Paul Hampton

Some questions for our town hall–shy congressman

U. S. Representative Steve Palazzo addresses a packed lecture room during a Town Hall Meeting at the MGCCC Jackson County campus in Gautier in 2012.
U. S. Representative Steve Palazzo addresses a packed lecture room during a Town Hall Meeting at the MGCCC Jackson County campus in Gautier in 2012. File

If my boss had given me a score on my evaluation of 18 ouf of 100, I would either be scouring for work in the lawn-care field or smothering the boss with promises of all the ways I’ll be improving my performance, like, yesterday.

But I’m not in Congress, where Real Clear Politics’ most-recent polling average finds 18.6 percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing, proving even congresspeople have close relatives.

You’d think they’d be begging for forgiveness. But no, it seems an increasing number congressmembers are simply hoping the old adage “I hate Congress but love my congressperson” holds true for a few more election cycles. But meet with constituents? Uh, sorry. Busy. Folding socks that evening.

Our congressman, Rep. Steven Palazzo, has the perfect opportunity to explain himself and tell voters why — even though to the casual observer Congress resembles a train wreck more than a functioning government — we should continue to do business as usual. A group has made all the arrangements, it has found a place to have a town hall and publicized it. All Palazzo would have to do is show up with some answers.

It appears he won’t. Because he doesn’t have to. He won in 2016 by a vote of 181,000 to 77,000 for his nearest competitor.

So here are a couple of questions I would ask him if I ever had a chance to sit down and have a conversation and not just trade emails through a staffer.

It appears the government will be operating without a budget again and will pass a continuing resolution in the next few days just to keep the money flowing. The biggest flaw in that system is it welcomes spending for program such as a feasibility study on the use of hundred-dollar bills to light cigars. Mr. Palazzo, what have you done and what will you do to make Congress have a budget and stop using continuing resolutions to pay the government’s bills?

These CRs are supposed to fund programs at the same level as last year. Turns out, they don’t. Congress increases spending for some program and calls them “anomalies.” Then congresspeople head to talk radio and screech about out-of-control spending.

The deadline to get the CR done is Friday. And they’re not even close to a deal.

Sen. John McCain says he’d rather shut down government than pass a continuing resolution that doesn’t increase military funding. And the Democratic leadership is advising its members to vote “no” on a CR that has any money for a border wall.

President Donald Trump would like to take another shot at Obamacare by cutting some of its subsidies from the CR. Democrats in the Senate won’t back that and the GOP has to have some Democratic votes to get the bill through the Senate. Should be an interesting week.

Mr. Palazzo, will you vote to raise the retirement age for Social Security to 70, as proposed by Budget Director Mick Mulvaney? Will you vote to make income determine Medicare eligibility, also as proposed by Mulvaney? You’ve often said we have to reduce spending on mandatory programs such as Social Security. What spending would you reduce and how would you reduce it?

Congress blames Social Security for adding to the debt and likes to say it’s going broke.

The government does borrow money to meet its Social Security obligations. But the government owes Social Security about $3 trillion. By some estimates, even if the government paid that money back, the Social Security fund would be depleted by 2033.

And speaking of retirement, would you be in favor of taxing 401(k) plans? Some are floating this idea as a way to raise $1.5 trillion over 10 years. But people aren’t saving enough for retirement already. Some haven’t even saved enough to pay for an emergency medical bill or car repair. Taxing the plans would take away the major incentive to save.

See, that’s all the women setting up a town hall want: a chance to ask you questions. And get some answers.

Paul Hampton: 228-284-7296, @JPaulHampton

You can still talk

South Mississippi Indivisible will gather comments and questions and forward them to Rep. Steven Palazzo and Sens. Roger Wicker and Steven Palazzo.

What: Town hall

When: 2 p.m. Sunday

Where: DeMiller Hall, 610 Water St., Biloxi