Senator Russ Feingold is on a listening tour throughout Wisconsin, across a two week period that began on January 4th in Hartford. In his two week schedule, he'll visit S.E. Wisconsin (has already been or will be) four times. The Senator's schedule is available at http://feingold.senate.gov/listening/index.html.
I give the Senator credit for conducting these sessions, especially under the circumstances (health care reform, the economy, a president with dwindling popularity, etc.). Frankly, he is far more visible and engaged than his party colleagues that represent Wisconsin and S.E. Wisconsin. Other than casually or at a Bucks game, Herb Kohl is rarely seen and honestly, never available for a confrontational meeting with constituents. Does Gwen Moore ever come out anymore (not that she was all that visible before)? Would Gwen Moore entertain a townhall meeting ala a Feingold listening session? I doubt it.
So far, I haven't been able to get to one of the sessions but I have colleagues and friends that have gone. From all reports, including the news coverage, the Senator has been getting quite an ear-full, especially on health care reform. The things said to him are pretty blunt and virtually all not in favor of the present health reform legislation. To his credit, being the party loyalist that he is (forget the independent stuff he likes to tout or his maverick moniker as he is an unabashed Liberal Democrat), he is staunchly defending the reform process. Even when facing point blank questions about deficits and added spending within the health care reform bills, Senator Feingold stands fast and repeats the Obama administration lines about deficit reductions, bending the cost curve, etc. I guess that's why these are called 'listening sessions' rather than 'hearing sessions'.
What Senator Feingold is failing to hear is what his constituents, the people he is supposed to represent, are calling 'real concerns' about the reform bills and the economy. He also is failing to hear the voices in unison that repeat the same questions and concerns nationwide. Frankly, nothing says validation better than hearing the issues from your own state and then having the same issues repeated to you via the polls. For example, the job approval rating on health care for President Obama is at 38.5% (55% disapproval). The National Journal Heartland Monitor poll indicates that 55% of Americans state that the country is on the wrong track and 50% of all respondents would vote for someone other than President Obama (only 39% stating that they would vote for the President if the election were held today). For Senator Feingold's edification, 53% don't support the health care reform legislation presently pending in Washington (42.8% support). In some polls such as the CNN poll, the gap is even wider (57% oppose, 40% support). Source: http://www.pollster.com/
So Senator, thanks for stopping by and before you return to Washington, please review the following from a guy who spends thousands of hours a year researching and following health policy and economics. I may or not make it to one of your final sessions and even if I did, I wouldn't likely speak preferring to listen and 'hear' what you have to say to those who would speak.
- Read up on the subject matter Senator, including the text of the actual Senate and House bills. I know they are lengthy but if I can do it, so can you.
- Here's a great article on why health care costs so much and you should read it as well. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/06/01/090601fa_fact_gawande
- Use your government resources and read the analysis from the CMS Office of the Actuary on health care reform. Here's a link, just in case. http://www.cms.hhs.gov/ActuarialStudies/05_HealthCareReform.asp
- Go to my blog and read the analyses I've done on health care reform. You can find it at http://rhislop3.wordpress.com
I hope you have safe travels throughout the state and of course, a safe trip back to Washington where, after reading the above material and considering all the input at the sessions you conducted, you will vote based on the best interests of the people you represent in Wisconsin.