Sunday, December 23, 2007

A Lump of Coal

As one of Mr. Rogers' constituents, I signed up to receive his legislative updates via email. The most recent one is a textbook example of the way Rogers spins his D.C. behavior to make it look like he cares.

After fighting tooth and nail to block expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), Rogers voted to support a watered-down version and happily patted himself on the back for it.

Today, the House of Representatives approved an SCHIP extension that incorporates legislation I co-authored earlier this year to fully fund and modestly expand health coverage for millions of poor and low-income children through March 2009. This is a significant victory that protects the needs of the children of America's working poor. The President is expected to sign this measure into law this week.

This measure provides for a clean extension of SCHIP and recognizes our responsibility to ensure that the children's health program is available for children who need it, and not for adults, people who enter the country illegally, or families who already have private insurance.

This legislation increases the programs' funding and keeps the focus where it belongs, on helping low-income kids. The bill fully funds the existing program for an additional 18 months. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the funding increases will ensure that no State would have to reduce their SCHIP benefits package or change their current SCHIP eligibility standards due to a lack of federal funding.

The kindest way to describe this is, ah, somewhat misleading. Here's a fact-based analysis of Rogers' message:

1.) It's not clear what Rogers is referring to when he talks about the previous SCHIP legislation he co-authored. If you find it, please let me know. It is clear that he doggedly repeated Bush talking points (no coverage for illegal immigrants, adults or "wealthy" families) all through the fall. This is most likely what was "incorporated" into the final version of the bill.

2.) "Fully funding" SCHIP is a misleading term. Earlier this year, the Bush administration placed considerable eligibility restrictions on the decade-old SCHIP program. Based on these restrictions, 14 states will actually have to drop children from SCHIP coverage. The Kaiser Family Foundation's Daily Health Policy Report offers a good summary:
The measure does not address an SCHIP policy directive announced in August by CMS that states must enroll 95% of children in families with incomes up to 250% of the federal poverty level before expanding eligibility, The Hill reports. Acting CMS Administrator Kerry Weems said that the Bush administration would not require states to disenroll children from the program despite the requirement. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair John Dingell (D-Mich.) said that Weems' statement contradicts the policy, adding, "Perhaps CMS officials are reading their
directive differently than the rest of us."

An analysis by the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute's Center for Children and Families found that 14 states provide SCHIP coverage to children in families with incomes greater than 250% of the poverty level and that they "will likely be forced to roll back their eligibility levels at some point before August 2008
or assume new coverage costs with state funds." Democratic Caucus Chair Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) on the House floor Wednesday said, "Because of the president's executive order, kids in those states will actually come off the rolls in August." The National Governors Association on Monday sent a letter to Congress asking it to "address the issue raised in the ... guidance issued by CMS" (Young, The Hill, 12/20).

Translation: the new rules will force some children out of SCHIP coverage, since a number of states now cover families with incomes over 250% of the federal poverty level. This is especially true in the Northeast, which has much higher costs of living.

3.) Georgetown University's Center for Children and Families also noted that the requirement to cover 95% of eligible children is unrealistic:

No means-tested program where people have to apply and be reviewed for eligibility has reached this high standard of participation. In fact, Medicare, which is not means tested and where people are enrolled automatically, has a participation rate of about 95 percent. By comparison, the low-income subsidy for the Medicare part D prescription drug benefit, which is means tested, has a participation rate of only 43 percent. SCHIP and Medicaid participation rates are considerably higher—about 63 percent and 79 percent, respectively—but state-level participation rates vary widely and are difficult to measure accurately due to data limitations.

Translation: the 95% rule is an unrealistic standard; even if states try to meet it, there is no accurate way to determine participation rates.

4.) According to Rogers, the final version of the bill excludes adults, illegal immigrants and families with private insurance. There are plenty of posts that cover this in detail, but in a nutshell,

* the SCHIP bills that Bush vetoed did not cover adults. Back in 2005, though, the Bush administration urged states to expand SCHIP coverage to very low-income adults -- so Rogers and Dave Camp co-authored a letter supporting Michigan's participation in this program. Ah, how quickly they forget...

*the SCHIP bills that Bush vetoed did not cover illegal immigrants. In fact, an early version would have required a five-year waiting period for legal immigrant families. This is fear-mongering, pure & simple.

* Families at this income level ($42,925 a year for a family of 3) who have private insurance coverage are most likely getting it through an employer. With the spiraling cost of health insurance, more companies are requiring employees to shoulder a bigger share of the cost. For this hypothetical family, SCHIP coverage may well be more affordable than private coverage. Does Mr. Rogers really intend to micromanage that family's spending choices?

[Remember, SCHIP isn't "free" health care -- it requires premiums and co-pays that are tied to income level. ]

So you can see that this is just another Rogers Special: light on fact, heavy on emotion, and totally useless for working families.

Saturday, December 22, 2007


Deary me. Mike Rogers lost the vote on the new energy bill in a big way (314-100). To repair his fragile self-esteem and garner a little press attention for, um, losing the vote, Rogers decided to vent about the way the bill was sent down Pennsylvania Avenue for Bush's signature -- in a Toyota Prius.

According to the Freep, the vehicle choice didn't go over too well with Rogers or his GOP buddy Candice Miller:
"It is a huge slap in the face, calculated, I believe, just to demonstrate their complete disregard for the domestic auto industry," said Rep. Candice Miller.

Rep. Mike Rogers called the Prius delivery a "slap in the face of every American autoworker."
Oh, really?

( It's Christmas. Sharing is good. So we won't mock Mike for sharing his talking points cheat sheet with Candy... we will, however, take him to task for manufacturing an unrealistic hissy fit.)

It seems to me that the auto industry doesn't share Mr. Rogers' indignation (or they're at least smart enough not to share it in public):

Chrysler’s president, James E. Press, said he welcomed the new legislation and hoped it would remain the single national standard that auto companies must meet.
“Now we get some better clarity where the road goes and how steep the hill to climb is going to be, and we’re going to have fun,” said Mr. Press, formerly Toyota’s top executive for North America. “We’re committed to meeting these standards and doing our part.”
Other manufacturing executives had an equally positive outlook on the bill, like Osram Sylvania CEO Charlie Jerabek.

But even though the energy bill has not changed the direction of lighting research, most manufacturers are relieved to have a federal standard in place.

“If each state passed its own rules for light bulb efficiency, we’d have to make 50 different types,” Mr. Jerabek said. “Now we can all standardize our production techniques.”

Hmmm. Sounds like manufacturers are okay with national standards. Wasn't Mr. Rogers recently in a tizzy about those awful Californians having their own emissions standards?

Bottom line? According to the non-partisan National Commission on Energy Policy, the bill's provisions for improved fuel efficiency and renewable fuels will result in
*Reduction in U.S. oil use of 2.8 million barrels a day by 2020, and 5 million barrels a day by 2030, over business as usual.

*U.S. Consumer fuel savings of $71 billion per year in 2020, and $161 billion in 2030, using approximate current prices ($90/barrel oil, $3/gallon gasoline).
*Reduction of transfer of wealth abroad of $73 billion per year in 2020 and $129 billion in 2030.

*Reduction in U.S. CO2 emissions by 320 million metric tons in 2020, and 675 million metric tons in 2030.

*Reduction in passenger vehicle emissions by 15% in 2020 and 30% in 2030 under what they otherwise would be.

*Reduction in 2020 of approximately 4% of projected total net U.S. CO2 emissions versus what they would otherwise be.
This is a deeply needed step forward for our country and our world. Quit whining, Mr. Rogers.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Jingle Bells a la Mike Rogers

Dashing through DC
With a gang of lobbyists
Love that K Street cash
Forget constituents

How can I get one more
Gerrymandered term?
What fun it is to wheel and deal
And watch the voters squirm.

