“Your column next week could acknowledge the validity of the points made above.”
That reader wasn’t alone. Here is another response from Bruce Sobocinski of Shavertown section of Kingston Township:
“Regarding your article: ‘Debate needs to tone down and listen up’ that appeared in last week’s Sunday Times Leader, I would simply like to offer these points (and no I wasn’t one of the people at any of the town hall meetings):
“1. I truly believe that the reason for the ‘civil unrest’ and uprising in all these town hall meetings is that most people feel like they have no voice in Washington today. (Groups like ‘Organizing for America’ are socialists drowning out the middle class voice — doing Obama’s bidding.) The majority of people I know are opposed to the current health care bill for various reasons. They are not ‘dis-informed’ as the White House’s powerful press corps wants to mislead the American public into believing. Middle class America lost its voice and is now faced with an over-ambitious, power- hungry president with a questionable agenda, coupled with a party majority which is all too willing to ram through the most important piece of legislation in 40 years — which we feel is severely flawed — down our throats; people are just fed up.
“Additionally, people who are pushing for it, at least many I’ve encountered, have not really researched it nor read any of it and, to be blunt, are ‘Obamabots’ — they will blindly follow him into a mine field. WASHINGTON NEEDS TO LISTEN!
“2. It gets very frustrating on a daily basis, watching the news media continuously take one side — to this point many citizens feel like the White House is the Kremlin - CNN, ABC, etc…
“Whatever the White House releases is unquestionable fact and immediately newsworthy. ‘Dis-information’ is lawyer- language for ‘well that passage can be taken that way... but it’s not the intended meaning’ — look out when it passes!
“3. On to Arlen Specter — he didn’t even read the bill (like most of the Democrats) but like all of the Democrats, were ordered by Obama to hold town hall meetings to muster support. Surprise, surprise when people showed up informed! One of the women in the Lebanon County meeting read from the bill ... quoted it almost directly when she ask Arlen a question.
“His answer? ‘That’s a lie, that’s not in the bill, next question, next question’. Again, he didn’t even read the bill.
“4. Regarding your statement ‘He is a man of character and depth.’ - I’m very sorry to disagree with you, but from this taxpayer’s perspective he is a man of neither.
“Less than a year ago, when John McCain came to the Scranton Masonic Temple, I took a vacation day off from work to see him. My bright-eyed, 16-year-old daughter excitedly accompanied me to what was to be a great rally. Arlen came out and told us how he knows Sen. Obama and his office is right down the hall from him ... told us all how he was not presidential material, nor even close to having enough experience to run the country! Now look at ol’ Arlen’s position. Is this a man of character? To seal the deal, when the going gets tough for his party, he defects — a.k.a. my official name for him: Arlen Defector! I personally think it should be illegal for any politician to switch party mid-term. It is like a bait and switch; I go to a car dealership, pick out a nice Corvette, sign the paperwork and loan, and then a guy drives around the corner in my new Cobalt. I argue, but the salesmen switched the car on the paperwork and there is nothing I can do. That is how all Republicans I know view Arlen Specter.
“5. My final comment— and I do not mean to mince words with you as you are a professional and will win, nor do I mean any disrespect to you, but rather would simply like to offer you a view into these ‘irate’ taxpayers’ frame of mind. I speak to them on Facebook, blogs and email ALL THE TIME. I would just ask if you support the current health care bill. PLEASE make sure you read into it. To me, it is less about ‘care’ and more about ‘control.’
“At the end of the day - Obama’s bill will create a ‘Health Benefits Advisory Committee’ that will be the final say on everything healthcare - they will run the United States’ health care. The committee in question will be made up of 26 individuals — 17 of them the President (aka Obama) selects - DO YOU TRUST YOUR LIFE TO OBAMA?”
“Funny comment from a local radio show: ‘Obama’s health care plan will be written by a committee whose head, John Conyers, says he doesn’t understand it. It’ll be passed by Congress that has not read it, signed by a ... president who smokes, funded by a Treasury chief who didn’t pay his taxes, overseen by a surgeon general who is obese, and financed by a country that’s nearly broke. What could possibly go wrong?’”
Judging from these responses, my column of last week — as well as Washington government — struck a chord.