Sunday, February 28, 2010

MN-02 : Does John Kline Relate to John Q. Public ?

During the Healthcare Summit, orthopedic surgeon John Barrasso (Senate-R-WY) stated “I do believe we have the best health care system in the world” and although the cameras didn’t roll to Mr. Kline, no doubt he agreed with that sentiment.

The key to that statement is we.
Who is “we ?
John Kline has an annual compensation of $176,000 and has a choice of healthcare plans. If he needs surgery, most members of Congress will have it done at National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda Maryland. Nothing but the best health care for some.
Conversely, John Q. Public is limited to his ability to purchase from a health insurance company that will dictate which hospitals and services it will cover. Or, John Q. Public may be fortunate enough to have an employer that “dictates” the insurance program for him. Oh sure, with enough money, you can purchase the best health care in the world in America. Or, as many John Q. Publics do … accepts the “hope and pray plan” --- hope you don’t need medical care and if you do, pray for an early death.
If you have insurance, your premiums are paying for the emergency care for those that don’t … if you don’t have insurance, you’re probably ignoring medical problems.

Let’s return to Senator Barrasso who advocated that “people with catastrophic plans are the people that are best consumers of health care in using the way they use their health care dollars”.
Essentially, “the best health care system in the world” should only be used for catastrophic events.

President Obama then questioned Sen. Barrasso : “I'm just am curious. Would you be satisfied if every member of Congress just had catastrophic care? Do you think we’d be better health care purchasers? I mean, is that a change that we should make?

SENATOR BARRASSO: Yes, I think actually we would. We’d really focus on it. You’d have more, as you say, skin in the game -- and especially if they had a savings account, a health savings account. They could put their money into that --

THE PRESIDENT: Would you feel the same way if --

SENATOR BARRASSO: -- and they’d be spending the money out of that.

THE PRESIDENT: Would you feel the same way if you were making $40,000, or you had -- that was your income? Because that's the reality for a lot of folks. I mean, it is very important for us -- when you say, to listen -- to listen to that farmer that Tom mentioned in Iowa; to listen to the folks that we get letters from -- because the truth of the matter, John, is they’re not premiers of anyplace, they’re not sultans from wherever. They don't fly into Mayo and suddenly decide they’re going to spend a couple million dollars on the absolute, best health care. They’re folks who are left out.

And this notion somehow that for them the system was working and that if they just ate a little better and were better health care consumers they could manage is just not the case. The vast majority of these 27 million people or 30 million people that we're talking about, they work every day. Some of them work two jobs. But if they're working for a small business, they can't get health care. If they are self-employed, they can't get health care.

And you know what, it is a scary proposition for them. And so we can debate whether or not we can afford to help them, but we shouldn’t pretend somehow that they don't need help. I get too many letters saying they need help.

President Obama understands John Q. Public … he’s making $40,000 and should have good, quality coverage.

Disappointingly, Mr. Kline didn’t seem to listen. Kline issued a press release stating “Key to expanding an affordable health insurance market for smaller employers would be to establish small business health plans. These partnerships would allow small businesses to band together in associations and spread the risk of issuing insurance, thereby lowering the cost of health care for employers and employees. [SNIP]This contrasts with the majority leadership’s plan, which would subject employers to a new federal bureaucracy that will dictate a raft of rules and red tape”

President Obama, summarized how John Q. Public is affected : ” we agree on is the idea that allowing small businesses and individuals who are right now trapped in the individual market and as a consequence have to buy very expensive insurance and effectively oftentimes just go without insurance could be solved if we allowed them to do what members of Congress do, which is be part of a large group. Again, the idea of an exchange is not a government takeover.[SNIP] “It sounds like we've got some philosophical difference as to whether there should be some minimum benefits in that exchange, some baseline of coverage. Again, there's a baseline of coverage for members of Congress. And the reason we set that up is because we want to make sure that any federal employee who is part of this big pool is getting good, quality coverage -- not perfect coverage, not gold-plated coverage, but adequate coverage. It may be -- and I'd ask my Republican colleagues to look and see, is that an area that can be resolved.

