Views and votes of members of Congress from Delaware, and when applicable their electoral opponents, on SAFE agenda issues.  2011

 

12/24/11, A1/A10, Future grim for mail facility; Postal Service study, employees indicate closure is probable, Jonathan Starkey – The US Postal Service is in financial trouble and one of their ideas for fighting back is to cut back and consolidate service facilities – including elimination of the Hares Corner mail processing facility in Delaware.  Delaware’s mail would be sent to a processing center in Bellmawr, NJ, adding to delivery times for intra-DE mail.  According to Courtland Stinson, one of the union leaders at Hares Corner, “we’re going to lose customers in the long run.” [He may be right.  We are not convinced that the USPS will do better by continuing to give short shrift to customer needs, as they have already done by eliminating many post boxes, etc., including every single one in the Middletown, DE area except two outside the post office.]  Senator Tom Carper continues to try to delay the Hare’s Corner decision, but all he has accomplished so far is to get the public comment session moved back from Jan. 4 to Jan. 12.  Carper has written the Postmaster General to express concern “that neither I, nor my staff, have sufficient detailed information regarding the decision-making process as well as detailed data and analysis that led to the [still not final] decision.”  

 

12/24/11, B1, EPA OKs limit to emissions from certain power plants – This item reprises EPA regulations intended to force numerous coal and oil fired power plants to drastically cut emissions or shut down. See GW entry: “EPA tells nation’s dirty power plants to clean up,” AP, 12/22/11.  It then cites Senator Tom Carper’s support on the reported grounds that “these emissions, which include mercury and arsenic, are a public health threat that can affect child brain development and cause cancer.” [Again, what about the consequences for the US economy? And the health benefits claimed are considerably overstated. “Lisa Jackson’s power play,” Wall Street Journal editorial, 12/22/11.  Thus, according to the WSJ, “the total benefits of mercury reduction amount to all of $6 million.  That’s total present value, not benefits per year.” Also, and this is our thought, just wait until the CFC light bulbs with mercury in them start hitting the landfills of the US in large quantities.  That is when mercury will become a real problem.]

 

12/18/11, A19, With goal achieved, US troops must now leave Afghanistan, Rep. John Carney – The writer confirms and expands on reported comments after returning from a trip to Afghanistan (12/15/11 story).  He begins by saying the war in Afghanistan is now in its eleventh year, and – despite high praise for the soldiers and commanders he met on the trip – “it is important to remember why we are there in the first place.”  The mission was to hunt down Osama bin Laden and eliminate the threat posed by his operatives so that terrorist attacks like 9/11 would never happen again . . . not to build a nation.” [Can the US now rest assured there will never be another big terrorist attack in the US? In our opinion, the answer is obviously “no.”] The Bush Administration “became distracted with the invasion of Iraq,” but “since President Obama’s troop surge” everything is going fine.  “Al-Qaida in Afghanistan has been decimated” – significant progress against the Taliban – “Afghan national army in charge of large swaths of the country and able to lead a growing number of combat operations.”  However, “Afghanistan faces overwhelming obstacles in its effort to build a functioning government, military, and police force.” Widespread illiteracy – mass exodus of leading academics and civil servants during more than a generation of war and Taliban repression – weak economy generates only $1.7B per year for government, which is not nearly enough to pay its security tab let alone schools, etc. – rampant corruption at all levels of Afghan government – Taliban [and Al-Qaida?] hiding out on other side of the long, mountainous border with Pakistan – the latter country has not been a reliable ally.  But US spent $117B in Afghanistan for fiscal year 2011, and we need the money here at home, so let’s declare the goal accomplished except “we must work with the Afghan government to rigorously conduct counterterrorism missions to prevent that country from becoming a safe haven again.” [This leaves out the goal of stabilizing Pakistan – which has nuclear weapons and is racked by political and social unrest.  It also provides little guidance as to how long those counterterrorism missions should continue, at what annual cost, and whether the Afghan government should be subsidized to prevent a Taliban takeover.]

 

12/17/11, A9, Cutting waste can take a bite out of the deficit, Senator Tom Carper – The writer expresses disappointment re two successive failures (president & Speaker Boehner; then the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction) to negotiate a grand bargain to “start reining in our massive federal debt.”  [Senator Carper has said these things before, always without acknowledging the real imperative, which is to balance the federal budget so the debt will stop rising vs. go up a bit more slowly.]  More helpfully, he now says “we shouldn’t twiddle our thumbs until [2013 when the $1.2T sequester will take effect] – we should start reducing our deficit today.”   Accordingly, Senator Carper pledges that “between now and Jan. 1, 2013, I will redouble my efforts to curb waste and fraud throughout the federal government.”  The government “squanders billions of dollars through waste and ineffectiveness,” he says, and it is time “to shift from a culture of spendthrift to a culture of thrift.”  For instance: (A) Medicare and Medicaid “lose tens of billions of dollars annually to waste, fraud, abuse, and inefficient management.  GovCare and “legislation that I co-authored” have supposedly “started to address these programs’ vulnerabilities.” [On balance, we believe GovCare will make things much worse.] Also, a bill introduced by Senators Carper and Coburn (R-OK) would provide stronger penalties for healthcare fraud, etc.  [This does not attack the core problems: fee for service reimbursement that gives doctors and their patients little incentive to avoid unnecessary healthcare outlays; split responsibility for Medicaid services that leaves neither federal nor state government officials clearly accountable.] [B] Presidential line-item veto authority, in the form of a bill co-sponsored by “nearly half of the Senate,” which “for the next four years” [why not permanently?] would require Congress to vote up or down on presidential objections to a spending bill that he/she had signed into law.  [A Constitutional amendment would be required, according to a previous decision of the Supreme Court, to give the president a real line item veto that Congress could only override by a 2/3 majority.  Why not support such an amendment?] [C] “Finally, we must address broader government inefficiency.” [Would that include eliminating programs which are overlapping, do more harm than good, or simply are not worth the cost?  We can think of many of them.]  The example cited is selling off surplus government property, thereby raising sale proceeds and eliminating carrying costs.  “We must craft effective legislation to address the problems with the current federal property disposal process, while finding ways for agencies to utilize federal assets more efficiently and cost-effectively.” [Maybe there is a good idea here, but we suspect only the Executive Branch can effectively address this particular issue.]

 

12/15/11, A3, Senate rejects proposals for balanced-budget amendment – Two BBA amendments were voted on; neither achieved a simple majority let alone the required 2/3 margin. VERSION ONE was sponsored by Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO).  It received 21 votes, 20 from Democrats including Sen. Tom Carper.  Sen. Chris Coons voted “no.”  VERSION TWO, sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), failed on a 53-47 party line vote.  In a statement, Carper said VERSION ONE had the merit of focusing the country’s attention on the need to balance the budget, as a way to address deficits caused by the Bush tax cuts, two wars and severe recession. [This account absolves the current Administration of all responsibility.]  “We don’t need a [BBA] to do what we know is right.  What we need is leadership, courage and to be mindful of our responsibility to the American taxpayer.”  For his part, Sen. Coons slammed VERSION TWO as “dangerous” and “impractical.” [While a BBA might be nice, passing it without any intent of implementation would be a waste of time.  Sen. Carper’s rhetoric about fiscal responsibility is belied by his stands on concrete spending issues, e.g., creating a national park for Delaware.]

 

12/15/11, A3, Carney wants to reduce tax money spent on Afghanistan – After returning from a visit to Afghanistan, Rep. John Carney was quoted as wanting to continue spending only as much tax money there as necessary to keep terrorists out.  “My interest is in making that as small a number as possible so that we can spend money improving our transportation system here in the United States and other things, as well as bringing our budget into greater balance.” [It’s hard to construe such rhetoric as an endorsement for balancing the budget!]

 

12/13/11, A9, On payroll tax cut, GOP shows true colors, John Daniello (Democratic Party state chairman) – Column touts proposed temporary payroll tax cut (an extension and possible expansion of the temporary cut in 2011) as a means to “put money directly into the pockets of our families who need it.”  Several Democrats are praised for supporting the proposal: President Obama knows how important these cuts are.  So do Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons, who voted in support of the extension.  And Representative John Carney supports the payroll tax cut as well.  “Republicans,” on the other hand, are blasted for choosing “to give more money to big corporations and our richest Americans instead of putting it where it counts - in our pockets.”

[From a policy standpoint, the payroll tax cut is a poor idea. SAFE has written members of Congress to oppose it. http://bit.ly/vTmJaE Also, Republicans are backing a payroll tax cut proposal that would be paid for in a different way – not outright opposing the idea.]

 

12/13/11, B1/B2, Carper, Coons use Delaware Day as platform to promote state’s past, Robin Brown – On the Senate floor, Senators Carper and Coons slipped in some repartee about how on Dec. 7, 1787, 30 Delawareans gathered at the Golden Fleece Tavern in Dover and voted unanimously to make Delaware the first state to ratify the Constitution.  Also covered was Caesar Rodney’s ride to Philadelphia in July 1776 to cast the “tiebreaking vote for the Declaration of Independence,” and various other glowing references to The First State then and now. Senator Carper adroitly slipped in a pitch for a Delaware national park. [The promotion of Delaware is fine, but Delaware does not need a state park just because all the other states have one – particularly given the seriousness of the fiscal problem.]

 

12/8/11, A12, Government can lay groundwork for innovation, Senator Chris Coons – Short term actions to create jobs are important, but as well Congress must cultivate “the ideas that will power the American economy a year, a decade, and a generation from now.”  To this end, “innovation is an economic imperative,” and where is it going to come from – because many of the lost manufacturing jobs are not coming back.  A “long-term strategy” is needed – “educating a workforce for the demands of a cutting-edge economy, directing investment to advanced research, and providing targeted tax credits to the companies that of the next groundbreaking product, service, and processes.” [How do directed investment and tax credits differ from the government attempting to pick economic winners and losers?  Never has worked, won’t work now in our view.]  In support of his view, Senator Coons claims – as one example – that “nearly every component of the iPad” – e.g., tiny microchips, accelerometers, global positioning system and scratch-resistant glass – “can be traced back to federal research.” [Obviously, federal research can pay off, and this example may be somewhat valid.  But did the government set out to create the iPad or have military applications in mind?  And did Apple need federal tax credits and guidance to produce the iPad?]  Conclusion: “Our nation’s economic recovery depends largely on the strength of American innovation, and at this critical moment, we simply cannot afford to starve our economy of the investment it needs.” [What we cannot afford is a US investment climate so hostile that companies are driven to offshore facilities for their new products.  And the currently poor investment climate is a direct result of government regulatory and tax policies, which the writer completely overlooks.]

 

12/5/11, A1/A2, Some in left wing feel slighted; Top Democrats accused of cozying up to conservatives, Chad Livengood – Headshots (p.1): “John Carney supports balancing the budget; Wasteful federal spending irks Tom Carper; Compromise is needed, Chris Coons believes.”  The gist of the story is that various “liberals” feel members of Delaware’s have moved to the right, and they don’t like it.  But there is also a suggestion that the purported concessions to “conservative” demands are more lip service than anything else. Thus, according to the story: “Even though they are from a state dominated by Democrats, members of the congressional delegation know they must appear moderate to please independents and keep potential Republican opponents at bay, political analysts say.”  Quoting Dan Cassino of Farleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey: Representative Carney wants to support “a balanced budget [amendment] that’s so watered down that it’s meaningless” to “essentially cut out his opponent’s [presumed to be Republican Tom Kovach in 2012] talking points.” And “despite the grumbling of some Democrats,” the article goes on to say, “there’s not a groundswell of opposition to their [the Delaware members] attempts at bipartisanship.” [Well, thank goodness for that.  But how this “analysis” constitutes a news story is beyond us.  And why is the News Journal so fascinated with the politics, when they should be concerned about the continuing failure to address the fiscal problem instead of just talking about it.  Can it be that balancing the budget is somehow inconsistent with “liberal” principles?]

 

12/3/11, A8, Welcome to president’s defense planning team – Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons sponsored an amendment to the Defense Reauthorization Act, which passed the Senate 93-7, to reportedly give the National Guard a “stronger voice in the Pentagon’s planning.”  The mechanism was apparently giving the National Guard a newly created seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. [We don’t have any information about this move, but are certainly not convinced by the editorial that it’s a good thing.]

 

12/1/11, A10, Congress not realizing severity of debt crisis, Dorothy Kendall (Clayton) – The writer dismisses the goal that eluded the “Super Committee” – cutting the deficit by $1.2T over 10 years – as plainly inadequate.  “A better goal” of $400B a year is said to be “backed by Sen. Tom Carper” [Senator Carper did publicly favor such a “grand bargain,” although he did not get specific about the details], but that would be “only a fraction of what is needed to stop sinking deeper into debt.”  Also, Senator Carper’s support for a national park in Delaware indicates “a lack of seriousness about our dangerous debt.”  If he can find the cuts to pay for the park, then why not just make them and “forget the National Park.” 

 

11/22/11, A2, Del. delegation still hopeful that debt progress possible, Nicole Gaudiano – Sound bites in wake of JC deadlock announcement: (A) Senator Tom Carper said he would redouble his efforts as chairman of a subcommittee on federal financial management to identify ways to get better results for less money.  “We’re going to go after the waste that exists, and there’s plenty of it.”  Also,  “I’ll still push the $4 trillion comprehensive deficit reduction plan.”  (B) Senator Chris Coons said the outcome did not end Congress’s responsibility to enact deficit-reduction measures to prevent an economic crisis such as the only paralyzing Europe.  “Greece may have a math problem, but America has a leadership problem.” (C) Representative John Carney: “I will work with any and all interested members in trying to get approval for a responsible plan that is balanced and fair.” 

 

11/17/11, A1/A2, Big cuts the right solution: Bipartisan group calls for $4T target, Nicole Gaudiano – Headshot (p.1): “Sen. Tom Carper feels a big cut shows fiscal responsibility.” Headshots (p.2): “Rep. John Carney said he is ‘looking’ for common ground”; “Sen. Chris Coons calls for ‘a responsible, bold, bipartisan compromise,” Despite the prominent placement of this story, it is mainly fluff.  THE GROUP: Over 100 members of Congress who are not on the Joint Committee, including the three members of Congress from Delaware.  POSITION: JC members should forget their assigned goal of at least $1.2T in deficit reduction and “go big” with “$4 trillion in savings over a decade through mandatory spending cuts and new tax revenues.” [Anything but targeted cuts of wasteful spending!]  SENATOR CARPER: This would be “the best jobs bill that we could adopt.”  Other credit rating agencies could join Standard & Poor’s in downgrading US debt if the JC deadlocks.  He referenced a survey that supposedly shows “most Delawareans” want a comprehensive, bipartisan deal that would include entitlement reforms, tax reform and $3 in spending cuts for every dollar of new revenues. [“Reform” is always in the eye of the beholder, and there are many ways to propose bogus spending cuts.] SENATOR COONS: “[This] will be one of the few good chances we have at reaching a responsible, bold, bipartisan compromise on dealing with the deficit.”  REPRESENTATIVE CARNEY: Visualizes a two-step process, whereby the JC could outline spending cuts and revenue increases with the details to be “filled in over time.”  Would support using tax reform to increase revenue – which seems to represent “common ground” - and such reform cannot happen in a week.  [SAFE says the JC should focus on spending cuts and leave a comprehensive tax overhaul for later.] 

 

11/17/11, A9, Carney won’t vote for GOP balanced-budget plan; He has introduced his own proposal, Nicole Gaudiano – Rep. John Carney reportedly “will vote against a Republican proposal that would amend the Constitution to require a balanced budget every year.” GOP PROPOSAL authored by Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) would not cap spending as a percentage of GDP or require a supermajority vote for tax increases, but instead “require a three-fifths vote in each chamber to increase the nation’s borrowing limit.” The balanced budget requirement would be waived during wars or imminent security threats, but not during recessions. [A mushy proposal!] ADMINISTRATION RESPONSE: “We do not need to amend the Constitution . . . to do the job of restoring fiscal discipline.”  CARNEY’S PROPOSAL would (a) permit current deficits in the capital budget, and (b) not require the Social Security trust fund to be balanced every year.  He says a BBA “sounds great” to most people, but “spending for military equipment and assets, spending for federal facilities and infrastructure, requires a more sophisticated approach.”  SENATOR CARNEY, “whose proposal for a balanced-budget amendment came close to passing the House in the 1990s,” said a combination of the Goodlatte and Carney proposals would be a “very good constitutional amendment.” He would therefore urge them to team up on a proposal. [It might be longer than the original Constitution and all amendments to date.]

 

11/17/11, A12, Triggers should prompt compromise on budget – Editorial notes the Joint Committee could easily deadlock.  With “a group of House Republicans” opposing tax increases of any type, “the only choice is drastic cuts.  Just what is it these Republicans want cut?”  But deadlock would trigger the $1.2T sequester, which “would be slashed from national security and Medicaid [?]. Considering the damage that could do, perhaps ‘going big’ isn’t such a bad idea.” [Compare our 11/15 letter to the JC. http://bit.ly/u2wKlM]

 

11/16/11, A6, Coons teams with Rubio on bipartisan jobs bill, Nicole Gaudiano – Senators Chris Coons & Marco Rubio (R-FL) reportedly “want to cut through the partisanship that’s paralyzing Washington and move forward with a plan to stimulate job growth.”  Hence they are sponsoring the AGREE (American Growth, Recovery, Empowerment & Entrepreneurship) Act, which would “extend tax relief for small businesses, encourage research and innovation, reduce barriers to immigration for highly skilled workers, protect businesses from illegal counterfeiting, and provide tax incentives for hiring veterans and regulatory relief for small companies.”  The two freshman senators were encouraged to get together by Adrienne Arsht, a Delaware native, former Miami banker, and “one of the nation’s top philanthropists.” [The details may not match this glowing description, plus which real tax reform would eliminate tax credits and lower tax rates.]

 

11/16/11, A13, Joint Coons-Rubio bill shows what can be done – “Who says bipartisan compromise is impossible?” This editorial goes on to suggest that opposition to the bill could represent “proof of spiteful partisanship.”   Surely everyone should be able to agree on extending “certain depreciation breaks,” providing “some Sarbanes-Oxley reporting relief for small businesses,” and giving US manufacturers “a higher research and development [tax] credit.”  And “if Congress doesn’t act soon, the current R&D tax credit expires at the end of December.”  [Here was our response to Senator Coons’ electronic feedback request: Re the AGREE Act, we would question the reliance on tax credits for identified economic policies or activities.  That type of thinking has created the broken tax system the US has today, and the action needed is to overhaul the entire tax system to make it far simpler, more efficient, and as far as possible economically neutral. You and Senator Rubio might do better to collaborate on such tax reform. SAFE's SimpleTax proposal might provide a useful template.   http://www.s-a-f-e.org/the_simple_tax.htm]

 

11/16/11, A15, National park will allow First State to better tell its unique story, Senator Tom Carper – UPDATE: Legislation to create a Delaware National Park [DNP] has been approved by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, clearing the way for consideration by the full Senate.  WHY: (1) Delaware is the only state without a state park.  It should be able to “tell its story on the national stage.”   (2) In 2009, “each state with a national park received a minimum or $1.1 million in direct economic benefits from park tourism, with many states receiving much more.” WHAT: The DNP would be made up of six sites in all three counties, like “pearls on a necklace.”  HOW: The DNP “would be one of the least expensive in the country,” thanks to a “cooperative use agreement between current owners and the federal government.” And Carper has “pledged to find savings from existing federal funds to pay for the cost of the park, incurring no new costs for taxpayers.” [Why should these savings be applied to fund new and clearly nonessential federal spending vs. reducing the deficit?]

