An interesting thing happened in the wake of the recent election. A member of the elite press corps admitted to being a member of the elite. It's a stunning and refreshingly honest admission. The national media misread the election. Some are now beginning to recognize that they have been detached from the deep anxiety and vulnerability that many Americans feel. Perhaps this comes from the self-affirming circle of narratives they have created, which can easily pass for truth. Even the recent ongoing self-evaluation still reflects an air of self-righteousness. Just like the distrust directed at politicians, citizens have become deeply suspicious of the motives of journalists.
It's worth tracing how we arrived at this moment. Historically, American media played a pivotal role as watchdogs, as disseminators of carefully researched facts, and as creators of the conditions for personal and governmental accountability. Of course, things haven't always been well: the media have served as a tool for propaganda, political ambitions, and moneyed interests. However, when you think of Walter Cronkite or David Brinkley, you do not think of a political agenda, only good journalism. When you see the old newsreels from WWII, the media told the hard story, cutting the rougher details, but with an eye toward lifting the mood of the country. When you see the ugly aspects of racism directed at the early Civil Rights Movement, the media clearly participated as an objective force for social good.
The media’s turn towards bitter elitism likely started with Watergate. Before then, the media participated in a society of commonly shared values that Americans everywhere celebrated. Although the Watergate investigation was groundbreaking, the paradigm in the press shifted to one of rank distrust of civic institutions and the persons who lead them. Journalism schools reinforced that worldview. The media began suggesting, presumptively and too frequently, that those institutions and their leadership should be regarded as inherently corrupt. Tradition was scorned, and the “unenlightened” mocked and bullied. Nevertheless, the media still wants to be respected as an elite establishment, a veritable fourth estate, but decades of singularly cynical narratives have eroded that historic ideal.
Fast forward to today with the advent of new communication technologies. The dominant mainstream media no longer dominates. New information-sharing techniques have created a completely new dynamic for creative storytelling. Americans can self-select where and how to receive their news. There is a downside to this trend as well: Information overload is distracting to us; story-generators are often unknown; sensationalism rules. Media has splintered into ever-more Balkanized silos of rigidly enforced ideological purism, contributing to social fracture.
However, until this competition arrived, there was little mechanism to hold journalists accountable. Just as the elections left the aging Republican and Democrat play books in shatters, the aging industrial media complex is in disarray too.
On election night, like so many Americans, I was up very late. I chose a particular channel to watch the returns, one with an analyst I respect. As the night wore on, it was clear that they were having real trouble comprehending and communicating the results. They had a preconceived narrative, and they had difficulty abruptly adjusting to a new political reality. The election openly showed that media groupthink is real and voters are just plain tired of it.
Of course, there are good journalists; smart and thoughtful people who want to do the right thing. Particularly in Nebraska where local reporting is nested within the community, there tends to be a sense of civic virtue tied to reporting, a sense of community responsibility. That should be the media’s approach everywhere: to support a reporting climate of objectivity and integrity. Indeed, If media trauma is to be resolved, journalists must once again champion honesty and fairness, and, above all else, the ideals of public service.
In a recent meeting with Vice President-elect Mike Pence, he concluded his remarks to us by saying, “Buckle up.” Beginning in January, we will have a new President and Congress. The next hundred days will be intense. The next hundred days will create possibilities. The next hundred days will set the stage for a new architecture of government and a repurposed relationship between the people and the state.
For far too long, partisan paralysis has plagued Congress, leading to stagnation in Washington. With this historic and transformative election, the playbooks both political parties used for decades were rightfully shredded. The transition of presidential administrations has unleashed the potential for a genuine re-imagining of policy, with four relevant areas leading the way.
First, right out of the gate, Congress will launch a significant healthcare reform initiative. Current skyrocketing healthcare premiums are unsustainable. At the same time, we cannot default back to the previous arrangement, which left too many persons behind. While there might be a fierce fight on the specifics of reform proposals, broad agreement will likely coalesce around protecting persons from inhuman market forces while at the same time incentivizing the best of market innovation to spur change. Nebraskans with spiraling healthcare costs know that a new healthcare construct is needed. To address these concerns, the next approach must reinvigorate health insurance with the goals of lowering prices, protecting the sick, and improving options. The next generation health savings account will be the cornerstone of this effort, restoring relationship, responsibility, and respect as the drivers of healthcare policy.
