Should a progressive vote for Adam Smith or for Sarah Smith in the 9th CD?

I’m on the fence about whether to vote for Adam Smith or Sarah Smith for Congress this year.

In short, Adam Smith has more experience, will have more power if elected,  has a decent but mixed voting record, and has moved left as his district has become more progressive. Sarah Smith would more strongly work to rein in military spending and to enact progressive change.  Sarah, however, has no experience in elected office. Moreover, she is a dues paying member of the Democratic Socialists — a party that is significantly to the left of where I’m comfortable.

Adam Smith is a 21 year old veteran of Congress, where he is the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Service Committee.

His voting record is mixed.  He voted to approve the invasion of Iraq, for the controversial Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, and against an amendment to restrict the NSA from collecting phone records of Americans even in the absense of suspected crimes.    He voted against the Protect America Act of 2007 but for the 2001 Patriot Act and for extending the George W. Bush administrations warrantless wiretapping program. (source)

Earlier this month, Smith spoke at the Defense News Conference in Arlington, VA, and said that the defense budget is unsustainable (source: Democratic control of House could mean more ‘rational’ defense budget).

An expert or military official testifies at hearings and “scares the hell out of us by saying there’s this huge massive threat … We are hopelessly outgunned, outmanned, everything is falling apart we’re all going to die, basically,” Smith said. “All part of an effort to get us to spend a massive amount of money on any one of a thousand different things.”

Smith said Democrats will look at how they can, within a reasonable budget, manage risk while also prioritizing other factors that make a country “safe, secure and prosperous” like paying down debt and fixing infrastructure.

“The biggest problem I feel that we’ve had is, because we get this ‘Oh my God we have to cover everything [mindset],’ we wind up covering nothing well and that leaves the men and women who serve us in a position where they are not properly trained, properly equipped to meet all the missions we want them to meet,” he said. “It’s a complete impossibility to meet all the missions that we dream up.”

Smith’s congressional district used to be further south, encompassing the Lewis-McChord military bases near Olympia.  Now it has moved north to include areas of Seattle and south-eastern suburbs.  These areas are more liberal, and Smith has moved to the left to accommodate his changed district.

He is the chair of the political action committee of the centrist New Democratic Coalition, but he recently joined the Progressive Caucus.

I’ve attended many of Adam Smith’s town halls and debates. He speaks forcefully and eloquently for progressive taxation, environmentalism, women’s rights, immigrant rights, and various other progressive concerns. He strongly opposes Trump.

I heard Adam and Sarah debate last month at an event in Bellevue. Sarah spoke well and seems qualified, despite her lack of political experience.

In the primary, Adam Smith led with 48.4% of the votes. Progressive Democrat Sarah Smith (26.9%) edged out Republican Doug Basler (24.7%).  This is an indication of how strongly Democratic the district is, and, perhaps, of the coming blue wave in November.

A large number of Democratic organizations and politicians, as well as womens’,  environmental, and labor groups have endorsed Adam Smith.  See this list.  The Washington State Progressive Caucus endorsed Sarah Smith, as did Justice Democrats, Brand New Congress, The Stranger, and various incarnations of Our Revolution.

Adam Smith is taking no chances and is actively campaigning.

Sarah Smith, who has no experience in elected office, calls herself a democratic socialist. Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez call themselves democratic socialists as well. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez endorsed Sarah Smith.

Sarah Smith is a Justice Democrat and a dues paying member of the Democratic Socialists. Here are some quotations from this interview in The Stranger:

Justice Democrats are Democrats who have pledged not to take corporate money.

If you look at the Democratic Socialists of America platform, it’s really not far off from the Washington State Democratic Party platform. But one of the key differences is Democratic Socialists believe in both a social and an economic democracy, not just a social democracy.

I’m not sure what that means, but the website of the Democratic Socialists of America, says, in What is Democratic Socialism?:

Democratic socialists do not want to create an all-powerful government bureaucracy. But we do not want big corporate bureaucracies to control our society either. Rather, we believe that social and economic decisions should be made by those whom they most affect.

Today, corporate executives who answer only to themselves and a few wealthy stockholders make basic economic decisions affecting millions of people. Resources are used to make money for capitalists rather than to meet human needs. We believe that the workers and consumers who are affected by economic institutions should own and control them.

