THE BLOG
01/21/2013 11:01 am ET Updated Mar 23, 2013

How Do Republicans Like Boehner Get Reelected?

Americans are largely split in their reaction to the "fiscal cliff" agreement, but united in their dislike for the role played by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), according to a Washington Post/ABC poll released Jan. 8.

While President Obama won a majority of support for his handling of the crisis, as 52 percent of Americans approved of his approach and 37 percent disapproved, John Boehner saw a 20-point net negative rating, with 31 percent approving and 51 percent disapproving of his handling of the deal.

Ohioans have elected Mr. Tan, rested and ready to office 11 times despite the fact that there is no other politician on Capitol Hill who more embodies the ethic of sell-your-soul-to-the-1-percent. Mad about the bailouts of bad banks? Blame Boehner. As Matt Taibbi pointed out in a 2011 article in Rolling Stone, "the $700 billion bailout of the absurdly irresponsible megabanks that got us into the financial crisis -- is a classic example of what Boehner is all about. Boehner, who at that point had collected nearly $4 million from the finance and insurance sectors, backed TARP from the start."

Incredibly, Boehner takes offense at politicians for getting free perks but not at accepting contributions from the business lobby for doing its bidding. Shortly after first being elected in 1991, Boehner joined up with a group of other freshmen congressmen to form the so-called Gang of Seven, which blasted Democratic congressional leaders for getting free haircuts at the House barbershop and free meals at the Senate restaurant. Forget about free haircuts: Boehner was soon caught literally handing out free checks from the tobacco lobby on the floor of the House. This was 1995; the House was voting to consider an end to federal subsidies of the tobacco industry, and Boehner went on the floor and handed out, by his own admission, "a half-dozen" donation checks from the tobacco lobby to various members.

Boehner received hundreds of thousands of dollars from for-profit colleges and the private-student-loan industry -- and then sponsored laws that restricted the Department of Education from making less expensive government loans to students, pushing for federal subsidies for loans for private colleges and trade schools, despite the fact that student loan borrowers are on the hook for this debt even if they declare bankruptcy.

Boehner also started weekly meetings with a group of lobbyists, originally known as "The Thursday Group," at which both sides discussed a shared agenda of reducing taxes and regulations on business that helped him develop close ties to companies like Citigroup, MillerCoors, UPS, Goldman Sachs, Google and R.J. Reynolds.

And what does Boehner do with these lobbyists? Says Taibbi, "Well, one thing we know he does is play golf. He once went on 180 junkets in six years, most of them golf trips, and reportedly copped to playing 100 rounds a year at a time when he was collecting a six-figure salary, paid for by the U.S. taxpayer, to serve in Congress."

According to a 2010 article in London's Observer, watchdogs note that Boehner not only has a long record of resisting efforts to reform the lobbyist influence in Washington but he also voted for measures that benefited health insurance companies, who contribute generously to his campaign, has attacked regulation on steel companies (ditto) and has lobbied the Environmental Protection Agency to drop a lawsuit against a steel company that supports him. In July of 2010 Boehner called for a moratorium on new federal regulations, saying it would be "a wonderful signal to the private sector that they're going to have some breathing room."

On the other hand, when it comes to his constituents he's fine with Americans not being able to afford to retire. (Full disclosure: I run an advocacy organization for 401(k) participants.) While on his website his profile highlights his support of the Pension Protection Act, all the law does is force companies whose pensions are underfunded to pay higher premiums to the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation. The biggest scandal is that only 13 percent of the non-union population in the private sector is covered by any kind of pension and the rest of us are stuck with "under-funded" 401(k) plans or no plans at all, a retirement catastrophe that, to my knowledge, no member of Congress has tried to address. What's more, Boehner has the gall to propose reducing people's Social Security benefits -- he believes that Americans who are at least 20 years away from retirement shouldn't be able to collect Social Security before they are 70.

Since the average American in their 60's has only accumulated around $100,000 in 401(k) savings and you're only supposed to withdraw 4 percent of it each a year, that amounts to a measly annual paycheck of $4,000. Contrast this pension poverty with that of members of Congress: As of 2011, 280 retired members were receiving an average annual pension paycheck of around $70,620.

It's a crying shame that we can't replace this crybaby and his colleagues with people who will work for their constituents.

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