E-News December 11, 2009
The Week Just Past
"President Obama outlined another major new government "stimulus' and jobs proposal this week. While I am happy that the Administration has finally decided that people's anxiety about the economy and sky-high unemployment is real, I find it bizarre that he declared that the nation must continue to "spend our way out of this recession!'
"Yes, he actually said that!
"He did not identify a price tag for his package of new spending for highway, bridge and other infrastructure projects, tax breaks for small businesses and new tax incentives to encourage people to make their homes more energy efficient. His focus is correct, but a far cry from earlier "stimulus' spending that clearly failed to keep the national unemployment rate below eight percent. At least this time, he is not talking about the creation of new entitlements and financial bailouts of states.
"How will he pay for this new "stimulus' bill? He turns again to the Toxic Assets Relief Program (TARP), continuing to use it as a slush fund for politicians while adding to Washington's unprecedented deficit spending binge. Money that remains in the TARP fund and money that is returned by banks should be used for deficit reduction, as the law requires, not more spending.
"Less than a month ago, senior White House officials said that cutting the nation's record budget deficit is "foremost' on the President's mind. Remember his "war on deficits?' Clearly, the implications of a $12 trillion national debt and red ink as far as the eye can see continue to pile up, including Moodys' threat of a downgraded credit rating for the United States.
"Make no mistake, our economy will recover, but it will do so only because of the hard work and ingenuity of the American people, not because of wasteful Washington spending. And the economy will recover despite the efforts of the Administration and the Congress to enact a wide variety of job-killing tax increases and new proposals to "nationalize' more sectors of our economy. A government takeover of health care, a national energy tax, "card check,' and more tax increases are all policies that will cost America jobs and hurt our international competitiveness and our economy over the long-term."
Recommended Reading: "Stimulus III" editorial in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal:
Read Rodney: "Jobs should be Congress' Job One" in Sunday's Courier News:
Bad Idea of the Week: Spending Unused TARP Funds
The Toxic Assets relief Program (TARP) was sold to Congress last year as a loan program that would be mostly paid back to the Treasury, where its proceeds would be used to pay down the record-breaking budget deficit. Now, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Obama intend to use "excess" TARP funds, about $200 billion, all borrowed money, to finance another economic spending bill. TARP was a loan by the taxpayers made last year to prevent a collapse of the faltering U.S. financial industry -- a loan to be paid back!
Recommended Reading II: An excellent article, "The Coming Deficit Disaster" by Douglas Holtz-Eakin in the Wall Street Journal of November 20:
There They Go Again -- The Era of Big Government is Back!
The House Majority on Thursday finally passed a package of five appropriations bills for the fiscal year that began on October 1. Unfortunately, at a time when our economy is struggling and Americans are hurting, the $1.1 trillion "omnibus" bill increased federal spending a whopping 14 percent from last year!
Not surprisingly, Rodney voted "No."
Congress Passes Flawed Financial Regulatory Overhaul
In the midst of one of the worst economic downturns in recent memory, Congress this week turned its attention to addressing the root causes for the near collapse in the banking and financial services sectors, and true to its recent form, overreached in many, many respects.
Over the past two and half months, Rep. Barney Frank (MA) and his House Financial Services Committee has considered several bills intended to address issues it believed led to the crisis. Some proposals had broad bipartisan support, but many simply go too far and will have damaging effects on our fragile economic recovery and do little to restore consumer confidence.
Rather than debating each bill separately, Speaker Nancy Pelosi could not help herself and directed that Committee Chairman Frank construct yet another massive 1,279 page package -- a legislative monstrosity that is sure to grow as last minute negotiations produce amendments that will certainly receive a minimum of consideration before being voted upon.
More importantly, instead of rejecting the practices and policies that led to the current economic turmoil which has led to record unemployment and deficits, Chairman Frank and Treasury Secretary Geithner have authored a plan that makes permanent the failed policies of the past and fundamentally restructures the nation's free market system, placing it firmly within government's control.
