Sunday, March 27, 2011

MN-02 : Kline Eerily Silent After Taxpayer Victory on JSF Engine

It seems that John Kline (R-MN-02) takes every opportunity to alert voters to Washington’s Reckless Spending … but not this week when the Department of Defense issued a stop-work order
DOD Issues Stop Work Order on the JSF F136 Extra Engine Program

The Department of Defense (DoD) today issued a stop work order in connection with the Joint Strike Fighter extra engine program.
The administration and the DoD strongly oppose the extra engine program, as reflected in the President’s fiscal 2012 budget proposal that was recently submitted to Congress, which does not include funding for the program. In our view it is a waste of taxpayer money that can be used to fund higher Departmental priorities, and should be ended now.
The House of Representatives has recently expressed its own opposition to the extra engine in its passage of H.R. 1 including the adoption of the Rooney Amendment which removed all fiscal 2011 funding for this program. In addition, funding for the extra engine was not authorized in the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2011, enacted in January. In light of these recent events, Congressional prerogatives, and the administration’s view of the program, we have concluded that a stop work order is now the correct course. The stop work order will remain in place pending final resolution of the program’s future, for a period not to exceed 90 days, unless extended by agreement of the government and the contractor.

Some considered this to be a victory for the TaxEnoughAlready movement that advocate Fiscal Responsible operation of OUR government.

Yes, some did issue press releases …
Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) :
I have long called for the elimination of funding for a second F-35 jet engine which is a wasteful use of taxpayer money," said Senator Collins. "As we begin to tackle the mounting debt, we must eliminate programs like this that are duplicative and unnecessary. I applaud the Secretary of Defense's decision to halt further development of the extra engine."

Congressman John Larson (D-CT-01) I applaud Secretary Gates for following through on his commitment to end the Joint Strike Fighter’s duplicative ‘extra’ engine program,” Congressman Larson said. “This program is the epitome of government waste, one that the Secretary himself referred to as an ‘unnecessary and extravagant expense.’ Today’s decision will save the American people nearly a million dollars a day and bring to close an issue that has been debated in Congress for more than 4 years. I hope that my colleagues will now join me in focusing our attention on more pressing national security matters.

Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) The termination of the alternate engine program is an essential step toward focusing our scarce defense dollars on the programs that will actually help keep America safer, ” Lieberman said. “As American service members fight to defend our freedoms and safeguard human life across the world, I hope that today’s decision will allow Congress to set this long-debated matter aside and move on to the critical business of the American people.”

That’s correct, Republicans, Democrats and Independent members of Congress laud this ending of another example of Washington’s Reckless Spending.

So, how did this happen.
First, let’s give credit to the man who put the nail in the coffin by corralling 47 freshman House members to score a 233–198 vote on an amendment that scuttled the program … Congressman Tom Rooney (R-FL-16)
Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of my amendment striking funding for an extra engine for the F-35 fighter Jet to immediately save American taxpayers $450 million dollars.
“It is dubious why Congress continues to fund a program that the Air Force, Navy, the Marine Corps and Department of Defense adamantly state they do not want. Just today, Defense Secretary Gates called the program “an unnecessary and extravagant expense” and stated that this money is needed for higher priority defense efforts. As we decide which cuts to make in our defense, ones that won’t hurt our troops today, this should be at the top of the list.
“Mr. Speaker, the American people sent us here to change how Washington works. This amendment is a perfect opportunity to show your constituents that business as usual in Washington is over. I urge my colleagues to follow through with their promises, to listen to the voters on why they sent us here, and vote to strike funding for this expensive and unnecessary program. Thank you and I yield back the balance of my time.”

Normally, Mr. Kline likes to promote these successes …. but on the F136 alternate engine for the Joint Strike Fighter, Mr. Kline was eerily silent.

Why because Mr. Kline voted to keep the funding going … as did potential President Michele Bachmann (R-MN-06) and Raymond Cravaack (R-MN-08).

The Pentagon opposed this program … as did the Bush Administration and the Obama Administration, yet Congress kept funding it.

The choice should have been clear … support John Boehner (R-OH-08) whose chief beneficiary, General Electric is a major employer in Ohio … or support Fiscal Responsible spending.