Second, broad bipartisan agreement exists around rebuilding our nation’s aging infrastructure. From airports to roads to bridges to information technology, new projects are on the horizon. I add sustainable energy to that list. As a public good, properly selected infrastructure improvements are a benefit to society at large. Infrastructure can also be virtual, setting up the systems for better interconnectivity. It can also have implications for healthcare, as we build out, for instance, innovative healthcare models. The challenge will be in financing and ensuring the proper division between federal, state, and local governments, as well as with the private sector.
Third, on spending, in an unprecedented legislative development, our government is moving forward on two budgets simultaneously. Those of us serving on the House Appropriations Committee have a heavy lift. In a parallel process, we will fix up the current budget while creating a budget for the following year. While it is easy to speak about new ideas, a plan to pay for them is the real test of smart government. We must remain sober about spending. Deficit spending is a form of taxation, especially on the poor and seniors. The good news is that this peculiar set of circumstances gives lawmakers much more flexibility to generate creative policy outcomes.
Fourth, regarding taxes—a broad issue that, like healthcare, has many thorny and complex considerations—I anticipate that Congress will move to solve tax anomalies that harm America’s competitive standing in the world, including giveaways to multinational corporations. The tax code should reposition funds captured overseas to be brought back to America, and any reform should prioritize small business, the source of most new jobs and local economy. The process should be guided by a threefold goal: fairness, simplification, and economic growth, to produce revenue gains.
It is time to create the architecture for a 21st century government. One that is innovative and effective, restoring the trust and confidence of the people. There’s a great old movie starring Bette Davis called All About Eve. In a classic Hollywood moment, she looks around with a smoldering gaze and says, “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.” Real change is always bumpy—but when done with purpose, clarity, and the intention of doing good for others, we allow ourselves to dream big again.Read More
Rep. Jeff Fortenberry said Thursday he sees "possibilities of real policy reform" emerging from the November election in terms of health care, modernization of the nation's infrastructure and fundamental changes in budgeting and taxation.
Fortenberry said three words -- curiosity, possibility and urgency -- describe the mood in Washington as the lame-duck session of Congress meets to wrap up this year's legislative work while a new president-elect and a new Congress wait in the wings.
"There is a real unleashing of possibilities," the 1st District Republican congressman said during a telephone interview.
"Partisan paralysis needs to be finished," Fortenberry said. "We've got to get things done."
First out of the gate may be "a new type of health care reform" that replaces the Affordable Care Act while preserving some of its features, the congressman said, transforming health care coverage into a new model that places more reliance on the concept of health savings accounts.
The current system is "unsustainable," Fortenberry said.
"But we are not going back to a system that excludes (coverage for) pre-existing conditions," he said. "We cannot leave certain groups of people behind."
Fortenberry said he also wants to preserve Obamacare's provision allowing children as old as 26 to be included in their parents' health insurance plan and retain the current ban on insurance coverage caps.
President-elect Donald Trump's proposal for a massive program to modernize America's infrastructure represents a broad recognition that the country needs to improve its airports, roads and bridges, Fortenberry said. And the Lincoln congressman would add railroads to that list.
Modernizing the nation's railroad system "should have a place in any infrastructure bill," Fortenberry said. Rail traffic along the East Coast corridor is significant, he said, but a modern transcontinental route also is a worthy public investment even if it isn't profitable.
Infrastructure improvement would be a wise economic investment, Fortenberry said, but it needs to be paid for and "not just deficit-spend."
Tax reform should include provisions to spur small business activity and lure overseas U.S. investments back to America, he said.
Fortenberry said that "what (Trump) did with Carrier Corporation was brilliant," suggesting that his direct intervention in helping arrange a deal to keep the company from moving about 1,000 jobs from Indiana to Mexico is the kind of active engagement needed to prevent U.S. jobs from leaving the country.
