Constituents give Markey grief over stimulus package

By Jason Kosena

FORT COLLINS — Residents of this Northern Colorado town were giving no love to their homegrown member of Congress on Sunday.

Rep. Betsy Markey talks to a crowd of about 85 people in the basement of Mugs Coffee Shop in Old Town Fort Collins. Markey fielded many questions about the economic stimulus package signed by President Obama this week in Denver, including many from people who expressed concern over the bill’s cost and effectiveness.
Photo by Jason Kosena/The Colorado Statesman

During a 90-minute town hall forum in the crowded basement of a local coffee shop, 4th District Democratic Congresswoman and Fort Collins resident Betsy Markey took one heated question after another from constituents who were concerned about the size, scope and cost of the economic recovery package passed by Congress last week and signed into law by President Barack Obama in Denver.

The stop in Old Town Fort Collins was the first of many public appearances by the newly elected Markey this week in a tour that also included visits to Fort Morgan, Greeley, Pueblo, Campo, La Junta and Las Animas County.

During Sunday’s forum, a number of Fort Collins residents expressed fear that the $787 billion stimulus bill will not have the desired effect of reinvigorating the nation’s struggling economy.

“I was adamantly against the current stimulus package that just passed because America has gotten completely out of control with spending,” said Kurt Kastein. “There is an (undying) appetite to spend more than we have, and it’s my opinion that the money the government is going to give us with this package just feeds that appetite. And I don’t see an end. I don’t see how we ever recover from that.”

The crowd of about 85 people cheered and clapped in response to Kastein’s comment.

Markey, however, steadfastly defended the package and her vote in favor of it, stressing the important role she believes it will play in America’s economic recovery.

“With this recovery package — I struggled with it,” she said.

“But when I talked to many economists, and they all said that we are in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression in the 1930s, it was disheartening,” Markey said. “(The government) did not do anything when we were in recession in the 1920s, and we slipped into the Depression because of it. We cannot afford to let that happen again.”

Markey said that although she’s concerned about the deficit spending the bill promotes, she views it as a means to a more financially stable end.

“We can’t lower interest rates anymore. We can’t do anything else with fiscal policy. We need a stimulus to help put people back to work and to help create jobs,” Markey said. “Can I tell you this is going to work? No. But I can tell you that we can’t keep heading into the direction that we are going in now.”

Amid questions from audience members about federal aid to other countries, the Farm Bill and funding for educational programs and schools, Markey heard from constituents who wanted to know how she could have even read the entire bill, all 1,200 pages of it, in the time between when it was released and when she voted for it last week.

Although much of the bill was written before the House and Senate conference committee hammered out the final version hours before both bodies voted on it, Republicans and fiscal critics have said there is no way members could read through and research the spending in time for the vote.

“I don’t think you can know enough to vote for this package,” said Marsha Dooley, who was highly critical of the stimulus package but said she believes Markey is doing a good job overall. “There just isn’t enough time to research it.”

“You are making the federal government the biggest employer, and there is no help for small businesses,” Dooley continued. “I have to tell you, I am so disenfranchised with this — so furious that it is totally ignoring the people that want jobs.”

Markey said she or members of her staff have read the entire bill, page for page. She also said the package wasn’t conceived in a matter of weeks, as some people believe, and much of it was written before the House and Senate conference committee penned the final details.

“We have been talking about this bill since before I was sworn in and right after the election,” Markey said. “It has been in the planning phases for months. It’s been an evolving piece since the campaign, and right after the election it began jelling. It didn’t happen overnight.”