Sunday, December 20, 2009

MN-06: Bachmann Benefits from Person of the Year

Time misses the mark naming it's Person of the Year -- Ben Bernanke.
It still missed on its runner-ups : Stanley McChrystal, the Chinese Worker, Nancy Pelosi, Usain Bolt ...
and then Time listed all The People Who Mattered :
• Neda Agha-Soltan
• Glenn Beck
• Lloyd Blankfein
• Rahm Emanuel
• Dr. Thomas Frieden
• Jon and Kate Gosselin
• Hamid Karzai
• Adam Lambert
• Jay Leno and David Letterman
• Bernie Madoff
• Alan Mulally
• Barack Obama
• Manny Pacquiao
• Sarah Palin
• Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart of Twilight
• Alex Rodriguez
• Olympia Snowe
• Sonia Sotomayor
• Chesley B. (Sully) Sullenberger III
• Taylor Swift
• The Twitter Guys
• Joe Wilson
• Tiger Woods
• Manuel Zelaya and Roberto Micheletti
• Zhou Xiaochuan

How could they miss the obvious choice ?

First off the list is Pattinson and Stewart … when they have to include a hint ( Twilight ), it is obvious that they have not made an impact regardless of how many cover shots they have done for Time’s sister publications People, EW, or InStyle.

Seeing Glenn Beck and Joe Wilson on the list should be a clue as to who the Person of the Year should be.
It’s not the figurehead talker but instead the people behind the curtain pulling the puppet’s strings.

The winner should be Tim Phillips.
If you don’t know Mr. Phillips by name, you know him by his creation … the grassroots’ political activist events … some have had minor success like the Ending Earmarks Express and some have had major press … like the Tea Party movement.

It is not uncommon to see Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann at these events … most recently last week at the Code Red Rally which by thier own accounts, the attendance was small … in the 5,000 range.
But Ms. Bachmann increased her profile after attaching herself to Mr. Phillips’ Congressional House Calls rally in November. According to Ms. Bachmann, “I was near despair” thinking that the House would pass health care reform. "I was thinking, 'It looks like this bill is going to go through.' But then I thought, 'This is it. This is the Super Bowl of Freedom.' " Then she heard about Mr. Phillips’s "Congressional House Calls", Bachmann said, "I just did a take-off on it."

2010 will be a big year for Tim Phillips. In Florida, there already is a registered political party named the "Tea Party" and is promising to run candidates against Republicans and Democrats in state and national races. Mr. Phillips has already made his imprint on political campaigns … most significantly with the television commercials question the patriotism of Senator Max Cleland (D-GA) who as a result of the ads is now known as Former Senator Cleland.

Which leads to the question for 2010 politics, will there be a formal Minnesota political party called the Tea Party and will Representative Bachmann be their first endorsed candidate ?

Runner-up to Mr. Phillips as Person of the Year, is the Health Care Lobbyists who are set to shatter their financial records. Many of the organizations involved posted six- and even seven-figure increases.
And if anyone is keeping tally, reported thus far for Representative Bachmann’s re-election campaign is $21,850 from the Pharmaceuticals/Health Products industry.

Mr. Phillips and the lobbyists game plan is simple … excite and anger … the result is that a vocal minority out-shouts a silent majority … and as their Queen – Representative Bachmann – appears in FOX television and various selected radio programs espousing whatever the puppeteer tells her to say.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

MN-02 : Kline and his Unconscionable Afghanistan Stance

How Will We Know When the War Is Over?

That was the questioned posed by John Kline. His response was “I think the answer to that question lies in the answer to another question:
W h y are we fighting the war?”
The answer to this question, surely, is not to seek revenge or even justice. The answer is to rid the world of the scourge of international terrorism. It is to have relative peace and security for ourselves and the rest of the world. So how do we know when this is accomplished ?
There is, I am afraid, no simple answer to the question.

In the end, Kline concludes “as long as there is a single country on the list [countries as state sponsors of international terrorism], a single refuge for terrorists, the war is not over.”

Kline’s paper was written in 2002 just after – using Kline’s words – “We crushed the Taliban” in Afghanistan … but the war was not over as Kline went on to suggest that there could be future military actions … “There is much talk of returning to Iraq to “finish the job.”

Fast forward from 2002 to 2009 and Kline’s assessment is correct … the war ain’t over.

And as such, another question needs to be asked … Not WHY but WHEN will we pay for this war ?

Admittedly, when Kline wrote in 2002 acknowledging the need for military action, he – nor the Bush Administration – knew how much it would cost. But the numbers are now known … and are staggering.

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost close to $1 trillion thus far. According to the CRS, the marginal cost of continuing the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is about $11 billion per month, with no end in sight. An adding 30,000 additional troops in Afghanistan, as President Obama has requested, will cost another $30 billion per year.

In a recent OpEd, Kline wrote Since coming to Congress seven years ago, I have traveled to Afghanistan and neighboring nations on multiple occasions. As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I have participated in countless hearings about the evolving situation in that troubled region. A recurring theme in nearly all of these encounters is the struggle our commanders and troops face in trying to convince the local population the United States will not abandon them.

While Kline advocates not abandoning Afghanistan, he fails to address how long will the DOD budget be funding military operations. Afghan President Hamid Karzai says it could take 20 years for Afghanistan to be able to pay for its own security. Defense Secretary Robert Gates seemed to accept that premise stating "I think that there is a realism on our part that it will be some time before Afghanistan is able to sustain its security forces entirely on its own.

So when will we pay for this ?

And why haven’t the fiscal conservatives in Congress raised this question ?

Bruce Bartlett,a Reagan-era Treasury Department economist, asks this very question. His assessment is that Republicans have resolved to fight our wars on the cheap and with deceptive cost estimates. The suggestion is that if it takes wars to end ill-conceived social programs, then that's another argument in favor of continuing the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns.

When Representative Kline was asked about the costs of military actions on Almanac 12/04/09 broadcast, he dodged the quesiton. He complained of an “exploding Federal government” and that it was a “bad idea” to enact a “war tax.”

Obviously, when one trillion dollars is spent on just Iraq and Afghanistan, it shouldn’t be a surprise that defense spending has risen more than 65% since 2001 but Kline, the politician, points the finger at the all encompassing “exploding Federal government”.

As Kline wrote “Our Freedoms Do Not Come Without A Price” thus the lesson is that we need to spend our monies wisely.

If it’s a spending issue, choices can be made.

Should the country spend $300 million for the National World War II Museum (which has been championed by Representative – now Senator – David Vitter (R-LA) … or 600 MRAP All Terrain Vehicles (M-ATV) that are needed in Afghanistan ?

As Kline well knows, the war zone in Afghanistan is different than the one in Iraq … and although some personnel may easily be moved, the equipment is different. Yet, Kline has continued to vote for F-22s even though the DOD doesn’t want them and they are not used in the current war zone. When confronted about his vote (which was an earmark offered by Rob Bishop R-UT) by a true fiscal conservative, Tim Penny, Kline said it would be good for jobs.

During election season candidate Kline likes to talk about stopping pork projects but Representative Kline has no problem with military pork.

Since Kline is unable to control military pork, the alternatives are : Letting future generations pay; or enact a tax such as H.R. 4130, the "Share the Sacrifice Act of 2010." It would establish a 1% surtax on everyone's federal income tax liability.

