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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 4/8/11

What the President Should Have Said About J.T. Henderson -- and Other 'Real People'

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from the Huffington Post

Last night the President took a lofty, almost disinterested stance regarding budget deadlock in Congress. He seemed to chastise Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker John Boehner equally, focusing on the consequences of a shutdown and ignoring the consequences of making a bad deal to avoid a shutdown.

A Federal shutdown would have "real consequences for real people," said the President, mentioning one "real" person by name: J.T. Henderson of Louisville, Kentucky.

So let's talk about J.T. Henderson - and about all the other J.T. Hendersons who are just as real, and just as important, as our friend in Louisville. You'd be surprised how many there are.

Meet the Hendersons

Who wasn't the President talking about when he mentioned the name "J.T. Henderson" last night?

He wasn't referring to J.T. Henderson, Georgia's Commissioner of Agriculture in the 1800's. Commissioner Henderson did groundbreaking work (no pun intended) on the development of government resources that help farmers and therefore boost the entire economy. His achievements include the expansion of his department of agriculture and the creation of one of the earliest weather services.

The Republicans want to cut funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and for weather services too. That would leave state institutions like those created by the late Mr. Henderson in a severe financial bind.

Nor was the President referring to the late Reverend J.T. Henderson, a Methodist minister in Norman, Oklahoma who died over 100 years ago. Rev. Henderson's church is still going strong there in Norman. The National Weather Service issued a "red flag alert" in Norman today, which will help the people prevent costly and life-threatening wildfires. The EPA's helping to investigate possible contamination of the city's drinking water.

The Republicans want to cut funding for the National Weather Service and the EPA.

The President wasn't quoting J.T. Henderson, a church saxophonist in Baltimore, Maryland. That J.T. Henderson played in the band at a public university and almost certainly in his high school band, too. High school music programs have already been cut back dramatically, and face even more severe cuts if Federal education funding is reduced in the ways that have been proposed.

Public universities are likely to struggle, too, as states are forced to replace lost Federal funding and fewer students are able to obtain Pell Grants.

Nor was the President referring to the J.T. Henderson who plays football at Coastal Carolina University in South Carolina. When public universities lose funding, sports programs face cutbacks too.

And the President wasn't referring to J.T. Henderson, a plumber in Nacogdoches, Texas. His shop's located at the spot where Farm-toMarket Road meets Guy Blount Road, not far from Spanish Bluff. I don't know if that J.T. has kids, but it's going to be tough to send them to college on a plumber's income without Pell grants. And the GOP budget slashes farm assistance programs, including those which help middle-class farmers, so Farm-to-Market Road may not be getting a lot of traffic. And that could hurt J.T.'s business.

I'm sure it was unintentional, but the President's choice of words left the impression that all of these J.T. Hendersons, each of whom could suffer from the wrong budget deal, aren't quite as "real" as the J.T. whose check would be delayed under a shutdown.

The man of the hour

Here's who the President was talking about: J.T. Henderson from Louisville, Kentucky. J.T. and his wife are waiting for the tax refund they'll get as the result of an adoption tax credit. "If I could speak directly to the President or the Congressional leadership," said J.T., "I would just tell them that their grandstanding has effects as it trickles down to normal, everyday Americans."

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Richard (RJ) Eskow is a former executive with experience in health care, benefits, and risk management, finance, and information technology. Richard worked for AIG and other insurance, risk management, and financial organizations. He was also a (more...)
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