Thursday, October 30, 2008

Club For Growth TV Ad for Doctor in the First District

I bet you haven’t seen the Club for Growth PAC television ads which portray the Democrat as someone who “is trying to present himself as a moderate, but it is clear from his positions that he is far outside the mainstream. His support for universal health care and his relationship with Big Labor is out-of-touch with voters in First Congressional District” while encouraging support for the Republican challenger who is a medical doctor and will fight “for lower taxes and less government spending. He will be the kind of representative taxpayers can count on.”

As a matter of fact, have you noticed that unlike last election where there were a number of independent groups (such as Chamber of Commerce) running television ads in the First District supporting Gil Gutknecht, that this year they are absent ? Where are the illegal immigration ads ? Heck, remember the Freedom's Watch ads attacking Congressman Tim Walz (D-MN-01) over FISA or when the Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care and the American Health Association attacked Walz for his vote on the CHAMP Act ?
This year … very quiet … too quiet … its spooky.
My guess is that those interest groups have learned that these attack ads don’t work in southern Minnesota. Walz didn’t change his views as his office was inundated with letters and calls supporting him.

The Club for Growth PAC commercials are real but are not being run in Minnesota’s First District, but instead in Maryland’s First District. The similarities between the candidates … a perceived Moderate Democrat against a Medical Doctor Republican … is eerie … yet the money that the PAC is spending in Minnesota is going to the Sixth District to defend Congresswoman Michele Bachmann.

Why ?
Could it be that Bachmann is in serious trouble and the Club for Growth does not want to lose one of its minions ?
Or, could it be that the Club for Growth feel that its advertisement could be detrimental to Dr. Brian Davis in his bid against Congressman Walz ?
Both are probably correct.

For Davis to win, he needs a low voter turnout. The evaluation of the District’s newspaper editorial boards is that Moderate Everyman Tim is deserving of a second term and that the unabashedly conservative, political novice Dr. Davis is the one that is out of sync with the district.

So is the election is over, right … hardly.
Unlike other states, Minnesota does not have an early election period … as the media continues to report that Obama will win Minnesota’s electoral college votes and voters see long lines at the polling booths, there is the temptation to turn back when the lines begin to expand. Apathy is Walz’s main challenger … and the lack of independent expenditures lulls the voter into a state of complacency.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

MN-01 : Davis needs more time to Study Taxes

Dr. Brian Davis, the Republican candidate in Minnesota’s First Congressional District responded to an inquiry from KEYC-TV regarding a national sales tax : “It’s a good idea in principle” adding that he needed to “study it more”.
That comment is just another example that Dr. Davis is too inexperienced to be trusted to represent the district in these critical economic times.

So what would a national sales tax do?
Representative John Linder (R-GA) first introduced a version of the Fair Tax in 1999 and each session thereafter including most recently H.R. 25, the “The FairTax Act of 2007.” Former First District Congressman Gil Gutknecht (R) was a co-sponsor and strong advocate. Currently, John Kline (R-02) is the most recent cosponsor. During the Republican primary, Governor Mike Huckabee was a strong supporter while Senator John McCain distanced himself from it although he spoke favorably about it earlier.

Here are the highlights of the legislation :
---- Imposes a national sales tax on the use or consumption in the United States of taxable property or services.
---- Sets the sales tax rate at 23 percent in 2009, with adjustments to the rate in subsequent years.
--- Directs the Secretary of the Treasury to allocate sales tax revenues among: (1) the general revenue; (2) the old-age and survivors insurance trust fund; (3) the disability insurance trust fund; (4) the hospital insurance trust fund; and (5) the federal supplementary medical insurance trust fund.

In short, payroll taxes including funding for Social Security and Medicare are eliminated … as are income taxes and estate taxes.

If this was such a good idea, why didn’t the Bush Administration and the Republican-controlled Congress move this legislation beyond simply introducing it ?
Obviously, it is too radical of a change.
Social Security and Medicare would be at risk if revenues from sales tax collection slowed up.
This would be a repeal of the progressive nature of income taxes; replaced entirely by a consumption tax. In these iffy economic times, where many families are delaying purchases, now is not the time to rely exclusively on a national consumption tax.

This would be a major change in America’s economic activity. There is no home mortgage deduction (which is cited in the Fairmont Sentinel’s endorsement of Dr. Davis) nor deductions for local property taxes, medical expenses, or charitable contributions. All the tax deductions that taxpayers have been accustomed to are gone.

All that said, it is incomprehensible that a candidate that has spent virtually a year campaigning for this office, cannot definitively tell voters if he favors a national sales tax.
Davis has voiced his skepticism of climate change, denounced mandates for automobile efficiencies and extolled that China is drilling off the coast of Cuba, yet he cannot comment on a tax policy change that has been written about for almost a decade.

The next session of Congress will have to address the national debt and operational budget imbalance while putting in place tax policies that are equitable and foster job growth. For Fiscal Year 2009, without the recent Wall Street bailout package, the federal deficit was $562 billion including the borrowing for the war. The national debt will have virtually doubled during the Bush years. Now is not the time for radical changes to our tax system.