As a fiscal conservative, it is unconscionable that Kline has done nothing but play the blame game without taking any responsibility for his own actions.
This discussion should not be a Democrat versus Republican issue. Jim Hagedorn, a Republican candidate to represent the First District in Congress, has expressed that his campaign will be based on "restructuring foreign entanglements and defunding “nation building”". That's an option that can be debated next year, but Congress should not wait until after the next election.
This is about being fiscally responsible NOW. IF the Minnesota Tea Party Patriots really care about our financial future, they need to lobby Kline to accept responsiblity.

Being fiscally responsible, Kline should join Congresswoman Betty McCollum and become a co-sponsor of H. R. 4130. Kline's right that “Our Freedoms Do Not Come Without A Price” but that “Price” should not be paid by future generations.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

MN-01 : Minnesota’s Newest Funny Man

Although this is the time of the year that candidates are announcing their intentions to run in 2010, let’s look at one candidate’s assessment of the 2008 elections.
For example here’s his assessment of how Wyoming would vote : “As always, the only residents not voting Republican are the ones Dick “Big Time” Cheney shot in the head or ran off the road on his record number of D.W.I. convictions.”
Or, Idaho : “Everyone from Idaho’s Governor down to the state’s white supremacist greeter will vote for McCain-Palin.
Or, Iowa : “Iowans are considering a ballot initiative that would change the state’s constitution to preclude “idiots” from voting. This confirms suspicions that Iowa actually stands for “Idiots Out Walking Around.” The idiot initiative was supposed to be on the ballot in 2006, but a screw up by the Secretary of State delayed consideration until this election. Idiot. Had this new voting standard been in effect for today’s election, the final vote would have been: McCain 973,340 - Obama 0. Instead, Obama-Biden win by 10.
And in accessing the US Senate contest in North Carolina, he writes “last minute advertisement by husband and former Senator Robert Dole, who pulled out all the stops to try and save his beleaguered wife’s campaign. The advertisement, a take off on Senator Dole’s old Pfizer commercials, went like this:
Hi. I’m Bob Dole. I take Viagra because I have ED - Elizabeth Dole.
Dole Loses badly

And in a tribute to Minnesota’s former Senator, the writer gives an award in his name : “Each election the Rod Award is extended to the Republican Member of Congress who performs the most idiotic, immoral behavior that virtually guarantees defeat. The award is named after former Senator Rod Grams (Playboy-Minnesota), who was soundly defeated for reelection in 2000. This year the Rod Award goes to two numskulls who couldn’t keep “it” in their pants long enough to get reelected. The two award winners are: Idaho Senator Larry ”Wide Stance” Craig and New York Congressman Vito “Vino” Fossella.

WOW … I’m rolling with laughter. Reading candidate’s Election Masterpiece can only mean that the debates won’t be boring.

So who is this candidate bashing these Republicans ?

Long time Minnesota voters may remember the Hagedorn name … that has been missing from local politics since Tom Hagedorn was defeated by Tim Penny in 1982 to represent the southern Minnesota in Congress. Hagedorn is now president of a number of real estate operations in Virginia (Premium Properties, LLC, Premium Financial Services, Inc., etc.) and is listed on the Board of Directors of Electromed, Inc. - a New Prague medical company.

But this not Tom trying to return to Minnesota politics, but his son Jim. Oh, yeah, Jim has announced his intent to seek the Republican nomination to represent Minnesota’s First District.

Don’t know Jim … that may be the first joke on First District voters. According to his bio, he entered George Mason University in 1980. Then did a little work as a legislative assistant and spent most of his career as part of Congressional Affairs Office at Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Currently, Hagedorn is employed as Director of Government Relations and Corporate Development for Electromed, Inc. (see company link above).

The picture seems clear … a son of a Congressman wants to follow his father footsteps and use his father’s contacts to make that happen.

So who does Hagedorn want to represent in Congress … his neighbors in southern Minnesota whom he just met in the past few months … or the financial and medical companies’ lobbyists that will surely provide the campaign contributions ?

So can Hagedorn win in 2010 ?
Well, here’s his assessment of the 2008 contest : “MN District 1 -Freshman Democrat Representative Tim Walz squares off against novice Republican candidate Dr. Brian Davis. Dr. Davis was roughed up in a bruising Republican primary and sadly the Congressman will wal(t)z to victory. Sorry about that one. However, the Congressman’s true beliefs are out-of-step with this right-leaning district and a competent Republican candidate could retake the seat in 2010 or 2012.
Well, I hope the 2010 MN-GOP primary isn’t that bruising, but at least he’s already got his eyes set on 2012.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

MN-03 : Paulsen Loud and Silent on who should get H1N1 Vaccine

Erik Paulen (R-MN-03) update his blog on Tuesday, November 3rd, to protest that it was “Entirely Unacceptable” to provide vaccines to Guantanamo Detainees.

By making this a post on his blog, it is a statement of political outrage that many may feel. But the protest must be put in context. Why this emotional knee jerk reaction to GITMO detainees and not to Wall Street bankers ?

Just the previous day, Business Week reported that “Citigroup has been supplied with 1,200 units” plus an additional 12 large employers have received vaccines while 16 more are in the pipeline to get vaccines.

Why does Big Business get vaccines ? Well, companies like Goldman Sachs have onsite health clinics (and have received vaccines already) as part of their employee-provided benefit package. Goldman’s 400 or so managing directors and its top executive officers participate in the bank’s executive medical and dental program as part of their benefits at an annual cost of $40,543 which is substantially above the national average (which is about $13,000 for a family of four).

While we wait for Blogger Paulsen to comment on the BW article, let’s evaluate the knee jerk reaction to the GITMO detainee vaccine situation.
A responsible Congressman should review the situtation carefully, put the situtation in context and consider the ramifications. The current number of detainees in GITMO is approxiamately 215 – a relatively low number. As Blogger Paulsen complains “it is entirely unacceptable to make this vaccine available to detainees”, the key word is “available” … unlike in 2003 when the Bush Administration reaction to a potential flu outbreak when detainees were tackled and shackled so prison camp staff could "forcefully" administer the shots -- today these detainees can refuse the vaccines. Will they ? Maybe, they will decline as many will probably be concerned of being experimented on with some sort of truth serum or other drugs. This leads to other problem, if they detainees die without the US Government providing the “availability” of the vaccine, which could be a cause for outrage and complaints of prisoner negligence.
The other obvious question is : do these detainees possess information that if they died would be detrimental to our intelligence efforts ?
Considering this, the outrage is “Entirely Unacceptable” as it is entirely possible that no vaccines may actually be given to GITMO detainees.

Representative Paulsen may have a better case for his district in getting vaccines, if he was more supportive before. In his blog, he acknowledges “vaccine shortages widespread in Minnesota and throughout the nation” yet fails to acknowledge that he voted against HR 2346 which provided $1.85 billion for the Public Health and Social Services Emergency fund to prepare for an influenza pandemic H1N1 influenza (swine flu) which included $350 million earmarked for state and local government preparation.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Negative Politics Wins, America Loses in NY-23

It must be a wonderful day in New York’s Congressional District 23 … for after months of political television ads , their sets are finally returning to normal programming --- pharmaceutical commercials.

