Friday, March 27, 2009

Summer's Coming: Time for Flip-Flops!

Today's Free Press ran an opinion piece by Mike Rogers titled "Obama budget hurts Michigan."  In it, he trots out GOP budget talking points* (Cap & trade = bad! Taxes = bad!) and opines that the budget is "one more kick in the gut" for Michigan.

It was somewhat surprising to read this.  First off, President Obama didn't put $17.6 million worth of earmarks for the 8th CD in the bill -- Mike Rogers did.  Nor did the President join with other Michigan representatives and Senators to request funding for over $200 million in earmarks for our state.  Again, it's Mr. Rogers' name on those items.

What made Mr. Rogers change his tune?  Does he really think that Michigan State University will waste the biotech, agricultural and alternative fuels research funding he requested? Did he decide that improving public transit and water treatment plants isn't worthwhile?  Are Oakland Community College, Lansing Community College and other higher ed institutions not worth the effort now?  

Here in Livingston County, we'll receive
$1.4 million in earmarked funds.  The local paper lauded Mr. Rogers for "bringing home the bacon" and the Road Commissioner suggested that this was "just another reason to hug Mike Rogers when you see him."  The money will go to badly-needed area road and bridge projects, as well as a local university.  Does Mr. Rogers now think this is a bad idea?

After requesting all these earmarks, Rep. Rogers has the intestinal fortitude to turn around and describe the budget as "job-killing." If he really thinks that our state would be better off without over $200 million in funding for transportation, infrastructure, education, health care and law enforcement -- not to mention the jobs that will result from these projects -- why did he bother putting those earmarks into the budget in the first place? 

Since first going to Washington in 2001, it's clear that Mr. Rogers is quite fluent in Beltway double-talk. Seriously, who -- other than a Washington insider -- could pull off this impressive quadruple flip-flop:

     * personally inserting millions worth of earmarks into the budget (flip), 
     * voting against the budget (flop), 
     * taking credit for bringing home the bacon(flip), 
     * then criticizing the budget (flop).  

Yay, Mr. Rogers!  You really stuck that landing -- and the voters.

* Visit FiveThirtyEight for a very funny take on the GOP budget graphic

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Much Ado! Or, Adventures in Blogging

Yesterday, I posted a piece from Politico's Huddle about Rep. Mike Rogers claiming D.C. residency for tax purposes. Politico is a respected, mainstream Washington site with solid content.

I cross-posted at LivingBlue & asked Michigan Liberal to post as well. So far, so good. Then, having a life outside the keyboard, I toddled off to do other things for the day.

This is where it turned into an episode from I Love Lucy.

Turns out that the Politico reporter got it wrong. It was in fact Alabama Rep. Mike Rogers, not Michigan Rep. Mike Rogers, claiming the tax deduction. Though the reporter changed the on-line post later that morning, he didn't note that it was a correction or notify his email subscribers.

That's when the phone calls started. And the emails. (Remember that part about "having a life outside the keyboard"? Silly me!)

After updating the post here with a correction, I provided our local reporter and other area blogs with the original Huddle e-mail citing Michigan Mike. I also emailed the Politico reporter to ask why he didn't note it as a correction -- since I was certainly having to do that -- and learned that he would run one the next day. To cap off the weirdness, another Washington blog reported that Alabama Mike had not, in fact, requested a tax deduction from the District of Columbia!

As promised, reporter Martin Kady II of Politico's Huddle ran the correction this morning:
CORRECTION FROM WEDNESDAY HUDDLE: An item in yesterday’s Huddle titled “Improper Tax Break” named the wrong Rep. Mike Rogers. We fixed it online, but want to make sure our e-mail subscribers know it should have been Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.). Further, the office of the Alabama Mike Rogers followed up to say that Rogers did not seek a D.C. homestead deduction and was not aware he was receiving that tax break, and he has documents from the city’s tax office that show he never applied for this deduction.
Meme alert: today, the local paper ran a story about the story about the story.