The simple answer that Dr. Davis should have said was “No” to a national sales tax and a “YES” to PAYGO … but that would have meant that current Congressman Tim Walz is correct.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

MN-01 : Davis Endorsement – The End of Mortgage Tax Deduction

As the newspapers are issuing their endorsements in the First District, Congressman Tim Walz (D-01) has converted the New Ulm Journal to a supporter (after endorsing Republican Gil Gutknecht in 2006) as well as earning the support of Rochester Post-Bulletin (which withheld an endorsement in 2006.)

However, the Fairmont Sentinel found that the Republican challenger Dr. Brian “Davis has a better grasp of the key issues.
To voters who have heard Dr. Davis in the debates might disagree, but maybe the Sentinel had the opportunity for extended interviews to glean information that may not have been widely disseminated to the public. It should be noted that Dr. Davis has failed to provide questionnaire answers regarding ethanol subsidies, illegal immigration, agricultural trade policy, environmental quality issues, and senior citizens issues but the Sentinel was able to discern that he “has a better grasp of the key issues.

The endorsement is clearly hinged on tax policy. One aspect that is mentioned is mortgage-interest tax deductibility, which Congressman Walz supports, but the Sentinel cites as part of the problem with the housing debacle. Did Dr. Davis tell the Sentinel that he wants to end the tax deduction for mortgage-interest ?
The most important deduction for most itemizing individuals is the mortgage-interest deduction. While many will defend this deduction as encouraging home ownership; it is not all that unthinkable that it could be eliminated since the deduction disappears under the Flat Tax. Previously, First District Congressman Gil Gutknecht was a major proponent of the Flat Tax. The Flat Tax has been supported by many Republicans including John McCain who in response to a question during an October 29,1999 debate, stated : “Sure, I’m for a flat tax. I’m for a tax system where average Americans can fill out their tax return on a postcard and send it in and not have the fear of an audit.” Today, McCain may be not so inclined since there could be problems with implementing a flat tax that might be resolved by grandfathering pre-existing mortgages; but with (initially) higher tax rates.
One of the major concerns is what the sales tax rate would be ? Projections range from 23 to 30 %.

Now, there is an advantage to a Flat Tax as payments are collected at the sales tax level. No doubt the current system is ripe for underreporting. For example, Forbes reports that “the rich are different when it comes to paying taxes: They hide more of their income. The previously unreported study estimates that taxpayers whose true income was between $500,000 and $1 million a year understated their adjusted gross incomes by 21% overall in 2001, compared to an 8% underreporting rate for those earning $50,000 to $100,000 and even lower rates for those earning less.
Since Dr. Davis has not released his tax returns, voters have no idea if Dr. Davis has reported all his income, but voters do know that Dr. Davis has repeatedly not paid his property taxes on time.

For this voter, I would rather have a Congressman supporting IRS’ efforts to collect all taxes including from the “rich” who probably won’t like losing their mortgage-interest deduction either.

Dr. Davis needs to explain if he had any discussions with the Sentinel concerning any changes in tax policies other than retaining the Bush tax cuts and what he would advocate that the federal government do to resolve the housing crisis. Until he responds, voters may not agree that “Davis has a better grasp of the key issues.

Should I vote for a Minnesota maverick for US Senate ?

It’s just a few day until Election Day and I am still not sure who to vote for in the US Senate race.
I’ve listened to the candidates, watched the debates, and read a lot, but my mind is not made up.
Should I go with an experienced candidate? … or, the person that most closely adheres to my view on the issues? … or waste my vote on somebody who won’t win? Actually, the odds are pretty good that I will vote for the loser … so maybe “waste my vote” isn’t that off-base.

Norm Coleman has been endorsed by the Star-Tribune calling him “the Minnesota maverick”. Frankly, I have to wonder if Coleman would be just like “the Arizona maverick” John McCain … there are similiarities and that should be a concern. McCain started out as a dye-hard Republican and then showed some individualism and voted against his party elders, only to return to Party when it needed him. McCain’s pattern could be Coleman’s in the next term.

Let’s look at McCain’s “Maverick Claim to Fame” --- campaign finance reform. It’s true that McCain bucked his party and joined the Democrats to vote for a campaign finance reform, but the legislation was vetoed by George HW Bush (aka 41). Clinton said that he would sign that legislation, but McCain joined the Republicans to filabuster the legislation. When George W Bush (aka 43) became President, McCain joined with Fred Thompson (R-TN) and Russ Feingold (D-WI) and enacted legislation that was agreeable to the Republican majority. The result was a reduction in influence by labor unions that would make large contributions, and produce the rise in 527 independent groups. Today it would be hard to say that the campaign finance system is better under the new rules, but it is easy to say that McCain was not a maverick.