The Geithner/Frank TARP II plan, H.R. 4173, would expose the taxpayers to further exploitation by making permanent the policies used to bailout politically connected corporations like Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and AIG, while restricting access to credit and increasing the costs of credit products used by small businesses on "Main Street."
There are many specific reasons to oppose H.R. 4173:
* The American people are tired of the endless taxpayer-funded bailouts that put Main Street on the hook for some bad decisions of Wall Street;
* The plan for financial regulatory reform proposed by Chairman Frank represents a "permanent" bailout and a job-killer.
* The House Majority wants a vast expansion the federal government and to empower Washington bureaucrats through the creation of yet another federal "mega-agency," called the Consumer Financial Protection Agency.
* The Majority wants to create a "credit czar" to dictate which financial products can and cannot be available to American consumers!
* Congress should not be penalizing hard-working families, who have played by the rules and lived within their means, for the wrong decisions made in Washington and on Wall Street.
Since the start of the recession more than 7 million jobs have been lost. The key flaw of the Frank regulatory reform plan is that it will restrict credit to families and businesses, leading to further job losses.
Rodney supports a better plan for financial regulatory reform, a plan that ends the era of taxpayer funded bailouts, ends the ability of the government to pick winners and losers, and puts personal responsibility back into our free markets.
Rodney Supports Tax "Extenders" But Opposed Pelosi's Tax "Extenders" Bill
The House Wednesday passed H.R. 4213, legislation that extends for one year a number of non-controversial tax provisions such as the deduction for qualified tuition expenses, teachers' out-of-pocket classroom expenses, the research and experimentation credit for businesses and an employer wage credit for activated military reservists. These and other tax provisions are currently scheduled to expire at the end of this year. Failure to extend this cumulative expiring tax provisions could have a negative effect on economic growth.
Rodney has supported these important tax provisions, but voted against the flawed House bill for two reasons.
"First, it simply makes no economic or fiscal sense to pay for this temporary tax relief with a permanent tax on investments. Especially as unemployment stands at ten percent and the economy continues to struggle, higher taxes on investments are particularly misguided," he said. "In addition, failure to extend the current Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) provisions will subject 26 million working families, including thousands in New Jersey, to an average tax increase of approximately $2,580 next year. Yet this bill does not address this important protection."
Health Care Update: Senate-Style
The U.S. Senate continued to wade through amendments to its version of the health care bill this week, struggling to meet the political imperative of delivering a bill to President Obama by year's end. At the 11th hour, Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV) announced a "broad agreement" that will move the Senate closer to a final vote on this massive legislation.
While the exact details are being withheld or have actually yet to be written, the new "compromise" includes an expansion of Medicare to let people ages 55 to 64 buy into the program. On its surface, the proposal raises many questions, including how will Medicare absorb another 2 to 3 million beneficiaries in light of the $500 billion Medicare cuts contained in the separate bills offered by both Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Reid?
The Washington Post expands on these important issues in a Thursday editorial:
Questioning The Federal Breast Health Task Force
Expressing his "deep concern" over the recent recommendations of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) regarding mammogram screenings, Rodney has asked Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius to provide detailed information about her department's own task force recommendation.
The USPSTF reported last month that women will not need mammograms to screen for breast cancer until they turn 50, overturning previous recommendations suggesting women receive annual mammograms to check for breast cancer after they turn 40.
He wrote: "It has also come to my attention that these new guidelines are primarily based on Swedish, British and Canadian studies. According to the British government's Office of National Statistics, 82% of British women diagnosed with breast cancer survive and the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation reports that 87% of Canadian women live compared to 98% of women in America, according to the American Cancer Society reports. These new recommendations, based largely on studies from countries with socialized health care systems, may confuse and scare people who may fear our country's health care system is headed in that direction."
Rodney has been contacted by many constituents who either know someone or are the one whose life was saved by this essential screening tool.
Defending the Navy SEALS
Coming to the defense of three "exceptional sailors," Rodney has joined some of his House colleagues in asking Defense Secretary Robert Gates to look into charges levied against three Navy SEALs in connection with the alleged abuse of a detainee in Iraq in early September.
