Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Saturday, October 19, 2013

David Schweikert is hoping nobody beside him reads this

Remember the other day when I told you about Arizona's own "Mr. Transparency?" That would be Congressman David Schweikert.

His record of advocating for transparency in government -- by everyone except himself -- is clear.

I first posted about this particular problem ten days ago.

Briefly, here's the scoop. David campaigned in 2010 -- boasting of his financial prowess -- that he had managed taxpayer money as Maricopa County Treasurer (elected in 2004) to make hundreds of millions of dollars in volatile bond markets.

Cut to October 2013. The Congress, failing to pass a budget, or even a Continuing Resolution, shut down the federal government on the first of the month. The entire world (notably, governments and financial markets) knew that the US Treasury would hit a debt ceiling on October 17.

Well, the man who represents the Congressional district I live in vigorously advocated, besides saying how much fun he was having by shutting down the federal government, repeatedly claiming the debt ceiling crisis was just a hoax.
But “default,” to Schweikert, means that the U.S does not pay interest on its debt. Schweikert said the government will still be able to pay the interest on its debt, even without raising the limit, but will have to make cuts elsewhere – or find new revenues.
“The federal government holds several trillion dollars worth of assets,” Schweikert said. “Why don’t we just sell some of them?”
It's a given that unstable credit risks have to pay more to borrow money, right? As much as he is intellectually prepared to defend his position that the debt crisis is a hoax, there's a much bigger force than the Congress that disagrees with him in a big way.
Uncertainty is manifesting in short-term securities, particularly in Treasury bills where yields continue to blow out on fears that the government won't pay up when these securities mature. [...]
The US debt ceiling negotiations paused yesterday, suggesting that it is more likely to go right to the October 17 deadline before an agreement is reached. Meanwhile, the pressure is mounting from both the credit agencies and markets. Fitch has placed the US on negative watch as a result of the debt ceiling negotiations while the yields on US bills have spiked higher. (emphasis mine)
Higher yield on T-bills means that for the same amount loaned to the Treasury, the investor gets more back when it comes time to redeem that particular debt instrument. This occurs, even when the stated interest rate does not change. The process is called discounting. Instead of paying $100 to get a certain return on that investment, the buyer of the T-bill only pays (for example) $80. Thus, causing the spike in borrowing costs for the US Treasury.

By the way, with the Capitol Times story cited above, we start to see the limits to David's willingness to be transparent HIMSELF. Which obligations, since you know that interest payments will be made, do you think should be made to wait? Payments to small business contractors and vendors? Or Medicare payments to drug companies supplying medications to seniors? What do you think will happen to the young reporter who dares to ask those questions? Of course, anymore, the veteran journos rarely even ask.

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Since I had heard nothing from Schweikert or anyone in the media challenging him on these issues, on Wednesday I called and talked with his district director. Of course, he's not the press relations guy, so other than just saying that David does not now trade in the bond markets, he said he'd pass along my questions to staff in the DC office. Needless to say, the only response has been -- crickets.

Then I see where local Channel 12 political reporter and Sunday Square Off host Brahm Resnik has posted, to Facebook, a clip from an interview he did with Rep. Kyrsten Sinema. That's potentially a whole 'nuther blog post. But I asked Brahm about Schweikert.


In case this screenshot is difficult to read, here's the main thrust:
Me: What did Schweikert say?
Brahm Resnik: We had a contentious back and forth in which he accused me of parroting Democratic blogs that I've never read (but he apparently has). He contends that Bill Gross of Pimco agreed with his stance that Treasury could prioritize debt payments (I went back and checked -- not really), tried to give me a tutorial in bond maturities, and said I was engaging in uncivil discourse when I used the phrase "gun to the head." In short, he yielded on nothing, even when I asked him three times why he fund-raised during the shutdown after accusing the Democrats of doing that. Wouldn't acknowledge he signed fund-raising letter.
Since I haven't been able to find any other "Democratic blogs" that have written about Schweikert and his problem with transparency and his pushing the US Treasury to the brink of default, I take this as David's acknowledgement that he's read what I've written over the last ten days about him.

Yet, now he has crossed the line into defense mechanisms more complex than simply denial.
1. Denial. You can consider this the "generic" defense mechanism because it underlies many of the others. When you use denial, you simply refuse to accept the truth or reality of a fact or experience. "No, I'm just a social smoker," is a good example; similarly people can apply this to any bad habit they wish to distance themselves from including excessive alcohol or substance use, compulsive shopping or gambling, and the like. "Just say no," in this case means that you protect your self-esteem by failing to acknowledge your own behavior. Denial may also be used by victims of trauma or disasters and may even be a beneficial initial protective response. In the long run, however, denial can prevent you from incorporating unpleasant information about yourself and your life and have potentially destructive consequences.
For example (and I'm not actually able to psychoanalyze David Schweikert, so that's not what this example is, per se):
8. Rationalization. When you rationalize something, you try to explain it away... it involves dealing with a piece of bad behavior on your part rather than converting a painful or negative emotion into a more neutral set of thoughts. People often use rationalization to shore up their insecurities or remorse after doing something they regret such as an "oops" moment. It's easier to blame someone else than to take the heat yourself, particularly if you would otherwise feel shame or embarrassment. For example, let's say you lose your temper in front of people you want to like and respect you. Now, to help make yourself feel better, you mentally attribute your outburst to a situation outside your control, and twist things so that you can blame someone else for provoking you.
Frankly, we all use emotional defense mechanisms, so the point is not to say there is something emotionally wrong with the Congressman. Instead, it's to look at specific things he has said or done and shed light on them and figure out to whether we should take them at face value.

