Thursday, January 31, 2008

Stimulating Conversation

How things change with time...

... and a little attention.

Last week, Mike Rogers was firmly against including any kind of extension to unemployment benefits. He felt that cash money was all we needed:

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton, said Friday that Congress should not spend more on government programs like unemployment compensation, but instead should quickly get the rebate checks into the hands of taxpayers. (emphasis added)

I disagreed with him on this one, rather vociferously.

Now, it looks as though he's changed his tune a little, moving from "should not spend" to

Rogers said he has no problem extending unemployment insurance, but adding it to
the stimulus package will slow things down.
He's concerned about "loading it [the stimulus package] up." We should all be concerned about loading it up, but it's worth taking a look at at different policies and their effectiveness.

The Congressional Budget Office offers a concise and readable overview of the various policies for short-term stimulus. Excerpted for your reading pleasure, here's a comparison of one-time rebate checks versus extended unemployment benefits. Expanding the food stamp program and corporate tax cuts are also included, just for fun.

Lump-Sum Rebate

Cost-effectiveness = large
Lag from enactment to stimulus = medium
Uncertainty about effects = large
A rebate is generally likely to be more effective the more it is focused on people who are likely to spend it. A rebate whose size increases for people with larger tax liabilities is likely to be less effective than a uniform refundable one. Experience is mixed with respect to effectiveness, introducing some uncertainty about the rebate's effect. Processing and mailing the rebate checks would take some time.
Extending or Expanding Unemployment Benefits

Cost-effectiveness = large
Lag time from enactment to stimulus = short
Uncertainty about effects = small

These benefits are regularly extended in recessions, and most of any additional benefits are likely to be spent quickly.

Temporarily Increasing Food Stamp Benefits
Cost-effectiveness = large
Lag time from enactment to stimulus = short
Uncertainty about effects = small
Additional benefits are likely to be spent rapidly by recipients, who tend to be experiencing periods of economic difficulty.
Cut in Corporate Tax Rates

Cost-effectiveness = small
Lag time from enactment to stimulus = long
Uncertainty about effects = small

Corporate tax rate reductions have only a limited effect on new investment decisions and may take time to affect business investment because capital spending decisions are often made in advance. Improved cash flow may, however, have some effect on investment decisions, especially among smaller firms.

You can keep an eye on Mr. Rogers' changing stimulus proposals, or you could just watch the Weather Channel to see which way the wind is blowing. With a little more public attention, he may just discover that extending benefits for a state that is struggling with the nation's jobless rate is the smart thing to do -- economically and socially.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Was it Stalin, Goebbels or Karl Rove?

Someone once said that if a lie is repeated often enough, it becomes the truth.

Clearly, Mike Rogers has been paying attention to this dictum. He had a guest op-ed in the Sunday Press & Argus titled, "Playing politics over SCHIP legislation."

cue the violins...

In a masterful blending of half-truths and full fictions, Rogers set up the usual SCHIP bogeymen (Illegal aliens! No oxygen for Grandma! You'll pay for Donald Trump's health care!), and takes credit for "co-authoring" legislation that was supposedly included in the SCHIP bill.

There have been any number of blogs rebutting the misinformation about SCHIP, including some here at MRN.

Then Rogers goes a step beyond bashing a program to help working families. He throws in a little extra, shall we say, misinformation about the proposed economic stimulus package and the FISA bill.

Mr. Rogers' idea of stimulating the economy is making a one-time payment of a few hundred dollars to families who need real jobs. Guess he hasn't noticed that our state leads the nation in unemployment. Thankfully, Governor Granholm, Senators Stabenow and Levin, and five other members of the MI delegation are paying attention, and they're working to include extended unemployment benefits as part of the stimulus package.

Mr. Rogers is also ringing alarm bells about FISA, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. In a nutshell, FISA allows US law enforcement and intelligence professionals to obtain warrants from special courts. FISA courts are secret; the classified evidence for a warrant is not made public to protect sources and methods. If US law enforcement or intelligence professionals are in hot pursuit, without time to request a FISA warrant, the court allows them to obtain a retroactive warrant. At no time since FISA's inception in 1978 has the court refused a warrant.

FISA does need to be updated -- communications technology has changed dramatically in the last three decades. But Rogers & Co. are arguing that FISA hampers these investigations, and we should just keep on going with the unconstitutional warrantless wiretaps that the Bush Administration holds so dear. They're also worried about providing immunity for telecom firms, who leaped to assist the administration in warrantless wiretaps. A quick peek will show that Mr. Rogers has received a nice chunk of campaign cash from telecommunications firms like AT&T and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.

Last but not least, Mr. Rogers' teary plea for the Democrats to stop being so gosh-darned mean included this little gem:

As we look forward, it is crucial to end political gimmicks such as the veto override vote

The "gimmick" to which Mr. Rogers is referring is actually part of Section I, Article 7 of the United States Constitution. (The Congressional Research Service has an excellent summary of how this works.)