"He negotiated something," Fortenberry said. "He went to the heart of the matter."
Indiana officials agreed to give United Technologies Corp., the company's owner, $7 million in tax breaks over 10 years as part of the deal, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The company still plans to move about 600 jobs to Mexico but will invest about $16 million to keep its operations in Indiana.
Fortenberry declined to name any preference between Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani as Trump's secretary of state but suggested that retired Gen. David Petraeus deserves to be in that mix.
Click here to read the entire article.Read More
Washington, D.C. – Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) today issued the following statement on the passage of the 21st Century Cures Act:
In our Lincoln office, Monday, it was truly inspiring to meet so many young people working to raise awareness and find a cure for juvenile type 1 diabetes (T1D), an autoimmune disease that affects 1.25 Americans. To take just one story, 24-year-old Meg Cooper—currently a student at Creighton University Law School—has lived with T1D for 5,526 days; lost 3,207 hours of sleep; received 33,756 finger pricks and had 19,786 needle injections. Growing up, her parents had to monitor her around-the-clock, making sure she ate when she didn't want to eat, holding her down to give her shots, testing her blood sugar levels throughout the day and night. Their enormous burden is nothing compared to the burden Meg must carry for the rest of her life.
Hopefully, we can find a better way.
Yesterday in the House, we passed the 21st Century Cures Act. Besides restructuring and streamlining the FDA drug approval process, the Cures Act will provide funds to the National Institute of Health (NIH) to research life-saving treatments for diseases like T1D. As I heard Monday, parents of children with type 1 juvenile diabetes must spend upwards of $50,000 to care for their children with this chronic condition. If we spend a little more now on research and technology, perhaps we can dramatically simplify care for patients and family, while lowering the burdensom costs and complications of diabetes.
Washington, D.C. – Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) today issued the following statement on the death Fidel Castro:
“I have known a number of people who had to flee Castro's Cuba. Welcomed generously to America, they had to start over and rebuild their lives. Some came to recognize Castro as a revolutionary for the poor, yet in his wake he left poverty, despair, and death. Idealistic propaganda can't wish away that grim reality. While I don't celebrate the death of any person, perhaps Castro's passing will create the space between our two countries to build a neighborly, sustainable, and respectful relationship. I pray that the indomitable, creative spirit of the Cuban people will point us to a new type of economic, political, and cultural engagement that rejects oppression and elevates a mutual embrace of higher ideals."
Last night, far away from the ornate halls of Congress, and a healthy distance from all of the nation’s post-election debate, I attended the dance and cheer performance at Northeast High School in Lincoln. A number of local schools participated. The Northeast Star Strutters were the first team to go. They were impressive! The young women clearly took great pride in their disciplined line dance, their precisely timed moves, and their team spirit. Inside the gym were hundreds of friends, parents, and grandparents cheering for everyone. How nice to see joyous young people, performing their best, with a happy community in support.
When I wrote to you last week about the prevailing post-election mood in Washington, I mentioned the curiosity and sense of possibility with which many people regard the coming Donald Trump administration. I praised the spirit of unity that President-Elect Trump, Secretary of State Clinton, and President Obama all elevated, despite sharp disagreements. At the same time, it is important to acknowledge that not everyone is experiencing optimism. Deep philosophical differences, coupled with a highly charged political atmosphere, have given rise to protests across the country, attempts to re-litigate the election, and even a push to eliminate the Electoral College, which, by the way, protects small states like Nebraska.
There’s an old saying: “Don’t discuss politics and religion at the dinner table.” But, in reality, when better to have lively conversations on these topics if it can be done with good intention, constructive understanding, and a little humor. Thanksgiving is a time to go deeper in the spirit of gratitude. Cynicism can give way at this special moment to mindfully pause, gratefully reflect on the grace we bring to each other, and contemplate the values that give us hope and solidarity as a people. This is not to dismiss differences, but to elevate that which binds us as an American family—and creates possibilities like the one in the high school gym last night.
