Archive (2008)

Massa Gets *Gasp* Republican Endorsements

WETM reports on today's Massa press conference, where he was endorsed by Maj Gen (Ret.) John Batiste and former Horseheads Republican Committee Chair Sherman Moreland.

(Moreland isn't mentioned in the WETM piece, but a Massa press release includes him as another Republican endorsement.)

Update: Rochesterturning has video of Moreland's endorsement, which I've embedded after the fold. WENY in Elmira and Syracuse News 10 also picked up the event.

Update #2: Rochesterturning also has General Batiste's endorsement.

Everyone on the Bus

Chuck Schumer and Randy Kuhl are worried about high energy costs and school buses. Kuhl is encouraging constituents to fill out at web-based survey on the issue.

In rural areas, where busing is necessary, higher gas or diesel costs will have a major impact. Suburban districts have an easier solution: stop running close-in bus routes. In Pittsford, every student can take the bus to school, no matter how short the trip.

One of the good things about higher energy prices is that it gives us a chance to re-evaluate some government programs that are wasteful and perhaps even harmful. Rising childhood obesity didn't get close-in busing canceled. Perhaps high gas prices will.

Massa Press Conference: Foreclosure Prevention

Today's Massa press conference concentrates on the Foreclosure Prevention Act.

Massa began with a summary of the status of the bill, and a list of who voted for it:

Something happened this morning at 7 AM. President Bush signed into law HR 3221, the Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2008. As you all know, we've been watching for quite a while as the mortgage and housing markets have imploded. [...] There was a 15% decrease in home sales year-to-date this year.

Last week, 45 House Republicans and 13 Senate Republicans crossed party lines to pass the Foreclosure Prevention Act. Four New York Representatives voted "Yes": Peter King [NY- 3], John McHugh [NY- 23], Tom Reynolds [NY-26] and Jim Walsh [NY-25]. I would like to re-iterate my thanks and respect for their courage in doing so.

Massa noted that "the bill is not perfect," but he believes that it prevents foreclosures for 400,000 families, shores up the housing market, ensures the availability of affordable home loans, and lowers property tax for up to 30 million Americans. For those reasons, he said "I think it makes sense."

Massa called out a couple of what he thinks are the most important provisions of the bill:

At the crux of the bill is empowerment of the FHA. And while many call this a "hundreds of billions of dollars bailout", that's really a misrepresentation. The FHA is going to lenders who would be forced to foreclose, guaranteeing those loans, and presenting homeowners with schedules that can be met. The only way those loans can cost money is if those homeowners default on their debt.

[The bill] also opens a line of credit to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It's not a bailout. While I am not happy with what's happened, it's my choice to keep them solvent rather than watch our economy spin into a 1920's-style recession.

Massa concluded by noting that Randy Kuhl voted against the bill, saying "I disagree with my opponent."

Bob Clark from the Hornell Evening Tribune asked Massa to elaborate on how the bill cut taxes.

As these homes are foreclosed upon, those properties do not have taxes paid. If you're a homeowner, and the house you owned goes into default, the house sits vacant. Nobody pays property taxes on this. If you don't [have HR 3221], you'll see a huge increase n property taxes because nobody can contribute.

Massa noted that this phenomenon is already appearing in areas where the housing crisis has hit hardest: "Municipalities are struggling to maintain critical infrastructure."

I asked Massa whether why the shareholders of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac should have the share price of their stock protected by the bailout.

There's no doubt [that they shouldn't], and we've seen a devaluation. [...] The question is how much lower the stock can go before they go into default. When that happens, it's all she wrote. We're talking millions of mortgage owners in trouble. Though "bailout" has some validity, it's not a bailout like Bear/Stearns or a FDIC bailout like the one in California. This is actually a line of credit that ensures their solvency. It must be monitored very closely. In this bill is a whole new and largely missing seris of bank inspection and bank oversight that's largely gone undone in the Bush administration.

Massa added that he's not happy that the bill is missing accountability for major players like top officials and the Board of Directors. Finally, he noted that there's more of these types of unhappy compromises coming down the pike:

In many cases, as a philosophical statement, we're going to have to undo a lot of damage that has been done. Remember in the course of the 2000 election, the argument was about [...] how we're going to spend a $1.7 trillion surplus. It's almost unimaginable 8 years later that Governor Patterson is calling the legislature back into special session in the midst of one of the worst financial crises New York has ever faced. [...] We are now trying to figure out how to undo 8 years of catastrophic failure of this administration. [The mortgage crisis] is another brick in the wall. We must tear down the wall of failure of this administration. This will take imagination and compromises. There will be no silver bullet. Nobody will walk away happy.

The other reporter on the call was someone from WLEA radio in Hornell.

Reader Items: Yates and Stevens

Reader Rich sends news that the Yates County Democratic Party will be opening its campaign headquarters on Saturday, with Eric Massa in attendance. Yates, the smallest county in the 29th, went Kuhl by 8 points in 2006.

Reader Tom asks if Randy Kuhl took any money from indicted Senator Ted "Hulk Tie" Stevens [R-AK]. The answer is no, as far as I can tell from Kuhl's finance reports.

Blue Letter

I normally don't discuss letters to the editor, but reader Stan sent me a link to one in the Star-Gazette. The letter writer claims that Massa is out of line because he paid his wife $75,000 for accounting services. That charge appears to be false and politically stupid.

In this cycle, I can find $9,000 paid to Beverly Massa, all of which is reported on the latest quarterly filing. If someone wants to plow through all the filings, be my guest. I get the feeling that the letter writer looked at one filing and jumped to a conclusion about Mrs. Massa's salary.

Also, Randy Kuhl's son was his paid campaign manager last cycle. I don't know who's managing Kuhl's campaign this cycle, but I wasn't impressed with James' performance in 2006. See this post or this one for more details.