 

11/15/11, A8, Reality check needed on push for national park, Bonnie Haines (Wilmington)

The writer has “never understood the need for a national park, even if [DE is] the only state not to have one.”  She mocks Senator Tom Carper’s recent statement that “he cannot wait for the day when families across the country and the world will plan their vacations around the Delaware National Park.”  Seriously, “does he really think families in Europe, Asia and the states will be checking us out?”

 

11/13/11, Wind power rapidly nears “grid parity,” group says – The claim: Analysts “expect wind to become fully competitive with energy produced from combined-cycle gas turbines by 2016 in most regions offering fair wind conditions.”  The source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance.  The basis: Cost of electricity from wind turbines will fall 12% in the next five years “because equipment will cost less, and the turbines are becoming more efficient.” [Our thoughts: (1) What about the cost of backup generation capacity because wind power is notoriously intermittent?  (2) What about potential technology gains for conventional power?  Green advocates notoriously focus on improvements for the technologies they are trying to promote.  (3) What prices for fossil fuels are assumed in the analysis?  Falling natural gas prices due to the fracking boom have substantially widened the cost advantage of conventional power facilities.]

 

11/13/11, A15, Cleanup continues at Japan nuke plant; full containment will likely take [continue for?] many decades, David Guttenfelder & Eric Talmadge (AP) – Big photo of a portion of the facilities, not very distinct: “As photographed during a media tour Saturday, the Unit 4 reactor building of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power station is a shattered hulk.”  Fukushima was on the front page almost every day a few months ago, but had receded from the public eye.  This report resulted because the press was just allowed to visit portions of the facilities.  As related, the situation is grim; cleanup efforts will proceed slowly and with extreme caution.  The plan is to clean up some of the mess, and then encase the facilities in a protective structure as happened at Chernobyl.  [See this coverage in the UK Guardian. http://bit.ly/rMH1fQ]

Anti-nuclear activists are working hard to dramatize the Fukushima situation.  Thus, “recent studies suggest that Japan continues to significantly underestimate the scale of the disaster.” The Norwegian Institute for Air Research claims that twice as much radioactive cesium-137 “was pumped into the atmosphere” as has been reported. The French Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety “found that 30 times more cesium-137 was released into the Pacific Ocean than the plant’s owner has owned up to.” 

Fears generated by the Fukushima experience have fueled concerns about any and all nuclear operations.  The previous plan to increase Japanese reliance on nuclear plants for electric power from the current 33% to 50% by 2030 has apparently been shelved.  Worse, 43 of Japan’s 56 nuclear reactors are currently inactive.  Shutdowns are periodically required for correction of mechanical problems or routine inspections, local approval is required for restarts, and “local leaders fearing repercussions at the polls have been loath to provide [such approval].”  If the political resistance continues, the article concludes, “every nuclear reactor in Japan could be offline by May [2012].”  [This situation bodes ill for the Japanese economy, which would face higher power costs if Japan began generating all of its power with imported fossil fuels.  Also, increased greenhouse gas emissions would result.  No one can be very happy about this situation; it is indeed a disaster for Japan.]

 

11/12/11, A7, Va. nuclear plant gets OK to restart, AP – After being offline since August 23, when it was automatically stopped by safety devices triggered by an earthquake, the North Anna nuclear power plant in Virginia was finally cleared to restart by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  Multiple inspections had revealed no structural damage.  Dominion Power had “spent more than 100,000 hours and $21 million in inspection, testing and evaluation.” [Careful inspection was warranted, of course, but this sounds like overkill. The fears triggered by the Fukushima meltdown as a result of a far more severe earthquake and tsunami will live on for a long time.  See 11/13/11 story re Fukushima update.]

 

11/12/11, A8, End regional spread of power-plant emissions – News Journal applauds Senate’s rejection of “a block on an Environmental Protection Agency order that would stop power plant emissions [how?] from crossing state lines.” However, they warn, “opponents of the rule have not given up” and “we can expect more battles before the rule goes into effect in January.”  Oh, and the EPA rule would “create more jobs” [this is an example of the well-known “broken windows” fallacy] although the “owners of the plants have organized resistance” to it. [What about the interests of consumers who do not want to pay more than necessary for electric power, not to mention Americans who are concerned about economic recovery?]  Senators Tom Carper & Chris Coons were right in voting to defeat the anti-EPA resolution, good for them! 

 

11/11/11, A14, Carper fails to mention Amtrak’s loss of money, Kenneth R. Oppenheimer, New Castle – An Oct. 18 e-mail from Senator Tom Carper cited Amtrak’s new all-time record for ridership as partly justifying “yet more funding to be directed to Amtrak.”  Not mentioned was the near-record amount of money [$560M] needed to cover its operating deficit in fiscal year 2011, nearly $1B in capital subsidies, $52M in debt restructuring subsidies, and access to a $563M low-interest loan with the Department of Transportation.  “Why do we need to subsidize a business such as Amtrak that can’t make a profit?”

 

11/11/11, B1, Block on EPA rule rejected: Senate vote boosts efforts to limit pollution that crosses state lines, Raju Chebium & Nicole Gaudiano – Update on “Carper leads air-pollution fight,” 11/8/11.  The resolution being pushed by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) was defeated by a 56-41 vote margin, leaving intact a cross-border pollution rule that will reportedly require “coal plants in 27 states to cut emissions that drift across state lines.”  Senator Tom Carper’s floor remarks, ending with “enough is enough,” are quoted.  Senator Chris Coons also voted against the resolution.  But Senator Paul remains unconvinced.  “We can have a clean environment and we can have jobs.  This is about whether or not we can have a balanced approach.” EPA officials reportedly “estimate the rule will prevent up to 34,000 deaths a year linked to respiratory illness – including an estimated 140 in Delaware – and tens of thousands of nonfatal illnesses and symptoms.” [The EPA is bent on shutting down all coal power plants, which would deal a crushing blow to the US economy.  Their health claims are based on dubious statistics, and they simply ignore the economic effects.  Realistic plans to generate the needed power from other affordable sources do not exist.]

 

11/11/11, A1/A2, DAFB report review sought, Nicole Gaudiano – More about the DAFB mortuary controversy, leading with attacks on the Air Force IG report by Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) among others.  The story relates that Senator Tom Carper’s office was contacted in December 2009 by one of the “whistle-blowers,” and that Carper sought an investigation at that time.  Carper’s current assessment: “Clearly the operation of the Air Force mortuary was not perfect, and we learned that from the whistle-blowers, and every effort is being made to make it better or as close to perfect as it can be.” [With the best will in the world, the complaints and investigation have probably stirred up more hurt than they resolved.]

 

11/10/11, A1/A2, DAFB Mortuary Investigation: Families express empathy, outrage, Chad Livengood & Nicole Gaudiano – Dover Air Force Base has been “the designated entry point for more than 6,000 US service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan in the past decade.”  At times, decisions have been required as to the disposition of body parts, and now – through mortuary employee “whistle blowers,” an Air Force Inspector General’s report that said mistakes were made but no laws were broken, and a US Office of Special Counsel report sent to the White House that alleged “gross mismanagement” – such decisions have become public knowledge.  A core issue is whether family members should have been consulted about the decisions.  Among those weighing in on the situation is Senator Tom Carper, who says he was “surprised, disappointed and anxious” to ensure an investigation would quickly get under way.  Investigators told Carper that they would be conducting dozens of interviews and wanted to get the findings right, i.e., the investigation would take a while.  [Here is a reminder of the many roles that members of Congress are expected to serve beyond their prime duty of legislating.  Perhaps we expect too much of them.]  

 

11/8/11, A11, Carper leads air-pollution fight; Senate vote has big impact on Delaware, Nicole Gaudiano – A resolution backed by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), which is coming to a vote in the Senate this week, would block an EPA rule “targeting pollution that crosses state lines and hurts air quality in downwind states such as Delaware.” The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule is reportedly designed to “curb smog and soot pollution from power plants and industrial sources in 27 states.” [The rule would not apply to DE pollution; is there a “divide and conquer” dynamic at work here?]  Senator Tom Carper is opposing the anti-EPA bill, and asserts “this is basically a fairness and equity issue” in that “some states” should not be able to “enjoy lower electricity costs” while “they’re increasing our electricity costs [because DE can’t meet ambient air standards without expensive measures] and increasing our healthcare costs.”  Similar legislation previously passed in the House, but the resolution (even though for some reason not subject to filibuster) is not expected to clear the Senate – and even if it did and a conforming version passed the House, the president “probably would veto it.”  Carper previously worked for legislation to address the issue, but his efforts broke down in 2010 because some power companies reportedly “gambled on 2010 election results rather than work towards a legislative fix.  He now refers to the EPA’s rule as “not a bad second choice” because “we’ve waited long enough.”  

 

11/4/11, A14, A smart and balanced reform approach – News Journal editorial reprises the proposed Senate rescue plan for the USPS (see yesterday’s story) and identifies Senator Tom Carper as a backer.  One additional item: the “Postal Service would be allowed [was someone stopping them?] to work with unions to develop a new health[care] plan, which could cut costs in half while maintaining ‘adequate’ benefits.”  Conclusion: This is “the most sensible plan” to rescue the Postal Service from “likely bankruptcy” and support “modernizing the service back into profitability to secure a stable workforce of about 8 million jobs.”  

 

11/4/11, A14, Carney deserves praise for cancer study, Kit Zak (Lewes), a cofounder of Citizens for Clean Power – Representative John Carney is credited with “work he began over 10 years ago to deal with the high concentrations of cancer in our state.”  Thanks to his persistent efforts, “a small group of volunteers who live near the Indian River coal plant in Millsboro” will be involved in tests to “help determine the health burdens posed by its emissions.”  Which is great, because “Millsboro residents need to know what specific toxins they are exposed to on a regular basis” so they “can make informed choices about their health thorough the Cancer Right to Know law and now the body burden study.” [No question, coal-fired power plants emit some harmful pollutants.  But the line about residents making informed choices about their health is silly; the obvious objective is to fuel efforts to close down the Indian River plant entirely – whatever the economic implications.]

 

11/3/11, A1/A8 Senators propose buyouts for USPS; workforce reduction part of bipartisan bill, Nicole Gaudiano – Sponsors of the proposal include Senator Tom Carper.  The goal would be to “help the cash-strapped service meet its goal of saving $20 billion by 2015.”  To this end, the bill would (A) “give the service access to about $7 billion it overpaid into one of its pension funds” [the total amount in dispute is in the $50-75B range, according to information that has been reported elsewhere, so this is the “tip of the iceberg”]; (B) authorize the USPS to offer buyouts or retirement benefits to reduce its workforce by at least 100,000 without layoffs; (C) trim workers’ compensation benefits for postal workers and other federal employees (apparently some retired postal workers are drawing bigger disability benefits than the normal retirement benefits, although they would be exempted from the new rules); and (D) “move home delivery in some cases from mailboxes at the door to the curb;”    But there would also be some restrictions on USPS management proposals: (1) “rigorous” public comment periods before closing mail processing facilities such as Hare’s Corner in Delaware; (2) hold off on ending Saturday mail service for at least two years; and (3) a “study of mail classes that don’t pay their way” before future increases in postage rates.  Senator Carper is quoted that “we need to be able to demonstrate that Democrats and Republicans and an occasional independent can govern again.”  He also said the bill would allow the USPS to sell non-postal products, offer services on behalf of state and local governments, and ship wine and beer like its private competitors.  In short “the Postal Service needs to be innovative, they have to be entrepreneurial, they have to come up with new ideas.” [This legislation is the antithesis of a true deregulation approach; why in the world should Congress be involved in micromanaging all these issues?]

 

11/12/11, A3, Debt panel urged to consider all options – 100 members of the House signed a letter to the Joint Committee re the pending deficit reduction negotiations, reportedly urging consideration of all options to raise revenues as the JC hunts for “ways to trim the gargantuan $14.8 trillion national debt.” This article goes on to praise the “letter’s bipartisan, conciliatory tone,” which is contrasted with “the political atmosphere in Washington that has buffeted the super-committee.” [NO ONE is talking about reducing the debt; the issue under discussion is how to trim the projected rate of increase.  Here is the text of the letter; Rep. John Carney was one of the signatories. http://1.usa.gov/tQuoKJ]

 

11/2/11, A11, Congressional travel on rise again; Carper [and] wife took $8,000 trip to Canada for conference, Fredreka Schouten (USA Today) – Congressional travel paid for by private groups must be disclosed in line with requirements imposed in 2007, but is on the rise again.  There were 415 such trips in the first three quarters of 2011, total value exceeding $3.1 million.  Locally: (A) Senator Carper & his wife traveled to Banff, Canada, in the Canadian Rockies, for an $8,105 trip funded by the Aspen Institute Congressional Program.  During the stay, Carper attended a conference on “Educating America’s Youth for Success in the Global Arena.”  Other members of Congress in attendance included Republican senators Pat Roberts (Kansas) and Richard Lugar (Indiana).  (B) Senator Coons approved privately funded trips that cost a total of $20,125 for three members of his staff, including a $13,205 trip to Sub-Sahara Africa sponsored by the ONE campaign re the challenges of extreme poverty in the area.  Coons chairs the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on African affairs.  (C) Representative John Carney approved a $165 trip of a staffer [in DC] to Wilmington to participate in the High Speed Rail Caucus’ tour of Amtrak facilities. [Favors can buy access, which is generally undesirable, but we can’t see anything shocking in these revelations.] 

 

10/22/11, A1/A2, Fisker: No misuse of federal loan; says money spent in US, Jonathan Starkey – An ABC News report suggested that a $529M federal loan (repeatedly reported by the News Journal) was being used to fund manufacturing operations in Finland.  Actually, Fisker and the Department of Energy shot back, the money will be used – as intended – to support US operations including the renovation of the Boxwood site in Delaware to manufacture electric Nina cars.  Charges attacked as politically motivated, etc.  Thus, Emily Spain, a spokeswoman for Senator Tom Carper, is quoted that  “some are trying to use this misleading story for political gain in a desperate attempt to attack manufacturing jobs and clean-energy technology.” 

 [We agree that the ABC report about diversion of funds to Finland was silly.  The issue is whether the US operations being supported make any sense – and in our opinion they do not.]

 

10/17/11, A10, Postal Service thankful for Carney’s efforts, Robert Wilkerson (Wilmington) – The writer purports to speak for “four Postal Service unions – letter carriers, clerks, mail handlers and rural carriers” in thanking Representative John Carney for co-sponsoring HR 1351. The bill would “return an overpayment made to the Office of Personnel Management in the amount of $75 billion” and “help to offset the prefunding of future retiree health[care] benefits.”  In addition, Carney co-sponsored House Resolution 137, which would mandate that the Postal Service maintain six-day service.  “We are fortunate to have a congressman who cares about the working middle class and future of the Postal Service.”  [In other words, let’s have a bailout.  Fiscally irresponsible positions, which would allow a bad situation to continue deteriorating.]

 

10/15/11, A1/ A5, Del.’s champion for cleaner air; Sen. Tom Carper defends environmental regulation, Nicole GaudianoA1 photos: Big picture, seashore in background, “Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., (left) chats with Michael Stroeh, manager of Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge, at Fowler Beach.  Carper wants to preserve Prime Hook, which reminds him of former Gov. Russell Peterson.”  Smaller pictures: “Pollution from industry” (smoke stacks photo) “and automobiles” (traffic on an interstate photo) “threatens the Inland Bays in Delaware.” A5 photo, Senator Carper standing in front of Stroeh and to his right, holding a map in left hand and gesturing with his right hand.  “[The two men] tour the Fowler Beach area on Friday.  Carper noted the World War II bunker [not visible in the picture] out in the distance.”  

            That bunker, formerly a lookout for German U-boats, was reportedly built “several hundred feet” behind the dune line.  “But storms and sea-level rise have helped wash away the dunes and erode the shoreline, leaving the bunker, as Carper points out, “in the soup.”  This is, according to the senator, a “graphic” illustration of climate change – which appears to be accelerating.  It took over six decades (1926 to 1992), readers are informed, for the Fowler Beach shoreline to recede about 300 feet.  In the past two decades it has receded 200 more feet. [Sounds like the bunkers should be standing in the water.  Are they?]  “People can say sea-level rise is fiction.  It’s not real,” Carper said.  “I would invite them here.”

            Carper chairs the Senate subcommittee overseeing the Clean Air Act, and in this role “he has long defended the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority under the law to regulate greenhouse gases and other pollutants considered harmful to public health and the environment.” Alas, however, House Republicans are fighting this authority and calling EPA regulations “job-destroying.”  And Carper, for his part, is measuring success in the Senate “by the bad things [interference with EPA initiatives to continually tighten regulatory requirements] we keep from happening.”  Thus, his subcommittee held hearings to highlight the “special threat children face from air pollution and the benefits of cleaning up, including adding jobs.”  Such efforts are praised by Frank O’Donnell of Clean Air Watch, who says Carper is “not some nutty firebrand,” but “a guy who says cleaning up the air and economic growth go hand in hand.” [What if this claim is not true?]  And now, some specific issues: (1) Delaware’s inland bays are shallow, and the major environmental problem is nutrient pollution that leads to low levels of oxygen.  15% of nitrogen pollution is deposited from the air, and modeling shows that most of it is coming from cars, power plants, and other sources outside of the state.  Stricter pollution standards could help, and the Administration is to be praised for finalizing the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule.  However, bummer, tougher smog standards were recently shelved under intense industry pressure.  According to Carper, the nation is therefore “stuck” at a faulty ozone standard set in 1997.  [Actually, the EPA can enforce an intermediate standard that was set in 2008 under the previous Administration.]  (2) Reference is made to a study by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity that predicts high costs and job losses associated with four proposed EPA rules.  House Republicans like Rep. Eric Cantor have been using the study as a basis for targeting the rules.  “But Carper said a clean environment, economic development and job creation ‘are not mutually exclusive.”  Just look, NRG Energy is investing $360M in state-of-the-art technology to clean up emissions at the Indian River power plant.  OK, all but one of the plant’s four power units will stay in operation after 2013, eliminating about a dozen full-time positions by attrition, but hundreds of construction workers will be employed in the meantime.  All that’s needed is for the president to make a sincere effort to bring “common sense” to regulations, so that (in Gaudiano’s words) “the business community will be more at ease, the economy will improve, and [those nasty] Republicans won’t be able to convince people that regulations for cleaner air and water will somehow destroy the economy.” (3) Carper visualizes Delaware as an environmental paradise.  In this part of the interview, he recalls a comment by former Gov. Russell Peterson that 75,000 people visit Prime Hook each year, and the vast majority are wildlife observers including bird watchers.  “One hundred years from now, 200 years from now, people are going to come here, and this is still going to be a beautiful place, and it will be a safe and clean place.”   