Social ownership could take many forms, such as worker-owned cooperatives or publicly owned enterprises managed by workers and consumer representatives. Democratic socialists favor as much decentralization as possible. While the large concentrations of capital in industries such as energy and steel may necessitate some form of state ownership, many consumer-goods industries might be best run as cooperatives.

Democratic socialists have long rejected the belief that the whole economy should be centrally planned. While we believe that democratic planning can shape major social investments like mass transit, housing, and energy, market mechanisms are needed to determine the demand for many consumer goods.

This is further to the left than most progressives, because it does propose social ownership of wealth (worker control).  Democratic socialism is socialism.

As I say write in Socialism, even democratic socialism, is quite different from progressivism, Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are probably incorrect to call themselves democratic socialists. They are, in fact, social democrats (i.e., New Deal liberals). They are OK with private corporations, provided they’re adequately taxed, regulated, and balanced by an activist government. Think Denmark and Norway, not Venezuela.

I emailed Sarah Smith to ask her whether she’s really a Democratic Socialist. I haven’t heard from her yet. I presume she is a real socialist.

As reported in this article in the Bellevue Reporter:

Her specific criticisms of Rep. Smith have largely consisted of his willingness to take campaign donations from big corporations — especially firms in the defense industry — and several of his foreign-policy related votes, such as his vote for the invasion of Iraq in 2001 and a more recent vote against an amendment that would have banned the U.S. from selling cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia.

Rep. Smith has vigorously contested the narrative that he’s a faux-progressive. While he has said that his vote for the Iraq war was a mistake, Smith points to his sponsorship of a bill that would ban mandatory detention for undocumented immigrants and another that would nationalize health insurance across the country.

Rep. Smith also notes his early endorsement of the successful $15 minimum wage ballot initiative in SeaTac, and his opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as evidence of both his lefty credentials and ability to bring home the bacon for his district. His endorsement list reads like a who’s who of regional progressive heavyweights and influential interest groups, such as Rep. Pramila Jayapal, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, and a slew of assorted labor unions and Democratic organizations.

Yesterday I got a text message from one of Adam Smith’s campaign aides asking me whether I wanted to volunteer for his campaign. I responded that I’m leaning towards voting for Sarah Smith because she would be more likely to vote against Pentagon waste, corruption and war-mongering. The aide asked me if I would want to speak to Adam Smith. I didn’t respond, but an hour later I got a phone call from Adam Smith.

Adam (who knows me from town hall events, debates, and my writing) said that if the Democrats take over control of the House, he will be chair of the House Committee on Armed Services, where he will have a lot of power to enact reform. If Sarah Smith wins, she will have much less power, though she can vote against military budgets.

I quoted to him from a sheet “Adam Smith on the Issues” that was distributed to the 41st LD Democrats yesterday.  In the section on National Security, it says:

As the highest-ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, Adam knows that having a strong military is paramount to out national security. He is committed to ensuring that the men and women serving in the military have the resources that they need to respond to threats quickly and effectively. [So far, this sounds quite pro-military.]  At the same time, Adam recognizes that any military resources devoted to dealing with the range of global threats must be paired with strong civil and diplomatic efforts. Adam is also dedicated to ensuring that all veterans get the care they need and deserve, from health services to job opportunities once they leave the service.

The section of Adam Smith’s website on National Security says similar things.

I told Adam that the blurb makes no mention of the tremendous waste, secrecy and fraud in the military budget, or about the destruction wrought by military adventurism.

Adam acknowledged that the budget is too high (“unsustainable”).   He still believes that soldiers should have the resources they need to respond to threats, but thinks that the military is spread too thin and needs to be more selective about threats it engages.  He says this year, finally, if all things go well, the military budget will be audited. (He has said that at several town halls and debates.) He also suggested that he’d edit the blurb on National Security.

He said he spoke two weeks ago at the Defense News Conference (where he apparently spoke for 20 minutes with a Defense News reporter at a fireside chat) and also at the Reagan Defense Forum (page removed). He told them that the defense budget is too high. Republicans then pounced on his words to say that if Democrats gain control of the House, the military budget would be threatened.

He wanted to make clear that he is not in favor of drastic (e.g., 50%) cuts in the military budget, as some people propose. There are real threats: ISIS, for example, and Yemen. And we don’t want China blocking shipping traffic in the South China Sea. Of course, we don’t need a 350 destroyer (?) navy to defend against that, he said.

