Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Attack of the Attacks!

Poor Mr. Rogers.  

He's been under attack -- unfair attack, no less! -- for his votes in Washington. 

He's been "unfairly attacked" by the League of Conservation Voters, who disagree with his stance on carbon cap-and-trade; the "League's attack takes the low road" according to a supporter.

His press secretary primly noted that "Partisan attack ads can't change facts."

Mr. Rogers has also been "unfairly attacked" over $800,000 earmarked for a local private university.

The good news: he has plenty of mouthpieces friends who will leap to his defense, regardless of the facts.

An editorial in the Press & Argus argued that anyone who saw a contradiction in Mr. Rogers' insertion of $17.6 million worth of earmarks and his subsequent vote against said bill was just being silly, or partisan, or something.

The same editorial allowed the university president to "calmly explain" the need for a $475K geothermal retrofit of the school's racquetball court.*  It's a fairly reasonable explanation; turns out that it isn't just for the racquetball court and the entire project is also depending on $3 million in private donations.  

Funny how Mr. Rogers assumes that projects in other states haven't any reasonable explanations, and thus are worth attacking based on a headline.  

*It would have been interesting for the editor to follow up on the university president's assertion that his institution is competing with "community college and state universities that are awash in public funding."  I'm sure that Mary Sue Coleman (U of M), Lou Anna K. Simon (MSU), Timothy R. Meyer (OCC), Brent Knight (LCC) and their other Michigan higher ed colleagues would beg to differ with that description...  Here's a breakdown of Rogers' earmarks for private and public institutions in the 8th Congressional District.  


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Pollution and Unemployment: OK by Mike

Here in The Neighborhood, we've already noticed that Mike Rogers has been pretty vocal about his dislike of reducing greenhouse gases.  

Using the GOP playbook phrase "cap and tax" to argue that cap-and-trade carbon policy will hurt Michigan's economy, he's downplayed the real gains that can come from this market-based approach to pollution reduction.  

He also thinks that American manufacturers don't have the skills to step up and meet the opportunities of renewable energy technologies.  

Well, we're not the only ones who are underwhelmed by Mr. Rogers' pronouncements of doom.

Starting tomorrow, the League of Conservation Voters will air ads in the Lansing area critical of Rogers' opposition to the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009.  
“Reps. Blunt and Rogers have made it clear they are siding with Big Oil and saying no to millions of new jobs and no to making America a global leader on clean energy,” said League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinksi. “Why do they seem to have such little faith in American ingenuity and know-how?” 
That's a pretty good question.

If Mr. Rogers' loyalties lie with his district (not to mention his state and his country), he'll stop his knee-jerk "no" responses and work to enact legislation that can help our nation.  

If his loyalties lie with the GOP leadership, Mr. Rogers will keep on fundraising, party-building and wagging his finger at empty rooms.

We'll see what choices he makes in the weeks and months to come.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Is it the Good Russia, or the Bad One?

Mr. Rogers recently returned from his spring break visit intelligence trip to Russia with some amazing news:  they have a better business plan than we do.
"Why is it I had to go all the way to Moscow to hear a good idea on turning the economy around?" Rogers said.
Hmm.  A quick Google search of "Russian economy" shows a country facing slumping oil prices, an overvalued ruble, a central bank rate of 12%, a 13.5% inflation rate, and international currency reserves that have plunged by $200 billion in just six months.  

Perhaps if Mr. Rogers had spent a bit more of his time in Washington listening -- rather than reflexively saying no to protecting children from tobacco and reducing carbon emissions -- he wouldn't have had to go all the way to Moscow. 
Russia didn't receive the same admiring words from Mike Rogers last month, though, when he co-signed a letter criticizing President Obama's attempts to engage Russia in preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons:
Over the last year, as you know, Russia has pursued a divisive policy to re-exert its Soviet-era sphere of influence. During this time, Russia invaded Georgia, intimidated other nations from joining NATO, and threatened to target Eastern Europe with nuclear missiles should the proposed European missile defense sites be built. Further, amidst a global economic crisis, Russia has disrupted shipments of natural gas to Europe for the second time in three years. Most recently, Russia used financial incentives to persuade Kyrgyzstan to deny the U.S. access to its Manas military base in order to support coalition operations in Afghanistan.
Does Mr. Rogers really think that this is a country we should emulate?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Whoa there, Washington Waste Watcher Guy!

