Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Garrett Fails Purity Test

The announcement of the Republican Purity Test is further proof of how far from an inclusive party the Republicans have gone, and how far the authoritarians written about by John Dean have come. Instead of allowing people to choose their own Representatives, the powerful few want to dictate to the masses from their pirch in Washinton.

How'd that work out for you kids up in NY 23?

If this goes through, gone will be the future Tom Keans. Gone will be the Marge Roukemas and Leonard Lances and Frank LoBiondos. Gone will be the Teddy Roosevelts and the Abraham Lincolns.

Depending on how seriously they took this rule, gone would be Representative Scott Garrett.

While I doubt Garrett would fall from favor with this crowd, let's look at the pledge line by line to see where he gets tripped up, through a strict constructionist view (8 of 10 to pass):
(1) We support smaller government, smaller national debt, lower deficits and lower taxes by opposing bills like Obama’s “stimulus” bill;

Garrett, and every other Republican that voted for a Bush Budget fails on multiple fronts on this one. They exploded the deficit and the national debt. Many also voted against PAYGO, which would make new spending deficit neutral, and in many cases voted against tax cuts for actual small business owners (the non-publicly traded type).

Epic fail.

(2) We support market-based health care reform and oppose Obama-style government run health care;
(3) We support market-based energy reforms by opposing cap and trade legislation;
(4) We support workers’ right to secret ballot by opposing card check;
(5) We support legal immigration and assimilation into American society by opposing amnesty for illegal immigrants;

Garrett's been clear on all of these, so that's a pass.

(6) We support victory in Iraq and Afghanistan by supporting military-recommended troop surges;

This one is a mixed bag. They supported going to war with less than what the military wanted, but voted for the surge. I suppose, they could say, they'll only listen to the military after the civilians like Rumsfeld mess things up. I suppose Garrett passes.

(7) We support containment of Iran and North Korea, particularly effective action to eliminate their nuclear weapons threat;

In order to contain Iran and North Korea effectively, we need to engage them as Reagan engaged the Soviet Union. While the Republicans interpreting this little test probably won't see it this way, Garrett and many others have been on record against engagement, and therefore should fail this one.

That's two fails.

(8) We support retention of the Defense of Marriage Act;

Republicans used to stand for all men and women being treated equal, however that's no longer the case. Special interest fundraising based discrimination has turned into party dogma. Garrett's on board with this.

(9) We support protecting the lives of vulnerable persons by opposing health care rationing and denial of health care and government funding of abortion; and

By arguing the status quo, as they do in point 2, Garrett and the rest of those that would profess these ideals are actively supporting corporate America dictating who gets what care. On top of that, they also fail point one yet again with point two, because it protects taxpayer rip off programs like Medicare Advantage.

The third fail.

(10) We support the right to keep and bear arms by opposing government restrictions on gun ownership.

Really? With a blanket statement like that Republicans seem to want to arm every convicted violent criminal on parole? Wow. Since I don't know if Garrett would back that, we'll leave this one as an uncertain.

As I said, those who would dictate from the top what the party means instead of leaving it to their members, are unlikely to boot Garrett. That said, it's also important to look at this pledge with what it's missing:

  • No commitment to a balanced budget;
  • No commitment to eliminating waste;
  • No commitment to veterans;
  • No commitment to innovation;
  • No commitment to education;
  • No commitment to the environment;
  • No commitment to a brighter future, only opposition.

This little Purity Test simply reinforces the image of Republicans as the party of No.

It also is a dangerous development. More on this topic to come soon...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Garrett a Birther? Nah.

Representative Scott Garrett seems to have been backed into a corner by Birthers. During the health care "house calls", Garrett managed to get badgered by a couple of birthers (those that refuse to believe the evidence President Obama was born here).

After a few minutes of his health care discussion being hijacked by these two nuts, one of whom fancies himself a blogger (sans spelling and grammer I suppose), he gave a very tacit "I agree" that has been picked up by the Washington Independent and Daily Kos.

While the Kos article has prompted a ton of comments based on the video, I think this one is closest to the truth:
I can't fault Garrett for pretending to agree with a group of mentally challenged Pbaggers. If a bunch of looneyloons approached me about Obama's birth I'd pretend to agree with them too just to get them off my back.
While I wish Garrett had had the fortitude to squash this whole thing, he's in a very precarious spot, as is the Republican Party. From the description of the video (spelling/grammar theirs):
NJ Lawyer confronts NJ Congressman Scott Garrett at 11/5/09 Washington DC House call on the Obama Presidential qualifications requirement of US Constitution under Article II Section 1. Repblicans and all Congressman do not realize the tens of millions of voting Americans wanting this issue resolved. Although considered a minority, the numbers are large enough to impact primaries especially for Republicans who seem to be skirting the issue.
That's right, these fringe folks just threatened Garrett and every other Republican who doesn't agree with them. As the Republican Party has embraced the Tea Party people and their organizing skills, including our local Bergen County Republican Organization, they've opened themselves up to further purity tests. This is reminiscent of when the Christian Coalition started their purge.

I've seen enough of Garrett over the years, both in person and video, to have seen him be serious and passionate about a belief of his. This isn't one of those times. The thing is, I'm pretty sure the Birthers know that, too.

An article a long time ago said Garrett would only have to fear a Republican primary challenge from someone on the Right, which I had a hard time believing was possible, but I suppose now we all know it is. As participation in primaries dwindles, these small groups of fanatics wield more and more power because they actually show up to vote.