That would be the concern with Maverick Coleman. Would he revert to his 2002-2006 “Protect the Republican Party” persona, or would he be what the Star-Tribune considers to be a compromiser ? Frankly, I think the Star-Tribune is giving Coleman more credit than he is due. They cite the funding for I-35 reconstruction … well, do you think that after Katrina and film footage being shown globally, that any Senator would have gotten any different support … plus didn’t Senator Klobuchar have any impact?
IF Coleman has been the compromiser that the Star-Tribune thinks that he has been, he has been late and ineffective. His support for biofuels is mentioned, yet the Farm Bill was not completed on time, and Senator Chambliss (R-GA) probably had more to getting Republican support than Coleman. Also, Coleman missed an excellent opportunity to promote biofuels and show his compromise skills if he had joined Sens. Chambliss, Conrad (D-ND), Issakson (R-GA), and Thune (R-SD) when they established the Gang of 10 to address energy legislation … plus he could have joined with Senator Graham who joined the group to promote the nuclear industry (something that Coleman supports). Now, Coleman is joining to be part of a Gang of 20 … better late than never … however the legislation is not as good as the bi-partisian legislation (which included those sources but also wind) supported in the House (notable Minnesotans Tim Walz (D-01), John Kline (R-02) and Michele Bachmann (R-06).
Yes, Coleman did support SCHIP, but he knew that Bush’s vetos would stand … and isn’t that one of Franken’s main positive points. Coleman has been steadfast in his support for maintaining the current tax policies while others like Congressman Walz want to lower taxes for the middle class.
Based on current polls, it appears that the Democrats will gain seats in the Senate relegating Coleman to a lower influence … in fact, Senators Snowe and Collins (R-ME) are more likely to have influence on legislation since for years they have supported Democrats proposals.
Coleman is hardly a maverick … more of an opportunist than anything else. He stood strong with Bush on issues ranging from FISA to the recent bailout.

Oh, I could vote for Al Franken as I am encouraged by the comment in the Pioneer Press endorsement “We initially took Franken for a hard-core partisan, and that gave us pause. But we sense that he is learning to fight for a "progressive" agenda with less rancor and more reason.” Although I have concerns that Franken could become a showman on cable television (taking Congresswoman Bachmann’s slot since I have hunch she will be declining those YouTube opportunities in the future), he would be restrained the next President’s desire for a second term. It’s safe to assume that there will not be any middle class tax increase or major expansion of government managed health care regardless of who is elected … maybe in a second term but not the first term.

Dean Barkley appeals to my fiscal conservatism and may be the true “the Minnesota maverick” that the Star-Tribune desires. Barkley has been consistent in the polls at 18 % … so he would need to virtually double his poll numbers to be elected. If he was rising in the polls, that might be possible, but he has stayed where he is at since the primary election. Historically, as voters realize that a third party candidate is not going to win, they switch to one of the two major party candidates. Voting for Barkley may be wasting my vote.

Somehow I must balance “wasting a vote” with voting for the candidate that best matches my issues. A maverick may be a good vote … but if I want somebody that supported funding for I-35, the Farm bill, a new energy policy featuring wind, SCHIP, a tax policy that benefits the middle class, opposes FISA and the bailout, my maverick vote would be a write-in vote for Tim Walz who would be part of the new Democratic majority.

OK, so since you took the time to read this, tell me why I should vote for someone else other that a write-in for Walz ?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Credit Crisis : Walz –v- Bachmann : Engaged –v- ill-informed

Do you remember the 60’s question “What if they gave a war and nobody came ?” …
well ”What if America had a crisis and only ONE Republican showed up ?”
or “What if American had a crisis, would your Representative report for duty ?”

When the Bush Administration stated it wanted a bailout package totaling $700 billion giving unlimited powers to the Secretary of the Treasury, Congress – Republicans and Democrats – were alarmed.

The vote was actually the easy part … either you accept this legislation or continue to redefine it until acceptable legislation is created. Eventually, a package was approved at a higher amount but with curtailed powers … with notable NO Votes from Congressman Tim Walz (D-MN-01), Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-MN-06) and Congressman Collin Peterson (D-MN-07).

After approval, it would be easy for Congress to let the Bush Administration work out its plan during this period prior to the November elections.
That would be wrong.
With America’s financial future changed by government intervention and partial nationalization of the nation’s largest banks, it’s clear that we want our Representatives involved. The key question is what new regulations would be enacted — and how can Congress ensure that the regulations will work.

Peterson in his capacity as Chairman of the Committee on Agriculture was concerned about the failure of American International Group (AIG), Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, and Washington Mutual, among others and the impact of shadowy banking practice of credit default swaps (CDS) and other derivatives. The Ag Committee has oversight of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission with the obvious implications of the Commodity Exchange Act in this crisis.

Congressman Peterson responded to the crisis by scheduling a hearing despite this being “campaign season”.
After the hearing, Chairman Peterson offered this scary warning “There is an estimated $55 trillion in credit default swaps somewhere out there, but no one knows for sure if any of these swaps offset each other, exactly who is on the hook for these swaps, who is trading with who and on what terms; and worst of all, no one has any idea who is solvent and who is upside down. The first step we need to take is to shed some light on just how the unwinding of these obligations will take place.”
Congressman Walz went off the campaign trail, participated in the hearing, and offered his assessment.
Sadly, as important as this issue is, only ONE Republican participated in the hearing … Bob Goodlatte (R-VA).