Oh, incumbent, incumbent
It’s really quite a scam
Voters pay, you get to play
Off in Afghanistan

Blaming all the Dems
For our country’s ills
You say no to S-CHIP
And you laugh at CAFÉ bills

You say you’re Intel Guy,
Know lots ‘bout terrorist stuff
In Pakistan, you are the man
But you don’t come home enough

Oh, incumbent, incumbent
It must have been a bummer
The NIE says Iran’s nuke-free
No photo ops there in your Hummer

cross-posted at LivingBlue

The Twelve Days of Christmas

'tis the season and all, so I figured a little updated holiday song would be a nice change from all that policy wonking...

Mike Rogers’ Twelve Days of Christmas

On the first day of Christmas, special interests gave to me
A gerrymandered di-i-strict

On the second day of Christmas, special interests gave to me
Two photo ops

On the third day of Christmas, special interests gave to me
Three big checks

On the fourth day of Christmas, special interests gave to me
Four K Street pals

On the fifth day of Christmas, special interests got me off
Mark Foley’s Christmas card list

On the sixth day of Christmas, special interests took me out on
Swell Potomac cruises

On the seventh day of Christmas, special interests gave to me
Scary Pakistani pals

On the eighth day of Christmas, special interests gave to me
“No” votes on S-CHIP

On the ninth day of Christmas, special interests gave to me
Money for my CHOMP bash

On the tenth day of Christmas, special interests gave to me
Money for MIKE R PAC

On the eleventh day of Christmas, special interests gave to me
Californians to blame

On the twelfth day of Christmas, special interests gave to me,
Lots of trips to Iraq

Friday, December 7, 2007

Energy Sap

Mr. Rogers is at it again: pontificating on national issues, blaming the Democrats and neatly avoiding any actions that might actually solve a problem.

(if this was Variety, this post would no doubt be titled, "Slacker Solon Talks Smack, Sasses Speaker, Slams Left Coast")

Today's example of RogersLogic is brought to you courtesy of the House energy bill that passed yesterday. The bill, which passed 235-181, raised standards for fuel economy, appliances and light bulbs, and also promoted the development of alternative fuels.

Mike Rogers voted against it. And this is what he said:
"Innovation is the key to solving the energy crunch and getting Michigan back on its economic feet. Taxation and wasteful spending take us backwards, deeper into an ocean of foreign oil and sky-high gasoline and heating oil prices. That translates into 'no new jobs for Michigan' as well as bad news for the entire country." — Rep.
Mike Rogers, R-Brighton
I agree that innovation is key to solving the energy crunch. And lots of folks think that alternative energy sources could be a huge boost to the MI economy, including Governor Granholm, Thomas Friedman, and -- hey! -- Ethanol Guy Mike Rogers, who earlier this year raved about lithium ion batteries and hydrogen fuel cells.

So how does Mr, Rogers make this leap of logic, equating improved fuel efficiency with taxation and wasteful spending?

Well, despite all of the useful bits contained in the bill, it didn't address the issue of whether states should be allowed to set their own standards for greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks. So it looks like Mr. Rogers is out to protect us (yet again!) from those Evil Californians:

"California would still be allowed to design American cars, and the only thing worse than that is to have Congress designing our cars," Rogers said in a statement.

"American families ought to decide what cars they want to drive, not the state of California where extremism continues to damage the manufacture of American cars and hurt American workers."

I'll type slowly so that Mr. Rogers can follow along.

1.) Until yesterday, the CAFE standards hadn't changed since 1975. Remind me again how the U.S. auto industry has been doing during that time?

2.) Californians are Americans, too. They (and their Republican governor) have agreed on ways to protect their environment. They are also a substantial automotive market. Mr. Rogers should stop being a Big Government control freak and let the market provide vehicles to meet the demand.

3.) What are you putting on the table, Mr. Rogers? You criticize A LOT. You haven't come up with any viable alternatives. You haven't secured much in the way of research dollars for our state's universities. You're happy to talk about ethanol, while letting all those corn stalks provide cover for your cozy relationship with Big Oil.

Don't be a sap, Mr. Rogers. Do the right thing: leave the politics behind and help our state take the lead in alternative energy research and manufacturing.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Amway = Security

Dick (Mr. $26.22 per Vote)DeVos will be the keynote speaker at the Second annual Michigan Homeland Security Venture and Angel Capital Symposium, which takes place tomorrow at Cleary University.

The Press & Argus article noted that

While not an expert in homeland security, DeVos is a Grand Rapids-area businessman, president of Windquest Group and the son of one of the founders of Amway Corp.

DeVos' talk is expected to focus on the value of investment in protecting the homeland, and about Michigan's growing role in the field.

[For a much funnier take on what promises to be theater of the absurd, I tip my hat to Eric B. at Michigan Liberal for his post "How to Wage War... and Make Money!"]

Now, you probably know that Mike Rogers is never far away when there's a big, steaming serving of pork 'n' cash available. So let's count the connections:

1.) Rogers is a major supporter of Cleary University ("Semper Coulter"). For FY08, he asked for the following goodies for Cleary:
  • $1,040,000 for road construction at Cleary University

  • $461,000 to Cleary University for equipment upgrades & technology instruction for high school students through Cleary's partnerships with local public and charter schools

  • $225,000 to construct a community recreation center on the Cleary campus
Pretty sweet for a satellite campus of a university with less than 800 students!

Both Rogers and Cleary University are founding partners of the Livingston Economic Club , which ponied up $30,000 for Ann Coulter to speak last October.

2.) Moving right along, we come to the Michigan Homeland Security Consortium. For those of you unfamiliar with the MiHSC, it's a kind of Chamber of Commerce for security companies. Mike Rogers was the keynote speaker at its kickoff meeting on September 11, 2006. The MiHSC mission:

To drive the development and growth of the Homeland Security Industry within the State of Michigan, placing it at the forefront of the State’s economic revitalization.
Fair enough. We need something to revitalize our state's economy. And yet... I always get a little queasy when folks start to talk about national security as a growth industry. Mike Rogers, for one, is an old hand at linking security and profit. In 2004, the City Pulse carried this story:

“I believe there’s a great opportunity for Michigan companies in Iraq,” Rogers told a dozen businessmen at a Michigan Manufacturers Association meeting in Lansing on Monday, May 17. “This economy has the potential to give out $600 billion a year. The Iraqis are fast becoming a consumer population. In my entire life, I’ve never seen so many satellite dishes on roofs.”

Rogers, a former FBI officer and strong supporter of the Iraq invasion, has traveled to Iraq three times since the country’s government was overthrown in April 2003. During a one-hour briefing on “Doing Business in Iraq” with Bush administration senior official William H. Lash as guest speaker, Rogers painted a glowing picture of the prospects for economic gain in this combat-scarred country. [skip]

But during a discussion prior to the business briefing, Lash and Rogers downplayed reports about rising security concerns for foreigners. “It’s just like walking in a rough neighborhood anywhere in America,” Rogers said. (5/19/04)

3.) DeVos' brother-in-law Eric Prince is the CEO of Blackwater USA, which is intimately familiar with the amazing profit opportunties offered by the security industry (see this helpful House Oversight graph of Blackwater contracts during the Bush administration).

4.) DeVos has contributed to indicted former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's campaigns AND his legal defense fund. He also spent quite a bit of time hanging out with uber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who now resides in a minimum-security federal prison after being convicted of fraud, tax evasion & conspiracy to bribe public officials. (H/T to Liberal Lucy for an earlier post that showed us the money.)

Interestingly, Mike Rogers has also spent some quality time with Messrs. DeLay and Abramoff. During the tenure of former Majority Leader DeLay, Rogers served as a hand-picked deputy whip in the Republican leadership & raised record-breaking amounts of moola as chair of the RNCC finance committee. In 2006, Rogers’ PAC, the MIKE-R Fund, made $10,000 worth of donations to DeLay's PAC. Rogers is also one of six Congressmen who accepted money from Abramoff’s PAC and refused to return it.

