Thursday, April 24, 2008

SCHIP to Shore

There have been lots of posts about the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) here in the Neighborhood, focusing on Mike Rogers' opposition to efforts to expand affordable health insurance for children of working families. (For a refresher, see Bull-SCHIP Excuses, SCHIP of Fools or Let the S-CHIPs Fall).

SCHIP is a joint federal/state program that helps working families purchase affordable health insurance. Please note that it isn't welfare, it isn't a handout, and it isn't socialized medicine. SCHIP has been a success since its start in 1997, and has enjoyed strong bipartisan support. Last year when it was time to renew the program, many legislators wanted to expand SCHIP coverage.

Then along came a vicious little directive from the Bush Administration via the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid:

Under the Aug. 17 directive, states cannot expand the Children’s Health Insurance Program to cover youngsters with family incomes over 250 percent of the federal poverty level ($53,000 for a family of four) unless they can prove that they already cover 95 percent of eligible children below twice the poverty level ($42,400).

Moreover, in such states, children who lose or drop private coverage must be uninsured for 12 months before they can enroll in the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and co-payments in the public program must be similar to those in private plans.

This directive was not only an example of pure meanness (forcing children to go without health insurance for a YEAR when switching to SCHIP) and statistical impossibility (there is no way to "prove" that 95% of eligible children are participating - The Urban Institute has a good summary of the methodological issues).

It also smelled like a violation of the 1996 Congressional Review Act, which requires federal agencies to keep Congress informed when they (agencies) change the rules. Senators Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and John Rockefeller (D-WV) asked the GAO for a ruling on the legality of the CMS directive, and guess what?

The GAO found that the new policy “amounts to a marked departure” from a longstanding, settled interpretation of federal law. It is therefore a rule and, under a 1996 law, must be submitted to Congress for review before it can take effect, the opinion said.

The Congressional Research Service agreed, finding that "an abrupt change of course requires a rulemaking to substantively alter those practices and relied upon interpretations."

This was reported by the New York Times ("President is Rebuffed on Program for Children"), but by and large the MSM has ignored the story.

Former FBI agent Mike Rogers prides himself on being a law & order kind of guy. He also loves to talk about how he works to protect children. Wonder when he'll fess up to supporting a violation of a federal law -- or to turning his back on the 170,686 uninsured children in our state.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

One Child Isn't Left Behind

A six-year-old boy from Lansing has had a pretty amazing week. Christopher had his first plane ride, his first visit to Washington, D.C., and his first visit to the White House at a reception for Pope Benedict XVI.

How did this happen? Well, the Bush administration allowed (loyal) members of Congress to invite constituents to the papal reception. Mike Rogers chose Christopher, his specialized intensive care therapist and the CEO of St. Vincent Catholic Charities in Lansing to attend as his guests. Rogers has "worked with the agency in the past and 'was very familiar with the work they do with children.'" *

I won't attempt to argue that this is anything but a heart-warming story. The Lansing trio had the experience of a lifetime and no one should begrudge them their adventure.

I will argue, however, that it is a cheap election-year trick on Rogers' part. How else can you explain his very public display of care and concern for one child in light of his voting record on children and family issues during his 4 terms in Congress?

Here are a few recent highlights (lowlights?):

Rogers voted in favor of the FY 2006 budget reconciliation bill that cut mandatory programs by $39 billion. This included cuts to foster care and child support. It also toughened TANF (Temporary Aid to Needy Families) requirements for states, but decreased funding to help states support the new stricter rules. For details, visit

In 2007, Rogers voted against HR 3043, which included $401.41 billion for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and $27.32 billion for the Administration for Children and Families. (data from

The Children’s Defense Fund has given Rogers an average rating of 14 on a scale of 100 over the past five years. And in case you think the CDF is just cranky over budget cuts, think again: since its establishment in 1973, the CDF has not accepted government funding. All of their funds come from foundation grants, corporation grants and individual donations.

Nearly 25,000 Michigan children are in foster care. Some 16% of these children are placed in facilities rather than family foster homes. Christopher is one of these children.

The good news? At age six, Christopher is old enough to remember his amazing adventure --but not old enough to know he was being used as a publicity prop.

