Tuesday, March 01, 2011

You've Got To Be Joking

Two bits of political "Huh?" today...

First, Michele Bachman, everybody's favorite anti-government spending, tea-party friendly, down-with-earmarks Congresswoman has introduced a bill to build a bridge between Minnesota and Wisconsin.

This is what Bachman had to say in her Tea Party response to the State of the Union Address: "After the $700 billion bailout, the trillion-dollar stimulus, and the massive budget bill with over 9,000 earmarks that the president signed, many of you implored Washington to please stop spending money we don't have."

Today, she proposed building a bridge between Minnesota and Wisconsin. The proposed bridge actually violates federal environmental law. So what did Bachman do? She proposed creating an exemption for this one bridge. And, as the Star Trib reports, "Her bill isn't an earmark because it doesn't call for spending, she said. Money to pay for the bridge would be determined later by Minnesota and Wisconsin state governments and the federal government, she said."

Basically, she wants to give them the go ahead to build a bridge the violates federal law and figure out how to pay for it later. Now, to be fair to the Congresswoman, she's long been in favor of this bridge. Of course, it would be a boon for her hometown. There are other, similar bridges currently in operation and others being built (bridges that don't violate federal law). But none of those are good for her personally, so this is the one she's been pushing for.

Still, seems a little crazy, right? Anti-earmark Representative wants a bridge built in her hometown so badly that she's willing to give it an exemption to federal law?
The other "Huh?" story today is that Republicans have passed a bill to make themselves less environmentally friendly. They've actually brought styrofoam cups and plastic silverware back into the Congressional lunch room. It's largely symbolic, since Congress' garbage is just a small part of our nation's total refuse output, but still, I expect our leaders to lead.

It isn't like we're talking about controversial environmentalism here; this isn't wind energy vs. oil, or global warming, or even endangered species vs. loggers. This is basic "let's create less garbage" environmentalism. But no, Republicans hate Democrats so much that they're willing to actually pollute more to prove it. As John Boehner tweeted, "The new majority – plasticware is back". Because that's what this is about: sticking it to those rotten green Democrats.

My goodness. They might as well have passed a bill requiring Congress to run the water while they brush their teeth, or that all the lights in the Capitol be left on at all times. This is the kind of stupid stuff that happens when our representatives care more about politics than they do about people. And it's clear from this that the Republican majority obviously cares more about politics, and less about listening to people or leading them to a better world.

Sometimes I feel like my only friend
Is the city I live in


Durham said...

I think you are just trying to find things that support your views. And using these two shotty examples is a bit like clutching at straws.

Bachman: saying that building the bridge violates federal law is not entirely true. Having the National Park Service rule on a proposed design is not federal law. Especially seeing that the ruling is "that a "massive" bridge would harm the river's recreational and scenic values." Does aesthetics and water skiing trump commerce and utility?

Eco-friendly: so are you against saving $450,000 per year on a program that has questionable "green" results? The difference is that congress will now have styrofoam cups and plastic utensils, it's just that the styrofoam and plastic utensils will not biodegrade in a shorter time span. What is the time to bio degradation of the "eco-friendly" cups and forks? And, if as the article states, more utensils are needed due to breakage does the faster bio degradation rate of the "eco-friendly" cups and forks outweigh the fewer but slower bio degradation rate of the more sturdy "non-green" option? Personally I'd rather Congress save the $450,000/yr, hell I'd rather they not spend any money on plastic ware and styro cups, and for that matter a congressional cafeteria, and hire the job out. That way we could save the money and the "greeny meanies" could bully, I mean petition, the venders to use easily breakable corn syrup derived plastic sticks.

nicole joy frethem said...

@Durham, I guess that's why he called them political "huh". Why are our politicians wasting their time on bridges for personal gain and eating utensils. Jobs, housing crisis, a nation at war...and this is what they are working for. 450,000 is pocket change in our deficit.

Durham said...

Wow, Nicole, I thought after the I35W bridge collapse we were really concerned with our nations bridges. That we ere going to do whatever it took to fix our nations infrastructure. Apparently, now you want to ensure all our bridges are safe except for that hated Bachman, because she's only looking to her own interests? According to the latest news that bridge is rated ~35/100, I35W was rated ~50/100, but it's redesign is being halted because the current replacement design is ugly. Is that acceptable?

If that's the way you feel about spending when trying to reduce debt, then I hope your future bankruptcy is not too painful.

Maria said...

I think the point, especially with the styrofoam is the insignificant way congress is trying to make "budget" changes and stepping backwards to do it. Why hasn't the cut spending congress brought up their own salaries as a place to cut the budget? Why did they bring back styrofoam instead of bringing in real silverware and cups?

I think, more than anything these are supposed to show the complete polarization of politics and how parties are moving away from the issues.

Durham said...

Maria, that's a good point on the congressional pay cut, but I have a question for you. Would you elect to cut your own pay? I realize there may be circumstances in which you would accept a proposed pay cut, or accept a cut in pay for a different job, but would you propose your own pay cut? While I am all for the idea, I think it is unrealistic to expect it to happen.

So are we to only deal with significant issues to decrease government spending? Because that only leaves Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, and military. All the discretionary spending is chump change, and changes in that spending has little real impact on the budget. We've already seen Social Security reform is a wash, Bush tried and was crucified for it. I guess we can say Medicare/Medicaid has been overhauled with the passage of the Affordable Care Act, the effects of which are not yet seen. And the military is currently working on budgetary concerns, reducing their future budget proposals. So that only leaves the chump change stuff.

