Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Betty and the Bridge Part 3: The Faux Budget Fixer

With the country on the brink of, or perhaps beyond, the worst debt crisis in our history, we need to make very serious decisions. Decisions about the debt ceiling, social security, medicare, health care, wars on now three fronts, unemployment at 9%+ (really closer to 20%), and unsustainable public pension plans that are bankrupting our states and cities. Serious changes need to be made to the budget process.  When Betty McCollum was on both the budget and the appropriations committee, there was no budget produced.  In the 2010 debates, she referred to the budget as "simply a piece of paper"

The Congressional Democrats are making the debt crisis a political shell game. Blocking the budget process and debt reconciliation process in both the House and the Senate.  So perhaps this is the new norm for Congressional Democrats, no budget, no plan.  However in several areas Rep McCollum goes beyond this to make us wonder if she is really serious in any way about fiscal responsibility. So where has Betty being placing her bets on balancing the budget?

The Stillwater Bridge
Rep. McCollum's statements about the Stillwater bridge accuse Rep Michele Bachmann of playing a strategy of political distraction.

"The question is, where does the $700 million come from? We need to look at that whole river corridor, we need to be cost-effective, we need to be prudent with taxpayers' dollars."
McCollum denounced the proposed bridge as "excessive and irresponsible" in light of budget troubles in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
"Frankly, the prospect of such legislation becoming law is negligible, which makes such a strategy more of a political distraction than a real transportation solution," McCollum wrote to the St. Croix County, Wis., Board of Supervisors. That board passed a resolution in January supporting an exemption for the bridge. Minnesota's Washington County board did the same on Tuesday in a 5-0 vote.

Where was that attitude of concern about "excessive and irresponsible" in the debate over the extraordinarily expensive central corridor issue.  There are many who doubt the necessity of the light rail as the project was pushed forward without all the contracts even being in place as demolition began.  In the congratulatory conference held on April 26, 2011, after they finally got the federal funding in place, here were Rep McCollum's comments:

Next up was Franken, the former Saturday Night Live funnyman turned politico. "I would like to say I just didn't get Chris' jigsaw analogy," said Franken, to widespread laughter. "Or the golf."
At least the jigsaw analogy makes some metaphorical sense, no matter what got lost in translation. U.S. Congresswoman Betty McCollum went out on a limb, so to speak, to compare the audience in the room to the rain coming down outside: "Each and everyone of you is a little raindrop. Each and everyone of you is going to contribute today."

Well she is so far out on a limb on the bridge that even those who would be the first you would think would support her opinion are actively going the other way.
All four Senators from Minnesota and Wisconsin

May 27 2011  Sen. Amy Klobuchar has introduced legislation that would clear the way for a four-lane, highway-style bridge over the St. Croix River to replace the aging Stillwater Lift Bridge connecting Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Mark Dayton

May 31 2011 With legislation now introduced in the U.S. Senate — as well as the House — to get a new bridge over the St. Croix River south of Stillwater — Gov. Mark Dayton is thanking those responsible for getting things rolling.

Still other's in Washington have pointed out the questionable nature of this even being an issue:

May 5 2011 “I think it’s a dumb issue,” said Rob Bishop of Utah, who chaired a Wednesday hearing on the bill in the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands. “It should have been done a while ago.”

It is unquestionable that Betty McCollum is committed to the environmental side of this and other issues as the video from the Sierra Club shows.  She is, as the Sierra Club interviewer says, "in common cause" with the environmentalist alliance.
A Conversation with Congresswoman McCollum from Sierra Club North Star Chapter on Vimeo

The Military Recruitment Advertisment Program
May 30, 2011 The Army was instructed by Congress to explore motorsport sponsorships in 2000 as a recruiting tool. But the Army's sponsorship expenditure has come under fire recently, with Rep. Betty McCollum pushing for an amendment to the House spending bill for 2011 cutting the $7 million a year the Army spends on sponsorships in auto racing. The House voted down the measure.

The National Guard's investment was seemingly a wise one, as even casual fans saw their sponsorship of Hildebrand and Earnhardt's cars.

She further tried a second time to get the funding eliminated, by putting an amendment into other legislation to try to kill the Nascar advertising of the Military

May 13, 2011 WASHINGTON — A House subcommittee today rejected Rep. Betty McCollum's latest attempt to divest the federal government from NASCAR sponsorships.
McCollum's amendment was one sentence long, and was offered as an attachment to a $72.5 billion bill covering military construction and the Department of Veterans Affairs. The amendment would have prohibited any funds in the bill from being used "to sponsor motorsports race drivers, racing teams, or racing events."
However it does seem to be an effective marketing campaign for recruitment
May 30, 2011 Given the attention paid to the armed forces at both racetracks—including a full-blown “invasion” of the tri-oval by camouflage-clad soldiers at Charlotte—perhaps U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) should rethink her efforts to bar the military from marketing itself through motorsports sponsorships.

Military Bands

May 26 2011 Rep. Betty McCollum has introduced an amendment to a defense authorization bill that would cap Department of Defense spending on military bands to $200 million during the 2012 fiscal year.
...Other members of the Minnesota delegation have offered amendments to the defense bill. The House will vote on a measure from Chip Cravaak that eliminates funding for the U.S. Institute of Peace,

Both measures passed.  Although, I believe the Military had already agreed to eliminating the $120 million, before the passage.  What is an important difference between the cuts?  Chip Cravaak's actually does make government smaller by eliminating bureaucracy.

Radio and Television Martí
Was this an April Fools Day jest?  If it's a jest it would be even stronger evidence of the lack of seriousness in Rep. McCollum's agenda.  This 1980's program may well be ineffective and worthy of cutting. It is a small step in fighting socialism, perhaps that's one additional reason it's demise is requested.  However, when we are adding between $4.5 and 9.4 billion in debt each day, one must question if identifying this 0.0018% of the debt as a "smart cut" was serious or an April Fool's joke.  Only 54750 more to go!  How many bills can Congress pass in a year?

April 1, 2011 "I am working to identify smart cuts that reduce the federal deficit by eliminating ineffective, outdated, and unnecessary programs," said Congresswoman McCollum. "This legislation would save U.S. taxpayers $300 million over the coming decade by ending wasteful broadcasting programs to Cuba known as Radio and TV Martí."

Here was the Capital Hill Cubans blog response:

April 12, 2011 Here's a question for Congresswoman McCollum:
If the Cuban people ignore Radio and TV Marti, then why does the Castro regime spend so much time, effort and resources trying to jam them?
After all, Castro beams his radio stations to the U.S. (in English) -- including Radio Rebelde, Radio Reloj and Radio Habana Cuba -- but the U.S. government doesn't spend any resources scrambling them.
...But who needs scrambling equipment, when there's Congresswoman McCollum...
However, in Cuba, Radio and TV Marti serve as the only instrument that help Cubans break through the Castro regime's censorship and media monopoly.

Well the Castro/Cuba supporters liked it.

The Nascar support issue came up at the same time as decisions about NPR, PBS, and Planned Parenthood were being made.  Was this a response to that action?  Or is this really the view on budgeting that Rep McCollum has?  With the seriousness of our debt and the destruction it is doing to our economy are these agenda items the real solutions to our problem?  Or are they as Rep McCollum phrased it, simply distractions, rather than dealing with the tough issues addressed by serious work such as in the Ryan budget.

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