* A little digging revealed that the only reference to Rogers and St. Vincent -- other than the oodles of coverage for this particular story -- was on Rogers' own website:

I and my staff are involved in Capital Area Youth Alliance, Youth Development Corp., Arts Council of Greater Lansing, Cristo Rey Community Center, Sparrow Health System Home Care Board, Impression Five Museum, Michigan Children's Trust and Auction Committee, Operation Backpack, U.S. Citizenship Swearing-in ceremonies, Congressional Merit Awards, LCC Foundation Lip Sync fundraiser, Livingston Economic Club, Rotary Clubs and Rotary Lip Sync Fundraiser for Senior Citizens, Charitable Federal Campaign, Capitol Area Migrant Council, St. Vincent Catholic Charities Arty Pizza Party committee, Ele's Place Community Outreach Committee, Hispanic Heritage Month Committee, several area chambers of commerce. [emphasis added]

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Put on Your Party Shoes!

Come on down to Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood (a/k/a Livingston County) and join the Livingston County Democrats for a celebration of 25 years of political work.

The LivCo Dems are hosting their 25th Annual Winans Dinner on Saturday, April 19th at the Hamburg VFW Post 1224, 8891 Spicer Road in Hamburg.

The evening kicks off at 6 p.m.; you'll enjoy a delicious dinner, as well as a 50/50 raffle and a silent auction. To top it all off, the special guest speaker is UAW President Ron Gettelfinger.

Tickets are $60 per person. For reservations or more information, call (810) 229-4212 or email

Now, for those of you who may be wondering who Winans was...

Edwin Baruch Winans (1826-1894) had a long and distinguished political career serving both Livingston County and the State of Michigan. Winans, who owned a farm in Hamburg Township, was a Hamburg Township Supervisor and Livingston County probate judge. He was elected to two terms in the Michigan House (1861-1865), and was also a delegate to the state constitutional convention in 1867. Winans was the first Democrat elected Governor after the Civil War, serving from 1891-1893.

Take THAT, all you Republicans who think that Livingston County has been Red since the dawn o' time!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Mike's Methodology

This morning's Press & Argus featured not one but two stories about Mr. Rogers' speech to the Howell Chamber of Commerce.

On the front page, he disses the Senate bill to help homeowners facing foreclosure, even though he said that helping those families was his "top priority." Inside, he calls for a "new energy outlook".

Both are classic examples of RogersSpeak, adoringly and unquestioningly reported.


So, rather than refuting his many erroneous statements with pesky facts -- yet again -- let's use these stories to distill the basics of Rogers' Rules of Politics.

Rule #1. Always side with your campaign donors. Help out families in foreclosure? Not likely when the Finance and Real Estate sector was your Number 2 donor in '05-'06 and '07-'08, and your top donor in '03-'04.

More drilling for oil in the US? It's a great idea, especially when the Energy and Natural Resource sector were your #5 donor in '03-'04, #4 in '05-'06, and #3 in '07-'08.
(All figures from .) Oh, and don't forget that Rogers was the ONLY member of the Michigan Congressional delegation to support drilling in the Great Lakes.

Rule #2. Ignore the needs of your constituents. Just because Michigan continues to lead the nation in joblessness, why should you support efforts to extend unemployment benefits and state health care programs? When it comes to helping Michigan families who face foreclosure, say that it's your "top priority" but don't actually do anything about it. Double bonus points for loudly criticizing legislation that other people have crafted without actually coming up with anything of your own. (See "troop surge" for double bonus points in action.)

Rule 2a.) Better yet, sneer at your state's efforts to help people:
Some states, such as Michigan, are already having a hard enough time managing their finances, Rogers said, let alone selling homes. "I just think it's a disaster waiting to happen," he said.
Rule 2b.) Sneer at other states' efforts to help, especially if California is the state in question.
"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."
Rule #3. Cite incorrect or outdated information in support of your position. Repeat as needed. This is particular favorite of Mr. Rogers', as shown during the S-CHIP debacle last fall. In today's story on the foreclosure bill, Rogers said that the bill "would, for the first time, allow bankruptcy judges to alter homeowners' mortgages." No, it doesn't. That provision was dropped when the Senate forged the bipartisan compromise bill currently under discussion.

Rule #4. When these tactics don't work, call for reform. Be sure to gloss over the fact that you're a multi-term incumbent who helped to create many of the policies that aren't working... This is a fave Rogers tactic, especially when it comes to national security issues. Triple bonus points when you combine national security and energy policy in a froth of righteous indignation.

Counter-intuitive? You betcha! But it's worked well for Mr. Rogers.