Although it might be easy to have empathy for the good folks of NY-23, Americans should be disappointed that they really rejected their role in representative democracy.
Voters did not show up !
While the final tallies are still being determined, what is known is that with a population of over 600,000 only an estimated 135,000 decided to cast ballots. To put that in perspective, in 2002 – an off-year election, John McHugh ran unopposed but still generated 124,682 votes.

For this special election, which was timed to run with local elections on a normal voting day, maximum media attention was given to this contest. Outside influence was prominent. The Club For Growth's television ad spots numbered 1,597 and in total it generated contributions of $1,022,040 for Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman (roughly about $15 per vote he received).

The National Republican Congressional Committee spent on the Dede Scozzafava campaign, is estimated to be close to a million dollars. That figure may be less if some of some of the anticipated $200,000 and $300,000 for TV ads scheduled to be broadcast in the final days of the campaign, were stopped after she terminated her campaign.

Bill Owens, the Democratic and Working Families candidate, received just about as many votes as McHugh’s previous Democrat challengers in the past three elections (roughly in the mid-60,000s).

As of April 1, voter registration in the district was 43 percent Republican, 31 percent Democrat and just 1 percent Conservative Party.
So, who did not show up and why ?

Clearly negative advertising worked.
Voters can get tired of hearing countless attacks on the candidates. Negative advertising is designed to reduce voter euthisiasm for the opposition in hopes of dissuading those voters from participating. Looking at the 60,000 or so regular Republican voters who did not participate, they opted to reject the Republican/Conservative candidates … but also to reject representative government.

These attack ads have other consequences.
Late in Minnesota’s 2008 US Senate race, Norm Coleman, recognizing the damage caused by negative ads, called a halt to his personal attack ads saying "I want folks to vote for me, and not against the other folks." However the RNC and outside groups keep their ads running. The damage was done … and still paying the price is Senator Al Franken and former Senator Coleman as both candidate’s overall image have been badly damaged. Coleman’s may have been hit harder as 63,203 McCain supporters decided not to vote for him and most likely opted for Dean Barkley.

Politics should not just be about winning elections, but instead be about building the trust of their constituents in their ability to serve our needs.
Negative ads may seem to work … but they don’t foster a better government.
No doubt if you frequent any of the political party websites, you will be requested to donate money. Considering how the parties are ineffectively using these funds and actually destroying representative government, I suggest that you tell them NO to monetary contributions and offer your time instead.

As a footnote, anyone who watches the AMC television series Mad Men are aware that the current time period is the assassination of President Kennedy. The characters were "crying and praying so hard there wasn't room for anyone else to feel anything." It makes you wonder when negative advertising is used so citically to “brand” an opponent, if we as a country can ever feel good about our elected leaders – regardless of the political party.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

GINO Pawlenty is New (Ulm) In Town

Like the movie character Lucy Hill who was seeking career advancement, Tim Pawlenty came to New Ulm to talk business. In the film, New In Town , Lucy Hill had never been to Minnesota before so she had a lot to learn … yet somehow Tim Pawlenty seems to want to ignore that he has been Governor of the state since January 6, 2003 and that things have not gone well on his watch.

GINO Pawlenty is how many Minnesotans think of him today … Governor In Name Only … ignoring Minnesota while traveling around the country, and planning trips to Sao Paulo, Brazil and Santiago, Chile in December after a trip to Mexico in November.

Pawlenty took the time to visit New Ulm as part of the Job Growth Summit tour. His visit, like his Apple Valley session, was Chamber of Commerce event. Somehow a visit to the New Ulm Country Club is not the same as a walking the factory floor but that’s what a GINO would do.

Unlike his out of state travels where Pawlenty’s audience is interested in his Presidential ambitions, these Minnesota events prompt questions about Minnesota problems.
The questions can lead to some rather enlightening answers.
In Apple Valley, Pawlenty addressed the increase in minimum wage by advocating “a credit to hospitality businesses where employees earn tips.” Minnesota does not have a tip credit … for those states that allow it, a reduced pay rate for tipped employees can be as low as $2.13 under federal law.
In New Ulm, he faced questions regarding agriculture regulations which he responded requesting “farmers to write down specific examples” … gosh, for somebody that has been Governor this long, he sounds like this is the first he is hearing of the problems.
Then there was the complaint from a construction company owner that "The highway department doesn't bid work, and there is no incentive to change" … gosh, for somebody that has been Governor this long, he should have address this issue a long time ago. At least since his MN-DOT awarded the I-35 Bridge to a foreign-owned company over Burnsville-based Ames Construction and C.S. McCrossan of Maple Grove, one would have thought he would be senstive to local construction business concerns.

Yet, he did take time to join in the complaining by proclaiming that “too many public employees get paid for doing nothing” … gosh, for somebody that has been Governor this long, he sounds like he is complaining about his own failings.

But the best was when Pawlenty fielded a complaint from a New Ulm dentist about Minnesota's health care provider tax. “Pawlenty said he adamantly opposed the tax but couldn't get it replaced.”
WOW … now that’s an answer.
First, Pawlenty failed to acknowledge how essential that program was to his unallotment process in balancing the state budget. The Dental Access Alliance protested in advance of his unallotment due to past cuts. As Dr. Lee Jess, president of the Minnesota Dental Association explained “The state has already cut funding for oral health care by $18 million, or about 20 percent of the state’s total dental spending, during this past legislative session. This is enough. Further cuts to the remaining adult dental benefits of the Critical Access Dental Provider Program will be devastating, and in fact increase state health care spending in the long run.” Pawlenty’s response was to cut “$6.2 million to the Critical Access Dental Provider Program, which funds clinics that treat low-income and rural patients, as well as those with special needs. These cuts may force some clinics to close and force patients to visit hospital emergency rooms for treatment of their oral pain rather than the more cost effective use of dental offices. Statewide, there are currently more than 20,000 emergency room visits for dental care each year.”
Second, it has been stated repeatedly that businesses do not pay the tax … the tax gets added on the bill and paid by the consumer. In this case, since I write my check to the dentist who asked the question, I am paying the tax.
Third, ironically I have praised this dentist’s staff for being one of the 2,500 volunteer dental professionals that participate in the annual Give Kids a Smile outreach effort provided 5,200 needy children with free dental care.
Fourth, it is surprising that the dentist stated that the “Minnesota's health care provider tax drives dentists to other states where there is no such tax”. It’s possible that could be correct, but how well compensated are dental professionals in our state ? According to May 2008 US Labor Bureau statistics, Minnesota ranked third highest in the nation … and easily surpassing our bordering states (Wisconsin being the most competitive with Minnesota dental professionals earning a 23% premium and Nebraska being the lowest at a 38% lower wage). So, Doctor please stop complaining about an insignificant 2% Health Care Provider tax (which I pay) and address why your payroll is so high !

This event is supposed to be a Job Growth Summit, but the New In Town movie is an example of Minnesota’s failed job opportunity … at one time, it seemed that Minnesota had a vibrant film industry and although the movie was fictionally set in the real city of New Ulm, it was filmed in Winnipeg Canada . And the future does not look good for this industry, as Governor Pawlenty used his line item veto to the Economic Development and Housing Budget bill cut funds.

For the viewers of the film that invested 97 minutes of their time probably got what they expected … nothing special … no life altering revelations … no deep thoughts … just an opportunity to take a mental break with a mindless romantic comedy set in Minnesota.