Mr. Rogers is Concerned About Waste.

He was in Lansing yesterday for the MI tea party festivities.

He's set up a "Washington Waste Watch" website to track how tax dollars are being spent, and issued this statement:

“Republicans and Democrats have spent recklessly in the past, but now the problem is worse than ever,” Rogerssaid. “The federal deficit has ballooned to more than a trillion dollars. It is irresponsible and will ensure that our children and grandchildren have a huge debt to pay to countries like China.”

Rogers, who also will address a Lansing “Tea Party” today organized to protest out-of-control spending and taxation, highlighted the long history of poor spending decisions made in Washington.   “For too long, we have watched as our money was wasted on bridges to nowhere, a hippie museum in New York, or an indoor rainforest in Iowa,” Rogers said. “We need an open, honest debate about how much money Washington should take in taxes, how much money Washington should borrow in our name and just how that money will be spent.”

Sounds good... except for a few picky details:

1.) "Republicans and Democrats have spent recklessly in the past." 
Mr. Rogers is now serving his fifth term in Washington -- so that pretty much disqualifies him from using the passive voice and the third person, as if he had nothing to do with it.  

2.) "For too long, we have watched as our money has been wasted on bridges to nowhere"  
Mr. Rogers is welcome to mock other representatives' requests for "hippie museums" as long as he remembers that he personally asked for $17.6 million worth of earmarks -- including "wood utilization research" and $475,750 for a private university's recreation center.   

On his website, Mr. Rogers conveniently ignores his own earmark requests, and instead singles out a $550,000 project in Pawtucket, RI as an example of silly spending.  Unsurprisingly, Mr. Rogers chose to steal a headline without reading the rest of the article.  What did he miss in his froth of indignation?  

Michael Cassidy, the city planning director, said the money is for shovel-ready projects and the city is ready to go on both the skateboarding park and work on the athletic courts. A bid request has been issued seeking a contractor for the site, which takes in the three recreational projects, at Division and North Bend streets.

Cassidy said the stimulus will allow Pawtucket to forge ahead with more work than expected over the summer, giving jobs to construction workers. He estimated 30 to 40 workers on the projects, which includes subcontractors the contractor hires. He predicted a ripple effect: those working on the projects will buy lunch at local eateries and have their cars repaired at local service stations, and the contractor will buy materials, from lumber to basketball nets and fencing.

Ronald L. Wunschel, the city’s finance director, said people have sought for years to have a safe skateboard park so that young people don’t skate on other public property.

It will be an outdoor park, so it can’t be used in bad weather, Cassidy said. It won’t require staffing because the design –– size of ramps, etc. –– meets standards set by the insurer, the Rhode Island Interlocal Trust. The major work is expected to start when school ends and finish around Labor Day.

Hmmm.  Doesn't sound quite so wild-eyed anymore, does it?  

3.) "The Federal deficit has ballooned to over a trillion dollars" 

Yes, it certainly has.  I don't know anyone who is happy with this, Republican or Democrat.   But while Mr. Rogers has fun stomping his feet and hanging out with the Obama-hating Teabag gang, he'd do well to remember what has happened in Washington since he was first elected in 2000:

And here is a report from the Bureau of Public Debt of the annual federal debt outstanding at the end of the last 8 federal fiscal years:

09/30/2008    $10,024,724,896,912.49
09/30/2007    $9,007,653,372,262.48
09/30/2006    $8,506,973,899,215.23
09/30/2005    $7,932,709,661,723.50
09/30/2004    $7,379,052,696,330.32
09/30/2003    $6,783,231,062,743.62
09/30/2002    $6,228,235,965,597.16
09/30/2001    $5,807,463,412,200.06
09/30/2000    $5,674,178,209,886.86

Hale Stewart sums it up nicely:

Republican/conservative rank and file are protesting because they are out of power and their leadership is terrible. But they aren't protesting spending; they are protesting the Democratic Party's governance. And that is fine. But please, don't tell me it's about spending or debt. If that were the case, you guys should have taken to the streets years ago.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Celebrities in Lansing!