In essence, the Democrats are pushing “exchanges” while the Mr. Kline and the Republicans want Association Health Plans(AHPs).
So what are some of the differences ?

How about costs … specifically how John Q. Public is treated.
According to a Congressional Budget Office analysis, Kline’s AHPs : “some provisions of the legislation would tend to decrease the premiums paid by all insurance enrollees, while other provisions would tend to increase the premiums paid by less healthy enrollees or would tend to increase the premiums paid by enrollees in some states relative to enrollees in other states.
While Urban Institute evaluation of the House and Senate bills, states “ Health status rating, gender rating,
and rating based upon industry of employment would be prohibited. In this way, the health care risks of workers in small firms would be spread more broadly than they are today in the vast majority of states, shared across all those enrolled in coverage through the insurance exchange in which it participated. Not only would workers in small firms have a choice of insurance plans—a situation extremely unusual for small groups today—but those that have been priced out of the market due to health issues or an older workforce in the past may have affordable access to coverage for the first time.

Actually, the Urban Institute (which is a source that Mr. Kline has cited before) presents a strong case for the Democrat proposal that John Q. Public should like :
-- New insurance market regulations would prohibit preexisting condition exclusion periods.
-- All those enrolling in insurance coverage through the proposed national or state health insurance exchange would have the option of remaining in the exchange, even if they change employers or leave the workforce.
-- Some financial assistance to the low income to cover some of the cost sharing associated with health insurance.

AND, John Q. Public’s employer will also benefit as the administrative costs will be less and there are tax credits to assist small, low to average wage employers contributing to health insurance coverage for their employees.

Of course, Mr. Kline “fears” that small businesses will suffer because of the requirement to offer insurance or pay a penalty. But that fear-mongering is over exaggerated as data from the Census Bureau’s Survey of US Businesses indicate that 87 percent of the over 6 million firms in the US would NOT have a penalty.

This should be a Win-Win … a Win for John Q. Public and a Win for those of us that are incurring higher premiums for the uninsured.

What is the consequences of not doing something ?
Just ask Tom Simmons, president of a small business, who was just informed that his monthly family premium would go up to $1,596 a month from $908, a nearly 76 percent increase. "This industry is getting out of control. It makes me fearful of future years and what could become of things if something doesn't change." Simmons ultimately was able to reduce the increase to about 16 percent, but only after switching to a plan with a higher deductible and other higher out-of-pocket expenses ... surely not what he wanted for himself nor his employees.

Oh, and those Health Savings Accounts that Senator Barrasso was touting are also having significant rate increases. These policies, known as HSAs, were created by the Bush administration in 2003 as way to trim health costs. The policies are supported as a market solution to rising health costs because they require members to pay more of their medical expenses out of pocket to use fewer services. "We were paying out more in claims than we were collecting in premiums," said Aron Ezra, spokesman for Blue Shield adding "We lose membership because fewer people can afford to get it."

John Kline needs to come to the real world … talk to John Q. Public and he will learn that his plans don’t work. While it's good to know that for some that “we have the best health care system in the world”, we are not happy with it.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

MN-02 : Should Kline Blame Bush, Coleman or himself for AHP Failure ?

As the ranking minority member of the House Education and Labor Committee, John Kline had his moment to address the President and other leaders on the solution for Health Care Reform. His recommendation was Association Health Plans (AHPs) for small business owners.

Couple of questions :
1.) What are AHPs and if it’s such a good idea, why hasn’t it been enacted ?
2.) Will it resolve the questions of pre-existing conditions, will it make basic coverage affordable, will it be transferable with employment and will it result in universal participation ?

To the first question. AHPs have existed for decades, both multi-state and intra-state. AHPs would allow for businesses to band together through associations to increase their buying power when negotiating with insurance providers for coverage. By forming AHPs, associations could provide their members with more health insurance options, which in theory would drive down the cost for small business owners and their employees. However because of individual states being able to define what needs to be provided (in other words, mandates), they have declined in use. For example using 2008 data, only eight states mandated that oral surgeries had to be covered in a health insurance policy while 50 states want mammograms covered.

