Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Walberg: Drill for Oil in Great Lakes

I appreciate it when Congressman Tim Walberg talks about the need to develop alternative, renewable sources of energy. But this should not be a part of our energy policy.
LANSING – Today Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer criticized Republican Representative Tim Walberg for his comments supporting oil drilling in the Great Lakes. Walberg told a group of Lansing area constituents on Friday “ I don’t understand” why the United States does not drill the Great Lakes.

“I don’t know how many of you realize that here in this state in the United States, we do not allow even the slant directional drilling under the Great Lakes... Our environmental lobby has done so well in lobbying efforts from keeping us from doing that, that we don’t drill in ANWR, we don’t drill under the Great Lakes... I don’t understand that.Listen>

“So I say let’s get away from being held by the markets so tightly on petroleum sources… unless we are willing to use what we have and provide competition to the world market because we can say to OPEC then ‘to hell with them’ we got our own Alaskan oil, we have our own Great Lakes oil and we got our own intercontinental shelf oil... That’s how I look at it.” Listen>
(Emphasis added.)

That's right. Tim Walberg wants to drill for oil under the Great Lakes. He wants to extract oil from beneath the world's largest fresh water supply-- our fresh water supply.

The MDP press release above also includes this:
According to Public Interest Research Group In Michigan, oil drilling in the Great Lakes “would have significant long-term and short-term negative impacts on the lake's watershed, regardless of the drilling method employed.” Their analysis demonstrates oil drilling in the Great Lakes has potential negative impacts on human health, the environment and Michigan’s economy.
If you listen to the audio linked with the quotes, you'll notice that within the ellipses of the Walberg quotes provided by the MDP are references to Canadian oil projects in the Great Lakes. Walberg's main argument is, basically, "The Canadians do it, so why can't we?" Well, the PIRGIM study looks at that. Walberg is wrong about that, too.

The Canadian experience of drilling for natural gas and oil on the Canadian side of Lake Erie serves as a cautionary example for Michigan. Spills associated with the petroleum industry are both widespread and highly significant environmental threats to the Canadian Great Lakes. Fifty-one natural gas spills directly associated with gas drilling in Canada's portion of Lake Erie were documented between 1997 and 2001 - an average of almost one spill a month. The volume of natural gas released and the full duration of the leaks were not reported to or by the Canadian government.

The Canadian side of Lake Erie was also impacted by 83 petroleum spills from all sectors between 1990 and 1995 (the last year for which data was made available for this report). The volume spilled was not known for at least one-third of the spills. In addition, only 45% of the contaminants were cleaned up, on average.

The routine, long-term discharge of drilling wastes from drilling in Canada's portion of Lake Erie represents a significant environmental hazard. These direct discharges into Lake Erie have subjected aquatic organisms to immediate and long-term health risks, ranging from localized fish kills to aquatic organism developmental impairment. These risks are exacerbated by the routine usage of toxic chemicals during oil and gas drilling.

Read the entire study. It's worth the time.

This is, quite simply, a bad idea. In 2002, Republican gubernatorial nominee Dick Posthumous even came out against drilling in the Great Lakes.
In a split from Engler's policy, the No. 2 man in his administration, Lt. Gov. Dick Posthumus, came out against drilling in July, telling Michigan reporters, "The risks [of drilling] are relatively few, but the benefits are even fewer."
(Emphasis added.)

And, from the same article, residents of Michigan haven't been too wild about the idea, either.
Oil and gas extraction from the Great Lakes does not poll well with Michigan voters. In a statewide survey conducted in February, opposition to drilling ran as high as 59 percent. Support was as low as 27 percent. Opposition was fairly consistent across the state and among all kinds of voters.
Congressman Walberg, listen to your colleague, Bart Stupak:
"There are just some places on Earth you shouldn't drill for oil and gas," said U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Menominee, who pushed for the permanent ban. "There's only about enough energy there to supply eight hours of energy for this country."
Contact Tim Walberg, and tell him to keep his hands off our Great Lakes.

UPDATE: I forgot to include this the first time around, but I thought I'd mention it.
Earlier this year, with Walberg's efforts on Great Lakes preservation, I wrote this:
If Walberg's work benefits the Great Lakes, I'll almost, for a moment, be proud to have him as my representative. Almost. But there's so much more that can and needs to be done to protect our environment, and I hope he'll consider doing more. There are plenty of issues he could get involved with.
(Emphasis added.)

I'd like to apologize to all of you. I should have never been fooled into thinking that Tim Walberg cares about the Great Lakes, and I should have seen through his empty political rhetoric.

For a politician that claims to be an environmentalist and claims to support renewable, alternative energy, he's looking more and more like a puppet of the oil companies.

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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Congressional Food Stamp Challenge

I've been trying to decide all week whether or not to mention this. It's not directly related to Congressman Tim Walberg and the 7th Congressional District. But it is important, and this blog happens to be my little soap box. So I hope you'll forgive me for a little piece of unrelated content.

Suppose that after paying for rent, or heat and electricity, or other necessities, you could only spend $21 each week on food, or just $3 for each day. I don't tend to live extravagantly, but I know that I would have a very difficult time planning my budget to make it last all week, and I'd have a hard time eating healthy foods. With my personal habits, I know that I couldn't manage it. I suspect most people reading couldn't do it either.

Four members of the United States House of Representatives-- three Democrats and one Republican-- decided to see if they could do it, and were joined by spouses and staffers in the endeavor. It was called the Congressional Food Stamp Challenge, running from May 15 to May 21, and the participants wrote about their experience on the challenge blog.

Is it political theater? Well, yes. But it has a purpose and a valuable message. Sometimes theatrics are what it takes to get people to notice the issue and act on it.

Here's some of what they had to say.

Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky wrote:
Living on food stamps is not just about the food. It takes a lot of planning ahead to live on a food stamp budget, and still, even if you get the calories you need, you can’t get the nutrients. Maybe some nutrition expert can figure out how one can eat healthily on a food stamp diet, but I can’t see how it’s done. Fruits and vegetables, especially fresh ones, are very expensive relative to foods like pastas and bread.

I spoke with a radio talk show host today, who said that food stamps just increase dependency, that poor people should be taught a lesson, and that they should just stop having children. He also said that food stamps were just meant to supplement anyway, that kids get free meals at school, and that poor people should get their lazy selves off their couches and get a job.

