By Rob Miller, Democrat for Congress, South Carolina's Second District
I've been on the campaign trail now for eight months -- I'm not a professional politician, I haven't been planning to do this for five years and I don't have the connections and the money of my opponent -- but the people I talk to are telling me that life's getting harder. The economy, two wars, lost jobs, failing bridges, shameful schools -- the list goes on and on. I debated my opponent the other night -- a man who cravenly followed George Bush, was Tom DeLay's best friend and who views constituent service as handing out key-chains - and it only reinforced my resolve.
I never thought I would run for Congress -- or feel like I had to. I have always thought of myself as a Marine. I started thinking that way not long after my father died when I was 14 years old. Since I enlisted at the age of 20, the Marine Corps has been my extended family and I couldn't imagine that would ever change.
But it did after my second tour of duty in Iraq -- where I fought to maintain the peace, but also to enable Iraqis to build better schools, improved hospitals, to help create jobs and, where possible, a stable economy and civil society.
When I returned home to my wife and six year old son, I saw that the politicians in Washington were not fighting for these same things at home. Worse, the congressman who represented the second district where I live -- Rep. Joe Wilson -- was part of that elite circle of George Bush loyalists who chose to enact a radical agenda, never mind the lives and wellbeing of the constituents he was pledged to represent.
In last night's debate, Congressman Wilson went on and on about his signature legislation -- a $15,000 tax credit for buying homes in foreclosure. Hey, I applaud the Congressman's efforts, but it reinforces for me that he just doesn't get it. Of course we need to encourage folks to buy foreclosed homes; but shouldn't we be focusing on stopping the avalanche of foreclosures in the first place? The people losing their homes are hurting more than the people who are out to take advantage of the low market.
Speaking of not getting it, Joe Wilson promised to protect good-paying jobs by opposing the Central American Free Trade Agreement. However, George Bush yanked his chain and demanded his vote. And, of course, Wilson caved to pressure. He voted precisely as Bush commanded him to do. As a result, my district has been devastated. Since that vote, South Carolina has lost more than 50,000 manufacturing jobs. I believe in free trade, but that was a cost that South Carolina couldn't afford to pay.
Once back home, I saw South Carolina's roads in disrepair and our infrastructure crumbling, I saw factories closed and jobs sent overseas. I saw thousands of South Carolinians without health insurance and public schools struggling. I saw our military families and veterans neglected. And when I looked deeper to see what Joe Wilson had done over the last seven years, I found little more than photo-ops, his trademark key-chain souvenirs, and empty promises. As a Marine and a South Carolinian, I just could not abide by that. So, on February 15, 2008, I left the Marine Corps with the sole purpose of doing something about it.
Joe Wilson has repeatedly, publicly and recently said that he and George Bush will "meet the challenges of our time." But his rhetoric does not match his actions. Instead, Wilson has done nothing to replace the manufacturing jobs he let Bush ship overseas. The hard-working people of South Carolina have been left to labor amid fewer and fewer prospects. At the same time, Wilson has turned his back on the struggling public schools of South Carolina, which has left our children with fewer and fewer opportunities. Crushed in the vice of dwindling high-paying jobs and a lack of future prospects, it is no surprise that South Carolina has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country.
In 2000, when Wilson came into office, the average salary for a member of the House was slightly more than $141,000. Since that time, Wilson has voted four times to raise his own pay. He now clears almost $170,000 a year. And yet, in 2003, he voted down a modest $1,500 bonus to American service men and women returning from Afghanistan and Iraq.
Wilson showed the same contempt in 2005 when he voted to cut funding for veterans' health care by $13.5 billion over five years. That same year, again, he voted against giving returning veterans expanded access to good health care and opposed job training for returning military personnel. There are over 1.8 million veterans without health insurance and one of every four homeless people in this country is a veteran. This is unacceptable and it burns me up every time I hear Joe Wilson say that he supports our troops and veterans. I'm sick and tired of these politicians who wrap themselves in our flag, but then turn their backs when it counts.
Joe Wilson is George Bush's yes-man. He is one of the worst of those apple polishers who does the bidding of Bush's bureaucrats. After Bush's last State of the Union address, Wilson said: "I am proud to stand with President Bush." Unfortunately, this is one of the rare cases where Wilson's words match his actions: Wilson votes with Bush over 95 percent of the time.
These are people who believe nation-building is something you splurge billions of taxpayer dollars on only for other countries, never America. They have to be turned out of office because they are dangerously wrong. And Joe Wilson is one of the most dangerously wrong representatives in Congress.
Having led South Carolina and our nation to the precipice of disaster and ruin, Joe Wilson now asks to be re-elected. People ask me why I run and the truth is, once I got home from Iraq, I never even thought to it as a choice. I would do wrong by South Carolina, by the nation I love, and by my six-year-old son and every child in the district if I did not stand up and oppose him.
Learn more at www.RobMillerforCongress.com