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Massa conducts Penn Yen meeting

PENN YAN—It was standing room only Feb. 21 for Representative Eric Massa’s (D-NY) first town meeting in Yates County after being elected to represent the county in the 29th district.
The afternoon meeting at Millie’s Kitchen on Main Street in the village included a presentation and was preceded by a meeting with businesspeople from the county.
Massa told the audience, “The most controversial and difficult thing has been the stimulus bill.” Referring to a stack of folders about 12 inches high next to him, Massa said, “I did not vote casually. I read every page. It addresses almost every facet of our economy. If it hadn’t passed, Yates County could have looked at an 18 to 22 percent increase in taxes.” Massa said it has been extremely unpopular until people understood what it is.
Calling the current situation “the worst economic threat this country has seen since the Great Depression,” emphasizing the fact that there are no guarantees, Massa said, “It could be worse. That’s what Congress is trying to prevent. Inaction would have been disastrous.”
After comments, Massa took questions from the audience. County resident Bob Gillespie asked about bank legislation, adding, “Many feel proper bank regulation is needed.” Massa responded, “I voted against Troubled Asset Rescue package (TARP). I talked to the CEO of a major bank and asked how much money the band had received. I learned it was $38 billion.” Asked what was done with it, the CEO wouldn’t tell, citing a problem with competitors. Massa commented, “If we would just inject some common sense into it, people might think we know what the hell we’re doing. It’s critical we get our hands around it.”
Concerns about the possibility of the deficit ever being paid off had another audience member scared. Massa said New York is unique in their Medicaid process in that counties pay 25 percent of the cost through property taxes. The concern is that the cost of Medicaid will go up as more people lose their jobs and health insurance benefits and turn to Medicaid.
Bill Crain asked about the congressman’s plan for preventing further foreclosures. Massa said, “I don’t think the government should stand back and watch people lose their homes.” Massa would like to see balloon mortgages converted to 30-year fixed rate mortgages. He stated, “I believe this government has an obligation to react to this. If not, we’re looking at 1932.”
The war in Iraq and Afghanistan was also a topic of interest. Massa, who served in the Navy for 20 years, said, “Iraq is clearly the responsibility of the Iraqi government. The U.S. will be out in 16 to 18 months. It’s about time they step up and resolve their issues. I don’t think we ever should have gone there. Our responsibilities are complete.” Regarding Afghanistan, Massa said there is no one military solution. He feels the cycle of opium poppy cultivation needs to be broken. Earlier attempts to convert farmers to other crops were not successful in part because crops such as corn were suggested to be grown and the population there does not eat corn products, but grains such as milo.
Another question was regarding environmental impact of the process of extracting gas from Marcellus Shale. Massa said, “This has been a huge issue for two and a half years. It’s a significant threat to agriculture. The area is the largest natural gas supply in the world. A decision about public disclosure is to be made soon. It’s a huge issue facing the Northeast, particularly because there is now no mitigation or cost for water that must be used in the process.”
Massa fielded a number of questions from the audience that ranged from health care, the war, jobs, banks and gas mileage. Dr. Charles Stackhouse commented that the stock market is in a free fall. He said the stock market says the Democratic stimulus package is wrong, adding, “It’s falling because you are on the wrong track. How low will the market go?” The congressman answered, “About 6,000. If this hadn’t been passed, you’d almost be looking at 6,000 now. I hear what you are saying. It’s a valid concern. When and if the economy turns around we will have to be tremendously tight fisted.”
Health care was also brought up. One question was asked about the crisis in health care, noting a huge number of people have no financial protection against health problems. Massa said, “It will be terribly divisive. There are 27 industrialized nations in the world and we’re the only one with private insurance. The system today cannot work.” He said for-profit Health Maintenance Organizations can’t work and that 48 million Americans are without health insurance. He said, “I believe in universal health care; privately provided and publicly paid. It would be a unique solution to a unique American problem. Inaction is our worst enemy. This will be the greatest issue in the next three or four months.”
Near the conclusion of the session, Massa outlined his rationale for voting which included, “How do I feel about it? What is in the interest of the 29th District? What is good for the country? What is in the best of my ability to tell if it is constitutional?” He noted there would be some times when his four criteria would be in conflict, ending stating, “I didn’t go to Washington to be reelected. No one here will ever be 100 percent happy with me. We must be able to disagree with each other without being disagreeable. In Congress, many are trying to do the right thing. You have a new office in Washington. It’s not mine, it’s yours. Please get involved.
“We have to have some way to stabilize the downward spiral. If we don’t, we’re doomed.”
 




 


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