Lafayette College was the setting last evening for a debate among three candidates in PA-15. Incumbent Congressman Charles Dent sat between Tea Partier Jake Towne and Democrat John Callahan, Mayor of Bethlehem. The event was sponsored by the League of Women Voters. Callahan appeared stressed and tense all evening, leaning forward towards the microphone and looking uncomfortable. Dent was relaxed, I’m not sure he ever appears stressed and Towne sat looking very cold all through the event. All the questions were from the audience which gave Charlie Dent a pretty good reception when he entered the room after the others. That told me it was largely a GOP crowd. From the questions asked there were also a few tea baggers in attendance.
I’m not sure after listening to all three that any of them want to end this recession. Callahan was vehemently against the TARP bailouts (as was Towne) and I’m not sure how he thinks that’s a good position. TARP saved the country from a total and complete meltdown of our financial system. Runs on banks were already underway and, indeed, since this recession began several hundred banks have failed even with TARP. Add to that the collapse of Merrill Lynch, Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers and all the ingredients were present for a depression. We all came very close to losing all of our savings yet Callahan is saying it was unnecessary.
I asked Justin Schall, his campaign manager, about it after the event. He claims it isn’t an either/or issue, either vote for or against TARP but that “smart people in Washington” could have crafted a better bill. In the time that would have taken it wouldn’t have been necessary as all the banks would have been closed. Recall the initial bill as proposed by President Bush and Treasury Secretary Paulson was only a few paragraphs long and gave Treasury carte blanche to do whatever it deemed necessary. A wary Congress balked and negotiations went forward for some time to enact a bill with safeguards. Granted it didn’t limit CEO salaries and bonuses but at the time no one was thinking about executive compensation, only saving the system. I think Callahan is going after Dent on this issue because he thinks it helps him. Actually it hurts because he’s on the wrong side. This was one vote of Charlie Dent’s which was correct, one of only a few. There are many issues and votes on which to go after the incumbent but this isn’t one of them.
Another huge criticism of Mayor Callahan is his non answer to a question about Speaker Pelosi. He was asked directly if he would vote fr her as Speaker and he dodged it by claiming he doesn’t know who Democrats will put up for Speaker. Dent went after him for it and said he’d vote for either Eric Cantor, a nut case from Virginia, or Orangeman. Why didn’t John Callahan make a strong argument for everything Nancy Pelosi has done as Speaker? I sat there ashamed he was running as a Democrat because he was ashamed of Nancy Pelosi. There’s nothing shameful about what this Congress has accomplished in the face of Republican obstructionism.
Charlie Dent spent the evening running from his record of voting for the Bush budgets which created the deficit. How soon he has forgotten his own complicity in the fiscal disaster created by Republicans. He voted for the deregulation policies which caused the recession but now he’s claiming to be a deficit hawk. You can’t have it both wats Charlie. He fully supports the tax cuts for the richest 1% of Americans and lied to the audience about how their expiration would hurt small businesses. That lie has been debunked everywhere Mr. dent and you demean your audience by repeating it in public. Either you don’t know of what you’re talking, you’re spouting GOP talking points, or you’re a liar.
He answered a question about cutting the federal budget by saying he voted against funding the F-22 engine development. In the $700 billion Pentagon budget one line item is nothing. You did nothing to trim that Budget Congressman, in fact you voted to double it under George W. Bush not even counting the cost of two wars which you also supported. Saying he cut one measly item in the DOD budget is ridiculous and illustrates how ineffective he is. The U.S. defense budget is more than the next 16 nations combined, we don’t need to spend almost a trillion dollars a year there.
Dent also voted against the stimulus bill and he and Towne spent all evening attacking a program which every economist says worked splendidly. It could have been better if not for the tax cuts insisted upon by Republicans. Instead of a quarter of that $767 billion going for job creating infrastructure improvements it went for tax breaks. Tax cuts don’t create jobs. The Congressman went after health insurance reform a very conservative program, and the stimulus bill which has pumped considerable money into his District. I recall some of his staffers at events where ARRA funds were being distributed. If he doesn’t want this money coming to develop clean energy systems or to fund new business development at a place like Ben Franklin Partners then he isn’t helping his District or his country. ARRA has been very successful and Charlie Dent is benefiting from it even though he voted against the bill. Does he really want an endless recession? Did Charlie Dent prefer a depression?
In a question about Marcellus Shale drilling Dent said he is confident DEP will be able to manage and regulate the industry. Is he living on some distant planet? DEP’s budget is being slashed while drillers are sinking wells a mile a minute, while Pennsylvanians cannot drink their water but have found it to be a new source of fuel. People are now living in homes which are worthless but Charlie Dent has full confidence in DEP. Has Dent lost touch with reality?
Jake Towne is a typical Tea Party piece of work. He spouts their rhetoric without knowing what he’s talking about on topics like economics. Tea baggers don’t believe government has any role aside from civil defense. They’ll scrap everything else and their economic points are scary. Every time I see one of them saying families have to balance budgets so government should too, or that taxes are evil and infringements on liberty and so forth they illustrate their fundamental ignorances. These Tea Party folks have no education in economics or they’d understand the difference between micro economics and macro. A family unit is a good example of a micro economic model and government is macro. The two are totally different and work totally differently. One cannot impose micro economics on a macro scale which is what these morons are insisting upon doing. Are they simply uneducated or are they pandering to stupid voters? I report, you decide.
Towne constantly contradicts himself as when he claimed in one statement that government doesn’t create jobs then says government is the single largest job sector. He insisted that the Social Security and Medicare trust funds are part of our national debt. They are only to the point that they are forced, by law, to invest their surpluses in Treasury bonds. These are the safest investments in the world which is why millions of people invest in them. If that money isn’t real I wish Towne would explain that to the people who thought they put their money in a safe haven. This is the same man who is criticizing TARP which saved trillions of dollars in savings from going up in smoke.
Jake Towne’s real issue with money is money itself of course. He indicated he is one of the gold standard extremists. These folks want the country to return to gold as our medium of exchange, gold backing all of our currency. That’s impossible because it limits wealth to a fixed amount of one commodity. There can be no wealth expansion under that system and, indeed, it strangled the global economy.
Anything can be used as a unit of currency. We accept our paper money as such and as long as everyone agrees piece of paper is worth ten dollars it is. In history many things have been used as currency. Items were bartered before money was devised and beads, wooden nickels, company scrip, all manner of things have acted as currency. There is no need to use gold. This philosophy only strangles working people and the poor, it is the device used by elitists to impoverish everyone else. Jake Towne is a dangerous extremist who didn’t even follow state law in circulating petitions this year.
John Callahan claims to be a Democrat but talks like a Republican when he does take a definitive position on an issue. Charlie Dent is a Republican who consistently votes against the financial interests of his people then lies about it in debates. There isn’t much to choose from in this area this year once again.