Isn't it nice that Dick & Mike have so many things in common?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Mike Rogers Hearts Big Government

In the category of Posts You Will Probably Never See Here, I offer this example from The World Around You:

Shockingly, my Representative, Mike Rogers made me proud last night in voting to override President Bush’s veto of the Labor-HHS-Education spending bill. As Mary Orndorff points out, he had a few earmarks in there, but regardless of what motivated him, it is one of the few opportunities I have had to say thank you to Rep. Rogers.

Yes, that's the Alabama Mike Rogers who voted to support health insurance for low-income children.

See, our Mr. Rogers won't support SCHIP because it would let states make decisions that Federal Mike may not like.

Mr. Rogers is so very, very concerned about how the federal government is managed, he's trying to force the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to include two specific drugs in its formulary. A letter from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Consumers Union, the National Women's Health Network and other consumer groups opposed Rogers' legislation, stating that

"Congress should set broad policy objectives and standards for Medicare, but
congressional intervention regarding coverage policies for specific medical products would set a terrible precedent."


"It would encourage companies making medical products as well as medical specialty organizations to constantly ask members of Congress to override scientific evidence and spend taxpayer dollars needlessly on products whose sale would benefit those companies or specialties more than they benefit patients."

In fact, Mr. Rogers is SO concerned with Guv'mint sovereignty that he wasted no time in contacting the media to express his outrage over a decision by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which overturned the Bush administration's fuel efficiency standards.

Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton, sharply criticized the ruling.

"This reckless decision overturns an important increase in fuel efficiency and an essential improvement in vehicle safety," Rogers said. "It is further proof of why we need a real energy bill that embraces innovation and stops California politicians and
judges from designing American cars and trucks."

Boy, the nerve of those California politicians! (Not to mention the 11 other states, two cities and four environmental groups that initially sued the administration and joined the appeal.)

But wait -- what about Mr. Rogers' legislative buddy, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA)? She's a California politician. She and MR have co-sponsored all kinds of legislation that would extend the reach of the federal government: things like health information technology mandates, creating a new biomedical R&D division within HHS, and the above-mentioned drug formulary.

Oh, and they thought it would be great to push for a bill to make computer servers more energy-efficient. The bill passed, including "a sense of Congress that it is in the best interests of the United States for purchasers of computer servers to give high priority to energy efficiency."

So I guess this means it's OK for California politicians to design stuff like CMS drug formularies -- just as long as they agree with Michigan politicians like Mr. Rogers.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Company You Keep

In local news, Livingston County parents were invited to attend a seminar on internet safety yesterday. Representatives from the LivCo Sheriff's Department, the FBI and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children educated parents on ways to protect their children from online predators.

There's no question that this is a great program. There are some seriously nasty people out on the internet -- the more opportunities to educate and empower children (and their parents), the better.

According to the Press & Argus, the seminar was hosted by Mike Rogers (though the WLNS report doesn't refer to him as the host and his own website doesn't mention it at all).

My point?

Well, do you remember disgraced former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley (R-I Heart Teen Boys), who resigned from the House last fall after he was caught sending sexually explicit emails to at least one underage Capitol page? Prior to his resignation, he and Mike Rogers served together as Deputy Whips for Roy Blunt (R-MO). Deputy whips aren't chosen by lottery -- they're hand-picked by the Whip to enforce the party line. Rogers, in his "leadership" capacity, also spent two years chairing the RNCC finance committee. He co-hosted a fundraiser for Katherine Harris (oh, my!) with Mark Foley and Henry Hyde(R-IL) at Mark Foley's Washington home.

Once the Foley story broke, Rogers repeatedly stressed that he had nothing more than a professional relationship with Foley (and he wasn't too thrilled with the endless CNN loop of Rogers and Foley walking together in D.C.). So Rogers didn't want to 'fess up to hanging out at Foley's house? OK, fine.

The problem is that, as he so often reminds us, Rogers is a former FBI agent AND a father. You have to wonder why a law enforcement professional and parent of young children didn't say a word about Foley's behavior. I'm no lawyer, but I'm pretty sure there's no law saying "pedophilia is OK, as long as the creepy guy at the keyboard is a loyal, productively fundraising Republican."

Even worse, Mr. Rogers stayed quiet when it came out that a good many in the GOP leadership (Speaker Dennis Hastert, Majority Leader John Boehner, NRCC Chair Tom Reynolds, other representatives and senior staffers) had known about the Foley emails for months before it became public.
When he's at home, Mr. Rogers says that he's a leader who champions children's safety. When he's in Washington, his actions show that he's a politician who puts party loyalty ahead of family values.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Rogers Sides With Democrats

Here's our headline winner from Wednesday's post. It's an amusing little headline, pithy yet vague; unlikely to be seen in an actual Gannett-owned newspaper; it offers infinite possibilities and brings a smile.

What more could you want on a Monday morning?

(Apologies for the delay in posting this -- it was a chauffeur-intensive weekend. I don't recall having such an active social life when I was a kid...)

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Pork by any other name...

Mike Rogers is proud to be an opponent of earmarks. His earmark tangle with Rep. Murtha (D-PA) earlier this year made a lot of headlines; in June, he wrote a guest column in the Lansing State Journal stating that
every dollar the federal government spends should be vetted, offered in a transparent way, and open for debate. If we turn the lights on the earmark process, we can work to protect Americans against the abuse that has brought us considerable misuse of the public's hard-earned dollars.
More recently, Mr. Rogers was reportedly cranky about the first S-CHIP bill because it contained "improperly disclosed" earmarks for Tennessee hospitals serving a large number of low-income adults (um, it also contained a $1.2 billion earmark for MI healthcare over a 10-year period, but that's another story).

Now, I am all for the government being responsible when it spends my money. And I don't have a problem with Representatives helping out their districts. In fact, it's a Representative's job to help out the district.

A closer look at earmarks shows that they aren't quite so helpful. Earmarks fund projects that aren't competitively bid. Sometimes, they fund projects that the recipient department (HHS, Defense, etc.) haven't even requested. And it wasn't until this Congress that House members were required to provide disclosure when they inserted an earmark (the Senate can still earmark anonymously).

So I wasn't impressed to read yesterday's Press & Argus story about a $1.6 million earmark for Brighton-based Lowry Computer Products' base security system to allow the military to better track trucks on military bases.

I was even less impressed when I found that in July, Rogers asked for $4 million for Lowry's base security system project. This earmark was to fund proof of concept tests and perform a demonstration project on a security system that would allow the military to better track who and what is on base.

From Lowry's website, you can see this that is a very successful company. They offer a variety of commercial RFID, wireless and bar code applications; their clients include General Mills, International Paper, Lexmark, Sony and 3M. They also have a lot of experience with government contracts:
For more than fifteen years Lowry has supplied the U.S. Government with technology products and services. All Lowry solutions are backed by a nationwide
service network and supported by a specialized staff that is highly trained in the Government market. Lowry currently holds two Blanket Purchase Agreements (BPAs) issued by the Army Contracting Agency (ACA). One BPA is for RFID EPC Class 1 smart labels and the other for EPC Class 1 printers and RFID label design software.
I'm glad that there's a strong, healthy company in Brighton, a bright spot in the otherwise not-so-good economic picture for our region.

The question is, why does an already successful business need almost $6 million in earmarked funds?

It seems that Lowry isn't alone. The New York Times reported that
House lawmakers still tacked on to the military appropriations bill $1.8 billion to pay 580 private companies for projects the Pentagon did not request.