There was some legislation offered during the Clinton years, but it was never passed by both chambers. When Bush became president, it stayed dormant until 2003 when the House with John Kline’s support passed HR 660. The bill would authorize the formation and multi-state operation of federally-certified Association Health Plans. AHPs would be regulated under a single set of federally prescribed rules, and permitted exemptions from costly state regulations that large corporate and union health plans already enjoy under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. The Senate failed to act … so is Norm Coleman to be blamed? Or President Bush for not pressing harder ? Today, the legislation is HR2607 Small Business Health Fairness Act of 2009 and is awaiting action in the House. Today’s legislation is different than the Bush-era legislation – then the proposal included a federally prescribed rules, but now the current legislation would not have to meet any government-mandated, minimum benefit requirements -- associations would be able to determine which benefits they are willing to pay for.

So why hasn’t it been passed ?
One reason, could be a question of states rights. For example, should Minnesota decide what’s best for Minnesotans or should the Federal Government. AHPs would only have to obtain plan approval in the original state in which it filed. (It also would have to comply with the original state's laws mandating coverage of certain diseases and then all other states would be obligated to accept that approved plan.) This is the same problems that exist if insurance companies are allowed to sell insurance across state lines … insurance companies could seek out the state with the most favorable mandates and make that its complying state … unsuspecting or unknowledgeable purchasers may not find out the limitations of the policy until there is a claim.
Second, the potential impact to the Federal Budget. Although the current legislation has not been reviewed by the Congressional Budget Office, HR 660 was. For a ten year period, it was estimated to cost the government $280 million dollars. Overall it would impact 600,000 people while the CBO also estimates that about 10,000 people would lose coverage in response to rising premiums in the small-group market.
Overall, not much of an impact.

Now, to the second question regarding the real healthcare questions … pre-existing conditions, affordable coverage, transferable with employment and universal participation ? Not much help here.

Kline has offered a solution, that is really a poor choice. Kline has himself to blame since this legislation could have been enacted when Republicans were in control of Congress and the White House. Instead, healthcare expenses continue to escalate, coverage reduced and is now at a crisis stage.

Kline wants Association Health Plans while the Democrats favor Democrats government-based "exchanges" in which small companies can pool together. The House passed a bill that included a federal exchange, while the Senate bill would set up state-based exchanges. Insurers offering plans in the exchanges would have to offer a package meeting minimum standards.

The difference was simply stated in an exchange between Kline and Rob Andrews (D-NJ) concerning who determines when a woman is released from the hospital after a caesarian section. Kline wants the insurance company to decide … Andrews wants the doctor.

Kline's plan has been dormant for good reasons ... exchanges offer a better prospect for America.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

MN-02 : Kline on the Stimulus - Abject Failure

John Kline (R-MN-02) responded to a question on Tim Penny’s radio program on the effects of the stimulus calling it an “Abject Failure”.
The question did not have the follow-up that was required … namely why did it fail and who is at fault.
The answer is John Kline.

Why John Kline … well first, he voted For the failed economic stimulus and now is watching other districts begin to recover.

Yep, if the discussion is about an “Abject Failure” of an economic stimulus, then it should be no surprise that the Recovery Rebates and Economic Stimulus for the American People Act of 2008 was a BIG Failure. This was not a surprise as the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) estimated that H.R. 5140 would increase budget deficits by $152 billion in 2008 and by a net amount of $124 billion over the 2008-2018 period. You remember that stimulus complete with a $300 to $1200 rebate check … there was little complaining then … but fiscal conservatives warned of its flaws. Also not getting a lot of attention was the provisions that raised the loan limit (from $362,790 to $729,750) for the Federal Housing Administration’s (FHA’s) single-family program --- which no doubt eventually contributed to another piece of legislation that Kline supported. Yep, Kline voted For the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 which is better known as TARP.
The objective of Bush’s stimulus was a few pennies to regular people in hopes that they would spend coupled with Tax Breaks for business. However, there was no incentive for the business to take immediate action. Business may elect to wait until customer activity picks up before deciding to increase employment or investment in equipment/facilities … hence it failed and a new stimulus was initiated by President Obama.