He also pointed to the threat of Russia invading Estonia and Ukraine.

When I suggested that the U.S. and NATO should not have surrounded and threatened Russia, he agreed. He mentioned the late University of Washington professor Brewster Denny, who said the U.S. made a mistake by antagonizing Russia, leading to the rise of Putin.

I said that the U.S. created many of the threats we’re facing (e.g., anti-Americanism in the Middle East, the mujahedin in Afghanistan — I should have added Sadaam Hussein and radical Iran) by our meddling in foreign affairs, he agreed.  And I pointed to Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinians and the U.S. backing of Israel.

He said he works with progressives including Barbara Lee and Jim McGovern on military issues.

He said that there’s one thing he agrees with Donald Trump on: it’s better if the U.S, has peaceful, cooperative relations with Russia.  But, he said, Trump’s reasons are wrong: he’s in Putin’s pocket. I agreed with him about Trump’s reasons being and wrong and said that it’s a shame that Fox News and the GOP are now the ones attacking the Deep State, even if they’re doing so for the wrong reasons. He said that Trump is attacking the FBI more than the Pentagon. We agreed that things are a disastrous mess in D.C.

I am still on the fence and expect, in any case, that Adam Smith will win easily.


Adam Smith Town Hall of July 8, 2018

U.S. Representative Adam Smith (D, 9th CD, Washington) spoke for two hours today to constituents on Mercer Island.

During most of the two hours Smith bashed Trump, in response to constituents’ questions. The audience seemed supportive of that. There were no conservatives offering a forceful alternative view.

Smith said that as a member of the House Armed Services Committee, he was able to view some of the evidence about Russian meddling in the election. Smith said: yes, the Trump campaign colluded with Russians (Manafort, etc), and, yes, Trump tried to squash the investigations, obstructing justice. But he says that it will be very hard to get 67 senators to agree to impeachment. And with Trump appointing Supreme Court justices, we can’t expect the Supreme Court to come to the rescue.

Smith spoke eloquently of Trump’s danger to America.

Smith said that he speaks often with Defense Secretary James Mattis, who is one of the few remaining voices of sanity and realism left in the White House. Every morning Mattis asks his driver if he’s been fired yet. If not, he goes to work.

In the video below Smith criticizes Trump for phoning Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan to congratulate him on passing a constitutional amendment that stripped his opposition of basic rights.  “All around the world you see this creeping towards authoritarianism in our foreign policy.” We are backing away from international treaties and cooperation.  Some people say we should laugh at some of Trump’s more ridiculous pronouncements (such that we people should stand up straight when Trump talks). Smith sarcastically responded:  “You know fascism just never stops being funny.”

Smith said Americans want lower taxes, a balanced budget, and no cuts to spending.  (Impossible!) The Republicans’ simple, oft-repeated message is:  government and taxes are bad.  Since they can’t directly cut government spending, they just keep cutting taxes and raising the deficits. When no money is left, they will demand cuts to Social Security and Medicare (even though we have pre-paid for these programs out of our paychecks). Smith has sponsored bills to raise the cap on Social Security, so that the rich pay their fair share and so that Social Security can remain solvent for the long term.

If you want to see life without government, said Smith, go to Honduras, where there are no taxes and no functioning government. There is lots of crime, little education, and little productive economic activity.

Smith called for reversal of the Bush and Trump/Ryan tax cuts.

Smith spent a long time criticizing Trump’s racist immigration policies.  He said that crime rates among immigrants are lower than among U.S. citizens, and economic studies show that they help the economy.  Trump’s racist and divisive rhetoric is based on lies.    Yes, we need secure borders. No, we needn’t treat all immigrants like criminals, especially ones who have lived here for most of their lives.

Immigration from the south has mostly come to a halt — another reason Trump’s anti-immigration policies are amiss.

One rude constituent, who was reading the Financial Times while Smith was speaking, blamed inequality on over-population. He claimed that he could prove mathematically that inequality arises when there is over-population — which is why immigration is bad.  That theory was so outlandish that nobody seemed to take it seriously.