I'm sorry that warrants and constitutional guidelines are "gimmicky" to you, Mr. Rogers.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

No Way to Treat Your Fellow Michiganders

It's no secret that we're facing tough economic times here in Michigan, and have been for a while. The proposed federal stimulus package is being pushed through Congress as we speak, but the jury is still out on exactly how much good it will do.

The Freep's Susan Tompor had a front-page column titled, "Deal has rebates coming your way," a somewhat rosy-toned take on the stimulus package:

In Michigan, nearly 94% of taxpayers would get some kind of rebate check. About 2.57 million people would qualify for a rebate of up to $600 each, according to estimates by the Anderson Economic Group in East Lansing.

About 1.69 million couples in Michigan would qualify for a rebate of up to $1,200 each, the Anderson Economic Group says.

In the Department of Unintended Irony, right below Tompor's column was a piece titled, Ford May Not Refill Its Ranks. Ford cut 35% of its total work force from 2005 -2007.

This may be good news for shareholders, but for a state with a 7.5% unemployment rate and a drop in median household income of 11.9% over the past seven years, fewer jobs is bad news. A check for $600 or $1200 would be nice, but it won't begin to address the needs of Michigan working families.

What Michigan could really use in this package is a provision to extend unemployment benefits and extra funding for state health care programs (thanks for that third S-CHIP veto, W!).

Governor Granholm is heading to Washington next week to lobby the Senate to include
these two things in the proposed stimulus package, which is expected to give a $150 billion jump start to the U.S. economy.

Granholm spokeswoman Liz Boyd stated that the Governor wants the Senate to include a "bold plan that provides states' resources to provide health care and extend unemployment compensation to those workers who have lost their jobs. There's no place where these issues are more critical than in Michigan."

Senators Stabenow and Levin, as well as five members of the MI Congressional delegation, sent a letter to the Senate asking for a 20-week extension of unemployment compensation, with an additional 13 weeks for states with high unemployment levels. The legislators also asked for an increase in the amount of weekly unemployment benefits and more assistance for state Medicare programs.

Three guesses as to which member of the MI Congressional delegation went on record saying that Michigan didn't really need any more help...

Yes, you're right -- it was our own Mike Rogers! From the Detroit News:

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton, said Friday that Congress should not spend more on government programs like unemployment compensation, but instead should quickly get the rebate checks into the hands of taxpayers.

"We need to help the American people who are hurting by getting money in their hands," Rogers said, saying it will also improve consumer confidence.

Rogers' enthusiasm for reality-defying Bush economics clearly hasn't waned, despite four terms in Washington.

Does Rogers honestly think that a Michigan worker who has lost a good-paying job in the auto industry (who still can't find a job and whose unemployment benefits are running out) will be "hurting" less if he gets a check for $600?

Will a family paying for an individual health insurance policy suddenly become more "confident" if they get a check for $1200? I doubt it; in fact, that is roughly the cost of just one monthly premium for a self-insured family of four.

This is sad, insulting and wasteful all at the same time. It's the modern equivalent of bread and circuses (Hey, go to the mall and buy an iPod -- it will cheer you up! ). Did Rogers miss the class where we learned that trickle-down economics is a fantasy?

Serious, responsible leaders like Governor Granholm and Senators Stabenow and Levin know that we need real support to turn things around. They're willing to do the hard work to make it happen. Unfortunately, Mike Rogers prefers to keep on Bush's good side than to help fellow Michiganders.

Once again, Mike Rogers has shown where his priorities lie.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Stand By Your Mitt?

While all sorts of Mike Rogers-related miscellanea float through my inbox, some recent references to Rogers and Romney caught my eye. Since Saturday is a good day to tidy up loose ends, enjoy this collection of The Adventures of Mike & Mitten.

Rogers has been scrupulously avoiding commitment to any GOP candidate -- he dislikes making any decision without (a) guaranteed financial benefit, (b) guaranteed safety or (c) all of the above.

[Of course, once the dust has settled on a clear Republican nominee Rogers will be by his side quicker than a Congressional staffer at an open bar.]

A recent AP story on the MI GOP primary confirmed this unaffiliated stance:

"The number one issue in Michigan is jobs," says Rep. Mike Rogers, a Republican from the area around Lansing, who has not endorsed any of the candidates for his party's nomination. (emphasis mine)

This Switzerland-like pose has been going on for a while. Last summer, the Press & Argus' Buzz column noted that quite a few Rogers supporters were wearing Romney stickers at the Brighton 4th of July Parade, and asked:
Does that mean Rogers supports Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who spoke at a Republican Party event in Livingston County in April?

