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Columns

June 12, 2012

Congressional candidate offers sound solutions

Mitt Romney has clinched the Republican nomination for president. If he can lick Barack, he will be the president of all of us. He must be taken seriously, but for me, up to now, he has been like a big bell being hit with a cooking spoon.

He has literarily maintained that his success in business qualifies him to be president. That is rather self-congratulatory. For Romney, wealth sanctions power. Once a self-proclaimed progressive, of late he calls himself "severely conservative."

That means scrupulously individualistic, or each man for himself. He suggests doing away with unemployment insurance benefits in favor of self-funded rainy-day funds. The foreclosure crisis should be allowed to run its course, so investors could buy up foreclosed housing to rent, thus preserving the houses, if not the families they held.

It does not appear that it crosses his rich mind that some people can end up abandoned by the economy, left out as it changes, through no fault of their own. Romney vows to cut the federal budget severely in the manner of Paul Ryan; that is, by slashing Medicaid, food stamps, Pell grants, Head Start, social services and job-training funds. His plan is to empower job creators and entrepreneurs.

To him, it is healthy for some people to be steeled by poverty into seeking prosperity. The government would not protect them, but the market will discipline them.

Romney does not allow himself to see our real society, split as it is between a small group with a lot of money and no cares in the world, and a lot of people afflicted by a lot of cares they cannot control to meet all their families' needs. Romney wants to restrict government programs to prove that markets will magically solve such problems.

With the right representatives, Congress just might be able to offset his right-wing agenda. On June 26, a Democratic primary will choose between congressional candidates Julian Schreibman and Joel Tyner (discussed in this column May 15).

Schreibman is a lawyer and father of three, living with his wife in Stone Ridge, Ulster County. He has been a federal prosecutor and an assistant district attorney before entering private practice. He says he is running for Congress to help make Washington work for New York's middle-class families.

When you talk with Julian, it is immediately clear that he sees his task as carrying local needs to Washington. He wants to pick up where Rep. Maurice Hinchey will leave off when he retires this year.

Like Hinchey, Schreibman is a progressive voice, strongly opposed to fracking for natural gas. As you would expect, he is quick to define and support women's rights and the building of jobs in the district. But not just as talking points.

He elaborates the network of underpinnings necessary for a strong economy with prosperity built on good jobs, a fair tax system, effective oversight of the financial industry, maintenance of and investment in the physical infrastructure of roads and bridges.

He supports continuing investment in the technological and social infrastructure, including rural post offices and rural telephone services.

But beyond this he points out that availability of high-speed broadband connectivity is still needed in all rural areas to enable their full participation in the global market.

In the face of such needs, he criticizes Rep. Chris Gibson's recent vote against $21 million in federal money for rural broadband funding.

Schreibman adds his to voices calling for a national infrastructure bank, to draw private funds into further investment in roads, bridges, sewer systems, and expanding into energy, transportation, and water infrastructure projects now largely in rural communities.

Also under the heading of jobs, he pushes for community-college programs to supply trained and skilled people in demand by employers, including for veterans needing to re-enter the job market. And he stresses the need to close loopholes that allow corporations to be rewarded for exporting jobs to cheap-labor areas. Reward companies that bring jobs home, and reinvest in new areas such as clean energy.

Schreibman does not just talk about jobs. Nor does he fail to note how we again have the greatest income disparity since the so-called Gilded Age at the end of the 1800s. That may benefit international super-corporations and the interests of the super-rich who dominate wealth accumulation today. That is the Romney way. Schreibman pulls in the other direction, to benefit the American people as a whole, and the integrated strength of the American nation.

William Masters can be reached at wmasters@thedailystar.com. The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect those of The Daily Star and its editorial board.

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