The U.S. Special Operations Command, on October 2, charged three SEALs -- Special Warfare Operators 2nd Class Matthew McCabe, and Jonathan Keefe, and SO1 Julio Huertas -- with various violations after the early September capture of Ahmed Hashim Abed, whom the military suspects planned the 2004 ambush of four U.S. contractors in Fallujah, Iraq. You may recall that two of their bodies were burned and hung from a prominent bridge in Fallujah, an image that was broadcast around the world.
The three SEALs have all refused non-judicial punishment face arraignment on the charges this month. McCabe's special court-martial is expected to begin in January.
"We believe that prosecution of these men is not warranted," the House Members wrote to Gates. "As we understand it, there was no allegation of torture or sustained abuse. There was simply just this one alleged act," they wrote in the letter. "Prosecuting individuals for such a limited act seems to us to be an overreaction by the command."
The text of the letter to Secretary Gates:
"We are writing to express our grave concerns over reports that three Navy SEALs will face court-martial proceedings over their handling of one of the most wanted terrorists in Iraq. Based on the information we have, we believe that prosecution of these men is not warranted.
"As you are aware, in September, the three SEALs in question captured Ahmed Hashim Abed, the alleged planner of the March 2004 ambush in Fallujah that resulted in the killing of four Blackwater contractors. We all remember the horrifying pictures showing two of these individuals, whose bodies, after being burned and mutilated, were hung on a bridge over the Euphrates River.
"Since 2004, Abed evaded capture. However, in September, Special Warfare Operators 2nd Class Matthew McCabe and Jonathan Keefe, and Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Julio Huertas, undertook a mission that resulted in Abed's capture. Soon after his capture, an investigation was conducted based on reports that Abed had been struck in the stomach by one of the SEALs. As we understand it, there was no allegation of torture or sustained abuse. There was simply just this one alleged act. Prosecuting individuals for such a limited act seems to us to be an overreaction by the command. As a result of the investigation, the three SEALs refused to accept non-judicial punishment, believing, according to one of the defense attorneys that they are innocent of the charges. If convicted, they could face significant punishment of up to one year's confinement, a bad conduct discharge, forfeiture of a portion of their pay each month for up to a year and a reduction in their rank.
"It appears from all accounts that these SEALs are exceptional sailors, demonstrated by the fact that each had recently been advanced in rank. They captured a terrorist who had planned an attack that not only killed Americans but also maimed and mutilated their bodies. We believe that prosecution of these sailors for such an apparently limited action will have a negative impact on others in the military who risk their lives in dangerous, often ambiguous situation.
"Again, we strongly believe that these court-martial proceedings are not warranted and would urge that you review this matter."
Frelinghuysen's Park bill passes
The House of Representatives Monday passed legislation introduced by Rodney to allow the expansion of the Morristown National Historic Park.
"House passage of this legislation is important to the Morristown National Historical Park and to the region," he said. "This bill will allow the National Park Service and the good citizens of Morris County to protect for future generations another 100 acres of historically significant property."
The Morristown National Historical Park was established in 1933 as the nation's first national historic park. The park has a rich historical significance beginning with George Washington's encampments. New Jersey was literally the crossroads of America's Revolutionary War and represented a turning point in the Revolution. During two critical winters of the War, Morristown served as the headquarters of General Washington.
Since establishment of the park, property owners with adjacent land have offered to donate their property to the National Park Service. Due to an existing acreage ceiling, however, the Morristown Park cannot accept these donations.
H.R. 118 would extend the current acreage ceiling by 100 acres, thereby authorizing the Morristown National Historic Park in New Jersey the opportunity to make limited additions, from willing sellers or donors.
"Federal support for Morristown National Historic Park and the inclusion of additional lands present a unique opportunity for our government to express its commitment to preserving our past. Failing to do so may allow these historically important lands to go unprotected," Rodney said.
H.R. 118 must now be passed by the Senate before it can be signed into law by President Obama.