The answer, according to an e-mail from Rogers' spokeswoman Sylvia Warner, is simple: No.
So I was surprised to read a post at CoMITTed to Romney (hey, I don't make this stuff up!) stating that Representative Mike Rogers of Michigan was endorsing Romney -- on camera. You'd think that this would have received some local media attention. So I visited the site and clicked on the posted YouTube video which started with the title "Rep. Mike Rogers, R-AL."

Deary me. Being the helpful gal that I am, I left a comment on the guy's blog stating that he had the wrong Mike Rogers. I wasn't even snarky (seriously!), just stated a fact.

Apparently, one dares not challenge the Mittiness and wisdom of the "#1 grassroots site" that has been "coMITTed to promoting and electing Mitt Romney President in 2008 since June 2005." When I stopped by yesterday, the video was still titled with the MI Mike and my helpful comment wasn't posted.

Since I'm not smitten with the Mitten, I helpfully posted again:

Please change the title on your “Mike Rogers of Michigan” video– it incorrectly identifies the Congressman who is speaking. Michiganders are tired of their Mike Rogers being confused with the Alabama one!

Not only has Mike Rogers (MI-08) not endorsed anyone (see the AP story, : the misidentification is very disrespectful to Mike Rogers (AL-03).

My strategy of sounding like an outraged Michigan Republican (or an Alabama Republican who's offended by the comparison) seems to have worked. This comment did indeed make it to the website.

But wait -- the plot thickens! The Press & Argus tells us that Mr. Rogers will be partying this afternoon with Ann Romney (wife o' Mitt) and James Bopp (campaigner for Mitt) at the LivCo GOP's Shark Club bash. Not familiar with Bopp? He's a conservative political activist, attorney, Special Adviser on Life Issues to the Romney campaign, and author of such deathless prose as The Best Choice Is Also a Good Choice. Bopp has "turned into one of the more effective surrogates for Mitt Romney and his pro-life conversion."

(Yes, Duncan "0% in NH" Hunter will be there, too, but purely in the capacity of fig leaf.)

So Mike "Finger In The Wind" Rogers is doubling down on Mitt, giving a little wink'n'nudge to the Romney clan just in case Willard pans out. No public announcement, though, just in case McCain takes the lead...

Which way will the wind blow on Tuesday?

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Badges: Not Just For Boy Scouts Anymore

I found a new GOP fundraising site called, a wannabe ACTBlue. (ACTRed, perhaps? More on this site in my MichLib post.)

Their tagline? "It's fun to give right."

See, when you cough up your credit card and contact info, you can also "enhance your experience" by awarding online issue badges for candidates whose accomplishments you support.

What comes to mind when you hear "Mike Rogers' accomplishments"? Herewith is a listing of Mr. Rogers' badges on

Nah, not really... unless you work for Cleary University. Or if you're a worker from Singapore or Chile. Oh, and he voted against raising the minimum wage.

Not so much. In his first year in Congress, Rogers was the only member of the MI delegation to vote against a proposed ban on drilling for oil under the Great Lakes. Since then, he's moved on to give major tax breaks for oil and gas producers (HR 3402, Vote#500, 9/28/05), weakened restrictions on mercury emissions -- and most recently, said no to the Clean Energy Act of 2007.

Really? He got a 0% rating from the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), and he didn't think that our government should tell the Mexican government about the location of Minuteman Project volunteers. At the same time, he gave the nod to extending immigrant residency rules and voted to exempt hospitals from having to report illegal immigrants before being reimbursed... A voting record like this is contradictory at best, pandering at worst.

Well, this MUST be true, since the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps PAC thinks that Rogers deserves a reward, since he's one of those Congressmen who have "already proven they are on America's side by opposing amnesty and promoting a border fence."

Mr. Rogers talks a good game -- nay, a GREAT game -- on Islamic fundamentalism. The problem is that his actions fall rather short of his words. He's served on the House Intel committee since he arrived in Congress seven years ago, and he's made any number of taxpayer-funded trips to Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Since Mr. Rogers is a very flexible thinker, was able to tout his intimate involvement with US intel policy from 2001 - 2006, then do an about-face in 2007 (when the GOP lost control of the House) and state that "we have to change policy."

According to Mr. Rogers in 2005 and 2006, Pakistan was our premier partner in the war on terror (and he was more than happy to take money from Pakistani-Americans).

At a November 2007 breakfast, though, he allowed as how "We need to be asking a lot more of Musharraf on help in the tribal areas," where al-Qaida terrorist leadership is hiding, Rogers said. "Democracy is always better than none. We have to keep our eye on the ball (of fighting terrorism)."

After the breakfast, Rogers elaborated: "Musharraf does things that are good for Musharraf. Sometimes that included helping us on terrorism. We've just got to keep up the pressure."

Wow! Don't you feel more secure now?