While Peterson did his job, he wasn’t alone. The Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee scheduled a hearing for Tuesday, October 21st “to examine our failure to regulate credit default swaps, collateralized debt obligations and their derivatives, and the other fruits of their deregulatory push from 1995-2006. The results of that effort are now in—a crisis that is sweeping the global economy and threatening tens of millions of working families. The committee’s job is to see that this never happens again and that is the purpose of the hearing.” The hearing was broadcast via C-SPAN and offered expert opinion and suggestions from a panel of witnesses.

Sadly, Minnesota’s member of the committee, Representative Bachmann was not there to participate.
$55 trillion in credit default swaps problem and Bachmann is a no show.
IF Bachmann has problems with the course the Committee Chairman is pursuing, by skipping the hearing as a means of protest, she is doing a disservice to the process.
Rather than listen to solutions, Bachmann blames the Community Reinvestment Act for the problem, yet the CRA’s impact has been wildly exaggerated.
Where was Bachmann ? At a Rotary meeting !

If you are a regular viewer of CSPAN you have noticed the lack of Republican participation as well as there use of procedural tactics to delay votes.
Enough is enough.
Members of Congress will often cite the number of roll call votes they participate in as a symbol of their involvement; I suggest that they also tell voters how many Committee hearings they missed and to provide a reason why they were not there.

From my vantage point, none of these Members of Congress liked the bailout bill but Congressmen Peterson and Walz are actively working to ensure taxpayers interests are properly considered while Congresswoman Bachmann’s absence is inexcusable. During the August recess, Bachmann was expending Congressional funds to fly back and forth to Washington (and blogging ) that the House should be called “back immediately so we can debate and vote on the legislation that has been offered to deal with rising energy costs.” Drilling was her issue, not the housing crisis even though her district has a higher foreclosure rate than the rest of Minnesota and the rest of the country.

Minnesota voters need to know whose working for them (Peterson and Walz) while Bachmann may be more concerned with her relationship with her number one campaign contributor --TCF Bank, which is also one of the top-ten mortgage lenders in the state.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

MN-01 : Davis Endorsements Highlight Debate

The Debate Minnesota event held in Mankato on Monday, October 13 between Congressman Tim Walz (D MN-01) and Republican challenger Dr. Brian Davis revealed a difference between the two candidates that projected who each would work for next session.

This debate followed a typical format --- opening remarks by each participant, questions from the moderators and audience, and closing comments. Obviously, the opening and closing comments were scripted such that each candidate could shape their messages for the audience.

Dr. Davis introduced himself and explained that he was running because of a concern that Congress was becoming a liberal branch of the government. He then recounted a story that concluded with his daughter stating that she would not vote for him … my spouse reaction was that it was a “cute” story … I thought she displayed remarkable insight for such a young age.

The questions were unscripted but Davis answers were enlightening for their lack of having a vision … especially regarding education but that is for another post.

It was Davis closing comments that were most insightful.
He talked about his endorsements.
Naturally, he cited his endorsement by the Republican Party (interesting that he does not have that printed on his yard signs, etc.), but also FREEDOM CLUB FEDERAL PAC , Associated Builders and Contractors of Minnesota (ABC), Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life Federal PAC , and Minnesota Medical Association MEDPAC .

It was a stark contrast to Congressman Walz closing comments. He repeated that he never thought he would be a member of Congress and that he was working for everybody.

Davis seemed to be cueing that these special interest groups would get his special interest.
So, who are they ?
Freedom of America would seem to be an impressive sounding group, but it is an “organization of conservative Republican contributors” which is based in New Hope Minnesota and has contributed most of its money to Davis, Congressman John Kline (R-MN-02) and candidate Erik Paulsen (R-MN-03) and John McCain.
The Associated Builders and Contractors of Minnesota (ABC) was the first business group to endorse Presidential candidate John McCain and has access to President Bush --- most recently on August 12, 2008 when the President hosted members from the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) Executive Committee.
Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL) is a well-known advocacy group regarding pro-life and same-sex marriage issues. The MCCL commonly advertises on television based on “issues” and not “candidates”, so their ads are not authorized by the candidate.
Minnesota Medical Association, as previously
stated, would be advocating for doctors (protecting tax rates and objecting to medical malpractice rates).

Wow !
The special interests have their guy and Davis is proud to have their support.

Surprisingly, Davis fails to mention other endorsements.

The National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund endorsed Walz for 2008 after being a supporter of Gil Gutknecht in 2006.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars Political Action Committee endorsed Walz for re-election. Apparently, Veterans realize their Congressman can make a difference as Disabled American Veterans rated Gutknecht a “F” in 2006.