A few takeaways from yesterday's kerfuffle:

1.) Information moves across the internet with impressive speed. Writers -- whether bloggers or full-time reporters -- have a responsibility to correct errors of fact as soon as possible. Since I began blogging for this and other sites in December of 2006, I have provided links to original sources for my posts. If I find that a source is in error, it's noted promptly. If the error is mine, that gets noted, too.

2.) Blogging isn't inherently bad (sorry, Susan). As in journalism, there is a wide range of content: no one equates the Wall Street Journal with the New York Post, and no one is confusing Gawker with The Economist. Likewise, the public knows that the Boston Globe and the Detroit News will offer differing analyses of the same event.

Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood is a political blog. While readers may not agree with the opinions expressed here, it's important to remember that those opinions are based on real world sources: voting records, interviews, news coverage and public statements. Neighborhood contributors blog responsibly and we intend to continue doing so.

Join the conversation and let us know what you think!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Home Safe?

UPDATE 2: The Huddle correction was published this morning.

UPDATE: The Huddle gang stated in error that Mike Rogers of Michigan was double-dipping his tax exemptions -- it was in fact Mike Rogers of Alabama. The clip below was taken from the Huddle blast email sent at 8:00 this morning. Click the link & scroll down to the story for the original post... Apologies for the confusion.

Here in the Neighborhood, we've wondered (more than once) where exactly Mr. Rogers thinks he's from. We kind of get the feeling that he prefers being in Washington, fundraising for the national Republican party to being in Michigan's 8th Congressional District and actually having to talk with those annoying voters.

The story in this morning's Politico Huddle comes as no surprise, then. According to a breaking story in Roll Call, it looks like some GOP members of Congress are playing games with residency and tax deductions. Guess who's on the list?

IMPROPER TAX BREAK: Four Republican members of Congress are trying to have it both ways with home state residence and a DC homestead tax break. Roll Call's Jennifer Yachnin breaks news with her investigation: 'Despite maintaining residency in their home states, a handful of House lawmakers appear to be improperly receiving the Washington, D.C., homestead tax deduction, reducing their annual property tax bills by hundreds of dollars and potentially much more over the long term. A Roll Call review of District of Columbia tax records revealed at least four Members who receive the property tax benefit from among more than 80 lawmakers who own homes in neighborhoods that popular with lawmakers, including Capitol Hill.' The lawmakers: Reps. Tom Petri (R-Wisc.), Steve King (R-Iowa), Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) and Mike Rogers (R-Mich.). [emphasis added]
Stay tuned for more on this story.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

California Dreamin'

Once again in the grip of his love-hate affair with the state of California, Mr. Rogers has co-sponsored a bill with Democratic Rep. Ellen Tauscher (CA-10) to direct federal dollars to encourage local van pools.

Mr. Rogers co-chairs the Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) Caucus with Rep. Tauscher; they've also co-sponsored a crib safety bill.   

In fact, Mr. Rogers has a pretty good track record of collaborating with California Democrats.  In addition to Rep. Tauscher, he's worked with Rep. Lois Capps (CA-23) on a pain relief bill and Rep. Jane Harman (CA-36) on the Select Agent Program for bioterrorism. His super-special CalCongressPal is Rep. Anna Eshoo (CA-14): they've co-sponsored a number of bills, including coverage for cancer medication, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), and directed the EPA to study data center efficiency.

You have to wonder, though, what Reps. Eshoo, Capps, Harman & Tauscher think when their legislative buddy comes out with gems like:  
"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."

and this:

"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."

Seems like Mr. Rogers is OK with extremist California politicians as long as they agree with him...

Monday, March 23, 2009

It's Not Personal, It's Business

This classic line from The Godfather came to mind as I read a letter to the editor in today's Press & Argus titled "Unfair Attack on Rogers and Cleary."

Not entirely sure when questioning the public actions of an elected official became an "unfair attack," but accusing your questioner of a personal attack is always a handy response when the facts aren't on your side.