Now, that Obama is president, Kline has now voted against the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The Wall Street Journal accessed Obama’s stimulus as just starting out: Most of the stimulus spending so far has gone to state and local governments to plug holes in their schools, Medicaid and unemployment-benefits budgets. Spending on infrastructure projects is expected to pick up in 2010. About $180 billion of the funds allocated to various projects has been paid out. Tax cuts worth about $93 billion have also taken effect. An additional $320 billion in spending hasn't yet been handed out. A further $195 billion in tax cuts are due to flow through tax returns.

The Obama stimulus is working … as the NYT opined “There is virtually no dispute among economists that the stimulus prevented a bad recession from becoming much worse. Among other things, it has preserved or created 1.6 million to 1.8 million jobs, according to various private sector analyses, and it is expected, ultimately, to add a total of roughly 2.5 million jobs.

It’s way too early to call Obama’s stimulus an “Abject Failure” unless you reside in Minnesota’s Second District where John Kline is not getting any funding. Contrast the Second District with Tim Walz’s First District.
For example, the Recovery Act includes funding to help grow the emerging health IT industry which is expected to support tens of thousands of jobs ranging from nurses and pharmacy techs to IT technicians and trainers and South Central Technical College was awarded $4,506,101 . South Central President Keith Stover said "These new programs are designed to provide Southern Minnesota with the education necessary to achieve high-wage positions within the health care sector." Rep. Tim Walz said in a statement praising the funding "Not only will this funding create immediate jobs for program instructors, it will ensure that students and workers will have access to the training that will help them get high-paying jobs in new sectors of our economy."
That’s not the first time, South Central Technical College got grant money. WIRED (Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development) through the U.S. Department of Labor awarded $70,000 to fund the Shared Work Pilot Program.

And also this week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act announced that Southwest Minnesota Broadband Group (SWMBG), composed of the communities of Jackson, Lakefield, Windom, Round Lake, Bingham Lake, Brewster, Wilder, Heron Lake and Okabena, has been awarded $12.7 million in grant and loan funds to expand broadband Internet access in the region. The grant and loan combination along with private investment will provide high-speed Internet, voice and cable television to the participating communities.
These programs are available, but is Kline exercising any political effort to “stimulate” the Second District ? Voters in the Second District must look at the First District and wonder “why not us?”

Actually, he seems to be more concerned that Governor Pawlenty has planned to use federal monies to resolve the Minnesota budget problem. Kline said he may vote against the spending even if the governor needs it to balance the state budget. ‘‘There’s a big difference between opposing something and, once it becomes law, getting our share,’’ said Tom Hanson, Pawlenty’s main budget adviser.

Mr. Hanson, welcome to John Kline’s world … opposing Obama takes precedence over what Minnesotans need.
One observation that is becoming clearer every day is that John Kline's time in Congress has been an “Abject Failure” for the Second District.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

MN-02 : Kline Needs to Listen To The Neighbors

We hear it all the time, Minnesota is not competitive … our neighbors have it better.
Maybe because they have elected officials that represent their constituents.

Case in point, the so called “stimulus” … it had a number of aspects. Some we feel directly … some indirectly … and some maybe not at all.

As President Obama stated in the State of the Union address, his administration’s economic recovery plan includes 25 different tax cuts. "Now, let me repeat: We cut taxes," he said. "We cut taxes for 95 percent of working families. We cut taxes for small businesses. We cut taxes for first-time homebuyers. We cut taxes for parents trying to care for their children. We cut taxes for 8 million Americans paying for college."

The “stimulus” also included monies for the states … which helped Minnesota’s budget signficantly. Beyond the immediate action, there are other programs that require application, evaluation and approval.

So the question is how is this being handled by Minnesota’s competitors?