The House version of the military bill includes 1,337 earmarks totaling $3 billion, the most Congressional earmarks in any of the spending bills passed this year. A conference committee is now reconciling House and Senate versions. The Senate added $5 billion in earmarks, but it is difficult to determine the sponsors because it has no disclosure rules.

Fully-disclosed pork is better than anonymous pork -- but it's still pork!

Don't take my word for it. The same Times article quoted Rep. Flake (a/k/a The Club for Growth's Poster Boy:

“Pork hasn’t gone away at all,” said Representative Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona, an earmark critic who cites the “circular fund-raising” surrounding many of them. “It would be wonderful if this was a partisan issue, with Republicans on the right side, but it is really not. Many of these companies use money appropriated through earmarks to turn around and lobby for more money. Some of them are just there to receive earmarks.”

Congressional earmarks are for programs that are not competitively bid, and the Bush administration has complained that they waste taxpayer dollars and skew priorities from military needs, like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the global war on terror.
Some in Michigan's own GOP are critical of Mike's penchant for earmarks. From Livingston County's own Republican Michigander, here's a post titled "Can't go along with this, Mike":
I know earmarks is how the game is played. I know that this is an attempt to bring home the bacon to the 8th district. The problem is the game itself, and Mike had a good chance to be a hero. [skip] This was a good chance for Mike Rogers to request no earmarks and once again call out the democrats, as well as the Ted Stevens acolytes in the GOP side of the house, and bring some fiscal responsibility to the party which - until recently - carried that banner. The system is broke, and this was a good chance to fix it.
Mr. Rogers, why is it OK for you to play both sides of the fence? If you're against earmarks, show some leadership and don't weasel them in. If you think they're fine when properly disclosed, then don't get on your partisan high horse and criticize Democrats who do the same thing.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Mondo Bizarro: Rogers Supports Cheney Impeachment

With coffee firmly in hand, I was taking the usual morning ramble through the InterTubes when I came across Paul Kane's Capitol Briefing in the on-line Washington Post:

UPDATE: Hoyer: 'Impeachment ... Not on Our Agenda'

After the vote on the impeachment resolution, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) unequivocally said he expects no action taken by the Judiciary Committee to consider the Kucinich articles of impeachment against Vice President Cheney. "The speaker and I have both said impeachment, either of the president or the vice president, is not on our agenda," Hoyer told Capitol Briefing. [skip] ... any impeachment proceedings would merely divert attention from the Democratic agenda of trying to actually halt the Iraq war and domestic items such as expanding health insurance for poor children.

OK, not much of a surprise there. They've had enough trouble getting a dozen extra votes to override the SCHIP veto(es), much less take on an impeachment trial.

But wait -- it gets interesting:
• Just four Republicans - Wayne Gilchrest (Md.), Walter Jones (N.C.), Ron Paul (Tex.) and Mike Rogers (Mich.) - voted in favor of sending the resolution to committee. Gilchrest, Jones and Paul have all opposed the Iraq war, not surprising for them to be potentially supportive of impeachment proceedings. Rogers, however, has been a loyal Republican on Iraq war votes. (emphasis mine)

There's two ways to look at this. Either (A) Mike Rogers was kidnapped by aliens and had a conscience implant, or (B) he is once again spending his time on political maneuvers instead of the job he's paid to do for the residents of Michigan's 8th.

No prize for guessing which one, but just to be sure I went back to read Kane's original post:
After initially having more than enough votes to kill the resolution - the "yea" tally to table impeachment topped out at 291 - Republicans decided they had a chance to politically shame Democrats into a full debate on the sensitive issue. Republicans gleefully said they wanted the debate to show the public how many Democrats would actually support impeaching Cheney, which they consider a move supported only by a fringe element of anti-war activists.

More than 120 members, predominantly Republicans, then switched their votes in favor of holding a one-hour debate on the issue, with a final vote of 251-162 supporting a debate on impeachment. Rather than allow a debate fraught with political risk, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) moved to send the Kucinich resolution to the Judiciary Committee, whose chairman, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), has publicly speculated about impeaching the president or vice president but has declined taking any action since taking the gavel in January.

Defusing any chance of an actual impeachment debate today, the House then voted 218-194 to send the motion to Conyers's committee, with Democrats overwhelmingly supporting the move.
(emphasis mine)
Well, that makes tactical sense for the Dems and they voted decisively (214 to 5) in favor -- a "yes" vote meant that they could avoid a debate. But what about the four Republicans who joined them, voting against the GOP (189 to 4)? Especially for Rogers, who has firmly supported Bush on all aspects of the Iraq War (torturing, funding, Constitution-trampling, etc.)

Dear readers, pick the headline you'd most like to see in the Press & Argus, Freep or LSJ:

(1) Rogers Supports Kucinich

(2) Rogers Votes to Impeach Cheney

(3) Rogers Sides With Democrats

Email me your fave future headline by Friday night, and I'll post the winner on Saturday. Yay!

For triple bonus points, include your best conspiracy theory on the rationale for Rogers' vote.

Have fun!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Moral Compass

In the days since Judge Michael Mukasey was nominated for Attorney General of the United States, there has been some common sense lost in all the lawyer-y jargon coming from Capitol Hill. Judge Mukasey hasn't answered questions from his Senate panel as to whether he believes waterboarding is torture, and thus illegal. (Thus putting himself in a rather delicate position vis-a-vis the guy who nominated him and thinks the practice is A-OK.)

I don't think the Judge is much of a blog reader, but if he is I'd strongly recommend Jim Marcinkowski's post over at No Quarter:

The debate about whether “waterboarding” constitutes torture misses the point.

Imagine for a moment that you are the chief law enforcement officer investigating the kidnapping of an infant. You have a suspect in custody who is believed to be the only person who knows where the child is being kept. Without food and water, it will be just a matter of time before the child dies. Should you be allowed to break out the waterboard?
What compels an affirmative answer? Is it the certainty of innocent death, or the number of deaths? What should the number be? One, ten, or perhaps one thousand? If ten thousand sounds about right, and it can be shown to work, why not use it when one hundred victims are at risk? Why not use it to save one innocent, helpless infant?

The point is, if you believe waterboarding is an acceptable practice, say so. Let’s do it! Let’s encourage the Congress of the United States to pass a crime bill to train our law enforcement officers in these “enhanced” interrogation techniques. After all, we could probably save thousands of lives in just a few years.
As Americans, we do not sacrifice our humanity for the expedient, nor do we believe that true justice can be achieved without the temperament of legal and moral process. Honor does not derive from winning at all costs, but in winning (or at times, even losing) without shame. While America has on countless occasions sacrificed its blood for honor around the world, we have never sacrificed our honor out of fear of losing more blood.
From the time of its founding, this country has been described as a “shining city on a hill,” a beacon and an example of not only freedom and democracy, but of an unwavering moral commitment to what is good, what is human and what is right. As the Senate decides on this confirmation, they should keep in mind the words of U.S. Justice Robert Jackson in his opening statement at the Nuremberg trials: “The real complaining party at your bar is Civilization.”

Call the vote.

This is a thoughtful, timely essay from Jim, a Navy veteran and former CIA officer who also served as a prosecutor. Jim and a number of fellow intelligence professionals, diplomats and law enforcement officers have sent a letter to Senators Leahy and Specter, chairman and ranking minority member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, respectively.

Let's hope that Judge Mukasey, a distinguished Federal judge for almost two decades, will put principle over politics in his confirmation hearings.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Dollars and Nonsense

Halloween is over, but Mike Rogers is still wearing his Fiscal Responsibility costume.