I tried to keep my cool and countered that most of those families receiving food stamps had at least one and maybe two working adults in them, and even working full time at a low wage job put that family below the poverty level, and that, even if he was right, which he wasn’t, should the children be punished by sending them to bed or to school hungry or malnourished? I said it was in our interest to ensure a generation of healthy children if we want to be competitive in the world, and besides that it was a moral issue that in the wealthiest country in the world, tens of millions of people struggle to have enough to eat every day and many fail. Talk about clueless and cold, in my estimation, that guy was it.

Congressman Jim McGovern wrote:

Some have called my office over the last several days both "pro" and "con" what we are doing. I am grateful for all the comments.

Those who have been critical have been mostly people who, I believe, have some bad information about about the food stamp program and about hunger in America. Some have suggested that food stamp recipients get a job. The reality is that most have jobs! Others have accused us of exaggerating the problem of hunger in our country. The fact is, according to US government statistics, there are over 35 million Americans who are hungry or food insecure. There is not a community in the United States of America that is hunger free. That, in my view, is something we all should be ashamed of.

A few people have complained that those of us who are doing this cannot possibly have any idea of what it is like to be struggling as low-income families. I believe this criticism has some merit. Because for us this food stamp challenge is an exercise that will end on Tuesday. After that we will go back to our regular lives and regular habits where we do not have to worry about the planning, preparing and anxiety of living on a food stamp budget.

Reporters have asked us, "Are you hungry?" "Are you tired?" "Will you run out of food?" or "Are you cheating?" Yes, I'm a little hungry and a little tired. No, I don't think we'll run out of food because we think we planned OK. And, no, we haven't cheated. But, I must confess, I feel a little embarrassed even saying I'm a little hungry or tired. It sounds like complaining. And the fact is we are very, very lucky - luckier than most people. My biggest temptations have been the appetizers at receptions and banquets. Most Americans don't have access to what Members of Congress have access to everyday.

It is sometimes easy to get detached from the reality of poverty when you're in Washington. I would like to believe that I never have. But, the experience of the last several days, the comments on the blog, the calls to my office, reporters' questions and the people I have talked to in Massachusetts and around the country have given me an education. I am grateful for that -- and I and others need to take what we've learned and do something about it.

Lisa McGovern (the Congressman's wife) wrote:
First day was kind of tough but I was so busy at work and we had an evening event so there wasn't a lot of time to eat. I had tuna and an apple for lunch. I left the house at 8am without breakfast but I won't do that again! I did drink gallons of water. Several months ago, we had accepted an invitation to a dinner event so went, but couldn't eat. At home, before the dinner, I made an egg with shredded cheese on a tortilla, ate it quickly, and made one for Jim which I wrapped in aluminum foil to keep it hot(ish). I drove it and me down to the fancy Mayflower hotel and handed the tin foil to Jim. He ate the tortilla in 5 bites and about 30 seconds. Meal over. (I wish we had bought the larger size tortillas instead of the small ones, but the small ones were cheaper. Still, it was a bad call. And there are only 10 small tortillas -- and 2 of us for 7 days, so we need to ration them.)
As I began cooking, separating and freezing food for the week, I began to worry that we won't have enough food to get us through Tuesday. It seems there are two ways to think of this: if we want to eat healthy food, this is like a very strict diet or a semi-fast. There is strict rationing of protein and fruits and vegetables. If we want a more satisfying portion size, the only way to do it is lots of rice, pasta or beans (but we only have 2 cans of those). And that goes against what I think of as healthy on a plate (which would be 1/4 protein, 1/4 carbs and 1/2 fruits and vegetables). But it's a long time until Tuesday and we have a limited amount of the "good" stuff so we're doling it out carefully.
And, of course, mistakes were made by members of Congress not used to the experience, and trying to combine their active political lives with the challenge. Congressman Tim Ryan wrote:

You aren’t going to believe this, but all I have left is cornmeal.

I was doing SO well! I had everything rationed out perfectly and knew that I was going to be able to stretch my food out until the end. That was of course, until the TSA decided to step in. So after giving a GREAT commencement speech (You’ll be able to see it later today when we post the video) to the graduating class of my old law school, Franklin Pierce, I was talking with students and faculty, and really enjoying myself. I guess I was enjoying the time a little TOO much because before you knew it the Dean of the school had to remind me that we were running late. Manchester airport is easily an hour away from Concord, NH so my buddie State Rep. Steve DeStephano and his family had to rush me down I-93 to get me to the plane in time. When I arrived I decided just to carry my bag on so I ran over to the security gate with my carry on. I step up to the metal detector, take my shoes off, place my bag through the scanner and come out the other side to the most dreaded words in travel, “Bag Check!”
Sure enough the very nice TSA agent explained to me the 3-1-1 regulations for liquids. As a public service I’ve decided to link you to them. He politely put the peanut butter and jelly to the side, closed my bag and gave it back to me. I was too astonished to talk. I took my bag and walked towards the gate thinking about the 4 or maybe 5 meals that she had taken from me. What am I going to do now? It’s not like I can just go to Safeway and grab another jar. I have .33 cents and a bag of cornmeal to last today and tomorrow.

If what they went through for a week sounds familiar to you, or you have trouble putting food on the table, the USDA has online resources to help determine if you are eligible and can help you find a local office.

In 2004, 10.3 million households and 23.9 million individuals each day were assisted by the Food Stamp program. The USDA provides these statistics on their FAQ page:

22. What are some characteristics of food stamp households?

Based on a study of data gathered in Fiscal Year 2005:

  • 50 percent of all participants are children (18 or younger), and 65 percent of them live in single-parent households.

  • 54 percent of food stamp households include children.

  • 8 percent of all participants are elderly (age 60 or over).

  • 77 percent of all benefits go to households with children, 16 percent go to households with disabled persons, and 9 percent go to households with elderly persons.

  • 34 percent of households with children were headed by a single parent, the overwhelming majority of whom were women.

  • The average household size is 2.3 persons.

  • The average gross monthly income per food stamp household is $648.

  • 46 percent of participants are white; 31 percent are African-American, non-Hispanic; 13 percent are Hispanic; 2 percent are Asian, 1 percent are Native American, and 7 percent are of unknown race or ethnicity.

In Michigan, 1,197,856 individuals received assistance in February, 2007 (the most recent month for which data is available). That's a 6.9 percent increase from February of 2006.

So what can be done to help? Well, Congressman Jim McGovern gives us some advice.

One more thing, please make sure that your Congressperson or Senator is active on these issues. Make it a point to e-mail, write or call them. Ask them to cosponosor HR 2129. Tell them your own stories. Don't let them off the hook. Remember, we work for you -- not the other way around!

