Friday, April 22, 2011

Dinner With Friends

For the second time in my life I had dinner with a congressman. The first was in 2007 when Rep. Jay Inslee(D-WA-1) campaigned for Hillary Clinton during the Iowa Caucuses. Tonight I, and about 20 others, had dinner with Rep. Leonard Boswell(D-IA-3). Thanks to reapportionment, Rep. Boswell's 3rd district will now include Red Oak. To represent Red Oak and the rest of the 3rd district, Boswell will have to win a competitive race with Rep. Tom Latham(R-IA-4). The new 3rd district will run roughly from Des Moines south to the Missouri line, and from Des Moines west to the Nebraska line. Boswell is using these past few days to meet party activists in the southwest Iowa counties that he has never represented.

The big topic was the budget and what to do about the deficit. Boswell, as did every other Democrat, voted against the Republican budget plan that passed the house last week. As a fiscally conservative "Blue Dog," Boswell believes that the deficit issue must be addressed soon. However, he said that he did not want to do so at the expense of traditional Democratic social programs. What was interesting was that Boswell said one of his favored means of reducing the deficit was to begin pulling out of Afghanistan. If even a moderate Democrat like Boswell is entertaining the idea of leaving Afghanistan then there is chance that the war might soon draw to a close.

The rest of the evening passed with a question and answer period covering the basic issues. Boswell appeared fully supportive of alternative fuels and especially the algae fuel plant in Shenandoah. Former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack's campaign in Iowa's 4th district against Republican Steve King was a topic that arnared everyone's attention. Boswell all but confirmed Vilsac's plan and said that she just bought a house in Ames so that she can live in the district. A good turnout, and the graciousness of Rep. and Mrs. Boswell, made this one of the more encouraging evening to be a Democrat in southwest Iowa. The Backbencher is fully supportive of Rep. Boswell and the push for this part of Iowa to finally be represented by a Democrat.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

I Read that Book

Ron Chernow's biography of George Washington won this year's Pulitzer Prize for biography. I read Chernow's book and I throughly enjoyed it. There was much about Washington that I did not know, and for filling in a lot of details that I and I suspect many others did not know, Chernow provides a valuable service. However, I thought David and Jeanne Heidler's biography of Henry Clay was the better book.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

And They're Already So Good at Doing This

I don't get the obsession of many in Congress to address the deficit and ignore the economic collapse and high unemployment. However, if they were truly concerned about the deficit, and not using it as a pretext for policies that favor the well off at the expense of the middle and working classes, then the best thing Washington could do is absolutely nothing.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

On Deals; Budget and Otherwise

There was a certain inevitability of the President and Senate leadership accepting a deal that cuts nearly 40 billion from the budget. Once the President made the inane comparison between the federal budget and a family budget the die was cast, but it didn't have to be this way. If Obama wanted to he could have made the argument that we don't have a deficit problem because we just extended tax cuts that are skewed towards the richest and most well off in our society and we are not going to cut programs that serve the most in need. However, making that argument would not have allowed the President to appear as the grown-up dealmaker that he wants to be. Sure the Republicans got much more in cuts then they initially offered but at last the Obama image and brand were protected.

Oh, the "compromise" that bans the District of Columbia from using local funds on abortions for poor women is still more proof that the deal that is too odious for Democratic leaders to make has not yet been found.