 

10/13/11, A2, Delegation divided on Colombia trade pact, Nicole Gaudiano – Three trade treaties negotiated by the previous administration were finally sent to Congress for ratification by the president after three years of wrangling about associated job retraining programs.  Congress approved all of the treaties, but two members from Delaware (Senator Chris Coons and Representative John Carney) voted against the Colombia pact on grounds that Colombia has a history of violence against labor leaders.  The article states “last year, more than 50 labor leaders were killed there.” [If so, the statistic is presumably related to the civil war that has been raging in Colombia vs. intolerance of labor leaders per se.]  Sen. Tom Carper voted for the Colombia treaty, saying he had been persuaded that Colombia has made progress over the past decade by providing extra protection for those believed to be at risk.  [In another vote, both Senators Carper and Coons voted for the American Jobs Act, an abysmal piece of legislation, which however was blocked.  Their vote is noted without condemnation in an editorial on page 12.  Also, both senators voted for legislation to penalize China for alleged currency manipulation. http://wapo.st/rtajnB Hopefully, this bill will die in the House.]

 

10/11/11, A1/A5, GOP’s Kovach set to run for US House seat against Carney, Chad Livengood

Small head shot: New Castle County Council president Tom Kovach is planning to form a campaign committee today in a run for the US House.  “We’re not in an exploratory phase.  We’re in the campaign mode to take the seat in 2012.”  Representative John Carney’s office issued a statement: “Congressman Carney has been in office for less than a year and is focused on creating jobs, responsibly reducing the deficit and making Delaware a better place to live, work and raise a family.  He will continue working with any Democrat or Republican who wants to be part of the solution.”

 

10/8/11, A1/A7, Refinery marks official restart: owners announce they might add $1B in new units; job numbers are uncertain, Jeff Montgomery – Formal reopening ceremony went off to mutual satisfaction of the business leader (Thomas O’Malley, chairman of PBF Holding Co.), politicians (Gov. Jack Markell, Senator Tom Carper), labor, and even (apparently) the environmentalists.  The reconfigured refinery is suitable for processing high sulfur crude oil, to produce 210K barrels per day of ultra-clean fuels.  Its opening coincides with the closing of several other refineries in the area, and remember that not so long ago the former Delaware City owner (Valero) was prepared to sell this facility for scrap if no bids materialized.  [Valero likely to be torn down, 1/10/10.]  Governor Markell reportedly saved the situation by locating O’Malley, who agreed to pay $220M for the refinery with several government grants and environmental concessions as a sweetener.  Senator Carper is credited with lobbying a former Senate colleague on the Valero board to support a deal with PBF after Valero initially balked.  Carper credits PBF and the companies considering joining in an expansion investment at the site with helping in US efforts to shift from fossil fuels to cleaner energy.  “We’re not going to be free of our dependence on oil and coal any time soon, but what is so important is that we use them in a more environmentally responsible way.” [Good show, all the way around.]

 

10/5/11, A10, Sen. Carper is named Port Person of the year, Aaron Nathans – Award from the American Association of Port Authorities will be made at a Friday lunch (DuPont Country Club) hosted by the Port of Wilmington, Maritime Society.  It is reportedly “in recognition of Senator Carper’s many contributions toward improving the national transportation infrastructure, its waterways, port security and, most recently, the air quality by reducing harmful emissions at seaports and other transportation facilities.”

 

10/5/11, A12, Medicare cheaters rip off prescription drugs –GAO report indicates that Medicare drug benefits are being abused by 170,000 Medicare enrollees to obtain a “wide assortment of painkillers and other narcotics.”  One woman got 3,655 oxycodone pills from 58 different doctors and 40 different pharmacies in the course of a single year.  Senator Tom Carper, who chairs the Senate subcommittee that asked for the report, is said to be outraged.  He called on Medicare officials to start cracking down on the drug cheats.  And although “current law does not allow Medicare to restrict access to these drugs,” suggests the News Journal, histories of prescription data should be tallied to flag possible abuse and beneficiaries found guilty should be stricken from the program. [Top down controls may reduce fraud and abuse, but will never eliminate it.  Basic problem is a Medicare system that creates the illusion of “free” benefits.]

 

10/5/11, A10, Sen. Carper is named Port Person of the year, Aaron Nathans – Award from the American Association of Port Authorities will be made at a Friday lunch (DuPont Country Club) hosted by the Port of Wilmington, Maritime Society.  It is reportedly “in recognition of Senator Carper’s many contributions toward improving the national transportation infrastructure, its waterways, port security and, most recently, the air quality by reducing harmful emissions at seaports and other transportation facilities.”

 

10/5/11, A12, Medicare cheaters rip off prescription drugs –GAO report indicates that Medicare drug benefits are being abused by 170,000 Medicare enrollees to obtain a “wide assortment of painkillers and other narcotics.”  One woman got 3,655 oxycodone pills from 58 different doctors and 40 different pharmacies in the course of a single year.  Senator Tom Carper, who chairs the Senate subcommittee that asked for the report, is said to be outraged.  He called on Medicare officials to start cracking down on the drug cheats.  And although “current law does not allow Medicare to restrict access to these drugs,” suggests the News Journal, histories of prescription data should be tallied to flag possible abuse and beneficiaries found guilty should be stricken from the program. [Top down controls may reduce fraud and abuse, but will never eliminate it.  Basic problem is a Medicare system that creates the illusion of “free” benefits.]

 

9/30/11, B3, NCCo man may challenge Carper; He could seek Republican nomination in bid for US Senate seat, Chad Livengood – As was already clear, Senator Carper plans to seek a third term in 2012.  The potential challenger is Kevin Wade, a businessman who came in third in the GOP nominating race in 2010 for Delaware’s lone House seat.  (Michele Rollins was nominated at the convention; Glenn Urquhart bested her in the ensuing primary and then lost in the general election.)  Wade has formed a 17-person exploratory committee, which will assess whether he could mount a credible challenge.  “If we find out people are satisfied with the status quo,” Wade is quoted, “there’s really no room for me or my message.”  Wade would reportedly run on a platform of “reforming the tax code to make it more competitive for businesses to hire and make investments in America.”  [Wade’s previous advocacy of the FairTax is not mentioned.  In general, we have noticed some backpedaling on this proposal.  Thus, GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain is currently touting a “9-9-9” plan that would impose a national sales tax without eliminating the income tax. http://n.pr/okFyzq]

 

9/29/11, A14, GAO report could settle postal funding dispute – Political battle over saving the Postal Service is underway, with USPS rallies held across the country on 9/27.  Workers perceive “a last chance to save jobs and benefits.”  However, change is coming as the Internet erodes the first class service franchise, and also, according to the News Journal, the USPS “does not receive tax support, but instead must pay its own way.”  The USPS claims to have been overcharged by [tens of] billions for worker retirement benefits and complains of being hampered by a current requirement to start making prepayments.  Opponents in Congress and the Executive Branch dispute the overcharging claim, so Senator Tom Carper has requested the Government Accountability Office to review it.  A report is due in October.  The News Journal predicts the GAO report “won’t end the political battle, but the facts will be on the table.” [Whatever the report says, a recalculation of the pension fund shifting billions of dollars in obligations to the taxpayers would seem like a bailout to us.  Also, note the fate of another GAO report, which has been widely ignored. http://bit.ly/pjAzQq]

 

9/25/11, B1/B12, Wilmington preacher offers US Senate’s opening prayer – “Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., who attended the seminary as a young man, had Senate Chaplain Barry Black’s blessing when he invited a Wilmington preacher to Washington to offer the Senate’s opening prayer Thursday.”  The story proceeds to quote the prayer verbatim, with lines that sound somewhat political, e.g., “that we may be men and women sensitive to the concerns of a nation in great expectation.” This impression is reinforced by a Senator Coons quote for the story: “I think it was Dietrich Bonnhoffer who said it is the charge of ministry to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.” [Just goes to show the wisdom of keeping religion out of politics and vice versa.]

 

9/23/11, A13, Proposed cuts won’t affect Fisker loan; car technology funds face recapture, Jonathan Starkey – There is a move afoot in DC to cut up to $1.5B from DOE’s Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing loan program, but Fisker’s loan for its electric car venture at the old Boxwood plant in Delaware was closed in April 2010 and would reportedly not be affected.  As for the broader issue, Rep. John Carney and “dozens of other Democrats” are opposing cuts to the program.  They signed a letter to House Speaker John Boehner that stated, among other things, that many states with higher than average unemployment “are badly in need for the kind of good paying jobs these loans will create.”  Senator Tom Carper calls the loan program a “smart investment,” and characterized the proposed cuts as “penny-wise and pound-foolish.” [If electric cars made economic sense, they would not need to be subsidized.]

 

9/21/11, Do-Nothing Democrats, Wall Street Journal – The thrust of this editorial was that many members of the president’s own party are unenthusiastic about his American Jobs Act.  Among those quoted was Senator Tom Carper, whose point (to date not reported by the News Journal) struck us as basically sound.  “I think the best jobs bill that can be passed is a comprehensive long-term deficit-reduction plan.  That’s better than everything else the president is talking about – combined.”

 

9/20/11, A10, State wooing start-up Calif. fuel-cell firm, Jonathan Starkey – OH-Energy was co-founded by Yushan Yan, who is an investor but holds no management position.  A “star professor” at the University of Delaware, Yan is setting up lab space at the Delaware Technology Park campus in Newark. He was recently “lured away” from the University of California-Riverside; seven doctoral candidates and nine post-doctoral researchers “are following him to Delaware.”  OH-Energy and its CEO Joe Raguso have “been in talks to move into vacant space in Rochester, NY,” but Alan Levin of DEDO, and Colin O’Mara of DNREC would like the fuel-cell materials firm to locate in Delaware near Yan’s research team. [Stay tuned for an announcement of DE subsidies.  OH-Energy is probably the firm recently mentioned by Senator Chris Coons. Coons hosts roundtables for area business leaders, 9/1/11.]

 

9/19/11, A10, Coons doesn’t lead for example in cost-cutting, Pastor Randy Scott (Newport)

With “all the national debt problems in the country,” why has Senator Coons “just added two members to his staff to the tune of $190,000 [per year]?”  What the writer concludes from this is that Coons has “become pretty comfortable and has become the typical politician he claimed he would never be.” [The senator’s failure to support any specific government spending cuts might also be mentioned.  For legislators who are serious about fiscal responsibility, the time has come for less talk and more action.]

 

9/18,11, A26, Carper should be talking about salvaging the USPS, John Przybylek Jr. Wilmington – “The shining brilliance of Sen. Carper asks for a leaner, supposedly more efficient United States Postal Service.”  But “his newer USPS would leave many in remote areas of our great land without access to a vital service: the post.”  The writer’s answer, apparently, is subsidies forever to protect the USPS. [We disagree.  There is no reason taxpayers should have to pay said subsidies to avoid needed business adjustments.]

 

9/16/11, A1/A2, Mail processing center may close: Hares Corner responsibilities would shift to Phila., Nicole Gaudiano – On one hand, Senator Tom Carper is pushing for measures to help the USPS stave off bankruptcy – which among other things will require a good bit of belt tightening.  On the other, as a representative of Delaware, he was “deeply saddened” to learn that the Hares Corner distribution center may be on the closure list.  This story also reports that the USPS may cut its delivery standards for first class mail from “one to three days” to “two to three days.” [From a business standpoint, will poorer service contribute to the death spiral of this huge enterprise?  Why not sell the post office to someone who knows how to run a business, such as FedEx or UPS?]

 

9/15/11, A1/A5, Rescuing the Postal Service; Carper bill would institute cost-saving measures, Nicole Gaudiano – Another story on the USPS financial crisis, which falls under the jurisdiction of a subcommittee chaired by Senator Tom Carper.  Previous coverage has been relegated to back page stories and the editorial page.  Big photo: letter carrier delivering mail.  Small head shot: Senator Carper: “We need to act so that the Postal Service can save itself.”  Readers are reminded of a 2006 law that requires the Postal Service to prepay (i.e., fund) its future retiree healthcare benefits to the tune of at least $5.5B.  The payment is due by September 30, but will probably be deferred.  Longer term, it has been suggested that the Post Office could experience a financial collapse by August 2012.  Carper has “hounded” the Administration to intervene, so far without much success.  The senator has also introduced legislation to address the problem. His bill would make it easier for the USPS to curtail service, close offices and reduce headcount.  It would also reportedly permit the USPS to access “tens of billions of dollars it’s overpaid into two retirement funds over several decades.”  However, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) says such a retroactive recalculation of pension liabilities would simply shift liability from USPS to taxpayers, i.e., represent a “bailout.” [This interpretation was left out of previous News Journal stories, but strikes us as sound.]  On 9/13, according to the current story, the Administration proposed returning $6.9B of the alleged “overpayments” – “but left it up to Congress to pass legislation to return the rest.” Carper envisions accomplishing necessary reductions in force by offering early retirement incentives, as was done in the auto industry, which would be funded by the pension “overpayments.”  [The hidden cost of such maneuvers, of course, would be to swell the ranks of retired seniors collecting federal entitlement payments.  What a mess, and all because this problem was not responded to a timely basis, i.e., the political elite followed its usual practice of deferring action until there was a crisis.]  

 

9/13/11, A6, Fisker put to the test: people take Karma for a spin under effort to rev up sales, Jonathan Starkey – Article covers maybe 30% of the page, including a big color picture of the white model with a politician at the wheel.  “Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., returns a Fisker Karma to Union Park Automotive Group after a test drive Monday.”  The dealership also has a black model of the $100,000 sedan “allowing deposit-holders and politicians to take the cars for spin.”  The article mentions the Fisker investment at the former Boxwood plant, and positive comments by several test drivers.  Senator Carper is quoted that “we need to build things in America.” [This is free advertising, not news.  Fisker story has been relentlessly over-reported.]

 

9/12/11, A12, Don’t flinch on tough mail choices – Only hard realism and tough choices can save the United States Post Office, a victim of the digital revolution and a recession that has slowed business and mail volume.  USPS deficit on track to reach $9B for the year, will probably not be able to make a mandatory $5.5 billion payment on retirees’ future healthcare [actually pensions?] on 9/30, and Senator Tom Carper warns the service could be forced to close.  Carper has introduced a bill that would go a long way toward giving the USPS authority to end Saturday mail, close post offices, and cut jobs.  Meanwhile, many congressional Democrats and Republicans are “running away from any action.”  They may run, but they can’t hide.  “Nostalgia won’t hold off reality.” [For earlier editorial along same general lines, see 8/12/11, Reformed Postal Service could avoid bankruptcy.  No progress appears to have been made since then.]

 

9/12/11, Congress must act immediately to save the Postal Service, Harry Themal – The writer expresses regret for the demise of “snail mail,” maybe that’s the nostalgia point mentioned in the above editorial.  He refers to a required pension fund [not healthcare] payment this month that may not get made.  Operating adjustments will be necessary, including early retirement program that could eventually further reduce the USPS workforce by 210,000, “similar to plans that helped save the auto industry.”  As chairman of the Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services and International Security, Senator Tom Carper has been in forefront of introducing remedial legislation.  Among other things, his bill, the Postal Operations Sustainment and Transformation Act, would “free billions of dollars overpaid into retiree funds” [translation: shift part of the unfunded pension liability to taxpayers, amounting to a $50-75B bailout. http://exm.nr/k9RgsB.]  Congress and the White House “have so far failed to endorse Carper’s plan or any other.” Carper has privately said he would move “heaven and earth” to correct this situation.  He hopes “the badly divided Congress and the Obama Administration realize how critical things are.”

 

9/10/11, A1/A10, Del. could get Amtrak jobs; state officials push for feasibility study for heavy maintenance site, Jeff Montgomery – Photos (small headshots): A1 – “Sen. Tom Carper called the possibility of an Amtrak maintenance center a second chance for Delaware; A10 – Alan Levin, director of the state Economic Development Office: “There’s more to it than just saying, “We want to be here.”  As Amtrak expands its high-speed rail networks, it is looking for a new heavy maintenance center to service its fastest trains.  The First State is a leading contender, and state officials will propose a $500K contribution to a rail company feasibility study focused on a location in northern Delaware.  A pickup of 100 jobs in the state is possible.  Senator Carper has been an active supporter, despite a setback several years ago when the state missed a chance to handle Acela locomotives.  “You don’t always get a second chance in life.  In this case, we’re going to get a second shot at this business.”  [Seems like there could be a conflict of interest between negotiating benefits from Amtrak and voting on federal subsidies for this money-losing operation. Note Senator’s Carper reported opposition to privatizing the operation.  5/29/11, What is Amtrak’s ultimate purpose?]

 

9/9/11, A1/A2, Obama exhorts Congress; Reaction mostly reflects party lines, Doug Denison

Two members of Congress from Delaware were among those interviewed for reactions to the president’s 9/8/11 JOBS speech.  (A) Senator Tom Carper: “ . . . the American Jobs Act is a strong package that merits bipartisan and bicameral support.”  (B) Senator Chris Coons: Reportedly said he supported the president’s ideas, and then cited patent law “reform” (a bill already passed by both the House and Senate; not part of the American Jobs Act).  “The sweeping changes to our nation’s patent system that it makes will help create jobs in Delaware and throughout the country, which is why I co-sponsored the measure and worked aggressively for its passage.”

 

9/7/11, A12, Postal Service asks Congress for help in staving off default, Randolph Schmid (AP) – Absent legislative relief, the USPS will default on a mandated $5.5B payment to the US Treasury by Sept. 30 to prefund employee healthcare benefits.  And within the next year, according to Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, the post office could run out of money to pay salaries and contractors.  “We do not want taxpayer money,” said Donahoe [but who would pay for the healthcare benefits if they weren’t funded?], and postal officials are proposing to cut back operations (reduce mail deliveries to 5 days a week, close 3,700 post offices and further cut the workforce by up to 220,000).  Several members of Congress are quoted about the situation, including Senator Tom Carper who, together with Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), has introduced bills that would reportedly “reform postal operations.”  Competing proposals are pending in the Republican-controlled House.  Congress needs to work on areas where agreement can be found, says Carper.  For more detail, see earlier stories on 8/12/11 and 8/13/11.

 

9/4/11, A22, Politics keeps Delaware’s air dirty – The News Journal’s take on the president’s decision to postpone tightening of ozone limits is that the Obama team folded under pressure from “a coalition of Midwest and Western states.”  This is supposedly unfair to Delaware because air pollution from said states blows our way.  Kudos to Senator Tom Carper for working on getting the EPA to stiffen the standards as required by law.  Having hailed the decision to enforce new standards when they were announced in July, he was “disappointed” by Friday’s announcement and is “calling for Senate hearings.” For a continuation of this writeup, which appears to represent some basic confusion about the facts on the News Journal’s part, see the 9/4/11 GW entry.

 

9/3/11, A1/A2, Obama abandons smog restrictions; Pollution proposal, decision to pull back, both met with criticism, Juliet Eilperin (Washington Post) – Senator Tom Carper was contacted for this story (see the 9/3/11 GW entry).  He was quoted as saying the president’s decision “leaves me with more questions than answers,” and that he would hold hearings with White House officials “to explain these actions and the possible ramifications.”