Stay in touch....

Major provisions pf HR 2129:

  • Raise the minimum benefit from $10 to about $30 per month so that everybody who qualifies for the program gets a real help up
  • Peg benefits to inflation to stop the erosion of the purchasing power of food stamps
  • Restore eligibility to all legal residents
  • Raise the asset limits for eligibility so that families on food stamps are encouraged to save for college and retirement
  • Allow families to deduct the full cost of childcare when determining their eligibility

The text of HR 2129, sponsored by Congressman McGovern, can be found here. It currently has 84 cosponsors. Congressman Tim Walberg is not one of them.

Congressman Walberg is on the Agriculture Committee, and is the only Michigan representative on that committee. That committee, of course, deals with Department of Agriculture programs, of which the Food Stamp Program is one. McGovern's legislation has been proposed in connection to the farm bill Walberg has been traveling the district to talk about.

Government shouldn't provide everything for us, and it should be a challenge to get through life. But American children should not be going to school hungry, and hard-working Americans should not have to end their day trying to figure out how to feed themselves the next day.

Contact Congressman Tim Walberg. Ask him to sign on as a cosponsor, and help solve this problem.

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Walberg: Gas Price Gouging Fine With Me!

I didn't catch this the other day, but others in the Michigan blogosphere certainly did.

Unless you've been sleeping under a rock, you know that the price of gas has passed $3 per gallon. Some worry it will eclipse $4 per gallon.

In response, US Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Menominee) introduced HR 1252, the Federal Price Gouging Prevention Act. This bill would provide penalties for those who take unfair advantage of consumers at the pump. (Read more here.)

The bill passed 284-141 - a veto-proof majority - with 56 Republicans joining all but one Democrat in supporting the bill.

How did Michigan's members of Congress vote?
More specifically, can anyone guess how Congressman Tim Walberg voted? Anyone?

Well, I'll let Scott tell us:
Bart Stupak (D)
Dale Kildee (D)
Candice Miller (R)
Thaddeus McCotter (R)
Sander Levin (D)
John Conyers (D)
Carolyn Kilpatrick (D)
John Dingell (D)

Pete Hoekstra (R)
Vern Ehlers (R)
Dave Camp (R)
Fred Upton (R)
Tim Walberg (R)
Mike Rogers (R)
Joe Knollenberg (R)
(Emphasis added.)

Share your gas price horror stories in the comments. Better yet, share them with Tim Walberg.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Berryman's Website is Up

Just a heads up: Jim Berryman recently launched his campaign website.

Kind of short on the content right now, but definitely the nicest looking of any of the 7th Congressional campaign websites.

What do you think?

Where does Walberg's money come from?

A comment on a previous post asked where Walberg's money has come from. Here is a list of City, State, and amount of the personal contributions 1/1/07 to 3/31/07. I will up date this post with the PAC money latter.

Sun City West AZ $200.00
Southbury CT $250.00
Washington DC $360.00
Bonita Springs FL $1,000.00
Tallahassee FL $250.00
Vero Beach FL $500.00
Vero Beach FL $250.00
Chicago IL $1,000.00
Chicago IL $250.00
Chevy Chase MD $500.00
Chevy Chase MD $1,000.00
Adrian MI $250.00
Adrian MI $250.00
Adrian MI $1,000.00
Adrian MI $2,300.00
Adrian MI $1,000.00
Ann Arbor MI $1,000.00
Blissfield MI $250.00
Brighton MI $250.00
Britton MI $250.00
Clarklake MI $2,300.00
Farmington Hills MI $2,300.00
Hillsdale MI $250.00
Jackson MI $2,300.00
Jackson MI $2,300.00
Jackson MI $250.00
Jackson MI $1,000.00
Onsted MI $2,300.00
Parma MI $1,000.00
Parma MI $1,000.00
Saline MI $500.00
Saline MI $2,300.00
Tipton MI $1,000.00
Troy MI $1,000.00
Warren MI $500.00
Hamilton MT $500.00
Charlotte NC $1,000.00
Huntington NY $500.00
Clifton VA $250.00
Fox Point WI $1,000.00

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Walberg: Foreign Oil Profits Before People

Democratic Congressman John Conyers (MI-14) sponsored a bill, HR 2264, which would amend current law "to make oil-producing and exporting cartels illegal". The name Conyers came up with for it was "NOPEC"-- No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels. Here's the relevant text:

    The Sherman Act (15 U.S.C. 1 et seq.) is amended by adding after section 7 the following:

    7A. (a) It shall be illegal and a violation of this Act for any foreign state, or any instrumentality or agent of any foreign state, to act collectively or in combination with any other foreign state, any instrumentality or agent of any other foreign state, or any other person, whether by cartel or any other association or form of cooperation or joint action--

      `(1) to limit the production or distribution of oil, natural gas, or any other petroleum product;

      `(2) to set or maintain the price of oil, natural gas, or any petroleum product; or

      `(3) to otherwise take any action in restraint of trade for oil, natural gas, or any petroleum product;

    when such action, combination, or collective action has a direct, substantial, and reasonably foreseeable effect on the market, supply, price, or distribution of oil, natural gas, or other petroleum product in the United States.

    (b) A foreign state engaged in conduct in violation of subsection (a) shall not be immune under the doctrine of sovereign immunity from the jurisdiction or judgments of the courts of the United States in any action brought to enforce this section.

    (c) No court of the United States shall decline, based on the act of state doctrine, to make a determination on the merits in an action brought under this section.

    (d) The Attorney General of the United States may bring an action to enforce this section in any district court of the United States as provided under the antitrust laws.'.

In other words, this makes it illegal for a foreign government or its buddies in the United States to artificially inflate oil prices. As we see gas prices push higher and higher ($3.65/gallon in downtown Tecumseh today), this makes sense. We rely on foreign oil, and it would be best to close the avenues by which foreign governments could hold us hostage, figuratively and literally.

Sounds like a reasonable idea, right? Well, that's what most members of the House thought, because it passed, 345 to 72. In the vote, 125 Republicans-- a majority of the Republican caucus-- joined the Democrats in supporting the bill.

Tim Walberg voted No. He was joined by Michigan Republican Pete Hoekstra (MI-02). The rest of the Michigan delegation voted in favor of it.

So, Congressman Walberg, what were you trying to say there? Is it really a good idea to allow foreign governments to subvert the free market (favorite phrase of conservatives) and threaten our national energy security?

