HOW THE GRINCH STOLE THE 2ND DISTRICT OF OREGON
Greg Walden’s Year End Progress Report Receives a Failing Grade
On December 29, 2017, Greg Walden sent, at tax payer expense via the franking privilege of the United States Congress, a letter to the 2nd district constituents, describing the progress he has made on important issues. The letter was a collection of political spin on various acts that Walden supported in 2017. I did not receive the letter as I have been somehow overlooked by his office since filing to run against him. It was however given to me by a supporter. The Walden Claims written here are verbatim from that letter.
Walden: As your representative to Congress, I wanted to report to you on some of the progress we’ve made on issues of importance to our district, state, and nation.
Walden Claim #1: Congress passed, and the President signed into law, my legislation that modernizes the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This legislation will bring new medicines and medical devices to market sooner, spurring innovation, consumer choice and most importantly competition to drive down prices. This measure also opens up the hearing aid business to competition for the first time.
The Unspun Truth: The act is called the Regulatory Accountability Act. In 2011 Bend resident Chrissy Christofer’s 10 month old baby contracted Salmonella poisoning from a seemingly healthy puffed rice snack with Spinach and Kale. To make a long story short Chrissy ended up in Washington testifying about her experience and the end result was Congress passing The Food Safety Act, a sweeping reform giving the FDA authority to mandate recalls and increase inspections. Walden’s Regulatory Accountability Act will slow or even stop federal agencies from creating new rules to protect consumers from unsafe food. The irony is Walden supported the initial act and now boast about undoing it. He goes on to tell you that tying the FDA’s hands will “spur innovation, consumer choice and lower prices The Bend Bulletin on January 23, 2018 reprinted an article from the Washington Post reporting how Americans are using LESS health care but spending a lot more as the cost of medical services and drugs have SOARED. They reported the price of physician administered drugs for chemotherapy jumped 42%. Use of brand named drugs for skin diseases up by 165%. . Does the fact that Pharma and Health Insurance are Walden’s single largest campaign contributor make you wonder about his new found dedication to health cost reduction?
Walden Claim #2: For the fifth year in a row, the House passed legislation I helped write – the Resilient Federal Forests Act – to improve federal forest management, reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire, and harvest the burned dead trees while they still have value. At meetings and roundtables throughout our district, I’ve heard one message loud and clear from Oregonians: enough smoke; enough fires. This bipartisan legislation gives federal forest managers new tools to better manage our public lands. I’m working with members of the Senate to find a path forward.
The Unspun Truth: Walden describes The Resilient Federal Forest Act as all about forest management. After all the wild fires in Central Oregon last summer, this topic is high on everyone’s radar screen. The reality is this act has little to do with forest management and everything to do with allowing the timber industry to harvest previously untouchable trees on public land. It does this by designating public land that experienced a forest fire as a “catastrophic” event and therefore not subject to existing laws. The term he uses is “salvage operation”. This act makes it “legal” to circumvent environmental laws, the endangered species act, and child labor laws. This act should have been called the How to Make Money out of a Forest Fire on Public Land Act. And in case somebody wants to protest a “Salvage Operation” this act contains language reading: “no courts may issue restraining orders, preliminary injunctions or and no injunction pending appeal shall be issued by any court of the US with respect to any decision to prepare or conduct a salvage operation in response to a large scale catastrophic event”. And finally this little add on: employment of employees ages 16 or 17 years in a logging or mechanized operation in an occupation that the Secretary of Labor finds and declares to be particularly hazardous for the employment of individuals of such ages, shall not be deemed to constitute oppressive child labor if such employee is employed by his parent, or by a person standing in place of his parent in a logging or mechanized operation owned or operated by such parent or person.
Walden Claim #3: Congress passed, and the President signed into law, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to ensure our troops have the tools and training they need to keep themselves and us safe, and give our men and women in uniform the largest pay raise they have seen in eight years. The President also signed into law my bill H.R. 4374 that makes sure our warfighters have access to the very latest medicines and medical devices unique to the battlefield.
The Unspun Truth: On December 12 Trump signed a $710 BILLION dollar military spending bill, for the benefit of defense contractors, not our troops and not to keep America safe. Walden paints this as a huge win for the troops with largest pay increase in eight years. Military pay in 2017 will go up 2.1%, and this was approved by Obama. Trump’s bill raises pay 2.4% in 2018. A 0.3% change that Walden calls the “largest pay raise in 8 years”, Obama gave the military a 3.4% increase in 2010 so his first fact is just plain wrong.
- As for this huge pay raise Walden crows about, it actually equates to $39 a month ($9 a week) for a Private First Class and $71 a month ($16 a week) for a Sargent First Class.
- Total (labor and benefits) for the active military equates to $127 BILLION out of the total $710 BILLION (or 18%). The 2.4% pay increase for 1,282,000 active military personnel equates to an increase of $1.2 BILLION in base pay.
- That leaves 82% or $583 BILLION for defense contractors. The people who donate to congressman and senators to keep them in office
This $710 BILLION dollar bill was a HUGE win for the defense contractors, so much so that some generals and admirals actually said “what are we going to do with all this stuff. The Navy is getting 13 new ships and 2 more carriers. They asked for 8 new ships. The Navy is getting 24 Super Hornet Fighters (at a cost of $71 million per). They asked for 14. The navy is getting 90 Joint Strike Fighters (at a cost of $95 million per). They asked for 70. And here is a little tidbit about Lockheed Martin’s impressive record on this program: The price tag for the F-35 program at $400 billion for 2,457 planes, is twice the initial estimate, three years behind schedule and some $200 billion over its original budget. Gosh darn good job. Lockheed’s CEO Marilyn Hewson, made $19.4 million last year. She has a base pay of $1.6 million, but by meeting annual and long-term goals, such as screwing over the American tax payers with a 100% cost over-run on the F-35 program, earned an additional $17.8 million. The Army gets 7,500 more troops, the Marines 1,000. Air Force 4,100 and the Navy 4,000. In total 16,600 new troops at a cost of $1.6 billion out of the total $710 BILLION.
