Keep up the pressure, Stupak

August 29, 2009

Every once in a while, a member of Congress will display a brief moment if integrity, so allow me to praise someone on the opposite side of the spectrum for doing just that. Especially when it comes to the one issue in which integrity is vitally important. Bart Stupak, thankfully, is living up to his role as co-chairman of the House Pro-Life Caucus. He’s been standing up to the health care bill for taking a “wink and a nod” approach to funding abortion.

See, about a month ago, the Capps amendment unfortunately passed, which technically prevented abortion from being funded in the bill. Of course, it was all a ruse, a ploy by the Dem leadership to provide cover for their members while completely bypassing the issue. Essentially, the government will still be able to pay people to buy private plans that include abortion, which, lets face it, is the same thing. While Obama keeps arguing otherwise, FactCheck and others are saying otherwise.

To some members of the House, this Capps ammendment and Obama’s lying on the issue is enough to save face. Fortunately, Stupak doesn’t think so. He’s still refusing to vote for the bill the way it is now, and refuses to vote for any bill that doesn’t explicitly ban all federal money for abortion. According to a recent Time article:

The health-care reform proposed by House Democrats, if enacted, would in fact mark a significant change in the Federal Government’s role in the financing of abortions. “It would be a dramatic shift,” says Representative Bart Stupak, a Michigan Democrat who has vowed to oppose the bill because of how it would affect abortion.

In the meantime, Stupak says that Obama’s statements during recent public events signal one of two things: either he does not fully understand the current House bill, which Stupak maintains has the effect of publicly funding abortion, or “if he is aware of it, and he is making these statements, then he is misleading people.”

Look, whatever else I can say about him, that takes some guts. He’s basically accusing Obama of lying (sure, I did it too, but I’m not a Dem Congressman…). And he’s not taking the typical Congress BS compromises for an answer. Like I said, integrity.

And when it comes to an issue like abortion, such integrity is absolutely vital. We’re talking about innocent human lives here; not mere trivialities like money or jobs or health care. In terms of moral imperative, nothing else comes close. Unfortunately, the debate surrounding abortion sometimes seems to forget that, forget that the reason we care so much is because we’re talking about innocent children being slaughtered. A crude way of saying it, yes, but it’s what the pro-life movement believes. One’s electoral and political position should be irrelevent to the debate, and yet all too often politicians will compromise or ignore their conscience to gain power.

So to make this a huge issue, to publicly denounce Obama’s statements and publicly attacking his party rather than just voting against it and wishing the issue goes away, he’s doing his part to give the abortion issue the supreme importance it deserves. While I don’t know how it’ll affect his electoral position (probably irrelevent; he seems to be pretty entrenched), it certainly doesn’t endear him to advancing within his party. Yet, let’s face it, some things are more important.

Thus, in a grand spirit of bipartisanship, I salute his actions so far. But I note that the fight is not yet over. Stupak and the rest of the Pro-Life Caucus need to continue to make a stink about this. So do the rest of us who are pro life. And the stink needs to be an all or nothing deal. He needs to publicly fight Pelosi and Obama and not fall for any watered down amendments. Hopefully I won’t have to recant my praise for him in the future.


Another dark side of Cash 4 Clunkers

August 21, 2009

So, Cash for Clunkers was made to stimulate the economy.  We’ve heard an awful lot about the problems it has had so far.  In brief:

– It’s undoubtedly hurting charities.
– It’s well behind schedule in payments.
– It’s part of the “broken window” fallacy. Basically, it assumes you can create wealth by destroying wealth.
– It’s highly likely it will drive up the prices of both used cars and used car parts, thereby hurting the lower and lower-middle classes.
Etc., etc.

I’d like to mention something most don’t. Basically, one of the big problems with the “broken windows” fallacy is that it ignores opportunity costs. Fortunately, with C4C, we know exactly what that opportunity cost is. The extra $2 billion that was poured into the program came at the expense of loan guarantees for new energy projects. Think about that for a second. Think about what the opportunity cost was.