 

9/1/11, A15, Congress spends too little time on jobs, Senator Chris Coons – “In the more than nine months since I began my service in the US Senate, Congress has spent tragically little of that time confronting our nation’s tediously slow economic recovery.”  Bills to create jobs were blocked, and “many opportunities to help middle-class Americans were sacrificed at the altar of partisan politics.”  Politics that “nearly shut down our government in March and nearly defaulted our nation in July, must be put aside when Congress returns to Washington next week.”  Having visited dozens of employers and convened a series of roundtable discussions with Delawareans, Coons believes “there are dozens of strong bills Congress can and should consider immediately” to boost the economy.  He cites six “critical areas” for action that “blend progressive and conservative principles and the voices of business owners and out-of-work Delawareans”: (1) Critical infrastructure investments.  Consider the BUILD Act (infrastructure bank) and restore Build America Bonds [tax credit for municipal bond investors vs. mere exemption from federal income taxation] program.  (2) Taxes. His Job Creation Through Innovation Act would make the R&D tax credit permanent and create a new Small Business Innovation Credit.  Also “consider a raft of reforms to our nation’s tax system as part of a balanced approach to deficit reduction and debt stabilization.”  (3) Small business.  Congress erred by failing to reauthorize the Small Business Innovation, Small Business Technology Transfer, and Economic Development Administration programs, which are “proven job-creators” and “have enjoyed strong bipartisan support for decades.” (4) American technology and ingenuity.  Congress should pass the America Invents Act, PROTECT IP Act, and a series of smart bills that would support investments in clean energy development.” (5) Regulatory reforms. Support “President Obama’s plan to save businesses $10 billion over the next five years through targeted reforms” and “look for” additional opportunities for “streamlining and simplifying reporting requirements” that “can lead to savings without hurting consumer protection or the environment.”  (6) Global trade.  “Our trade agreements” must “lower tariffs on American products and create a level playing field for American exports.” Thus, among other things, Congress should consider and pass the Trade Enforcement Act, U.S.-Korea trade agreement, and an extension of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Program.  For more details, see my Website. http://bit.ly/rtkyCt [This agenda boils down to more spending, more government intervention in the economy, and higher taxes for disfavored taxpayers. The other suggestions are vague, limited in scope, and/or hedged with restrictions that would guarantee inaction.]

 

9/1/11, A12, Coons hosts roundtables for area business leaders, Jonathan Starkey
See 8/26/11 story re an earlier session.  At this one, Coons spoke “for just over an hour inside Newport Town Hall to representatives of a dozen area businesses about issues ranging from workforce recruiting to healthcare and tax rates.” Among the participants: (A) Bobby Pancake, partner in LLC that operates five Buffalo Wild Wings.  “We have not seen good management people willing to come into the restaurant industry.” He is worried that GovCare would “shrink already-tight profit margins.”  (B) Patrick Oakes, president of Apex Piping Systems (piping fabrication company in Newport).  Public officials should encourage students to consider a trade education; there is strong demand for HVAC and boiler maintenance workers.  Also urged Coons to support efforts to lower tax rates and eliminate “loopholes.”  (C) Richard Piendak, president of Richard’s Paving.  No concerns mentioned.  (D) Greg Wolfgang of the Evergreen Apartment Group expressed optimism about Fisker Automotive’s plans to produce hybrid vehicles at the former GM Boxwood site, which will reportedly employ 2,500 workers by late 2012.  “From my perspective, jobs means renters.”  Coons predicted that Fisker “will do quite well” and “end up being acquired by a major automaker.” He also said an alternative energy manufacturer is scouting the former Chrysler site in Newark to build a facility, but supplied no details.  [Another deal like Bloom Energy could prove a Pyrrhic victory indeed.] 

 

8/26/11, A12, Coons listens to firms’ challenges: Leaders cite high health[care] costs, lack of lab space, perceptions of schools as issues, Jonathan Starkey – Senator Coons led a 90-minute roundtable discussion with dozens of leaders of Delaware technology businesses at the Delaware Technology Park in Newark.  Reportedly the problems are serious enough that “business leaders consider leaving the First State.”  From the article, Coons really was listening [which we give him credit for] vs. offering solutions.  [A] Fran DiNuzzo, CEO of SDIX (Newark-based biotech, food safety testing procedures) complained that “there is no biotech infrastructure in Delaware” and “you can’t find lab space anywhere.” [B] Ben Hsu, CFO of QPS (pharmaceutical contract research) said double-digit health[care] insurance cost increases are harming his business.  He cited a lack of competition in the state’s insurance market – which is dominated by Blue Cross/ Blue Shield of Delaware.  [C] Chet Benham, VP of Air Liquide (industrial gas producer) asked whether there would be a long-term stream of highly skilled technical people.  “It has to start in the public school system,” he said. [Odd that all the comments seem to call for more government action, not less.  Also, the issues seem to be more state than federal in nature.]

 

8/26/11, A14, Healthcare uncertainty poses major US problem – This editorial commends Senator Coons, at his town hall meeting (8/25 story), for pinpointing “the most serious concern about the massive healthcare reform law that was passed last year: No one knows what it will cost.”  Business leaders are wondering, among others, and a Towers Watson survey indicates “a large number of employers will drop employee health[care] coverage once the law goes fully into effect in 2014.”  Many “supporters of the law” are said to have “overlooked the unknown expenses” while others (“mostly Republican”) wrongly claim that the [present] health[care] system is working just fine.  Then “our deep partisan divide prevents us from having a realistic discussion about controlling costs.”  Other legislators should “follow Sen. Coons’ example and admit what they don’t know.” [Say hello to government-imposed rationing and/or price controls.  Better to admit GovCare was a mistake, repeal it, and try real healthcare reform.]

 

8/25/11, B3, Coons says he doesn’t fully know costs of health[care] reform: Senator foresees that US deficit may force some changes, Chad Livengood – Large picture: Senator Coons leaning forward in his seat and listening to a middle-aged woman: “Attendee Mary Malachi voices her support for the Affordable Care Act to Sen. Chris Coons after he held his first town hall meeting Wednesday at Delaware Tech’s Wilmington campus.”  The session lasted 90 minutes and was broadcast live on WDEL 1150-AM.  Issues covered per the article: (A) What will GovCare cost and how can the country afford it?  Coons said he did not have a full picture of the cost, but allowed that if this legislation “results in ballooning runaway costs we’re going to amend it and change it?” He reportedly said the CLASS Act [an included program for long-term care that has been cited by many as particularly egregious] might be “the first fiscal casualty.” (B) Would he support a future bailout of financial institutions that are major employers in Delaware?  “I don’t support more taxpayer-funded bailouts of Wall Street.”  (C) Frustration of some that the president and his party have “given in to Republicans on reducing spending and not raising taxes to help erase the deficit.”  Voters will have a chance to weigh in on the size and role of government in next year’s elections, “and I’m looking forward to that debate.” [Without endorsing the views expressed, we commend Senator Coons for holding a live town hall.  Senator Carper and Representative Carney should follow his example.  See 8/15 entry re “time to listen to us.”]

 

8/24/11, Coons leads off-site Senate session; post-quake safety issues force move, Nicole Gaudiano – Senator Coons had returned to Washington from Delaware for the purpose of opening a pro forma session – being held periodically during the Congressional recess to prevent the president from making federal appointments while Congress is in recess [this was also being done while the previous president was in office; resumption of the practice reveals the current lack of trust in Washington] – but an earthquake resulted in a variation of the script.  Having arrived at Union Station, Coons was on foot in a park facing the Capitol when he felt the tremor.  “The ground around me shifted sharply several feet in both directions.  All the people who were walking around me sort of froze and looked around and tried to figure out what was happening.”  His first thought was that the ground might be swaying due to a terrorist attack or an accident at a nearby construction site, but he reportedly “learned it was an earthquake when he got on the phone for an MSNBC interview.”  The pro forma session had been scheduled for 2:30 PM, but the Capitol had been evacuated and no one was allowed back inside.  Accordingly, the session was convened in a basement conference room of the nearby Postal Square Building, which is designated for congressional use in an emergency.  Coons read his lines and gaveled the session to a close; it lasted 22 seconds. [No need for comment on this story!]

 

8/21/11, B1/B4, Dialogue Delaware: Wise government spending?  Depends on point of view

Re the 8/18 report of a US grant for a trail along the C&D Canal, one reader e-mailed: “Why don’t we use the money in a more intelligent way, such as fixing existing roads?” The editors label this “an interesting opinion,” especially since it arrived from a state e-mail address.  And in the vein of pumping up government spending, albeit arguably for a worthy cause, Senator Chris Coons “chose a bill to benefit those affected by 9/11 as the first legislation he co-sponsored after taking office.” He also backed the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, enacted in January, “which will provide federal funds to monitor and treat those exposed to toxins at ground zero – including 61 first responders from Delaware.” [At the risk of sounding like the Grinch who stole Christmas, federal spending has to stop somewhere – and start receding dramatically – or the fiscal consequences will be disastrous.]

 

8/18/11, B2, US helps fund trail along Canal: State receives $2.5M grant for highway projects, Robin Brown – US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced more than $2.5 million in grants to Delaware for “highway projects” and “highway-related projects,” but despite the strained financial position of the state’s highway fund, “the projects didn’t include any highways.”  The largest single grant, an even $1M, will go towards the creation of a recreational trail along the C&D Canal. Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons reportedly championed this grant. [For all the talk about the need to “reduce debt” and so forth, it is still more fun to support projects to spend taxpayer money for popular projects.  Time to cut way back on government grants, and let the states fund such projects if they wish.]

 

8/15/11, A8, Can Carper help build a bridge toward economic recovery?  Harry Themal – In a recent meeting with the News Journal editorial board, Senator Carper produced a six-page list of “Key Accomplishments, 111th & 112th Congress.”  Themal professes to be discouraged, however, because “examination of that list” shows “so few of [Carper’s] initiatives have actually made it through Congress.”  Why: “the tea party-dominated Republican House and the non-cloture-proof Democratic Senate cannot seem to agree on anything.”  How would Carper go about building bridges if he could? (A) He “relishes being the senior senator from Delaware and gives every sign of running for a third Senate term in November of 2012.” (B) He would have preferred that Senator Harry Reid appoint Senator Kent Conrad to the Joint Committee on Debt Reduction. [We too, but Reid picked Senator Patty Murray instead.]  However, as Themal puts it, the Democratic appointments to the JC “may include some congressmen who would be willing to discuss a broad and permanent solution” while the choices of Representative John Boehner and Senator Mitch McConnell showed that they have not “moved an inch from the intractability that marked negotiations that led to the interim deficit agreement.” [All six Democrat members of the JC are staunch liberals.  Two of the GOP members, Rep. Fred Upton and Senator Rob Portman, appear to be moderates.] (C) He believes that “any solution to both the deficit and the nation’s financial mess must start with the sweeping recommendations of the bipartisan” Bowles-Simpson Fiscal Commission. The main reason for the “deficit debacle” was “a failure of either Obama or Congress to start immediate debate on those recommendations.” [Too few of the FC members approved the report to force a vote in Congress.  And while the FC report may be a helpful reference, there are other sources of guidance as well.  Plus which it would be naïve to believe the JC can deliver a quick “solution” to the fiscal problem, after which Congress can happily get back to other priorities.]  (D) Carper cited an example of bridge building in which he has been involved, namely an attempt to get a vote on trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama.  The agreements have been in limbo for several years due to “Democrats’ insistence, and Republican objections, to making a Trade Adjustment Assistance provision [training and extended unemployment benefits to workers displaced by jobs going overseas] part of the trade agreement.”  [The issue is not the existence of TAA, which has the status of an entitlement, but the level of benefits. http://on.wsj.com/lxO4kc] At a meeting of the Finance Committee, Carper got a good-faith pledge from some Republican senators that they would not invoke cloture if the TAA was made a separate bill from the three trade agreements, i.e., they would allow the Democrats to win the argument.  However, “it remains to be seen whether the Republicans will go along with the plan.”

 

8/15/11, A8, Carper, Coons, Carney: Time to listen to us, Theresa, Garcia (Magnolia) – I invite Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons and Rep. John Carney to host a town hall meeting to discuss what the heck is going on in Washington with the economic crisis we face.  [Or each of them could do this individually.]  I don’t want an anonymous teleconference town hall meeting, where they are sitting behind a desk with aides screening the calls and shoving prepared responses to them.  [Amen!  The teleconference events are a farce.]  Other states are having town hall meetings.  Why are ours hiding from us?

 

8/13/11, A7, Postal Service job-cut plan may hit bumps: Congressional, presidential OKs needed, Angela Keane (Bloomberg) – USPS proposal to slash jobs and worker benefits may not go far, according to “a postal executive and labor professor,” because neither Congress nor the president is likely to enact a law permitting the USPS to “break a labor contract with its largest union” – particularly when the national unemployment rate is over 9%.  The alternative: raise the USPS’s $15B debt limit, which will be reached in September.  Proposed legislation that would allow the USPS to cut delivery to five days a week and more easily close post offices is attributed to Senator Tom Carper.  “I am open to considering any idea that can prevent the Postal Service from going bankrupt,” he is quoted.

 

8/12/11, A10, Reformed Postal Service could avoid bankruptcy – If Congress does not allow the US Postal Service to make “needed changes soon” [http://wapo.st/q5A479], says this editorial, a taxpayer bailout may be needed. And Senator Tom Carper “is in the middle of congressional attempts to reform” the USPS.  In addition to wanting to give management flexibility to make some cuts and change structure, he says the USPS overpaid federal pension funds.  GOP Rep. Darrell Issa disagrees, and the issue needs to be resolved.  Otherwise, “a gridlocked Congress could cause another bailout.” [Talk about missing the point.  Senator Carper’s position on the pension fund amounts to proposing a $50-75B bailout. http://exm.nr/k9RgsB.]

 

8/11/11, B1/B2, Groups rally, urge Carper to be “super-hero” by co-sponsoring act, Robin Brown – WHO: Parents, other adults and kids wearing capes (13 adult, 7 children).  Represented the Delaware Nurses Association; Delawareans for Social and Economic Justice; online Mom’s Rising Group.  WHAT: Support the Safer Chemical Act, which would create new requirements for identifying and informing consumers about chemicals in consumer products. [Don’t we have enough regulations on business already?  Get set for a whole bunch more if this legislation passes.]  WHERE: Senator Carper’s office in Wilmington.  “He wasn’t there, but the rally, like similar events held nationwide Wednesday, make its point.”  Two of the leaders were invited inside for 15 minutes, where things reportedly “went great” and they were able to present a cape for Senator Carper.  There had been an earlier meeting with Senator Chris Coons, who is said to be “very supportive.”  [A timely reminder that if people want federal legislators to heed their concerns, they had better find ways to make said concerns known – as these folks are doing.  Unfortunately, rational economic regulation and fiscal policy do not typically attract much support in the public square – and when there is an exception the demonstrators are likely to be demeaned as “terrorists” or whatever.] 

 

8/9/11, A1/A2, Dow plummets; fears soar: In Del., partisan politics blamed, Jeff Montgomery & Doug Denison – Article reports local reactions to August 8 stock market plunge that followed S&P downgrade on August 5 (after the close of trading on that Friday), including sound bites from the Delaware members of Congress: (A) Senator Tom Carper: “Part of [this gyration in the global financial markets] is a demonstration of the inability of a number of governments, including our own, to govern well or effectively.” A polarized Congress and the White House “wasted an opportunity” to stabilize the US economy. (B) Senator Chris Coons: Lawmakers should have passed the “Gang of Six” plan, which called for raising taxes as well as cutting spending.  “I’m disappointed, and obviously so are the markets.”  (C) Representative John Carney: “We need responsible people in Congress and the Administration to get together for a more-comprehensive debt reduction [sic] plan. *** [The] markets are demonstrating a crisis of confidence, and part of that is a lack of confidence in the political process.” [Where is the recognition that the government has been spending more money than it can afford and must tighten its belt?]

 

8/9/11, A6, New Perdue solar farm powers Bridgeville plant: Marginal former cropland now generates electricity, Aaron Nathans – Extracts from an 8/9/11 GW entry: Photo of Jim Perdue, Perdue Farms chairman, and Senator Tom Carper walking by some of “the 6,720 solar panels that power Perdue’s Bridgeville grain facility and feed mill.”  The project cost $5+ million, and will occupy a field formerly used to grow corn and soybeans – supposedly a good economic decision for Perdue.  *** (C) Senator Tom Carper praised the teamwork between utilities, state & federal government, and the solar company.  “I’ve never seen anything like this in Delaware.” (D) Senator Chris Coons: This is “a great example of the virtuous cycle that is possible” when government and industry work together. *** [These projects are being built due to government mandates and subsidies.  Eliminate them and let the market decide.] 

 

8/3/11, A1/A2, Debt focus turns to supercommittee: Support for the “Gang of Six,” Nicole Gaudiano – Now that the “debt limit increase” deal has been signed into law, attention is shifting to the Super Committee (SC) of 12 members of Congress (6 from House, 6 from Senate, with equal Democrat and Republican representation) that will be tasked with agreeing on $1.5T in deficit reductions to avert the “trigger” that will otherwise be activated in December.  From this article we learn three things: (A) All three Delaware members voted for the deal.  (B) The Delaware members remain hopeful that some portion of the “deficit reductions” will come in the form of tax increases – code word “balanced” deal.  Small photos and captions for Senators Tom Carper (“tax loopholes must be targeted”) and Chris Coons (“cited a need for greater tax revenues”). [The driving point, we think, is a visceral opposition to spending cuts – which are what is really needed.]  (C) Coons and Carper suggest that the so-called “Gang of Six” in the Senate should be appointed to the SC.  “They know how to get to an agreement,” said Carper.  If the leadership of the Senate “chooses to appoint six different senators who haven’t gone through that time working together,” said Coons, “I think we just start 20 yards back off the field.”  [The real point, we suspect, is that the Gang of Six previously recommended a big dose of tax increases – for which reason, we would think that some other senators deserve consideration.]

 

8/1/11, A2, In phone call, Carper calms Del. residents, Nicole Gaudiano – The article reports on a telephone conference call that began at 7:00 p.m. Sunday night and lasted more than an hour.  According to the article, nearly 14,000 Delawareans were involved.  The call ended before the president “told the nation that lawmakers had reached a deal on raising the debt ceiling.”  Among the points attributed to Carper: (A) Soothed a 79-year-old Millsboro woman who said “if I don’t get my Social Security, I can’t pay my next month’s rent.” (B) Told a Wilmington man that Congress would work hard to ensure Treasury would not have to decide which bills to pay in a default situation. (C) Continued to tout the Bowles-Simpson Plan, which “recommended cutting spending and eliminating tax breaks and loopholes to save roughly $4 trillion over the next decade.”  (D) Said improper payments and fraud in Medicare should be pursued before “cutting benefits.”  (E) Blamed the redrawing of Congressional districts across the nation for the deepening partisan divide in Congress.  “At the end of the day next year, voters will look at the dysfunction and they’ll say, ‘Who’s causing this?’” [We can think of some other explanations.]