Smith spoke a lot about our overly permissive gun laws.  Republicans think that more guns would make us safer.  It’s simply not true. He told several stories of guns being used to kill people in families, And  he told of a certain politician who came to a town hall and placed his gun on the table to make a point (“See. I can defend myself.”) Smith pointed out that someone in the audience could have quickly drawn a gun and shot the politician dead before he’d have been able to grab the gun.   The Second Amendment mentions “well-regulated militia.”   We don’t allow individuals to own nuclear weapons, tanks, or machine guns. Nor should they be able to own rapid-fire, high capacity weapons.

Smith said that many gun-rights advocates say that citizens need weapons to defend themselves against the government.  I laughed out loud.  Smith said, “Don’t laugh.”  There are people who really believe that, despite the fact that the U.S. Army would easily destroy any individuals.

Smith said that the GOP health care plan can be summarized in two words:  stop Obamacare.  Trump is dismantling Obamacare by allowing insurance companies to stop covering pre-existing conditions.     Smith says we need universal health care, whether based on single-payer (like Medicare) or on some other system. Every other major industrial nation in the world has been able to do this, at lower cost than us.

Several times Smith said that to reverse inequality a first step is to get guaranteed health care for all.

Smith criticized the private prison industry, which are guaranteed occupants and which encourage detention.

A woman made an impassioned speech asking Smith to support a House bill in defense of Palestinians children allegedly being mistreated by Israel. During the speech, another woman held up  a banner and turned around, and another person videotaped.  Smith listened politely and said this is the first time he’d heard of the bill and he would ask some others and consider it.

When it was my turn to ask a question, I started by saying I agree with most everything Smith said, and I thanked him for becoming more progressive over the years. (Smith is now a member of the Progressive Caucus. I would like to imagine that I was instrumental in his joining the caucus.  At a fund-raiser for Smith in Bellevue a couple of years ago, he gave a speech in which he mentioned the word “progressive” several times. When it was time for questions, I shot up my hand and said, “You kept saying ‘progressive.’ Will you join the Progressive Caucus?”)  But, I said, I support his progressive opponent, Sarah Smith, on one issue:  he should have voted against the obscenely expensive defense bill, which will cost the U.S. between $610 billion and $719 billion (depending on how you measure it). I said that the U.S. has troops in 150 countries and military bases in 70  countries.  We spend more than the next 20 or 30 countries combined. The military sucks up over half of the discretionary budget. There’s too much secrecy, and it’s a major cause of deficits. I mentioned Eisenhower’s phrase “military-industrial complex.”

Smith defended his vote for the budget by saying that he needs to be bipartisan. He’s the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee. Thanks to that  position, he was able to insert some progressive measures in the bill (on LGBT rights and on the risks of climate change, about which the military is cognizant).  He said that the GOP has enough votes to pass a budget without Dems’ help, but the Republicans realize they might not always be in the majority, and it’s best to work together when they can.

Smith also said that the Defense Department will finally be audited, though he joked that he’ll believe it when he sees it.

“If I were chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, the defense bill would be a lot more progressive.”

He said that he thinks the defense budget was $50 billion too high.

[Another attendee says that what Smith said was that if were Chair the defense budget would be 50 billion less. That’s not my recollection, but the message is almost the same.]

Someone asked Smith which of his opponents he’d run against in November: his anti-war opponent from the left, Sarah Smith, or his Republican challenger? Adam Smith said that he really doesn’t care; he’s confident enough that he’s the better candidate.

But I sense that he’d prefer the Republican, and that he is more scared of the rising tide of anti-war progressivism and socialism than by the Republicans. After the town hall, as we walked out, Smith looked pretty tired. Can’t blame him.

Adam Smith won the endorsement of a huge number of Democratic organizations and lefty advocacy groups.  Sarah Smith, who is young and inexperienced, has gotten the endorsement of very few groups.

At one point in the town hall, Smith said that when he was knocking on doors as a campaigner, he got more flack (criticism) from angry progressive than from angry conservatives. Progressives can be dogmatic ideologues, he implied. They were dissatisfied with the partial accomplishments of Obama (ACA, regulation of Wall Street, saving the economy, LGBT rights) and were angry about unmet hopes.

A Democrat will beat Trump in 2020 only if the left can unite, he said.

Each time the Democrats had gotten control of Congress, in 2010 and once before in the 1990s, the Democrats blew their chances by becoming a circular firing squad, and the Republicans roared back stronger than before.   Smith called for pragmatism, saying politics is a numbers game.  Often politicians need to compromise on their principles to remain in power.