This vote tells voters who are the Faux Fiscal Conservatives that are working for the Washington powerbrokers … who are truly concerned about addressing wasteful spending.

THANKS to Tim Walz (D-MN-01), Erik Paulsen (R-MN-03), Betty McCollum (D-MN-04), Keith Ellison (D-MN-05) and Colin Peterson (D-MN-07) for voting to end this wasteful program.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

How Much Will it Cost for Walz’s Vote on HR 910 ?

The House is rapidly moving forward legislation that could dramatically impact America’s dependence on foreign oil … as one Congressman stated it “could save 1.8 Billion barrels of oil while saving money at the pump.

With legislation of this importance, I am glad that I received a telephone call urging me to contact my Congressman, Tim Walz “to support the passage of the H.R.910 ” -- Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011. The caller quickly confirmed that I was concerned about the rising cost of energy and that “job-killing” regulations must be stopped. I informed the caller that I was concerned about ALL legislation but needed to be informed before I could comment. I asked him if he could tell who the “Sponsor” of the legislation was ? What committees had held hearings on the legislation ? What the Congressional Budget Office report said about the financial implications of the legislation ? And of course, what was the Constitutional authority that was cited for this legislation ?
The caller did not have any of this information … but said the Tim Walz needed to hear from me to support H.R. 910.
I asked him if was calling other states to encourage people to contact their Congressman … Yes, he said he was encouraging people to contact Larry Kissell (D-NC-08), Tim Ryan (D-OH-17), Russ Carnahan (D-MO-03), and others. I said that I would review the legislation and contact Congressman Walz with my view on the legislation but I could not promise him that I would tell him to support HR 910.

Frankly, I was surprised to get a call … after all, I am an independent voter .. having never given a dime to any candidate nor any political party … nor worked on any campaign.

So, who is paying for these calls to be made ? ? ?
According to Maplight, supporters of this legislation contributed to the campaigns of Minnesota Representatives in Congress :
$513,148 – Michelle Bachmann (R-MN-06)
$145,210 – Erik Paulsen (R-MN-03)
$110,050 – John Kline (R-MN-02)
$ 25,500 – Colin Peterson (D-MN-07)
$ 15,050 – Tim Walz (D-MN-01)
$ 11,200 – Keith Ellison (D-MN-05)
$ 2,250 – Betty McCollum (D-MN-04)
$ 1,000 – Raymond Cravaack (R-MN-08)

Obviously, HR 910 is an important piece of legislation to some very important special interests … and those special interests seem to believe that Republicans will understand their concerns.

After seeing the dollars being invested, the next question would be “What’s the facts ? ”.
A quick check of Politifact reveals a FALSE evaluation of the statement that HR 910 will “restrain this regulatory overreach that will restrict oil supplies and cause gasoline prices to rise."

That’s what this legislation is really about … not the the price at the pump, but regulations … as the bill states clearly :
To amend the Clean Air Act to prohibit the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency from promulgating any regulation concerning, taking action relating to, or taking into consideration the emission of a greenhouse gas to address climate change …

Simply, this legislation will permanently block the EPA’s ability to limit carbon pollution as the bill expressly repeals EPA’s 2009 greenhouse gas reporting rule.

Essentially, what the Republicans want is inaction … and although it is easy to blame this on the Obama Administration, I am struck by a January 2008 letter written by Stephen Johnson, the former EPA administrator, sent to President Bush.

“A robust interagency policy process involving principle meetings over the past 8 months has enabled me to formulate a plan that is prudent and cautious, yet forward-thinking. It creates a framework for responsible, cost-effective, and practical actions.''
He added that actions to reduce carbon emissions, “should spur both private sector and investment in developing new, cost effective technologies and private sector deployment of these technologies at a large scale.

In an earlier commentary, the benefits and costs were presented :
The EPA values the benefits as :
“Today’s action would yield more than $120 billion in annual health benefits in 2014, including avoiding an estimated 14,000 to 36,000 premature deaths, 23,000 nonfatal heart attacks, 21,000 cases of acute bronchitis, 240,000 cases of aggravated asthma, and 1.9 million days when people miss school or work due to ozone- and particle pollution-related symptoms. These benefits would far outweigh the annual cost of compliance with the proposed rule, which EPA estimates at $2.8 billion in 2014.”