What does this mean? It means it’ll be harder for new alternate energy projects to be funded. These are the sort of projects that are the first ones cut during a credit crunch like this recession. After all, they’re unproven technology, and therefore high risk. Personally, I know over a dozen biofuel companies who have dramatically slowed down their commercialization plans after the big crunch last year. These people would love loan guarantees in order to star putting cement on the ground and get their projects running.

At worst, these loan guarantees would be no less stimulating than C4C, as any company that fails is no different than blowing up cars. In fact, in the grand scheme of things, its better, as every failed company tells everyone else what not to do, and thus increases the odds for everyone else.

At best, these loan guarantees would be a real stimulus, helping to form stable, long term companies that generate wealth and provide dozens of direct jobs without government funding. And would also reduce CO2 emissions if you’re into that sort of thing, possibly reduce energy imports, prove that such projects are possible and create a boom of new projects (thereby stimulating the economy even further), and so on.

Given the loss of 2 billion dollars of loan guarantees here, I think it’s safe to say that C4C has failed in stimulating the economy.


MO-04: A bellwether for 2010

August 17, 2009

There’s almost no doubt that the Republicans will gain back some ground in the House in 2010, barring some sort of epic meltdown or epic brilliance by the Democrats. The problem for Republicans, of course, is that they’re so far behind that “some ground” doesn’t need much. At this point, they need to get a net increase of 40 seats in order to regain majority status. Needless to say, that’s quite a challenge. Can they do it?

To answer that, I’m looking at Ike Skelton. Skelton represents MO-4, and has been for over 30 years. Just to give you an idea of what this means, this is a district that voted for John McCain in 2008. And by that, I mean McCain beat Obama 61-38. In other words, this is an extremely conservative District. And yet, Skelton’s a Democrat. And he’s been around for 30 years. He survived the 1994 elections. He survived the early 2000s. Clearly, he’s an example of a Congressman that people like. Despite the fact that his electorate is the type that undoubtedly despises Pelosi’s agenda, they have no problem giving the job to one of her allies (96% of the time, at least).

I’m not going to get into why that’s the case. But clearly, this is a guy who knows how to win elections. Hence why he’s my bellwether for whether or not 2010 will be a wave. If the Republicans can pull off a victory here when they couldn’t do it at any time in the past, it means there really is a national movement afoot. It means that the Tea Party has tapped into something powerful, that people really are sick of the status quo.

It’s not as if this should be that hard. Again, this is a R+14 district. Skelton’s 77 years old and hasn’t had a serious opponent in ages. His 2008 opponent, for example, barely spent any money and had never been in office before. Skelton’s fundraising numbers, while not bad by any means, aren’t anything special. And he’s been in hiding during this recess, not willing to talk to incumbents about the oh-so divisive health care debate. Shouldn’t this be time that this conservative district says enough is enough?

And it seems that the Republicans might sense it too. Remember when I said this guy hasn’t faced a serious opponent in forever? State rep Vicky Hartzler and State Sen Bill Stouffer are both running on the Republican side. An honest to goodness primary between two elected officials? It’ll be interesting to see if either of these two can gather any momentum. Still, the fact that they’re willing to risk taking on a 30 year incumbent means they think the winds are changing.

If Skelton loses, I’d say there’s a good bet the Republicans will make that 40 vote threshold. If Skelton wins, expect the Democrats to remain in charge.

Open Congress for MO-04
CQ Politics News Story


A new ammendment for the Constitution

August 7, 2009

This whole “ramming legistlation through before anyone knows what’s going on” thing has to stop.  Congress could do it, but does anyone think either party would actually go for that?  Didn’t think so.  Therefore, time to change the Constitution.  Sorry about the wording; I’m not good with legalese

– Any bill to be voted on by Congress must be presented to the public in final form for a period of time prior to a vote. This period of time must be at least 24 hours for every 50 pages of text in the final legistlation. In other words, a 1000 page bill must be delayed 20 days prior to voting. Any amendments or changes to the bill will add additional time at a rate of 24 hours for every 20 pages changed or added. This rule may be waived by a 3/4 supermajority.