He's written another fact-free letter on budget policy targeting Congressman Charlie Rangel (D-NY), chair of the House Ways and Means Committee. Displaying a shaky grasp of the Michigan Constitution, federal tax policy and how Congress enacts laws, Rogers writes

On the heels of Democrat Governor Granholm raising income taxes on every Michigan family by 12% and adding a new 6 percent tax on services, Representative Charlie Rangel, the Democratic chairman of the Ways and Means committee and the man in charge of writing all tax laws, recently introduced a plan that will further hurt Michigan’s economy and families.
As with most of Mr. Rogers’ oh-so-scary pronouncements, there isn’t much “there” there when you strip away the partisan rhetoric. Rogers is actually referring to H.R. 3970, The Tax Reduction and Reform Act of 2007. The opening paragraph from the Ways and Means Committee summary reads:
The combination of the general tax reductions below and full repeal of the individual alternative minimum tax (AMT) would result in tax relief for approximately 91 million families. Even with offsets, virtually all families with income under $500,000 will see a net tax reduction.
(emphasis mine; please note that the phrase “except for Michiganders” does not appear in this description.)

Without making everyone’s eyes glaze over – including mine – here’s a quick overview of H.R. 3970:

Who pays less under this bill?

Working Americans -- it increases in the standard deduction (up to $850 more for married couples filing jointly)

Families -- it doubles the percentage of the refundable child credit from 7.65% of earned income up to 15.3% of earned income.

Teachers – elementary and secondary teachers can deduct up to $250 for the cost of books, supplies and supplementary materials used in the classroom.

Active Duty military – service members can include combat pay as part of their earned income to qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Lots of other taxpayers – The bill would repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). In a nutshell, the AMT was enacted in 1969 to address the fact that many wealthy Americans were taking so many deductions they were actually paying little or no federal income taxes. It was a good idea, but because AMT wasn’t indexed to inflation it hurts more middle-class families every year. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that up to 30 million taxpayers will be affected by the AMT in 2010, up from just over 1 million in 2001.

Last year, the IRS’s National Taxpayer Advocate’s Report called it “the poster child for tax law complexity” and recommended that Congress repeal the AMT.

Oh, and here’s a surprise: the bill reduces the top corporate tax rate from 35% to 30.5%.

Who pays more under this bill? (Or, Can You Hear the Closing of the Loopholes?)

Investment fund managers – when they earn income from carried interest in an investment fund (known as “investment management services” income), it will be taxed at the ordinary rate, instead of the current lower capital gains rate.

Investment fund managers Part 2 -- they won’t be able to use offshore tax havens to defer paying taxes on income received for “investment management services.”

Corporations that shift jobs overseas – The current law lets companies defer paying on income earned overseas, but they are still able to take deductions on this income on a current basis. In a nutshell, American taxpayers are footing the bill for corporate tax breaks from shifting jobs overseas. The bill would require that the deductions would have to be deferred, too. The revenue from this change would encourage corporations to create jobs here in the United States. This proposal is estimated to raise $106.39 billion over 10 years.

Unless otherwise noted, all figures are from the House Ways and Means Committee summary of HR 3970

The bottom line: the 2007 Tax Act makes sense for working Americans. It also meets the standards of “pay as you go” by eliminating the AMT and closing a number of loopholes.

How, exactly, is this bill bad for Michigan families, small business owners and farmers?

Speaking of the home front...

... if Mr. Rogers is really so concerned about the impact of government expenditures on Michigan families, perhaps he could express that concern by urging State Sen. Majority Leader Mike Bishop and other state GOPers to support legislation that would cut MI lawmakers’ pay by 5% (HCR 26), and eliminate free lifetime health care for term-limited politicians who serve for 6 years in the State legislature. (HB 4580)

Oh, I forgot. Politicians like Mike Rogers are happy to have taxpayers pick up the tab when it's to his benefit.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sensitive New Age Guy

In previous SCHIP posts, I had attributed Mike Rogers' opposition to health care for children to politics.

This seemed like a reasonable assumption, given that Rogers has proven himself to be a reliably perky, fact-free Bush cheerleader on any given topic (Iran, SCHIP, budgets...).

The Democrats re-introduced the SCHIP bill, spelling out the "problematic" bits in language clear enough even for those Congresscritters who move their lips when they read.

All together, now:

*NO coverage for illegal aliens

*NO coverage for families over 300% of the poverty level
(this means you, hypothetical rich people).

*NO cuts to services for senior citizens, just cuts to the private insurance companies that are gouging the government through the Medicaid Advantage program

Yet Mr. Rogers and a majority of his GOP buds still said no. Why? Was this just another example of mindless partisan politics?

Oh no, my friends. It wasn't politics at all.

See, Mr. Rogers and his colleagues are a deeply sensitive bunch. Their feelings were bruised, their self-esteem dented and their confidence shaken when those mean ol' Dems brought back the SCHIP bill.

Here are the sad, sad details, stright from The Horse's Mouth:
The latest rationale: They voted against it because Democratic leaders were nasty to them.

That's what angry House GOPers have now
told Dem leaders in a private meeting on the Hill:

In a closed-door meeting before the last vote on the children’s health care bill, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer appealed for the support of about 30 wavering Republican lawmakers. What he got instead was a tongue-lashing, participants said.

The GOP lawmakers, all of whom had expressed interest in a bipartisan deal on the SCHIP legislation, were furious that the Democratic leader from Maryland had not reached out to them in a more serious way early on. They also criticized him and Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel of Illinois for failing to stop his allies outside Congress from running attack ads in their districts, while they were discussing a bipartisan deal.

One GOPer who sniffled particularly loud about his maltreatment at the hands of House Dems was GOP Rep. Ric Keller of Florida, who complained:

"They spent $1.5 million through their various shill outreach groups attacking me and a handful of my colleagues. But they did not spend five minutes to approach me to ask for my vote."

Stop the hurt. Hug a Republican today.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Mike Rogers: Bull-SCHIP Excuses

Last night, the House passed a revised version of the SCHIP bill 265-142 -- close, but no cigar on being veto-proof. You won't be at all surprised to learn that Mike Rogers voted against health care for the children of working families... AGAIN.

The SCHIP bill that went up for a vote last night had a few minor changes; the only substantive change was a national income eligibility cap that won't let states cover families earning over 300% of the poverty level. This addressed the bogus but oft-repeated charge that "wealthy" families would instantly drop their private coverage and switch to the SCHIP program.

Well that's not good enough for Mike Rogers, Defender of Family Values! He expressed his concerns to the New York Times :

Representative Mike Rogers, Republican of Michigan, said children from affluent families could still qualify for benefits because states, in determining eligibility, could ignore or disregard part of a family’s income.
Whoa there, Mr. Rogers -- are you actually saying that the federal government knows how to spend $$ better than individual states?

So much for your conservative values...

In case you've missed them, here are some other bull-SCHIP tales from Mr. Rogers' Big Bag O' Excuses:

"It covers adults, but it should only be for children."
This is always good for a laugh, since the Bush administration was pushing states to boost their adult SCHIP enrollment two years ago. A Freep editorial noted that Michigan adults participating in SCHIP are doing it with Mike Rogers' blessing:
Enrollees' annual income cannot exceed $3,500; the program is designed mainly to get them preventive care that will keep them out of emergency rooms. Two Republican congressmen (Mike Rogers and Dave Camp) sent a letter supporting the state's application.

In any event, Congress ended this option; it was not in the bill that the president vetoed.
"It will take money away from health care for seniors."
Despite Rogers' recent scare-filled letter to retirees, budget cuts in Medicare Advantage will be made in payments to insurers, not to senior citizens. But hey, Rogers is just looking out for the folks who helped pay for his campaign.

"Wealthy families will drop private insurance and freeload off the taxpayers."
Once more with feeling: Congressional Budget Office Director Peter Orszag testified that

"...I have not seen any other proposals to reduce the number of uninsured children by 5 million with crowd-out rates that are lower than 33 percent. Again, in the absence of a mandate on an employer, or a mandate on an individual, or a mandate on state governments, CBO does not believe you’re going to do much better than these kinds of crowd-out rates."
The Urban Institute estimates that over 70% of the children covered by the bill would come from families making less than $41,300; most of the others would have family incomes under $62,000.

