October 21, 2014
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Whitehouse serves answers to hot crowd
Warwick Beacon photo
NO SHORTAGE OF QUESTIONS: Senator Sheldon Whitehouse answers questions at Sunday’s dinner at Pilgrim, as a member of the audience seeks to be recognized.

Tradition has meatballs, pasta and salad on the table when Senator Sheldon Whitehouse holds one of his community dinner meetings and that was the case Sunday at Whitehouse’s 114th dinner-get-together; his first since re-election last fall.

But there was more on the menu, and it wasn’t just the dessert cookies. It could have been hot peppers, because some of the more than 120 in the Pilgrim High School cafeteria were steaming; whether the topic was the national debt, Obama Care, gun control or the sequester.

Speaking of the fiscal cliff, John Kennedy of Warwick said, “These are all made-up situations. You guys don’t play well in the sandbox and we’re tired of it. When are you guys going to get going?”

Kennedy was just getting started.

“We’re tired of the BS. We are done with Congress, we’re sick and tired of it. We’ve been hit and hammered and we’re done. I’m done.”

When the applause died, Whitehouse agreed cuts could be made but that Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security should be protected.

“All I can say is, give it a chance,” said Whitehouse.

Senator Jack Reed, who also turned up, said there have been some bi-partisan efforts, adding, however, “We have to search for ways to move forward.”

That wasn’t enough to satisfy another member of the audience.

“None of us stand a chance,” the diner said. “Only in Washington can you do a bad job and get a raise.”

But then Whitehouse suggested there was another place.

“On Wall Street, a lot of people stayed and they should have been fired,” he said.

In his opening remarks, Whitehouse said his work in Congress could be “extremely frustrating,” adding, “I never forget that America stands for something in the world.”

He apologized for the way things are going right now. He called the sequester “unfortunate” and said he hopes matters will be worked out by the end of spring.

Of the $4 trillion needed in cuts or added revenues over the next 10 years, Whitehouse said $2.4 trillion has already been done, leaving $1.6 trillion to go. Of that, he believes, half should come in government cuts with the balance being new revenue from closing loopholes in the tax code and eliminating some deductions, which, he claimed, is costing $11 trillion.

As an example of a loophole, Whitehouse cited Facebook, which he said made $11 billion in profits yet was actually given federal funds.

“We don’t have to raise any rates, we just look at the loopholes,” he said.

One new tax Whitehouse said he favors is a financial transaction rate that he put at 3 cents per $100.

“It would be invisible to the people,” he said.

Closing tax loopholes sounded good to some in the audience, but one man said he had heard that before. He asked when Whitehouse would do it.

“I’m for it right now,” Whitehouse answered.

Another attendee wanted to know why federal employees aren’t in Obama Care.

“Wouldn’t we be better off if we all had the same benefits as the politicians?” he asked.

Rob Cote, who led the Warwick Car Tax Revolt, called the math being used by government officials “pure fiction.” He questioned how consumer spending can be up and inflation down when gasoline and other costs keep going up.

“It’s designed to tell the economy is good and the economy is not good,” he said.

“Why can’t there be a tax stimulus for us,” said one woman. “I’m old enough to retire, but I can’t. We feel like we’ve lost what we’ve been working for for years.”

Discussion also focused on guns and the tragedy of Newtown.

Gail Hogan of Cranston, secretary of the Rhode Island State Rifle and Revolver Association, spoke of proposed state legislation that would require the registration of all gun owners, along with the payment of a $100 fee. She wanted to know where Whitehouse stood on gun control.

Whitehouse said he favored a ban on “super capacity magazines,” which provoked an outburst from Cote and others.

“I get that, you disagree with me,” Whitehouse said pressing on to his next point.

“I want to make sure there are not so many loopholes in background checks,” he said.

Reed joined in, saying that some semi-automatic guns were clearly designed as military weapons.

He added, “It’s not just about the weapon; it’s about the person. We can improve background checks.”

Warwick School Committee member Gene Nadeau asked both senators how they could saddle future generations with such debt.

Whitehouse said the administration was handed the debt of two wars, bad policies and a recession.

“I suppose President Obama had nothing to do with it,” one man piped up.

“Very little,” Whitehouse responded to laughs.

Keeping his word, Whitehouse cut off publicly addressed questions after 8 p.m. but said he would stay as long as it took to talk with anyone who wanted.

At 8:30 there was still a circle of people around him.


Comments
5 comments on this item

National Debt when Obama took office Sheldon: 6 trillion. National debt now Sheldon: 16 trillion. 'Very little' indeed. Lying politician. Unbelievable.

Poorly written both factually and grammatically and detail wise. Now to the points of clarification.

John Kennedy clearly articulated the point that currently there appears to be no working relationship between both parties. He substantiated his point by stating that he is tired of finger pointing and watching the democrats blame everything on the republicans. He stated that he felt that he could not trust the information coming out of Washington and that Obama was using scare tactics pertaining to the gloom and doom we would suffer under the sequester.

James Burns questioned Senator Whitehouse about Obamacare. His point was that if Obamacare is hailed as such a great idea for Americans, then Mr. Whitehouse should commit to leaving his gold plated heath care plan and go on the books with Obamacare. The Senator back paddled and went off on his own philibuster indicating that there was an "EXCHANGE" for people without healthcare and that they could pick from a pool of providers to gain healthcare. He continued saying that since congress is on the federal employee healthcare program there was no need for him to go to the "EXCHANGE". One person asked for the phone number of the "EXCHANGE". No answer was given.

