Is Congress in your corner? Ami Bera kibitzes at Florin High School - Part 2

Part 2| Continuing on the night's education theme, Bera concluded that the vocational classes he took in middle and high school we...

Part 2|

Continuing on the night's education theme, Bera concluded that the vocational classes he took in middle and high school were real applications of his abstract math and science abilities, including “skill sets for gainful employment.”

“Funding in [public] education has actually gone backwards,” Bera complained, with California ranking 47th in the nation.

When asked what he considered middle class income, he quipped: “$50,000 for a family of four cannot afford college. How did college get so expensive?”

About private, vocational schools that profit by creating student indebtedness, Bera said that the Congress should “set some guidelines for graduation” and that he is a “strong believer in an accountable system.”

Bera was critical of his own House leadership on the budget, which has had “none in five years...[while] parties are talking past each other.” The Congress is “dysfunctional,” he declared. Bera said that's what drove him to chair “Problem Solvers,” a bipartisan group of about 80 House members and Senators who have introduced nine bills to eliminate bureaucratic redundancy.

Half of these participants, he said, are congressional freshman worried that their legacy will be economic conditions of impoverishment, inherited by their children. In contrast, the debt ceiling “is not the conversation,” he asserted.

Finally, Bera weighed in on health care reform; whether it's called ObamaCare or the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).

“This is not the approach I'd have taken,” he said. “We pay more and more, while we get less and less...let's fix it and make it better.”

He said he was “pleasantly surprised” by the work done at Covered California, the state's health care exchange. His question is this: will healthy citizens sign up? He thinks there's a lot more work to do in reforming health care cost structures that currently absorb nearly 20-percent of the gross domestic product, and suggested that the old fee-for-service payment method yield to a quality assurance model. When asked about a single payor health system similar to that used in all other Western industrialized countries, the congressman said that he “has not signed on to such a bill” as Congressman John Conyers' HR 676. Instead, Bera said he is “moving forward” on the PPACA.

It must be noted that in light of widespread popular disapproval of Congress, town hall meetings have been as rare as presidential press conferences. Meetings with Bera's predecessor, Republican Dan Lungren, devolved into shouting matches when the congressman took censored questions and gave rambling speeches.

Florin High School's principal emceed the event and read the questions pretty much as written, although the give and take of an extemporaneous meeting with spoken questions from constituents would have rendered a more human and democratic feel. There was only about 40 minutes of information and answers from the congressman, although he did stick around for an additional half-hour of one-on-one visits with constituents.

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