The Washington Indpendent has a great article on today's Michigan "Tea Party."  It was a happening place -- not only was Joe the Plumber there, but Representative Rogers was, too!  Lots of photos, as well.  Enjoy.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Tobacco Road

Tobacco is bad for you. In 2009, there shouldn't be any debate about this statement -- but some Michigan lawmakers are taking issue with it.

Earlier this month, the U.S. House passed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (H.R. 1256). This bill gives the Food and Drug Administration regulatory authority over tobacco and tobacco products. In plain English:
The bill doesn't give the FDA power to ban existing tobacco products but gives the agency power to restrict sales on safety grounds. The FDA also would be able to stop companies from touting their brands as "low tar" and "mild" and restrict advertising to plain black-and-white ads. Health advocates say advertising restrictions are a key tool to keeping tobacco products away from children and young adults.
Supporters of H.R. 1256 included the American Lung Association, the American Heart Association, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and the American Cancer Society.

No prize for guessing how Mike Rogers voted... he was one of the 112 members who thought the FDA had no business regulating tobacco.

Not only did Mr. Rogers vote against it, but he threw in four separate amendments to try and block it. All of them failed, largely because they were silly: the FDA couldn't regulate tobacco until the until the Secretary of HHS certifies that the FDA had "approved or disapproved" "all of the heart disease drugs... for the therapy of those in need," as well as "all pediatric cancer, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and human papilloma virus drugs."

All drugs? For someone who receives quite a lot of funding from the pharmaceutical industry, Mr. Rogers should know that there isn't an endpoint for drug development. There's always something in the pipeline; to say that "all" drugs must be approved or disapproved before allowing the FDA to do something sounds remarkably like Cinderella's stepmother -- setting an impossible list of chores as a condition of going to the ball.

When his "all or nothing" approach didn't work, Mr. Rogers tried the "fiscally responsible" gambit. He tossed in an amendment that would require the FDA to fund tobacco regulation exclusively from user fees, rather than "overburdening" the FDA's general fund. Sounds reasonable, until you learn that the bill uses general fund monies for only the first six months, then it rolls over to user fee funding. in addition, the money borrowed from the general fund would be paid back from money collected in user fees.

A Lansing State Journal editorial makes an important point:
This isn't about partisanship. Michigan Republicans Vern Ehlers and Dave Camp said yes in the final vote on the FDA bill... [skip] And Mike Rogers could have backed the FDA bill as a step in the right direction, once it was clear his own alternative would not pass.
Cigarette smoking is responsible for roughly 1 out of every 5 deaths in the U.S. each year. Here in Michigan, 21% of adults are smokers -- higher than the national average (19%). Michigan women are more likely to smoke than the average woman; Michigan's cancer rates for both men and women are also higher than the national rate.

The picture is even more grim for Michigan's kids. Our state is ranked 47th out of 50 in protecting children from tobacco. 18% of our high school students smoke. Smoking-related health care costs Michigan $3.4 billion each year. And the tobacco industry is spending $415.9 million in marketing right here in Michigan.

Why would any responsible adult think that all this was worth protecting?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Government Gone Wild

That's House minority leader John Boehner's assessment of the state of the nation, anyway. He issued a statement to FOX News' FOX Forum blog with the following comments: 
As Americans become more incensed with government run amok in Washington, they are becoming more eager for a credible, energized alternative.
Hmm.  Is that why President Obama has a +4 to +8 approval index rating?

Michigan's own Mike Rogers has been tapped to lead the "GOP State Solutions" project with Devine Nunes (R-CA), in which
House Republicans will work with reform-minded GOP governors and state legislators to fight Washington bureaucracy and inefficiency.
[Irony alert: ten-term Congressman Boehner is enlisting representatives like Mike Rogers (now in his fifth term and former deputy whip), Roy Blunt (former GOP Whip; in the House since 1997),  Eric Cantor (Republican Whip and five-term member), and Mike Pence (first elected in 2000 and former chair of the Republican Study Committee) to fight "Washington bureaucracy and inefficiency."]

