“Betrayal is the Only Truth that Sticks.”

–Arthur Miller

Quick on the heels of a health care plan that ensures millions of elderly, poor, and hardworking Americans are removed from insurance rolls, the Trump Administration has taken direct aim at the rural working class by proposing cuts of billions of dollars in federal assistance. The majority of these come at the cost of infrastructure and economic development in communities like the ones that comprise the backbone of New York Congressional District 19. No matter how you crunch the numbers, the result is a merciless and swift betrayal of constituents across counties and affiliations. Our district’s political make up is 30/30/30 — practically a parliament, with the same kind of ideological diversity. Ultimately, we have more in common than meets the eye, and at the end of the day we all want the same thing: a safe, affordable, and sustainable community.

There’s been a lot of hallway talk about who did what to whom in the 2016 election. Lots of laying of blame in every corner of all political parties. Regardless of bruised egos and the feeling of entrenched partisan divisions, it’s now time to come together and fight against the attack on our neighbors and our communities. The election promised change, as most elections will. And eager for that change, the people of NYCD 19 selected John Faso to represent them, trusting in his appealing message of fiscal responsibility and compassionate conservatism.

Unfortunately for all of us, a devastating thing happened to John Faso during his campaign: the darkest of dark money flooded the advertising market on his behalf. Nearly a million dollars crept into the race via super PACs run by the likes of the Mercers and the Singers — out of district money directed at controlling our future. Unfortunately for him, he did nothing to stop it, nor even distance himself from their insidious agenda.

Since going to Washington, Representative John Faso of NYCD 19 has developed an increasingly detectable pattern: he initially reacts to Trump Administration policy with a measured “let me read this and get back to you” approach, then finds things he feels are problematic for his constituents and promises not to back the legislation, but ultimately he votes in support of his financial backers and against the needs of his voters. In the blink of an eye, he has gone from being one of us, to being one of them.

When the first attempt at Repeal and Replace arrived, Representative Faso looked a constituent in the eye and promised her she didn’t have to worry about her brain cancer being a pre-existing condition that would spike the cost of her insurance. He then turned away and helped the legislation move out of committee, standing ready on the floor to vote yes even as it was being pulled by Paul Ryan. That didn’t stop him from voting on the new and less improved version a month later. In that moment, he betrayed Andrea Mitchell, her family, and every person in his district — whether they voted for him or not. He was more interested in the “Buffalo Bribe” — or as I call it, the “Buffalo Betrayal” — and getting his name on legislation, than considering what kind of anxiety and fear his lack of diligence would cause back in the district.

While in Arkville, NY, this past weekend, I spoke with local residents who are worried. Small business owners, farmers, and retired people all shared the same concerns: vanishing pensions, shrinking health care options, and the potential loss of programs that keep their rural community safe and livable. And for good reason: with his key healthcare vote, John Faso voted to increase premiums on working families, throw tens of thousands of constituents off their healthcare, impose an age tax on a district with an aging population, and gut protections for people with preexisting conditions. In a district where the median family income is $58,000 a year, it will only get harder to put food on the table if these measures go through.

How does Faso reconcile his hasty decision to join the people engaged in gutting healthcare? He blames the accountants — the “CBO” score is wrong, he tells us. If this is so, we would like to hear his analysis of the numbers. We want to trust his assessment of why giving tax cuts to people who are in the upper 1% of income in this country is more important to him that crafting real legislation that will give consumers choices they can afford. In the meantime, though, he has set into motion a series of betrayals that will bankrupt his district.

After initially showing enthusiasm for the Trump Budget, Faso is once again up on the fence, grimacing about policies that will hurt his district, but urging constituents to look at the bigger picture of balancing the budget. He tells us he is fiscally-minded; he ran on being the guy who knows how to turn down the thermostat when his wife isn’t looking. Well, we’re all looking now, as he turns up the cuts on constituents and turns down the amount the extremely wealthy will pay due to his efforts. When you lie down with rich dogs and take their money, you get up with their bloodsucking fleas. More people will benefit from these reverse Robin Hood cuts down in Nassau County, where John Faso grew up, than in any of the counties in NYCD 19. It makes me wonder who exactly is calling the shots when he contemplates legislation. He was sent to Washington to fix the problems there, not to create new ones back home. We cannot allow him to balance a national budget that cripples the budgets of working families. There is no justification for taking food off tables that are already struggling to make ends meet. If John Faso wants to turn down a thermostat, he’d better not creep behind our backs to do it.
 
While John Faso is busy looking for ways to please his big money donors by effectively gutting his district, I plan on developing a way to make good on the promises he’s already betraying.

I will work with constituents to develop economic opportunities that will provide the district with a sustainable future. The first step in this direction is to act boldly with a large, multi-faceted job creation program that we are calling THE AMERICA WORKS ACT (AWA). Building on the successful model of the WPA, we will work with the suggestion by the Center for American Progress that we need to establish a Marshall Plan for job creation. Under this umbrella, we will focus on:

• Targeted job training and retraining in cooperation with community colleges, trade schools, unions, and employers, including apprenticeship support
• Attract and invest in green collar opportunities, especially wind and solar
• New job creation through small business tax deferment
• Pink collar wage subsidy for elder care
• Small agriculture middle infrastructure support
• Major investments in public transportation 
• Broadband for all.

Meanwhile, we will continue our push to develop single payer healthcare, which will bring direct and immediate relief to the rural communities that support our small towns. And though it may sound impossible, we will strive to develop a brand-new approach to retirement security, one that goes beyond social security to establish universal pensions.

The good news is I’ve seen small communities dotting the rural landscape of our district with inspiring signs of growth: from young in-pats starting small businesses and choosing to leave the urban areas in order to start their families, to young college grads returning to their rural communities to teach in the same rooms where they learned, to a dramatic influx of renewed eco-tourism that is an affordable distance from the major metropolitan areas of New York City and Albany.

We have the amazing opportunity to shape our district into a leader in rural renewal. After decades of watching government attention and money going toward the inner cities with steady improvements, it’s now our turn to take the same building blocks to strengthen the beauty and desirability of our mountains, farms, rivers, and streams.

In the next two years, I will work tirelessly for the people of the district so that I am well prepared to keep the promises we make for our shared future. Let’s start laying that groundwork together today.