 

7/31/11, A9, Delaware’s Carper, Coons and Carney call for movement: “Posturing for cameras” is wasting time, Nicole Gaudiano – The general thrust of this article is that the three members of Congress from Delaware are part of the solution rather than part of the problem because they support a balanced [including tax increases] and cooperative resolution of the debt limit showdown.  (A) Senator Tom Carper is reportedly making “phone calls to colleagues from across the nation to try to motivate a bipartisan meeting and possible solutions.” He called about “20 Republican and Democrat senators while riding in the back seat of Sen. Chris Coons’ SUV after visiting the state fair.”  He also expressed optimism about “private conversations,” which take place without the vitriol of public comments.  At the fair, according to Carper, people expressed fears they might not continue getting Social Security checks, and some wished him luck or said they were praying for him.  (B) Senator Chris Coons says there are not many things left to work through.  “The question is, ‘How big will the deal be, who’s on the committee and what’s the enforcement mechanism if the committee fails to recommend action or legislation?” [This assumes that the actual spending cuts would be left for future study, i.e., only the debt limit increase would be definite.]  According to Coons, people at the fair asked him “Why can’t you work out a responsible compromise?” And when it comes to appointing “the committee,” perhaps “its members should be chosen by leaders of the opposing party, rather than leaders picking their favorite soldiers.” [Interesting idea, but we don’t really like it.]  “That is the kind of detailed discussion that dozens of senators are having right now.” (C) Rep. John Carney reports feeling “frustrated” because lawmakers are wasting time voting on measures that have no chance to win final approval.  Surely, “Republicans” should be spending more time on negotiations vs. floor speeches. [We watched a bit of one of the House debates on C-Span, and it featured equal time for speeches by Democrats.]

 

7/31/11, D6 (back of business section), Don’t cut Social Security & Medicare benefits to reduce the deficit – Full page ad calling on three Delaware members by name for support. Lucretia Young, AARP State Director is quoted that “Many seniors already struggle to pay for their ever-rising health and prescription drug costs, utility bills, and necessities like food and transportation.”  [For similar message of AARP national organization, see http://aarp.us/l3s6G6.  No wonder Delaware members keep harping on anxiety about Social Security benefits, etc.  And there was a different full page AARP ad the other day in the News Journal, which among other thing purported to be speaking for 50 million Americans – considerably in excess of the AARP membership.]

 

7/27/11, A7, Delaware delegation hears from home on debt crisis, Nicole Gaudiano –“Delawareans are among the many who bombarded congressional offices yesterday with phone calls Tuesday in response to President Barack Obama’s suggestion [primetime TV address on 7/25] that Americans lobby their lawmakers to compromise [i.e., agree with him] on a debt reduction deal. [There is no “debt reduction deal” under discussion, only ideas for possibly slowing the rate of debt growth.] In general, “some callers” support the tea party’s Cut, Cap and Balance approach, but “many more” favor the president’s call for “shared sacrifice,” with spending caps and increased revenue.  Specific comments follow: (A) Rep. John Carney: “The switchboards lit up big time,” and his website crashed for about an hour. (B) Senator Chris Coons received “particularly poignant” input from Delawareans who fear entitlement programs will be cut.  “I don’t sleep well, honestly.”  He also says his constituents are favoring the Reid Plan over the Boehner Plan by a ratio of 3 to 1. The only way he would vote for a short-term [relatively small] debt limit increase would be if it were to buy time to work out the details of a long-term, bipartisan plan. (C) Senator Tom Carper supports Reid’s plan more than Boehner’s, but isn’t overly impressed with either. His idea is that Congress should extend the debt ceiling for four weeks so lawmakers could debate the “Gang of Six” proposal. [Are the Delaware members paying attention to what their constituents are saying or simply looking for confirmation of the positions they are respectively inclined to follow?] 

 

7/26/11, A8, Why do Carper and Coons oppose balanced budget? Ken Dargis, Wilmington – The writer begins by agreeing (seemingly) with the concerns expressed by the two senators from Delaware about the impact on Delaware of a failure to raise the debt limit that would trigger a default.  See 7/20/11 story.  He then professes to be confused by their votes against the “Cut, Cap and Balance” bill that passed in the House and would not only avert a default but get the fiscal problem under control longer term.  “Although both Carper and Coons suggest the proposal was too restrictive, it might be interesting to review the elements *** they [should] have voted for the legislation that a majority of the American people favor.” [Good argument, but the Cut, Cap and Balance plan was doomed from the start.  The fiscal problem cannot be solved in one stroke; the only hope is a step-by-step approach.] 

 

7/25/11, A1/A2, Delaware’s delegation using new ways to communicate, Nicole Gaudiano – Picture of “Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., [who] engages constituents through a blog, YouTube channel, Twitter and Facebook.  He, and also other members of Congress from Delaware and elsewhere, are “taking advantage of social media, telephone town hall meetings, e-newsletters and other tools [that] let them connect with constituents and supporters – and self-promote – in more ways than ever.” 

Supposedly, the communication flow is two-way.  Senator Coons references the resulting ability for constituents “to give me regular input and ask questions and get answers.”  Rep. John Carney says the positive feedback he received via social media sites was important to him when he broke with the Obama Administration [really?] on Libya policy.  “[Constituents] react to what you post, to what you tweet.  It’s just helpful to get confirmation that you’re on the right track on a particular issue.  And people challenge you.  That’s important too.”  Senator Tom Carper says that the new ways to communicate online allow people to “feel a bit more in touch,” share their concerns with his office in different ways and hold him accountable.

However, Ralph Begleiter of UD suggests that social media sites help politicians look “cool and connected and up to the minute.”  Also, few members of Congress are spending much time reading their Twitter or Facebook pages – or posting comments themselves. [As the saying goes, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”  Our experience has been that thoughtful, one-page letters are generally ignored or acknowledged with form letters stating the member’s position in the applicable policy area.  It is a rare politician who is looking for real feedback, or wants to be “held accountable.”]   

 

7/22/11, A13, Carper pushes for wind power aid: Tax credits for offshore projects sought, Eric Ruth – Senator Tom Carper and Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) are cosponsoring a bill to perpetuate existing federal tax credits (30% of cost for offshore, wind-generated electricity, first 3,000 megawatts.)  Carper says the credit is needed because offshore wind projects can be more costly [no kidding] and take years to secure needed federal permits [supposedly were to be fast tracked]. Also, no tax credit until the project actually starts up and generates electricity, for which reason Senator Carper says, “we reward success.”  And Carper hopes to convene a roundtable of the stakeholders in late August or early September to have a “robust discussion” of what other government incentives might be needed to spur private capital investment in wind power.  “This is not something a government should be trying to do alone,” Carper said.

Senator Chris Coons apparently is working the same issue from a somewhat different angle.  He and four other senators are co-sponsoring an Offshore Wind Power Act, which would involve a regime of tax credits of some kind.

  [Why doesn’t the government just get out of the business of trying to pick winners and losers in the energy industry and let the free market decide?]

 

7/20/11, A1/A2, [Senator Chris] Coons, [Governor Jack] Markell detail how default could hurt Delaware; Federal problems may have wide-ranging impact, Chad Livengood – Some possible scenarios:  Federal prisons left unstaffed, federal inspectors walk out of DE chicken plants forcing them to shut down, DE debt rating cut in tandem with cut in federal debt rating resulting in higher interest payments.  However, various economists are quoted that a cut in the federal debt rating would not necessarily mean a cut in the rating on Delaware bonds; no one has ever seen case like this.  Also, Republican Glenn Urquhart is quoted that Democrat politicians are trying to scare the public in order to secure higher taxes.  “The United States is still the safest place to invest.  Nothing is going to happen.” [We do think there has been some hyperbole about the immediate and drastic consequences of a default, but Urquhart’s position is also unrealistic.  There can and will be some adverse economic fallout if the debt limit is not raised, and the only reason to risk such a scenario is an attempt to force bigger spending cuts.]

 

7/19/11, A8, Getting at source of Delaware’s bad air – This editorial approvingly quotes DNREC Secretary Colin O’Mara’s testimony at a US Senate committee hearing: “Today, the vast majority of Delaware’s air quality problems are caused by transported emissions, as much as 90 percent.  In fact, our modeling shows that Delaware could eliminate all pollution from in-state stationary sources and still not achieve attainment [meet federal clean air standards].”  EPA health claims accepted without question, e.g., the new Cross-State Air Pollution Rule [7/12/11, A1/A5] will supposedly prevent 13,000 to 34,000 premature deaths annually,” so it will “save far more than it will cost.”  As for the claim of Texas Governor Rick Perry et al. that the rule will kill jobs, “it’s more likely to create them.”  Senator Tom Carper is said to have rightfully hailed the EPA decision, which is in line with principles that he has long fought for.  Why should Delaware and the other “tail pipe” states on the East Coast suffer “dirty air” from their Western neighbors?  “The rule makes sense,” concludes the News Journal.  [Health benefits greatly overstated; economic costs basically ignored.  It is hard to argue with people who make their minds up without considering the facts.]

 

7/19/11, A9, Failure to raise debt ceiling would put economy in peril, Rep. John Carney – In this column, Representative Carney endorses making “structural changes over the long term to reduce the debt and put us back on a path to surpluses, as we had in the late 1990s."  He also endorses a $4T deficit reduction deal over the next decade, overlooking the fact that this would be nowhere near enough to actually balance the budget.  And he wants a “balanced deal,” namely the inclusion of tax increases in the mix.  “Everyone from nonpartisan economists to conservative talk-show host Bill O’Reilly have said revenue is necessary for any real plan.”  Too bad the tea party Republicans, led by Majority Leader Eric Cantor, have not been willing to play ball.  Time to act, because “the U.S. currently has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to fundamentally alter the fiscal path of the nation.”  [This problem is not going to be solved by one “grand bargain,” and Representative Carney should know it.]

 

7/12/11, A1/A2, No trust in debt-ceiling debate; local views range from wary to resigned – to exasperated, Wade Malcolm – The writer recaps views of some local residents re the debt limit theatrics going on in DC.  Among them: (A) Ralph Begleiter, director of the Center for Political Communication at the University of Delaware, predicts that “it will come down to the Friday night before the debt ceiling hits, and they’ll work into the wee hours to get something done.” Begleiter attributed polls showing widespread opposition to a debt limit increase to a lack of public understanding.  “If you asked Americans, ‘Should America not pay its bills and default on its obligations?’ you would get a different answer. (B) Michael Bratus, a Moody’s Analytics consultant based in West Chester, PA said the standoff is “definitely weighing on business confidence,” e.g., the latest disappointing jobs numbers.  [Seriously?]  (C) James Butkiewicz, an economics professor at UD, observed that some payments would have to stop if the debt limit was not raised – and “what’s going to be stopped is an interesting question.” He sees the effects as potentially disastrous, depending on how financial markets reacted.  (D) Mary Tomkin said she and other retirees could ill afford a Social Security benefit cut.  (E) Jim DellaVacchia, a salesman, said “I don’t believe that taxing the rich will work” and the biggest problem is “frivolous government spending on too many social programs.”  (F) Lamont Stevens said, “They need to stop talking and get it done.”  (G) Senator Tom Carper has said in recent interviews that Congress should look at aspects of the budget to cut spending, including defense and entitlements.  (H) Senator Chris Coons is reportedly willing to compromise on Social Security and Medicare if Republicans compromise on taxes.  “He’s absolutely committed to there being revenue in the final deal,” said spokesman Ian Koski.

 

7/12/11, A1/A5, New rule on plant emissions is boon to Del. and other “downwind” states, Jeff Montgomery – EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson released a new Cross-State Air Pollution Rule that “officials said would eliminate hundreds of thousands of tons of soot and smog-forming pollution, saving an estimated 34,000 lives and averting hundreds of thousands of illnesses yearly as early as 2014.”  [We believe these health claims are much exaggerated. See, e.g., Dr. Willie Soon’s recent column re mercury. http://bit.ly/isyo0V] The new requirements would apply to 27 named states, supposedly responsible for pollution drifting across state lines, including MD, NJ, NY, and PA – but not DE.  An earlier, Bush Administration proposal to address the issue was tossed out by a federal appeals court.  The new version is expected to cost the power plant industry $800 million yearly in 2014, per EPA estimates, atop existing costs of complying with past efforts to reduce smokestack emissions.  The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity predicted that the EPA’s rules would be the “most expensive every imposed” on coal-fired generators.  “I hope we can now stop battling it out in court and start cutting emissions dramatically,” said Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), who has sponsored legislation over the years to curb SO2, nitrogen dioxide, mercury, etc. emissions supposedly linked to human health problems and global climate change.  Before the EPA move, Carper had complained that big power plants in the Midwest were able to produce electricity cheaply at the expense of downwind states.

            [If coal power plants were forced to shut down, as is the EPA’s intent, what would replace them?  Maybe nuclear power with natural gas as a bridge, but not costly wind and solar power.]

 

6/30/11, B1/B9, Coons joins other senators in message to LGBT youth; “It gets better” video offers support in face of harassment, Nicole Gaudiano – Question: Is a 5-minute video needed to implore lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people facing harassment not to give up?  Apparently, some of our political leaders think so, including Senator Chris Coons and the other senators (Sherrod Brown, Mark Udall, Richard Blumenthal, Maria Cantwell, Dick Durbin, Dianne Feinstein, Al Franken, Kirsten Gillibrand, Chuck Schumer, Jeanne Shaheen, Sheldon Whitehouse, Ron Wyden) who appear in the video.  Also mentioned as LGBT supporters: President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, and House Minority Leader Pelosi.

          [This is not an issue SAFE plans to weigh in on, one way or the other, but we do wonder whether this sort of effort could morph into an assault on traditional values.  Thus, the article mentions a “Respect for Marriage Act” that would presumably replace the “Defense of Marriage Act” that Congress passed and the Administration has refused to enforce. For a view from the other side, see http://bit.ly/grTaLA.]

 

6/26/11, A19, Congress doesn’t realize severity of debt crisis, Ian Hemming, Wilmington – An alert reader writes that action must be taken by Congress before the debt problem bankrupts us, but “Delaware’s two US senators” are “too busy working on other programs such as getting our tax dollars for farmers to build storage facilities for chicken manure.”  See 6/23/11 (A10) story.

 

6/25/11, A5, Carney against Libya involvement; Democrat sides with Republicans, Nicole Gaudiano – The House rejected both (1) a motion that would have authorized the yearlong, limited (no ground troops) use of US forces in Libya, 295-123, and (2) a watered-down defunding bill to put some teeth into the Congressional opposition.  Representative John Carney not only voted against the first bill, but also voted for the second one.  He pronounced himself “very concerned about the US involvement in Libya,” albeit saying “we should support our NATO allies with efforts like aerial refueling and intelligence gathering.”  [Carney is not quoted as criticizing the president for failing to comply with the War Powers Act on grounds that the operations in Libya do not rise to the level of military action.]

          Carney’s views are said to contrast with those of Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons, who will reportedly support a bipartisan measure in the Senate that would allow the mission to continue for a year.  Senator Carper is reported to believe that presidents should comply with the War Powers Act. “It says to the president, ‘You’re the commander in chief but you’re not a monarch.  It’s the same message we should have sent to George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and presidents before them.” [Previous presidents have complied with the War Powers Act, albeit not accepting its Constitutionality, while the current president openly flouted it.  We do not agree with Carper’s view of moral equivalence, and we also view the decision to get involved in Libya as a blunder even though it may be too late to back off now.]

 

6/25/11, A8, US House Libya votes reflect split on policy – The ultimate question is not the specifics of either vote, but rather the purpose of the war.  The News Journal editors conclude [and we agree] that “President Obama should have included [consulted?] members of Congress before sending our forces to this shadow war.”  As for Rep. Carney’s votes, he “is right.”

 

6/23/11, A7, Del.’s delegation weighs in on Obama’s announcement, Nicole Gaudiano – Having previously been quoted (on 6/15/11) as to their views on the war in Afghanistan, this trio of legislators now reacts to the decision announced in a TV address by the president yesterday evening (leaked hours earlier) to withdraw 1/3 of the “surge” troops in 2011 and the remainder by next summer.  In summary: SENATOR CARPER: I commend the president for setting measured and reasonable withdrawal goals, but “the U.S. and our allies need to continue to empower the Afghan people to defend, feed, and govern themselves.”   SENATOR COONS: “I welcome the president’s decision to redeploy 33,000 troops, but “am disappointed that he did not announce a change in strategy from a counterinsurgency to a counterterrorism mission.” REP. CARNEY: I am encouraged to hear that the president will begin to bring our troops home from Afghanistan, but “it concerns me that the plan we heard tonight will leave more US troops in Afghanistan at the end of 2012 than were there in early 2009.  Amending the previous report, Carney’s ends by saying “the logistics of this withdrawal should be left to our commanders in the field.” [In other quarters, the president’s announcement has been seen as primarily political.  One would doubt that commanders in the field would have decided to pull out 20,000 troops in the middle of the fighting season in 2012 versus at the end of the year.]

 

6/23/11, A10, Funds will help chicken farmers handle waste – The Sussex Conservation District has “taken in” $715,000 from the US Department of Agriculture “to help Sussex poultry farmers boost their conservation efforts.”  Senators Carper and Coons, both of whom are pictured, announced the availability of the funds.  Carper is quoted that the program should help farmers “implement best practices and increase their conservation efforts.” [No comment as to how the federal government can continue to afford programs like this, nor how the funds will be raised.]

 

6/21/11, B1/B3, Listening to law enforcement: US Senate panel holds rare hearing outside the Capitol – in Wilmington, Sean O-Sullivan – Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) reportedly scheduled the hearing in Wilmington in order to “hear from law enforcement officials at the local level about what federal programs were working and should be spared from the budget ax.”  Leahy credited Senator Chris Coons with convincing him that Delaware would provide a good case study and should be the site of the hearing.  Only Leahy and Coons asked questions during the two-hour event, and Leahy left early.  Coons reportedly made a pitch to federal officials involved in the hearing to include Delaware in the FBI’s High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program, as many of Delaware’s drug problems flow into the state from Baltimore, Camden and Philadelphia, presenting challenges that local police agencies often don’t have the resources to combat. [A more productive issue would be assessing the apparent failure of The War on Drugs and deciding what policies would make more sense.]

 

6/19/11, A1/A12, Slump limits clean energy: Congress, economy hold back US shift, Aaron Nathans – Rep. John Carney is quoted at length in this article (see GW entry, 6/19/11) on the perceived slowdown in “clean energy” projects.  He “points to a long list of near-party-line votes in the House this year that undermine efforts to combat carbon emissions, including defeat of a bill that would have stated human activity is causing climate change.” Traditional fuels have been subsidized for years [details?], so it should be OK to subsidize renewable energy investments too. “Frankly, even if you have doubts about the climate change science, why wouldn’t you take a chance for future generations?  I think that’s not being responsible stewards of the planet.” [Obviously, Carney is an ardent advocate of wind and solar power.]

 

6/17/11, XX, Carper and Coons vote against ethanol – After its 6/16 editorial, one might have expected the News Journal to report passage of an anti-Ethanol proposal in the US Senate.  It didn’t do so, although the decisive 73-27 vote was reported in the Wall Street Journal. This may not be the end for ethanol.  The proposal to stop subsidizing corn-based ethanol to the tune of about $6B per year was passed as an amendment to an underlying bill – described as “a new engine for green subsidies” – that is unlikely to pass the Senate let alone the House.  Still, said the WSJ, the vote “marks the first time in memory that the ethanol lobby has lost a major vote.”  Can a revolution be in the making?