Reform-minded GOP governors may not like bureaucracy or inefficiency (really, who does?) but they sure do appreciate the hundreds of millions that will be coming their way... 

Conservative Republican governors like Bobby Jindal (Louisiana), Rick Perry (Texas) and Jim Gibbons (Nevada) woke up, smelled the economic coffee and took funds that they had previously refused.  Even SC Governor Mark Sanford -- the last GOP holdout against the stimulus package -- met the deadline to accept federal dollars.  
Democrats have controlled the White House, the Senate, and the House of Representatives for three months now, and from their actions, a discomforting narrative has emerged. 
Disregard the comparative time frames (three months vs. eight years).  The really discomforting narrative for GOP leaders is Rasmussen's latest generic congressional ballot showing Dems with a fairly consistent lead.
With the exception of two weeks ago, Democratic support has been between 40% and 42% in every weekly generic ballot poll conducted in 2009. Also, with the exception of two weeks ago, Republican support has been in the 37% to 39% every week since the beginning of February.
Sorry, Mr. Boehner.  Your party controlled the White House and Congress for the better part of a decade, deregulated the financial industry and flipped the economy from a surplus to a record-breaking deficit -- the public isn't buying your new story of credibility and reform.

Friday, April 3, 2009

A Feather in His Cap

Congress has been racing to wrap things up before Easter recess...  apparently, chocolate bunnies are a powerful bipartisan motivator. 

The $3 trillion+ budget passed  both houses in a party-line vote and moved on to conference committee.  The vote tallies came as no suprise, and Republican House members knew that they ran zero risk in voting against it.  In a vain attempt to be relevant, though, House Majority leader Boehner came up with an alternative budget (optimistically titled, The Road to Recovery) which was roundly mocked for both its lack of numbers and its quaint faith in tax cuts.  It died a quiet death, not even getting much respect from its own party.  In an interesting aside, Glenn Thrush noted that:

Defectors: About twice as many Republicans (38 or 20 percent of their conference) voted against the GOP alternative budget -- than Democrats (20 or 8 percent) who nixed their party's spending plan

With no traction on the budget, Republican reps have turned their energies to grumbling about the Waxman-Markey climate change legislation proposal.  

Cap and trade of carbon dioxide emissions is a major component of the proposal.  In a nutshell,  this is a market-based way to control pollution.  A cap (maximum limit) is set for emissions, then sources (manufacturers, utilities, etc.) are given a specific emissions allowance.  Each source can design its own plan to stay within its specific allowance, such as investing in better pollution controls and increasing efficiency. Sources that don't "spend" their entire allowance can sell the extra to other less-efficient sources. The EPA lists the benefits of this approach:

  • Strict limits on emissions yielding dramatic pollution reductions;
  • High levels of compliance, transparency, and complete accountability;
  • Regulatory certainty and flexibility for sources;
  • Incentives for early pollution reduction and innovations in control technologies;
  • Compatibility with state and local programs;
  • Significant, widespread, and guaranteed human health and environmental benefits;
  • Efficient use of government resources, and
  • More benefits at less cost.

This isn't just some pointy-headed academic theory -- cap and trade has successfully reduced levels of several types of pollutants for over a decade.  

Meme alert: Mike Rogers has decided to get cranky about cap-and-trade, or as he prefers to call it, "cap and tax." 

Always fond of the fact-free policy statement, Mr. Rogers has been sounding the alarm about carbon cap and trade.  He's been busy warning that it will "devastate jobs in manufacturing states like Michigan" and be "economic suicide."  [Note to Mr. Rogers: Michigan has lost 600,000 auto jobs over the last 8 years, when carbon cap-and-trade was nowhere in sight.]

