Archive (2007)

Two New S-CHIP Arguments

S-CHIP is clearly causing some pain at Kuhl HQ. In the past couple of days, his office has made two new (to him) claims about the program, all in an apparent attempt to dodge the contention that he voted against America's kids.

The first claim is a press release which says that Kuhl actually voted for S-CHIP, because he voted for a continuing resolution that funded S-CHIP at its current levels. That near-unanimous vote was stopgap measure to prevent expiration of the current program while Congress and the President went through the veto-override-redraft cycle with the new version of the program. Kuhl did vote for it, but the headline ("Kuhl votes to Extend Childrens Healthcare with SCHIP") is extremely misleading -- the "extension" that everyone (but Kuhl) talks about is the real bill, not this temporary measure.

The second, and more interesting, argument concerns S-CHIP eligibility in New York State. The New York income limit for S-CHIP is 400% of the poverty line, which is a little over $80K for a family of four. Randy makes much of this in a recent blog post, and it is a real issue. The Water Buffalo Press has an in-depth examination that's worth reading. It includes a look at the eligibility requirements versus the stated rationale for S-CHIP. Realistically, most people at 400% of poverty have health coverage through their work. It's worth asking how raising the limit that high in New York will benefit low-income families who can't afford insurance.

Though this is the first time that Kuhl has raised this objection, it's a common Republican talking point. I asked Eric Massa about it three weeks ago. In essence, his response was that the issue comes down to the bottom line of how we distribute health care in this country. That's true, and it's a discussion we need to have. Unfortunately, the S-CHIP discussion is now at a soundbite level. Judging from Kuhl's various attempts to spin his S-CHIP vote, the Democrats' soundbite (Republicans vote against children) is sticking.

"Slow Congress" Revisited

Randy Kuhl's latest blog post adds some facts to his contention that this Congress is slow. Kuhl claims that the current count of bills signed into law (82) is too few, and that too many of those bills (36) merely name post offices.

Absent from Kuhl's post is some important context. Let's compare the current Congress' numbers to the first session of the Republican-controlled 109th Congress. As of September 29, 2005, which, like today, was the day before the end of Congress' work that month, 76 laws had been signed by the President. Here's the last bill Bush signed on that day.

As for the issue of Post Offices, a little over 25% of the laws passed by the 109th Congress had to do with naming federal buildings.

The use of statistics without context is a classic, and annoying, political tactic. Nobody, other than an expert, has any idea how may bills the average Congress passes in nine months. Without context, Kuhl can spin a number into anything he wants it to be. With context, it becomes a non-issue. Always doubt a politician who bases an argument on bare numbers offered without context.

Massa in DC

Eric Massa is in Washington, DC meeting with Democratic leadership and third-party groups, so there was no Massa press conference today. In possibly related news, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has a little under $20 million in the bank. Its Republican counterpart is a little over $2 million in the hole.

S-CHIP and Water

Today's paper Rochester Democrat & Chronicle front-pages yesterday's S-CHIP vote. The story isn't online yet. Randy Kuhl voted against final passage of the bill as amended by the Senate.

The Elmira Star-Gazette reports that a $5 million project in Elmira relies on the HR 1495, the Water Resources Development Act. This bill passed the House with almost no opposition (and Randy Kuhl's support) in May, and recently passed the Senate with a veto-proof majority. President Bush has threatened a veto.

Randy on RealID

Randy Kuhl has a new blog entry re-iterating his opposition to Governor Spitzer's policy granting illegal immigrants drivers' licenses. In the post, Randy adds some facts to his earlier allegation that the 9/11 hijackers' possession of licenses helped them accomplish their attack. He also points to his support of the RealID Act in the 109th Congress as an example of how identification should be handled.

It's nice to see a substantive post on Kuhl's blog, and Kuhl identifies a number of real shortcomings in our immigration system. But the underlying fallacy of the post, and the RealID act, is the notion that better identification alone will somehow fight terrorism.

To understand this point, I have to untangle two threads going through Kuhl's post. The first is his list of fraud and deception used by the 9/11 hijackers and other terrorists. Randy quotes a report which details the ways that 94 terrorists were able to enter and remain in the US. The report found that 59 of those terrorists committed immigration fraud, and many of them relied on falsified documents "including driver's licenses, birth certificates, Social Security cards, and immigration arrival records". Another common form of fraud was sham marriages.