While the National Farmers Union PAC endorsed for the second time Walz, Kevin Paap said that the Minnesota Farm Bureau's PAC would not be endorsing in this year’s congressional race although they had endorsed Gutknecht in 2006.

One slightly humorous line from the debate that should be noted. In May of 2007, Dr. Davis went to Washington to lobby on behalf of a bill stating "Excuse me Congressman. I would really like your support on this project. By the way, I would also like your job."
Interesting because the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology, whose mission is to advance the practice of radiation oncology by promoting excellence in patient care, providing opportunities for educational and professional development, promoting research and disseminating research results and representing radiation oncology in a rapidly evolving healthcare environment, have rated Congressman Walz at 100 % meeting their goals.

The message is obvious. Walz is willing to work for everyone … regardless if they support him (or supported his opponent in the past … or even are represented by his opponent).

FYI : If you care about Walz’ endorsements they range from Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association to the Human Rights Campaign. No doubt, Walz’s list will grow.

The question for the voters is : Who will you endorse on November 4 with your vote… someone who will represent “special interests” or everybody ?

Monday, October 13, 2008

MN-01 : Does Dr. Davis Oppose States Rights ?

The Tenth Amendment to the Constitution (“ The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”) is the basis for the States Rights argument that the States, Congress, the Executive Branch and finally the Courts have tussled over since McCulloch –v- Maryland.
For example on the abortion issue, John McCain’s position is that Roe v. Wade should be reversed thus returning the abortion question to the individual states.
In fact, even though abortion is legal, individual states have enacted laws that impact obtaining the surgery such as 48-hour waiting periods, parental notification and requiring information or counseling be provided. The idea is that states have rights to legislation that can affect the practice without denying the right to the procedure.

Since Dr. Davis opposes abortion, one would think that he would agree with the Republican Party’s nominee and that advocating a States Rights position would be the first step. The alternative would be a Constitutional Amendment which Congress has never acted upon.

But Dr. Davis has expressed opposition to States regulations that dictate coverage for certain illnesses.

During the League of Women Voters debate, the candidates were given an opportunity to ask each other a question.
Congressman Tim Walz asked Dr. Davis about his position advocating eliminating state regulations that mandate coverage for certain illnesses. Specifically, Walz reminded Davis that Minnesota has a law requiring insurers to cover the full cost of a mammogram, less a co-payment.
A great question since it goes to the heart of health care reform …it is not just about saving money, it's about saving lives.
Why would a doctor deny encouraging mammograms ?
Dr. Davis responded that he wouldn’t.
And that just shows voters that Dr. Davis doesn’t truly have a plan to address health care.

Yet, it does led to the question, what state regulations would Dr. Davis want to change ?
As states have moved to change laws regarding smoking, and require insurance plans to a range of procedures ranging from well-baby exams to providing hearing aids for minor children who have a hearing loss that has been verified by a physician and an audiologist.
The states that are making these changes are advocating a “States Rights” position … becoming the incubator to test out what may work at the state level before the Federal government enacts laws … while helping its citizens.

Congress has acted in the past and voters will want to know how Dr. Davis would have voted. Would he have supported Women's Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998 which amongst other matters required insurers to provide coverage for a patient seeking a second opinion from a specialist on a cancer diagnosis ? He can now look over the past decade and tell voters whether this legislation was good for the patients or if caused an excessive financial impact on the insurance industry and to its customers that paid the premiums.

Be sure to watch the debate when it is broadcast. Dr. Davis makes some assertions that should be questioned. He alleges that Minnesota (operating under their prerogative of the 10th Amendment) is enacting mandates that are driving up the health insurance cost. In fact, Minnesota is one of the lowest-cost states in the nation for health care. In 2007, it saw its private health insurance premiums climb no faster than wages. The average increase in premiums was 4.3 percent compared to 6.1 percent nationally for employer health benefits. Yes, it is a lot of money, but Minnesota is improving quality and reducing costs. Dr. Davis should be well aware that his employer, the Mayo Clinic is a five-star "best" rating for cardiac care. For example, heart bypass surgery at the Mayo Clinic has an average cost of $66,529 while other facilities charge as much as $98,227 for the same care. Further, Dr. Davis is concerned with medical malpractice insurance, yet the American Medical News reported that 84% of liability companies reported in 2007 rates held steady or dropped while the lowest rates for internists ($3,375), general surgeons ($11,306), and Ob-Gyns ($20.626), are all in Minnesota.

It’s astonishing that Dr. Davis is so critical of our state … he should be campaigning on a program that he would take Minnesota mandates nationwide.

He is embracing an ideology that the Federal Government should not be interfering in our lives, without understanding that these mandates serve a purpose … and may save lives.

It makes voters wonder if Dr. Davis wants to go to Washington to protect the Insurance Industry ... or advocate for the citizens ?
Currently, the First District has someone who is a Patient's Advocate and deserving of another term.