Why would anyone want to delay $120 billion in annual health benefits ?
The costs are estimated at $2.8 billion ... and existing technology will be used ... and many producers are using this technology.

In fact, the EPA proposals are NOT geared toward small business as the Republicans portray …
from July 1, 2011, until June 30, 2013, only new sources that emit at least 100,000 tons of greenhouse gases per year or existing sources seeking to increase pollution by at least 75,000 tons per year will be required to obtain a greenhouse gas permit.
And for the period after June 2013, EPA has said that it would not even consider applying greenhouse gas requirements to facilities that emit less than 50,000 tons of greenhouse gases per year.

Oh, yeah, regarding the Constitutional authority for this legislation, the Republicans cite Article 1 Section 8 Clause 3 which empowers the Congress to : To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States … hmmm … so the Republicans are rejecting a States Rights argument for protecting air quality … interesting … gosh, I would have thought they may have cited Clause 8: To promote the Progress of Science but that would imply that they believe in science.

Interestingly, HR 910 is called the Energy Tax Prevention Act but EPA has no authority to levy taxes, nor does the Agency propose to do so. Once again, another “name” bill that is really a misnomer.

Also, while the Republicans may like to spin this legislation as a response to gas prices, the good folks at Annenberg Public Policy Center have reviewed the claim that the Obama Administration policies are to be blamed for the rise in the price of gasoline … once again, another FALSE claim. A tip of the hat to Penigma for the Factcheck link .

I will send Congressman Walz an email on HR 910 … and I will tell him to vote against the Republican legislation … no matter how much money the special interests may throw at him, it is not forward-thinking legislation.

For our country to reduce our consumption of oil, improvements in technology are needed. The people funding the campaigns to advance HR 910 are doing so that they maintain their current controls over our dependence … it’s no wonder that John Kline (R-MN-02) wants to kill the FreedomCAR … the oil producers sell more gallons with inefficient vehicles.

Oh, yeah, that Congressman who discussed “save 1.8 Billion barrels of oil while saving money at the pump was talking in opposition to HR 910 ... he knows that regulation will encourage investment in "developing new, cost effective technologies and private sector deployment of these technologies at a large scale" ... the Bush EPA Administration knew what to do, but the current Republicans are too busy protecting their special interests.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Remember 9/10/01 – Kline Eerily Silent on Nuclear Safety

The deadly earthquake and tsunamis of March 11, 2011 in Japan resulted in four nuclear power plants in Fukushima Prefecture to be immediately shutdown due to safety concerns about damage sustained and prompted the evacuation of thousands of local residents. Subsequently, Fukushima Daiichi and Fukushima Daini nuclear power plants experienced multiple explosions, threats of leaking radiation, and possible nuclear meltdown.

As the potential tragedy of unthinkable concerns swept the world, this should be just the incentive for American leaders to review the safety of our nuclear industry … and ascertain whether there are ample plans and resources for a potential diasaster.

The debate is not over the future of nuclear energy but instead are we prepared for such an event.

The potential consequences of a nuclear event has been known …. ranging from schoolchildren of the ‘50s practicing “desk safety” to the severe accidents at Three Mile Island in 1979 and Chernobyl in 1986 which occurred when a handful of known problems -- aggravated by a few worker miscues -- transformed fairly routine events into catastrophes.

As such, when there does not appear to be regular reporting of problems, everyday families assume things are good.
But ignorance is not bliss … as the safety record of the nuclear industry is not as good as it could be.

In 2010, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), reported on 14 special inspections it launched in response to troubling events, safety equipment problems, and security shortcomings at nuclear power plants … such as at Calvert Cliffs (MD), Brunswick (NC), Oconee (SC), Browns Ferry (AL), Kewaunee (WI), Peach Bottom (PA), Indian Point (NY), and Vermont Yankee (VT). At Indian Point, for example, the NRC discovered that the liner of a refueling cavity at Unit 2 has been leaking since at least 1993. By allowing this reactor to continue operating with equipment that cannot perform its only safety function, the NRC is putting people living around Indian Point at elevated and undue risk.

The last time America had to react to a major event was September 11, 2001 … and we learned then that our elected leaders were not focused on the threat.
Just the day before – September 10th -- two of our leaders showed that al Qaeda was not the consideration as it should have been.

