Monday, April 26, 2010

MN-02 : Kline Supports $4M Earmark for Local School Funding

This week, John Kline (R-MN) issued a press release concerning the Republican Party imposing a conference-wide, one-year ban on earmarks. Mr. Kline said ““Washington needs to earn back the trust of the American people, and a bipartisan ban on earmarks is a step in the right direction. I encourage my colleagues in the majority party to join House Republicans in showing our constituents we are serious about reducing wasteful pork-barrel spending and restoring order to America’s fractured fiscal house.”
House Resolution 1289 is notably because of the absence Ron Paul (R-TX), Don Young (R-AL) and Joseph Cao (R-LA).

Press releases are worth what there printed on … scrap paper. This PR is eerily similar to the one issued prior to the 2008 elections :
“The American people are tired of out-of-control government spending, taxing, and borrowing. To earn back their trust, we need to immediately cut off the earmarks that have given Washington a bad name. Partial solutions are not enough. An immediate earmark moratorium is the only way to wipe the slate clean and allow us to start getting spending under control.”

If the 2008 Press Release meant anything, then Mr. Kline’s Labor and Education Committee would not have had a lot of “requests” to consider. But alas, that’s not true … worse yet, these are for next year when this year’s appropriations have not yet been completed.

Most interesting was the reaction from Ken Calvert (R-CA), "I'm going to enthusiastically support it. The process needs to be reformed, and we're going to come back as a majority and reform the system."
Interesting, because Mr. Calvert has been recognized as a Most Corrupt Nominee for some of his use of earmarks. But this moratorium is for FY 2011 … so the $325,000 that Mr. Calvert requested for Riverside Unified School District, Riverside, CA for a science, technology, engineering and mathematics initiative, including curriculum development and purchase of equipment still stands.

Mr. Calvert is not the only one.
There’s the $150,000 by Roy Blount (R-MO) Missouri State University, Springfield, MO for the Missouri Innovation Academy.
It should be mentioned that Mr. Blount is a candidate for the US Senate … so “pork” could result in some votes …. And Mr. Blount is so important that Mr. Kline’s Freedom and Security PAC gave $5,000 to his campaign.
And by the way, Mr. Kline's PAC also made a contribution to Mr. Calvert.

There are many other “requests” that involved Mr. Kline’s Education Committee; such as, $1 million to be split evenly between four school districts "requested" by Todd Tiahrt (R-KS) USD 402, Augusta, KS Public Schools for technology upgrades, USD 446, Independence, KS Public Schools for technology upgrades and teacher training, USD 373, Newton, Kansas Public Schools for technology upgrades, and USD 353, Wellington, KS, Public Schools for technology upgrades and teacher training
Oh, and by the way, Mr. Tiahrt is a candidate for US Senate this November. I guess that is why Mr. Kline is concerned that “spending priorities [be] based on a project’s merit rather than a Member’s seniority, party affiliation …

Considering that Mr. Kline is “serious about reducing wasteful pork-barrel spending and restoring order to America’s fractured fiscal house”, Second District voters may be interested in the project merits for the $255,000 “request” from John Carter (R-TX) for Peaceable Kingdom Retreat for Children, Inc., Killeen, TX for educational programming . The program originated as a Baptist Church program that is designed for children with chronic/terminal illnesses and special needs to discover their natural abilities and interests and obtain the critical life and coping skills needed to reach their full potential. Sounds worthwhile … but is Killeen that much different than Minnesota … after all, the Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota serves many needy children. Maybe, Mr. Kline is hoping that the Peaceable Kingdom Retreat will open a branch in Minnesota.

Yes, “earmarks” should be a concern … but what really is an“earmarks” ?

Earmarks” are funds provided by the Congress for projects, programs, or grants where the purported congressional direction (whether in statutory text, report language, or other communication) specifies the location or recipient, or otherwise curtails the ability of the executive branch to manage its statutory and constitutional responsibilities pertaining to the funds allocation process.

Well, obviously, Mr. Kline being opposed to “earmarks” he would never advocate for one … would he ? After all, Mr. Kline wants funding “ based on a project’s merit” and shouldn’t the primary focus be on the accountability of taxpayer dollars.

If after review in several Department of Education reports, which cite lackluster progress and unresolved issues about the effectiveness of a program, shouldn’t future funding be re-evaluated ?
That’s what President Obama has done in his Budget
proposal : “$9 million for the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, a private school voucher program begun in 2004. The Budget proposes to continue to provide private school vouchers for only those students currently enrolled in the program. Based on current program participation rates and the amount of available program funding carried forward from prior fiscal years, it is expected that this will be the final request for Federal funding to support the Opportunity Scholarship program.”

That $9 million has been reduced from the $13 million that was previously budgeted … which would seem to be the smart thing to do if it is not working. The not-for-profit Washington Scholarship Fund has announced it will no longer administer the program that serves an estimated 1,300 children already enrolled in the 55 private or parochial schools in the District.

Don’t know about “ Opportunity Scholarship Program” … it’s classic Frank Luntz codespeak for government money to private schools. And who goes to those private schools … well, a Heritage Foundation study found that in 2007 more than 37 percent of Representatives and 45 percent of Senators sent their own children to private school, more than double the national average of 11.5 percent.

Well, if a program is being cut by the Administration, what should Congress do … accept it or author legislation to change it.

Yes, Mr. Kline is a co-sponsor of H.R. 4312 School Choice Incentive Act.
Great, while Minnesota schools suffer and Mr. Kline opposed the stimulus that brought dollars to School Districts in the Second District, Mr. Kline approves funding for Washington DC schools … Yes, Mr. Kline truly serves Washington and his Party’s interests ahead of Minnesota.

NOTE : A Tip of the Hat to MNPact for first discussing Kline’s press release.

Monday, April 19, 2010

MN-02 : Will Voters Elect an Independent ?

"John Kline has been an independent voice for the people of Minnesota’s Second Congressional District since he was first elected by the voters in 2002. " -- from John Kline's Facebook page.

An independent voice ? OK, maybe when Mr. Kline went to Washington, he had an independent voice ... but his independence was because there were more Moderates in Congress ... good people like Minnesota's Jim Ramstad. Mr. Kline was outside of the mainstream, so his independence came from advancing his agenda.
Mr. Kline is more of an ideologist.
Ideologists do not advance legislation (or society), just their own vision – and voting against any change that does not advance their ideology even if it serves the general public.

For years, Mr. Kline could claim to being an independent ... voting his ideology ... even on proposals that had wide Republican support.
Want examples ? From 2008 (pre-Obama), Mr. Kline voted against :
HR 3221 Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2008 which 95 Republicans and 227 Democrats supported;
HR 4137 Extend the Higher Education Act of 1965 which 135 Republicans and 219 Democrats supported;
HR 1429 Improving Head Start Act which 142 Republicans and 223 Democrats supported;
HR 2272 21st Century Competitiveness Act which 143 Republicans and 224 Democrats supported;
HR 802 Maritime Pollution Prevention Act which 143 Republicans and 216 Democrats supported;
and there are plenty more ... including many on SCHIP, energy and jobs.

The success of Democrats in recent elections may have to do their appeal to the "independent" voter. The Kline ideology has pushed some Republicans to retire and even to defeat at the polls when the RINOs were determined to be out of their ideology mainstream (see Norm Coleman and Throwing Coleman Under the Bus ).

Mr. Kline is not satisfied with simply serving his ideology interests, but also dictating the “ issues ” for candidates.

Second District voters will soon have an opportunity to re-consider via the ballot box whether Mr. Kline is truly independent.

Voters don't know Dan Powers yet. ... but if Dan Powers takes the Scott Brown (R-MA) approach of "looking out for the best interests of the people of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts" and tell voters that he will work in the best interests of the Second District, he has a chance. Senator Brown has already proven his willingness to put his State above the Kline ideology when Senator Brown joined eleven other Republicans in February to vote for a Jobs Bill. And last week, he joined with four other Republicans to advance another bill to address the employment issue.

The Second District wants someone in Washington to represent them … not be a part of the Washington party insiders who decide what’s in our best interests. Mr. Kline is hardly an independent.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

MN-02 : Kline Needs A New Stump Speech

Why is it that whenever I hear John Kline speak, the memorable quote “The negativity in this town sucks" pops into my head ?

Minnesota sports fans are all too familiar with the Rick Pitino’s words that he used after a tirade against Boston media and fans; as it is often played on KFAN radio to protest anything bad happening in Minnesota sports.

The message is clear … things are not as bad as it seems but if the messengers repeat gloom and doom, people presume the worst.

That’s Mr. Kline (R-MN-02) objective … he wants everyone to blame all of America’s problems on Speaker Pelosi and President Obama … never mentioning the Bush years … which coincided with his years in Congress.

Mr. Kline’s most recent press release states “More than a year after majority leadership enacted their budget-busting government stimulus plan, the national unemployment rate remains nearly two percentage points higher than the White House predicted, and 15 million Americans are still looking for work.

Mr. Kline is right … the Obama Administration did predict a lower number … the fault goes to the Administration for providing too optimistic a forecast. But part of the reason may be to halt the “negativity” that was engulfing the country. This overshot may be more about the difficulty in economic forecasting than the efficacy of the stimulus … but more on that later.

In January 2009 when President Obama was sworn in, the global economy was in the midst of a recession, credit markets were frozen and the financial institutions faced the prospects of huge losses.

The first step to recovery had to be to calm financial markets. That has worked. On Friday, the Dow Jones hit "11,000 with less than 10 minutes left in the session, then closed at 10997, a gain of 70 points for the day.”
That was the first time since September 2008 (during the tenure of President Bush) it had eclipsed 11,000 … in other words, the stock market has recovered nicely under President Obama.

The second step was to halt the bleeding at the state level. So for example, schools got funding to stave off laying off teachers … such as Second District schools :
$ 16,707, 809 for Independent School District 196

$ 10,065,132 for Independent School District 833

$ 7,240,714 for Independent School District 191

$ 6,439,165 for Lakeville Area School District

$ 5,546,590 for Independent School District 112

$ 4,245,664 for Shakopee School District

$ 3,967,430 for Prior Lake - Savage School District

$ 3,704,868 for Independent School District 192

$ 3,226,995 for Hastings Independent School District 200

$ 3,107,745 for Independent School District 656

$ 2,731,768 for Independent School District 659

$ 2,482,639 for Independent School District 199

$ 2,128,638 for New Prague Independent School District 721

$ 1,805,686 for Waconia Independent School District 110

$ 1,280,181 for Independent School District 256

$ 1,040,109 for Watertown-Mayer School District

$ 993,932 for Independent School District 717

$ 959,295 for Belle Plaine Independent School District 716

$ 737,393 for Montgomery-Lonsdale Schools 394

$ 696,034 for Carver County Independent School District 108

$ 584,770 for Independent School District 2397

$ 540,819 for Cannon Falls Independent School District 252

$ 523,237 for Independent School District 255

$ 490,079 for Zumbrota-Mazeppa School District 2805

$ 449,678 for Waterville-Elysian-Morristown Schools 2143

$ 383,269 for Kenyon-Wanmingo School District 2172

$ 307,866 for Independent School District 195

$ 275,163 for Goodhue Independent School District 253

$ 163,166 for Cleveland Public School District 391

All parents (and taxpayers) understand that these federal dollars saved schools from having to make choices that they did not want to make.

And just this week, Governor Pawlenty and MN-DOT released the highway construction projects … once again, the stimulus helped create jobs that otherwise may not have occurred.

Regardless of how it is characterized, the stimulus has done its part to stop the jobs freefall that was inevitable … the key question is would the number of job losses had been greater or lesser without the stimulus … on that, the simple answer is: it worked.

Yes, no one will be satisfied until all Americans that want a job can get one … sadly, we must accept the fact that some of those jobs that have moved overseas may never return. Therefore, job retraining programs being offered thorough the Minnesota’s Technical College programs -something that again the stimulus helped fund – offer great opportunities for workers.

Jobs will come once business are confident and demand is in place.
More good news here.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis reports : reports "Real gross domestic product -- the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States -- increased at an annual rate of 5.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009. In the third quarter, real GDP increased 2.2 percent."

Comparing that data to the last year during the Bush Administration, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reports "Real gross domestic product -- the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States -- decreased at an annual rate of 6.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008".
Yep, Bush left us with negative GDP and Obama has already righted that ship.

Another measurement, the Commerce Department reported that U.S. wholesalers have now had eleventh straight monthly increase in sales.

We're not out of the woods, but the vector is turning in the right direction.
Local jobs could still be a problem ... especially for Minnesota ... that's why H.R. 4812, Local Jobs for America Act would ensure that those teaching and firefighters will stay employed a little longer.

Yes, Mr. Kline ... it's time to retire that "negativity" speech ... although in fairness, for the Second District, your performance has been pretty "negative" ... you voted against these programs. And your "Pork-free diet" has only hurt the District.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

MN-02: Kline Needs to Support Local Jobs for America Act

Congress was able to take a much needed breather after the passage of the H.R.4872 Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010 to spend some time in their districts talking with their constituents.

No doubt they heard that legislation will help America’s families in the future, but Minnesotans are still concerned about today’s job market.
There was some good news on Friday, as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that 162,000 jobs were created in March, the largest monthly job gain in three years and that sets the vector in the right direction. A vast improvement from when 700,000 jobs a month were being trimmed and the Recovery Act deserves credit for increased economic activity as it continues to restore confidence in families and businesses.
Minnesota’s own State Economist Tom Stinson noted that economic signs now are far better than those seen last summer and credits the Federal stimulus as a spending tool that has had a big impact on turning the economy around. He further stated that “without federal action we’d be losing jobs big time. The recession would have been extended for a year, at least.
Even Governor Tim Pawlenty’s commissioner of the Office of Budget and Management, Tom Hanson, agrees that the federal stimulus money has had a positive impact on putting signs of life back into Minnesota’s economy.

Good signs .. but Minnesota, as well as other states, are facing a severe budget problem. The Minnesota legislature has agreed to a $35 million dollar reduction in the budget for public safety … and $111 million net reduction in FY 2010-11 aid to local governments (with a $186 million reduction in FY 2012-13). Meanwhile, the University of Minnesota might solve its budget shortfall by cutting the pay of its 18,000 employees and St. Cloud State University says state budget cuts are forcing the school to close more than 10 percent of its programs. Local school boards are looking at layoffs and increased class sizes due to funding constraints.

This is troubling.

John Kline (R-MN-02) is the Ranking Minority Member of the House Education and Labor Committee which could do something to address this.

The Committee’s Chairman, George Miller (D-CA) reacted to the employment numbers, “we are not out of the woods yet. All across the country, local communities are announcing layoffs of thousands of teachers, public safety officers and other vital personnel because of tight budgets. These layoffs threaten to reverse today’s positive economic report and stall the real progress we are making. House Democrats and a bipartisan group of mayors introduced legislation to create one million public and private sector jobs to help restore vital services that families and local communities rely on.”

Representative Miller gets it … Representative Miller has authored legislation that could help Minnesota as it slowly recovers.

H.R. 4812, the Local Jobs for America Act – developed with mayors, county officials and others such as National League of Cities (NLC) President Ron Loveridge, Mayor, Riverside, California - would, for the first time in decades, provide municipalities and counties with flexible and direct fiscal assistance focused on saving and creating jobs.
Although just introduced, the bill already has 105 co-sponsors.

It has some very good components that will help Local communities.
The Local Jobs for America Act will fund salaries for 50,000 on-the-job private-sector training positions to help local businesses put people back to work; $500 million to retain, rehire, and hire firefighters; $1.18 billion to put 5,500 law enforcement officers on the beat; and more.
The short term result is that by increasing employment in local communities, families will be able to start spending again at their neighborhood businesses and favorite restaurants. This will help spur additional jobs for local small businesses.
The long term results will be seen from the $23 billion funding to help states support 250,000 education jobs.
Cuts to America’s educational system – be it K-12 or advanced programs – will only prolong the country’s problems. The “old economy” has seen its jobs move overseas … it’s the next generation jobs will come from creative, high-I.Q. risk-takers that will raise capital for their ideas and commercialize them. America needs education and training to grow innovative new companies and as President Obama has said “the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy. And America must be that nation.
Further, in President Obama’s State of the Union address, he said “In the 21st century, one of the best anti-poverty programs is a world-class education.” This is not a Democrat idea … it is the same goal that George H. W. Bush and others have exposed … an America where the schools help “to make America No. 1 in math and science.
The equation is simple: investments in Jobs and Education produce prosperous communities.

It’s time to put the partisan bickering aside !
Mr. Kline, please become a co-sponsor of this legislation … or if you have a better idea, offer your own that will help Minnesota and the nation.
This is your committee … this is your job !
Small business and local business needs your support !

Saturday, April 03, 2010

MN-02 : Kline Job Loss Claim Refuted

ADAGE : Lying destroys trust. It doesn’t matter how small the lie is … a Lie is a Lie is a Lie is a Lie. Be warned, a person who will lie about the small things will also lie about the big things.

During the Healthcare reform debate, John Kline (R-MN-02) was fond of repeating a Lewin Group analysis that projected horrible things … he continued to repeat those claims long after Lewin had revised them acknowledging that their analysis was not current. Nor did Mr. Kline ever mention that Lewin Group is a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group, which also offers private health insurance. Fortunately, the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania did a little Fact Checking and eventually these claims were publicized as misleading.

Well, Mr. Kline is at it again … repeating results of a survey of trade groups that represent lenders in the student loan industry. Mr. Kline issued a press release complaining of the government takeover of the student lending “By replacing a popular student loan model with yet another one-size-fits-all government bureaucracy, the bill sacrifices innovation and competition in student financial assistance while eliminating an estimated 30,000 jobs.

WOW … 30,000 jobs …. REALLY … 30,000 jobs ?

Well, time will tell if that is correct, but before I would ever make a claim like that I would want to review the data. Unfortunately, the survey conducted last year by the National Council of Higher Education Loan Programs, the Consumer Bankers Association, the Education Finance Council and the Student Loan Servicing Alliance is not available … that should be a Red Flag warning to an elected official to avoid making such claims.
Worse yet, a January 22,2010 press release from the America’s Student Loan Providers states “An estimated 35,000 men and women are employed nationwide by organizations that participate in the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program, according to a survey conducted by the National Council of Higher Education Loan Programs, the Consumer Bankers Association, the Education Finance Council and the Student Loan Servicing Alliance.
So in essence, what they are saying is not that jobs will be lost but that the entire industry will shutdown.

Fortunately, once again a little Fact Checking tells a different story.
100 percent of the loans originated by the government would be serviced by the private sector under competitively bid contracts. The industry would also continue to service about $500 billion in outstanding student loans. Some or all of the people now servicing loans would very likely be doing the same work under a new system.

In fact, it is just as likely that the legislation will create US jobs as jobs will repatriated to the U.S. that are currently located offshore. Last year, for example, Sallie Mae said it would cut 2,000 jobs in India and the Philippines and hire workers in the U.S. for those positions. According to the Department of Education, servicing the federal loans is "expected" to be done in the U.S. because of stringent security requirements, including background checks for employees.

Mr. Kline also fails to mention that the legislation has a positive impact for the taxpayers as the Congressional Budget Office estimates that by cutting out the middle man and making all the loans directly, taxpayers would save over $60 Billion over 10 years.

Now, I am not calling Mr. Kline a liar, but I sure wish he would do a little Fact Checking before sending out press releases. His press release was issued six days after the Fact Check report was issued.

But I am calling for Mr. Kline to address what he can do to help create jobs in the Second District.