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Walberg, Money, and the 2008 Election

According to Politicalmoneyline Congressman Tim Walberg has $159,893 in his campaign account as of 3/31/2007. We all know that it takes a great deal of money to win an election. All the talk and comments about how bad Tim Walberg is will mean nothing if we do not start to raise some cash. Last week I posted about my support for Jim Berryman and the creation of my fundraising page on ActBlue. To date I am the only one who has contributed.

For some time there has been a link on this site to give to the Democrat who wins the nomination. As of post time there has been a grand total of $21 raised.

It is time to wake up people!!!!!

There are a lot of people who come to this site. I know everyone can afford something, $10, $25, $100, or more. This Blog alone will not win this election. If we want to show that the bloggers will have an influence in this race we will need to begin to raise some serious cash. Look at what can be done. The Blue America Communities have raised $545,169. Now I know that these are large Blogs, but it does show what is possible.

I challenge every regular reader to go to ActBlue and set up your own page. Send links to all your friends and family. Lets see who can raise the most money. You do not need to live in the district, you just need to want to get rid of Walberg.

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Walberg taking credit

When I saw Fitzy's post today it reminded me of other press releases Congressman Walberg has made over the past month or so. Like this one that was in the CitPat.
U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, announced Tuesday he has secured a $400,000 grant for Jackson's Brownfield Redevelopment Authority to assess polluted industrial land.
When was this applied for? How was Walberg involved? Is he just taking credit?

Then there was this one from the BC Enquirer.

Battle Creek Academy has been awarded $112,446 from the U.S. Department of Education Carol M. White Physical Education program, according to U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton.

“I am pleased to announce this grant, which will enhance the physical education and physical well being of children in Battle Creek,” Walberg said today.

Notice that this grant was applied for in 2006 before Tim took office. From a second article.
Funds represent the first year of a requested three-year grant, which the school applied for in April 2006.

The Citpat again.
  • Hillsdale Dial-A-Ride received $495,000 in grant money through the Department of Transportation. It is to be used for bus procurement and equipment. This grant was announced by Congressman Tim Walberg.

  • It seems he is taking credit for a lot of things that he had nothing to do with.

    Walberg Takes Credit for Schwarz's Work

    (Thanks to a reader for e-mailing me about this.)

    The Battle Creek Enquirer reports that Congressman Tim Walberg announced a new $550,000 grant for the Family Health Center of Battle Creek. It's a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), which means it often serves underprivileged residents who may not be able to afford health care elsewhere. One of the physicians that works there is none other than Dr. Joe Schwarz, former representative of Michigan's 7th District.

    So it's good that Congressman Walberg got them this grant, right?

    Well, not quite. From the Enquirer article:

    The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services grant was secured through the group efforts of those at the Family Health Center, including Dr. Joe Schwarz, a physician at the federally qualified health center (FQHC) who also was the 7th district's U.S. Representative at the time the grant was sought.

    When asked if it was a conflict of interest for him to vote in favor of funding, he said no.

    "Hell no, it was not a conflict of interest," he said. "It was working for the better of this community and every community that has an FQHC."


    [Chief Executive Officer] Jones, however, lambasted Walberg for taking the credit.

    "He voted against supporting community health centers," he said. "... Walberg has never been to our community health center. Right now we feel a lack of support at best."

    A spokesman for Walberg, Matt Lahr, said he is not aware of any specific legislation to which Jones was referring, and the congressman plans to visit the Family Health Center in the near future.

    (Emphasis added.)

    In other words, then-Congressman Schwarz fought for the grant, but current-Congressman Walberg is trying to pass it off as one of his accomplishments, even though it's an idea he opposes.

    Real classy, Congressman Walberg.

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    Saturday, May 19, 2007

    Tim Walberg Is Wrong On Budget Plan

    Congressman Tim Walberg wrote an op-ed piece for the Battle Creek Enquirer that appeared in the May 16, 2007 issue of the newspaper. He took up the issue of taxation and the Democratic budget plan for fiscal year 2008-- a plan he has repeatedly misrepresented as "the biggest tax increase in American history."

    In his piece for the Enquirer, Congressman Walberg is absolutely wrong on all counts.

    If you have a moment, I'd like to take you through it step by step. Walberg opens with this:

    In his budget message to Congress in January of 1963, President John F. Kennedy wrote, "Lower rates of taxation will stimulate economic activity and so raise the levels of personal and corporate income as to yield within a few years an increased - not a reduced - flow of revenues to the federal government."

    Perhaps it's time to remind the new leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives of President Kennedy's exemplary fiscal insight imparted to Congress years ago.

    Well, yes. President Kennedy did, indeed, push for a tax cut as part of his "New Frontier" program. But it's more complicated than that.

    When Kennedy took office, the highest income tax rate was 91 percent, applied to the richest Americans. He felt that this rate was stunningly high, and in order to help the economy, it was cut by Kennedy to 70 percent. For purposes of comparison, the rate applied to the highest incomes today-- the very richest of the rich corporate executives-- is just 35 percent.

    But that's not all. Kennedy's tax cuts were very different from those of George W. Bush or Ronald Reagan or Timothy Walberg. David Greenberg wrote a fascinating piece for three years ago. He says:

    So, was Kennedy really a forerunner to Reagan and Bush? Or are supply-siders just cynically appropriating his aura? The Republicans are right, up to a point. Kennedy did push tax cuts, and his plan, which passed in February 1964, three months after his death, did help spur economic growth. But they're wrong to see the tax reduction as a supply-side cut, like Reagan's and Bush's; it was a demand-side cut. "The Revenue Act of 1964 was aimed at the demand, rather than the supply, side of the economy," said Arthur Okun, one of Kennedy's economic advisers.

    This distinction, taught in Economics 101, seldom makes it into the Washington sound-bite wars. A demand-side cut rests on the Keynesian theory that public consumption spurs economic activity. Government puts money in people's hands, as a temporary measure, so that they'll spend it. A supply-side cut sees business investment as the key to growth. Government gives money to businesses and wealthy individuals to invest, ultimately benefiting all Americans. Back in the early 1960s, tax cutting was as contentious as it is today, but it was liberal demand-siders who were calling for the cuts and generating the controversy.

    In other words, the cuts Kennedy advocated were just as massive as President Bush's cuts, which Tim Walberg supports. But it's not so much the size as it is the target. Kennedy and Walberg have economic outlooks that are polar opposites.

    Liberals don't think all tax cuts are bad. We just think that tax cuts ought to be directed in a way that benefits as many individual taxpayers as possible.

