Friday, January 05, 2007

New Congress News Roundup

A few news articles for your reading pleasure as we begin the 110th.


From the Jackson Citizen-Patriot, a few items of note:

Looks like the presidential quest isn't the only 2008 race abuzz in the blogosphere, punditocracy and Washington insider press.

Daily Kos, Inside Michigan Politics and Roll Call have deemed the 7th District congressional contest one of the hottest in the country -- and U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg,

R-Tipton, was sworn in only today.

"One of the hottest in the country"! And no, I don't mind that they didn't mention another blog that's interested in the race...

Former U.S. Rep. Joe Schwarz and lawyer Brad Smith are rumored Republican challengers. State Sen. Mark Schauer, D-Battle Creek, has swatted away speculation about his candidacy but is still considered his party's front-runner. And two-time Democratic nominee Sharon Renier says she's in.

As for Walberg, he says he's just focused on his new job.

But he does want to clear up one rumor about 2008.

"I'm not running" for president, he laughs.

Schauer's out (though, expect to see him pop up elsewhere after his term ends... he's a rising star in Michigan's Democratic Party), but there are plenty of strong candidates out there. Most interesting for me, I think, is the possibility of Brad Smith launching a primary challenge. Smith (son of former Congressman Nick Smith), though losing to Schwarz, got more votes in the 2004 primary than Walberg, and knows all the right people to run a campaign.

There are other things worth reading in the article, including a mention of a speech by Joe Schwarz and a Jackson Party fundraiser for the Democratic Party.

But, you know what? Congressman Walberg is right, he ought to be focusing on his job now, not the next election.

Walberg's Agenda

Once again, we turn to the Citizen-Patriot. What does Walberg hope to push in the new, Democratic Congress?
Michigan's only first-term congressman confirmed he plans to co-author legislation in line with his support of a flat tax and elimination of the Internal Revenue Service.
Ah, tax reform. I'm sure we'll be writing an awful lot about that over the next few weeks. Walberg has previously advocated the "FairTax" national sales tax, which would be about 23 percent on all goods and services. Never mind that lower-income families would pay proportionally more than upper-income families, or that, without the IRS (or similar agency), the burden of collecting the tax falls upon the state governments. And we all know that the state of Michigan has plenty of free time on its hands.
UPDATE: Cordelia at Michigan Liberal picked up on this as well, and offered this explanation of why the national sales tax is a bad idea. Once Congressman Walberg introduces a bill, I'm sure I'll have plenty of posts on the subject, but the short version is that taxes shouldn't be viewed as a punishment, but rather an investment in America. The amount you pay in ought to be based on ability to pay, and that's what the graduated income tax does.

For a different view, see Chad Sargent in the comments, and, out of fairness, (Just one minor complaint: cute names like "FairTax" really bother me. Give it a simple, unbiased and descriptive name, like "National Sales Tax." This goes for both sides of the aisle.)

What do some of Walberg's supporters hope for?
That's the conviction supporter Kathy Potts is counting on. As vice president of Jackson Right to Life, Potts said she's confident Walberg will champion anti-abortion bills.
Will his anti-abortion proposals simply seek to outlaw abortion, or will he support the 95-10 initiative of Democrats for Life-- a plan of reforms to reduce abortion by 95 percent over the next ten years? We shall see.

Of course, since 45 percent of Americans want action on Iraq (according to a CBS poll), more than any other issue, it will certainly come up. What are Congressman Walberg's thoughts?

Walberg also will have to weigh in on the Iraq war -- whose unpopularity helped swing Congress to the Democrats in November's election. While Walberg supports President Bush's policies, he said he hasn't decided if sending more troops to Iraq is the best course to take.

The congressman said Saddam Hussein's hanging last week could be a "first step" to stabilizing democracy in the insurgent-infused country.

"Maybe it will be like the pardoning of Nixon by Gerald Ford with getting the issue off the scene," Walberg said. "Saddam Hussein is no longer the poster child of captivity and repression by outside forces."

Saddam Hussein... Richard Nixon? Well, not the connection I expected, but it's nice that Walberg has our 38th president on his mind.

Still, as the article observes:
However, most of his work will probably be voting on the Democrats' first 100-hours agenda, which includes hiking the minimum wage and cutting student loan rates.
... which brings us to:

The Democratic Agenda

Here's what the new Democratic leadership has planned:

Democrats say the first 100 hours will emphasize protecting middle-class jobs, pushing health care reforms, breaking the ties between lobbyists and lawmakers and investigating the Bush administration's relationship with big corporations.

At the top of the legislative agenda are:

  • raising the minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to $7.25 an hour;
  • banning lobbyists from providing free meals and gifts to members of Congress;
  • slicing interest rates on college student loans in half;
  • allowing federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research; and
  • repealing federal tax breaks for the oil industry.
  • "We need to end subsidies for Big Oil," said Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Menominee. "The money should go into renewable fuels instead."

    Republicans call the 100-hour legislative agenda a publicity trick, noting that the Democratic leadership has failed to disclose any details about what's in the legislation. And even if bills are approved, they predict, it's likely President Bush will veto many of them.

    It'll be interesting to see how Congressman Walberg votes on all of these, considering how he voted in the Michigan House.

    Ethics: The First Complaint

    Jay in the comments shares this:

    [from Gongwer News Service]
    It appears U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Tipton) can expect supporters of former U.S. Rep. Joe Schwarz to be watching his every move. Mr. Walberg was the subject of a complaint filed this week over his use of the House seal for what the complainant argues is a campaign event.