These cases of immigration fraud are serious, but they have little to do with the Spitzer proposal. As Spitzer said when explaining his proposal: "The D.M.V. is not the I.N.S. [Immigration and Naturalization Service]". In issuing licenses, the DMV is concerned with making sure that drivers are qualified and insured. Like every other agency which relies on documents, the DMV participates in a web of trust, assuming that other document-issuing agencies are doing their jobs. It would be expensive and extremely inconvenient for the DMV to re-verify visas or naturalization documents. We can't afford to make the DMV into a proxy immigration agency.

So, in response to Kuhl's examples of terrorist fraud, the obvious answer is for the federal government to fix the problems in the INS that led to this fraud. The wrong answer is to use state government as a backstop for an incompetent bureaucracy. The DMV needs to stick to its knitting, which is making sure drivers are competent and insured. In that context, licensing illegal immigrants makes sense, because it will reduce insurance costs by increasing the number of uninsured motorists. The state estimates that the rule change will save New Yorkers $120 million yearly.

So, a bigger drivers' license bureaucracy isn't the answer to our immigration problems. A national id, like RealID, doesn't do the job, either. RealID is simply a better way to determine that person X is who he says he is. But knowing that X is really X doesn't tell us anything about X's intentions. Every one of the 9/11 hijackers presented a valid ID card before they boarded their planes. Even Ted Bundy had a valid drivers' license. If he had a super-valid, nationwide ID card, would he have been caught any sooner?

I don't need to go into the risks to liberty created by one standard, nationwide id. Ron Paul has that covered. This country has long resisted that move, and states are again fighting it. It's ironic that a "conservative" like Kuhl is championing this kind of big government program.

The bottom line in all of this is that New York State should feel free to issue drivers' licenses in whatever way they think will make the roads safer. And we shouldn't have to carry a nationwide id because identity is not intent. Randy Kuhl's diagnosis is right: our immigration system is dangerously broken. His suggested cure -- interfering with states' rights and a Big Brother ID card -- is dangerously wrong.

Pork Part 2: How Earmarks Shortchange New York

Part one of my earmarks series was a basic introduction to earmarks. In part two of my series on earmarks, I want to show how earmarks shortchange New Yorkers, and how earmarks directed to small, red states come out of our pockets.

year, I wrote a
that pointed out the general inequity in redistribution of
tax dollars. In 2004, New York was 43rd in the ranking of states
receiving money back from the federal government. For every dollar of
taxes paid in to the Federal Government, New York got 79 cents back.
My piece also presented a couple of examples of deluxe airports in
North Dakota financed in large part by homeland security money. In
2004, North Dakota received $1.73 for every dollar sent to Washington,
more than twice New York's share.

Earmarks: click to enlargeThe "dollars back" picture is
for overall federal funding. The picture for earmarks is even more
grim. The chart at right is from the
Many Eyes project.
The size of the dots indicate the per-capita
amount of earmark money received by each state in 2005. The big fat
dot is Alaska, which received a stunning $1,012 per person in
earmarks. North Dakota's no Alaska, but its two senators and one
representative managed to wrangle $135 per person. You might need to
get out a magnifying glass to see New York's paltry $29 per person --
we're the little orange dot at the right.

It's no coincidence
that some of the biggest abuses of both earmarks and grants have come
from the smallest states. The href="">"bridge to
nowhere" in Alaska is the most popular example. The few million
dollars in earmarks obtained by Randy Kuhl are dwarfed by this $223
million bridge. It's also no coincidence the two most senior members
of the Alaska delegation are under
, and one may
have been recorded accepting bribes.

The immense direct
power of earmarking leads to huge temptation to use that power for
personal gain. Even if there's no corruption involved, the
redistribution of tax dollars favors small, rural states. Because of
earmarks, New Yorkers are paying extra taxes to fund silly stuff like
go-nowhere bridges and palatial, untraveled airports.

candidate in this race has yet raised the fairness issue, but I think
it's worth a look, especially because it cuts across party lines.
Small-government conservatives should be disturbed by the amount of
federal intrusion required to redistribute our funds to rural states.
Anti-corporatist and pro-grassroots progressives should be bothered by
the degree of corporate control exercised via DC lobbyists.