The origin of Thanksgiving as a national holiday comes from Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation in the midst of the Civil War:
“…I do therefore invite my fellow citizens… to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union…”
While our modern sensibilities may not incline to such lofty language, nonetheless affirming the great gift of our nation through this holiday is a noble pursuit.
Given these sentiments, I hesitate to say, “Now go buy some stuff.” However, an important event that reinforces the trend of intimate, local, and healthy community is Small Business Saturday. A few years back I called the credit card company responsible for the idea. After thanking him, the CEO told me that it was a young intern in the company who proposed it. Small is beautiful.
This holiday and beyond, perhaps we can be open to surprise, listen to each other, and invite others to our perspective. In other words, a little family, a little turkey, a little nap, a little football, a little shopping, and yes, a little gratitude for our country. It’s all good.
Happy Thanksgiving.Read More
If I had to choose two words to describe the prevailing mood in Washington, they would be curiosity and urgency. Curiosity as to how this moment translates—and urgency, not to waste it. Even though the election was a proxy for many open and deep philosophical divides in the country, now, following a period of economic stagnation and social fragmentation, our nation is entering a time of profound reconsideration.
With the transition of presidential administrations underway, many are wondering what might be the final form of a new governing structure, bringing with it the possibility of great change. The transformation is in the earliest stage of determination. Although the campaign cycle in many ways exhausted America, I believe last week set the right tone. Donald Trump said we must come together as a nation and that he hopes to be President for all Americans. President Obama highlighted how after his first election President George W. Bush was extraordinarily helpful to him, and he promised to be helpful in similar fashion to President-Elect Trump. Hillary Clinton, in a magnanimous concession speech, detailed the pain of her loss, but she also said Americans owe Trump an open mind and that we must unify.
We may take it for granted, but last week demonstrated the brilliance of how our democracy provides for a peaceful transition of power. In spite of some isolated protests, we witnessed the ongoing resiliency of America’s governing traditions. In Congress, a great deal of ideological rigidity has been vaporized. Conversations among fellow Republicans and Democrats are yielding a sense of new horizons, which, if properly considered, will shape a meaningful approach to the next White House.
First, Washington is readying to correct regulatory overreach that has constrained the ability of small businesses to flourish. For far too long, Washington has distorted markets and, most importantly, the imagination of people to find better solutions for their neighbors. Government must play its role, but with constraints on its tendency to seize more power.
Second, America’s foreign policy, oscillating between passivity and ad hoc interventionism, must shift toward a principled realism that better builds authentic friendships and sustains safety.
Third, our nation’s economy is likely to adopt a more inclusive model. Power that has been concentrated in Washington and Wall Street has left millions of Americans feeling left behind at the margins of what many regard as a corrupt and elitist world. New trade and tax policies will aim to restore decimated manufacturing sectors—returning jobs, dignity, and social cohesion to large swaths of the nation. We saw a hint of this today: Ford announced it would keep a plant in America. Apple’s hinting the same.
Fourth, our immigration system is stretched. Laws that have not been enforced have led to chaos and dislocation, testing the natural generosity of Americans. Righting the legal system, stopping unscrupulous employers, and holding those who break the law to account are the start of restoring a humane and fair immigration policy.
Even more is coming: from reimagining health care to infrastructure reform.
Have you ever watched a concrete truck at work? The rotating mixer churns and the gray content runs down the chute, plopping onto the ground. The mass of wet materials has to be quickly molded into forms to create the right structure, hardened into concrete ideas. That’s where we are.
I often pass through Chicago’s airport on my way from Nebraska to Washington. Along one of the terminals hangs a picture of a striking young man in an aviator jacket. The crowds rush by without much notice. A little while back I paused to read about the man’s life. I realized that he was Edward “Butch” O’Hare, a World War II flying ace—the person after which Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport is named.