Lobbying Adam Smith on war and the TPP

This afternoon I attended Rep. Adam Smith’s salmon bake in Bellevue. I mentioned problems with our military: ex-military generals whose punditry is corrupted by connections to military contractors; cost over-runs and design flaws in the F-35; and our history of supporting the wrong side in conflicts.  As always, Smith acknowledges the existence of the problems.  He pointed out, too, that the Saudis are funding ISIS.   Still, he voted to fund the training of opposition groups, since ISIS is a real threat. (Only Jim McDermott in Washington State voted against it.)  I asked if Congress approved of the current bombing. Smith said that he thinks Obama should get approval from Congress before bombing. After recalling the trillions of dollars wasted in disastrous wars, I asked him to err on the side of pacifism in future votes.

In his speech to the assembled people, he repeatedly used the word “progressive” and so when it was time for questions, I asked him why he doesn’t join the Progressive Caucus. He responded that he cares about issues not labels, so he’ll stick with New Democrats he’s been a member of.

When moderate Democrats speak to the Democratic base, they often repeat the “p” word (progressive). Do they really mean it?

Someone asked about the TPP. He explained that whenever you trade with another nation you need independent rules and tribunals to deal with conflicts. He concurs that any agreement must have worker and environmental protections. Afterwards,  I mentioned to him that the state Dems’ platform includes opposition to TPP, and I pointed out the widespread opposition of the Left to TPP, which is regarded as a corporate giveaway.   Yes, parts of it are still secret; but the parts that have been leaked suggest it is bad.  Smith said it won’t be coming up for a vote soon.

He said that nothing will get accomplished in D.C. because Congress is under control of Tea Party people who don’t want Congress to work.

His seat in the 9th CD was gerrymandered after the 2010 census to make it safe for a Democrat, just as the 8th CD was made safe for Dave Reichert, whose Democratic opponent Jason Ritchie attended the event.

For a related story, see Adam Smith’s appearance on Face the Nation and CNN.

Adam Smith's appearances on Face the Nation and CNN

US Representative, Adam Smith (D, 9th CD WA) appeared on Meet the Press in late August with Republican Peter King from NY State.

Smith said that the US must find worthy allies in Iraq and Syria. Otherwise the bombing will be ineffective.    Smith said he supports stronger sanctions against Russia and more support for the Ukrainians fighting Russia.

Rep. King said that he generally agrees with Rep. Smith’s positions. (It’s disturbing that Smith agrees with King.)

Smith speaks well.

I’ve heard a rumor that Adam Smith is being positioned to be Secretary of Defense in a future Hillary presidency. (Maybe a rumor should not be included on an article like this!)

On Smith’s facebook page I expressed disappointment with his hawkish stance.

Here’s another video of Adam Smith, from Sept 24 appearance on CNN.  Smith supports action against ISIS and wants Congress to authorize military force. “I’m working with colleague on both sides of the aisle to support that.”

Congressman Adam Smith’s Annual Salmon Bake, 28 September, Sunday, 5pm-6:30pm, 4908 136th Place SE, Bellevue 98006. Please RSVP to Rebecca Bryant, 253.572.6125 or via email at

Good opportunity to talk with the congressman, but they probably expect a donation.

All our reps but McDermott voted to fund the Syrian rebels

Reps DelBene, Kilmer, Larsen, Heck and Smith voted Yea on the McKeon Amendment that funds the arming of Syrian rebels. “The amendment would authorize the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Secretary of State, to train and equip appropriately vetted elements of the Syrian opposition and other appropriately vetted Syrian groups or individuals.” (source). Only Rep. McDermott voted Nay.    All Washington State’s Republican reps voted Yea as well.

Sounds like another dangerous waste of money.

Progressives are generally opposing the war-mongering. Dennis Kucinich gives 8 Reasons Why Congress Should Vote No on Training and Funding Syrian Rebels.  Also: PDA’s statement against the war.

Please phone our Senators and ask them to reject funding for the Syrian rebels: Murray [ 202-224-2621, (206) 553-5545] and Cantwell [ 202-224-3441 (206) 220-6400]

Rep. Jim McDermott on Pres. Obama’s strategy.