    Law student Eric Weiler of Southfield, who worked for Mr. Schwarz in 2004 and 2005 but said he was not involved with the bitter campaign this past year, filed the complaint with the U.S. House ethics panel that Mr. Walberg was improperly using both the seal and his office space for a swearing in celebration Thursday.

    The problem, Mr. Weiler said, is Mr. Walberg’s campaign committee paying for an event that is announced with an invitation bearing the seal and held in the representative’s office.

    “I want to either bring some attention to this or see that Rep.-elect Walberg is investigated for this,” Mr. Weiler told Gongwer News Service.

    “You will note that the invitations have been disseminated electronically by partisan political organizations at the behest of Representative-elect Walberg,” Mr. Weiler said in his letter to the ethics commit-tee. “By virtue of this fact, and that the invitations bear the disclaimer of Representative-elect Walberg’s campaign committee, it is clear that the reception is political in nature, and that Representative-elect Walberg is misusing official House resources to both promote and conduct the event.”

    Joe Wicks, spokesperson for Mr. Walberg, said there was no violation because the invitation did not, in fact, contain the official U.S. House seal. “The official seal contains e pluribus unim; ours doesn’t,” he said.

    House Ethics Committee doesn't like folks tiptoeing around the House seal. If it looks official enough, (and given the current anti-corruption climate)they will come down on Walberg--fine most likely.-jay
    For other coverage, here's the Lansing State Journal's article.

    It's not the right foot to get started on, but I'm sure Congressman Walberg and his staff will be careful as they go forward.

    Labels: , , , ,

    I assume Walberg will brush off "Seal Gate" as just another stone cast from "Sour Grapes Schwarz."

    When one enters Congress there are certain rules, mores and things you just don't do. Using the seal is one of them. It is an ehtical minefield. While it looks like a simple act, it's part of Walberg's MO. He just doesn't care about silly rules and regulations, he thinks he's above such things. He's a preacher afterall and can do no wrong.

    Misusing the seal may be a simple thing, but it's pretty basic. If he can't and won't pay attention to the "little things" how will he respect the "bigger" ethical challenges when the come up?

    He needs to step up, do the right things and take responsibility.

    That is what big people do, but I guess he wouldn't know that.
    Schauer will be a candidate I'm willing to bet.

    He's a lot like a duck. On the polical surface, quiet and serene; but under the water he is paddling like hell.
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    A few comments on the FairTax in response to the ones here:

    Never mind that lower-income families would pay proportionally more than upper-income families…

    I see this point of view (wealth envy) often. It is a fact that some people have more money than others, therefore they spend a greater percentage of their income on expenses (including taxes). I don’t see this is as a problem to be solved, only a reality to accept.

    There are two things we can do with tax reform: one is to punish the people who work hard and produce by taking part of their earnings away in the name of “equal distribution of income”(before they even get a chance to spend, invest or donate). This is what we do now.

    The other is to get government’s hands out of our bank accounts by letting us get our money first, buy what we need to live and at the same time pay taxes to give the government revenue so it can serve us, the people, the way the founders intended. If we do that, the lower income citizens have a shot at becoming wealthier themselves.

    This is the way of the FairTax: With this plan, every household pays zero taxes up to poverty line, then we buy what we need and pay taxes as we go. The government gets its revenue, but we get ours first.

    …or that, without the IRS (or similar agency), the burden of collecting the tax falls upon the state governments.

    It’s not that much of a burden because the existing state sales tax authorities will assume the FairTax collection and audit duties, which will involve retailers, not individuals. This means compliance will be well over 90%, a feat that our current system can’t even come close to.

    All these facts and more are on the FairTax website.
    Would the FairTax be applied to food? What about gas? (I don't know if there are federal gas taxes, but I know MI takes several pennies per gallon.) What about services like college or insurance?
    The FairTax will be part of the prices of all consumer retail goods and services. Used goods will not include FairTax in their prices, since the tax was paid by the buyer when the product was new.

    Education, training, tuition and investment spending have no tax in their prices.

    The price of insurance premiums will include tax, but not the cost of the services themselves.

    To offset costs, the prebate provision makes all spending up to every household poverty line tax free.

    The free market will continue to determine prices and wages.

    The FairTax basics and FAQ sections at provide more information.
    The Fiar tax link does not work. So, I need some help. Would a college education be taxed? What about something like an ACT prep course or a pottery class? And, you explained insurance premiums and it sounds like only part of it will be taxed, but can you explain that better?

    And, while you are at it, gas will have a 23% tax on top of the state taxes?
    I fixed the link. Between my posts here and the link you will find answers to all your questions.
    The TRUTH about the FairTax
    You can read the specific details about how the FairTax is the biggest tax ripoff in US history. Read how it shifts the tax burden from billionaires to the middle class. Read how the FairTax taxes food, clothes, housing, healthcare, and medical services while at the same time making inheritances for billionaires tax free. The FairTax is the ultimate oxymoron - it is TOTALLY unfair. See for the truth.
    "Read how the FairTax taxes food, clothes, housing, healthcare, and medical services while at the same time making inheritances for billionaires tax free."

    It makes inheritances of a $500 tax free, too. Why should we pay taxes on an inheritance, anyway? Whatever Dad has left when he goes is from his after-taxes money: the inheritance tax taxes the same money twice.
    Post a Comment

    Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

    << Home


    August 2006   September 2006   October 2006   November 2006   December 2006   January 2007   February 2007   March 2007   April 2007   May 2007   June 2007   July 2007   August 2007   September 2007   October 2007   November 2007   December 2007   January 2008   February 2008   March 2008   April 2008   May 2008   June 2008   July 2008   August 2008   September 2008   October 2008   November 2008