    Of course, if Walberg is quoting Kennedy, maybe he'd be willing to support some of Kennedy's other ideas. The "New Frontier" included action on civil rights, raising the minimum wage, revitalizing cities (instead of comparing them to war zones), and other left-leaning causes.

    But all that was just Congressman Walberg's introduction. Let's continue further into his op-ed piece.

    In March, House leadership introduced and passed a budget proposal that represents the largest tax increase in American history, nearly $400 billion over the next five years.

    First of all, no. Saying that the budget proposal passed in March "represents the largest tax increase in American history... over the next five years" is a clever way of avoiding the truth at best, and an outright lie at worst.

    As I wrote before, the budget proposal Walberg refers to doesn't raise anyone's taxes. Toward the beginning of the year, Congress passes its plan for spending in the next fiscal year, and then follows that plan with specific appropriations bills. The bill passed by House Democrats says nothing about increasing or decreasing taxes. So where does Walberg get his numbers?

    When a Republican-led House of Representatives passed President Bush's first term tax cuts, they included in them expiration dates-- most of them will end after 2010. The issue of whether or not they should be or will be extended was not addressed in the budget plan.

    But when the budget bill made long-term projections, it assumed that the current laws would be carried out as written. That is, it assumed that the tax cuts will expire, as they were intended to, and as they will if Congress chooses not to extend them. That, by the way, would result in a federal budget surplus late next decade, after years of massive deficits.

    So what does all that mean? It means that Tim Walberg says that a bill that doesn't say anything about raising taxes, and doesn't mention an issue that won't come up for three years, is, in fact, the largest tax increase in American history. Huh.

    But sure, let's humor him. Suppose this really is a tax increase. What would happen? Well, Walberg tries to inform us.

    A recent Heritage Foundation study

    Wait! I've got to stop him right there. Let's take just a quick glance at the Heritage Foundation. It's a conservative think-tank, which focuses on publishing its findings in short papers rather than massive books, in order to appeal to members of Congress with the "briefcase test"-- if it doesn't fit in the briefcase, they won't read it.

    Unfortunately, this-- combined with a decidedly conservative bias-- can lead to some inaccurate, incomplete, and misleading information. They're very close to the Bush Administration, and the money comes primarily from big corporations and rich donors. They're the folks that started, at which Walberg wrote an essay earlier this year. (For more information, try here, here, here, and here.)

    In other words, take everything the Heritage Foundation says with a grain of salt.

    But I'll let Congressman Walberg continue...

    A recent Heritage Foundation study revealed this plan would raise taxes by $3,019 for each person in Michigan's 7th Congressional District.

    Additionally, the Heritage study revealed this tax increase would cause 2,272 job losses in south-central Michigan and cost the 7th District's economy $207,000,000.

    Right. So, each and every one of us is going to have to pay an extra $3,019? I don't know, that doesn't sound quite right. So I checked out the numbers Walberg is quoting (scroll down for Michigan). What the column actually says is "Average Tax Increase Per Taxpayer," not "for each person." The more you make, the more your taxes would go up. The less you make, the less they'd go up. So Walberg is at the very least guilty of misrepresenting the figure for political scare tactics.

    By the way, it's worth noting that even the Heritage Foundation study Walberg cites admits that the Democratic budget proposal isn't actually a tax increase. It says:
    Again, the budget resolution does not contain a detailed tax plan. However, the resolution also is silent on the most important tax policy change since 2001: the expiration of the tax law changes from 2001 through 2004 over the next four years. This paper presents estimates of the potential impact that allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire would have on Americans.
    So who loses the most from this mythical tax increase? Well, since it would be the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, we have to look at who the biggest winners were. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (admittedly, using data from a progressive think tank) gives us this table:

    Table 3

    Distribution of Tax-Cut Benefits in 2004

    (reflects tax cuts enacted since 2001)

    Income Class

    Average tax cut

    % increase in after-tax income

    % share of tax cut

    Middle 20 percent




    Top one percent




    Over $1 million




    Source: Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center

    In other words, it's not ordinary, middle-class residents of Michigan's 7th District that would end up paying more, if this were actually a major tax increase. Instead, it's the very top that would pay more, the folks that can actually afford to pay more. (By the way, the CBPP analysis I got that table from does a pretty good job of explaining why the Bush tax cuts Walberg loves so much have not actually helped the economy.)

    Walberg's op-ed isn't finished, though. He continues...
    As I visit with manufacturers in Battle Creek, farmers in Homer and constituents at a coffee shop in Marshall, I hear the same common theme: Taxes are too high and government should get off our back so Michigan can prosper again.
    I admit, I probably don't talk to nearly as many farmers in Homer or manufacturers in Battle Creek as Congressman Walberg does. Still, the folks I talk to do grumble about taxes. But that's not the big complaint they have.

    In fact, nationwide, "Taxes are too high and government should get off our back" doesn't seem to be the major complaint. Here are two recent polls:

    Gallup Poll. April 23-26, 2007. N=1,007 adults nationwide, drawn from Gallup's household panel, which was originally recruited through random selection methods. MoE ± 4.


    "In your view, what one or two issues should be the top priorities for the President and Congress to deal with at this time?" Open-ended. Multiple responses accepted.



    Situation in Iraq/War 66

    Poor health care/Cost of health care 20

    Economy in general 14

    Immigration/Illegal aliens 14

    Fuel/Oil prices/Energy crisis 7

    Environment/Pollution 5

    National security 4

    Education/Poor education/Access to educ. 4

    Terrorism 4

    Federal deficit/Federal debt 3

    Social Security 3

    Other 22

    Unsure 1

    CBS News Poll. April 9-12, 2007. N=994 adults nationwide. MoE ± 3.


    "What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today?" Open-ended



    War in Iraq






    Health care


    Foreign policy


    Terrorism (general)


    Gas/Heating oil crisis


    President Bush






    Those were both open-ended questions, meaning that the survey reader did not offer any choices. That's important-- it means no one was led on or encouraged to mention any issues. These are the things that are important to most Americans. "High taxes" isn't on either list.

    But those are national polls. Anything about Michigan? Well, this isn't exactly the same issue, but it's significant. With the current budget crisis Michigan faces, Governor Granholm wants to increase taxes, combined with cuts in spending. An EPIC/MRA poll found that 70 percent of Michigan voters supported a tax increase of some level. There is no enormous anti-tax movement in Michigan or nationwide.

    You ever get the feeling that maybe, politicians like Walberg hear what they want to hear?