Report on Adam Smith's Town Hall at Mercer Island

A mere twenty people or so showed up at Congressman Adam Smith’s Town Hall meeting on Mercer Island on April 23, 2014.

I arrived five minutes beforehand and found myself standing alone with Rep. Smith. I asked him why he didn’t support the Congressional Progressive Caucus’ Better Off Budget. He said he voted against the Ryan budget, for the Black Caucus budget, for the Democrat’s Alternative Budget and against one other budget, which he wasn’t sure about, but which he and I surmised must have been the Progressive Caucus Budget. In other words, I don’t think he had the chance to investigate the CPC budget closely. In his defense, I point out that House and Senate members have to deal with hundreds of bills a year and, for many bills, must depend on their aides, leaders, and colleagues to decide what to support.

Smith is a member of the centrist New Democrat Coalition, along with Denny Heck, Derek Kilmer, and Suzan DelBene, not the Progressive Caucus.

Next I asked him about the F-35 fighter jet, which I said was ridiculously expensive and which, I heard, didn’t work so well. He said, “Oh, it works” but he agreed it was far too expensive. I mentioned how the supporters made sure to place contracts related to the jet in numerous House districts (pork). He said that there’s no way to cancel the program because it’s the only jet we have for the future. Donald Rumsfeld set things up so that we put all our eggs in one basket: the F-35. I said that I heard that they built jets prematurely, before they were ready to fly. He agreed with that. Smith is the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Service Committee, so he has significant power in these matters.

At this point it was time to enter the Town Hall meeting hall. Someone asked about the possibility of conflict with Russia over Ukraine. I mentioned what I had read in an article by Stephen F. Cohen, an emeritus professor of politics from Princeton University, in the Nation: the U.S. and NATO were putting unreasonable pressure on Russia, by expanding to former Eastern block nations and instigating rebellion in various surrounding nations. Would the U.S. like it if Russian-friendly troops were in Canada and Mexico?

Adam Smith agreed that to some extent that analysis is true — NATO is boxing Russia in — but Putin runs a kleptocrcacy and is using the threat of war to distract his people from a bad economy. In other words, in the end he seemed to blame mostly Putin.

Smith agreed the US can’t afford to be the policeman of the world. He said he spoke with refugees in Jordan who asked why the U.S. allowed Assad to do bad things in Syria. Smith explained to the refugees that it’s a misconception to think the US has that much power to stop Assad.

Questions shifted to the budget. Smith said there’s $1 trillion in discretionary spending (infrastructure, R&D, defense), plus $2.9 trillion in mandatory spending (Social Security, Medicare, Veterans, interest).

Smith spoke a lot about concentration of wealth and the shrinking middle class.  95% of the Bush tax cuts were made permanent.  Boeing and Apple and other companies pay little or no taxes.  Soon after WWII, in contrast, capital had nowhere to flee, because other countries were largely destitute. But now the companies send money to places like Ireland. (Smith could have mentioned the Cayman Islands as well.)

He mentioned two things out of many things he could mention to help fix the shrinking middle class:

  1. Education & jobs training; and
  2. Investment in infrastructure.

A lot of our infrastructure was built soon after WWII and is in bad shape. Compared to China’s trains and Hong Kong’s modern airport, JFK Airport in NYC looks like something from a third world country, he said.

One should be wary when politicians blame our economic troubles on uneducated workers. Yes, we are investing too little in education, but lots of problems are due to policies that weaken unions, open tax loopholes and benefits for rich people, and burden the middle class with medical and education debt. Besides, conservatives seem eager to destroy public education, though our competitors almost universally have public education systems. See Public Schools Win Internationally.

Smith mentioned that he sent his kids (10 and 12) to Tacoma public schools and now to the excellent Issaquah public schools.

A conservative guy complained about  how high tax rates discourage work and innovation.  Rep. Smith said that, yes, if tax rates are too high it’s no good, and if they’re too low it’s no good either.  Some people say that if we lower tax rates, we’ll bring in more revenue. That’s just not true.  Smith tried to get the conservative guy to agree with that and he discussed the changing tax rates over the years. Now taxes are probably too low.

