Stimulus top topic of Kagen call
February 4, 2009
By Tim Ryan
U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen (D-Wis.) fielded phone calls from constituents in a nine-county area Tuesday during an hour-long town hall teleconference dominated by questions about a proposed $815 billion federal stimulus package.
Kagen called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, passed by the House of Representatives last week, an opportunity to modernize the country’s infrastructure while putting money into the pockets of cash-strapped Americans.
But a number of callers on the other end of the line took the opportunity to vent their anger at Kagen over what they viewed as squandered bailout money, political hypocrisy and the economic injustice being inflicted on middle class America.
“When is Washington going to get back to basics and stop bailing out the people who caused the problem,” said a man identified as George from Shawano.
“I found out today that my company is going to be consolidating and my job is going to be gone by the middle of summer,” said George, who declined to tell Kagen where it is he works. “I want to know when you guys are going to get back to working for Americans.”
There was also anger about the news that Health and Human Services secretary nominee Tom Daschle withdrew his name Tuesday over unpaid taxes.
Jim from Peshtigo told Kagen he was upset over some of the nominations President Obama has offered for Cabinet positions.
“The people he’s nominating … it’s downright disgraceful,” he said.
Jim also told Kagen most Americans don’t have the time to wait until change comes to Washington or the economy.
“Every day news is very devastating,” he said, referring to the latest job losses reported. “Obama promised change and he’s saying it could take two to three years. The average middle class person don’t have two to three years.”
Kagen said he was happy to see Daschle take his name out of consideration for the Cabinet post and noted Obama had “behind the scenes asked Mr. Daschle to step aside.”
Kagen said Daschle had exercised bad judgment, which can no longer be tolerated in Washington.
“We see what poor judgment has done to our economy,” he said. “It’s very important that our elected leaders live up to and exceed our expectations.”
Kagen also took several questions from callers demanding to know how the $815 billion in the proposed stimulus package would be spent, and he sought to draw a distinction between this bill and the Wall Street bailout he voted against last year.
“This bill has unprecedented oversight,” Kagen said, adding that oversight and accountability had been lacking in the bailout bill.
Kagen strongly condemned bailout recipients who have used some of the taxpayer money for executive bonuses, corporate jets, and other personal means.
“They’re not normal people,” Kagen said. “They don’t live in our world. They don’t share our American values. They don’t belong in our culture, as far as I’m concerned.”
The teleconference included callers from Shawano, Oconto, Marinette, Menominee, Florence, Forest, Langlade, Oneida and Vilas counties. According to Kagen, about 2,400 people were on the phone listening in at the outset of the conference and about 3,500 by the time the conference was over.