 

6/16/11, A12, Was ethanol vote a sign of break in fiscal fight? Senator Tom Coburn’s proposal to eliminate ethanol subsidies and import duties fell short in the Senate, but the News Journal says the subsidy fails on three counts: makes some Midwest corn farmers rich, hurts environment, and raises price of corn and overall cost of food.  Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons voted “no,” ostensibly on procedural grounds, but issued a joint statement saying they look forward to voting for a bill that ends the subsidy. http://1.usa.gov/lk88Nz [Watch what they do, not what they say.]

 

6/15/11, A1/A13, Delaware politicians divided on Afghanistan: Coons calls for shift from current strategy, Nicole Gaudiano – Senator Tom Carper said the current counterinsurgency strategy is working, and supports what the Administration is planning, i.e., reduce the number of US troops in the latter part of 2011 but continue working with NATO and helping Afghans stand up their government, train the army and police, and ferret out corruption and diversify [from the illegal drug trade] their economy.  “If all we did was look for a military victory, I think we’ll be disappointed.”  Having visited Afghanistan three times in the past two years, he said that on his most recent visit (see 4/27/11 entry) he saw “significant progress.”

          Senator Chris Coons favors a strategy of having fewer US troops who would basically be involved in hunting & killing terrorists rather than nation building.  He says he was appalled by the backwardness of the Afghan forces when he visited in February, e.g., how can you possibly run a 350,000-man army and police force when a majority of them are literally illiterate?”  (For more on his position, see the next entry.)

          Representative John Carney is thinking along similar lines, but wants an accelerated drawdown and (unlike Coons) would not defer to military commanders as to the timing.

 

6/15/11, A15, Clear Afghan strategy must be articulated, Senator Chris Coons – The president will soon announce the size of the 2011 withdrawal of US forces that was promised when the “surge” began in 2009.  It may be significant or token, time will tell, but Coons suggests the public should focus on whether there is “a strong explanation of our nation’s long-term strategy in the area.”  In this regard, Coons references an exchange that he had with the nominee to be the new ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker.  According to Crocker, the US objective is to help build an Afghan government that is “good enough” so the country does not degenerate back into a safe haven for Al Qaeda.  In response to a question from Coons as to how long this would take, Crocker said “I just don’t know the answer now.”  Coons reasons that the current strategy is failing, things will be no better 5 or 10 years from now, and the only foe the US really needs to worry about is what according to “intelligence estimates” is “fewer than 100 Al Qaeda operatives still in Afghanistan.”  He also points out that the US faces security threats in Pakistan, Yemen & Somalia, “instability across the Middle East, and growing threats from Iran.  Also, “record deficits and pressing investment needs at home argue for a wiser use of our military and diplomatic resources.” [These points carry some weight.  The war in Afghanistan has been going on for 10 years and our country does not have much to show for it so far, but we are not convinced that a long-term mission to hunt terrorists would make sense either.  Sounds more like a fig leaf to disguise the US withdrawal that Coons is endorsing.  A Go-No Go decision on the US mission in Afghanistan might be more to the point.]

 

6/12/11, A1/A2, DuPont pays no tax on $3B profit, and it’s legal, Jonathan Starkey – According to the reporter, “DuPont’s tax accountants . . . devised a strategy that allowed DuPont to not only avoid federal income taxes altogether last year, but to accrue a $109 million tax benefit.”  These data are based on the published financial statements, which also show that only $949M of DuPont’s pretax book income was from US sources (including exports) while $2,762M was earned and taxed in other countries.  In the ensuing discussion, it is suggested that such results are being achieved by DuPont and other countries through the use of “tax breaks like credits for research and development and domestic manufacturing” and “transfer pricing” strategies to “park income in low-tax countries overseas by shifting intangible assets like technology licensing rights to international subsidiaries.”  [Other factors presumably include differences between book and taxable income and tax loss carry-forwards.  Thus, as the article goes on to say, over the last 10 years “DuPont reported a total federal income-tax bill of $2.62 billion [on] its $14.7 billion in pre-tax domestic profits.”]

          Currently, Republicans (generally) are calling for a reduction of the 35% corporate income tax rate to make US companies more competitive and encourage US investment.  They would accept some accompanying elimination of tax preferences that reduce the effective rate to a lower number for certain taxpayers (including DuPont, GE, etc.), but have said the change should be “revenue-neutral,” i.e., the total take from US corporate income taxes should not increase.

          On the other hand, Democrats (generally) would like to see tax receipts increase, including Senator Tom Carper who reportedly “wants any reform to raise revenue to pay down debt.”  The Fiscal Commission recommendations last December were along these lines, although the president has reportedly said any corporate tax reform plan must be “revenue-neutral.” [We must have missed that particular speech.] 

          In elaborating on his position, Senator Carper assigns a low probability to “corporate tax reform” this year “given the political environment in Washington these days.”  [So much for the idea that Congress should focus on doing something constructive to get the economy moving again.  Why should corporate tax reform be held hostage to the great goal of raising taxes, when the results would so clearly benefit the overall economy?]

          Also weighing in on the issue is Representative John Carney, who says the parties appear to agree on broad reform principles (lower rates/ elimination of tax breaks) but seem likely to stumble over the details.  “There seems be so much support for something, and you get into the details, and you can’t seem to get there.  If it makes so much sense, why can’t it get done?”  [Good question.  SAFE’s position on corporate tax reform is spelled out as part of our SimpleTax proposal. http://bit.ly/etlOxX.  It would entail, among other things, eliminating all “green” energy tax credits.  While some companies might pay more taxes, maybe even DuPont and GE, the average result would be revenue-neutral in the short term.  Longer term, US tax collections should go up due to increased US investment.]

 

6/9/11, A11, Carper co-chairs hearing on air quality: Effects of pollution on children explored, Nicole Gaudiano – As chairman of the Environment and Public Works subcommittee on clean air, Senator Tom Carper called the hearing to gather information about the impact of air quality on children’s health.  Telegraphing his leanings on the issue, he made reference to the “sensible” rules the EPA is considering for mercury, smog and other pollutants.  And, of course, the EPA is also “setting pollution standards linked to global warming to satisfy a Supreme Court ruling.”  Legislation to block these efforts has passed the House, but “failed in the Democratic-controlled Senate.”  Witnesses mentioned in the article: (A) Patty Resnik, a Christiana Care Health System official said children are seeking hospital treatment more often for asthma – one of the top three diagnoses responsible for juvenile patients.  “We see people enter into our hospitals who are adversely affected by what they breathe.”  (B) American Lung Association’s 2011 State of the Air Report gave each of Delaware’s three counties failing grades for the number of high-ozone days between 2007 and 2009.  “These kids may have to miss school,” said Carper, and “their parents may have to miss work and all the while healthcare costs in America – already the highest in the world – continue to rise.”  Senator David Vitter (R-LA) said,  “I have absolutely no confidence in the science coming out of the EPA.”  Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) suggested that the EPA has already made the nation’s air cleaner than every before, and “today, the crisis is the economy and jobs.”  [The pending EPA rules would sharply drive up energy costs.  We fail to see why Congress should allow this to happen. http://bit.ly/kpr52a]

 

6/9/11, Rep. Carney budget proposals meetings held on June 8, no News Journal coverage – Here is a media report on the Sussex County session: http://www.wgmd.com/?p=26323

SAFE participated in this event, and our observations will be reported in the 6/13/11 blog entry.

 

6/5/11, B1, Rep. Carney hosting three budget proposal meetings – On Wednesday [June 8], Rep. John Carney will team up with the Concord Coalition to sponsor three meeting focusing on the federal budget.  “Participants will review the spending and priorities and work in groups of five to 10 to draft their own budget.”  Session 1 (9:00-11:00 AM, Georgetown Cheer Center); Session 2 (1:00-3:00 PM, Delaware State University campus); Session 3 (6:00-8:00 PM, DelTech Stanton campus).  To attend, call Carney’s office (302-428-1902 or 800-292-9541).  [Such exercises typically produce debatable results.  People with jobs may not find it convenient to attend so participation is skewed.  Facilitators are likely to have some biases.  And the limited time, lack of accountability for results also factor in.  See this summary of a June 26, 2010 (Saturday) series of workshops around the country, linked by satellite, which was sponsored by the Peterson Foundation et. al. http://bit.ly/dvq95Y ].

 

6/4/11, A8, Lower debt now instead of making more promises, Donna Cohen, Wilmington – The writer characterizes Rep. John Carney’s 5/26 column as “infuriating” because he advocated promises versus action.  “Cut spending now!  *** Don’t promise to reduce debt, do it.  NOW.”

 

5/29/11, A20, What is Amtrak’s ultimate purpose? – Following up on the 5/27 story on Amtrak, this editorial likens the difference of opinion between Senator Mica and Senator Carper to this question: “Is Amtrak a transportation company or a job program?”  Mica wants to create a new management system to run the railroad.  Carper says Amtrak currently employs 1,000 Delawareans and they could be affected by such a move.  Tut, tut, Carper and other Democrats “should be arguing that [Amtrak] provides the best rail transportation system in this part of the country – if indeed it does.  If it doesn’t, then they should be asking what – if any – kind of system would do that.”

 

5/28/11, A9, Promises to cut budget in the future won’t get job done, Glenn Urquhart – This column rebuts the 5/26 column by Representative John Carney, who beat Urquhart in the 2010 election for Delaware’s seat in the House. The writer agrees debt is a “clear and present danger,” but rejects Carney’s “10-year plan” solution because “future promises of frugality always fail.”  It’s time to “face the facts and make meaningful cuts in the 2012 budget now.” [Amen.]

 

5/2711, B3, Carney, Carper stick up for Amtrak: GOP privatization plan draws criticism, Raju Chebium (Gannett) – Representative John Mica (R-FL) believes Amtrak is incapable of ever providing super-fast service.  He organized a hearing re how Congress can attract private rail operators to the Washington-Boston corridor who might be able to do better, and says he will soon unveil a privatization plan.

          Senator Carper: Handing over Amtrak’s public assets to a private entity could put [1,000 Delaware] jobs in jeopardy.”

          Representative Carney (per an e-mail from a spokesman): “This is a ploy to defund Amtrak, which is increasing speeds, improving reliability, and on pace for yet another year with record ridership and revenue.”

          [We’re all in favor of ending Amtrak subsidies and letting the operation sink or swim.  Probably passenger train service makes sense in the Washington-Boston corridor, but in many other areas it is a white elephant.  As for the feasibility of huge investments to have truly high-speed rail, we doubt private ownership with government guarantees and oversight would work much better than the current arrangement.  Look what happened when the Post Office was privatized.]

 

5/26/11, A11, Pair raising of debt limit with a long-term debt plan, [Representative] John Carney – The writer begins by offering the S&P downgrading of “the outlook for the U.S. credit rating” as proof that the fiscal problem is serious.  He points out the national debt has grown from $5.7T to $14.3T since 2000, and blames “leaders in Washington” of both parties.  Also, as a percentage of GDP, “the US debt is higher than it’s been since the 1950’s.  Vanguard CEO Bill McNabb (in a conversation with Carney): “the single biggest risk in the international financial markets is the rising US debt.” Admiral Mike Mullen: “our national debt is our biggest single national security threat.”  Accordingly, we need to “start making some tough choices,” lest huge interest payments increase the debt even more.  But the US must also “raise the debt ceiling to prevent defaulting and ruining the country’s credit.”

          Although raising the debt limit is a “necessary reality,” Carney is “not interested in business as usual” because this Congress needs “some common sense Delaware values.”  It is time to “send a strong message that the United States is committed to responsibly reducing the US debt.  And that’s why I support the attachment of a deficit reduction plan to any increase in the debt ceiling.”  The plan should be “smart, balanced and broad-based.”  It should provide for “significant progress on debt reduction, while protecting key investments in the priorities necessary to remain competitive internationally.”  It should be “a 10-year plan that includes deficit targets, spending caps, and annual spending reduction triggers to do the job if Congress isn’t willing or able to get it done.”  Spending caps “will force major reductions in government expenditures . . .  [set] annual reduction targets over the next ten years . . . [cap] federal spending at an amount close to historic levels as a percentage of GDP.”  If spending caps were exceeded, the spending reduction trigger would cut “additional spending from pre-determined areas to meet the annual spending cap requirement.  And the column goes on to express optimism that such a plan will be supported by “both Democrats and Republicans from the House and Senate,” e.g., House Speaker John Boehner, who has said “we’re going to have to deal with [the fiscal problem] as adults.”  Thus, “we will strengthen our economy and guarantee a brighter future for generations to come. [Note the absence of any comment concerning (a) spending cuts in the FY 2012 budget, or (b) specific programs that the writer would advocate cutting.  And what happens when a future Congress amends or ignores the 10-year plan?]

 

5/18/11, A6, Postal Service asks Congress for help: Carper introduces bill to aid finances, Ledyard King (Gannett’s Washington Bureau) – Based on this story, Carper’s bill (“The Postal Operations Sustainment and Transformation Act of 2011”) would provide the UPS with more flexibility to eliminate Saturday mail delivery, close marginal post offices, and defer contributions for employee healthcare and pension plans.  Simply cutting mail delivery to 5 days a week would reportedly save between $1.7B and $3.1B per year, but Congress has mandated six-day delivery since 1983.  “No business facing the kinds of difficulties the Postal Service faces would survive for very long if it were told how many retail outlets they should have and where they should be located,” Carper said at yesterday’s hearing, “or if it were prevented from making operational changes or taking full advantage of the resources and expertise it has at its disposal.” [This story fails to bring out that taxpayers would be stuck with $50B or so of employee pension costs, see 5/16/11 entry, and also Senator Carper’s press release. http://1.usa.gov/iXFunY] [Our suggestion: sell the Postal Service to UPS and let them figure out what to do with it.]

 

5/16/11, A8, Thumbs down for rail upgrade, law school and national park, Harry Themal

About that national park Senator Carper has been lobbying for (see 5/12/11, B2 entry), here is some info on the estimated costs: “$600,000 to draw up a management plan to the park at sites in all three counties and $450,000 to $550,000 in annual federal funds to operate it.  The benefit testified to by Carper, says Themal, is “the tourism dollars that it would generate for Delaware.”  Themal’s conclusion: “The historic sites already exist and Delaware has gone this long without a national park, so it’s worth waiting till the economy gets better.” 

 

5/16/11, xx, Congress looking at new bill to bail out postal workers – We did not see this story in the News Journal.  The potential cost of the bailout would be $50B to $75B. Senators Tom Carper and Susan Collins (R-ME), chairman and ranking member on the postal oversight committee, are supporting the bill.  Washington Examiner, 5/16/11. http://exm.nr/k9RgsB

 

5/14/11, A8, Political games push politicians into corner – A News Journal editorial re the necessity of compromise to solve the fiscal problem.  For example . . . no Republican “would dare suggest increasing taxes, or eliminating special tax privileges, such as ethanol subsidies” . . . and no Democrat, it seems, “is willing to eliminate or even tighten any of the costly entitlement programs [or do anything else except] make the rich pay more.”  [This mantra is overstated, and it is getting tiresome.]

          Negotiation, says the editorial, “is almost impossible.”  And by way of proof they quote freshman Senator Chris Coons.  “There are folks in both caucuses who have drawn lines in the sand.  Getting them to get past that and to move forward with proposals that have everything on the table is quite challenging.”  [Senator Coons talks about spending discipline in the abstract, but we have not noticed him offering any concrete proposals along those lines.]  

 

5/13/11, B3, Carney wants more rail security: intelligence measure fails on voice vote – Rep. John Carney introduced a measure yesterday that would reportedly “direct the intelligence community to include rail security in its security plans and budgets.”  No dollar amount was included in Carney’s amendment.  It failed on a voice vote, and he then requested a recorded vote, which is expected today.  According to a spokesman, “Rep. Carney hopes that this is the start of a conversation that will continue as the fiscal 2012 budget debate moves forward.”  [The more Congressional “guidance” given re security priorities, the more money Department of Homeland Security is likely to request.  An underlying factor here, as noted in the article, is that “rail and port security funding was cut by $50 million in a recent budget agreement covering the remainder of fiscal 2011.”]

 

5/12/11, A11, US must learn how to spend smarter, [Senator Tom Carper] – Not so long ago, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan “warned we might pay down our debt too quickly.”  But, “he need not have worried.”

          Situation: “After 9/11, we became embroiled in two costly wars that, coupled with a recession and revenue lost from tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, doubled our debt by 2009.  Now, as our economy slowly recovers from the 2008 financial crisis, our debt is poised to double again in the next decade.  [This storyline glosses over the huge jump in debt from 2009 to the present.] We must not let that happen.

          Proposals: (1) Fiscal Commission proposed a supposedly balanced approach to reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over the next 10 years.  Described as a credible plan toward a sustainable fiscal path.  [Proposal would not have balanced the budget, and in our view was far too timid.]

(2) Ryan Plan would reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over the next 10 years, but “produce almost all of its savings from unsustainable cuts to discretionary spending and Medicare and Medicaid programs, while doing little in the way of tax reform to promote economic growth [flatly untrue] and to better ensure we all pay our fair share [debatable].”  (3) The president unveiled a third plan in April, “incorporating much of the Bowles-Simpson proposal.” [The plan consisted of a speech that was long on rhetoric and very short on specifics re spending cuts.]  (4) “Vice President Biden has begun bipartisan talks with Congressional leaders to craft a long-term deficit reduction plan.”  

          Don’t look at this problem as having only two solutions – cut spending or raise taxes –

although “an honest approach would do some of each.”  Two other principles are needed: (A) Bolster investment in research, infrastructure, and education – as the president has urged – so the US can “out-educate, out-innovate and out-compete the rest of the world.”  (B) “Spend prudently to get a bigger bang for the taxpayers’ buck,” to this end “examining every nook and cranny of government – from healthcare to weapons systems – and asking: Is it possible to get better results for less money?”  Let’s eliminate over $125B annually in improper payments and another $60B in Medicare fraud, and also enhance [give?] the president’s line-item veto authority.  In particular, let’s curb healthcare costs by following economist Alan Blinder’s advice: “Find out what works and do more of that.”  Carper adds that this is “good advice for our entire government.  For programs that aren’t working, let’s try to make them better, and if they still aren’t working, let’s get rid of them.”

          [This column does not acknowledge any personal responsibility for the soaring deficits, nor propose any specific cuts except fraud and abuse – which may be harder to eliminate than is implied.  Moreover, Senator Carper’s track record is one of promoting government spending, as exemplified by the following two entries.]

 

5/12/11, A10, Sen. Carper serves his constituents well, Cathy Cessna, Wilmington – The writer describes herself as a “cynical Republican” who has recently concluded that Senator Carper is the exception who proves the rule about the poor performance of legislators sent to Washington.  First, he “is more likely to turn up at an event for boy scouts or a discussion with the elderly about changes in their healthcare plans than spend his time at an event for socialites.”  Second, he has fought hard for Delaware’s share of federal funds “to assist the low- to moderate-income seniors and the disabled,” although “the outcome of the grants is yet to be determined.” 