Here Rep. Smith discusses our unfair tax system and how to fix it by eliminating loopholes:

A conservative lady in the audience complained about how her health care premiums almost doubling under ACA/Obamacare.   She thought that government wastes money on things like the Department of Education and the Department of Justice (!).  She said the government spends too much on things not mentioned in the Constitution. Adam Smith mentioned “The General Welfare” phrase. She said that was in the Preamble and so didn’t count.  Smith mentioned that the Supreme Court ruled that the ACA was constitutional. She said, it’s still wrong.

Someone (the same woman?) asked Smith about his government health care plan.  Was he exempted from the ACA requirements. He said, no, it’s a myth. He in fact was forced to switch to a plan that is worse than what he had had. He pays more, but he’s OK with that; he’s fine with contributing to a pool to help poorer people get insurance.  Yes, he was lied to about the ACA — and he said he once warned Pres. Obama to  be careful how he markets the program. In any major policy initiative, there will be winners and losers.

Smith said that in countries in Europe, people have more a sense of community and don’t mind helping others. Americans are more individualistic [I say that’s a euphemism for “selfish”].  Also, other countries aggressively regulate health care costs, especially end-of-life care [which eats  up a huge proportion of costs, and which ACA tried to control with a mechanism that conservatives called “death panels”].  In the US, health care providers are paid “WAY more” than providers are paid overseas. In Europe fees are regulated, and medical students can go to medical school for free. In the US, patients have too many medical tests.

He said we pay 17% of our GDP on health care; the average for the rest of the world is 8%.  And we consistently rank somewhere between 30th and 40th in the quality.  He said these facts will make conservatives angry.  Yes, we have very advanced health care, available for people with good insurance or for people who can afford it. But we leave a lot of people without health care.

Smith told the true story of a woman who died several because she couldn’t afford treatment for Lupus.  With ACA, she could have lived.

(I have a video of Smith’s comments about health care, if you want to see and hear him.) He said:  “I submit that the system we had before the ACA was really, really bad.”

I got a chance to speak again. I said, “It seems that conservatives and liberals often live in entirely different worlds, with different facts. Often they hate each other.   Government-run health care in Europe and Canada are far cheaper than the US’s market-based system and they have better outcomes (better health care). ”  Several people tried to shout out comments but it was my turn so they shut up.

I continued:

Furthermore, Republicans complain about government waste, but when they ran the government, they wasted trillions of dollars — trillions, not billions — on disastrous, corrupt wars.  The war in Iraq was a complete disaster.

Furthermore, the Affordable Care Act was designed by the Heritage Institute and tested by Mitt Romney. It’s a very conservative plan that helps the insurance companies. I and many Democrats preferred single-payer or at last a plan with a bigger public option.

Finally I mentioned that in the 1950s and 1960s, when tax rates were high, the economy boomed and the middle class thrived.   Adam Smith had said similar things earlier, but not this precise point.

After I spoke, the conservative woman said she agreed with me on Iraq.  The conservative guy in the back who complained about high taxes was dumb.

I was glad that nobody complained about immigrants. At the last Adam Smith Town Hall I attended, several conservatives spoke vehemently against immigration reform (granting a path to citizen to “illegal aliens”). There was no shouting and acrimony at this Town Hall meeting.  People were polite.

Adam Smith speaks well and eloquently. He’s a likable guy, even though I think he’s too centrist on military issues and not aggressive enough on economic justice and taxation. He said clearly that he welcomes people to contact him and visit his office to discuss issues. He’s very approachable but was firm about not letting interruptions during questioning.

The food stamp cuts hit WA State especially hard

*Number of U.S. households with food stamps cut $90/MO under farm bill: 850,000

*Number of those households in WA: 200,000 (23% of national total)

*WA Congressional Democrats supporting cut: 6 of the 8 [all but Adam Smith and Jim McDermott]

*WA Post Editorial: “[T]his legislative grotesquerie gives to the rich and takes from the poor. . . . President Obama can stand up for his declared principles by vetoing it.”

DelBene, Heck, Kilmer, and Larsen vote with Repugs to cut food stamps

Reps. Suzan DelBene, Denny Heck, Derek Kilmer, and Rick Larsen joined all four Washington Republicans in voting to cut an addition $9 billion from the food stamps program, SNAP.

Kudos to Jim McDermott and Adam Smith for voting against the House farm bill that slashed food stamps while protecting most corporate pork. The Senate is expected to pass the bill, and President Obama is expected to sign it.