    But Walberg has more to say.

    The budget plan put forward by House leadership embraces a "spend now, reform later" mentality and is an insult to Michigan families and small-business owners.

    As all of you well know, a large federal tax increase is the last thing we need in Michigan.

    "Spend now, reform later"? Really? This, from the man who opposed spending reforms back in January? See, Tim Walberg says he supports fiscal discipline, but I get the feeling that's a lie. If he really supported responsible spending, he would have voted for the PAYGO rules, which state that any new spending must have some revenue source behind it-- in other words, don't spend more than you have in your wallet. Instead, Walberg voted No.

    So, House leadership or a congressman that distorts the issue. Who's really insulting Michigan families?

    A recent analysis by economist David Littman of the Mackinac Center compared Michigan's per capita income to the national average and revealed the state reached its lowest level in 75 years in 2005.

    Times are tough in our state, and taxpayers in south-central Michigan are making difficult choices every day to ensure their family budgets are balanced. They are doing so by cutting spending and having fiscal discipline.

    It's time we make these same common-sense choices on a federal level, without raising taxes.

    The Mackinac Center is Michigan's Heritage Foundation, providing the data for every conservative politician's assertions. I couldn't find the Littman analysis Walberg cites, but this section may, in fact, be the most truthful of Walberg's op-ed. Times really are tough in Michigan, and no one can deny that. Cutting unnecessary spending is always part of the budget solution.

    However, it's a dangerous thing for a politician to vow never to increase taxes. To anyone not blinded by conservative ideology, it's clear that there are times when it is appropriate to raise taxes.

    Of course, all this would matter more if the Democratic budget plan were a tax increase, but it's not.

    Next comes the part of the op-ed where Walberg leaps into legislative action, listing the steps he believes will help.

    The tax relief passed by Congress from 2001 to 2004 is set to expire, and Congress needs to make tax relief permanent for hard-working American families and implement common-sense policies for the future.

    We also must work to eliminate government waste, make certain taxpayer dollars go to meaningful programs and leave resources directly with the people. I support legislation that would give the president line-item veto authority to go through spending bills and eliminate pork-barrel earmarks.

    Another top Congressional priority should be the passage of a balanced budget that does not raise taxes. I have co-sponsored legislation, H.J.RES.1, that would amend the U.S. Constitution to require a balanced budget each year.

    By passing these common sense reforms, Congress can ease the heavy tax burden America's families already face and help get our economy moving.

    I think it's pretty clear that the 2001 and 2004 Bush tax cuts don't really help "hard-working families" all that much, but I'll let it slide. Walberg's main thesis is, of course, that the budget plan ought to have included extensions of those tax cuts.

    That's his belief, and, while I disagree, it's an honest disagreement. What bothers me more is the dishonest way in which he frames the issue. I find that insulting.

    As far as the Balanced Budget Amendment, I'll say that I'm always hesitant to amend the Constitution, but I don't know enough about the issue to take a stance. I will say that a balanced budget would be easier to achieve with those PAYGO rules Walberg voted against.

    And then, there's wasteful spending. Congressman, eliminating pork-barrel earmarks is a good start, but is there anything else you'd like to see cut? This is a serious question, and if any Walberg staffers are reading this, I'd love to get a serious response. What programs or departments would Congressman Walberg like to see eliminated? After all, with a massive deficit and even larger national debt, it'd be great if we could spend a lot less (and maybe even cut some taxes).

    This week Congress is scheduled to vote on the conference version of House leadership's budget proposal.

    My message to House leadership during the debate on this final proposal will be simple: Leave more resources with the hard-working people and small businesses that make our communities strong, and no more tax increases.

    That version passed, 214-209. Needless to say, Congressman Tim Walberg voted No. Of course, as I've reminded you repeatedly throughout this post, no taxes were actually raised.

    By making tax cuts permanent and putting our fiscal house in order, this Congress can go a long way in restoring the trust of the American people and build a better, brighter future for our country.

    And that's the end of the piece.

    After reading what Walberg has to say, how many of you feel like your trust has been restored?

    That's all I've got tonight. Thanks for reading all the way to the end.

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    My Coffee with Timothy...

    with apologies to Louis Malle...

    I attended Tim's coffee and conversation last Monday morning in Saline.
    The turnout was about 30 or so, with most attending over 50 years old.

    I had set up my videocamera to tape the discussion, but I was asked not to unless I cleared it with his press secretary, Matt Lahr, first.

    Tim came in and was very genial.

    The discussion was dominated by the war in Iraq.

    The first gentleman to speak was ex-military and stated that he had taught at the war college. He made a strong case for pulling out of Iraq (civil war, etc...) Tim asked what he thought about the idea that if we left, the terrorist would follow us home. He said, they are already here, just need a catalyst, and in fact the ones caught at Fort Dix were Albanians.

    Tim said that General Petraeus was a "sharp cookie" and that he was impressed by him, and that since Congress had confirmed him, we needed to follow his plan. I jumped in and asked, since Gen. Petraeus had written the manual on counter-insurgency and said that we needed 1 soldier for every 25 civilians, why were we shorting him the personnel he said it would take? Tim said that, if you include the Iraqi forces, they now have the numbers. From recent reports, I can't believe that is true...

    I asked Congressman Walberg the following question…
    You posted on your election website on November 7 of 2006 the following, “Tim wholeheartedly supports President Bush in the war on terror. He supports Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and our troops as they finish the mission in Iraq to assure victory of freedom over tyranny.” On February 15 of 2007 you said during 1 minute speeches “without a doubt, mistakes have been made, and these mistakes are important to acknowledge, but we must go forward with a new strategy in Iraq based on quantifiable goals and measurable results…”
    First, When you posted support of the President and Rumsfeld in November were you aware of the “mistakes” that had been made and why were you supportive of the Secretary of Defense.
    Second, You finished your February 15 speech with “victory is the only option.” What is victory? How long should we remain there to achieve victory? We have spent over $400 billion, over 3300 US deaths, 25,000+ injuries, and 65,000-500,000 Iraqi deaths, how much more? He said that he stood by both statements and that in war, mistakes are made and tactics are changed.

    One guy (pro-war) asked why the President didn’t do as Lincoln did and have Senatorsand Congressmen arrested for sedition and treason. Another guy said, it’s called Fascism…

    At one point Tim talked about terrorism, 9/11, and used Saddam and Bin Laden in the same sentence. I didn’t get to ask how many Iraqis were flying those planes.

