By Brown Pulliam
Bedford’s Congressman, Rep. Seth Moulton held forth on Saturday, April 8 in a public meeting at the North Shore Community College in Lynn attended by approximately 230 interested citizens. To my knowledge, Lois and I were the only ones from Bedford. The [hour-long] event began with Moulton offering a short summary of how he is trying to do his job, which he categorized into three fields: International, Domestic, and 6th District affairs. He singled out veteran’s affairs as one of his top priorities, mentioning some improvements in access to services that he has advocated, as well as pointing out that he has opted to get his health care through the VA rather than the Congressional Health Service that serves most of the other members of Congress.
Moulton then mentioned a few achievements of interest to his Lynn constituents, such as some expansion in business at the local General Electric plant resulting in some new hiring. He also touched on a bill he has introduced, the Young Fisherman’s Development Act, and discussed his efforts to bring local fishing interests to the same table with scientists and regulators who are charged with bringing fish populations back to and keeping them at sustainable levels.
He cited his number one Washington priority as “Standing up to President Trump”, saying “We deserve a president who supports the Constitution.” This brought most of the hall to a standing applause. At the same time, he spoke of the necessity for finding areas of common ground with at least some Republicans.
Moulton then said the Democrats need to take a look in the mirror because reforms within the party are needed. He then mentioned his willingness to buck the Democratic establishment, saying no one should just be a rubber stamp for Nancy Pelosi.
It is important that the conversation be about the future of our country, Moulton said, not looking back to what can no longer be. Many jobs are being lost, not to people, but to robots. There is no realistic hope of returning to 1965. A necessary condition for a good country is a thriving middle class. When asking why so many union members voted Republican, ask the question why did the Democrats abandon the unions? Above all, he added, believe in little things called ‘facts’.
The floor was then opened to questions from constituents:
- A woman stated that her son is incarcerated for a drug offense and has been subjected to extended periods of isolation, which she feels is doing him great harm. She asked what can be done about reforming the criminal justice system? Moulton complemented the woman for having the courage to bring her situation out into the open and said many aspects of the ‘justice’ system are in need of change. He then admitted that was unlikely to happen in the current political situation. He went on to mention the opioids crisis as a failure in our system.
- A younger man asked about getting back to the constitutional system that requires Congress to have a major part of a decision to go to war. Moulton agreed that the present laws that give declaration of war powers to the President must be revised. He also said that we should be making more use of the State Department and that diplomacy is a necessary component of any process to attain sustainable security.
- A woman, a professional educator, expressed her concern for budget cuts that will impact not only education but programs like Meals on Wheels, that assure all students would have enough to eat. In response, Moulton held up a blank sheet of paper and said that he had listed all the good features of the Trump budget and this was it. He then went on to say “Education is a necessary investment in our future”
- Another woman expressed concern about the unusually large expense of moving the President, his family, and his entourage between Florida, Washington, and New York City. Moulton shared her concerns and stated his own about the sudden increase in the tasks of the Secret Service.
- A highly disgruntled and persistent hand raiser was finally recognized and stated that over a year ago 265,000 General Electric retirees had their company health benefits terminated. He said he has gotten nowhere in dealing with four government agencies that are involved, and what help can Moulton offer? Moulton deplored the way large corporations have just been walking away from long-standing pension and other traditional retirement benefits. He did not offer to solve that problem but strongly urged any constituent, on an individual basis, to contact his office at any time. He also said he has held more “Town Meetings” for constituents than any other current Member of Congress.
- A man expressed his concerns about excessive presidential use of the 757 aircraft, and general lack of transparency in our government. Moulton said he would like to have most governmental documents maintained online in searchable form. He said he posts all of his votes on major issues on his website with an explanation of why he voted for or against.
- A black homeless woman (who was apparently already known to Moulton) asked: ”What is the difference between economic development and upscale gentrification?” She went on to say her regular income does not cover any “affordable” housing she has seen, and that many more really affordable homes are needed. She closed with “Opportunity is not equal.” Moulton could only agree.
Moulton said he had time for just one more question. After seven good questions, someone must have decided we need an alternative question, so a woman got up and asked, “With all these immigrants coming in, how are you going to protect our country from Sharia Law?”
Moulton began with the U.S. Constitution, pointing out that no rule of any religion or sect has any legal standing. He pointed out that refugees get the most extensive vetting and this makes it the most difficult way to get into our country. He then described an incident when he was serving in Iraq as a Lieutenant in the Marine Corps. One day, Mohammed, his translator, came to him and said he could no longer work for him because of threats being received by his family. Moulton persuaded him that the United States valued all people who worked in its behalf, and would protect his family. The translator stayed on the job. Moulton then said, “With the administration we have now, I could not have made that claim”. The woman kept talking while Moulton was speaking, so she was apparently not convinced.