For the invited luncheon guests that invested an equivalent amount got something entirely different. What should have been heartfelt and frank business discussion of how to grow jobs seemed to be nothing more than a social event for Governor Pawlenty, House Minority Leader Kurt Zellers of Maple Grove (32-B), Senate Republican leader Dave Senjem (29), and Representative Paul Torkelson of St. James (21-B) to glad-hand with potential donors and supporters.

For the working people – either currently employed or seeking work – this was another show that makes one wonder why it was called a Job Growth Summit since they were not invited … it should have been called a Republican Self-Promotion Job-Preservation Political Summit.

When the cities were announced for the Jobs Tour (St. Cloud, Apple Valley, Red Wing, Sauk Centre, Minnetonka, Rochester, Blaine, New Ulm, Faribault, Shoreview, Bemidji, Eagan, Woodbury, Princeton, La Crescent, Monticello, Chisago City, Fergus Falls and Willmar), the list seemed to be slanted toward cities where Republicans have elected officials …. where’s Bemidji, Brainerd, Duluth, Hibbing, Mankato, St. Paul and other cities that are experiencing high unemployment ?

Fortunately for Minnesota, other leaders are looking at jobs also. Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher has established a Jobs Task Force … what is different about this is that it is bi-partisan … and interesting that the members come from a more varied group of cities. The first meeting included State Economist Tom Stinson, State Demographer Tom Gillaspy, Art Rolnick from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, and others, who described Minnesota's economic situation and the challenges in creating jobs, workforce development, worker retraining programs and how to help speed Minnesota’s economic recovery.

I won’t spoil the plot ending for anyone who has not seen the New In Town movie by telling you whether Lucy Hill was able to save the New Ulm small business … but
Pawlenty’s show is getting old to Minnesotans … he seems to be only interested in his next job and not taking the responsibilities of his current job seriously.

Monday, October 12, 2009

MN-03 : Guest Blogger Erik Paulsen Misses Free Trade Opportunity

Using old data, Representative Erik Paulsen becomes a guest blogger on The Heritage Foundation website to advocate for free trade agreements.
Why, he didn’t included a copy on his personal blog is for others to question (but my guess would be that your collection basket will grow when you preach to the choir.)

Reading his piece, there are three immediate observations.

First, he cites “a Peterson Institute study, the average American household is about $9,000 per year richer as a result of the country’s integration with the world economy since World War II."
Call me skeptical, but why does Paulsen go back to WWII as his starting point ? First, Representative Paulsen fails to mention that the report was written in 2004 … which begs the question, is that comment still current today. The report was criticized for its selective use of data … and if the time frame was from ”1982 to the present (a time that saw the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the passage of permanent normal trading relations with China) added only $9 per U.S. household, not $9,000.” Reading the study cited, speaks significantly about the impact of China … somewhat making the WWII reference point inappropriate when the focus should be on the future and not the past. Also, Paulsen fails to acknowledge other comments cited in the Peterson study related to job and/or wage losses : “Manufacturing workers dislocated in trade-impacted industries also experience average wage declines of about 13 percent in their new jobs, losses that may be offset only partially by the lower prices they pay for imports.”
Representative Paulsen should be embarrassed for using a report that misleads the reader.

Second, Representative Paulsen promotes the benefits of free trade on “countless businesses, small and large, ” mentioning ONLY one company in his district -- ”Bloomington-based Donaldson Incorporated, a leading manufacturer of air filtration systems and other industrial products.” No doubt that Donaldson is a great company … as testified by its global reach with 40 manufacturing facilities worldwide and an employee base in the 10,000 range …. hardly a small business. Paulsen fails to mention that one of business segments of Donaldson that was hit hard … “Sales decreased in the United States by 56.6 percent primarily as a result of a 50 percent decrease in Class 8 truck build rates and a 53 percent decrease in medium duty truck build rates by the Company's Customers over the prior year quarter.” … somehow the necessity to stabilize the automotive industry was not deemed appropriate to be acknowledged.

Third, Representative Paulsen calls for “Opening the South Korean market.” It’s not open ? --- Look around your house for items that are currently imported into America and no doubt you find some Korean built products. Year to date, South Korea has exported $25,747 million while American producers have sent $17,700 million to South Korea … repeatedly over time, America has been on the unfavorable side of the trade balance.

Summing it up, free trade is not necessarily fair trade.

All that stated, Representative Paulsen goal of generating jobs through foreign trade makes sense … but he has not identified a clear opportunity that would directly benefit Minnesota --- Cuba !

Opening export opportunities to Cuba is not a subject that Representative Paulsen should be unfamiliar. Prior to being elected to Congress, then State Representative Paulsen had the opportunity to vote on resolution in 2008 to that effect. The opportunity was stated that “under an ideal trade scenario, Minnesota farmers could enjoy at least $45 million in new exports annually; the state's total economic benefit would be nearly $92 million, including 900 new jobs.” These are opportunity dollars …. as “Minnesota is ideally positioned to benefit from the market opportunities that free trade with Cuba would provide, as trade restrictions succeed only in driving sales to competitors in other countries that have no such restrictions”.
When it came down to the vote, it was passed in the House by a vote of 86-9 … but State Representative Paulsen declined to state his opinion and abstained.
It must be noted that not only did Paulsen not want to confront this issue, but Governor Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) vetoed despite having met with representatives of the Cuban government in Minnesota’s state capital and expressing to them that "he supported free trade and friendship with Cuba." …. Ah, that was before Presidential politics came in to Pawlenty’s mindset.

Today, the opportunity is more desperate for Minnesota’s agricultural industry. Minnesota Congressmen John Kline (R), Jim Oberstar(D), Collin Peterson (D) and Tim Walz (D) along with 60 other representatives have requested that the US Trade Representative to open export markets closed to US pork producers.

Additionally, Representative Paulsen has not joined 179 other co-sponsors of Representatives Bill Delahunt (D-MA) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) to support HR 874. The legislation would lift travel restrictions to Cuba for all Americans, restoring our right as citizens of the United States to travel freely.

Representative Paulsen, if you want to create new jobs in Minnesota, start with supporting your fellow Congressmen’s efforts to open Cuba for American business opportunities. Cuba could be a rare opportunity for America to actually have a trade surplus with net job gains.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

MN-03 : Paulsen Joins Minority to Oppose Workers

Country First !
That was the message at the Republican National Convention held in Erik Paulsen’s back yard … yet, he seems to have rejected that idea.
The concept was simply expressed as putting the good of the Country ahead of personal ideology, state, or partisan interests.

No doubt that there many stark difference between the political parties and those differences are on display when roll call votes reflect party line votes.
But it’s the measure of “Country First” when a majority of both parties approve legislation.
But what stands out is when somebody stays in the minority to their party.
Increasingly, that is where voters will find Erik Paulsen.

Case in point … on Roll Call Vote 722 : Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2009 a majority of Republicans (104) voted in favor of the legislation while sitting in the minority was Erik Paulsen.
A year earlier, when similar legislation was being considered (Roll Call 683 :Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2008) , Minnesota’s Third District was represented by someone else … Republican Jim Ramstad … who joined with 141 other Republicans to approve it.

Representative Paulsen is well aware of the national employment situation as he wrote on his 10/2/09 blog entry : “U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report of an increase in the unemployment rate to 9.8 percent – a 26-year high – is bad news for American workers and their families. The U.S. lost another 263,000 jobs in September and 5.4 million workers have now been unemployed for 27 weeks or longer.