Friday, October 10, 2008

MN-01 : MMA picks Doctor over Patient Advocate

The Rochester Post Bulletin has reported two endorsements for Minnesota's First District : The Veterans of Foreign Wars Political Action Committee announced its endorsement of Congressman Tim Walz for a second two-year term in the U.S. House of Representatives while the Minnesota Medical Association endorsed Republican challenger Dr. Brain Davis.

The VFW endorsement should not surprise anyone as Walz has been graded highly for his work … including most recently earning an A+ rating from the Iraq Afghanistan Veterans for America . The quote in the article sums it up best :
"He hasn't just served the veterans of the First District of Minnesota. He's served the veterans of the United States of America."

Davis’ endorsment by the political arm of the Minnesota Medical Association was modestly surprising.

Based on Walz’ record, he should have earned their support.
After all, Walz was a co-sponsor of the recently enacted Mental Health Parity legislation that the MMA wanted.
Walz worked to enact H.R. 6331: Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008; had Walz failed it would have resulted in a 10.6% cut in Medicare’s payments to doctors.
Walz held two forums in coordination with MMA as part of his efforts to reform the way that Congress funds Medicare.
Oh, and let’s not forget, Walz unequivocal support for SCHIP designed to serve the health care of low-income children.

But that’s Walz … advocating for health care.
Health care is a major issue for Minnesotans. A recent report, Private Health Insurance Cost Trends in Minnesota, 2007 , states that Minnesotans saw the largest premium increase since 2004 with an 8 percent jump which was 33 % higher than the national increase. The largest cost drivers were physician services which accounted for about 45 % of the spending growth.

Walz does have his supporters including Dr. Sylvester Sterioff, a retired Mayo Clinic doctor, who endorsed Walz stating "He seeks our advice and has an openness to receive information to bring a better and fairer health care system to our country, which we sorely need."

It might be easy to assume the Davis got the endorsement becaause he “knows” medicine, yet I have to wonder if it isn’t his support for the insurance industry and maintaining the current tax policy.

Davis has stated a desire to eliminate state regulations that mandate coverage for certain illnesses and conditions and open market competition across state lines. Both of these concepts do not indicate a strong desire to advocate for the patient (and the taxpayer).

As the country sees the national debt breaking Ten Trillion Dollars, it is obvious that a change in tax rates are required. Somehow, a doctor such as Brian Davis who reported a salary over $411,000 would be in the category of high income wage earners that would be targeted … I wonder how much the MMA endorsement was to send someone to Washington not to advocate for patients but to stymie a change in the tax rates.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

MN 24-B : Congrats to Branstad on NRA rating

The National Rife Association Political Victory Fund has issued it’s 2008 endorsements. Some of the ratings are to be expected (Al Franken getting an “F”) but at least in the Congressional races, their ratings are not biased toward either major political party as illustrated by Tim Walz (D-MN-01) and John Kline (R-MN-02) both receiving “A” ratings.

However, in the state legislature, there is a strong sentiment to support the Republican candidates … if all their endorsed candidates got elected, the Republicans would control the Minnesota House by a sizable majority. In fact, most of the DFL challengers got an “F” meaning “A vehement anti-gun candidate who always opposes gun owners' rights and/or actively leads anti-gun legislative efforts, or sponsors anti-gun legislation.” or a “?” meaning “Failed to answer NRA-PVF candidate questionnaire, often an indication of indifference, if not outright hostility, to gun owners' and sportsmen's rights.”

Yet, when a challenger to an incumbent, who has had strong NRA support in the past, gets anything other than a failing grade lets voter know that the challenger is worthy of consideration.
In Minnesota House District 24-B, the incumbent Tony Cornish, who is known for his passion for enacting Conceal and Carry legislation, received the expected “A+” rating.
But his challenger, John Branstad got a “C” rating.
That should be assuring to hunters in the district who enjoy their sport, but are also concerned with other issues … like tax fairness, funding for our schools so that we can be globally competitive and addressing our physical infrastructure needs.

No doubt, Cornish has used his strong NRA support to garner campaign donations. On public land throughout the district, Cornish has his red yard signs (white lettering and a “Sheriff’s star” in the center) littered as if a dog was marking its territory. Additionally, he has billboards and has been on the radio for months.
Those donations buy a lot of name awareness.
But voters need to ask, how will the state legislature react to the potential $2 billion dollar financial budget crisis ?
Cornish’s track record is one that has protected corporate businesses and the wealthy.

With a state unemployment rate exceeding 6%, this election will have a lot of important issues for voters to base their selection in addition to gun rights.
Branstad’s NRA rating is enough for sportsmen to look at his positions on the issues and realize that Cornish is not the only name on the ballot.