    After discussing the war funding bills (which he voted against) one man in the back of the room said, if you support the troops, why did you vote no? He said that two months funding is not enough, so I asked but you also voted no on a bill that gave more money than the President wanted? He said that the timelines and benchmarks would just tell the enemy when we were leaving. I guess that means that with no timelines or benchmarks, the enemy thinks we will stay forever?

    He said that Al Qaeda watches and listens to what the Congress does. A man behind him said, are you serious?

    At one point he had to stop the discussion, as it was getting heated between anti-war and pro-war attendees.

    There were discussion about NCLB and his “break” with the President on it (the only one he mentioned when asked if he just follows the party line).

    He blamed the budget problems of Michigan on Governor Granholm and the last 4 years of John Engler, who cut taxes but did not cut spending. I couldn't believe that a Michigan Republican actually criticized King John. I thought to Michigan Republicans he was as hero-worshipped as Reagan.

    Talked about how after 9/11 the country pulled together, Congress sang on the steps of Capitol, but now we seem to be forgetting the towers coming down. Also talked about how the country has not had to sacrifice under Bush as opposed to FDR.

    He was not specific about what “victory” is. Tim said something about not having terrorists behind bushes shooting at our soldiers and being able to walk the streets in Iraq as in any major US city.

    Tim spoke about the support of the troops for the war and how they tell him that they can win and how Congress is undermining them. He talked about the mother of a soldier who visited him carrying the soldier’s prosthetic leg and how he and she wanted us to win. He said almost 100% of the troops and their families support the effort. I wanted to jump in and ask him if that included the Pat Tillman family.

    Tim said at one point, I have seen intelligence about threats, and if you saw what I saw, you'd be scared as well. Why do they always fall back on that scare tactic. Why do politicians think that Americans are children and can't handle "the truth"? Tell us of the threats, let us assess what actions we would take, and let us be vigilant, if there truly is a threat to be worried about.

    Sorry this is such a long post, but I wanted to be complete as possible.

    The fact is, Tim Walberg is a true believer. He believes that the war is right, that Bush is right, and that we must defeat "them". He even stood by his statement that he "supports Rumsfeld" and I can't imagine there are many who would say that. I think that even if the number of deaths grows, the public turns on the war even more that it already has, and that things continue to deteriorate, he will still back the war. He KNOWS the cause is right.

    UPDATE by Fitzy: Welcome to Walberg Watch, elviscostello, our newest contributor! It's always great to hear personal stories like this.


    Friday, May 18, 2007

    CQ on Walberg, Berryman

    After Doug's post below, I thought I'd reiterate this, just to be safe. Walberg Watch as a blog will remain uncommitted in the Democratic primary, but contributors are welcome to state their candidate preferences. Blogs are a potential forum for incredibly valuable discussion of ideas, and I hope Walberg Watch can contribute in that area. In fact, I'd even welcome candidates or campaign staffers to join in the fun and do some blogging here!

    Speaking of contributing... Doug mentioned the ActBlue page he started to support Jim Berryman, but for those of you still uncommitted but eager to take on Tim Walberg, I'd encourage you to donate to the 7th District Democratic Nominee Fund. You can do that through the ActBlue button at the top and right.

    I don't like doing these "meta"-type posts very often where I write about the blog rather than actual people and events. So here's some related news.

    Congressional Quarterly's had a piece a couple days ago profiling Jim Berryman and his bid to defeat Congressman Tim Walberg. You should read the whole thing, but here's an important bit from the end.

    Berryman and any other serious challenger would also have to raise a heap of money. Walberg spent roughly $1.2 million in 2006 (combined for the primary and general elections), which compared to the minimal $56,000 spent by Democrat Renier.

    Walberg wasted no time in replenishing his coffers, reporting $148,000 in campaign receipts in the first three months of this year and $160,000 cash on hand as of March 31.

    So, regardless of who you're going to contribute to, you really should contribute. $10 and $20 donations through ActBlue can help make the difference in this race.

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    Tear Down This Wal Berg!

    We all agree that Tim Walberg must go. Fitzy has decided not to take sides between Renier, Nacht, and Berryman. I respect him for that, I am not willing to do the same. I have been an active Democrat in this district for awhile and strongly believe that the only way a Democrat will win in the 7th is to have a STRONG candidate that has the support of the Party and Labor.

    After a great deal of consideration I am throwing my support behind Jim Berryman. The experience of having served in the State Senate places Jim way above the other candidates.

    As a way of showing my support for Jim Berryman I have created a page on Act Blue. Please go to my page and show your support for Jim Berryman. You can bet that the DCCC will notice what happens on this page, they look at this site all the time. Give what you can.

    I will give updates to let you know how this is going.



    Sunday, May 13, 2007

    Walberg Gets a "Peace Pie"

    I'm generally a fan of most foods, but desserts have a special place in my heart. So I couldn't help but be jealous of Congressman Tim Walberg when I read this:

    Two local congressmen are among those targeted by a nationwide peace group to receive "peace pies'' for Mother's Day this year.

    Reps. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton, and Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, are among the 150 representatives and senators from 38 states slated to receive peace pies from mothers participating in a national demonstration supporting a U.S. Department of Peace.

    The homemade pies will be delivered to congressional offices this weekend with a slice missing to show how little impact the estimated $8 billion needed to create the department will have on the federal budget, organizers said.

    So why do Rogers and Walberg get pies? Well, apparently getting a "peace pie" isn't something you should be proud of.

    Both Rogers and Walberg are on the list because of their staunch support for the war in Iraq and military defense initiatives, said Patty Kuderer, communications director for the Peace Alliance, the nationwide nonprofit organization pushing legislation to establish a national department of peace. Kuderer said.

    "The approach we have toward violence and conflict is not working and we're calling on moms, and all people really, to stand up proactively,'' she said.

    Tim Walberg gets a pie because he supports violent policies. I've got to say, I really like the idea of using pastries for political symbolism.

    For more information on the Peace Alliance, you can visit their website here. The "Peace of Pie 2007" page is here.

    Happy Mother's Day, everyone!

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    Saturday, May 12, 2007

    Intelligence Authorization Act and Schiff Amendment

    Someone in the comments pointed this out... I had missed it, but it's interesting.

    Yesterday, the House of Representatives voted on HR 2082, the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008. Here's the bill description:
    To authorize appropriations for fiscal year 2008 for intelligence and intelligence-related activities of the United States Government, the Community Management Account, and the Central Intelligence Agency Retirement and Disability System, and for other purposes.
    It passed, 225 to 197.