Looking at our state, about 120,300 Minnesotans lost jobs and went on unemployment from Jan. 1 to Aug. 31 while an estimated 1,000 people currently exhaust unemployment benefits each week, said Dan McElroy, Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). State figures show that for every job vacancy, there are 7.7 people looking for work.

Representative Paulsen knows the problem exists.
Representative Paulsen believes that jobs must be created.
Representative Paulsen misses the point that to create jobs, demand … customer demand must be there … but too many people are curtailing demands because they are working less hours, are in fear of losing their jobs, or do not have jobs. The simple fact is that businesses want customers ... and after they get customers, then they will rehire.
The need is now … people want to work … but if there is an oversupply of workers, does the Country want to encourage more foreclosures, more people scrimping on healthcare needs, and draining food shelves ?

When the question of extended unemployment benefits was being voted on in 2008, it was cited that “Extending unemployment benefits has the potential to help the entire American economy. According to the Congressional Budget Office, it is one of the most cost-effective and fast-acting ways to stimulate the economy because the money is spent quickly. For every $1 spent on unemployment benefits generates $1.64 in new economic demand.”
Denying extension of benefits actually hurts the country.
At that time, the complaint was about Republicans John Kline (MN-02) and Michelle Bachmann (MN-06)] and their failure to support this increase … now Erik Paulsen has joined the minority.
As pointed out in that commentary, the Federal Unemployment Tax Trust Fund is over-funded … these funds were saved for this rainy day. Business paid into the fund, so that if there would be a downturn, that their workers could get some money to pay for basic needs … and keep local businesses going.

In the past, Representative John Kline has said federal unemployment benefits are needed only when there are desperate economic conditions … well, Represenative Kline acknowledged on February 13, 2009 that “our nation facing economic distress” as evident by Le Sueur County unemployment rising to 10.1 percent. Yep, in case you were wondering, Representatives Kline and Bachmann voted again against this extension.

Why ?

Let’s look at what Country First is supposed to preclude : personal ideology, state, or partisan interests.

First, Representative Paulsen voices a personal ideology of government spending needs to be curtailed … okay, but these funds are coming from an overfunded FUT Trust Fund. Representative Paulson can fall on the old line that “such assistance threatens to stem the economic upturn” if businesses have to pay higher taxes, but since the monies are already in the FUT Trust Fund, that argument is invalid. Representative Paulsen’s opposition may please a segment of the Republican faithful, thus his opposition may be more to ensure that he does not have a primary challenger from within his party.
Representative Paulsen fails on this test putting his personal ideology (and self-interest) over Country First.

Second, it is true that “today”, only 22 states will benefit from this extension and Minnesota is not one. And that is why this is good legislation … there is a high threshold … helping only those states that really need it now … but the forecast is that Minnesota will soon be in that group. Also, when Federal benefits cease, there is an impact on state resources.
Representative Paulsen fails on this test putting his state over Country First.

Third, partisan interests does not apply as a majority of Republicans supported these extensions.
Representative Paulsen fails on this test.

In my view, Representative Paulsen is not putting Country First … much less his constituents and makes me appreciate more how great a Congressman Jim Ramstad was.

Monday, October 05, 2009

MN-02 : Why Isn’t Kline Condemning Increased Federal Role in Education ?

From MinnPost, Representative John Kline (R-MN) speaks about his new legislation : “The Teacher Incentive Fund puts states and local communities firmly in control of efforts to improve teacher quality. This is precisely the type of reform we should be embracing - models that allow parents, teachers, and local school leaders to work together to develop systems that meet each community’s unique needs.

Does it do that ?

My reading of HR 3683 doesn’t indicate that.
Parents are not mentioned in the legislation but the Secretary of Education is given the authority to distribute the funds as deemed worthy. There is a requirement for matching funds from “State, local, or philanthropic funds which should be sufficient to “sustain the activities at the end of the grant period”. Those eligible to apply for the grants include charter schools and depending upon the interpretation possibly religious-based schools … not necessarily the theoretical “troubled inner city school”. Funding is not required to be spent and may not exceed 3% of the budget.

IF Representative Kline really wanted to enact legislation, then where are the co-sponsors ? Where is the companion bill in the Senate. 96 members (82 Representatives and 14 Senators) have worked as educators, as a teacher, professor, and/or school administrator … but do the legislation’s prime authors, Representatives Kline and Tom Price M.D. (R-GA) have any real world experience teaching in elementary or secondary schools ?

Most surprising is that the legislation is being offered by two Representatives that warn of the “takeover by the federal government”.
The question should be coming straight from the Heritage Foundation playbook : Only the federal government can handle national defense, international relations, and the administration of federal laws. But why should politicians in Washington decide how education dollars are spent in Lakeville, Minnesota or Marietta, Georgia ?
Typically, the message from Conservatives is to shutdown the Department of Education and allow states flexibility and control over their own education programs, but this gives more authority to the federal government !

So why is Representative Kline offering a bill that gives greater authority to the federal government while creating an unfunded program that states would be stuck with the bill if the program ends ?
I don’t know, but I do know if a Democrat offered the same plan, Representative Kline would be the first to condemn it.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

MN-01 GOP Blind to NICE

In The Republican Party of Minnesota's First Congressional District blog, Bruce Kaskubar warns about Eye Care in the UK.

I don’t know if Mr. Kaskubar is an ophthalmologist and I do not think that his intention was to scare us, but instead was to express concerns about healthcare legislation – specifically a “rationing board”.

Mr. Kaskubar cites an OpEd that was printed in the Wall Street Journal concerning the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) – the UK board that promotes "best practices" in medicine.

One might think that if it is printed in the WSJ, that it is current and factually correct, but be warned it can also be misleading and ill-informed.

Mr. Kaskubar accurately cites “In 2007, the board restricted access to two drugs for macular degeneration, a cause of blindness. The drug Macugen was blocked outright. The other, Lucentis, was limited to a particular category of individuals with the disease, restricting it to about one in five sufferers."

OK, blindness is scary … but shouldn’t the question be asked : Why did NICE restrict use of these drugs?

On January 2, 2007, Genentech Inc., the manufacturer of Avastin™ (bevacizumab) and Lucentis™ (ranibizumab), informed ophthalmologists that the ongoing SAILOR clinical study revealed a higher incidence of stroke in the 0.5-mg Lucentis™ dose group. When Lucentis™ was initially approved for use, the warning label expressed concerns of the theoretical risk of thromboembolic events with intravitreal inhibitors of VEgf,3 a drug class that also includes Macugen™ and Avastin™.

Ah, that poses an interesting question --- is the risk of a stroke worth preserving the patient’s vision ?

There is also the question of cost. In the US, Lucentis™ runs close to $2,000 per monthly shot (and if the coverage is through Medicare, the co-pay is $400). By contrast, Avastin™ — a close biochemical cousin to Lucentis™ — is priced for use in far larger doses as a cancer treatment, so the tiny amount needed for injections into the eye costs only about $40 a shot. Genentech makes both medicines and has been under pressure for the pricing of Lucentis™ when Avastin™ is apparently effective in treating wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) … as it is in treating colon, lung and breast cancer.

Those two reasons would seem to be valid justification for NICE to restrict usage while it studies the drug.

