Monday, December 9, 2013
Another example of having a great start in life and significant accomplishments and then to end up in later years as one of our posters. William Thad Cochran, born and raised in Mississippi, was an Eagle Scout as a youth and was awarded the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award as an adult. He graduated valedictorian from Byram High School near Jackson and received a B.A. degree from the University of Mississippi with a major in psychology and a minor in political science in 1959. There he joined the Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity and was on the cheerleading squad.After a stint in the U. S. Navy (1959–1961), he earned a Law Degree from the University of Mississippi in 1965. He then practiced law for seven years. He married Rose Clayton on June 6, 1964; the couple has two children, Clayton and Kate. (source: Wikipedia.)
Now, at age 78, Cochran is the fourth-longest currently serving Senator having been first elected to the Senate in 1978; he also served in the House from 1973 to 1978. As with the other poster boys, he’s had no private sector experience to apply to the laws he helped pass for the private sector to live by. He is the senior Senator from Mississippi, currently the ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, having been chairman from 2003 to 2005 and also chaired the Senate Appropriations Committee from 2005 to 2007. He is currently the ranking Republican on the Agriculture Committee. In his 35 years on powerful committees he has a record of supporting bailouts, more debt, tax increases, and even funding for Obamacare although, as all Republicans, he did vote against the mis-named Affordable Care Act, ObamaCare.
The overriding issue today in the US is our national debt currently racing past $17 trillion –to be piled on our next generations and that doesn’t count the unfunded entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and now the multi-trillion dollar ObamaCare law! All of our poster children have been in congress during the period of this incredible spending that caused the debt and these long-tenured politicians did little to control the spending and all of them approved of the regular increases in the debt limit. Thad Cochran was no exception having voted to increase the debt limit ten times! After 40+ years in congress he cannot escape blame for much of the spending and debt. In 2010 he finished at the top of the Citizens Against Government Waste's (CAGW) list of congressional earmarks, having requested a total of $490 million for his supporters.
The non-partisan ratings groups tell of his voting record -- the NationalTaxpayers Union (NTU) for taxing and spending and CAGW for waste and extravagance. NTU gives him a “C” (very low for Republicans) while CAGW rates him “lukewarm” to taxpayers. The Club for Growth looks for votes that allow for free markets to function in growing the economy; the Club rates Cochran at a lowly 48% for his votes that suppress growth.
Partisan rankings are best expressed by Heritage Action for the conservative view as they rate all meaningful votes. Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) rates from a liberal view but uses fewer votes and doesn’t publish often –their 2012 votes gave him 20%. So, we recommend that if you want to know the more accurate liberal rating, use the reciprocal of the Heritage Action score which is currently 57%. For more clarity we’ll note some specific votes but anyone can go to the sites for details of all of the groups –just click on the names.
He voted for the Dept. of Education and to defeat a plan to balance the budget in ten years. Cochran voted to tax the internet! The one free marketplace that is thriving would be taxed by the thousands of jurisdiction where they have customers even if they have no physical presence and use no local services yet would be taxed by those jurisdictions! A big no-no for conservatives, libertarians, constitutionalists but favored by liberals. He voted to Invoke Cloture which led to passage of the $1 trillion farm bill in the Senate –a 56% increase since 2008. Despite claims of reform, the farm bill continues to spend nearly $1 trillion on a variety of programs, including crop subsidies, conservation programs and food stamps.
He voted against repeal of sugar supports that have raised the price of sugar in the US so high that many companies left for Canada and other places at the cost of thousands of jobs. It also adds cost to the consumer food products that contain sugar, a hidden tax. But Big Sugar is generous to the pols who vote to continue to give them advantages –it’s called crony capitalism. Those are just a few votes that Heritage Action criteria views negatively –for all of the votes go to http://tinyurl.com/nlgnuob
Critics of congressional term limits recite the mantra, "We already have term limits, they are called elections." The problem with that little flower of homespun wholesomeness is that it isn't true. Competitive elections are rare in the U.S. Congress anymore. Since 1970 well over 90% are reelected very few competitively with all the benefits of incumbency.
Cochran is not the worst of the worst but he is typical of the professional politician who spends his entire life in politics and doesn’t ever have to meet a payroll or deal with government bureaucrats. No, he deals with lobbyists who pay him for voting their way; he takes their money to pay for reelection campaigning. It is a vicious circle and the people’s work doesn’t get done properly. We need citizen legislators; we need experienced successful people who will use their skills in service to the nation not self-service like the career politicians. In Florida, and other states with limited legislatures there are regular elections and the result is a distinctly higher quality representative than before –not universal, of course, but we now have more successful people willing to offer their expertise and experience for the benefit of their state and country.