Even though conservatives and progressives should be united on this
issue, it's a tough sell in the current environment. Local and
state governments have come to rely on a steady stream of grants and
earmarks to finance local projects. Congressmen and Senators have
made their ability to deliver pork a cornerstone of their campaigns
and fundraising efforts. Neither local nor national legislators
want to risk a change in a system that they've spent their careers
learning to manipulate.

Seafood Diet

In the last week, Randy Kuhl has tried to feed the residents of the 29th a bunch of red herring.

The biggest fish on the menu was Kuhl's reaction to the ad. Kuhl's official statement about the MoveOn ad last week wasn't enough. This week, his new blog contains an entry lauding Petraeus as "A True American Hero" and criticizing Democrats who wouldn't attack MoveOn.

While I agree that the MoveOn ad was clumsy and stupid, it's worth noting that Kuhl's site contains twice as much comment on that ad than on Petraeus' statement itself. Kuhl issued one short statement on the President's address last week. As part of his misdirection strategy, Kuhl would have us pay more attention to one ad in the New York Times than an entire war.

The second fish that Kuhl wants us to swallow is that Congress is moving too slow, and not attending to important issues. That's true, of course, as it has been for decades. Kuhl issued another press release that argues that Congress is full of "good ideas gone bad". He singles out S-CHIP, Earmark Reform and Immigration as three good ideas that have been ruined by Congress. He presents nothing really new on S-CHIP, and I've dealt with his anti-S-CHIP talking points on Medicare and taxes and illegal immigration in previous posts. As for Earmark Reform, perhaps it doesn't go far enough, but the simple fact is that we know for the first time who inserted earmarks in specific bills, as the earmark page here shows.

The final stinking old fish that Kuhl is peddling concerns immigration. New York has begun to license illegal immigrants as drivers. Kuhl's reaction is to point out that the 9/11 hijackers had drivers' licenses. However, as Rochesterturning notes, the hijackers were in the country legally. Also, it's a pretty cheap shot for Randy to criticize New York State for simply dealing with a reality: illegal immigrants are going to drive. The twenty-year failure of our federal immigration policy has led New York to this point, and Kuhl knows it.

The Republicans in general, and Kuhl in particular, are desperate to divert attention from the unpopular war in Iraq. Nobody wants to talk about the war 24/7, but Kuhl's attempt to divert is as transparent as it is unpalatable. He needs to stop with the fish and serve up some beef.

Kuhl Says Congress Going Too Slow

Reader Elmer sends today's Corning Leader report (page A3 [pdf], jump [pdf]) from Randy Kuhl's Thursday press conference. Kuhl is frustrated with the pace of legislation in Congress. He thinks the budget might not be done until after October 1, and Congress might not adjourn before Christmas.

Judging how "fast" or "slow" Congress is working is difficult, but let's start with some facts. During the last non-election year (2005), the Republican-led House had voted 485 times by September 21. This year, the House has voted 890 times. In 2005, the House adjourned on December 19.

Here's what then-Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH-8) said in 2006 about adjournment dates:

It means nothing [...] You all know it means nothing because it really does mean nothing. Anyway, there is no reason to have a target adjournment on the schedule.

Kuhl on the Internet

Randy Kuhl is now a blogger. And, he's on Facebook and MySpace

Kuhl has 70 "supporters" on Facebook, compared to Massa's 326 "friends". On MySpace, Massa has 54 "friends", while Randy has 20.

Massa on Air America

The Massa campaign has announced that Eric Massa will be a guest on Air America's Young Turks program tomorrow morning at 7 7:30 AM. This is a nationally-syndicated program, but it does not air in any of the media markets in the 29th, so 29th residents will have to tune in on the Internet to listen.

Programming Note

I was unable to participate in today's Massa press conference due an interruption caused by a dirty four-letter word: w-o-r-k.

Back To Our Regular Programming

The dust-up over Iraq must be over for the moment, since Randy Kuhl's regular press releases are starting to get some play in the local media. The Star-Gazette reports that Kuhl and Earl Pomeroy (D-ND-AL) have introduced legislation to ensure that rural schools receive sufficient funds through the Rural Education Achievement Program. Kuhl's announcement of a grant also made the Star-Gazette.