Monday, October 06, 2008

McCain Kline Walz on Earmarks : Talk -- vs -- Walk

"I got an old ink pen, my friends, and the first pork barrel-laden earmark, big-spending bill that comes across my desk, I will veto it”
-- Republican Presidential candidate John McCain

In this time of economic uncertainty, Minnesotans are naturally growing more concerned with how their tax dollars are being spent. In Washington, we can begin to earn back their trust by enacting comprehensive bipartisan earmark reform -- and stopping the pork. As members of Congress, we should continue to work for Americans, not at the trough of broken principles, but by fighting to rid Washington of wasteful pork-barrel spending.
-- John Kline (R-MN-02)

The economic crisis facing the nation is serious and real. Inaction is not an option. We must move fast to address it, but after you peel away all the extras the Senate added, this is still the same bad deal for taxpayers I voted against on Monday. I cannot in good conscience vote for this bill."
-- Tim Walz (D-MN-01)

By now, we all know the “bailout” legislation has been passed. In what the House started as the “Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008” designed to provide authority for the Federal Government to purchase and insure certain types of troubled assets for the purposes of providing stability to and preventing disruption in the economy and financial system, became a “Christmas Tree” in the Senate. The “gifts” under the tree include :
--- Exemption for wooden arrows - the estimated cost of the proposal is $2 million over ten years.
--- NASCAR track deprection - cost $100 million
--- Rebate on excise tax for rum from Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands - cost $192 million
--- Allow Income Averaging for Exxon Valdez litigations – cost $49 million (this earmark is authored by Congressman Don Young of the “Bridge to Nowhere” fame … I wonder if Governor Palin will say “Thanks, but no”)
--- Tax incentive program for the film and television industry - the cost is estimated at $478 million over 10 years
--- Allows employers to provide a benefit to employees for costs associated with bicycle commuting - estimated to cost $10 million (at the same time, McCain is proposing to tax health care benefits.)
--- and more that benefit toy makers to suit makers … read about some of the 25 Billion dollar “gifts”.

How can John McCain “suspend” his campaign to resolve this crisis and end up voting for this legislation ? Can voters believe his "earmark" veto threat ?

Why did so-called “earmark” reformer Kline vote to approve this legislation even though he had made a promise to never vote for a bill with earmarks to the people who nominated him at the District 39 (Dakota County) GOP convention.

Yet, Tim Walz recognized that these “earmarks” were not vital to stabilizing our economy and voted NO.

The “bailout” has more to do with “confidence”, “liquidity” and foreign investors than the sub-prime mortgage problem. My concerns with that the Economic Stimulus Package now appear to be correct, and this legislation may do more harm than good.

Voters are sold a candidate’s image based on his/her words … you know, they are good at “talking the talk”.
When Tim Walz campaigned in 2006, he openly complained about fiscal mismanagement and the need to embrace PAYGO.
Creditability is an underappreciated characteristic.
Walz has demonstrated creditability and fiscal responsibility as well as a "good conscience" ... you know, he’s “walking the walk”.

This November, vote for “walkers” not “talkers”.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Public Service Announcement : Absentee Ballots Available

Check with your county elections officials as Absentee ballots are now available for the November 4 election.

If you are in Blue Earth County, applications and ballots for absentee voting can be obtained at the Blue Earth County Election/License Center located in the lower level of the Blue Earth County Government Center at 410 S. 5th Street, Mankato or by calling (507) 304-4341.

Absentee ballot applications can also be obtained by visiting Residents can print and fax applications to (507) 304-4396. All those who fax in an application will receive an absentee ballot by mail.

The Elections/License Center is open regular business hours Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and contacted at (507) 304-4341 with questions.

It's so easy and your civic duty.
Don’t be apathetic, be part of the solution.
It doesn’t matter who you vote for, just vote.

MN-01 : Palin Disagrees with Davis (again)

On January 9, 2008 Dr. Brian Davis sent a letter outlining his positions that he would advocate as Minnesota’s First District Congressman and recently sent a fundraising letter highlighting Governor Sarah Palin.

Although, Palin and Davis differ on taxes, the recent Vice Presidential debate reveals another important difference.

Moderator Gwen Ifel asked : "Let's talk about climate change. What is true and what is false about what we have heard, read, discussed, debated about the causes of climate change?”
Governor Palin gave a long-winding response, but here are her key comments :
PALIN: "Yes. Well, as the nation's only Arctic state and being the governor of that state, Alaska feels and sees impacts of climate change more so than any other state. And we know that it's real. I'm not one to attribute every man -- activity of man to the changes in the climate. There is something to be said also for man's activities, but also for the cyclical temperature changes on our planet. But there are real changes going on in our climate. And I don't want to argue about the causes. What I want to argue about is, how are we going to get there to positively affect the impacts? [SNIP] As governor, I was the first governor to form a climate change sub-cabinet to start dealing with the impacts. We've got to reduce emissions. [SNIP] So even in dealing with climate change, it's all the more reason that we have an "all of the above" approach, tapping into alternative sources of energy and conserving fuel, conserving our petroleum products and our hydrocarbons so that we can clean up this planet and deal with climate change.

After Biden responded, Ifel asked : "do you support capping carbon emissions?”
PALIN: "I do. I do.”

Interesting thought process … she wants to reduce carbon emissions which begs the question : If she doesn't agree that carbon emissions contribute to climate change, than why reduce them ?

