Friday, July 27, 2012


I hope my readers will permit me a bit of hometown pride when I single
out the phenomenon of Congressman Mike Kelly who represents the
3rd District of Pennsylvania (the largest city in the district is my hometown
of Erie).

Congressman Kelly has just delivered a speech of the floor of the U.S.
house of representatives decrying  the excess of government regulation
now coming out of Washington, DC, but it was no ordinary speech. With
his Irish-American passion and background as a successful businessman-
turned-citizen-congressman, Kelly ripped into the avalanche of liberal
regulatory fiats that is overwhelming American small businesses across
the nation. "Let the tide rise for all boats!" Mr. Kelly said at the conclusion
of his speech, and, in a rare action, many of his colleagues gave him a
standing ovation, punctuated by cheers of "U-S-A! U.S.A.!" (U.S. house
rule forbid applause and demonstrations such as this on the floor). Videos
of his speech have now gone viral across the nation, and virtually every
major conservative publication has taken note of it.

Who is Mike Kelly? He is, if you will, a successful car salesman from the
southern part of the district which previously had been represented by
Tom Ridge (later governor and then first secretary of the U.S. department
of homeland security) and Phil English (Ridge's successor and one of the
brightest men in Washington). Kelly himself had defeated a liberal
Democrat who had upset English in the liberal sweep of 2008, but had
voted for Obamacare and other legislation unpopular in this blue collar
Rust Belt district in northwestern Pennsylvania. With major figures such as
Ridge and English who had preceded him, Kelly might have, as is usual for
house freshmen, kept a low profile, but he has been an outspoken and
passionate opponent of many policy initiatives of the Obama administration,
particularly those which are perceived as anti-business.

I said that Mr. Kelly was a car salesman, Actually, he took over his father's
Chevrolet business and greatly expanded it. He did serve on the Butler city
council for a while, but came to Washington primarily as a businessman.
A few years ago, there were few of these in Washington, but my friend
Rudy Boschwitz , who had begun a very successful business in Minnesota,
started a trend four decades ago when he won a U.S. senate seat, and for two
terms continually articulated the value of business principles over federal
bureaucratic practices. Since that time, several other successful and
articulate business persons have come to Washington (Wisconsin Republican
Senator Ron Johnson and Virginia Democratic Senator Mark Warner  are two
examples), but in my opinion there are too few, especially in the current
political environment when regulatory fiats are clearly out of control.

Mr. Kelly, I am sure, simply spoke his mind the other day on the U.S. house
floor, and had no idea that he might touch a deep nerve in the body politic,
or that his speech might make him a celebrity, But he did, and it has.

(Twenty years ago, as I have already noted, another unknown congressman
from this "forgotten corner" of the Keystone State came from nowhere to
become a successful governor and later, a cabinet member and major national
figure in the War on Terror.)

Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman" is now considered by many as a
classic American play. I've come to realize that it is much over-rated and
a sentimental anti-capitalist screed, typical of many "serious" plays of
the 1930s, 40s and 50s. It echoes the leftist notion that the foundation of
democratic capitalism is somehow an empty ideal, and implies that a
paternalistic central government is a better way. That sentiment has been
revived with much fervor in Washington today by an administration that
employs class warfare as a weapon.

Perhaps Mike Kelly's impromptu words have somehow struck a
long-hibernating chord. The response to his speech would suggest that
it has. In any event, I think we will be hearing from him again.

Copyright (c) by Barry Casselman.  All rights reserved.

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