Why we don’t need Tom Garrett in Congress

Last month, the Rappahannock News published a letter from Virginia Del. Michael Webert titled, “Why we need Tom Garrett in Congress.” Both Mr. Webert’s statements and state Sen. Garrett’s pronouncements and track record would have us believe that Mr. Garrett would focus his efforts in Congress on job creation and many of the other important challenges facing working families. Instead, here is what his actual priorities appear to be.

A sample of legislation he has sponsored in the state Senate includes an option for court clerks to waive the $10 fee for a concealed carry permit and for home-schooled students to be permitted access to public school athletic programs … hardly the stuff that grows a great nation.

Mr. Webert cites Mr. Garrett’s intent to eliminate the “death tax” — the right’s loaded, rebranded name for the estate tax. The federal estate tax does not kick in until $5.45 million for individuals and $10.9 million for couples … hardly the kind of numbers most working families stay up nights worrying about.

He cites Mr. Garrett’s opposition to agribusiness regulations. Going back a generation, working families could celebrate a graduation or a family reunion with bushels of Chesapeake Bay steamed crabs bought at reasonable prices from numerous vendors and roadside stands. Now even our restaurants are forced to import from Asia and Central America because the production of Bay crabs had dropped to 5 percent — yes, 5 percent — of its peak. The same is true for once-plentiful oysters. Fortunately both crab and oyster harvests have begun to come back because of effective coordinated federal and state regulation of agribusiness and industrial effluents.

And on the obligatory position of the ideological right on restricting a woman’s decision on whether to have a child or not, Mr. Garrett is no exception. Women of financial means have always found ways to control their reproduction. However, as more states have passed restrictive laws, Google searches for DIY abortions have increased dramatically, as has the consequent morbidity and mortality, especially for women who are less advantaged. Rather than enable women to control their reproductive rights, Mr. Garrett would have us return to the era of coat hangers.

And of course, he is silent on the many challenges for helping children once they are born, with higher quality, affordable day care and better schools. Mr. Garrett has voted against numerous legislative initiatives in Virginia to improve our schools from pre-K through college. Instead of putting forward plans for making college more affordable, Mr. Garrett has proposed that students trade off their student loans by delaying their eventual retirement — not a savory choice.

On these and many other issues Mr. Garrett appears to favor special interests and ideological positions over everyday people’s needs, much like the Republican-controlled Congress has been for the last several years. Rather than focusing on completing an effective federal budget or improving the nation’s infrastructure, or dealing with so many other challenges, they are pursuing narrow ideological issues like trying to impeach the head of the IRS, because the agency dared to investigate whether donors to overtly political “charities” should really be able to avoid paying their fair share of taxes, or delaying much needed Zika virus funding because some small portion of the money might go to Planned Parenthood.

Every indication is that Mr. Garrett would readily join the Freedom Caucus — that is, the freedom from effective government caucus — or some other ideologically driven Republican group in Congress whose only achievement over the last several years has been to keep the federal government from functioning effectively without offering up any practical alternatives, especially when it comes to the interests of working families and the less advantaged.

The alternative is Jane Dittmar, who has a track record of actually leading effective working government and seeking win-win solutions. I think the choice is clear and this November I plan to cast my vote for her and hope that you do too.

Casey Eitner

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