If hiring relatives is somehow wrong, then Kuhl's actions hiring his son are probably worse than Massa's. At least Massa's wife is a professional bookkeeper.

The S-G editorial page editor needs to do some fact checking before printing junk like this.

The Foreclosure Bill

Randy Kuhl was the only Western New York Republican to vote against the Foreclosure Prevention Act. An Olean Times-Herald story includes his explanation for the vote, and Massa's critique.

Kuhl repeats the Bush Administration line that one portion of the bill, $3.9 billion in grants for towns to secure foreclosed housing, was too generous. Unlike the Bush Administration, Kuhl also opposes the federal bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Kuhl's opposition to the Fannie/Freddie bailout makes sense. Even though those institutions are a weird federal/private hybrid, they issue stock, and the stockholders should lose that equity before any bailout. We have a quaint little tradition in this country called "capitalism", which seems to have been forgotten of late by the supposedly conservative, market-driven Bush Administration. The market is operating just as it should by devaluing Freddie and Fannie stock. There's no tragedy there.

But Kuhl's opposition to the $3.9 billion in grants makes no sense. It is in our national interest to help towns and cities where a lot of foreclosures have taken place. Those towns didn't create the mortgage crisis, and allocating money to let those towns board up or demolish abandoned homes is no different from helping after a flood or tornado.

If we were feeling the heat of the mortgage crisis in the 29th, this vote would have been political suicide. As it is, I think it will be forgotten, despite Massa's best efforts to make it an issue.

Campaign Office Update

Both the Kuhl and Massa campaigns continue to open local offices.

Last week, Kuhl opened an office at 15 State Street, in Pittsford, which is next door to Massa's 2006 office. I don't remember a Kuhl office in the Monroe County area last cycle, certainly not in Pittsford.

Yesterday, Massa opened an office in Horseheads, Chemung County. Chemung was the closest Southern Tier county in the 2006 race, with Kuhl winning by 4 points.

Mailing Receipts and Vets Issues

WETM carries Randy Kuhl's call for his constituents to mail gas receipts to Nancy Pelosi. Kuhl's justification is that "Democrats have failed to take any action on lowering gas prices."

Setting aside the question of whether Congress can do anything to affect gas prices in the short term, it's also true that Republicans have failed to take any action on gas prices. Here's Minority Leader John Boehner's address, for those who want to waste time and stamps on this idiotic venture:
1011 Longworth H.O.B.
Washington, DC 20515

In other news, the Hornell Evening Tribune has a story about Massa's new plan for Veterans, and Kuhl's mental health caucus.

American Idol?

Kevin Frisch, who I think writes for the Messenger-Post, has a long riff comparing Kuhl's Fix Washington program to American Idol. A taste:

MANDEL: “Next contestant: Chester Drawers from Dry Heaves, Fla.”

CHESTER: “Let’s outlaw taxes!”

JACKSON: “Dawg! You’re crazy! You’ve heard the phrase ‘death and taxes.’ You wanna live in a world where it’s just ‘death’?”

ABDUL: “Outlaw taxes? Wouldn’t that be, like, against the law?”

COWELL: “Did I say the last idea was stupid? It’s as if you ate that whole pot of cooked stupid and then washed it down with a pitcher of stupid.”

In more serious news, Jane Flasch at the 13WHAM blog has crunched the money numbers and found that Eric Massa is the top fundraiser in Rochester.

Morning News: Vets and Mortgages

Grievous Angel at Rochesterturning has a follow-up piece to yesterday's Massa press conference. It looks at TRICARE, the federal program for those who are ineligible for VA benefits, such as National Guard and Reserve. Massa's plan would expand VA benefits to include Guard and Reserve vets.

The Buffalo News has a backgrounder on the recent mortgage rescue bill. Randy Kuhl was the only member of the area delegation to vote against that bill. Though the Bush Administration had issued a veto threat, they backed down after Congress agreed to the Freddie Mac/Fannie Mae line of credit.

Afternoon News: Oil, Fix Washington and Vets

The Messenger-Post has a scathing editorial criticizing Nancy Pelosi and Randy Kuhl's arithmetic. Randy's plan is up for the harshest criticism.

The Hornell Evening Tribune has a piece on Kuhl's "Fix Washington" plan.

Eric Massa's new VA plan has already made the New York Observer.

Massa Press Conference: A New Veterans' Plan

Since Grievous Angel at Rochesterturning has a full write-up of Massa's Press Conference, I'll stick to color commentary on this one.

This plan is a big deal. It advocates major, systemic changes in the way we handle Veterans' health. Veterans' care has been effectively rationed by a system where Vets must travel to a VA hospital or clinic to receive care. In rural areas, as Massa pointed out, this means hours of car travel. Even in the Rochester area, there's no inpatient medical facility. If a Vet needs surgery, they must travel to Buffalo or another area hospital.

In other words, today's VA is a treatment system. Massa's proposal would turn it into a hybrid treatment and insurance system. Vets would be able to receive treatment at non-VA facilities "when there are no VA facilities in the area." In those cases, being a Vet is like having an insurance plan.

Massa's proposal to change the VA system to the equivalent of an insurance card may lead to more utilization of VA benefits, and therefore more cost. Veterans who use private insurance today because of the hassles involved in the VA system might choose to use the VA if they can keep their local providers.

The most controversial part of Massa's proposal is the inclusion of Veterans families in the mix. This is an extension of the traditional role of the VA which will probably draw a lot of criticism.

Other than the family provision, it's very hard for a politician to stand up and argue against Massa's plan. It's mainly a practical list of things we must do if we're going to keep our promise to take care of the Veterans of our two lengthy and costly wars.