In the US, the FDA is involved in the CATT Study which has the primary aim to evaluate the relative safety and efficacy of treatment of subfoveal AMD with both Avastin™ and Lucentis™, determine an appropriate dosing schedule and, to see if there is any clinical difference between the two drugs.
I wonder if the FDA had issued the same ruling as NICE did, would Mr. Kaskubar or the WSJ writer complain that the motivation was due to rationing ?

Incidentally, Mr. Kaskubar and the WSJ writer failed to update the status from NICE’s 2007 instructions. NICE in August 2008 issued a report authorizing the use of Lucentis™ with the UK government paying for the first 14 injections in each eye being treated. If people need more than 14 injections per eye, the manufacturer has agreed to provide the drug at no additional cost.

The obvious question is : What is the price of Lucentis™ in the US versus what it is in the UK ?

Now, I am not an ophthalmologist … and that’s the point … the concept of a second opinion is always beneficial … and NICE seems to be contributing to that goal.

Common folks, like me, rely on the medical community to know what to do … but that may be idyllic.

Governor Tim Pawlenty has complained about direct-to-consumer prescription drug advertising resulting in increased number of patients asking physicians for treatments because they heard about it on TV or a friend told them about it. Additionally, the pharmaceutical industry pays physicians to give “educational” seminars on their products creating a potential conflict of interests. Eli Lilly was fined $1.4 billion dollars in January to settle a lawsuit by the federal government that it illegally promoted drugs while Pfizer paid $2.3 billion fine in September for the same activity. Recently, Schering-Plough offered a variety of psychiatrists around the country up to $1,600 a day and $170,000 total to talk about Saphris, a new psychiatric drug.
Clearly, costs are being impacted ... and that's where the issue should be --- not "rationing".

Let’s not be blind to misleading stories … it is a fact that “rationing” occurs today when insurance companies decide if they will cover a drug or procedure.

Let’s not promote fear.

Mr. Kaskubar is concerned about a “rationing board” but fails to acknowledge that the Obama Administration's proposal for a Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research does not have the same authority as NICE does.
IMO, that is a mistake.

Let’s enact reforms that promote “best practices”. Controlling costs and ensuring best practices can best be achieved when government is involved protecting consumers and patients.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Walz Calls for Town Hall Meetings - So should Kline

Being honest with the public is the best policy. Sometimes the subject can be contentious and the public ill-informed … that’s why members of Congress need to reach out to their constituents and educate them.

First District Congressman Tim Walz (D-MN) has never shied away from engaging with his constituents … long before this summer’s Town Hall hysterics, Representative Walz had open forums discussing Veterans issues, Senior issues, Agriculture issues, etc. … issues that directly affected his constituents. During the current health care debate, Representative Walz has held private meetings with interested groups as well as tele-town hall meetings and open meetings in Mankato and Rochester.

Second District Congressman John Kline (R-MN) has shied away from open meetings only holding one during his first three terms and finally after the August recess, Representative Kline held his only public meeting to present his opposition to the HR 3200 healthcare legislation at Lakeville South High School on September 18th.

Healthcare reform is not the only critical question facing the country … and not the only one that has long-term financial impacts.

Representative Walz appeared on MPR’s Midday program stating that Americans should be as engaged in the discussion about the war in Afghanistan as they are in health care reform.
Further Representative Walz put it in perspective of dollars, families and our future : “We spent $900 billion in the last eight years, we've sent over 4,000 of our warriors that didn't return, we've got another 20,000 severely wounded and this is a choice that this nation's going to have to think very carefully about."

Representative Walz wants to hold a Town Hall meeting to discuss Afghanistan … possibly in Winona in October.
That’s why I like Congressman Walz. He wants our input.

Representative Walz will not be coming into the meeting as a partisian blind supporter of the Department of Defense’s viewpoint. Walz has had on-the-ground vantage of seeing operations in action (and without a kelvar vest). At the invitation of the House Armed Services Committee, Representative Walz, who sits on the Veterans Affairs Committee, inspected Special Forces training operations in Mali, Kenya, Djibouti, and Afghanistan, from August 27 to September 3rd.
Representative Walz will be able to educate us and also be able to react to our concerns.

Regardless of the party of the President, this time it is not going to be a partisain issue. Now that Bush’s War has turned into Obama’s War, I suspect that some of the fiscal conservatives that opposed the military involvement in Kosova during the Clinton Administration, will take a harder look today. Former Congressman Gil Gutknecht opposed Kosova and after his visit to Iraq expressed concern of that mission. Columnist George Will has called to pull out of Afghanistan. (On that suggestion, I agree with Representative Walz who has expressed doubt that anti-terrorist operations can be conducted solely by remote controlled Predator drones and spy planes.)

Let’s commend Congressman Walz … but he is not the only member of the Minnesota delegation that has responsibility for military oversight.

According to his bio, Representative Kline considers himself to have “established himself as one of Congress’s foremost experts on defense and veterans issues.” Representative Kline serves on the House Armed Services Committee and in April, 2009, he made his third trip to Afghanistan.

While Representative Walz has maintained an open mind, Representative Kline, in a radio interview on the AM 1170 KOWZ, expressed his staunch commitment for the engagement in Afghanistan. But Representative Kline has failed to address the financial impacts of the ongoing war. On a previous program, Representative Kline defended his support for an earmark for funding additional F-22A planes as a “jobs program” … without acknowledging that the plane has not been used in the Iraq or Afghanistan conflict … and that the Department of Defense does not feel any more need to be built.
Representative Kline has been a vocal critic of earmarks … but his words do not match his vote. The DOD authorization is chockfull of projects that DOD does not want … including VH-71 presidential helicopter, an alternative engine program for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, extra C-17 transport planes and F-18 jets, as well as the Kinetic Energy Interceptor, a missile defense program.

It’s time that Representative Kline holds a Town Hall meeting to discuss Afghanistan and why he voted for these earmarks. Kline needs to educate the voters and get his constituents’ input.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Tim Pawlenty Heeds Advice from Don Draper

” If you don’t like what is being said, change the conversation.”
~ Don Draper - Mad Men- Episode 29 “Love Among the Ruins”

The tide has turned in the emails that I get from people outside of Minnesota asking about Minnesota politicians.

No longer do I have to explain that nothing Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-MN-06) says surprises me. From her days in the Minnesota State Legislature when she effectively shutdown the Senate by inciting people to demonstrate at Senators’ legislative offices until there would be a vote on same-sex legislation, to her caucus packing to get the Republican nomination for Congress and her election victories with the assistance of Minnesota’s Independence Party, Bachmann’s history is well known.

No, the current questions are about our Minnesota Governor. Typically, they want to know what happened to him with such comments as “he seemed to be someone that seemed normal”.
The latest questions are a result of Pawlenty’s comments about President Obama’s address to students which Pawlenty states that it could be disruptive and raises concerns "about the content and the motive." The Republican governor also said on his WCCO radio program that the speech is "uninvited."

While some may view Pawlenty’s remarks as just another Republican politician taking a potshot at the President, my view is that Pawlenty is listening to Don Draper. Draper has worked on behalf of Republican candidates for President before (pro bono work with Nixon. Draper says: "Kennedy? Nouveau riche, a recent immigrant who bought his way into Harvard. Nixon is from nothing. Abe Lincoln of California, a self-made man. Kennedy, I see a silver spoon. Nixon, I see myself.")
Draper’s 2012 campaign would pit Harvard Obama versus Pawlenty "the son of a truck driver and a housewife from a meatpacking town who wants to provide a better quality of life for ordinary folks without growing government." … a PR dream candidate … and Pawlenty plays hockey !