Butch O’Hare’s story improbably begins with Al Capone, the famous gangster from Chicago. Butch O’Hare’s father, E.J., was a sleazy and conniving lawyer for Al Capone. He made a name for himself by negotiating a widow out of a patent on the mechanical rabbit machine that was once used at dog tracks. This caught Al Capone’s attention, and the gangster recruited Butch’s father to become a “counselor and business manager” for the criminal enterprise.
But something changed. E.J. realized he was not providing a worthy example for his children, particularly his son Butch. For the sake of his son, he made a decision to turn Al Capone in to the authorities. The mob does not easily forget, and later E.J. was gunned down.
Even though he had aided a murderous and corrupt organization, he stopped, made a pivotal choice, and embraced that which is good. This decision helped create the conditions for his son to attend the U.S. Naval Academy. Butch O’Hare graduated and went on to fly combat missions in World War II. During one pitched battle at sea, O’Hare and his wingman were protecting the USS Lexington in Wildcat fighters. On the horizon, appearing in V formation, were eight Japanese Betty bombers with tail guns that could prove deadly in aerial fights.
Despite the lopsided numbers and the grim reality that he and his wingman were the only American planes in the proper position, O’Hare made the decision to engage the bombers. He opened fire with his wingman, but his wingman’s gun jammed.
In a moment of pure heroic will, O’Hare pressed forward alone and unaided toward the enemy Bettys. He executed a daring maneuver, allowing the lead bombers to pass him and opening fire on those in the rear. In four minutes, under intense fire, he shot down five of the bombers, protecting the USS Lexington and the service members aboard. For this brave and selfless action he was awarded the Medal of Honor. As the medal citation reads: “…one of the most daring, if not the most daring, single action in the history of combat aviation.”
So here is the story of three men. A gangster who robbed and killed. His lawyer who turned from greed to good. And the lawyer's son who turned from good to great.
Choosing well, choosing honorably for the good—this is the continuous high calling in each of our lives. The veterans around us have made this choice. And their choice, the choice to be willing to personally sacrifice, has made them great.
Today, we honor our veterans for their sacrifice. Their bravery has afforded us the liberty and security we now enjoy. That a person would dedicate his life for his friends—for another—is the noblest of human ideals. That we would unite in gratitude to reflect on the heroism of our veterans is one of the greatest human expressions. That we would gather in so many ceremonies across the country is a reflection of our common bonds, our narrative as a people, and our notion of our nation.
Some veterans saw battle. Some veterans had friends who did not come home. Some veterans held a wounded brother as they died, watching helplessly as war consumed another innocent life. Countless other veterans simply performed their duty, with no questions asked or demands made. They cooked, cleaned, and computed. They repaired, drove, and maintained the effort. They returned to civilian life and perhaps never mentioned the details of their military service, except to say: “I did what was expected. I did my duty.”
Thank you veterans.
Washington, D.C. – Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) today issued the following statement on Veteran’s Day:
“To our veterans, to those who have selflessly sacrificed, thank you. Veteran’s Day is a time to gather in gratitude, and by doing so, we reflect our common bond, our narrative as a people, and our notion of our nation.
Some veterens saw battle. Some never came home. Others served in support. They cooked, cleaned, and computed. They repaired, drove, and maintained the effort. Many returned to civilian life and perhaps never mentioned the details of their military service, except to say: “I did what was expected. I did my duty.”
Thank you veterans.
Blair is a small Nebraska town right north of Omaha, nestled among beautiful and wooded rolling hills along the Missouri River. It is a traditional hub of agricultural activity, several large manufacturing plants, and a very stable community of strong values. So much so that a Sunday school class of little children wrote to me about the need to help other impoverished children in countries across the world. Their letters were heartwarming, and they demonstrated the enduring, universal ideals that animate the moral imagination of Nebraska youth.
Fast forward to a jarring criminal incident that took place last month when three men were arrested in Blair driving nearly 90 miles per hour with a loaded gun stolen in Iowa. Two of them were Somali immigrants from Lincoln and Minneapolis here on visas. Both were wanted by the United States Department of Homeland Security, and between the two, had 34 previous arrests. The third man lived in Omaha. He had 50 previous arrests. Even though the three have been in America long enough to have been arrested 94 times, they still requested a court interpreter. They have abused their privilege. They do not belong in America.