 

5/12/11, B2, Carper pitches Del. national park: Senator lists qualifications at hearing but Republican says passage unlikely, Nicole Gaudiano – The venue was a meeting of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks.  Senator Carper proposes “a park celebrating early American Dutch, Swedish and English settlements throughout the state and Delaware’s role as the first state to ratify the Constitution in 1789.  The park would include sites and attractions in each of Delaware’s three counties.”  He has been pushing for a Delaware national park for almost a decade.  The strongest selling point is apparently that (reporter’s words) Delaware is “the only state without one.”  Co-sponsors are Senator Chris Coons and Rep. John Carney.  The Republican naysayer is Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), who reportedly said, in an interview after the hearing, “House Republicans are not interested in increasing the National Park Service’s inventory at a time when the service’s maintenance backlog is in the billions.” [Is it really worth borrowing money from China for another national park?]

 

5/11/11, A10, Like predecessors, Coons chases dream of high-speed rail, Ron Williams – Basically a “political grapevine” column for DE figures, which makes these points among others:

          Senator Chris Coons – Williams says the Northeast Corridor cannot accommodate truly high-speed trains.  Too many turns, too many station stops, not enough room.  As for taking the windfall that Florida turned down, “has anybody in Congress thought about not spending money and just giving it back?”  Or at least, spending the money wisely on “long needed maintenance and upgrades to the tracks we have now.”

          Senator Tom Carper – Repeats “rumors that [Carper is] ready to pull the plug after the 2012 election and let Gov. Jack Markell appoint himself to the position.”  Also “Carper will likely run against Christine O’Donnell, or some other Republican loser, and then retire with a nice fat pension.” [Who knows what will happen in 2012, but this view is uninspiring to say the least.]

          Representative John Carney – said to have done well at the 20th annual First State Gridiron dinner.  “OK, he’s only a freshman, and in the House minority, but we need to hear more from him and what he would like to do in Congress.”

 

5/11/11, A10, Like predecessors, Coons chases dream of high-speed rail, Ron Williams – Basically a “political grapevine” column for DE figures, which makes these points among others:

          Senator Chris Coons – Williams says the Northeast Corridor cannot accommodate truly high-speed trains.  Too many turns, too many station stops, not enough room.  As for taking the windfall that Florida turned down, “has anybody in Congress thought about not spending money and just giving it back?”  Or at least, spending the money wisely on “long needed maintenance and upgrades to the tracks we have now.”

          Senator Tom Carper – Repeats “rumors that [Carper is] ready to pull the plug after the 2012 election and let Gov. Jack Markell appoint himself to the position.”  Also “Carper will likely run against Christine O’Donnell, or some other Republican loser, and then retire with a nice fat pension.” [Who knows what will happen in 2012, but this view is uninspiring to say the least.]

            Representative John Carney – said to have done well at the 20th annual First State Gridiron dinner.  “OK, he’s only a freshman, and in the House minority, but we need to hear more from him and what he would like to do in Congress.”

 

5/10/11, B1/B2, Northeast Corridor to get $795 million; windfall could fund third track south of Wilmington, Jeff Montgomery – Federal officials “divvied up more than $2 billion in rail aid that was rejected by Florida,” and everyone quoted seems pleased (despite some questions about why Amtrak fares keep rising when the government is kicking in so much money) – including the members of Congress from Delaware:

          Senator Tom Carper (written statement) – “As Delawareans and Americans increasingly rely on passenger rail for their travel needs, the Northeast Corridor has a unique opportunity to serve as a national model for high-speed rail transportation in America.”

         Senator Chris Coons: “When [Florida] Gov. [Rick] Scott declined to accept his state’s share of those federal funds, we said we wanted to make Florida’s loss Delaware’s gain, and that’s exactly what we did.”

         Representative John Carney reportedly “said Delaware’s delegation joined dozens of other lawmakers urging Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to shunt some of the money to the Northeast Corridor, which had received less than 2 percent of the earlier high-speed rail allocation.”

         This news coverage was reinforced by an editorial – A8, Northeast train funding would make more sense – saying Florida’s rejection of the funds was the right thing to do and the Administration’s decision to award $800 million to the Northeast Corridor made “a lot more sense.”  [In a relative sense, Project A vs. Project B, we would agree.  But what if the entire high-speed rail program is a costly boondoggle that this country cannot afford?  Compare Fiscal responsibility derailed: wasteful choo-choo spending deepens America’s debt crisis, Washington Times, 5/9/11. http://bit.ly/mmQ1jU]

 

5/1/11, A1/A2, GOP picks [John] Sigler as new state chairman: Former NRA leaders calls for united front, Beth Miller – Re tracking former (and possibly future) candidates:  (1) Christine O’Donnell, who lost the Senate race in 2010, was in attendance at the convention.  She reportedly praised Sigler’s selection and boosted Michele Rollins for national committeewomen next year.  (2) Michele Rollins, who was bested by Glenn Urquhart in last year’s primary for the House seat nomination praised the State GOP’s new leadership team.

 

5/1/11, A23, China has no easy road to prosperity: Repressive and all-controlling government is barrier to growth, Ted Kaufman (appointed to serve the remainder of Joe Biden’s term, Kaufman was a senator from 2008 to 2010) – Former Senator Kaufman is not expected to be a future candidate, so this column was not written to burnish his political credentials and presumably represents his personal opinion.  The gist is that the recent IMF prediction that China will surpass the US as the world’s biggest economy by about 2016 is unlikely to come true.  He correctly refers to similar predictions that were made at one time re Russia and then Japan, both of which countries subsequently developed economic problems and fell out of the race.  It is plausibly noted that it is easier to copy and catch a leader than to out innovate and surpass it.  And most important, Kaufman says China is a repressive regime that cannot tolerate too much independence by the private sector, which should make it vulnerable to bad economic mistakes. 

          In contrast, per Kaufman, “the U.S. economy succeeds because it encourages innovation at all levels, and for the most part keeps the government out of picking winners and losers. *** But those who envy how China’s autocratic system avoids the endless debates of Washington policymaking must also remember that China’s government-run economy, lack of press freedom, widespread corruption, and difficult environment for business in the long run will undermine the soundness of Chinese resource-allocation decisions.”

[We offered a similar conclusion in a recent review of “How the West Was Lost.” http://bit.ly/kKphdM But some people are working hard to replicate the big government model in the US, and Kaufman appeared to support their efforts throughout his political career.  If the free enterprise system is the great strength of the US economy, as he suggests in the column, then it should be nurtured rather than systematically undermined.]

 

4/27/11, B1/B2, Carper finds hope in trip to South Asia: Senator “modestly” upbeat on region, Esteban Parra – Senator Carper returned to Delaware Monday from a trip to India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.  He had been traveling with a delegation that included Senator Mitch McConnell (R, KY).  Reportedly, “such trips are common for lawmakers who want to know more about American interests overseas.”  Reference is made to a February trip taken by Senator Chris Coons to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Jordan and Israel, reportedly “to gauge from the U.S. military if he could support the ongoing war in Afghanistan.”

         On his trip, Carper took the opportunity to ask India to reduce its tariffs on American products – especially as the US is supporting India’s bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.  “They heard it from the president, they heard it from our ambassador, they heard it from our delegation.”

         The visits to Pakistan and Afghanistan were for general fact-finding purposes, including meetings with such leaders as U.S. General David Petraeus and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.  One of the things that impressed Carper was the program to reduce the illiteracy rate in Afghanistan (currently 80%).  The US is spending about $200 million per year on literacy training, and “it’s one of those investments that will pay big dividends later on.”  Also, more work needs to be done to improve relations between India and Pakistan.

          [These Congressional junkets cost a lot of money.  We can’t help wondering whether taxpayers are getting their money’s worth.  Compare “Karzai told to dump US: Pakistan urges Afghanistan to ally with Islamabad, Beijing, Matthew Rosenberg, Wall Street Journal, 4/27/11.]

 

4/25/11, A11, The inconvenient truth about debt, Gen Urquhart, (cartoon with an “entitlements” tsunami bearing down on a few sandbags labeled “tax hikes”) – Mr. Urquhart was defeated in last fall’s House race and he is currently not a candidate for any office.  Nevertheless, the publication of this column – which references the recent “warning” by Standard & Poor’s and advocates smaller, less costly government – suggests his name may come up in future races.  We were struck by this explanation of his recent loss.  “When I campaigned for Congress on the truth about national debt it was as unpopular as the inconvenient truth I told about Wilmington Trust’s problems.  Both messages probably hurt our fundraising, but both were true.”  As for the future, “choose leaders who aren’t afraid to tell the inconvenient truth.  Reject soothing fantasies about more government spending solving our problems.”  

 

4/25/11, B3, Castle to form PAC with war chest: Ex-congressman takes consulting job, Nicole Gaudiano – Another update, this one on former Representative Mike Castle who was ousted in the GOP primary for a Senate seat last fall.  He is planning to start a Political Action Committee, apparently contributing $1 million or so in left over campaign funds – stay tuned as what the PAC will support or advocate.  Also, Castle will soon begin working as a consultant (but not lobbyist) for a law firm.

 

4/25/11, other sources – The Washington Times carried some comments by Senator Chris Coons from an appearance on “Face the Nation.”  http://bit.ly/fuIDkH  Among other things, Senator Coons was quoted that the Senate needs to “focus on our spending” and that he is somewhat “frustrated” with the pace of this effort.  “I feel like I’m banging my head against the wall trying to encourage forward movement,” he said. “I’m very hopeful that the ‘Gang of Six’ … will have something to put on the table.” [OK, but what about taking up the Ryan Plan that has been passed by the House of Representatives already?]

 

4/19/11, B3, Carper raises more money in quarter, Nicole Gaudiano – Senator Carper reported raising more than $600K (2/3 from political action committees) in the first quarter, and at this point has accumulated $1.3 million for his 2012 reelection bid, according to a report filed with the Federal Election Commission.  The story goes on to note that Republican Christine O’Donnell spent $6.1 million on her failed Senate campaign last year and that “donors from across the country” contributed $7.3 million.  “O’Donnell hasn’t said if she’ll run again for the Senate, and her FEC report wasn’t available Monday.” 

        Senator Coons has $285K in his account (after repayment of a personal loan to the campaign of $250K), and Rep. John Carney had $8K on hand.

 

4/16/11, A1/A2, Carney deals with GOP rule in House, Nicole Gaudiano – This story praises Representative John Carney of Delaware for braving the challenges of “life in the minority.”  First, the Republicans control the House.  Second, Carney is one of only 9 Democrat newbies, versus 87 on the Republican side.  He and others in his position call themselves “the Noble Nine,” and the group meets regularly for dinner.  However, Carney has also cultivated relationships with some of the Republicans.

         In terms of policy, Carney sides with his own party “on most votes,” but supposedly “breaks ranks” occasionally.  Thus, he “was among 81 Democrats who voted Thursday to cut about $38 billion in spending for the remainder of the fiscal year.”  [Given that the president had already approved this deal, which was necessary to avert a government shutdown, Carney’s vote for it was hardly very bold.]

        Carney sponsored a proposal to create a national park for Delaware [a needless extravagance].  He also introduced an unsuccessful measure to eliminate $50 million of oil and gas R&D, which was opposed by 82 Democrats.  [Probably a good idea, except that Carney is reputedly in favor of increasing subsidies for renewable energy.  We would urge that he vote against all corporate welfare expenditures and not just the ones he does not happen to like.]

 

4/15/11, A1/A2, Budget cuts worth $38B head to Obama: Both parties gear up for fight over deficit, David Espo (AP) – Report on current status of budget maneuvering in DC.  We noted that “all three of Delaware’s members of Congress – Rep. John Carney and Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons, all Democrats – voted in favor of the measure” that finally set a budget for the remainder of the current fiscal year [which will end with a deficit of over $1.5 trillion].  [No doubt the Delaware members will cite this as a vote for fiscal responsibility, but it will take trillions of dollars in spending cuts to balance the government’s budget in ensuing years.  Let’s see if they stay the course.]

 

4/15/11, A7, Coons files R&D bill to aid emerging firms – Senator Chris Coons introduced legislation yesterday that would expand a business tax credit [increase it from 14% to 20% and make it refundable] for R&D. The president has reportedly “proposed a similar measure that would take the credit to 17 percent, costing about $100 billion over 10 years.” [Real reform of business taxes is needed, combining lower rates and elimination of tax preferences.  This kind of proposal goes in the wrong direction, and it certainly does not show that Senator Coons is serious about reducing deficits.]

 

4/13/11, A1A2, Delaware plans for nuclear incident, Schiliro tells Senate preparations are solid, Nicole Gaudiano – Lewis Schiliro, secretary of the state’s Department of Safety and Homeland Security, was one of the witnesses at a Senate hearing that “will be one of many aimed at making sure the nation is prepared for the worst” [a nuclear incident comparable to the unfolding situation at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan following a huge earthquake and tsunami]. Schiliro read some of his written testimony at a hearing before a subcommittee chaired by Senator Tom Carper (the only senator in the room by this time), who is characterized by the story as “a proponent of nuclear power.” 

       According to Schiliro, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has given Delaware high marks on exercises testing the state’s emergency response capabilities within a 10-mile radius (evacuation would take about 3 to 6 hours) around nuclear plants in nearby states and “readiness to address concerns within a 50-mile radius.”

        Senator Carper’s quoted remarks are along the lines that government must be ready for anything.  “The events that struck Japan are reminders that we are all vulnerable to unexpected disasters, whether an act of nature or a terrorist attack.  While we cannot predict when or where the next major disaster will occur, we know that it will occur and we also know adequate preparation and response planning are vital to minimize injury and death when it does happen.”

[This kind of thinking is unhelpful, particularly given the reality that other forms of energy also involve risks.  Compare “Coal is more dangerous than nuclear,” Holman Jenkins, Wall Street Journal, 4/13/11.]

 

4/10/11, A1/A2, Normalcy won’t last as battles lie ahead, Beth Miller, Dan Shortridge, & Nicole Gaudiano – A follow-up report on the last minute deal that ended a government shutdown countdown on 4/8/11, plus the outlook for more budget confrontations. Most of the material was generated by interviewing people (primarily Delawareans) across the political spectrum, including Senator Tom Carper. 

According to Senator Carper:  “The debate over this year’s spending is a ‘speed bump’ compared with the other issues Congress will face.  We’re talking about how to come up with $4 or $5 or $6 billion of savings for the rest of this fiscal year.  How about when we’re looking for $4 trillion of savings over the next 10 years?  That’s the tough negotiation.” 

        Also, Carper reportedly said he hopes [House Speaker John] Boehner, who has been “pushed around by own caucus at times,” emerges from the negotiations in a strengthened position because Boehner is more willing to compromise with Democrats than some other Republicans.  One positive note is that [President Barrack] Obama, Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, and Boehner ended negotiations with a “better sense of mutual trust,” Carper said.

        “It’s not that [Boehner’s] not a tough negotiator – and we don’t agree on priorities – but at the end of the day, as Harry Reid said, he wants to do what’s right,” Carper said. 

        Even so, Carper predicts more political brinkmanship over the next year, with many more decisions coming down to the wire as conservatives try to continue their momentum.  [Does Senator Carper agree that big spending cuts are a “priority,” and if so, what are his ideas for achieving them?]

 

4/8/11, A9, “It’s time to get this thing done”: Stopgaps a stunt, Del. member says, Nicole Gaudiano – Public statements by the Delaware members of Congress on the current discussions about cutting government spending have been infrequent, but Representative John Carney finally broke the silence.  The punch line was his explanation of why he voted (a) in favor of a March 15 “stopgap” measure for FY 2011 [the year for which Congress neglected to pass a budget] with about $6B in spending cuts, but (b) against another April 7 “stopgap” measure with about $12B in spending cuts (which passed 247-181, but “is not expected to pass the Senate and President Obama said he would veto it.”)

       Carney is a self-professed moderate, who says “I’m willing to make more cuts, frankly, than some of the Democrats in our caucus.”  However, he reportedly viewed the latest proposal as a Republican political maneuver designed to make the Democrats appear at fault if the government shuts down.  “This should be about fiscal decisions, cutting spending, getting the balance right – not about advancing a kind of a right-wing conservative social agenda.”

       [We don’t notice any positive suggestions about where spending cuts should be made, let alone informed comments on the Ryan Plan that would cut $6 trillion in spending over the 10 years starting with the FY 2012 budget.]

 

3/23/11, A17, The little-known benefits of healthcare law, Tom Carper – Senator Carper defines the purpose of GovCare as not only extending coverage to more Americans, which the legislation would do, but also “achieving better healthcare results for less money.”  However, his column falls short in explaining how healthcare would be made more affordable by this legislation – which Carper says he helped to write.  [The only feasible way with this legislation, we believe, would be to ration healthcare. Our ideas for real healthcare reform were shared with Senator Carper and other members of Congress from Delaware in 2009, but none of them were reflected in the legislation.  http://www.s-a-f-e.org/healthcare_reform.htm]

        Seniors often have the idea that the legislation would reduce Medicare spending, but this “fear is unfounded.”  Never mind that significant spending cuts on Medicare are provided for in the bill, whether they will actually be made or not, “the law has made healthcare more accessible, more affordable and more dependable for Delawareans.”

        Thus, the law will begin closing the “donut hole” in the Medicare prescription drug benefit, and the best part is that “the cost will be borne by the pharmaceutical industry, not by taxpayers.” [Taxes paid by corporations is not free money.  Drug companies will presumably pass the taxes on to consumers, since it is a cost of doing business.]

        The law established a Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation “to test and expand new ways of delivering and paying for high-quality healthcare services.”  [Who is more likely to drive innovation in the healthcare sector, the government or private sector institutions?  And why should the government determine what sort of healthcare insurance arrangements will be considered appropriate for Americans rather than letting people decide what sort of HCI they want for themselves?]

        Employers may not offer HCI discounts of up to 30% to employees who participate in wellness programs.  [Why was this previously impossible?  Is this a case of fixing government rules by adopting more rules?]

       New tools are provided to reduce waste, fraud and abuse. [So long as Medicare provides a big pot of money on a fee for service basis, healthcare providers will figure out ways to tap it.]  

       But there is no such thing as “a perfect law,” and “I will continue to work with my colleagues and the administration to improve it and our healthcare system . . .”.

 

3/21/11, A8, Senators want talks on real fiscal reforms – 64 senators (32 GOP, 32 Democrats counting Independent Joe Lieberman) “did something bold and unusual for modern-day Washington.  They showed some common sense.”  How?  By signing a letter to the president requesting “expanded talks about the federal government’s ailing financial health.” And among the signatories were Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons from Delaware.  Carper is quoted that our nation needs to shift from a “culture of spendthrift” to a “culture of thrift.” [Here is a link to the full text of the letter. http://bit.ly/ewzmtu The letter is unexceptionable, but also devoid of specifics.  We doubt that a get together at the White House will accomplish much unless Congress first embraces some specific principles for cutting spending, restructuring entitlements, and overhauling taxes.  The impetus should probably begin in the House of Representatives.]

 

3/16/11, A1/A12, “Swipe fee” limits under fire from Del. senators: Coons, Carper among those pushing for delay, Nicole Gaudiano – An update on 3/9 story on same subject, “Senate plans delay . . .” with Senators Carper & Coons being cast as “moderates” coming to the rescue of the financial services industry (and particularly big banks BOA and Chase with major operations centered in Delaware). 