Just to review:

1.) Mike Rogers has been a long-term, consistent critic of earmarks.  Fair enough.  

But then...

2.) Mike Rogers inserted $17.6 million in earmarks into this year's Omnibus Budget Bill.

3.) Mike Rogers then proceeded to vote against the Omnibus Budget Bill.

4.) The Omnibus Budget Bill passed.

5.) Mike Rogers took full credit for a variety of projects funded by these earmarks, such as local roads, biotech research, sustainable agriculture and water treatment, among other things.  

oh, but the devil is in the details:

5a.) Of the $1.4 million in earmarks for Livingston County (Mr. Rogers' home), $800,000 -- 57% of the total funds for LivCo -- is going to a local private university whose president has made significant donations to the Congressman.  More than half of this is being used for a geothermal energy retrofit for the building that houses the racquetball courts, basketball courts and aerobic exercise area.

A quick brain exercise for  Monday morning:  imagine that a Democrat had huffed and puffed about earmarks, inserted them anyway, then voted against the bill.  Now imagine that this Democrat had then taken credit for "bringing home the bacon," and ensured that a significant chunk of the cash went to a private entity headed by a major campaign contributor.

I think that the opposing party would make some major noise -- and they would be justified in doing so.  

It's not personal, it's democracy.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Let's Do Lunch, Multitasker Edition

There are so many challenges facing our state -- and our nation -- it can seem overwhelming. 

So, you'll be glad to know that Mr. Rogers is earning his $174,000 salary!  He's multitasking, taking time to eat a healthy lunch AND raising money to keep Republican bottoms in Congressional seats all at the same time:
National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas), NRCC Vice Chairman for Incumbent Retention Mike Rogers (Mich.) and Rep. Charles Boustany (La.) are hosting a luncheon fundraiser for freshman Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao today.

Cao is widely viewed as the most vulnerable Republican incumbent up for re- election in 2010 after he defeated then-Rep. William Jefferson (D) last year in a heavily Democratic New Orleans-based district. [skip]

The event is being held at the NRCC. Contributions are $1,000 per political action committee or $500 per individual. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Collegiality, Livingston County Style

There have been quite a few articles of late discussing Mike Rogers' $1.4 million in earmarks for Livingston County.

This is the same Mike Rogers who railed against the omnibus spending bill as mortgaging "our children and grandchildren's future... Congress continues to wastefully spend their hard-earned tax dollars."  You will no doubt recall that Mr. Rogers is a veteran player of the "criticize and take" game in previous budget cycles.

Leaving aside the, ah, oddity of voting against a bill into which you had stuffed $17.6 million for your district, isn't part of a representative's job to direct spending to his or her district?  This is especially true when you represent a long-time donor state

On the whole, these earmarks are sensible and useful (not to mention co-sponsored with Democrats).  For example, Livingston County drivers -- regardless of party affiliation -- can agree that the Latson Road interchange is long overdue for completion.  Likewise, funding for research on sustainable agriculture, biotechnology projects, public transportation and water treatment is a smart and productive use of federal dollars.  

While fairly certain that I'll refrain from taking LivCo Road Commissioner Mike Crain's suggestion:
I believe the majority of Mike Rogers' earmarks will help our district in both the short term and the long term.  

And yet...  

... of the $1.4 million coming to Livingston County, over $800,000 of it is going to Cleary University, a private institution with branches in Livingston and Washtenaw Counties.  

Take a closer look at the way Mike Rogers allocated his earmarks for higher education:


Rogers earmarks


(earmark $/per student)





1,100 students

($727.27+ )



Lansing CC


20,394 students


3rd largest in MI


Oakland CC


46,579 students


Largest CC in MI; 14th largest in U.S.