Did we mention that our poster boy voted against congressional term limits?
Wednesday, November 6, 2013
Lamar Alexander has had a partially distinguished political career and now at age 73 will run in 2014 for his third 6-year term as U.S. Senator from Tennessee.
As most of our posters, Alexander has spent nearly all of his years in politics, starting as his high school class president. He earned his law degree in 1956 and then clerked the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. In 1967 he became legislative assistant for Senator Howard Baker then returned to Tennessee as campaign manager for Winfield Dunn running for Governor. After that campaign he joined a law firm in Nashville. When Dunn was term-limited out Alexander ran but lost the race to Roy a former congressman. He next returned to Washington to again work for Howard Baker who was then the Senate Minority Leader. Gov. Blanton didn't run again – he had some scandal issues - and Alexander ran for governor and won taking office in 1979. He won a second term and was term-limited out in 1987.
By all accounts he was a good governor. One accomplishment was to attract Japanese auto makers to the State. Another was his “Better Schools” program that stressed math, science and computer education. The plan called for income supplements for top teachers but it was watered down by the teachers unions. After a period in Australia with his family, he came back to become president of the University of Tennessee from 1988-91. He was selected in 1991 by president Bush to become Secretary of Education until 1994. So far, so good.
How do politicians who spend their lives on government payrolls get to be very, very rich? Former Department of Education employee and writer Lisa Schiffren writes, "[Alexander’s] fortune is founded on sweetheart deals not available to the general public, and on a series of cozy sinecures provided by local businessmen. Such deals are not illegal..." In 1987, Alexander helped found Bright Horizons Family Solutions now the nation's largest provider of work site day care. While businessman Jack C. Massey spent $2 million on this enterprise, Alexander co-founded the company with only $5,000 of stock which increased in value to $800,000, a 15,900 percent return within four years. In 2005 he reported on his U.S. Senate disclosure form that the stock was then worth between $1 and $5 million. Also in 1987, he a wrote a never-cashed investment check for $10,000 to Christopher Whittle for shares in Whittle Communications that increased in value to $330,000. In 1991, Alexander bought a house for $570,000 and sold it to Whittle for $977,500. Alexander's wife made $133,000 profit from her $8,900 investment in a company created to privatize prisons. [This early history was taken from Wikipedia]
Alexander ran for president twice but didn't get very far, complaining that the system was stymied by the media and big money. Then, he ran for the open U.S. Senate seat vacated by Fred Thompson which he won with media recognition and a big money advantage over his conservative opponent. Of course.
As with all Posters, Alexander has been a serious contributor to the $17 trillion--and growing--debt being piled on our children and grandchildren. He recently voted for the Senate “farm bill” costing $955 billion, as scored by the Congressional Budget Office. It funded 48 million people on food stamps plus providing subsidies for wealthy large agribusinesses that pay the pols, usually through lobbyists, to vote for their benefits. It’s politely called crony capitalism. He also votes to increase the debt ceiling – if you keep voting for increased spending while stifling the economy with counter-productive regulations, high taxes and limitations on drilling our own oil, then the economy can’t grow to generate revenues to cover the spending. Career pols continue to calculate that by the time the debt hits as in Greece, they’ll be gone. It seems to be their policy to spend now for what they want/need now for reelection and stiff the coming generations.
He voted for a tax on internet sales, even purchases from companies not located in the municipality, county or state. What possible justification exists for a state to tax an out-of-state entity that has no presence in that jurisdiction and gets no services from it? Career pols simply want the money; no justification needed. By the way, that bill would overturn a Supreme Court decision limiting a state’s ability to require out-of-state retailers to collect sales taxes for nearly 10,000 separate state, local and municipal tax jurisdictions.