"Taxpayers shouldn't have to pay for other people's health care."
Maybe Mike Rogers has forgotten just who has been picking up the tab for his health care as he served in the Army, worked for the FBI, sat in the Michigan legislature and "represents" the 8th District in Washington...

Call him. Write him. Fax him. Let Rogers know that we're watching his breathtakingly bad voting record.

If all else fails, vote him out of office in November 2008!

(cross-posted at Michigan Liberal)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

CHOMPing at the Bit

An interesting story floated into my inbox this morning. It seems that Mike “I’m too busy to talk to my constitutents” Rogers will be putting on his party togs for a big-bucks GOP fundraiser in Washington, D.C. Tonight’s CHOMP (Challengers Helping Obtain the Majority Program) bash will raise money from House Republicans and dole out the cash to GOP challengers around the country who look like they have the right stuff.

The Hill had an item about the CHOMP party, including these helpful numbers:
The event, which is set for Oct. 24 at the Capitol Hill Club, has raised between
$75,000 and $100,000 per candidate in the past and is expected to raise a similar amount this time. A letter distributed to House GOPers on Tuesday asks them to contribute $2,000 from their campaign committees and $5,000 from their
leadership PACs to each of the nine candidates.
CHOMP was founded in the 2006 cycle by Rogers and Pete Sessions (TX); tonight’s event is co-chaired by Jim McCrery (LA).

Isn’t it nice that Mr. Rogers is working so hard on behalf of his fellow politicians? It’s totally understandable that he was caught up in the arrangements for tonight’s moneyfest – of course he wouldn’t have had spare time to listen to any of the 8th District voters’ concerns about the SCHIP veto. Thank heavens for the Bush talking points – they are such a time-saver for a busy party-planner! And we all know it's super-crucial to raise money, as The Politico points out.
Republicans have struggled to keep pace with House Democrats in fundraising this year after falling from power last fall. But the GOP still sees plenty of pick-up opportunities in some of those same seats they lost last year.

As evidence, the three powerhouse fundraisers included some of their former colleagues on the list of nine recipients: Jeb Bradley of New Hampshire, Melissa Hart of Pennsylvania and Jim Ryun of Kansas. The program raised more than $1.4 million during the last election cycle, and the current harvest should give some of these Republicans a financial boost heading in to 2008.

“We hope to do what we did last year,” Rogers said. “This allows us to go on offense.”

Silly me. I thought Mr. Rogers' job was to go on offense for the people of Michigan's 8th Congressional District. A quick glance at the Press & Argus front pages from this morning (County may lose out on housing aid ) and yesterday ('Katrina-like' woes loom at food bank give a pretty clear picture of what is going on here in Livingston County.

What will it take for Mike Rogers to take a break from scenery-CHOMPing on the national political stage and actually work to help us here at home?

You'd think he'd show a little appreciation... after all, us taxpayers are footing the bill for his health care...

Monday, October 22, 2007

Willing Suspension of Disbelief, Part One

My kids are fairly skeptical bunch -- but they come by it honestly. When they were younger, they'd complain about books and movies that had totally silly plot lines or situations. That's when we sat down and talked about the concept of "willing suspension of disbelief."

Coined by the poet Samuel Coleridge, this is a device used in fiction (particularly in theater and film) which allows the author to get his or her point across without bowing to the constraints of reality. Wikipedia has a pretty concise description of why this works:
According to the theory, suspension of disbelief is a quid pro quo: the audience tacitly agrees to provisionally suspend their judgment in exchange for the promise of entertainment.
I thought about willing suspension of disbelief recently when a retired friend forwarded me a letter from Mike Rogers. In it, he described his latest reason for opposing SCHIP: "...[it] could cut the Medicare program by $190 billion if it becomes law."

Oh, please. Apparently, the bogeymen of illegal immigrants and wealthy families free-riding on taxpayers wasn't scary enough. Mr. Rogers decided to expand his apocalyptic vision of the future to include senior citizens losing funding for home oxygen as SCHIP threatened the Medicare Advantage program.

(Hey, kids -- don't provisionally suspend your judgement just yet! )

Here's a little background on the supposedly endangered Medicare Advantage (MA). MA is the program through which private insurance plans participate in Medicare. It offers some benefits that traditional Medicare doesn't, like dental coverage. It may also offer rebates and discounts to enrollees. MA has grown rapidly since it began in 2003. As of June 2007, it covered about 18% of Medicare beneficiaries. There are three types of MA programs: HMO (health maintenace organization), PPO (preferred provider organization) and PFFS (private fee for service). PFFS programs became an MA option in 2006.

Now, Republicans like Mike Rogers will tell you that competition is good. So is choice, and so is efficiency. They believe that private insurers do a much more efficient job of providing health benefits to retirees than the nasty, bloated federal monster that is Medicare Part A & B.

Except that they don't.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, these private Medicare Advantage plans cost an average of 12 percent more than traditional Medicare. For PFFS plans, the cost is 19% higher. In Congressional testimony this summer, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (an independent federal body) noted that

The excess payments to private plans allow them to be less efficient than they would
otherwise have to be, because inefficient plans can use the excess payments—rather than savings from efficiencies—to finance extra benefits that in turn attract enrollees to such plans.

Unfortunately, MA has instead become a program in which there are few incentives for efficiency. Although MA uses "bidding" as the means of determining plan payments and beneficiary premiums, the bids are against administratively-set

Put differently, inefficient plans—as well as efficient plans—are able to provide the kind of enhanced coverage that attracts beneficiaries to private plans because of generous MA program payments. These additional payments are funded by all taxpayers. Furthermore, all Medicare beneficiaries—not just the 18 percent of beneficiaries enrolled in private plans—pay higher Part B premiums to fund these payments in excess of Medicare FFS levels.(emphasis mine)

A recent CBO briefing paper estimates that between 2007 and 2017, spending on MA will total $1.5 trillion -- more than 25% of all spending for benefits under traditional Medicare.

The Century Foundation, a nonprofit public policy research group, has an informative -- and readable -- paper on the economics of Medicare Advantage. Included in its analysis are some useful industry numbers. For example, the 2007 second quarter profits at UnitedHealth were up 22%, Aetna saw 16% jump and Wellpoint 11% in the same period. Pretty impressive, you'd think, until you read this:

This is not to say that Wall Street broke out the champagne. In recent years, investors have come to count on rich returns from insurers, and many sniff at numbers like 11 percent. To give you an idea of what investors expect, consider the fact that Humana’s stock has climbed 26 percent in the past seven months. Over five years, UnitedHealth Group’s shares have gained 125 percent, while WellPoint’s investors have reaped a 130 percent return.

How is this possible, given that growing numbers of employers are reducing health insurance benefits or dropping them altogether?

Bloomberg explains: "UnitedHealth’s profits rose 22 percent on gains from govern-ment -sponsored medical programs." Here Bloomberg is referring to what it describes as "the boon UnitedHealth has seen from increasing the profitability of its Medicare programs for the elderly and adding 290,000 members in state Medicaid programs for the poor in the 12 months through June 30."

Aetna also got a boost from the government; in the second quarter, it raked in Medicare premiums of $677.8 million, up from $436 million a year earlier. WellPoint President Angela Braly echoes the theme, announcing that her company’s profits were driven by "expanded enrollment in government-funded programs" [skip] In fact, "Humana derives more than 50 percent of its 2007 earnings from Medicare Advantage alone," Justin Lake, an analyst with UBS Investment Research, recently pointed out to his clients. The company is forecasting Medicare profits margins of 5 percent for 2007—up from 4 to 5 percent in earlier statements. [skip]

To put it bluntly, at a time when some customers are deserting private insurers (because they find premiums too high), the government is subsidizing the industry. But is this Medicare’s job? Are we to view UnitedHealth as another Chrysler? Are the taxpayers who fund Medicare responsible for making sure that UnitedHealth’s shareholders continue to make 125 percent on their investment every five years?

