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Town halls, taxes and bunnies

Posted: May 12th, 2017 | Congressional Watch, Featured, News | No Comments

By Andy Cohen | Congressional Watch

In our last column, Darrell Issa (R-49), Duncan Hunter (R-50), and Susan Davis (D-53) had each held town hall events in their respective districts, and as we noted at the time, the tenor of the gatherings was much different for the Republican members of Congress than it was for Susan Davis — her town hall was much friendlier than those of her colleagues.

This time it was Scott Peters’ (D-52) turn. On April 18, Peters held his second town hall event, at Clairemont High School before a near capacity crowd in the school auditorium. Peters had held a previous town hall at the San Diego Islamic Center a month prior.

Although the audience was mostly friendly, the Q&A did not proceed without its challenges. While Peters was in sync with most of the attendees, many left less than satisfied with some of the answers to their questions.

Of particular concern — as has been the case at virtually every other congressional town hall across the country — was health care. In the wake of the failure of Trumpcare, progressives as a whole have renewed their push for a single-payer health care program. The argument goes something like this: “Every other major industrial power in the world has single-payer health care, so why shouldn’t we?”

It’s an excellent question, but one without a simple answer, making for some very unsatisfied liberal-leaning constituents. As Donald Trump himself has allegedly recently learned, health care is a very complex issue.

“We need to fix Medicare, make sure it’s solvent for the long term before we put everyone on it,” Peters said in response to a question about a House bill being pushed by some Democrats, which he said he opposes in its current form.

Peters said there were too many unknowns in the proposal; too few details. For example, he noted that it was not clear how doctors would be reimbursed, and at what rate. How would the transition to single-payer take place?

“It’s not smart to try and quickly convert one-fifth of our national economy to single-payer,” he noted. There are things that can be done, he said, such as adding a public option to the Affordable Care Act, which could solve many problems and eventually put us on a path toward single-payer.

One other attendee left disgruntled when Peters refused to answer questions about his 2014 campaign against Carl DeMaio and allegations of wrongdoing when a former DeMaio staffer handed proprietary campaign material to the Peters camp. Peters did eventually turn the material over to police, but it was unclear for how long it was in the possession of Team Peters. That constituent found very little sympathy among those gathered.

Darrell Issa recently did an about-face on internet privacy. The Vista Republican has, until now, been a staunch advocate of online privacy, authoring and supporting bills that kept the customer data of internet service providers (ISPs) private. In fact, in 2012, he published the first draft of a “Digital Citizens Bill of Rights,” item nine of which read, “Privacy — Digital Citizens have a right to privacy on the internet.”

Apparently, Issa’s views on the matter have changed. In late March, Issa voted in favor of a Republican bill that will allow ISPs the ability to sell their customers’ browsing histories without their permission, something prohibited by Obama administration regulations.

“We’re disappointed that Rep. Issa voted to weaken privacy protections,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Ernesto Falcon told the San Diego Union Tribune. “The party line vote in Congress was a case of lawmakers putting the interests of cable and phone companies ahead of the privacy interests of Americans.”

Every Democrat voted against the bill, joined by only 15 Republicans.

Duncan Hunter will have a new companion on the campaign trail: “Duncan Thumper,” a fictitious rabbit that represents the $600 in campaign funds Hunter spent on airline fees to transport his children’s pet rabbit. Hunter is under investigation by the Department of Justice for his misuse of campaign funds for personal use.

“It’s insane that a five-term congressman is pretending like he doesn’t know the difference between a campaign card and a regular credit card,” said Shawn VanDiver, founder of Bunny PAC, the group that hopes to keep the attention focused on Hunter’s campaign foibles by using both social media and sending someone in a rabbit costume to follow Hunter on the bunny … err … campaign trail.

“Listening to a bunny explain politics is as ridiculous as spending campaign money on personal enrichment,” reads the BunnyPAC.org website. “The fact is that when elected officials do ridiculous or foolish things, sometimes complicated nuance allows them to get away with it. The good news is that Duncan Thumper is an ethics advisor and a wonderful storyteller.”

Juan Vargas (D-50) has endorsed a bill authored by New York Rep. Nydia Velazquez that would prohibit Border Patrol and ICE agents from identifying themselves as — or wearing apparel that indicates that they are — “police.” Critics of the practice, including Vargas, argue that it creates confusion and distrust between residents and local law enforcement agencies, giving the impression that local police departments are themselves conducting immigration raids.

In response to the looming tax cut plan that is expected to be introduced by the Republican Congress any day (or never), Vargas has taken the liberty of introducing a different tax plan to Congress. His proposal would impose a 14.25 percent net worth tax on all individuals and trusts with a net worth of $10,000,000 or more.

“By my calculations, 1 percent of Americans, who control 90 percent of the wealth in this country, would be affected by my plan,” said the original author of the plan in 1999. “The other 99 percent of the people would get deep reductions in their federal income taxes.” That original author? A man named Donald J. Trump.

“In the spirit of bipartisanship, I am introducing the Donald J. Trump Wealth Tax Act of 2017 to allow the president to follow through on his original idea,” Vargas said in a statement.

No word on the plan’s chances of becoming law, but don’t hold your breath.

—Andy Cohen is a local freelance writer. Reach him at ac76@sbcglobal.net.

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