The Baystate Objectivist

The Baystate Objectivist

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Dirty Dozen

The membership of Richard Neal.

Continuing to bring online articles that many Valley politicians wish would be forgotten, here's one about Congressman Richard Neal's role in defeating the Balanced Budget Amendment. (click to enlarge)

Originally published in The Baystate Objectivist May 1995

The Rayburn Building on Capitol Hill is probably the appropriate place for the offices of Newt Gingrich, Speaker of the House. After all, the building is named after Sam Rayburn, a former speaker who in his day ruled the House with an iron hand, much in the same way some critics say Gingrich does today.

Gingrich's office is #2428, located across the hall from office #2431. While Gingrich's power and prestige has soared dramatically since the Republican takeover of the House, the fortunes of his across the hall neighbor have undergone a dramatic decline. These are not happy days for the occupant of office 2431. His name is Richard Neal.

Despite the attempts of local media outlets like the Springfield Newspapers to imply otherwise through a series of laughable puff pieces, the elections of 1994 were a disaster for the congressional career of Congressman Richard Neal. His misfortunes are greater than just the dramatic loss of power all Democrats suffered when the Republicans took over Congress. For Neal, the election represented the near complete loss of whatever power and influence (what politicians like to call "clout") he had built up over his previous three terms.

In 1992 House Democrats were dismayed when Republicans managed to force to a vote a constitutional amendment mandating a balanced federal budget. What was so alarming was that many Democrats, who were opposed to the amendment, had hypocritically attached their names as sponsors of the amendment, confident that the Democratic leadership would never allow it to come up for a vote. That way many Democrats could have it both ways, telling their constituents that they were co-sponsors of the balanced budget amendment, while not having to actually vote for it.

However, the Republicans unexpectedly invoked a procedural move that forced the bill to the floor, putting many Democrats in the awkward position of looking like hypocrites if they suddenly refused to support a bill which they themselves had co-sponsored. Worse, so many Democrats had signed on to the amendment when they thought it would never come up for a vote, that if all the sponsors voted for their own bill, the balanced budget amendment would pass. Among those Democrat co-sponsors was Richard Neal.

If the Democrats were going to defeat the balanced budget amendment, then they would have to get a dozen members to vote against the bill which they themselves had sponsored, an action those twelve might find difficult to explain to the voters back home. Some political cover was provided by cooking up a sudden, vague claim that Social Security might somehow be endangered by the amendment (but then they had to cross their fingers and hope that few voters would ask why, if that were the case, they had co-sponsored the bill in the first place.) The Democrats also whipped up a watered down, loophole filled version of the amendment to offer as an alternative, which wouldn't have balanced the budget within the lifetime of anyone now living, but that version went down to a lopsided defeat.

Richard Neal and Bill Clinton

So forced to hold a vote on the real thing, the Democrat leadership began pleading with Democrats from "safe seats" - members who had only weak opposition in that year's elections - to risk a vote that might otherwise damage their chances for re-election. Yet even when those with safe seats agreed to take the risk, the Democrats were still two or three votes short.

Richard Neal did not have what was considered a safe seat. He faced major opposition in the Democrat primary from popular City Councilor Kateri Walsh, the highest vote-getter in the previous municipal election. Also in the primary way Charles Platten, a candidate running to the left of Neal and who threatened to cut deeply into Neal's support among local liberals, especially in left leaning sections of the district like Northampton. If he survived the primary, Neal then had to face Republican Anthony Ravosa, whose family had been engaged in a long running, sometimes bitter feud with Neal and his political machine.

Yet in the end Neal reneged on his sponsorship of the balanced budget amendment, providing one of the key votes needed to insure its defeat. The resulting criticism in the national media of those who helped to kill the amendment was harsh. Dubbed by the national media as "The Dirty Dozen" it was one of the few times Neal attracted national media attention, and nearly all of it was negative. Even commentators who opposed the balanced budget amendment considered the action of Neal and his eleven cohorts as an example of political hypocrisy at its worst.

Yet while "The Dirty Dozen" were subjects of scorn in the national media, our own local media barely acknowledged Neal's role in the fiasco. In the manner typical of the way he is treated locally whenever there is something negative to report, Neal's actions were only briefly acknowledged and then dropped, never to be mentioned again. Kateri Walsh tried to make an issue of Neal's vote in her campaign for congress, but since the issue had received so little local publicity, few voters grasped exactly what she was talking about.

In the September primary a majority of local Democrats (53%) voted to replace Neal as their party's nominee, but since the anti-Neal vote was split between Walsh and Platten, Neal was still renominated. In the general election, Richard Neal held his seat, in part with the help of the Springfield Newspapers, who kept Ravosa constantly on the defensive over never proven allegations involving Ravosa family business practices.

Some social scientists doubt whether alcoholism can be inherited, but I believe that it is, especially looking at my own family history.

According to

Alcoholism tends to run in families, and genetic factors partially explain this pattern. Currently, researchers are on the way to finding the genes that influence vulnerability to alcoholism. A person's environment, such as the influence of friends, stress levels, and the ease of obtaining alcohol, also may influence drinking and the development of alcoholism. Still other factors, such as social support, may help to protect even high-risk people from alcohol problems.
Risk, however, is not destiny. A child of an alcoholic parent will not automatically develop alcoholism. A person with no family history of alcoholism can become alcohol dependent.

Hey you freaks and geeks! Don't forget to attend your craft fair this Sunday in Hadley at the American Legion Hall.

Last night I was with a friend in the Hotel Northampton. This is the hotel Christmas tree.

I won't tell you what I was doing in the hotel. This is the UMass Christmas tree.

Every year it is put up by the UMass Republican Club. Originally it was meant to be a stick in the eye of the atheistic campus leftists, but it has come to be a beloved campus tradition admired by all. Of course the predictable disclaimers are required. (click to enlarge)

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Grateful Dead.

1 comment:

Don said...

One of the valuable things about pre-1980, the earlier the better, GD footage is that it is a reminder that jolly Santa Jerry and his earthy-crunchy elves used to be, and stunningly somehow morphed from, the sinister Captain Trips, Pure Libido Pen, and the rest of the gang of madmen. High Bliss is impossible without its flip side, Deep Terror.