Draper knows PR.
When a prospective client from Madison Square Garden expressed concerns of what is termed a “vocal minority” opposed to tearing down Penn Station to build the new arena, Draper’s advice was to ”change the conversation”.

Pawlenty’s goal is to promote a national profile for himself while hiding his Minnesota performance. It’s the Minnesota problems that ”If you don’t like what is being said, change the conversation” lead to his attack on Obama for speaking to children.

On Tuesday, when Obama is addressing schoolchildren, Pawlenty will be facing a “leadership” question.
On that day, three former governors, nine former leaders of the state House and Senate, the state economist and state demographer will hold a Leadership Summit. The meeting was a suggested by former Governor Arne Carlson, a Republican, and former Congressman Tim Penny (D-MN) to consider balanced-budget solutions which will be necessary after Pawlenty unilaterally cut important state programs and pushed a $6-7 billion budget deficit off onto the next period.

Pawlenty’s radio attack on Obama was less than 48 hours after Carlson was on Minnesota Public Radio previewing the Summit. Carlson was blunt in his comments – Pawlenty has reduced reserves and relied on borrowing to push the problems beyond his term. Carlson faulted Pawlenty on his leadership.

And as far as the summit goes, Pawlenty has declined to participate. Instead he will join other Republicans at Eaton Corp. in Eden Prairie to discuss GOP strategy.

Carlson comments are not new … similar concerns have been expressed by former Republican Governor Al Quie … both who experienced significant budget problems during their tenures. But both engaged with the legislature and showed leadership … leadership that they still exhibit today.

Too much commentary will be made about Pawlenty’s comments that parents don’t have to submit their children to Obama’s message, but the parents should be more concerned about Pawlenty’s message to schools … telling them “see ya next year” … as he is shifting school payments from one year to the next --- a move that Pawlenty says will save $1.8 billion on the current budget. This “accounting shift” will result in school boards having to take unwise financial actions … such as the Bemidji School Board which has authorized the borrowing of $9 million to cover the funding shift. The School District will also have to pay interest fees from the borrowed money.

Don Draper is a fictional character; Tim Pawlenty is playing with our real money and leaving Minnesota in a financial mess.
So, I will respond to those emails telling them that Pawlenty may make a nice appearance on television, but he is not a leader. Rather Pawlenty is someone, like Bachmann, who can attribute his election victories to the impact of the three party system in Minnesota where minority rules.

In closing, another quote from Don Draper may be appropriate for the wannabe Presidential candidate Pawlenty. Followers of Mad Men know that Don Draper is the persona assumed by Dick Whitman ... who throughout his new life preaches that whatever failings that may be attributed with the past, can be ignored ... so Governor Pawlenty wants to ignore the financial implications of his tenure.

"Get out of here and move forward. This never happened. It will shock you how much it never happened."

Thursday, March 26, 2009

What would Thomas Jefferson think of Bachmann and Coburn comments ?

Revolution talk is in the air.

Last week, the Tulsa Beacon reported that Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) said “I like the idea of tea parties and a real revolution.
During the same interview, Coburn was asked about The Freedom of Choice Act and how people should react if it was enacted.
Dr. Coburn’s answer? "Civil disobedience.”
Coburn went on to say “The battle in Washington, D.C. is real. Every day in the Senate without Al Franken is a great day.

Saturday, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-MN:06) told WWTC 1280 AM, "I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax because we need to fight back. Thomas Jefferson told us 'having a revolution every now and then is a good thing,' and the people -- we the people -- are going to have to fight back hard if we're not going to lose our country.

Would the Founding Father recognize – Revolution, Civil disobedience, Battles, Armed and Dangerous – as the political discourse prevalent in our nation 220 years after the Constution was approved ? Hardly.

Thomas Jefferson would not appreciate having his words mangled and taken out of context. Jefferson never said or wrote 'having a revolution every now and then is a good thing,'; Jefferson did write to Abigail Adams in 1787 (Note : Jefferson was in France during 1787) “The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all. I like a little rebellion now and then. It is like a storm in the atmosphere."
So a number of thoughts.
First, it was written before the US Constitution was approved, and the Congress or President elected. America was still in its development.
Second, he clearly stated that “resistance” is based on “certain occasions” … in other words, a limited application. A “little rebellion” which is a vast difference from a “revolution” to overthrow the government. Today, peace protest marches have replaced armed rebellions.
Third, Jefferson eventually saw that the elective form of government was working and in 1806 wrote “In a country whose constitution is derived from the will of the people directly expressed by their free suffrages, where the principal executive functionaries and those of the legislature are renewed by them at short periods, where under the character of jurors they exercise in person the greatest portion of the judiciary powers, where the laws are consequently so formed and administered as to bear with equal weight and favor on all, restraining no man in the pursuits of honest industry and securing to every one the property which that acquires, it would not be supposed that any safeguards could be needed against insurrection or enterprise on the public peace or authority.
In other words, voters should use the ballot box for protest … not insurrection.

The common denominator for Coburn and Bachmann is their opposition to abortion and a proposed “cap and trade” legislation.
Jefferson may have an opinion here also. After his presidency was over, Jefferson wrote in 1816 “Each generation is as independent as the one preceding, as that was of all which had gone before. It has then, like them, a right to choose for itself the form of government it believes most promotive of its own happiness; consequently, to accommodate to the circumstances in which it finds itself that received from its predecessors; and it is for the peace and good of mankind that a solemn opportunity of doing this every nineteen or twenty years should be provided by the constitution; so that it may be handed on, with periodical repairs, from generation to generation, to the end of time, if anything human can so long endure."
So Jefferson was in essence suggestion that the Constitution was not a fixed document, but that new generations may look at issues differently.
A March 2009, Zogby Poll found that nearly 42 percent of the respondents said they "strongly agree" while another 16.5 percent who reported that they "somewhat agree" with the president’s proposal "that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America."
A January 2009, ABCNews/Washington Post Poll found that over 80% approved of abortion which involved saving a woman’s life, health or in the case of rape or incest. Further, 57% considered it should be legal in most cases.
My point is not to debate “cap and trade” or abortion, but just to point out that if Jefferson’s concept of a new constitution every generation may produce – over time – a country that addresses gay rights, health care reform, gun restrictions, etc in an entirely different approach than today … and that Coburn and Bachmann may not like what the “people” would enact a new constitution.

Using terms like Revolution, Civil disobedience, Battles, Armed and Dangerous is totally inappropriate by someone elected and sworn to uphold the Constitution.
The words inspire Anarchy.
According to a Bachmann spokesman, her remarks about Revolution were Metaphorical.
That response is insufficient.
These comments could easily be denounced by Democrats, but it really must come from Republicans. No doubt that “Cap and Trade” is a contentious issue … after all, Bachmann was unable to get the RNC Platform Committee to included any amendments to oppose cap-and-trade. This is understandable considering that Senator John McCain was a proponent of the legislation. McCain was not alone. Norm Coleman was a co-sponsor of John Warner and Joe Liebermann legislation. Although Coleman is not presently a member of the Senate, he could exercise great leadership by denouncing both Coburn’s and Bachmann’s choice of words.
Another Minnesota Republican that should denounce these words is Governor Tim Pawlenty. Pawlenty approved the Next Generation Energy Act of 2007 which addresses a multi-sector cap-and-trade program.

