Fincher addresses constituents’ concerns on healthcare, Goodyear, government regs
Posted: Wednesday, February 2, 2011 8:56 pm
By: Glenda Caudle, Special Features Editor
By GLENDA CAUDLE
Special Features Editor
This is the underlying idea, said Congressman Stephen Fincher: “Government is not the answer.”
He was speaking to an audience of about 50 hardy area citizens who braved Tuesday’s midday downpour to greet the new legislator at the Obion County Farm Bureau building.
When the session was over, “the Frog Jump farmer,” as state Rep. Bill Sanderson of Kenton introduced him, knew specifically what concerns were affecting the crowd: the possible closing of the local Goodyear plant, the negative effects of government regulation, the overturning of the Obama healthcare legislation, pork barrel spending and unfunded mandates, adherence to the Constitution, future funding for conservation efforts, illegal immigration, loss of citizenship rights, prospects for the housing market and the future of Social Security.
And citizens, in turn, knew what motivates their new congressman, what he has been working on to this point, how he perceives his job and his fellow “employees” and what he is committed to.
Fincher told the crowd that soon after his election in November, he and his wife visited Washington and the Capitol.
“I looked at the portraits of those who have served there and sat in the seats some famous people sat in and I thought about the history in that place,” he said. “But what struck me and has stuck with me is this — now we’re the ones creating history, and we have the task of leaving things in better shape than we found them.”
“It’s been a busy transition. There was no dead time,” he explained in reviewing his first month in office and the weeks of transition from family man, farmer and gospel singer to all of those things, plus the representative of thousands of West Tennesseans in Washington. “We were busy right away making staff appointments, and there has already been legislation to deal with. I’ve been busy doing what I was elected to do: bring the people’s House back to the people,” Fincher said to applause. “Washington is a wonderful place to visit, but I’m glad to be able to come home,” he added, joking that it was impossible to get a decent breakfast in the capital.
He noted his schedule is a busy one and a day’s work often extends far into the night — with the lights in his office burning until 10 or 11 p.m. The fact that he sleeps in that same office and showers in the office building gym is, therefore, not only a time saver, but a money saver, as well.
“It’s a conservative approach — living in my office. It’s about saving money and several of us are doing it,” he explained.
“I don’t represent Washington. I represent you in the Eighth District — all of you, Republicans and Democrats and Independents alike. And I’m here today to take your questions and listen to your concerns. This is a listening tour for economic expansion.”
The first concern raised focused on the future of the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., with Don Jones of Weakley County, a Goodyear retiree, voicing his fears for the future of the plant and pointing out the devastating effect the closing of the industry would have on the area as a whole. Jones said he was seeing evidence that the commitment of local management and labor to work together to save the plant was paying off in terms of increased productivity and he asked if Fincher felt he had any clout with the company’s headquarters management or could engage them in talks about the plant’s future.
“I will have a meeting next week with Goodyear. Then I’ll be touring the plant in a couple of weeks. It will be devastating to this district and to the whole state to lose Goodyear and if there is anything possible that can be done, we will keep that factory here. Goodyear, the Milan arsenal, I-69 and the port in Tiptonville — they are all important,” Fincher said.
Businessman Mike Rinker of Union City urged the congressman to “get the government’s foot off our throats.”
Fincher responded that he is hopeful President Obama will carry through on his State of the Union commitment to deregulation. “Do you realize that at the present time, we are treating milk spills under the same guidelines as oil spills? That is ridiculous. That will put dairy farmers out of business. If you can’t make a profit, you will go where you can or you will go out of business. And if the government regulates us out of business, it will destroy capitalism.”
He added that one of the things that must change is that the president must stop governing out of agencies and must answer to committees of the Congress — a reference to the administration’s reliance on furthering its aims by having government agencies mandate certain behaviors rather than working with Congress in a system that relies on debating and voting on bills that affect the people.
The congressman added that the chief executive’s moratorium on drilling for oil has hurt the nation. “We need to use whatever we have and that includes a lot of possibilities, but in the here and now — that’s oil. We need to drill and we can do it safely.”