Alexander was one of nine out of 40 Republican senators who voted to confirm Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor who thinks that better judicial decisions can be made by a judge based upon her race, gender, and culture. He also voted for other conflict-of-interest burdened Obama appointments like Thomas Perez for Secretary of Labor who has demonstrated that he does not believe in the equal application of the laws. His action in labor cases leave little doubt as to how he will run the Department of Labor. Perez filed an anti-religious liberty brief in a Supreme Court case arguing against the ability of churches to hire individuals they choose. He has also threatened local swimming pools with fines if they do not install mechanical lift chairs and opposed removing ineligible voters from the voting rolls. And, to mention just one more extreme Obama choice, Alexander was one of 8 Republicans to cross the aisle and vote for confirmation of Harold Hongju Koh as Legal Adviser to the State Department. He favors international courts having jurisdiction in the US citing specifically "the global regulation of small arms" –elimination of our Second Amendment rights and other distinctly un-American concepts. Does Sen. Alexander hold those views or does he just go along to get along with the powers-that-be?
You get the idea why we would have liked to have seen Sen. Alexander term-limited years ago. But his latest gambit should be the clincher. I’m referring to his insult of great American heroes. Recently, ridiculing Sen. Ted Cruz for his principled stand against the imposition of ObamaCare and comparing him to Davey Crockett who stood on principle at the Alamo along with thirty-one other Tennessee heroes. That’s what a lifetime in Washington does to career pols; eventually they lose the principles once held. A foreign concept to them is this, from the Declaration of Independence: “…we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our Sacred Honor..”.
Just not relevant to today’s professional politicians like it was to our Founders and to Davey Crockett and his brave American heroes.
Sunday, June 30, 2013
It’s no surprise that this lack of experience and perspective results in counter-productive laws, regulations and taxes that have so hobbled our economy. For proof, just look at their voting records. Sen. Pryor Voted in October 2008 for the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act that created the TARP program bailouts and for Obama's failed $787 billion "stimulus" program; He cast the deciding vote in support of Obamacare 12/24/09; Joined Obama to support the Wall Street bailout 10/02/08; Voted to raise the debt limit by $2.4 trillion 08/02/11; Supported the Bridge to Nowhere and other wasteful earmarks 10/20/05; Voted to require workers to join a union in order to get a job 01/22/09 –note that his largest contributors, by far, were unions; Opposed term limits for members of the House and Senate 02/02/12; Voted to raid Social Security to fund other programs 04/02/09; and on and on.
We use some reliable rating groups to get a sense of where the pol stands in the political spectrum: from statism to anarchy, from left to right, from progressive/liberal to conservative/libertarian.
- Citizens Against Government Waste (non-partisan) rates Pryor “Hostile” to taxpayers. See the votes at http://tinyurl.com/oynbphb
- National Taxpayers Union (non-partisan) gives Pryor a failing “F” grade placing him in the “Big Spender” budget busting category.
- Heritage Action gives Pryor 21% from a conservative view http://tinyurl.com/ncohvt8
- Americans for Democratic Action awards Pryor 70% on their liberal "progressive" quotient (LQ) scale –see http://tinyurl.com/agdczac
New York Mayor Bloomberg's gun-control advocacy group says Pryor "let us down" when he opposed Obama's gun control plan; The NRA supports Pryor by running ads thanking him for that vote. But he did Support the "Assault Weapons Ban" gun control law. Sen. Pryor received a 100% rating from the pro-abortion group NARAL.
A good place to find who contributes to the politician is That's My Congress but there are so many contributors it is mind boggling. We’ve favored the idea of making politicians wear logos of their largest contributors just like NASCAR drivers and golf pros do, but there wouldn’t be enough room on their clothes--including socks and underwear!
Other telling votes depending on how you look at them: Voted to force taxpayers to fund abortions 4/14/11; Pryor Voted to allow the sale of F-16s to Egypt, which is controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood 01/31/13; and, a terrible vote from our own view: he opposed term limits for members of the House and Senate 02/02/12.
There is little doubt that Sen. Pryor has been part of the problem in Washington. He voted with President Obama 95% of the time and was the deciding vote for Obamacare. His votes explain much of the $17+ trillion deficit being loaded onto the backs of future generations. He will have been in the Senate 12 years when he comes up for reelection in 2014 –long enough from our view.
Term limits would help give us candidates who can bring business or professional experience to the government and replace the ‘government knows best’ career pols. Help us pass the term limits amendment by supporting the effort here: www.termlimits.org
As of today no Republican has announced a run against Pryor in the 2014 race. It is a serious problem at all levels of government that entrenched pols have the name recognition and special interest support that a challenger rarely enjoys so successful people, accomplished in productive fields, don’t even try to run. Pryor’s name is golden in Arkansas as a result of his father’s long tenure and his huge special interest support. The lobbyists don’t want to lose their “honest” career pol –their definition of honest in this context is that once he’s bought, he stays bought.