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?