When the discussion turned to the issue of healthcare and Fincher was applauded for voting to repeal the bill, he responded, “We did keep our promise to repeal it. The healthcare bill would have hurt us economically. It was a bad bill. We’re replacing it with something better. There were some good parts of it, such as having insurance companies compete across state lines. But now it looks as though it is headed for the Supreme Court, where there could be a 5-4 decision against it and if that is so, then we have to start all over.”
The congressman urged his audience to consider the power that particular bill gave the government to regulate their daily lives and said if it were allowed to stand it could give rise to many kinds of government interference in daily living. “If the government decided something like soft drinks were bad for you, they could just regulate them,” he noted, stressing again that government is not the answer to all the problems facing America.
In response to a thumbs-down on pork barrel spending and unfunded mandates, Fincher said some of his constituents have been of a divided mind over the concept of earmarks.
“Actually, the earmark ban will help people,” he said. “The government will still be able to fund things that need to be done without them and most people don’t realize that virtually all of the earmarks were funds that were going to have to be matched by the states. A lot of states were simply saying, ‘No thanks,’ to some of those earmarks.”
Noting the new Congress’ commitment to cut waste and fraud, he mentioned two areas that have already been addressed. “We’ll be saving $35 million a year by going paperless with our bills now,” he said, and “We’ll save $617 million over the next 10 years thanks to new ways of funding elections.”
Union City attorney John Miles reminded Fincher that, since their first meeting, he had stressed the importance of relying on the Constitution as the guide and final authority on everything the government is involved in. “You’ve said our biggest problem is the deficit. We wouldn’t have that problem if other Congresses had followed the Constitution. So I want to give you a pep talk right now. You were elected as part of a Conservative revolution. … Stay with the Constitution.”
“John is never afraid to say what he thinks,” Fincher responded with a laugh. “My grandfather and my great-grandfather were Democrats like many people in the Eighth District. Nancy Pelosi runs that side of the Congress now, and she is the most polarizing figure I’ve ever met. She thinks government is the answer to everything. But if the government has all the power, the people have none. When the new Congress convened, we read the Constitution aloud, but before we could do that, we actually had to have a debate with the Democrats over which ‘version’ to read. But there’s only one Constitution and I will hold true to the Constitution and its values.”
Returning to his assessment of the former Speaker of the House, who is now the Minority Leader, Fincher later said he will be co-sponsoring a bill dealing with the Environmental Protection Agency over the next few weeks and he will have a Democrat co-sponsor for the bill. “Many of us are willing to work together, but Mrs. Pelosi is not one of those. She won’t even speak to us. Maybe she needs to go back home.”
With regard to the future of the housing market, the congressman said government enterprises Freddie Mac (Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation) and Fannie Mae (Federal National Mortgage Association) and the huge banks who were lending money for real estate purchases were part of a housing bubble that was much too massive. “It had to come down, but it took a lot with it. Will the market ever get back where it was? I just don’t know. But I can tell you, (Congressman) Barney Frank knows his days are numbered. I think it will probably be a slow and steady but a hard recovery. Please be patient, because it will take a while.”
Fincher said Republicans will keep their promises to seniors when Social Security is put under the microscope to be studied. “This week, Speaker Boehner said he wanted to have an adult conversation with President Obama about Social Security. Unfortunately, Mrs. Pelosi doesn’t want that kind of conversation. But it’s time to put politics aside,” he said.
The congressman also promised to honor his campaign pledge to sponsor a bill on term limits. In addition, he said his commitment is to what is best for his district and he may not always be able to vote a straight Party line.
In closing he reminded those attending that many changes are going to have to be made to dig the country out of debt and that virtually every program is going to face cuts.
He also asked for something from his constituents. “There are some good Christian people serving there (in Washington) and we all need to reflect on the Bible and the Constitution instead of throwing them away. Pray for our country and its leaders.”
Mrs. Caudle may be contacted at glendacaudle @ucmessenger.com.
Published in The Messenger 2.2.11