Events of this nature do not usually disrupt our communities. But we live in a world, even here in Nebraska, intertwined with many challenges abroad. Although this event is somewhat unusual in the First District, it’s another failure of our current immigration system. Thankfully the police apprehended the men without any violence. Neither the officers nor anyone from Blair were harmed. At the same time, one has to consider whether this benign outcome was also partially a function of luck.
Contrast this with a gentleman who recently called my office to personally express his heartfelt gratitude for helping relocate his family here from another war torn country. Although I do not know the fullness of his story, I imagine they faced dire circumstances. Here is a man who arrives and straightaway signals respect for the system that helped get him here.
America has a great capacity to be generous, but those who have received our generosity have an obligation. If you want to come to America, you will accept American values. If you want to come to America, you will work, provide for yourself, and integrate responsibly into dutiful citizenship. If you want to come to America, celebrate your past culture, explain it to other people, and at the same time celebrate your new one.
The children who wrote to me from Blair showed the right humanitarian impulse. Nebraskans throughout our great state have a proper desire to assist one another as well as visitors and newcomers. Our nation has generally maintained a vibrant immigration system, but chaos, disorder, and crime undermine our ability to maintain that openness.
Of our country’s priorities, one of the most pressing should be ensuring that the criminal justice system, the judicial system, and the immigration system work in concert to swiftly remove persons who have seriously transgressed our laws. This will help keep America safe, and protect the integrity of immigration policy for those properly standing in line who want to come, rebuild their lives, and contribute to society—sustaining America's generous impulse. The core principle of immigration is this: first, you must choose to be an American.
1514 Longworth HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Jeff Fortenberry was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 2004 to serve Nebraska’s First Congressional District. His work in Congress is rooted in the belief that the strength of our nation depends on the strength of our families and communities. Jeff is a member of the House Appropriations Committee, which appropriates United States government expenditures. He serves on three subcommittees with importance for Nebraska: Agriculture, Energy and Water, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs.
Jeff previously served on the House Foreign Affairs Committee where he placed particular focus on human rights concerns, Middle Eastern affairs, and nuclear weapons non-proliferation. He also represented Nebraska on the Agriculture Committee, where his work on two Farm Bills advanced opportunities for young and beginning farmers and promoted agricultural entrepreneurship.
Prior to serving in Congress, Jeff worked as a publishing industry executive in Lincoln, where he also served on the Lincoln City Council from 1997-2001. Jeff also has significant personal experience in small business, and early in his career he worked as a policy analyst for the United States Senate Subcommittee on Intergovernmental Relations. Jeff earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and two master’s degrees, one in public policy. He and his wife Celeste live in Lincoln and have five daughters.
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If media trauma is to be resolved, journalists must once again champion honesty and fairness https://t.co/siDbGy1NWP
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The transition of presidential administrations has unleashed the potential for a genuine re-imagining of policy. https://t.co/HmbXt9PhYq
Retweeted by jefffortenberry
Great to meet courageous youth battling Type 1 Diabetes. We passed the Cures Act to fund treatments & research at lower cost. #CuresNow
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I have known a number of people who had to flee Castro's Cuba. https://t.co/11CVTvhva4
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This Small Business Saturday, I want to take a moment to encourage you to support your local establishments and shop #SmallBiz.
Particularly in Nebraska where local reporting is nested within the community, there tends to be a sense of civic virtue tied to reporting, a
Dec 7, 1941. Navy dispatch to USS Ranger about the Pearl Harbor attack. "This is not a drill." Courtesy of the Library of Congress
For far too long, partisan paralysis has plagued Congress, leading to stagnation in Washington. With this historic and transformative election,
In our Lincoln office, Monday, it was truly inspiring to meet so many young people working to raise awareness and find a cure for juvenile type
I have known a number of people who had to flee Castro's Cuba. Welcomed generously to America, they had to start over and rebuild their lives.