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.