Good question.

Now, back to the willing suspension of disbelief. Mike Rogers wants you to believe that funding for children's health care coverage would have seriously threatened seniors' health care coverage.

Well, Mr. Rogers, I'm not suspending my judgement -- and I'm not at all entertained by a politician who uses scare tactics to protect subsidies for a billion-dollar industry.

Especially when that politician received nearly one-third of his 2006 total PAC contributions from the health & insurance industries...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Money see, money do

In case you were worried that Mike Rogers was too busy defending the indefensible and voting against health care for the children of working families to have time for anything else, I bring you glad tidings!

This Press & Argus article will reassure you that for Mr. Rogers, it's business as usual:

LOCAL: Rogers' campaign account grows

According to filings earlier this month with the Federal Election Commission, U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton, now has more than $500,000 in his re-election campaign bank account.

From July through September, Rogers raised about $153,500 and spent around $121,000, adding approximately $32,500 to his cash on hand. He now has $523,358 in his campaign account.

No Democratic challenger has emerged. The election is Nov. 2008.

About $85,000 of Rogers' contributions in the reporting period came from individuals, and $68,000 from political action committees.

Possessed of a healthy curiosity, I went online to check out the specifics of the Q3 filing.

According to, so far this year Rogers has raised $443,543 in total receipts; $192,088 in individual contributions, $247,231 in PAC contributions, and $1,484 from party committees. He knows that it will take quite a chunk o'change to buy all the happy-talk ads needed to distract people from his record on children's health, veterans and national security...

He's already spent $272,730... with the election still 13 months away and no challenger in sight.

SCHIP of Fools: Rogers was for it before he was against it

A number of local papers have run op-eds and columns in support of the SCHIP override, including the Livingston County Press & Argus, the Flint Journal and the Ann Arbor News. These smaller regional papers were joined by the Free Press (one of the nation's top 20 papers) with this morning's excellent pro-SCHIP editorial. The editorial shot down the laundry list of "reasons" given by Rogers, Walberg, Knollenberg et al for voting against SCHIP.

The best part of the Freep editorial?
• In Michigan, 42% of SCHIP enrollees are childless adults, a program the state started with the Bush administration's blessing. Enrollees' annual income cannot exceed $3,500; the program is designed mainly to get them preventive care that will keep them out of emergency rooms. Two Republican congressmen (Mike Rogers and Dave Camp) sent a letter supporting the state's application.

(emphasis mine).

In other words, Mike Rogers "was for it before he was against it"

Hypocrisy isn't pretty.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

SCHIP and Military Families

Most people understand that SCHIP helps working parents afford health care coverage for their children. Many people don't know that there are provisions in the SCHIP bill vetoed by President Bush that have a major impact on military families, too.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) released this statement yesterday:

SCHIP Veto Hurts Families of Wounded TroopsOverlooked Provisions in Insurance Bill Have Significant Impact on Military Families

NEW YORK – Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), the nation's first and largest nonpartisan organization for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, today urged Congress to override the President’s veto of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) reauthorization. SCHIP includes two little-known provisions which help the families of critically wounded troops. The provisions provide one year of employment discrimination protection to family members caring for severely injured troops, and extends permitted work leave for those family members from three months to six months. Congress passed SCHIP earlier this month, but President Bush vetoed the legislation for reasons unrelated to these military families’ amendments. This Thursday, the House will vote on whether to override the President’s veto.
One in five severely wounded troops say a family member or friend has been forced to give up a job to care for them. This is true of Annette McLeod, who is featured in the national TV ad campaign IAVA is running this week to demand that Congress
and the President improve care for veterans. Mrs. McLeod’s husband, Specialist Wendall McLeod, sustained multiple, life-threatening injuries while serving in Iraq. “When my husband returned home grievously wounded, it ripped my life apart,” said Mrs. McLeod. “I lived in South Carolina, but Wendell was being treated in Washington, DC. After just three months, the human resources department at the factory where I had worked for 20 years said I had exhausted my time off. Being forced to give up my job made a heart-wrenching and difficult time even harder.”


Hopefully, Mr. Rogers will actually DO something to support our troops and vote to override the veto on Thursday.
If you haven't already, please call, write, fax or email his office. Contact info is on the right-hand side of the page.


This cartoon and the chart that follows it pretty much sum up Mike Rogers' priorities...

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Mike Rogers: SCHIP Wrecker

I've posted quite a bit on SCHIP lately, and one of the things I find so interesting about it is the incredibly diverse group that supports this bill: Carolyn Kilpatrick and Candice Miller; the AMA and the health insurance industry; and the AARP and the American Academy of Pediatrics, just to name a few.

After Bush's veto, politically active groups wasted no time in targeting anti-SCHIP politicians: the DCCC's "Putting Children First" ad spotlighted the anti-SCHIPpers in vulnerable districts, and has organized Rally for Our Children's Health Care events across the country.

Over at Michigan Liberal, Gaspare noted an entry by a group that's not so nationally prominent: Catholics United is running a new pro-SCHIP ad in targeted districts around the country.
"Building a true culture of life requires public policies that promote the welfare of the most vulnerable," said Chris Korzen, executive director of Catholics United. "At the heart of the Christian faith is a deep and abiding concern for the need of others. Pro-life Christians who serve in Congress should honor this commitment by supporting health care for poor children."
Mr. Rogers is most certainly a pro-life politician. He got a perfect score from the Republican National Coalition for Life, which classifies him as "Pro-life Without Discrimination." Among other things, this means that Rogers agreed with the following statement:

all innocent human beings, from conception until natural death, at every stage of development, deserve legal protection.
Whenever pro-life pols spout about the sanctity of human life, then unblinkingly support the death penalty or vote against health care for the children of the working poor, I can't help thinking of the great comment by Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA):

"To a Republican, life begins at conception and ends at birth."

Now, I'm sure Mr. R. looks to his east (Knollenberg) and to his west (Walberg) and heaves a sigh of relief that he's not targeted. He sits in a safely gerrymandered district, cushioned by all the money he's raised from PACs and other like-minded House "leaders."

It would be a mistake, though, for Rogers to equate not being targeted with being right.

The bill goes back for an override vote on Thursday, October 18th. Call, fax, email or write Rogers today -- let him know that turning his back on children is not an option.

133 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Phone: (202) 225-4872
Fax: (202) 225-5820
1327 E. Michigan Ave.
Lansing, Michigan 48912
Phone: (517) 702-8000
Toll Free: 877-333-MIKE
Fax: (517) 702-8642
Web email

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Retrospectoscope

Retrospectoscope (n):
1.) an imaginary tool used to view one's past actions in the nicest possible light
2.) a convenient device for shifting blame

Mr. Rogers has been a busy guy in the last few weeks, what with voting against health care for poor kids and vigorously defending his vote with a froth of inaccurate talking points, giving unsolicited and ill-advised budget advice to Michigan lawmakers, taking credit for literacy programs he didn't create, and of course banging the drums about The Looming Iranian Threat.

Thankfully, his retrospectoscope is all tuned up and ready to go. In his latest application of that marvelous device, he wrote a guest column for Sunday's Press & Argus titled, "Taxes grow government, not economy." In it, he opined
When I served in the Michigan Senate, we cut taxes and reformed government, making Michigan, in the mid-1990s, the top state for job creation and among the lowest in unemployment. Contrast that with today, when Michigan has staggering job losses and one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation.
Actually, Mr. Rogers, your votes in the Michigan Senate led to a multimillion-dollar deficit. Over at Michigan Liberal, HazenPingree reminds us of a time

Back when SUVs were selling like crack cocaine and Michigan was flush with cash (relatively speaking), John the Body [Gov. Jon Engler] and his allies in the Republican-controlled legislature thought it would be fun to cut Michigan's income tax rate from 4.4 percent to 3.9 percent. But they didn't have the chutzpah to do it all at once. Instead, they opted to phase it in...over 5 years.