This will likely be a non-issue for Garrett in the long run, but when Garrett gets attacked for not being Conservative enough, you know the Republican Party is in for a rough time ahead.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Garrett vs. 1.4 million Home Buyers

Representative Scott Garrett finally explained why he voted against extending unemployment benefits and the first time home buyer tax credit:

So, in sum, we have a program rampant with fraud, which gives taxpayer dollars to people who don’t legitimately qualify, and fails to appropriately credit the individuals that do qualify. It’s clear that employees of the IRS were aware of the problems with claims process for this program, as the inspector general found 53 cases of IRS employees filing "illegal or inappropriate" claims for the credit. In its current form, this program costs taxpayer about $1 billion a month and is expected to cost $15 billion for the year. Rather than terminate this program, Congress voted on November 5 to expand the program to homeowners looking to buy a replacement principle residence. How many more four-year olds will fraudulently receive taxpayer money under this program before Congress realizes this is a terrible idea?

Voting to expand this program would have been irresponsible of me, and an abdication of my responsibility as a guardian of taxpayer dollars. The Homebuyer Tax Credit Program was a poison pill to otherwise well-intended legislation.

It bears repeating that Garrett was one of 2.7% of the House to vote no on this bill, so it hardly was a poison pill.

It also bears repeating that Garrett has never stood up with the same conviction regarding funds going to fraud in Iraq, which has funded those who kill our troops.

Garrett gave a number of stats that, while far from ideal, pale in comparison to the good the program has done. From the Gazette, here are the numbers that were largely reported (bolding Garrett):

19,300 electronically filed 2008 tax returns where people claimed the First-Time Homebuyer Credit, yet had not purchased a house, claiming that they intended to do so in the future. Cost to the taxpayer: $139 million.

74,000 credit claims by filers who it was later determined weren’t first-time homebuyers. Cost to the taxpayer: $500 million.

580 taxpayers younger than 18 years of age who claimed First-Time Homebuyer Credits; the youngest of whom was a four-year old. Cost to the taxpayer: $4 million.

3,200 individuals claiming credits thought to be alien residents, which are prohibited from receiving most Federal public benefits. Cost to the taxpayer: $20.8 million.

It's unfortunate to see that if you add all the numbers together that roughly 6.5% of claims were fraudulent. However, the IRS is pursuing criminal investigations and suspending rebates, so those folks will be dealt with in time.

In the meantime, it also means that 93.5% of the submissions appear to be valid, which means roughly 1.4 million new homeowners have been helped by the program.

Garrett's statement explaining his vote against the bill is nothing more than a spotty claim to righteousness that makes the perfect the enemy of the good. Garrett seems to want to poison the discussion by ignoring the good the program has done, as well as the measures being taken to correct the program. That's a disservice to constituents and all of the home buyers and sellers within the district who benefit from the program.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Garrett Talks Health Care

Representative Scott Garrett chats with Fox 5 about his vote against the health care bill. Garrett talks almost exclusively about Medicare Advantage as his reason, which as I've written before can currently charge taxpayers up to a 40% mark up on services.

It's good to see Garrett using the full term, as opposed to earlier, but I still can't understand how someone who claims he is a fiscal conservative can defend taxpayers paying up to 40% more than something actually costs for anything.

Although the House bill is dead in the Senate, taking the 40% mark up will be out no matter what bill comes back to the House for reconciliation.

While Garrett claims the program will be taken from those enrolled, nothing in the bill eliminates the program. What it eliminates is the 40% mark up. Now should insurance companies only participate due to their ability to gouge taxpayers, one could see them cease to offer the program, as the Chief Actuary for Medicare and Medicaid noted.

That aside, Garrett's interview is interesting in that it shows his true feeling on the Bill and overhaul in general.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Live Stream Of Garrett's Town Hall

Update: It was less of a town hall and more of a sales pitch for why Representative Scott Garrett was going to vote against the bill. He didn't read one question in support of the plan. He only spoke for 50 minutes. It's unfortunate he'd take that route.

One clear thing, he continued defending his support of Medicare Advantage, which allows insurance companies to charge a mark up of up to 40% over what things actually cost. It rips off the taxpayer and drains the trust fund, and yet he still defends it. Unbelievable.

Free video streaming by Ustream

Garrett vs. Unemployment Extension

Representative Scott Garrett was one of 12 Representatives to vote against extending unemployment benefits to the unemployed. If Garrett ever releases a statement on his reasoning I'll post it.

Garrett Health Care Townhall

Representative Scott Garrett is hosting a virtual Town Hall meeting on the Health Care Bill tonight at 7PM. Here's the info:

RSVP by clicking here:

Email your questions in advance or during the town hall to congscottgarrett@gmail.com.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Congratulations Governor Christie

When I voted this morning, and saw that many many more people than usual had voted before me, there was definitely a sense Christie may have done it.

Now, being the eternal optimist, I'm hopeful for this new chapter in our state's governance. Not only was Christie able to ride his corruption convictions to Trenton; his substantial county and local level coattails swept aside the first of Papa Joe Ferriero's hand picked Freeholders here in Bergen.

Regardless of who won the election, we were in for a few tough years ahead while trying to climb out of the mess we're in. Voters clearly wanted a change of direction at the top. Our state simply can't afford for partisanship to get in the way of progress. As Democrats control both Chambers in Trenton, compromise is going to be key if we're to rebound from this mess.

Voters have spoken, now we have to see if politicians will listen. I'm optimistic they will, even if cautiously.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Garrett's Election Thoughts

Those interested will be able to see Representative Scott Garrett weigh in on the Election over on Fox Business Channel tomorrow night.