The New York Times reported Attorney General John Ashcroft’s “Sept. 10 submission to the budget office, Ashcroft did not endorse FBI requests for $58 million for 149 new counterterrorism field agents, 200 intelligence analysts and 54 additional translators. Ashcroft proposed a $65 million cut for a program that gives states and localities counterterrorism grants for equipment, including radios and decontamination suits and training."

Another example comes from the Vice President. On May 8, 2001, President Bush appointed Vice President Cheney to head a task force "to combat terrorist attacks on the United States." Newsweek reported that when senators "sent a copy of draft legislation on counterterrorism and homeland defense to Cheney's office on July 20." On 9/10/2001, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) tried to get a meeting with the Vice President to discuss plans for homeland security due to the "lights blinking red," as the 9/11 Commission Report put it. Cheney’s Chief –of-Staff, Scooter Libby, told her "that it might be another six months before he would be able to review the material."

The decisions of 9/10 may not have changed the events of 9/11, but it shows the mindset that are political leaders operated under.
Rationalization is inappropriate a response.

It’s for that reason that I am deeply disappointed in the leadership of John Kline (R-MN-02), the Chairman of the Education and Workforce Committee.
Mr. Kline has not offered any public comment on how prepared we are for an event impacting the two nuclear facilites in Minnesota. With over 2.9 million people within fifty miles of the 1974-built Prairie Island facility and the 1981-built Monticello facility, which has the very same model as Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant, the General Electric Mark I reactor, Minnesotans have some concerns.

Workers could be placed in similar situtation as in Japan … yet, Mr. Kline, just as he did during the Massey mine disaster, has remained silent. Just another example, that workers face a greater threat to life at work than in the warzone.

Mr. Kline has offered press releases on other subjects … endorsing budget cuts approved by the Republican-managed House.
Yet, these cuts may cause greater impact than the dollars they potentially save.
The House CR would cuts $1.4 billion from first responder training resulting in a reduction of 46,000 emergency personnel trained in nuclear emergencies.
The bill also cuts various nuclear-related agencies and programs :
Office of Nuclear Energy - $131.8 million
Nuclear Nonproliferation - $ 97.7 million
Uranium Enrichment Decontamination and Decommissiong Fund - $70 million
Domestic Nuclear Detection Office - $ 32.5 million
And others.

Heck, even Forbes questions the wisdom of some of the Republican proposed cuts stating the cuts “would have detrimental impacts on the state of American energy innovation”

The Republican-managed House has been in attack-mode on regulations, ignoring worker’s concerns while offering spending cuts. Mr. Kline is now firmly entrenched as a Washington-powerbroker, leaving Minnesotan families to wonder if there will be enough potassium iodide if needed.

Mr. Kline continues to be a loyal foot soldier and not a Representative concerned about Minneaota workers and families. Heck, Mr. Kline has not even joined Betty McCollum (D-MN-04), Keith Ellison (D-MN-05), and 56 other Congressman in sponsoring a resolution acknowledging the the effects of the catasphere in Japan.

9/11 should have taught us that anticipation and preparation are part of our constant vigil. While the likelihood of a deadly earthquake and/or tsunamis is remote for Minnesota, the threat of a dirty-bomb or internal attack is not. 9/10 should teach us to not be so quick to make budget cuts without considering the consequences.

Mr. Kline, please do the right thing … think of us in Minnesota.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

MN-02 : Kline’s Operating Expenses Increase over 10%

Across the nation, Americans have demanded Washington make tough choices and real sacrifices to get our budget in order and put our nation back on the path to long-term prosperity. The day of reckoning is here, and the time to demonstrate the leadership our country desperately needs is now.
--- John Kline (R-MN-02) March 9th, 2011

Big talk – and a familiar refrain – but Mr. Kline has failed to control the area that he has direct and complete authority for … his Congressional Office expenses.

Essentially, there are two main components of Mr. Kline’s budget … people and operating expenses.
If you have read this commentary, then you know that Mr. Kline was quite generous awarding employee bonuses.
But what about the other areas … some should be standard such as office rent and as such should be stable and somewhat difficult to affect. While others are in his total control, such as travel. How often he sends his staff traveling is entirely within his control (heck, many business promote teleconferencing to minimize travel). In that area, Mr. Kline did well … in 2009, he spent $75,801.69 and in 2010, he spent a slightly lower amount at $72,476.98. Essentially a wash.