       “Carper said he is concerned the proposed rule will hurt consumers, small banks and credit union.  The legislation would allow for a pause to avoid ‘unintended consequences,’ he said.” [So why did he vote for the GovCare bill in the first place, which among many other ill-considered provisions authorized the Federal Reserve to impose price controls on “swipe fees”?]

       “Coons pointed to concerns raised by Fed. Chairman Ben Bernanke, who questioned the effectiveness of an exemption for smaller lenders. “Any government regulation of interchange fees should yield some tangible consumer benefit, but the Fed’s current cap offers no such guarantees.”  [So the answer is even more government regulation?]

 

3/15/11, A9, Coons, too, is suffering from deficit hysteria, Desmond Kahn (Green Party of Delaware) – Re op-ed column by Senator Coons on 2/28/11, the writer explains that he “needs to realize that he is no longer running a county government” that is legally required to balance its budget.  Thankfully, the federal government “has the power to spend money that it borrows.”  25 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed including tens of thousands in Delaware – cuts to budget would increase unemployment – our new senator seems to be going along with Republican calls to cut the deficit [not a fair reading of what Coons wrote] – should listen to Dr. Samuel Hoff of UD [not really, http://bit.ly/gFNVTq] – current deficit is not crowding out private sector, they are “cutting back and refusing to hire until they see adequate demand in the economy” – first stimulus bill was an enormous help, but it wasn’t big enough – took the huge federal deficits and debt of World War II to end the Great Depression – then we had the great post-war boom that contradicted “the fear-mongering claims of deficit hysterics”  -- “I hope Sen. Coons will jump off the deficit hysteria bandwagon and work for our economic recovery.” [This is ignorant drivel.  It is shocking that the News Journal would publish it as a “Delaware Voice” column.]

 

3/14/11, A10, Sen. Coons deserves credit for trying to save wildlife, Janet Manchester, Friends of Bombay Hook (Smyrna) – The writer commends Senator Coons for speaking in support of “full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) during hearings about the federal budget” on March 2nd.  “We know that these are difficult times for our budget, but Sen. Coons understands that investing in wildlife protection, recreation, and open space makes sense and pays economic dividends to the people of Delaware, especially during tough economic times.”  Also, the LWCF is not even supported by “taxpayer dollars” but only a “small fraction of federal offshore oil and gas leasing royalties.”  [One more example of how every federal spending program has supporters, but the time has passed when Congress can be expected to keep everyone happy.  Also, federal leasing royalties are indistinguishable from tax revenues – who do you suppose bears the burden of these levies, which are obviously passed on to consumers?]

 

3/12/11, A10, Carper, Coons should fight reversal of preserved lands, Brock Vinton & Michael Parkowski, officers of the Nature Conservancy, Frederica – The gist of the letter is to protest “disproportionate cuts of 90 or 100 percent for conservation programs” (in the House budget bill) that “are shortsighted and run counter to America’s long bipartisan tradition of protecting land and water for people and nature in good times and bad.”  In Delaware, this would have “immediate impacts” [shudder] on a project approved last fall to protect 507 acres of “important conservation land along the Broadkill River.” More broadly, the North America Wetland Conservation Act is “a highly successful conservation program that has leveraged billions of dollars in matching funds resulting in millions of acres of wetland protection throughout North America.”  So please, Senators Carper and Coons, help us “to keep the promise to our children and grandchildren to pass on an America and a Delaware that is at least as healthy and beautiful as that which was passed on to them by rejecting the deep and unfair cuts made to environmental and conservation programs by the House of Representatives.” [Hmm, is this kind of lobbying by the Nature Conservancy appropriate?  Why does the News Journal sanction it by allowing the officers to list their formal titles?  And if all concerned are busy pushing this kind of appeals, who will be left to speak for the welfare of the country as a whole?]

 

3/10/11, Hearing puts focus on health[care] fraud: Senate panel underscores threat in Delaware, Nicole Gaudiano & Hiran Ratnayke – Senate hearings re Medicare & Medicaid fraud, including a situation in Delaware where a man selling medical equipment, e.g., Scooter chairs, was targeting seniors in the Ingleside Retirement Apartments in Wilmington.  Senator Tom Carper (small photo) chaired the hearing on Wednesday.  He is quoted as saying: “When we have estimates of more than $47 billion in overpayments, and potentially tens of billions of dollars in fraud within Medicare and Medicaid, there is a lot of opportunity to improve the way government oversees these vital healthcare programs.”  Unfortunately, “those intent on breaking the law are becoming more sophisticated, and the schemes are more difficult to detect.” [This will be continuing problem, because government programs of this nature inevitably spawn corruption.  Consider the Scooter chair ads – “you won’t to have to pay a penny” – that appear regularly on TV.]

 

3/9/11, A7/A11, Senate plans bill to delay “swipe” fee regulations: Carper, others concerned with cap’s impact on banks, Phil Mattingly (Bloomberg News) – Having voted for the GovFinance bill that authorized sweeping new regulatory authority over numerous aspects of the financial services business that had nothing to do with the recent financial crisis, Senator Tom Carper and others are now working to curb one proposed regulation that could cost “big banks” like BOA (a major employer in Delaware) billions of dollars in annual revenue.  Wouldn’t it have made sense to pass more targeted legislation in the first place? [SAFE urged Senator Carpers and other members of Congress from Delaware to vote against GovCare last year. http://bit.ly/hyYVRE]

 

3/9/11, B3, UD researchers make case in DC: Trip to Capitol Hill lets feds look closer at value of funding, Wade Malcolm – Photo of Senator Chris Coons chatting with two guests from UD at the Senate Office Building function, which is described in the story as “a science fair combined with a cocktail hour.”  Senator Tom Carper and Representative John Carney “also stopped by to express support for continued funding.”

Various projects are described in the article, which supposedly show the value of federal research funding.  Note that 2/3 of UD’s research spending in 2010 was funded by federal agencies.  Thus, for example, Jeremy Firestone, who studies offshore wind policy, has received federal grants totaling more than $3 million.  And it is said that “building relationships with federal officials can be critical to preparing competitive grant applications.” [The amount of money being doled out is disturbing.  Ditto the near certainty that research will be skewed to reinforce government policy biases.] 

 

3/6/11, A24, Senators should be too busy to write letters to the editor, Dave Brumbley (Seaford) – “Is it just me,” begins the writer, “but does our new senator [Chris Coons] have nothing else to do but write letters to The News Journal espousing his opinion, with little facts or ‘serious ideas’ about how to solve our dire economic problems?”  Other gripes: attacking opponents vs. offering positive solutions, failure of the News Journal to question or challenge views of Delaware’s members in Congress, and incessant attacks by Ron Williams on former candidate Christine O’Donnell. [In our view, Senator Coons should feel free to write all the letters he wants.  If we disagree with what he has to say, however, we will say so.  See, e.g., the 2/28/11 entry.]

 

3/5/11, B1, Carney lobbies for funds for Northeast Corridor, Nicole Gaudiano – A bipartisan group of 38 House members, led by Rep. John Carney of Delaware, is urging Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to send $2.4 billion in high-speed rail funding that Florida [Gov. Rick Scott] rejected to the Northeast Corridor.  “Reprogramming the award,” according to their letter, “would create jobs and alleviate congestion in the Northeast without adding to the current deficit.”  In Delaware, according to a statement by Sens. Carper & Coons and Rep. Carney, possible uses would include supporting a new train station in Newark or a third track connecting Wilmington & Newark to extend SEPTA’s reach and ease congestion for Amtrak.  [How can spending money not add to the deficit? Seems that our legislators are yet to get serious about the fiscal problem.]

 

3/3/11, B1/B2, Senators push for changes in No Child Left Behind: Moderates including Carper, Coons aim at education law’s reauthorization this year, Nicole Gaudiano – “Education Secretary Arne Duncan and a group of moderate Democratic senators, including Tom Carper and Chris Coons of Delaware, announced plans Wednesday to reward schools for improvements in student performance and to give them more flexibility in meeting students needs.”  The envisioned way to accomplish these goals is to reauthorize the 2002 No Child Left Behind (NCBL) law, while watering down its emphasis on test scores. 

         Senator Coons: “If we don’t fix the obvious flaws in [NCBL], and if we don’t do it promptly, thoroughly and in a bipartisan way, we will be failing those very children who will gather here later today to read and to dream.”

        Senator Carper:  The recommendations stand a chance of advancing because the senators pushing them (others: Kay Hagan, NC; Michael Bennett, CO; Joe Lieberman, CT; Herb Kohl, WI; Dianne Feinstein, CA; Mary Landrieu, LA; Mark Warner, VA; Mark Begich, AK; Joe Manchin, WV) are “the bridge” between Democrats and Republicans in the Senate.

        Among the proposals in the “statement of principles” signed by this group are “additional funds to help turn around low-performing schools” and “pay teachers more for taking on additional responsibilities.”  Also, “continue to fund innovative approaches through competitive grants” and “promote more equitable funding among schools.”

[For real reform, we need to get the Federal government out of education and let the states and local school districts run it. http://www.s-a-f-e.org/education.htm]

 

2/28/11, A15, Reckless budget cuts passed by House threaten citizens’ welfare, Senator Chris Coons – “The news from Washington this week will be dominated by an intense debate over the federal budget *** [focused on] the wildly irresponsible budget passed by House Republicans last weekend [actually on 2/19] to cover the remainder of 2011.” (1) Devastating across the board cut to port security via reduction of federal funds for firefighters, police departments, state agencies and others responsible for security along the Delaware Bay & River.  (2) Social Security office could be closed for up to weeks under the Republican budget.  (3) Eliminate the HUD Veteran’s Affairs Supportive Housing program that “provides rental vouchers for homeless veterans.”  (4) Cuts to “critical housing programs” that have provided grants to seniors for home safety improvements, emergency housing fix-up loans to families, and funding for the disabled to make their homes accessible.  (5) Reduce grants to nonprofits that provide vital, low-cost services to families, including Food Banks, Boys and Girls Clubs, and Community Legal Aid.

        An analysis by Goldman Sachs found the Republicans’ plan “would actually reduce economic growth by as much as 2 percent over the next months.”  And also “put even more Americans out of work, driving unemployment back up to nearly 10 percent.” [Other economists have come up with very different conclusions, and given the notable failure of huge deficits to create jobs we find it illogical to expect a modest deficit reduction to increase them.] 

            The Delaware way is to work together to “reach real bipartisan solutions to our challenges.”  Quite a contrast to the “Republicans’ refusal to even negotiate [negotiations are currently in process with Senate Democrats] – instead brazenly demanding the president agree to their demands and sign off on their reckless budget.” 

        “I am eager to take further steps for deficit reduction [namely?], but spending cuts cannot come at the expense of key investments in growing our economy.”

        [To put things in perspective, HR-1 would reduce the FY 2011 deficit by a mere 3.7%.  Much bigger spending cuts will be required in coming years to solve the fiscal problem, and continued procrastination will make the ultimate solutions that much more painful.]

 

2/27/11, Coons reaches out on the rails, B1 – While commuting to Washington via Amtrak, Senator Chris Coons has found an interesting way to use the time – recording video responses to constituent questions or comments that will be posted on his Website and official YouTube channel.  He plans to do 5 to 10 of these responses per month. http://bit.ly/eW2mwz [We don’t notice any responses to SAFE letters on the list thus far, but perhaps there will be some.  In any case, this activity seems constructive and we commend it.]

 

2/16/21, Coons “underwhelmed” by Obama’s budget, Nicole Gaudiano – Senator Coons was reportedly puzzled by the lack of direction provided in the president’s $3.7 trillion budget request re tax reform and entitlement spending.  A new member of the Senate Budget Committee, Coons said he planned to ask Budget Director Jacob Lew “how he sees this playing out, why they didn’t do more in this budget.” 

        Senator Coons supports “the general direction” of the Fiscal Commission’s proposed cuts in Medicare and Social Security, which the president’s budget avoids.  However, he believes Delaware would benefit from the budget’s support for “investments in advanced energy manufacturing credits, education, early childhood programs, and wind energy, including offshore wind.”  Perhaps more could be done to rein in defense spending and reform taxes, so it would not be necessary to cut low income heating assistance [a relatively minor cut at $2.5B, which will predictably get lost by the wayside] or Community Development Block Grants.

 

2/9/11, Carper backs bill giving president modified line-item veto: Congress could still override Obama, Elizabeth Bewley (Gannett) – Senator Tom Carper has joined with Senator John McCain (R-AZ) in introducing a line item veto bill.  It would give the president “45 days to delete earmarks or other non-mandatory spending from legislation after signing it into law,” after which Congress would “have 10 days to approve or reject the president’s cuts by a simple majority.”  Carper likened the proposed law to a “bazooka under the desk of the president” that could be used to take targeted “rifle shots” at discretionary spending provisions.  The authority would expire in 2015.  [This bow to fiscal responsibility is at odds with previous statements by Senator Carper to the effect that a ban on earmarks would do nothing to reduce spending.  We also think that any line item veto authority should be exercised at the time a bill was signed, and that the idea of making such authority temporary – so it could not be exercised by future presidents – is inappropriate.]

 

2/8/11, A4, Carper explains vote on health[care] measure: No clear plan after repeal of 1099 provision, he says, Nicole GuadianoIn addition to voting down the House-passed bill to repeal GovCare last week, the Senate voted on another proposal to strip out a draconian 1099 reporting requirement that was buried in the legislation.  The second motion carried by 81-17, reflecting a consensus that the new 1099 requirement would have created an intolerable paperwork burden for small business.  Senator Chris Coons from Delaware voted for repeal, and Representative John Carney states he will do so when the issue comes up for a vote in the House. 

Senator Tom Carper was one of 17 senators who voted “no,” his rationale being that the Administration’s budget director should not be allowed to choose an offset to the estimated revenue loss from “unobligated funds.”  Carper had previously voted for a bill that would have raised taxes on oil companies as the offset.  [Oil companies already pay their fair share of taxes in our opinion, and of course any increases that might be voted would simply be passed on to consumers anyway.]    

 

2/6/11, A23, In offering vision, Obama conjures the spirit of Regan, Senator Chris Coons – On a page honoring the 100th anniversary of Reagan’s birth, this piece suggests that the dream lives on.  Thus: “When President stood before Congress and talked about ‘winning the future,’ I thought about President Reagan.  While Obama was attempting to rally the nation around a need for economic growth and a theme of international competitiveness, what he was really doing was inspiring a nation.  Just as it did three decades ago, what America has needed during these tough economic times was a vision – a clear goal for our nation and a path forward, a plan that set aside the comparatively petty differences of party and personal pride and declared that for us to overcome the challenges facing our nation, we must work together.  I suspect that Ronald Reagan would have appreciated such an optimistic vision for our nation’s future.”

        [President Reagan political views were poles apart from the current president.  To him government was the problem; to President Obama it is the solution.  That’s not a petty difference, it is fundamental.]

 

1/28/11, B1, Coons’ first Senate speech focuses on manufacturing, Nicole Gaudiano

Senator Chris Coons delivered his first speech on the Senate floor Thursday, calling for a revitalized manufacturing industry to create modern, sustainable jobs.   There were the usual platitudes about rewarding innovation and innovation.  And Coons drew from his experience while working with W.L. Gore for 8 years, in which he had been involved in a decision to locate a new plant in Wisconsin due to that state’s educated work force, quality infrastructure and responsive local government. 

       But more is needed to help spur innovation, according to Coons, e.g., a new manufacturing tax credit tied to R&D, extending other tax credits for R&D, and extending the Build America Bonds program (direct subsidies for state and local borrowings vs. simply recognizing the income to bondholders as tax exempt).  “It is our job, I believe, in government to ensure our country is the most attractive choice for business investment.” 

       Coons has also pledged to push for stronger protections for intellectual property, a level playing field for American exports, finding ways to spur domestic clean-energy manufacturing jobs and addressing the deficit comprehensively [by raising taxes, presumably, since he obviously does not favor cutting spending].

 

1/19/11, A1/A6, Markell: House vote on repeal a mistake: Senate, Obama vow to quash symbolic move, Hiran Ratnayake – Anticipated passage of GovCare repeal in House is not expected to go anywhere, but “it has provoked strong response, especially in Delaware.”

        Governor Jack Markell was one of four governors who held joint press conferences with HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebellius to address “what they considered benefits of the new law that would be lost with a repeal.”  Markell’s main argument: “We have people afraid to leave jobs or afraid to start small businesses because they are not sure they can get coverage through someone else.” [Debatable that GovCare will alleviate this concern; it certainly is not likely to rein in the rapidly rising cost of healthcare except via de facto healthcare rationing.]

        Senator Tom Carper criticized the repeal vote as “fiscally irresponsible,” hanging his hat on the CBO report indicating the legislation would reduce the deficit.  [This conclusion was dependent on tax increases inserted in the legislation, projected cost savings that may not occur, and relegation of the “Doc Fix” to a separate bill.  On any realistic basis, GovCare will increase the deficit rather than reducing it.]

        Senator Chris Coons:  Expressed willingness to consider specific changes to GovCare, “but this talk of an outright repeal is nothing more than a symbolic waste of time and taxpayer dollars.  Now isn’t the time to refight old political battles.  Now is the time to come together to create jobs and grow our economy.”  [If GovCare is a “jobs killer,” as the Republicans claim, this argument falls apart.]

        A spokesman said Representative John Carney would vote against repeal because “repealing healthcare reform is not the answer to addressing our nation’s exploding healthcare costs. *** Democrats and Republicans should be working together to improve the law and implement effective reforms that contain healthcare cost drivers and reduce the deficit.” [Hmm, wasn’t GovCare supposed to be the reform that would reduce healthcare costs?  And how can anyone expect real reform without getting rid of this 2,400-page step in the wrong direction first?]

 

1/6/11, A15, Partisan paralysis in Washington must stop, Senator Chris Coons – Coons complains that “not enough was done” in the lame duck session to “address the most important issue facing Americans today: getting people back to work.”  He also says the “tax cut” deal cost “nearly $1 trillion in additional debt our nation will have to take on to pay for [it]," which “will have to be addressed by the Congress, as will how we got here.”

       He laments that Republican filibusters during the lame duck session resulted in “a troubling number of bills passed by the House with bipartisan support left unconsidered by the Senate.”  Such “partisan political paralysis has to stop.”  [Hmm.  Given that the country voted to put the Republicans back in charge of the House, the lame duck session was not the right time or place for major new initiatives.] 

        Looking forward, “it is critical that this new Congress focus on job creation, rein-in expenditures [no specifics mentioned], and widen the tax base [meaning what, impose a VAT?] – getting people off of unemployment and into the workforce.”

 

1/2/11, B1/B3, New senator learning the ropes, Nicole Gaudiano -- This is primarily a puff piece on “Mr. Coons goes to Washington,” but two points are worth noting. 

Senator Chris Coons suggests Congress could “get even more done if it wasted less time on delaying tactics,” and he has aligned himself with a Democratic-inspired push to change the Senate’s rules so as to eliminate filibusters. [Getting things done is fine if they are the right things, but otherwise can be undesirable.  The ability to filibuster did not stop GovCare or GovFinance in the 111th Congress, but at least made it possible to stop “cap and trade.” We would not be inclined to favor changes in this area.]

       Coons is joining the manufacturing caucus, and his first floor speech will be about jobs, competitiveness and manufacturing.  [Predictably, “green jobs” will be a central element of his presentation.]

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