On our meeting with Rep. Dave Reichert

Last Friday, Linda Boyd, Robert Sargent, and I (Don Smith) had a meeting with 8th CD US Congressman Dave Reichert (R), at his Mercer Island office. This was the third time that I’d attended a meeting with Reichert. Each time we told him we were loosely affiliated with MoveOn. The affiliation with MoveOn has been getting progressively weaker.

The first meeting with Reichert was in early 2007; the second meeting was in early 2008. You can read a report on the second meeting here.

Reichert prides himself on being willing to talk with all his constituents. In the past he has bragged that as county sheriff he had to deal with all sorts of people, including thieves and murderers. So he’s not afraid to talk with us! Reichert has also been willing to chat with me after speeches at, for example, candidates’ forums.

But Friday’s meeting was somewhat different in tone from the earlier ones. He was less friendly and more defensive.

We went to his office last Friday with low expectations of changing Reichert’s views. More than in my past meetings, Reichert seemed unwilling even to hear us out or concede the need for moderation in Republican policies. During the meeting, Reichert angrily stood up at one point and threatened to leave, because Robert Sargent had interrupted him and challenged him about the fairness of Republican tax cuts. Reichert indignantly called for politeness. Robert apologized and exiting the office, leaving Linda and me to speak with Reichert for the rest of the meeting, his aide sat beside him.

In my past meetings with Reichert, he had been informal and friendly, willing to let down his guard, smile and joke. Perhaps this time his staff did research on the Internet about Linda, Robert or my activities and views. This time Reichert seemed testy and defensive. He was also dressed impeccably, with his hair neatly coiffed. Last fall, at the candidates’ forum in Newcastle, Reichert seemed unwell. He had recently recovered from his accident with the tree — which had fallen on his head. As I reported in my article about the forum US Congressman Dave Reichert doesn’t know what the Glass-Steagall Act, Reichert complained of his voice being weak. But on Friday Reichert seemed back in form.

Linda asked Reichert whether he supported the Glass-Stegall Act — last fall he hadn’t known what it is, despite the fact that Seattle Times editorial board had asked him about it. Linda reminded him what it is. Reichert said, “We’re still looking at that.” Such deliberation!

I asked Reichert whether he still agrees with what he said at the Newcastle forum: that the Bush tax cuts for the rich were a bad idea. Reichert had said, at the forum, that he was reading a book on the topic and that, despite being a Republican, he agrees that the tax cuts were a mistake.

On Friday Reichert seemed to backtrack. He said that the tax cuts were a mistake only in the context of the increased spending that Bush had caused. Obviously, you can’t both cut taxes and increase spending.

Robert, Linda, and I kept hammering away — with various levels of politeness — about the issue of unfair taxation. But Reichert wouldn’t budge. He said that we’re in the budget mess because of uncontrolled spending, not because we tax too little. He said that the main complaints of (small) business owners is that they want two things: (1) certainty about taxes, and (2) less regulation. When I mentioned that deregulation was one of the main causes of the sub-prime crash, he didn’t respond.

Reichert said that raising taxes would harm S-corporations.

Linda asked Reichert whether he’d agree to eliminate tax breaks or raise taxes on the rich, as part of a deal to raise the debt ceiling. He said he opposes raising taxes. But he’d probably end up agreeing to raise the debt limit.

Reichert said that he might be willing to agree to some cuts to the military budget. But he wouldn’t agree to any fixed percents — 1%, 5%, 10%. He’d leave that up to the congressional committees responsible for that issue. Reichert was noncommittal about the budget issue. He said that the decisions are made by others. “I don’t know. You don’t know.” This might be the truth. Most of the real decisions might be made behind closed doors. Still, that doesn’t absolve Reichert — or us — from taking steps to affect the final outcome.

(Of course, it’s disingenuous to claim that we’re in the mess due to too much spending and regulation. The high spending is largely due to Bush’s unfunded, mismanaged, and unjustified wars, and due to the need to prevent a depression in the wake of the sub-prime crash — which was largely caused by deregulation. It’s also disingenuous to say that the tax cuts benefit small businesses. The tax cuts benefit mostly the multi-national corporations and the super-rich. Small businesses can’t get loans from the banks. Republicans always say that taxes cost jobs. Historically, that hasn’t been so Besides, the concentration of wealth is so skewed, the debt is so high, and tax rates are so low compared to just a few decades ago. Failing to raise taxes on the rich is irresponsible. Of course, bankrupting government via tax cuts is at the core of the GOP plan to drown government in a bathtub and dismantle 75 years of reform.)

Reichert brought up the topic of Israel and its economic successes. He’s reading a book “Start-up nation” that extolls the power of (small) businesses to drive economic success. In response to Linda and my pleas for reduced military spending, Reichert mentioned that much of the Israeli success resulted from innovations and inventions that arose from the Israeli defense establishment. I said, “Oh, so government programs can do good.” I’m not sure Reichert heard that remark, but his aide shot me a look.

After the meeting, Linda and I found Robert slumped in a bench across the street.

Linda Boyd posted her short and effective post-meeting letter to Reichert here.

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