There appears to be quite a bit of that going on in his exchange with Resnik as the broadcast reporter relayed them (in the screenshot above). How about in this Slate.com story about The GOP's Alamo:
Arizona Rep. David Schweikert tore into one reporter’s question about the “polls” showing the GOP’s reputation falling. “Did you look at the samples?” asked Schweikert. After the reporter slumped away, Schweikert told me that the media’s polls missed the target.
 “We were in the field last week doing some polling,” he said. “I think the left and some of the media supporters on the left are going to be shocked when they look at these underlying numbers—the margin against the health care law among swing voters. The left hates me—the left has always hated me!—the right is with me, and the swing voters are moving. There was some amazing data in there.”
Rather than face up to the reality and ramifications of his actions, David "tore into one reporter's question..." and rationalized the poll results away as "the left hates me -- the left has always hated me! -- the right is with me, and the swing voters are moving."

I don't have the data he says he has, so I'm not in a position to question what the swing voters are doing. But he dismisses those who challenge him on what is most obviously a problematic conflict in his position as a Congressman and his advocacy as simply a partisanship issue.

He has done his best to first ignore the situation, then to attack the journalists who try to ask him the hard questions he should be facing. IF he really believed in transparency, he would face his own fears and come up with straight answers.

On the subject of Schweikert's conflict of interest regarding bond trading, it's really not sufficient to simply say that he does not now trade in bond markets.

An entirely new industry has recently arisen in DC to trade in "political intelligence." While Andy Borowitz may one day soon have a field day with that expression (like movies such as Catch-22 did with the expression "military intelligence"), Big Money sees information from Congress, the White House and executive branch agencies as a gold mine in which it can easily find rich veins.

As horrible of a Congressional candidate as Andrei Cherny was in 2012, the idea he promoted -- disclosing all of his contacts and meetings was a noble, even if not well thought out concept. Still, I don't know that there is a way to keep this kind of thing from plausibly -- at minimum -- appearing to be a conflict of interest.

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Okay, so maybe David Schweikert doesn't really care whether you read this or not. As long as you're a Democrat or progressive leaning independent voter, that is. But eventually, he will either come to grips with the situation he has gotten himself into or he will be vulnerable come election time.

A number of people have been declaring their disapproval for Congress on Facebook lately. The ones I read mainly the grouse about the GOP and Arizona Democratic members of Congress who thought they could get away with voting with the GOP over the last few weeks. None of that is going to make a hill of beans difference unless credible candidates emerge and declare intentions to run against the incumbents. The sooner, the better.

However, Arizona Republic editorial writer Linda Valdez made a good argument for Republicans to seize on this opportunity to show Schweikert (and his buddies Franks, Gosar and Salmon) the Russell Pearce treatment. Besides explaining that these four knuckleheads are not good for business, Valdez writes,
The business community needs to recruit replacements for Arizona’s GOP House members. The Russell Pearce experience shows how and why.
The model that brought down the man once called Arizona’s de facto governor can rid the state’s delegation of Republican Reps. Trent Franks, Paul Gosar, Matt Salmon and David Schweikert. [...]
Conventional wisdom says Franks-Gosar-Salmon-Schweikert are in such cozy GOP districts that they will win re-election no matter what they do.
But conventional wisdom also said former state Senate President Pearce was untouchable.
All you need are the right four men. Sorry, ladies.
They have to be White because these are predominately White districts.
They have to be conservative because RINOs won’t do.
They have to be Republicans because there aren’t enough Democrats in these districts to put together a decent softball team.
But there are independents. Lots of them. 
Might a Groscost scenario be too much to hope for? Probably. But getting Arizona business advocates to take an interest in making Schweikert and his three GOP co-conspirators face well-financed primary opposition is not so far-fetched.

Perhaps the good news is that America's political landscape is littered with the carcasses of former elected politicians who took their opposition for granted.

Oh, by the way, don't believe Schweikert's polling claims. He's not really that good of a liar.

2 comments:

  1. Nice work, Steve. Enjoyed your analysis of David immensely. But I suspect David is too smart to really believe the shit he's been saying about treasuries, and is simply angry at being challenged, as any liar is.

    For what it is worth, I don't believe that we need 'traditional' Republicans to save us from these buffoons. We need candidates of any party with the intellect and communication skills to challenge the lies and explain to voters how guys like David are harming the nation. Even in the most gerrymandered district, the truth, well told, can best lies. There are still enough rational voters in the GOP and among independents to toss the crazies.

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  2. Thanks for the feedback, Michael. A couple of points, however. I agree that excellent candidates can overcome harsh voter registration disadvantage. However, I'm reluctant to use the word "gerrymandered" regarding Arizona's current Congressional district map. Yes, we could have gotten another competitive district out of it, but even the three we have took a helluva lot of tooth pulling. :)

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