The country has too many problems that need addressing that require reasoned discussions, not rhetoric that is designed to incite a radical emotion.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Overwhelming Support for Lily Except for House GOP Women

Today, President Obama has signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 ... his first piece of legislation.
Legislation that was driven by a woman, so do women support this legislation ?
Let’s look at the scorecard : Senate 100 % approval (16 yes and Zero No votes) while the House approved 59 to 16 with two not voting.

So who are these House Nay-Sayers ?
Michele Bachmann (R-MN)
Judy Biggert (R-IL)
Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)
Ginny Brown-Waite (R-FL)
Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV)
Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO)
Mary Fallin (R-OK)
Virginia Foxx (R-NC)
Lynn Jenkins (R-KS)
Cynthia Lummis (R-WY)
Mary Bono Mack (R-CA)
Candice Miller (R-MI)
Sue Myrick (R-NC)
Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA)
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)
Jean Schmidt (R-OH)
Note : Kay Granger (R-TX) did not vote on the initial version ( Roll Call 9 ) but did vote NO on the final version ( Roll Call 37 ).

That’s right, every NO vote in the House came from Republican women !
Yet in the Senate, EVERY Republican Woman voted FOR this legislation.
WHY the difference ?
Congresswoman Bachmann defended her vote on her blog entry .
Time will tell if the Congresswoman’s concerns are valid. She writes ”This would likely increase the number of frivolous pay-discrimination claims in future years, since older claims are more subject to faded memories, missing documents, unfound witnesses, and businesses that have changed hands or no longer exist. In the Fall of 2010, it would be a fair question to ask the Congresswoman how many “ frivolous pay-discrimination claims” have been filed … my gut tells me that she won’t have a significant number to report.
Republicans have not fared well in the past two elections. Women elected under the Democrat banner far exceed the Republican women. Somehow, this vote may not help their future cause.

Of course, this is only the women in Congress. The men had a say in this vote (the House male vote was 186 to 155 in favor). I wonder about some of those men. While I am sure that Hope Walz is proud of her poppa (that would be First District Democrat Tim Walz) for supporting this legislation, I wonder how Sixth District Congressman Erik Paulsen (R-MN) will explain his vote to Cassie, Briana, Tayler, and Liesl Paulsen. That may be a difficult conversation especially when President Obama cited protecting his two daughters from future wage discrimination while recognizing the employment of his maternal grandmother.

Although the 111th Congress is just starting, there is already a too strong partisan bent. There are some issues that should be above party ranker … yet the Republican women in the House would rather follow their Party Managers instructions than stand up as the Republican women in the Senate did.
Change needs to start in the House.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

GOP Not Serious About Earmarks; Dems Not Serious About Reform

Congress is back !
While some things stay the same, other things change … and not for the better.

Oh, sure there are plenty of new faces --- each with unbridled optimism and good intentions. Alas, their first reaction must be … did you guys run last November ?
For those voters that thought that change would be in order, must now be seriously disappointed. In Minnesota, all the House incumbents were re-elected … but what changes will really happen ?

In the House on Republican side, Minnesota has returned John Kline and Michele Bachmann.
Kline’s major theme of his re-election was Stop the Pork while Bachmann is also on a pork-free diet. So, did the Republicans heed their campaign motto ? NO.
Pork can be best controlled through the Appropriations Committee which directs all federal discretionary spending. I have never heard Kline or Bachmann openly campaign for assignment to this committee. With Democrats increasing their overall numbers in the House, the Appropriations Committee ratio changed from 37-29 in the 110th Congress to 37-23 in the 111th, leaving Republicans with only two seats to fill after accounting for retirements and election losses. Of course, they could have re-assigned existing members including dishonored Jerry Lewis (R-CA) but that change is rarely made. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) who is an outspoken critic of wasteful government spending openly campaigned for a seat last session and for this new session. IF the Republicans wanted to stop the pork, they would have made sure that Flake got that assignment. Alas, the new members will be Tom Cole (R-OK) and Steven LaTourette (R-OH). Word is that Cole was promised the assignment in exchange for stepping down as chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee (no Blagojevich buy-out here).
Minnesota’s newly elected Erik Paulsen (MN-06) has been assigned to the House Financial Services Committee where Bachmann has served.
So, on the Republican side, Minnesota has lost its voice in the powerful Ways and Means Committee with the retirement of Jim Ramstad. Republicans filled six slots - Charles Boustany Jr. (LA); Ginny Brown-Waite (FL); Geoff Davis (KY); Dean Heller (NV); Dave Reichert (WA); and Peter Roskam (IL).
Voters were sold a “pig in the poke” with Kline and Bachmann’s ranting … they have started off this session exhibiting their failures to motivate their colleagues … all the while the grandstanding continues for voter’s obfuscation. Kline issues press releases while Bachmann editorializes about limestone sidewalks, skateboard parks and bike lanes. No doubt we will hear about these “earmarks” thoughout the session, yet they have failed to take the necessary action by making real change in committee assignments.
The GOP is playing us for suckers again.

And the Democrats are not starting out well either.
In the House, the Rules have been changed. Term limits on committee chairs have been changed while the “Pay-go” rules which required spending proposals to be balanced with revenue or cuts, have been gutted.

While Kline and Bachmann are pseudo-deficit spending and "anti-pork-barrel" politicians, Minnesotans in the First District remember a true fiscal conservative – Tim Penny. When Penny was in the House, he formed the Democratic Budget Group and when his party failed to reduce the federal deficit, he did not seek re-election. Penny saw the hypocrisy and excessive partisanship first hand. He wrote a book entitled Common Cents: A Retiring Six-Term Congressman Reveals How Congress Really Works--And What We Must Do to Fix it which he denounces the rules that make chairmen too powerful. Penny was right then and the Republicans changed those rules under the guise of the "Contract With America”. After the lessons of Tom Delay, Duke Cunnningham, John Doolittle, Jerry Lewis, and Rick Renzi just to name a few dishonored Republicans, the Democrats are reverting to the old rules just when Charlie Rangel (D-NY) ethics problems are being investigated. Rangel chairs the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. It was a good move when Henry Waxman (D-CA) took over for John Dingell (D-MI) as chairman of the influential Committee on Energy and Commerce. Failure to allow younger members like Tim Walz (D-MN-01) and Keith Ellison (D-MN-05) to assume responsibilities opposes the opportunities for change.

Walz should be angered by the relaxing of Pay-go rules as his votes last session clearly embraced that philosophy, and was a major theme in his election campaigns.

Somehow, I suspect that Penny, who must still be smarting over the over half a million in federal funds that was slipped into the 1991 budget at the last moment to preserve and enshrine Lawrence Welk's boyhood home in Strasburg, N D (pop. 623), must see that nothing has changed has changed in over a decade since he left Congress.

{NOTE : on the Senate side, the major committees that will impact spending include : Appropriations Committee - Minnesota does not currently have a member and the Democrats have a four seat advantage. On the Senate Budge Committee, Minnesota does not currently have a member and the Democrats have a three seat advantage. Franken may be in-line for a seat on the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee where the Democrats have a one seat advantage. The Coleman legal challenge is impacting Minnesotans from having input on shaping our fiscal future.}