No prizes for guessing who supported this time-bomb tax cut: Mike Rogers.

Mr. Rogers goes on to blame the Democrats in Washington for approving "billions in new spending," but he neglects to mention that Republicans controlled both the Congress and the White House during his first three terms in office. The explosive growth of the U.S. budget and current account deficits started waaay back in 2000 -- long before the Democrats took office ten months ago.

In a virtuoso display of retrospectoscope use, Rogers regurgitates a Tax Foundation factoid stating that Michigan has the 14th highest tax burden in the country. Well, not only is the Tax Foundation ranking incorrect according to the U.S. Census Bureau (USCB ranked Michigan 26th), but it's also incorrect according to the Tax Foundation itself. The non-partisan Center for Budget and Policy Priorities notes that the TF is a member of the Retrospectoscope Varsity team:

Between the 2002 Tax Foundation report and the 2005 revision, the ranking by state and local tax burden of 24 states changed by at least five places, and in 13 states the rankings changed by at least 10 places.

Bottom line? Mike Rogers can quote the Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford and right-wing think tanks to his heart's content, but it won't change the fact that lot of bad economic decisions have been made on his watch.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Let the S-CHIPs Fall

Today's Lansing State Journal ("Gannett R Us") had a little story about the 60+ people who showed up at Mike Rogers' Lansing office urging him to support an override of Bush's S-CHIP veto.

For those of you who have tried to meet with Rogers or his Lansing staffers, this won't come as a surprise:
The door to Rogers' office was locked during the protest, and neither he nor staffers were immediately available for comment.

The crowd contained crazed, sign-holding agitators spouting incediary lefty slogans. Here's an example:
"This really gets me upset," said Keith McCall, 87, of East Lansing, who stood alongside Michigan Avenue waving a sign. "This was a stupid vote."

Now, I'm sure we'll see a written statement from SpokesWriter Sylvia Warner at some point, parroting the Bush line on the S-CHIP veto. It will most likely be reprinted as written (thanks, Gannett!), without reportorial challenge to the many, ah, misstatements it contains.

Need a preview? Take a look at last week's press release from Rogers. Rogers voted against the bill last week because it had some suspicious earmarks in it. No, wait -- he voted against it because it would give families making $83,000 free health insurance. No, that's not it -- he voted against it because it would give free health care to illegal aliens. I know -- it's because it makes "massive" cuts to Medicare.

All of these are Bush talking points, and all of them are misleading at best.

(1) The $83,000 earners are a myth. Several months ago, the state of New York asked for an $82,600 waiver to the income cap, since NY has an incredibly high cost of living. The Bush administration said NO. Through the magic of spin, Bush (and his trusty cheerleader Mike Rogers) turned this around and said it was part of the S-CHIP bill.

(2) The bill did NOT include health care for illegal aliens. Infact, the bill would require legal immgrants to wait five years before applying.

(3) The bill is NOT a first step to socialized medicine. It's not an entitlement program, it's a block grant. The federal government doesn't administer S-CHIP; each state can administer the funds as they see fit. And here's a thought: if you think this is socialism then what, pray tell, would you call Medicare?

(4) The bill has bipartisan support. In fact, the bill was designed with a number of provisions that made it acceptable to conservatives like Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Pat Roberts (R-Kansas). Oh, yeah -- and the AARP, AMA, the Catholic Church and a majority of the health insurance industry.

(5) Mike Rogers has clearly shown that he supports government support for Blackwater, but not for the 55,000 Michigan children who benefit from this program. The total cost of this bill, which covers ten million children over the next five years, is equal to 41 days of the Iraq War.

Do your part: Write, call, fax or email Rogers. Let him know what the real Michigan priorities are!

DC Office:
133 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515-2208
Phone: 202-225-4872 Fax: 202-225-5820

District Office - Lansing: (don't try to stop by - the door is always locked)
1327 East Michigan Avenue
Lansing, MI 48912
Phone: 517-702-8000 Toll-Free: 877-333-6453 Fax: 517-702-8642
Web Email

Friday, September 28, 2007


Apparently, Mike Rogers (or someone on his staff) reads this blog. After Tuesday night’s post about his attempt to block the S-CHIP bill, an interesting thing happened.

A heartwarming press release was posted on Mr. Rogers' website, in which he assures us that his opposition to the S-CHIP bill on Tuesday was a result of the nasty Democrats messing around with an otherwise swell bill. As evidence of this, Mr. Rogers trotted out the Bush talking points almost word for word. Apparently, those Blue Meanies were going to:

-- make "massive" cuts to Medicare benefits (Though he neglects to mention that the cuts will come from payments to insurance companies, not coverage for seniors.)

-- give taxpayer-funded health care to families making up to $83,000 per year (Nope. Roughly 70 percent of children who would gain coverage are in families earning half that amount, and the bill contains no requirement for setting income eligibility caps any higher than what already exists in the current law. For details, visit

-- and provide taxpayer-funded health care for illegal aliens (This provision was not part of Tuesday’s version of the bill. In fact, the bill didn't even include benefits for children of LEGAL immigrants. The WaPo reports that House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC) will push Democrats to come back at Bush with a new version that restores those benefits.)

A brief aside: Mr. Rogers has been receiving taxpayer-funded paychecks for the past couple of decades -- and very nice taxpayer-funded health insurance coverage to boot! As a result, he really has no idea of what health insurance costs an average family (especially if they have to buy an individual policy)...

Mr. Rogers said that he voted against this hideously flawed bill on Tuesday. He went on to say that he voted for the bill to extend S-CHIP funding on Wednesday... but the bill had passed 265-159 on Tuesday night and went over to the Senate the next day.

Perhaps he stood alone in a darkened room on Wednesday, recognized himself, introduced a bill to himself and voted for said bill. At least he feels better about it.

The other interesting thing is that the Freep’s coverage of the subject has changed quite a bit. The original story by Todd Spangler came out early Tuesday evening (I got the Google news alert at 5:37 p.m.). The piece was titled Mich. congressman balks at children's insurance legislation, and it included this line:
Mike Rogers, a Brighton Republican, failed in his effort to block the
legislation, at least temporarily, by noting another improper earmark – this one
for ...See all stories on this topic

The next day, the story had a new title: Congress debates whether Michigan is getting a break in children’s insurance bill and Mike Rogers was mentioned zero times, as was the improper earmark.

Rogers certainly isn't shy about his opposition to earmarks -- just ask Rep. Murtha! So why isn't Rogers sticking to his original beef? Maybe he did the math and realized that

Nice Guy Image -

NO on (vaccines for low-income kids + $$ for MI health care) =

Political Firestorm

When I contacted the Freep reporter to ask about the change, he noted that the story had indeed shifted to focus on the $1.2 billion earmark for Michigan. They didn't return to the Rogers angle because they chose not to write a story for the next day's paper. Now this does happen, especially with web versions of newspapers. But it still was a bit galling to see Rogers completely off the hook and out of the story.

Just for fun, let's review the long list of crazy knee-jerk liberal types who have publicly supported this bill. Ready?

Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), business interests, the Catholic church, the health insurance industry, children's advocates, most of the nation's governors, the AARP and the American Medical Association.

With a weaselly flip-flop on the reason for his "no" vote and his bogus claim of voting in favor of some mysterious other children's health care bill, Mr. Rogers once again has shown that he places loyalty to George Bush over serving the people of MI-08.