EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 23, 2013

Your view: Letters to the editor

The Eagle-Tribune

---- — O’Connor Ives owes us an explanation on minimum wage

To the editor:

Last week, state Sen. Kathleen O’Connor Ives voted in opposition to a bill that proposes to raise the state minimum wage to $11 over the course of three years and index it to the rate of inflation thereafter (S. 1925, “An act to restore the minimum wage”). She was just one of seven senators to do so, and (thankfully) the bill passed the state Senate overwhelmingly.

During debate of the bill, Sen. O’Connor Ives proposed amendments to, among other things, raise the minimum wage instead to just $9 per hour (a mere dollar increase over the current rate of $8 per hour) and nullify the portion of the bill that would index it to inflation. These amendments starkly contrast with her stated positions on these matters just last year. In questionnaire responses she submitted to Progressive Massachusetts, a grassroots political advocacy group, Sen. O’Connor Ives expressed support for both a $10 minimum wage and indexing it to inflation. So, I wonder: Aside from her no longer chasing after Progressive Massachusetts’ endorsement, what caused her to change her mind?

On her Facebook page, Sen. O’Connor Ives explains that her opposition and her various amendment proposals are borne out of concern for the impact she thinks the bill would have on small businesses. If the bill were to become law, some businesses will, indeed, have to become more efficient, absorb some costs and otherwise adapt. But she ignores the fact that many more businesses will benefit from the wage increase, as it will lead to greater consumer purchasing power and, therefore, demand.

Both on her Facebook page post and in her opposition to the bill, she also ignores the concerns of workers who live in abject poverty, thousands of whom live in her district. Whether it’s struggling to keep up with the state’s high cost of living or worrying about how they’ll afford the next meal for themselves and their children, the concerns of the working poor certainly have not changed over the course of the last year.

I believe Sen. O’Connor Ives owes the working poor, as well as the progressives who supported her last year, an explanation.

Bill Taylor


Why did Tsongas fail to vote on ‘Keep Your Health Care’ bill?

To the editor:

There are very few times in which the whole country is talking about a domestic policy issue, and even fewer times when nearly everyone is agreed on that issue. Left and right, it’s hard to find someone who does not believe the rollout of Obamacare is a disaster — even if people disagree vehemently about the solutions.

Even people who normally pay little attention to politics are talking about this issue and are worried that they may lose their health insurance, and wonder what happened to President Obama’s constant reassurance that if they like their policy, they can keep it.

And left, right and center, committed and uncommitted, active or not, one thing people all expect from their member of Congress: When something as important as this comes up, your minimum responsibility is to vote on it. That’s what we pay you for.

Apparently, my representative, Niki Tsongas has a different idea of her job description than I do.

On Friday Nov. 15, 2013, the U.S. House of Representatives voted on a bill entitled the “Keep Your Health Care Act of 2013, it was HR 3350. The purpose of this bill was to make good on the promise of President Obama when he said, repeatedly, that “if you like your health care you can keep it.” There were variations on that statement, but this captures the gist of all of them.

The bill passed in the House on a vote of 261-157. On the yes side of the vote were 222 Republicans and 39 Democrats. That is 96.5 percent of the Republicans in the House and 19.5 percent of the Democrats. It isn’t what I would call bipartisan, but in this political climate, that’s about as close as it gets.

It was certainly well supported by members of the Democratic party for something being introduced by the other political party. There were also 12 non-voting members (four Republicans and eight Democrats) who refused to vote on the major issue of the day.

The president made this statement, over and over. Then when it turned out that it wasn’t true, under enormous political pressure (from both sides), he came out, held a press conference and said, OK, you can keep it — until after the next election.

The problem is, without a law being passed that makes this real, he can’t just decide what the law is. That isn’t the process. It’s another empty promise. And one year? That wasn’t the promise in the first place, either.

This bill passed by the House, intends to make good on that presidential promise — forever. If you have a plan you like (that has not yet been canceled of course because you can’t turn back time) you can keep it.

Niki Tsongas was one of the handful of non-voting members. Does she not think we should keep our health care? We don’t know. How can someone claiming to represent us not take care of this most pressing issue?

I think we should be able to allow our president to keep his promise. Apparently, if I were a Massachusetts representative, I would be in the minority, because not a single Massachusetts congressman voted in favor of this. Do they disagree with the president? Is it merely because a Republican introduced the bill?

When Congresswoman Tsongas voted for the Affordable Care Act, did she know the president’s reassurances used to sell it were empty? Most economists did. Did she read the bill, or figure we should pass it in order to find out what was in it?

We may not get answers to that, or to why Tsongas couldn’t be bothered to vote that day, but one thing is certain. Tsongas and her staff are not losing their health insurance while the general public is losing out, quickly, as a direct result of what she originally could be bothered to vote in favor of.

Timothy Imholt