The first thing that needs to be known about congressional town halls: they are a taxpayer-funded gimmick to justify franked (free) mailings to promote the event — and thus the congressman holding the town hall.
Here’s the scoop: A representative is given a set amount of yearly franked (free) mailings to every home in his/her district. In my time in the House it was, I believe, six per year.
These are very, very expensive and thus a tremendous advantage for the incumbent. For example, if there are 130,000 homes in a district, multiply that by first class postage plus the printing and paper costs and each mailing if probably worth close to $80,000. So six of them is close half a million dollars in free positive publicity for the congressman.
A challenger running against that incumbent thus starts off at a huge disadvantage; name identification is boosted by these mailings — and by any other free publicity he/she garners on TV, radio, and in the papers.
Well, guess what? These town halls are yet another way to boost the incumbent’s name ID. Yep. Each time he/she schedules one, he/she gets to do yet more free mailings to publicize the upcoming town hall.
What a dynamite way to jack up your profile — all at taxpayers’ expense — and all you have to do is show up at some location and answer a few questions for an hour.
Normally, few people attend these events. They are usually held on Saturday mornings or Sunday afternoons in a library or school gymnasium or church basement. And usually you’re lucky if 50 people show up. Oh, and they are often the same 50 people — community activists, sometimes gadflies, or people with an axe to grind. A congressman gets to know these activists over time — and to enjoy their presence.
But what is going on now is unlike anything we have seen. The explosion of protests across the nation at congressional town halls is a direct result of the arrogance of Washington D.C, in trying to ram this healthcare bill down people’s throats — without anyone knowing what is in the bill.
And on top of the stimulus, the 2010 budget, the astronomical deficits, the TARP, the corporate bailouts, the czars, and the cap-and-trade bill, this healthcare bill has pushed the majority of people into believing Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid have gone too far, too fast.
So the anger we see on the news at these town halls is real. People are scared and worried and soured by two plus years of a devastating recession. And it is a disgrace for Pelosi to blame anyone for coming to these meetings to express this frustration and fear. She works for us! They all do. And they should patiently listen to all constituents — pro and con, individuals or organized — and try to listen and then explain their positions on these issues.
When you are an elected official and you start blaming the people you work for, then you should leave office. At once. Because you have broken the trust that is inherent in being an elected official.
Are some of these protests “organized” as the left charges? Maybe. But so what? If labor organizes a protest does that discredit it?
Surely most of the attendees at these town halls are unhappy with the status quo and want to let their representative hear it. We should all applaud citizens for attending and having the courage to speak up.
Obama has mismanaged this issue. He has allowed the sour economy to bleed into his ‘signature’ goal — universal healthcare — or the “public option” as they now call it. The result is support for the healthcare bill and Obama himself is now declining. And the decline will continue as long as the public feels Washington D.C. has shifted too far left and is bankrupting the nation.
This is not the change people wanted in 2008. And thus the anger.
Prediction: Other events will soon accelerate this widespread public anger.
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