During the recent Congressional recess, House Budget Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) decided that he wasn’t going to hold any public face-to-face town meetings with the constituents in his district. Instead, according to Politico, he opted for town hall-style meetings that were strictly “pay-per-view.” And Ryan wasn’t the only member of Congress who chose to charge people for the privilege of speaking to them.
In a Politico article, Reid Epstein wrote:
By outsourcing the events to third parties that charge an entry fee to raise money, members of Congress can eliminate most of the riffraff while still — in some cases — allowing reporters and TV cameras for a positive local news story.
Evidently, Ryan didn’t want to be confronted at public forums with any protesters or with angry backlash or questions from voters upset with his positions on issues like taxes, Medicare, and Social Security—as he was last spring.
Yet, Ryan still faced angry Wisconsinites at a “pay-per-view” luncheon at a Rotary Club. One 71-year-old retired plumber was actually pushed to the ground and handcuffed by police at the event. Watch the videos:
It seems the natives have been getting restless in the Badger state. It’s hard to keep them quiet when the economy is in such trouble, so many people are unemployed, and some members of Congress insist on giving tax breaks to the wealthy and to corporations while the average American sees the quality of his/her middle-class life being eroded.
In a Mother Jones article dated August 26, 2011, Andy Kroll wrote:
Over the past week, hundreds of people, a mix of constituents and other angry Wisconsinites, have marched outside Ryan’s Kenosha and Racine offices, angry over what they see as Ryan’s inaccessibility and refusal to face his constituents in a free, public, in-person town hall. For four days, they also held sit-ins inside Ryan’s Kenosha office—until police kicked them out. The only in-person event on Ryan’s recess calendar is an appearance at a Rotary hall outside his district with a $15 entrance fee; by contrast, Ryan held more than a dozen town halls in 2009. “This is a jobs crisis in his congressional district, an emergency,” says Scott Page, 37, an unemployed Kenosha resident. “Yet he’s not even listening to his own constituents.”
David Dayen (FireDogLake) wrote that the major media didn’t appear to be perturbed by this “indictment of our system.” He wrote:
The elites are by now used to walling themselves off in Davos or Aspen, unable to hear the concerns of the people whose lives they hold in their hands. They get very embarrassed when they are confronted by the rabble. So much so that they get the authorities to push the rabble around and make sure they don’t step out of line again. This looks a lot like hiring Pinkerton thugs to break up union protesters in the 19th century to me.
Is this what life in a representative democracy should look like? Shouldn’t our representatives and senators hold town hall meetings where their constituents can speak to them in a public forum? Shouldn’t the politicians we send to Washington, D.C., be listening to the concerns and answering the questions of all of the people whom they represent? Isn’t that their job?
Talk to Paul Ryan? It’ll cost you (Politico)
Paul Ryan Dodges Angry Cheeseheads (Mother Jones)