Johnny Isakson held a telephone town hall yesterday. He says he voted against anything that would run up the national debt. He didn't mention that he asked for funds from the stimulus after he voted against it. He advocated a balanced budget law like in Georgia, well, except in case of war, of course! He claimed Reagan inherited a big debt and only spent a little.
He defended MediCare (said he's within 90 days of signing up) and the VA ("I'm happy to tell you the president's proposed legislation carves out and protects veterans' health care" and the "goal is to see to it that there's not a veteran in the state more than 45 minutes from a clinic"). But providing similar care to the rest of us? That would cost too much!
A senior citizen asks what about "you hear on the TV and on the Internet" that they're going to "take away from us what we already have and distribute it equally among all the others"?
Isakson answers (paraphrased except where in quotation marks):
The president's plan raises deficit $1.3T over 3 years. There's only one way to reduce cost of Medicare: reduce reimbursements to physicians. "You and I know" that doctors already won't take Medicare payments because they're too low. That's a "wrongheaded direction to take" because it "hurts those who do have it to the benefit of those who don't". But he's "completely empathetic and concerned just as you are".
How ironic is that empathy, after the Sotomayer confirmation hearings?
Also ironic after the previous 8 years, in response to a question about the "czars" talking point, Isakson says he wants a balance among the three branches of government.
Isakson claimed a thousand people attended his previous telecon and he expected as many on this one, but his most local recent in-person town hall was much smaller and was not announced in advance. Methinks he exaggerates.
The telephone town hall was not announced in advance, either. I live in a largely R area, and his office called me.
Contrast this with Sanford Bishop's (D) GA-02 Health Care Town Hall in Albany, GA which drew upwards of 500 because Bishop advertised it in advance.
Isakson practically recited from Jack Kingston's pie chart:
"To solve the problems of 14% of the population, you shouldn't put at risk the rest...."
He didn't call it by name, but that's what he was using.
I didn't hear him say "recision" once. However, somebody asked him about pre-existing conditions. He's recommended raising the size of the risk pool by "tearing down barriers between states". Which without anything else will just let big insurers get bigger.
Isakson mischaracterized reconciliation ("the one bill that doesn't require cloture") as "the nuclear option" when it's not the same as what Cheney threatened, which was to change the rules of the Senate, while reconciliation is part of the rules now. Ignoring the facts, Isakson said reconciliation "Breaks with the tradition of the Senate, the reason the Senate exists, to make sure there's debate" and we "don't need a runaway train on health care."
It wasn't all health care. A caller asked about CO2 cap and trade.
A: Huge potential consequences for Georgia businesses and people. "European system where the government establishes the maximum amount of greenhouse gases a business can emit" can trade to get below. "creating a carbon tax" It would cost Ga. ratepayers between now and 2020 $8.2 billion It's a "costly idea for the rank and file citizens of Georgia". He did recommend biofuels, wind, and solar, plus of course drilling on the continental shelf, instead of "destroying manufacturing in this country".
Er, didn't we already do cap and trade to get rid of acid rain? Were we Europe then? I guess so, and we should all line up in ranks and file along now.
Water is a big issue in Georgia, largely because Atlanta can't be bothered to reserve or conserve. Someone asks about water. Isakson thinks a solution is near about the rivers and the 3 states (Georgia, Alabama, Florida) that a judge said had to agree before any of them could take more water. He mentioned riparian rights, as in boating and fishing. It didn't seem to me he really said anything.
Here's an issue where I've pretty much got to agree with him, since it's a bill roundly loathed by right and left, and for much the same reasons: H.R. 2749, the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009, which recently passed the House.
Q: The questioner says the bill includes good things such as food origin labelling. Also establishes inspection on foreign foods. But also has items very detrimental to small farmers "such as my husband and I. We're beekeepers. It would tax our bees around $500 for raw agricultural commodities."
A: Isakson reminds us that "agriculture is the biggest business in Georgia." He says that partly because of the recent salmonella outbreak, which he says started in south Georgia, there's been a big move to improve food safety. He says food inspections operate under the FDA, which does spot inspections but they're only complaint-oriented.
Isakson says the problem in the bill is taxes and fees put on food operators; additional financial burden. Isakson says he is a co-sponsor with Chambliss of a Senate Bill to force the Chinese and others to certify their food at point of origin before it leaves their country.
Isakson again referred to the "unfortunate salmonella outbreak" and points to Peanut Corporation of America. He says it was not an accident; PCA had tests before they shipped that showed salmonella, yet continued to retest until they got one false negative, then they shipped. He says that was criminal, and should be prosecuted.
"I understand the burden of fees on you, and what that can do to the small farmer or the small business person."
He reiterated his point about making China and southeast Asia raise the standard of their inspections. He said nothing in favor of food origin labelling.
OK, a Republican is anti-tax; no surprise, and in this case I even agree with him. But I don't see how making China do better food labelling would help with problems like the PCA one. What about encouraging local food production instead?
And what about better food origin labelling, maybe down to the state and county level? If it's good enough for French wines why not for Georgia carrots? Georgia is the #2 U.S. producer of carrots, but nobody knows that.
There were more questions, but this is enough to get the flavor.
The good news is Isakson's Senate seat is up next year, and is contested, by one Republican, two Democrats, and a Libertarian. The only one I've met is Mike Thurmond, an attorney who has been a state representative and who is currently state Labor Commissioner, aka "perhaps the smartest politician in the Georgia Democratic Party."GA minority leader DuBose Porter calls Thurmond "the best stump speaker in politics today in Georgia."
PS: For those who get Civil War Tourette's at any mention of the south, there's no need to comment, just check the last poll item. And if you can stop the twitching long enough, read this. For those with the slightly lesser affliction of Atlanta Tourette's, which occurs at any mention of Georgia, the second from last item is for you. Bless your little hearts!