"If the funds are there, Senator Grassley’s going to help Iowa, rather than some other state, get its share" was the comment as the Iowa Republican Senator submitted his “requests”.

"I strongly opposed the stimulus, but the only thing that could make it worse would be if none of it returned to the taxpayers of Missouri," said Kit Bond (R-MO).

"The proposed project would create 38 new jobs and bring broadband to eight hospitals, five colleges, 16 libraries and 161 K-12 schools," wrote Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE) in his request.

These are not unique, as the Washington Times reported of a number of Republicans who voted against the legislation, but then recognized that they need to represent their constituents. "We know their endeavor will provide jobs and investment in one of the poorer sections of the Congressional District," Representative Joe Wilson (R-SC) wrote Agriculuture Secretary Vilsack in a Aug. 26, 2009, letter in support of a funding request. "I believe the addition of federal funds to these projects would maximize the stimulative effect of these projects on the local economy," Sen. Robert F. Bennett (R-UT) wrote on Feb. 11, 2009 in his justification for funding.

So where is John Kline’s requests … or does he believe that his constituents need to be represented only during votes and not in services ?

Heck, he doesn’t even have to look outside the Minnesota delegation to see how it’s done.

Erik Paulsen (R-MN-03) wrote concerning transportation projects “I worked hard to secure this funding in order to reduce congestion, improve economic opportunities and increase safety. I’m pleased these critical projects were passed by the House”
The projects :
- Interstate 94/Brockton Lane Interchange : $700,000 for the Brockton Interchange project includes preliminary design, environmental reviews, right-of-way acquisition and final design to construct an interchange at the location of Interstate 94 and Brockton Lane
- Highway 169/Interstate 494 Interchange : $400,000 for the project involves a segment of US Hwy 169 from 4,600 feet south and 13,600 feet north of the 169/494 interchange; and a segment of I-494 from 7,300 feet west and 3,400 feet east of the 169/494 interchange. The project provides all of the US Hwy 169 to I-494 (system-to-system) moves, as well as providing local access to the principal arterials of US Hwy 169 and I-494.
- Highway 610 Construction : $ 400,000 - Design and construction of Trunk Highway 610 in Maple Grove from County State Aid Highway 81 to the final terminus of Interstate 94, thus completing the corridor from I-35W to I-94. The project would include planning, design, update of environmental review, right-of-way acquisition, construction and the realignment of several local roadways and utilities.
Oh, and for the record, just like those Republicans that voted against the stimulus, Andrew Foxwell, spokesperson for the Representative explained his vote : "While Congressman Paulsen has worked for months to get these projects approved, he voted no on the overall bill due to many problems with this massive and expensive piece of legislation."
That’s right Mr. Kline (cannot call you Representative until you tell us who you represent), you can actually oppose legislation and still work to make sure that Minnesota gets a fair return on its money. This is not a new concept … since it was addressed previously noting that Bob Hofstad of MnDOT said that the state receives about 92 cents for every dollar that its residents send to Washington.

The stimulus is a great opportunity to address Minnesota’s lagging broadband capacity ... just as Representatives are requesting for their states. Governor Pawlenty is opposing bonding for higher education facilities as he believes that in the future, class will be taught over the Internet. Sadly, Minnesota is not equipped for the Internet speeds required. The Ultra-High Speed Task Force released its report in November on Minnesota’s broadband needs. Currently only one county meets the currently accepted standards while some are extremely behind (Cook at 37%) … Minnesota's broadband adoption in the metro area is 57% while rural broadband is at 39.4% according to a Pew Internet project. This is a great opportunity for jobs in a public-private partnership especially since the federal Recovery Act Broadband Program is now starting to approve projects … South Dakota just got $20.6 million to add 140 miles of middle mile spurs… thus South Dakota will not only have a tax advantage over Minnesota but also a broadband advantage to attract new business. For example, state economic development officials were helping a company look for up to 500 acres of land within 30 minutes of a major airport and close to a railroad. Lake County could provide both but it lost out because it did not have one other requirement: A high-speed Internet fiber connection. The lost opportunity meant 150 jobs were lost.

