“The people that I’ve talked to seem to be doing well. In fact, when I got out in restaurants here in town, people come up to me. They want to see more sequestration, not less.”
There is nothing new under the sun about the idea that a politician, in seeking to justify himself, will simply make something up about what his constituents want. And while the internet age has certainly exposed potential pitfalls, lying about one’s constituency has generally been something of a safe bet.
Perhaps that is changing.
Jennifer Bendery of Huffington Post reported yesterday on Missouri’s 7th District Congressman:
Nobody is particularly happy about the arbitrary, across-the-board spending cuts taking effect as a result of sequestration. That is, except for maybe Rep. Billy Long (R-Mo.), who said Tuesday that his constituents want even more cuts to kick in.
“The people that I’ve talked to seem to be doing well,” Long told local news affiliate KOLR10 News. “In fact, when I got out in restaurants here in town, people come up to me. They want to see more sequestration, not less.”
Long said people in other parts of the country may be feeling pain as a result of the $85 billion in cuts. But not his community.
“We haven’t seen any measurable effect here at all,” he said.
It is, of course, easy enough to make such a claim, especially if he just ignores anyone who might take issue with his assessment.
Like, for instance, his constituents. Bendery picked up the story again today:
Rep. Billy Long (R-Mo.) raised some eyebrows this week when he said that his constituents want more in sequestration cuts, not less, and that they aren’t feeling “any measurable effect” of the $85 billion in this year’s spending reductions.
It turns out that some constituents—in particular, those providing services to his district’s most vulnerable—beg to differ.
“I really can’t believe he actually said that,” said Carl Rosenkranz, executive director of the Ozarks Area Community Action Corporation, a not-for-profit that provides Head Start, housing, family planning and other services for the poor across 10 counties in southwestern Missouri. Seven of those counties fall into Long’s district.
“He’s basing it on nothing,” Rosenkranz told The Huffington Post. “Just a minimal understanding of what we’re going through here would help.”
Rosenkranz said his organization specifically sent a press release to Long’s local and D.C. offices on April 26 outlining all the reductions it has to make to its Head Start program because of sequestration. The cuts, which translate to more than $600,000 out of the organization’s budget, mean that it’s closing five Head Start classrooms, reducing enrollment at three Early Head Start locations and laying off 42 staffers. About 200 children are losing their Head Start slots, and another 81 staff positions are being “reorganized.”
“It’s been in the news, the Springfield News-Leader, on KYTV in Springfield … It’s been all over the place down here. I don’t know how he could miss that,” Rosenkranz said of Long. “We are facing cuts in all our programs.”
A request for comment from Long’s office was not returned.
At some point we must come to terms with the obvious, that it simply isn’t of political utility to say, “Sequestration? Cuts? Hell, I like hurting people, so bring ’em on!”
True, that’s a bit in the realm of hyperbole, but it really is hard to figure out just how this works as Republicans attempt to both celebrate the sequester and criticize it in order to badger the White House. I mean, come on, it probably is safer, in the end, for someone like Rep. Long to lie about his constituency because the genuine truth is repugnant and even more ridiculous.
To his credit, though, Rep. Long did, in fact, vote against the FAA fix jammed through Congress last week.