    As is often the case, Tim Walberg voted No. But that's not the interesting part.

    Congressman Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California, offered an amendment yesterday.
    An amendment numbered 10 printed in House Report 110-144 to state that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) shall be the exclusive means by which domestic electronic surveillance for the purpose of gathering foreign intelligence information may be conducted, and makes clear that this applies until specific statutory authorization for electronic surveillance, other than as an amendment to FISA, is enacted.
    In other words, no more warrantless wiretapping by the Bush Administration. For those that have forgotten, President Bush has asserted in the past that the FISA court, which allows the government to secretly conduct domestic surveillance with only a handful of people knowing, was too slow. Instead, the president felt that he was justified in ordering the wiretapping of anyone, anywhere, at any time without a warrant from any court, and without any oversight. We were supposed to trust that he'd only watch the terrorists, of course.

    That's my biased explanation, and some out there might disagree with how I characterized the warrantless wiretapping program. But-- here's the thing that has me shocked and amazed-- it looks like Congressman Tim Walberg, for once, agrees with me.

    Tim Walberg voted Yes on the Schiff Amendment. A total of 23 Republicans joined 222 Democrats to pass the amendment, 245 to 178. In addition to Congressman Walberg, Michigan Republicans Vern Ehlers (MI-03) and Fred Upton (MI-06) voted to support the amendment.

    Although I still think Congressman Walberg should be voted out of office, this was a very pleasant surprise this morning. Thank you, Congressman, for asserting that the executive branch does not have unlimited powers, and that even the president must follow the law.

    Now, as long as you're voting like Russ Feingold, there are some other issues on which I'd love to see you embrace the liberal position.

    Tim Walberg and Russ Feingold. Heh. I never thought I'd type that.

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    Thursday, May 10, 2007

    Walberg District Stops, May 12 and 14

    A quick heads up-- Congressman Walberg's office has announced district stops for Saturday, May 12 and Monday, May 14. I won't be at any of them, but I'd love to hear from anyone that can give me a first-hand account of anything that happens.

    Go, meet Tim Walberg, and ask him the tough questions.
    Saturday, May 12

    8:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.

    Walberg to hold Napoleon Coffee Hour

    Brewed Expressions Coffee House. 124 S. Brooklyn Road. Napoleon.

    10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.

    Walberg to hold Grass Lake Coffee Hour

    Evelyn Bay Coffee Company. 112 E. Michigan Avenue. Grass Lake.

    2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

    Walberg to hold Leoni Township Office Hours

    Leoni Township Hall. 913 Fifth Street. Michigan Center.

    Monday, May 14

    9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.

    Walberg to hold Saline Coffee Hour

    My Favorite Café. 101 S. Ann Arbor Street. Saline.


    Tuesday, May 08, 2007

    Berryman Website... almost

    (Thanks to an anonymous commenter in my last post...)

    This hardly seems worth mentioning, but after the post on David Nacht's website, I thought I'd be consistent. Jim Berryman's campaign now has a website, at which, right now, is this:The good news? No where to go but up. I understand the need to put up a simple placeholder, I'm just hoping that something like this is the precursor to some excellent content.

    Anyway, that means that all three announced Democratic candidates have websites. The next step is to get some campaign blogs going.

    Oh, and in case you're wondering, "" is already taken, by someone else with that name. But "" works just as well.

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    Wednesday, May 02, 2007

    Thoughts on Jim Berryman

    I promised my thoughts on former Adrian Mayor and former State Senator Jim Berryman's entry into the race.

    First, to preface this: Walberg Watch will not make an endorsement for the 2008 Democratic primary. So far, we have three candidates that have stated their intent. I am satisfied with this field-- all three of them would be an improvement over Congressman Walberg-- but would also welcome the entry of a fourth, fifth, or sixth candidate, provided they brought something new to the field, and were serious about their objective.

    This blog will work to help elect the Democratic nominee-- whomever that is. I would, however, welcome all potential candidates (and other public figures not running) to contribute their thoughts. Blogs can become an extraordinary way to share information and ideas, and I think everyone will benefit from that.

    Now, as for yesterday's announcement...

    As a Lenawee County resident, I've heard about Jim Berryman for years, even though I didn't live in the county while he held public office. He's the Uniserv director for the teachers at my town's schools, most people remember him, and no one that I've talked to has a strong dislike of the man. That's good, and it's something that Tim Walberg doesn't have, even here in Lenawee County.

    Berryman offers the resumé that Sharon Renier and David Nacht don't have. A business owner, mayor of a city, member of the Michigan Senate, and active in the community, Berryman is the sort of candidate that looks great. Oddly enough, his record is similar to that of former Congressman Joe Schwarz-- doctor, then mayor of Battle Creek, then the state Senate.

    He's got the experience to mount a legitimate challenge, and, without a doubt, he has the connections to put together a good campaign team and a good congressional office. And perhaps most important for modern campaigning, he seems ready to raise the big money-- up to $3 million, he says.

    Those are some definite positives right there.

    I've taken the time to speak with a few people I know who have met Berryman professionally, and it's been interesting. One, for example, sounded like the president of the Jim Berryman fan club, and had nothing but praise. Another seemed to have had a personality clash with Berryman at some point, and was hoping that he wouldn't be the nominee (but that he was still preferable to Tim Walberg). But for the most part, he comes across with a net positive.

    Does that mean he'll be the nominee? Well, no. It means, he has a legitimate shot at becoming the nominee, but he's got to prove himself to the voters first. I wish him luck in that, just as I wish the others luck as well.

    But even if he doesn't win the nomination, Berryman's entry into the race is a good thing. It brings a great deal of attention to the Democratic side of the 2008 election, attention which was sadly lacking the previous two election cycles. With that attention and with Berryman's experience, it forces all the candidates to campaign on a higher level than has happened previously, with solid ideas and serious fundraising.

    If Berryman raises lots of cash, other candidates will have to get to work in order to be competitive, and that helps in two ways. First, it sets the stage for the general election, where money will be needed to compete with Tim Walberg. Second, it energizes the Democrats in the district. I'm not a fan of nasty primaries, but if Jim Berryman, David Nacht, and Sharon Renier get into an ad war, it'll remind Democrats in the district that they've got a shot at winning.

    The right combination of money and energy wins elections. In 2006, Sharon Renier was absolutely motivated to win, but she fell short because she lacked the campaign apparatus to transfer her energy to the general public. In 2008, hopefully this will be different.

    Anyway, those are my thoughts.

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