According to the Mother Jones article Republicans Just Won the Food Stamp War:

When the final bill came up for a vote in the House, the Congressional Progressive Caucus advised its 76 members to vote against the bill. But not enough Dems voted to block the cuts. One hundred three Democrats voted against the farm bill, but 89 voted in favor. If 43 more Democrats had voted no, the farm bill would have failed. “Dems are…complicit in changing [the] law, when they could just [block the bill] and let that status quo continue,” the Democratic aide says.

“I cannot, in good conscience, vote to give money to big farms while we leave crumbs for our poor, elderly and disabled in the name of austerity. It isn’t moral and it isn’t fiscally responsible. You can read my statement on why I voted against the FARM bill today at the link below.” Congressman Jim McDermott

Rep. Adam Smith expresses skepticism about Syrian war

Kudos to Rep. Adam Smith (WA – 9th CD) for expressing serious doubts about the wisdom of war in Syria in this NPR interview.

Everybody blames us for everything over there. And I think we need to take a step back and say look, we don’t have the support of the Arab League on this. We don’t have the support of the U.N. We don’t have the support of NATO. I think this is an international responsibility, not necessarily just a U.S. responsibility. …

I think part of it is accepting the fact that what we can do might not be enough, that there is no immediate solution to it. There’s all kinds of countries throughout the world that are suffering internal strife. These are all awful things, all things that we wish hadn’t happened. But can we create a situation where the U.S. is, as the cliche goes, the global policeman that’s going to somehow going to step in there and fix all of these problems? I’m quite certain that the answer to that is no, we can’t; we have to be selective about what problems we can fix. The question is: Is this one where this particular action is worth it?

Smith is the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee. In the past his Congressional district served military bases, and he sponsored NDAA. In recent years, he has tacked to the left, as his district has become more liberal due to redistricting.

I wrote on his facebook page, as a comment on a link to his NPR interview: “We are sick of war. Recent wars have been unjustified, corrupt, and/or mismanaged. Trillions of dollars and untold lives have been wasted.”

Credo Action calls for constituents to hold Adam Smith accountable

Credo Action has sent out the following email calling on constituents of Rep. Adam Smith to phone the representative and complain about his vote against the Amash/Conyers amendment that would have reined in NSA spying on Americans.

Rep. Smith is ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, and his old district, near Olympia, included several military bases. So, perhaps Smith (no relation) probably felt obligated to support the military and security state. Most Democrats supported the amendment.

Make a call to hold Rep. Smith accountable for betraying the Constitution.

Last week Rep. Smith voted to allow the NSA to continue its indiscriminate collection of phone call records of Americans suspected of no wrongdoing.

Call Rep. Smith and tell him that his vote against the Amash/Conyers amendment was a betrayal of his duty to uphold and defend the Constitution.

Dear Don,

Don't let the NSA spy on us . click here to take action.

Last week, the House narrowly voted down an amendment that would have reined in the NSA’s indiscriminate practice of collecting the phone call records of all Americans.

The amendment, sponsored by Republican Jason Amash and progressive champion John Conyers, brought together a coalition of unlikely bedfellows from across the political spectrum, all united in opposition to the PATRIOT Act’s unconstitutional intrusion into the lives of Americans suspected of no wrongdoing.

There is something fundamentally un-American and deeply undemocratic about this kind of government surveillance.

Yet your member of Congress, Adam Smith, voted to continue allowing the NSA to spy on us.

Call Rep. Smith and and tell him that you will hold him accountable for his vote on the Amash/Conyers amendment. Click here for the number to call and a sample script.

The vote last week was the first chance for members of the House to respond to the recent, shocking revelations about NSA spying.

Despite the White House and Republican Leadership doing everything they could to stop it — including holding an emergency, classified members-only briefing after it became clear the amendment would be voted on — the Amash/Conyers amendment only lost by 12 votes.

While we lost this vote, we will continue to build on this result. And if we play our cards right, this is a fight we can win.

But in order to emerge stronger, we need to speak out now to make sure that the members who voted the wrong way hear from constituents who will hold them accountable for their betrayal of our constitutional rights.

Call Rep. Smith and and tell him that you will hold him accountable for his vote on the Amash/Conyers amendment. Click here for the number to call and a sample script.

Thank you for standing up for our civil liberties.

Matt Lockshin, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets