Saturday, April 30, 2011

McCain Says : It’s Nuts - Kline Eerily Silent

John McCain (R-AZ) and John Kline (R-MN-02) share responsibilities for our nations defense spending as both sit on their chamber’s respective Armed Services Committees … both portray themselves as fiscal conservatives who proclaimed a War on Earmarks … and yet both need to take some responsibility for the growth in defense spending.

Regardless of which party controls the White House, defense spending has grown at unsustainable levels.
Under President Bush, military spending averaged 3.9 percent of GDP.
Under President Obama, it has averaged 4.9 percent—a full percentage point higher.
It is incomprehensible to assume spending under the president who launched the War on Terror is insufficient for even the most hawkish member of Congress. Congress has virtually plenary constitutional power over appropriations, one that is not qualified with reference to its powers in Article One Section Eight of the US Constitution ... the blame clearly falls on CONGRESS.

But these two players are not the same.
On one hand, there is Senator McCain who sees military wasteful spending and takes action … for example, his amendment to terminate funding for the General Electric-Rolls Royce F136 alternate engine while Mr. Kline and his compatriots in the House took the opposite stance. Finally, a stop work order has been issued ending the funding … as previously note, Mr. Kline was eerily silent to recognize this taxpayer victory.

The next battle is MEADS - the Medium Extended Air Defense System. (For more about MEADS, there is a commentary on the MN Political Roundtable.
The Army has decided not to go forward with the missile defense system. Senator McCain said, “It’s nuts.” "The Army wasted an average of $3.4 billion a year on programs that came to nothing" as Senator McCain used MEADS as an example of the failings of Defense Department.

Mr. Kline needs to explain why the MEADS program should not be given a Stop Work Order … there are proven alternatives … such as the Patriot. Consider that the current War on Global Terror has two active theatres … Iraq and Afghanistan … and do you ever hear any talk of the Patriot Missile Defense system ? No … why … the simple answer is because these conflicts are with non-state actors involved in a counter-insurgency campaign and the Patriot is not part of that defense plan.

However, if a missile defense system is necessary, simple math provides the answer … the cost for a single MEADS fire unit will run well over $300 million, while a modernized Patriot fire unit comes in at less than $80 million.

Mr. Kline, do the math … Stop MEADS … Save the taxpayer’s money … there are plenty of us that feel we are TaxedEoughAlready that don’t feel the need to support your friends in the defense industry. The Pentagon is slated to spend $6.5 trillion over the next ten years, please listen to Senator McCain … STOP MEADS.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

MN-02 : Should the Ryan Budget Save the Kline Family Farm ?

John Kline (R-MN-02) issued a press release in advance of his vote in favor of the Paul Ryan (R-WI-01) FY 2012 budget :
“ … hundreds of Minnesotans shared with me their thoughts about better ways to encourage job creation and foster long-term economic growth. The overwhelming majority of constituents told me they have no choice but to make the difficult decisions to guide their families and small businesses through difficult economic times, and they expect Washington to do the same.
This week Congress will vote on a responsible, restrained budget that will help America’s job creators put our nation back to work and secure America’s future by stopping Washington from spending money it doesn’t have. Our budget will cut $6.2 trillion in government spending over the next decade compared to the President’s budget, and $5.8 trillion relative to the current baseline. It also preserves benefits for today’s seniors while strengthening the safety net for our children and grandchildren.”

Already many have focused on the cuts that the Kline / Ryan budget will impact on Medicare and other entitlement programs … yet there has been little discussion about the 33% reduction in outlays for Education (Section 500 of the budget) from FY 2012 to FY 2013 … which would be one that Mr. Kline should be most interested as the Chairman of the Education and Workforce Committee.
Heck, Mr. Kline as Chairman of Education Committee is promoting cuts to Head Start (FY 2012 Budget (GOP Budget) that would have a national impact
• 218,000 low-income children and families would be removed from Head Start.
• 16,000 Head Start and Early Head Start classrooms would close.
• 55,000 teachers and related staff would lose their jobs.
• 170,000 families trying to find jobs or stay employed would lose childcare)
In Minnesota, every county would be affected … as Minnesota’s 35 federally designated Head Start grantees served 16,018 families in 2010.
And Head Start has a proven track record exhibited by :
192% Increase in Language Development
362% Increase in Emerging Literacy
288% Increase in Social Emotional Development
173% Increase in Physical Health and Wellbeing

But this commentary, is not about Education funding or any of the other proposed cuts … but instead what Mr. Ryan and Mr. Kline have protected --- Farm Subsidies.

American taxpayers paid roughly $15 billion in total farm subsidies last year, according to government data including $5 billion in direct payments to farmers accounts. With the farm sector booming—the USDA estimates net farm income this year will be the second-highest in 35 years—direct payments should become an easy target. Iowa State University economist Chad Hart noted that the payments go to farmers regardless of crop price or quality. Most of the payments go to the largest farmers in America given the amount of land they own. From 2002, when the program was expanded, through 2010, the top 10% of recipients received 67% of the funds, according to David DeGennaro, an Environmental Working Group legislative analyst. Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union, said the direct subsidies have become indefensible because they don't go to farmers who need them to survive tough times.
Prominent Republicans like Senator Susan Collins (ME) view America’s fiscal problem and offer a solution… “I support the elimination of the ethanol subsidy — that’s worth some $6 billion a year.” Senator Collins added “I think we should cap farm subsidies for wealthy corporate farmers.”
Senator Collins was joined by Chris Coons (D-DE), Jeanne Shaheen (D-VT), Mark Warner (D-VA), Bob Corker (R-TN), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-CT), Tom Coburn (R-OK), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), John McCain (R-AZ), Jim Webb (D-VA), Bob Bennet (R-UT), Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Mike Enzi (R-ID), Jack Reed (D-RI), Richard Burr (R-NC), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) in signing a letter to end the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit.

Targeting farm subsidies is not new … The CATO Institute lists 10 reasons while The Heritage Foundation complains that it subsidies millionaires. Heck, the New York Times editorialized that cutting farm subsidies was an easy one.

In summary, there are a significant number of elected Republican and Democrat leaders, think tanks and newspapers that all embrace the concept of terminating farm subsidies.

Yet, Republican House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's (R-WI-01) blueprint for the fiscal 2012 budget contained a paltry $3 billion per year over the next decade— leaving $120 billion in total expected spending on farm subsidies. Compare that to the outlay for Education which will be cut $23 billion in just FY2013 alone.

So, why would Mr. Kline and Mr. Ryan not raise the ante … that’s a great question … the answer is unknown … but what is known is that Mr. Kline’s Family Farm participates in accepting federal subsidies.

Yes, Mr. Kline the taxpayers expect you to make “the difficult decisions” in these “difficult economic times” but when one group is enjoying a banner year, we don’t expect you to continue to participate in receiving federal subsidies … we expect you to stop reckless Washington spending that benefits to a numerically small but highly motivated group who will fight ferociously to safeguard their benefits ... or as they are also known - your family, friends and supporters.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Kline –vs- Walz : Who Said : Don't do your job, don't get paid.

Within virtual seconds of the House approving legislation, John Kline (R-MN-02) was quick to issue a press release entitled John Kline Supports Bill Ensuring Members of Congress Don't Get Paid During Federal Government Shutdown

“April 1, 2011

WASHINGTON – Congressman John Kline supported the “Government Shutdown Prevention Act” which passed the U.S. House of Representatives today. The legislation would forbid salary payments to be disbursed to Members of Congress or the President during a federal government shutdown.

“American taxpayers shouldn’t be left on the hook funding the payroll of the President or members of Congress during a federal government shutdown,” said Kline.

Semantics and spin presents this statement as Mr. Kline opposing any member of Congress and the President getting paid if there is a federal government shutdown … but read it carefully … “ during a federal government shutdown.”

The legislation that Mr. Kline is referring to is HR 1255 -“Government Shutdown Prevention Act”. While the legislation may be called the “Government Shutdown Prevention Act”, it’s real intention is to “Deem and Pass” HR 1 -Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act of 2011 if the Senate does not act by April 6th. The legislation was froth with questions of constitutionality as well as if it adhered to the principles of the Pillars of a New Majority .
Read that discussion on the MN Political Roundtable.

The current salary (2011) for rank-and-file members of the House is $174,000 per year … it’s an annual salary … it’s not a daily or hourly rate … which is why they get paid when they are on “official breaks” when they are campaigning … heck, even if they are ignoring debate invitations while being busy campaigning for other candidates.

The US Senate has already addressed the question of retroactive pay by unanimously approving S 388
(b) Retroactive Pay Prohibited- No pay forfeited in accordance with subsection (a) may be paid retroactively.

But the House has not addressed the question of retroactive pay … in fact, Mr. Kline doesn’t mention that he actually voted against an amendment that would deny retroactive payment of lost wages … that’s a big difference … somehow, I don’t think that neither Mr. Kline nor any member of Congress is going hungry if there is a federal government shutdown … heck, Mr. Kline is accustomed to having lobbyists hosting banquets in his honor.

The amendment that Mr. Kline voted against was offered by Minnesota’s First District Congressman Tim Walz.

Tim Walz speech was concise and succinct. Here are the key comments :
We have an opportunity. The American people did send us here, as you heard on both sides of the aisle, to do a very simple thing--to get the work done and move this country forward. The debate is that there are differences in how to do that. That's the strength of this land. It's democracy. But there is one very strong principle that we can reinforce, that work ethic, that if you do not get your job done, you certainly should not be paid. No middle of the night, no if it passes and goes this way. Very simply, the easiest of things to do: If this Congress after being here 4 months--and I don't care where you put the blame--can't get this done by next week and the government shuts down, there will be no chance of a single paycheck going and no retroactive pay. That's the least we owe those hardworking folks. That's the least that we can do here.

I want to be very clear. I understand the majority is having a problem. They've got a debate happening inside their caucus if compromise is a virtue or a vice. They will work that out and decide, because that's what this debate today was about: Where do we compromise for the good of the American public? I come down on the side of compromise.

But with that being said, if we don't get our work done--and I will do everything in my power to ensure we do not shut this government down--the repercussions are catastrophic for Americans, and not just macroeconomically. Our seniors aren't going to get their checks. We're going to see medical care slowed down to our veterans. We're going to hear from and we have heard from our military commanders that it stresses the readiness of this nation. Our Federal workers and even the hardworking staff here will not receive a paycheck.

How do you go home, to Georgia, to Alabama, to Minnesota, look somebody in the eye and say, We failed because we bickered again but, dang, I'm going to take home that check.

So I tell my colleagues, especially the new Members, if you're a freshman in here, you came with an optimism that should not be able to be beaten out of you. Regardless if you disagree with us with every fiber of your being, the very simple principle that if we can't get this done, let's put skin in the game.

I offer you the rarest of opportunities today, the first time you've had this chance. If you vote ``yes'' on this motion to recommit, it goes to the President today and becomes law of the land, and no one here will be paid. You can look your constituents in the eye and whoever you blame for it, you can say, I'm not getting a paycheck till we fix this.

So I want to be very clear. This is an opportunity, a rare opportunity. You can vote however you want and decide however you want to balance the budget, but do not allow to play games. It is the bright lights of day, the board is going to come up, and you're going to have the opportunity. Not what's in the underlying bill. That doesn't stop from retroactive pay. And that has to pass the Senate. Mitch McConnell and every Republican already voted for my motion to recommit. So you have the chance to say, all right, I disagree with the Democrats on everything in this bill, but I'm not going to go back to Georgia and tell someone I'm picking up a paycheck and then trying to explain, but I voted for it really, but it was a motion to recommit that I didn't agree with and all of this. Nothing. Simple. Seventy-five words. Half page. Don't do your job, don't get paid. No work, no pay. It is very, very simple.

I do not agree with Congressman Walz on every issue … nor on every one of his votes, but on this issue, there should be no debate … Congressman Walz is showing leadership that is sorely missing in Washington.

While it was noteworthy that Mr. Kline awarded his staff very generous bonuses last year, it should be mentioned that Congressman Walz has voluntarily donated Congressional pay raises back to the US Treasury.

The Republicans rule the House … they set the rules including what bills committees hear and what bills get votes, so it is a tragedy that the House Republicans (with the exception of Ron Paul (R-TX-14)) have not advanced Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ-08) legislation … HR 204 Congressional Pay Cut Act. “We are living in tough economic times,” said Congresswoman Giffords. “Everyone is being forced to make sacrifices. Members of Congress can’t ask any American to cut back before we are willing to make some sacrifices of our own. I’m prepared to do that and I want my colleagues to join me. Members of Congress must set an example and there’s no better way to do that than by cutting our own salaries.”

Cutting the salaries of members of Congress is supported by numerous taxpayer groups, like Americans for Tax Reform, Citizens Against Government Waste and the National Taxpayers Union.

Two days after authoring HR 204, Congresswoman Giffords was shot at a “Congress on the Corner” event and has not been available to promote the legislation … shouldn’t the Republican leadership address her bill … instead the Republican leadership wastes precious time (that could otherwise be used to negotiate with the Senate and White House in an effort to keep Government operating) by pushing “Government Shutdown Prevention Act” legislation that even the GOP statement acknowledges that it is not likely to be enacted into law “As with any law, the provisions of H.R. 1255 would only take effect if the bill were approved by the Senate and signed by the president.”

Mr. Kline’s press release typifies a “DoNothing Congress" … that increasling is becoming more expensive and ineffective.