So while I'm almost used to Mr. Rogers' general double standards, this little ploy to throw major public money to a minor private institution -- at a time when community colleges are educating roughly 45% of undergraduates nation-wide -- is a new low in hypocrisy.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Nobody Expects the Rush-in Inquisition

Last week, The Neighborhood considered the religious overtones of Mr. Rogers' recent pronouncements on 2010 Congressional races.

This got me thinking about leadership, orthodoxy and control.

The Spanish Inquisition (known to most of us as the basis for a classic Monty Python sketch) was a religious tribunal, established to ensure the orthodoxy of recent converts (i.e., Jews and Muslims) and prevent the advance of heresy.  As time went on, the Inquisition moved into censorship and also went after freemasons, witches, gays, assorted protestants, and Catholics who questioned church doctrine. The secondary benefit of all this terror? A nice financial profit for the Inquisitors, as the fines and property seizures added up.

Fast forward to last weekend, when the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) conference was held in D.C.  It was a busy couple of days: attendees hyperventilated with Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and Joe the Plumber; voted for Mitt Romney in a 2012 presidential straw poll; and cheered on a brainwashed 13-year-old.  Nostalgia for conservative heroes Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater comforted those who like to pretend that the November 2008 election never occurred.

Enforcing the conservative line, much like the Inquisition enforced Catholic doctrine, conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh took RNC Chairman Michael Steele to task this week, challenging his [Steele's] right to speak for Republicans.  
"So I am an entertainer and I have 20 million listeners because of my great song and dance routine," Limbaugh said. "Michael Steele, you are head of the Republican National Committee. You are not head of the Republican party. Tens of millions of conservatives and Republicans have nothing to do with the Republican National Committee...and when you call them asking for money, they hang up on you."
Yesterday, Michael Steele apologized.
“My intent was not to go after Rush – I have enormous respect for Rush Limbaugh,” Steele said in a telephone interview. “I was maybe a little bit inarticulate. … There was no attempt on my part to diminish his voice or his leadership.” 
Wow.  Guess we know who owns all the red state hearts & minds...

El Rushbo and the Reagan revolution dead-enders out there want to cash in on our country's troubles in a bid to reactivate their political power.  They're taking advantage of all the retro-Repub excitement and dusting off the 1990s playbook.  Just take a look at Bill Kristol's 1993 memo on how to sink universal health care, and note all the media coverage of Newt Gingrich, the on-again conservative darling.

Is resurrecting old GOP orthodoxy really the way to go?

Republican political strategist David Frum is one of the few conservative voices warning his party about the dangers of worshiping the past.
Conservatives live in thrall to a historical myth, and this myth may soon cost us dearly. [skip] The Goldwater myth shuts down all attempts to reform and renew our conservative message for modern times. And it offers a handy justification for nominating a 2012 presidential candidate who might otherwise seem disastrously unelectable. Altogether, the myth invites dangerous and self-destructive behavior by a party that cannot afford either.

In a nutshell, Hirschman looks at how members of an organization respond when the organization begins to decline.  Some choose to exit, simply leaving for another group. Others feel that there aren't better alternatives, so they stay and voice their concerns in an effort to bring the organization "back" to its earlier and better state.  

When loyalty is added in, though, things get interesting.  This "feeling of attachment to an organization" can keep members from exiting, and may actually prevent them from voicing their concerns.  Organizations themselves can enforce loyalty and ensure the status quo by imposing high fees to enter and stiff penalties to exit.  This is bolstered by member "self-deception"
that is, in fighting the realization that the organization he belongs to or the product he has bought are deteriorating or defective. He will particularly tend to repress this sort of awareness if he has invested a great deal in his purchase or membership...  once deterioration is adverted to, members of an organization that requires severe initiation will fight hard to prove that they were right after all in paying that high entrance fee.
Sound like any political organizations you know?

Over the next year or so, we'll see whether the GOP chooses to evolve into a new, competitive entity -- or if it will cling even more tightly to its shrinking base and allow Rush Limbaugh to become the new Grand Inquisitor.  Either way, Democrats will have a lot of interesting opportunities in 2010.