OK, so much for the good news.

Not surprisingly, if you read this commentary on the MN Political Roundtable, you are aware that Mr. Kline has a spending problem with printing literature and Franked Mail.
For the year, Mr. Kline’s Franked Mail expense grew from $92,942.59 to $125,939.89 in 2010 --- a 35% increase. Heck, while Mr. Kline refused to participate in any live debates prior to Election Day, Mr. Kline sent out 65,742 pieces of Franked Mail during the last quarter at a TAXPAYER cost of $28,370.
Printing costs was also an “easy way to spend our TAXPAYER dollars”, as it increased over 16% from $36,481.32 to $42,542.28.

Was that worth it?
Mr. Kline won re-election quite easily … campaigning on a message of constraining government spending … yet, he cannot control his own wasteful spending.


For the record, Mr. Kline’s expenses were :
$ 92,942.59 - Franked Mail
$ 937,963.22 – Personnel Compensation
$ 75,801.69 – Travel
$ 77,702.53 – Rent / Communications / Utilities
$ 82,721.46 – Printing and Reproductions
$ 64,909.45 - Other Services
$ 42,542.28 – Supplies and Materials
$ 2,513.37 – Equipment

$ 125.939.89 - Franked Mail
$ 950,941.90 – Personnel Compensation
$ 72,476.98 – Travel
$ 92,725.13 – Rent / Communications / Utilities
$ 96,007.51 – Printing and Reproductions
$ 58,524.71 - Other Services
$ 36,481.32 – Supplies and Materials
$ 3,685.73 – Equipment

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

MN-02 : Pity the Part-time Worker who only got a $1500 Bonus

Does anyone remember these words “The American people are tightening their belts and making tough decisions, and they expect the same of their elected leaders. It is time for Washington to get its priorities straight, put our fiscal house in order, … John Kline June 4, 2010

Well, maybe, Mr. Kline would not want you to know how he put his fiscal house in order … his Congressional staff.

For a little background, please read this.

Well, fast forward … the year is now over and the public is finally able to see how Mr. Kline has “rewarded” his staff …. when the year comes to an end, a Member of Congress has a choice, he can not spend his Member's Representational Allowance to the maximum or return unspent monies to the US Treasury.

In the past, it was not uncommon for Mr. Kline to award $2,000 to $3,000 bonuses … but this year with the focus on the expanding national debt and “overpaid” government workers, what would Mr. Kline do ?

Well …. Let’s look at some of his employees who have a little tenure.

$3000 bonus for his legislative correspondent.

A caseworker is awarded a $3500 bonus (up from $2500 the previous year).

$3500 bonus for his District Office Manager (previous year the bonus was $2000 and $1500 the year before)
… okay, it appears Mr. Kline is rewarding a slightly higher amount this year.

But what about a part-time employee ... she got a $1500 bonus (up from the previous year of $1000 which was up from the prior year's $700 bonus)
… work part time or full time, it appears that Mr. Kline is spending more.

But that’s not all of them.
A Constituent Services representative was awarded a $4,600 bonus plus a 7.4% wage increase.

His Legislative Director earned a $6700 bonus this year (up from $3000 the year before)

The District Director was awarded a $9000 bonus (up from $3000 the year before).

Mr. Kline's Communications Director was awarded a $10,200 bonus which was up from $3940 the previous year (plus a 5.9% increase in base wage.)

Being responsible for salaries on for a Congressional Committee also provides Mr. Kline with an opportunity to award bonuses. For example, his Senior Legislative Aide moved over to the House Education and Workforce Committee ... he got a $8,750 bonus .... while Mr. Kline District Staff shares an employee with the Committee ... she did not earn a bonus on Mr. Kline's Congressional Staff Budget, but the EWC gave her over $9000 .

Mr. Kline certainly can talk about belt tightening but when it comes to his staff, these government worker’s compensation just keeps growing … like the national debt that Mr. Kline has helped increase with his reckless operational spending.

When the Republicans cut this year’s MRA (by about $60,000), every TaxEnoughAlready advocate should be asking why isn’t it more … heck, Mr. Kline has awarded over $40,000 in bonuses to just these few employees.