If you're up for it, there's even a Mike Rogers video with his oh-so-gloomy predictions and misleading "statistics"...  just keep in mind that consumers already pay every time "they put food in the refrigerator to keep it cold" or "turn on the computer to help kids with their homework."  What's wrong with providing the same electrical capacity with less pollution?  And wouldn't this market-based solution to reduce greenhouse gases actually promote clean energy job growth?  Funny, but Mr. Rogers used to think that was a good idea.  He even included it in his super-duper Energy Independence cartoon.  

Word in the Neighborhood is that Mr. Rogers will hold a joint "town hall" style meeting with State Reps. Bill Rogers and Cindy Denby during Easter recess.  If this actually happens, we'll be sure to ask Mike Rogers about his change of heart on clean energy policy and job growth.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Service to Country

Things aren't looking too rosy out there these days. With the size (and number) of problems facing our country, it can be hard for an individual to feel as though she can make a difference.

Well, a good idea popped up on Capitol Hill recently: the Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education (GIVE) Act -- and unlike the bank bailout, it will cost taxpayers just $3 per person in 2010 and result in practical benefits for communities across America.

The GIVE Act (H.R.1388), known as the Serve America Act (S 227) in the Senate, will expand AmeriCorps  and other national service programs from 75,000 positions to 250,000 participants over the next eight years. Currently focused on college-age volunteers, opportunities would include veterans and Americans over 55, as well as middle and high school students. A Congressional Research Service summary of the bill is here.

The bills passed in both the House (321 - 105)and the Senate (79-19) with overwhelming bipartisan support. Twenty-two Republican Senators, including conservatives like Kit Bond, Kay Bailey Hutchison, Orrin Hatch and Judd Gregg, lent their support.  In the House, every member of the Michigan Republican delegation -- with the exception of Pete Hoekstra -- supported the bill.

On Tuesday, the House passed a motion to concur in the Senate amendments to the bill (275-149).  The majority of the Michigan delegation (12 -3) voted in favor, including GOP Reps. Camp, Ehlers, Miller and Upton.

In an unsurprising about-face, Mike Rogers and Thad McCotter decided that they enjoy being the Party of No,  and flip-flopped to join Pete Hoekstra in voting against the final version of the bill.   As with the budget, Mr. Rogers was for it before he was against it...

Reasonable people may wonder why a bill that has passed muster with Sens. Hatch and Gregg isn't good enough for Mr. Rogers.  

Here's a prediction: when questioned on this vote, Rogers & Co. will parrot the scare-mongering phrases of Michele Malkin, Glenn Beck et al:

"It could force a mandatory national service requirement on all young Americans!"  

No.  The bill dropped a provision, which was then written as a stand-alone bill (HR 1444), to establish a Congressional Commission on Civil Service.  The Commission would address twelve specific topics, two of which apparently bunch conservative panties:  

(5) The effect on the Nation, on those who serve, and on the families of those who serve, if all individuals in the United States were expected to perform national service or were required to perform a certain amount of national service.

(6) Whether a workable, fair, and reasonable mandatory service requirement for all able young people could be developed, and how such a requirement could be implemented in a manner that would strengthen the social fabric of the Nation and overcome civic challenges by bringing together people from diverse economic, ethnic, and educational backgrounds.

Studying possible outcomes provides information about pros and cons of a plan. It doesn't mean that the plan will be implemented.  In fact, a cynic would point out that study committees are usually where ideas go to die...

This will let Obama push his radical agenda by forcing kids into liberal political activity!

No.  The final House version included an amendment by Rep. Miller which   

prohibits organizations from attempting to influence legislation; organize or engage in protests, petitions, boycotts, or strikes; and assist, promote, or deter union organizing.
You may hear some whining that an amendment by Sen. David Vitter to prohibit ACORN and any ACORN-affiliated organizations from receiving GIVE funds was tabled.  Well, the Miller amendment covers ACORN and actually expands Vitter's intent by prohibiting a wider range of political activity.

There will be uniforms! Like brownshirts!

This is just too silly for comment, so here's a picture to put it in perspective.  Scared yet?

Bottom line: Mr. Rogers would rather spout off about cap-and-trade policy than work on practical approaches to tough issues like unemployment, rising college costs, resources for veterans and seniors, and service to country.