Rob Cote made a very clear and distinct point in his comments. He stated that he had no tolerance for the fiction that is currently coming out of Washington. He spoke specifically about the Consumer Spending Index and the Inflation Index numbers that were released last week showing spending up and inflation down. He reminded Senator Whitehouse that the cost of food and fuel has been removed from the Inflation Index formula, however that it was still contained within the consumer spending formula. He asked why was the costs of food and fuel not included in consumer spending as these items are not discretionary expenses, and hence, the numbers are not accurate and dont effect the true condition of the economy. Whitehouse said he would get back to him as he did not know the answer.

Gail Hogan continued to make the point that the proposed gun legislation does nothing to crack down on criminals and gave an example that Chicago has the most stringent laws and the highest gun crime. She pointed out the the legislation targets law abiding citizens and amounts to a sneaky backdoor tax.

Then there was the honorable and very articulate School Committee member Gene Nadeau. ( the only Warwick elected official with the integrity to ask a question and corner an official). Mr. Nadeau refreshed Senator Whitehouse's memory on a recent speech that he gave indicating that "Global Warming was the biggest problem and most important issue facing Americans today. Mr. Nadeau gave factual testimony as to what our students, approaching high school graduation, are facing in reall life. He pointed out how our schools are failing in their duties to our students and that the uncontrolled spending in Washington is bankrupting our children and grandchildren. His words were emotional, heartfelt, and accurate.

A resident named Janice asked why her car taxes have increased when the newspapers have published articles about Mayor Avedisian boasting a 2 million dollar surplus. Senator Whitehouse refered her to Warwick City council members in attendance, who naturally and arrogantly said nothing. Rob Cote answered and gave the analogy that much like the fact that food and fuel are not included in the inflation index, Mayor Avedisian convienently removes the 600+ million dollars in unfunded liabilities in the city's balance sheets to post a ficticious 2 million dollar surplus.

The strongest and most profound reactions came from the Warwick Elected officials in attendance. Mayor Scott Avedisian, Rep. Frank Ferri, Rep. Joe Shekarchi, Councilwoman Vella Wilkinson and councilman Tom Chadronet. In less that 3 minutes after Senator Whitehouse was introduced, Mayor Avedisian, adorned in jeans, sneakers, and a sweatshirt, slipped out the back door of the cafeteria. The rest of the Warwick delegation stood silently, (with exception to the photo op when the Senator arrived) and brought nothing to the forum whatsoever. Typical behavior on the part of the 2 council members, but none the less, shamefull and yet another display of incompetence. Why didnt any of our elected officials offer any words of encouragement, progress, or compassion for the people that took the time out of their day to be part of the political process. Answer: They dont care.

I agree with the above 2 comments. I too was there!

Also note another big thing that didn't make it into the Beacon.

Both Senators bragged about how they had a well studied and well thought plan to lower the defecit over the next 10 years but neither Reed nor Whitehouse could answer the most basic fundemental question. "How much are the interest only payments costing each year." ( How much are we spending on the debt.)

Reed guessed 160 Billion and Whitehouse didn't know.

I spoke to both senators and emphasized to them that noone in the room including could answer how much are the interest only payments on America's $16 T debt.

It at best troubeling they couldn't answer because moments before they bragged about how they studied and are fixing the defecit.

Troubleing when they couldn't answer my question.

Read answered me, 160 Billion? I said No senator, 365 billion.

Whitehouse didn't know and yet there he stood an hour ealier saying how he helped plan a 10 year prospect into the future.

When I asked random people in the crowd, one at a time, how much do they think we spend noone knew, or could guess.

I said to the Senators both you are failing the people not knowing and not educating people. Nobody has a clue the debt actually costs money.

The people should KNOW what we spend each year and how much we will be spending 10 years from now when the debt is $20 Trillion and how much it will cost when debt is $26 Trillion.

I said, It's ironic we are standing in a highschool of the kids who will have to pay for the debt and yet people here DONT KNOW WHAT WE PAY?? Do these people think we borrow the money from a friend that is not charging interest?

I said none of them know anything about what reality of the payments we pay because you fail us.

I stated to both Senators I know that you guys pray eventually something fixes the economy while endlessly spending more borrowed money. You hope to kick the can down the road a little Senators pray things turn around. He admitted I was right. They hope kicking the can down the road will be enough time to stall so an improving economy can then correct the path of this downward spiral.

I said, that's not wise, The debt is already too high and the prospects you hope happen may not materialize.Then what.

Another economic boom you pray for may not realistically happen and the American people will not be prepared for it.

You are all to busy grandstanding on the Senate floor that your lowered the defeciet by a few dollars while the debt continues at record pace.

I said, I understand your economic theory that when the economy goes into a slump it's a good time to invest in infrastructure but honestly I seriously don't think this is a temporary slump and you may be putting us far too deep in debt.

I reminded them both the invention of the personal home computer in the 90's that included sales to the entire world of our American made hardware, software and websites gave us a strong economy and our investments really took off when investors took advantage of that booming technology and the lowered tax on investment income.

That all was great it really was, but I seriously believe it was a rogue wave. It was not the normality of America's future and we may never see an economic boom like that again.

We want to believe that will happen again, and these two Senators definately want to keep borrowing until it does. But we seriously should be preparing for a wake up call.

I said to them in my final comment the 2% sequester was a missed opportunity to teach the American people this may be a sample of things to come if America can't find something new to develope and produce to the world.

I said, The fact that our government is taking loan after loan because for now we are affording only the interest is not going to end well if we keep going down this road.

It is scary to know politicians are good at "the blind leading the blind".

Other than that, I have no strong feeling on the subject.

Can't argue with the points above...here's a question for Mr. Whitehouse..."If you can't fix the volume on TV's, how do you propose to fix global warming? I am prepared to wait till hell freezes over for an answer...

Fenceman and JustBeacuse, Thank you for reporting the real story.

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