There is absolutely no reason for this level of spending beyond defense contractor CEO pay and campaign donations. As I say on the campaign stump, China has “1” carrier and Russia has almost “1”, as it is reported to be in need of repair more than it actually works. And we will now have 13 carriers. Russia spends $70 billion annually and plans to reduce that figure. China spend $220 billion annually. Collectively we spend more than the next 11 countries combined. This is absurd and obscene, all in one bill. As Walden does receive campaign money from Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Boeing, perhaps he does have something to crow about.
Walden Claim #4: To address concerns I’ve heard from veterans and VA officials in our district, I’ve worked on multiple bills this Congress to improve veterans’ access to health care and other benefits. My legislation to introduce medical scribes into the VA system passed the House unanimously, and will help VA doctors focus their attention on caring for veterans, not paperwork. I also introduced a bill to allow VA clinics in rural areas to better recruit doctors to care for our underserved veterans. And I was proud to support landmark VA reform that will finally hold agency leaders accountable for their performance. Our veterans deserve nothing less for all they’ve done for us.
The Unspun Truth: This one is really so bad you do not know where to start. Scribes? Really? We don’t implement electronic data input, record keeping, or consolidation as most every private physician has had for over 20 years? You hire ‘SCRIBES’ to write the stuff down on paper for the doctors? And you wonder why the VA in Bend asked me to hold for over 3 hours to talk to somebody? But that is another story.
A recent article in USA Today detailed the abject failure of the VA over the last 15 years with respect to hiring policies. It was reported the VA has had a policy of hiring doctors and health care staff that had their licenses revoked in one state but managed to get a license in another state. The VA issued a national guideline in 2002 giving hospitals discretion to hire clinicians after “prior consideration of all relevant facts surrounding” any revocation as long as they still had a license in another state. This issuance was given even though a federal law passed in 1999 bars the VA from employing any health care worker whose license has been revoked by any state. Is your head spinning yet?
The VA in Iowa City hired a neurosurgeon, John Schneider, who revealed in his application that he had numerous malpractice claims and settlements and Wyoming had revoked his license. USA Today reported malpractice claims against Schneider included cases alleging he made surgical mistakes that left patients maimed, paralyzed or dead. Not surprisingly his VA patients in Iowa suffered complications. One patient, Richard Hopkins, died from an infection after four brain surgeries by Schneider in a span of four weeks. Of course Schneider denied responsibility blaming other providers for the poor outcomes.
There were other reported hiring snafus. A VA hospital in Oklahoma hired a psychiatrist sanctioned for sexual misconduct who then slept with a VA patient. The VA in Toma, Wisconsin hired a psychiatrist disciplined for medication violations who then over prescribed narcotics to veterans. A Louisiana VA clinic hired a psychologist with felony convictions. They did fire him after determining he was a “direct threat to others”. Whatever that means. Of course when this story broke a number of our elected officials were “appalled” and sent letters “expressing concern”. When I read these stories and hear the lame responses from our elected officials, I wonder, where does Walden stand on this issue, as if I don’t know? He is very proud to support landmark VA reform to hold VA leaders accountable for their performance. Sure Greg. Why don’t you ask the widow of Richard Hopkins? I am sure she is thrilled with your “landmark” support. Walden supported cutting the Individual Unemployability (IU) benefit for veterans. This program supports over 225,000 veterans including 7,000 over age 80. When David Shulkin, head of the VA was asked by Rep Mark Takano “don’t you risk putting these veterans into poverty by reducing their benefits”, Shulkin responded the VA is sensitive to that possibility but needed the funds for the Choice program. And what is the Choice program? It is a program Walden supported that allows the VA to turn away veterans and send them to private doctors. Ask any veteran about this. They are mad as hell over it. I know. I got an earful from several of them.
Summary: I could go on and on but I think these four stories tell the complete picture about Greg Walden. Our district reflects his lack of focus on doing anything of substantive value for the district. Simple question to ask yourself. Walden came to office 19 years ago. Are you, is your family, and are your friends and neighbors, better off today than 19 years ago? There are a small number of pockets within the district that are better off but, as a whole, the answer is no. There are fewer jobs in the district today than before the crash of 2007, and of those that have returned most are service jobs that do not pay enough to support a family. Crook county jobs are down 19%, Gilliam down 20%, Harney down 10%. Grant down 16%. Our district is rapidly aging, with the over age 65 population increasing 24% since 2010. At the same time period, 3% of the working age youths have left the district.
We need to reinvent the district and we need a congressman who will put his time and attention towards that goal. Not sending you professional choreographed letters. Does anybody think Walden actually sat down and wrote this dribble? The days of lumber are gone, never to return. 70% of our ranchers are over 55 years of age, 22% over age 70, and the kids do not want the occupation. The roads are something out of the 1950’s and simply say to the manufacturing world, don’t bother. We need to change the mindset of the district. We need to tell the young people you don’t have to leave but instead help us reinvent this district. We need to understand education is the ONLY thing that will turn this ship around. Stop looking at educated people as though they are the enemy. They are not. Ignorance is the enemy. If you do not want to reinvent the district for yourself, then do it for your children.
A Fighter for the 2nd District of Oregon