Sen. Michael Bennet came to town last Thursday. We should thank him.
It requires a type of dedication to take time away from meetings with the powerful, the moneyed movers and shakers, the men behind the curtain to rub elbows with the Hoi Polloi upon whom one’s presence in office depends. Tedious, but necessary. And it takes a certain courage; no matter how liberal the room, there is always the possibility of the left-field question.
The good senator came to Summit County to advocate three things: more government spending for just about everything, amnesty for illegal immigrants and government action to “reduce income inequality.” He tap-danced like a champion on the question of “local control” of hydraulic fracturing, and took a good deal of heat on his support for the Keystone XL pipeline.
The latter was unsurprising; the crowd was tilted sharply to the Left, and in Summit County that means a substantial number of environmental “build nothing, anywhere, ever” types, who apparently believe that stopping Keystone means Canadian tar-sand oil will remain in the ground or, at the very least, that it will be exported to China and India who will burn the fuel in a more environmentally responsible way than would we. Sen. Bennet’s rejection of these arguments is laudable.
His advocacy of “comprehensive immigration reform” is less so. A member of the Senate’s “Gang of Eight,” Sen. Bennet argued that immediate action is necessary; he set up the usual straw men, pointing to foreign students in science and technology who “are educated here and have to leave the country,” as though mechanisms do not exist for retaining them. He spoke of people brought here as infants, as though they comprised the majority of those here illegally. He did not say why he thought that, given the failure of the 1986 Simpson- Mazzoli “immigration reform,” doing exactly the same thing again would bring about a different result. And in attacking House Republicans for their piecemeal approach, he betrayed a lack of understanding: step-by-step is necessary because previous promises of increased border security and tighter immigration controls have repeatedly been forgotten. The senator also did not say why immediate and global granting of citizenship was the only course of action; duplicitous, given other possibilities such as permanent legal residence.
Sen. Bennet’s views on “income inequality” were a mixed bag. While he offered the usual Liberal red meat, decrying the “income gap” and noting it was the largest this country had seen since the 1920s, he did not mention that other periods of growing income inequality had also witnessed rapidly rising standards of living for a large majority of non-farm American families. His proposed remedies included such non-left fare as “boosting innovation,” “getting regulation out of the way” and reforming the tax code. Raising the minimum wage was a blessedly minor part. This is refreshing talk from a Democrat, but talk is cheap; we must wait to see if actions comport with words before deciding if the man is sincere.
When it came to government spending, our senator answered like a Liberal’s liberal. More funding for infrastructure (shovel-ready jobs, anyone?). More for education. A lot more. More for research. For health care. Where will it come from? Although a member of the Senate Finance Committee, the senator would not say. But he didn’t see deficits as a problem — they’re coming down: only $600 billion or so projected for next year. That statement explains a lot.
One choppy moment came near the end, when a local couple outlined the problems they encountered with rising health care costs under the phase-in of Obamacare. Their story was seconded by two others. If Harry Reid had been there, he probably would have called them liars, but they seemed sincere and their account sufficiently detailed to be true. The senator deflected them by referring them to his aide — a perquisite of power, having one’s own flack-catcher.
Questioned about the president’s “new direction” in foreign policy, the Administration’s failures abroad and the disquiet among our allies, the senator seemed unsure of his footing. He finally remarked that our foreign policy has strayed from the days where “politics ended at the water’s edge,” without noting that this rose from a lack of trust in the competence of administrations past and present. He suggested that we are sometimes “distracted” by foreign affairs — one of the few activities actually mandated by the Constitution to the federal government. This is a curious attitude for a senator to have, until one considers that there are few potential Democrat votes in Ukraine or Syria, but many among the illegal residents Sen. Bennet proposes to make citizens.
Because in the end, political advantage is everything.
Morgan Liddick lives in Summit County and pens a weekly column for the Summit Daily News.
He tap-danced like a champion on the question of “local control” of hydraulic fracturing, and took a good deal of heat on his support for the Keystone XL pipeline.