The obvious inference is that one method to ”conserving fuel, conserving our petroleum products and our hydrocarbons” is though improved mileage standards.

Dr. Davis on the other hand is quite explicit in his January letter.
“Our nation’s energy policy and economic well-being should not be based on the deeply flawed theory that carbon dioxide produced from fossil fuel combustion will lead to catastrophic climate change.”
Further, Dr. Davis states that he will advocate for “Eliminating current automobile mileage standards and government-imposed production mandates. The free market and the laws of supply and demand work much better than our government attempting to mandate conservation and setting quotas.

Governor Palin has been far from impressive, but Dr. Davis’ ideology makes Governor Palin seem that she is the one with the engineering degree.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Public Service Announcement for Congressional Candidates

As the campaigns go into high gear, candidates may forget some of their own personal obligations. Fortunately, some government agencies, such as Blue Earth County, want to make sure that everyone knows that Second Half Property Taxes are due October 15th. Now, I don’t know if Olmsted County issues PSA, but please remind Dr. Brian Davis that taxes are due. After all, according to Olmsted County property records Dr. Davis has had ten late payments since 2003.

Davis should not be singled out as the only deliquent payer as current Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (MN-06) was fined for paying her 2003 property taxes late. Adhering to deadlines may be a problem for Bachmann as she was deliquent in filing her Personal Financial Disclosure Report this year. House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct (the “Ethics Committee” as it is commonly called) policy is that there is a fine of $200 for failure to submit it by the due date. Voters should not only remind Bachmann to pay her property taxes but also the fine for late filing of her Personal Financial Disclosure Report.

With the salary that a member of Congress receives (which is currently $169,300 per year), paying property taxes should not be a hardship. Based on past practices of increasing Congressional pay based on increasing all federal employees pay, their pay will go up as President Bush has issued his budget proposal for 2009 which includes a 2.9% increase.

In light of the current financial crisis, should Congress give themselves a raise ?

A recent CQ Politics article describes how the political parties hoodwink the public.
• Each party would get roughly three-fifths of its members to vote to keep the pay raise and allow two-fifths of its members to vote “no” (some members always skip the vote).
• Senior members and those who had safe re-election races could vote for the pay raise and those who might fall victim to voter anger could avoid the tough vote without endangering the increase for everyone else.

The CQ article may be based on some fact, but Minnesotans know that some politicians operate differently. Senator Paul Wellstone donated his salary increases to charity. First District Congressman Tim Walz (Dr. Davis’ opponent) goes one step further … not only did Walz not accept a salary increase but in 2007 he returned approximately 7 percent of his Member’s Representational Allowance (MRA). Every member of the House of Representatives receives an annual MRA allowance to fund his or her office activities which in 2007 totaled roughly $1.4 million.

Not only should Congress not accept a raise, they should decrease their pay to the rate that was in effect the last time there was budget surpluses … 2000. And they should follow Walz’ lead and reduce their MRA and not use tele-town hall meetings (as Bachmann and John Kline do) which are just public expenditures for their re-election efforts.

What’s your earliest political memory ?

I remember my father going to a Republican fundraiser because Eisenhower was the speaker … his donation cost was $5. And again from that 1960 campaign, I remember John Kennedy coming to a local park, but I didn’t go as I was only in the second grade.

But actually, my most vivid memory was the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. I was ten, and although my parents seemed concerned, I didn’t understand why. But the reason that I remember it was because the televised broadcast of the Yankees – Giants World Series kept getting interrupted. When you’re ten, baseball is a whole lot more important than world events.

Oh, sure there were other special events that could get a kid’s interest. During the Gemini missions, televisions were brought into school … they were exciting … but mostly because we got a reprieve from normal classes. There was no CSPAN as it began broadcasting in March 1979 … just the three major networks. Maybe there was special speeches broadcast on the radio, but I was tuned into only baseball games.

In reality, politics was not a major focus in my youth.
But my life must have been different than Sarah Palin … she must have been extremely interested in politics as she listened to Senator Joe Biden speak "since I was in the second grade."

My what a vivid memory … but how did she listen ?
Alaska Public Radio did not begin until 1978 when she was fourteen … I hope she wasn’t in the second grade in 1978.

And what words of wisdom did Biden impart ?
Biden being a constitutional lawyer and Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Supreme Court during nominations of Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas, one would have hoped that maybe she could cite some Supreme Court ruling other than Roe-v-Wade.

But my youth and Palin’s youth were different eras … when she was in second grade, Watergate was just unfolding. Maybe Watergate motivated her into paying closer attention to politics … maybe that’s why she became a founding director of the "Ted Stevens Excellence in Public Service, Inc.," a 527 group that could raise unlimited funds from corporate donors and individuals which would have been illegal for Senator Stevens to do himself. And how did Gov. Sarah Palin react to the indictment of Sen. Ted Stevens and the questions if he should resign ? She praised for him as someone "has dedicated his life to the betterment of the state."

There are a lot of questions about Sarah Palin capabilities to be Vice-President, but from my view, her own words are prompting more questions than answers.