Today, Minnesota may be competing with neighboring states for business, but tomorrow, the competition will be world-wide … and Minnesota (and the United States) are already behind.

The question for Mr. Kline is : Will you listen ? Minnesota is hurting and you're not helping.

Monday, February 08, 2010

MN-02 : (Don’t Ask) Don’t Tell John Kline, The Times They Are A Changin’

During a 2008 Republican presidential primary debate, Fox News moderator Brit Hume raised what he described as "a fictional but we think plausible scenario involving terrorism and the response to it." He then laid out the kind of "ticking-bomb" and the candidates responded with Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo offering the crowd pleasing "We're wondering about whether water-boarding would be a — a bad thing to do? I'm looking for Jack Bauer at that time, let me tell you."

It was the unasked follow-up question that should have been most troubling : does Jack Bauer speak Najdi Arabic ? or Levantine Arabic ? or Maghreb Arabic ? or Yemeni Arabic ? As the pronunciation of words change in varying dialects … and could Bauer be attempting to stop the wrong airline ?
Of course, Bauer could rely on a military interpreter …. unless the one that speaks the language happens to be one of the many Arabic linguists that have been dismissed from the military over the DADT policy. The Pentagon has documented cases of soldiers who, despite their proficiency in Arabic or other languages of the Middle East, have been forced to leave the service at a time when the military can ill afford being short of personnel conversant in the language of the enemy.

That could change if H. R. 1283 - Military Readiness Enhancement Act of 2009 is enacted. The legislation, which is being championed by Tim Walz and a bi-partisan group of 187 co-sponsors including fellow Minnesotans Keith Ellison, Betty McCollum and Jim Oberstar, would end the 1993 “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” DADT law. The legislation currently sits before John Kline and the Military Personnel Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee which should hold a hearing this Spring.

The words of Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are clear : “My personal belief is that allowing homosexuals to serve openly would be the right thing to do. I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens. For me, it comes down to integrity -- theirs as individuals and ours as an institution.
In Adm. Mullen’s testimony, he stated that the current system is “putting individuals in a position that every single day they wonder whether today’s going to be the day, and devaluing them in that regard just is inconsistent with us as an institution. I have served with homosexuals since 1968. Sen. McCain spoke to that in his statement. Everybody in the military has, and we understand that. So it is a number of things which cumulatively for me, personally, get me to this position.
Adm. Mullen conclusion is probably based on a recent report, The Efficacy of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. The report offers history and analysis with the following key points :
- The 1993 “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” law was a political compromise reached after much emotional debate based on religion, morality, ethics, psychological rationale, and military necessity. What resulted was a law that has been costly both in personnel and treasure. In an attempt to allow homosexual Servicemembers to serve quietly, a law was created that forces a compromise in integrity, conflicts with the American creed of “equality for all,” places commanders in difficult moral dilemmas, and is ultimately more damaging to the unit cohesion its stated purpose is to preserve. Furthermore, after a careful examination, there is no scientific evidence to support the claim that unit cohesion will be negatively affected if homosexuals serve openly. In fact, the necessarily speculative psychological predictions are that it will not impact combat effectiveness.
- If one considers strictly the lost manpower (12,500) and expense ($363 million over 10 years), DADT is a costly failure. Proponents of lifting the ban on homosexuals serving openly can easily appeal to emotion given the large number of people lost and treasure spent—an entire division of Soldiers and two F–22s.
It is also worth noting that the 12,500 figure is most likely low since it cannot capture the number of individuals who do not reenlist or who choose to separate because of the intense personal betrayal they felt continuing to serve under the auspices of DADT.
- Opponents of lifting the ban offer interesting but weak arguments.
- Homosexuals who currently serve do so at great personal expense and professional risk, RAND interviews suggest such individuals are deeply committed to the military’s core values, professional teamwork, physical stamina, loyalty, and selfless service—all key descriptors of task cohesion.
- A 2006 Zogby poll of military serving in Iraq and Afghanistan found 23 percent reporting that they are certain they are serving with a homosexual in their unit.
- In a survey of over 100 experts from Australia, Canada, Israel, and the United Kingdom, it was found that all agreed the decision to lift the ban on homosexuals had no impact on military performance, readiness, cohesion, or ability to recruit or retain, nor did it increase the HIV rate among troops.