As to why they didn't propose using real utensils, the answer is pretty easy: money. Real utensils have a large up front cost, with much lower "up keep" costs, but to change from plastic to metal would require a large increase in budget for the first year of implementation. And they would still be lambasted for switching away from "green".

"I think, more than anything these are supposed to show the complete polarization of politics and how parties are moving away from the issues." I don't remember politics ever being unpolarized, and from what I've read politics has always been polar. Don't forget, in large part, this congress is doing exactly what their issue is, cutting spending. Just because they are moving away from your issue, or the "green" issue doesn't mean they are moving away from the issues. In fact I fully support their moving from the fake "green" initiatives, if they really wanted to make a difference in realm of "green" there are other things they could do rather using corn syrup forks, which would do more for advancing the "green" movement. Tokens and platitudes are just that.

Matthew B. Novak said...

Durham -

It had less to do with finding things to support the view that this congress doesn't care about people, and more to do with looking at two crazy proposals and drawing that conclusion.

On the bridge - yeah, it's illegal. Aesthetics and water skiing (and environmental well being) can sometimes trump "commerce and utility." That's why the law exists. It's especially true that they can trump when other bridges already exist and others are being built. But the specifics of a particular bridge is something that reasonable people can disagree about. That wasn't my point.

My point was that what really bothered me so much about this is that Bachman is against federal spending as stimulus/job creation but touts the job creation that would happen as a result of this bridge being built. And that the money isn't taken care of here, basically we'd be pushing off the tab until later. Irresponsible government spending by a representative who shouts about reckless government spending. Why the inconsistency? Because it's good for her personally. That's not public service. That's self service.

On the environmental Congress stuff... I wasn't really looking at the money piece of it. And neither was Boehner. Look at his tweet. It was all about overturning environmentally friendly rules because Democrats like them. Frankly, I expect my Congress to suck it up and be responsible adults. Part of that is being environmentally friendly. Use paper straws and biodegradable silverware. Even if you like it less. Deal with the inconvenience, you're a member of congress for crying out loud.

Oh, and politics goes through cycles of being more and less polarized. Maria was exactly right. Right now, things are more polarized than they often are. As a result, Congress seems to care more about overturning what the other side has done before than about making progress on real issues.

Durham said...

So, because they are able to fight back against stupid crap that a different congress did in the past it's back peddling "progress on real issues"? While it may be true, I'm not going to check, that Boehner tweeted about "overturning environmentally friendly rules because Democrats like them", he does not rule the attitudes of the rest of congress.

"I wasn't really looking at the money piece of it", yeah, I know, and that part of the problem. But you are right Congress needs to "to suck it up and be responsible adults". Part of being a responsible adult is not going into debt up to your eyeballs, and if you do to decrease that debt to, if not a zero balance, then a manageable level. And that goes before any "green" crap, especially if said "green" crap is of dubious unproven untested quality.

The bridge, a ruling, in this case being an agency ruling and not a judicial ruling, is not a law, and it can be easily changed with a new study. While a ruling may be a requirement of a law, it is not law. Just a a regulation is not a law. The fact that a bunch of idiots keep treating it as such does not change its nature.

What Bachman is doing is trying to free up the project to proceed. The funding is a different. Personally I think it would be funny if she voted against funding it, and if she stuck to her touted Tea Party line she would.

What's interesting here is that you are taking the environmentalist line on one issue and ignoring it entirely on the other. due to the state of disrepair on the existing bridge, and traffic patterns a new bridge would be a very good idea (who pays for I don't know, but that's not the issue), but the National PARK Service is making that impossible, so it will have to be closed. Thereby routing all traffic across the river to I94 (~7 miles away) or the bridge to the north (~14 miles away). Completely disregarding the extra emissions, and wear on those two bridges, making their repair schedule move forward. Because the proposed bridge is ugly? If there were another reason other than UGLY, some environmental reason that would be one thing, but UGLY? How stupid is that? How can you argue that the National PARK Service make that decision, especially when only ruled on aesthetics?

Matthew B. Novak said...

Durham -

Your lack of understanding about regulations and agencies is evident. Since I know how hostile you are to correction, I suggest you take an admin law class, then I'll engage you in the subject.

Maria said...

Durham: of course i would propose and take my own pay cut. I'm a social worker and a socialist to boot!

Durham said...

@Matt, so, I'll cede the point, I don't know much about admin law, and maybe the next time I have $1000 burning a hole in my pocket I'll take a class on it. But, regardless, just because it's a law doesn't mean it's set in stone for all of eternity. Hell, we even had a Constitutional Amendment repealed.

So, is it right to stop the reconstruction of a major thoroughfare because it's ugly? And what about the rest of the things I brought up? Just because I don't know much about admin law, doesn't mean you can just disregard the rest of the issues at the table.

@Maria, I'm glad to hear you would take one for the team. I'm also sorry to hear you are a socialist.

Maria said...

Don't worry Durham, I am only a socialist in theory, I'm a realist in practice and believe in the innate selfishness of humanity.

Durham said...

@Maria, you have very much made my point.

Durham said...

this is how out of touch the Democratic party is, wanting to keep funding for Cowboy Poetry, especially when cuts are being made.