So, now the Times They Are A Changin’ … it ain’t 1968 anymore … it’s not 1993 … it’s today.

General Colin Powell issued a statement : “In the almost 17 years since the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ legislation was passed, attitudes and circumstances have changed. I fully support the new approach presented to the Senate Armed Services Committee this week by Secretary of Defense Gates and Admiral Mullen.”
Another former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. John Shalikashvili said he supports ending the policy … for the obvious reason … its reality today – a majority of troops already believe that they serve alongside gay or lesbian colleagues. One recent study estimated that 66,000 gays and lesbians are serving today, at constant risk of losing their chance to serve.

So it is up to Congress to re-write the law they wrote … it will take LEADERSHIP.
The question for Representative Kline is : will he read the reports, listen to a cross-section of the military leaders, and embrace the change that will help protect the country OR be influenced by religious fear-mongers who would rather denounce homosexuality than acknowledge reality ?

On one hand is reality, need and cost and on the other … as Frank Rich wrote is Bigotry.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

MN-03 : Paulsen Failing Middle Class Grade

"Congress is broken, and I want to help fix it," said Republican Erik Paulsen in his campaign to replace Republican Jim Ramstad.
Voters in Minnesota’s Third District had been accustomed to a Republican that was generally considered to be supportive of the Middle Class, so there was great hope that Paulsen’s words would expand programs that would benefit them.
Sadly, Paulsen’s first Middle Class Report Card grade is 28%. Whereas Ramstad ranked a solid “B” in the previous ranking, Paulsen is looking at a failing grade.

Paulsen’s 28% grade ties him for 65th among House Republicans … that’s right, 64 other Republicans performed better. For the record, Paulsen did grade higher than his fellow Minnesota Republicans … Michele Bachmann (Sixth District) at 13% and John Kline (Second District) at 12% ... but a far cry from Jim Ramstad's ranking that supported Middle Class programs.

Obviously, there are some “hot button” issues like Healthcare Insurance Reform where all the Republicans would vote in lockstep … but that is not the only issue that affects the Middle Class.

One issue that candidate Paulsen addressed during the campaign was Education stating : “Our nation’s continued ability to be the leader of an increasingly competitive global economy depends upon a strong education system. …
College costs are also rising out of control and are a major strain on family budgets. The student loan program is an essential tool for families, as is the Pell Grant program.”

On this issue, Paulsen failed in his vote on the HR 3221 Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act which included increases in Pell Grants while also ending the subsidization program that would save the government $87 BILLON over ten years. The massive $87 BILLON subsidy to private companies that make student loans, did little to promote affordability.

It would be easy to fault Paulsen for failing to achieve other areas cited in his Paulsen Plan for Third District Families such as “more cops on our streets”, “pro-growth policies like lower taxes”, and “new job-creating industry of innovation and technology for the future” if he had supported HR 1 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 … but all House Republicans opposed that legislation even though it did include tax breaks for individuals and businesses while providing funds to Minnesota and other states for police and other essential services … plus promoting renewal energy programs.

What makes Paulsen stand out from his other Republicans is his votes on HR 1664 Pay for Performance Act which addressed the payment of “unreasonable or excessive” compensation for groups that received taxpayer bailouts;
HR 1586 Tax On Bonuses Received From TARP Recipients ; HR 1728 Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act which end the abusive lending practices at the root of the financial crisis, such as ensuring a borrower’s ability to repay a loan and a ban on “steering” high-cost mortgages to minorities; etc.

While "Congress may still be broken,”, Representative Paulsen has done little “to help fix it," … his fix seems to help Wall Street more than the Middle Class families. Looking at these key votes, it begs question : why do 64 other Republicans find ways to help out Middle Class families than Representative Paulsen ?