Chip Cravaack Lies to His Constituents on the Taxpayer’s Nickel in Telephone Town Halls

This is my maiden post on Minnesota Roundtable, so I hope it is a good one; here goes!

On Tuesday, November 15th, Chip Cravaack held an approximately one hour telephone Town Hall. This was not the first of these events in which I have been included as one of Cravaack’s constituents.

In every one of these town halls, there is an option to ask the Congressman a question. Every time I have answered the screener’s inquiry as to what question or comment I have, I am put on hold and not allowed to speak. The only people who do appear to pass the screening process are low information voters who are pro-Cravaack. This in itself turns these events, which are held at the expense of we the taxpayers, into a right-wing propaganda event that is partisan rather than a legitimate congressional activity.

What is more offensive to me is that Congressman Cravaack uses these events to misinform Minnesotans, at the expense of those taxpayers. We should all expect, and demand, better.  Perhaps it is not surprising that Mr. Cravaack is so habitually inaccurate, given that some of his staff came from the chronically inaccurate Michele Bachmann.  What is  surprising is that conservative voters prefer ideology to fact from their elective representatives.  Certainly this was not my experience with Cravaack’s predecessor, Congressman Oberstar, who I found to be comparatively meticulous in his facts and understanding and reporting of facts.

What facts did Cravaack misrepresent?

Chip has been consistently inaccurate on the topic of jobs.  In a previous town hall, he used some dozen times the discredited figure that the Obama stimulus cost $278,000 per job created.  That number is not only false, it was widely debunked well ahead of Cravaack using it.  Anyone who kept even moderately up to date on current events would have been aware that it was an inaccurate figure, yet Cravaack hammered on it over and over, and long after the facts were called to the attention of Ben Harper in his North Branch office and to the attention of a staffer in the Congressman’s DC office, follow up was promised, but not forthcoming. Rather, Cravaack’s staff continued to use the figure, as presumably did the Congressman.

Who debunked the figure of $278,000?  USA Today, here.  Fox News did as well, here, in a refreshing change from their usual inaccuracy.  ABC News debunked it, here.  The Washington Post debunked it here.  It was on Youtube, here. debunked it here, and here and here and here.  This is not an exhaustive list by any means of the debunking of the figure that Cravaack was pushing.  What Cravaack neglected to tell his tele town hall audience, what Cravaack SHOULD have known, was that the same formula by which the $278,000 figure was contrived, applied to the Bush Tax Cuts, produced far fewer jobs, at a cost of $329, 220 per job.

Yet Congressman Cravaack continues to tout the necessity of tax cuts to put more money in the pockets of the very wealthy.  The term ‘job creators’ is a myth; the wealthy do not use the money from tax cuts to create jobs, and they largely do not put it back into investment either.  There are ample studies that demonstrate that those tax cuts only make those who are already wealthy even more wealthy, while shifting more of the burden for government expense onto the backs of the rest of us.  The false statements recirculated by Cravaack relating to tax cuts and job creation have been debunked by, here., and by CNN here.  There are any number of economic analyses which acknowledge that tax cuts to the rich do not produce jobs, most notably reports from independent financial entities like Moody’s Analytics, reported here, analyzing job growth in relation to tax cuts for the wealthy all the way back to 1989, which I also wrote about, here over a year ago. There is in fact virtually nothing that is credible that supports the assertion made by Cravaack, dutifully parrotting whatever line of nonsense his Republican leadership and Tea Partiers  say first.  Cravaack is nothing if not a good little soldier in the lockstep ranks of establishment Republicans, but not a leader, not a Congressman who will produce jobs on any substantial scale following these policies.

The other two topics on which Cravaack expounded was to inaccurately berate the EPA for the lack of jobs, inaccurately blaming regulation and the new Republican whipping boy, the EPA, which has replaced ACORN as their target of choice for attack.  I could cite a long laundry list of fact-checks which have debunked that accusation, but this one is particularly good, noting that since 1970, we have improved our air quality by 60% while the economy has grown 200%.  The reality is that it nearly always costs more to clean up pollution than it does to prevent pollution, and when we allow pollution to occur, it is the taxpayers directly or indirectly that get saddled with not only the clean up costs, but the additional costs in health care, as well as the damage to surrounding property to the polluters.  What allowing pollution does is to shift the costs of an industry that is polluting onto the unwilling and unknowing shoulders of everyone in that environment, allowing the industry a greater profit.  Regulating pollution, prevention of pollution, puts those costs squarely on the business itself, where it is properly factored as a cost to the business and not to all of the rest of us for generations to come.  NOT regulating pollution takes money out of the pockets of every one of us, and unfairly places it in the profit margins of business and industry.

Another ‘whipping boy’ target that was attacked unfairly by Cravaack was Planned Parenthood.  Cravaack made a point of the salary of the head of the organization, comparing it to the salary of President Obama.  What Cravaack did not do was to compare the salary to those of other heads  of nonprofit organization that are similar in size and activity; in particular, Cravaack also did not compare the salaries of top executives of similarly sized for-profit companies, many of which earn millions in salaries and other perks, compensation many times over what Planned Parenthood pays for a similar executive responsibility.  The net effect was to imply that the head of Planned Parenthood was getting rich on tax dollars that were undeserved.  Cravaack then expanded on that misrepresentation with a claim that Planned Parenthood should not receive funding to provide health care to the large number of women it serves, because it makes 500 million dollars in profits.  While the $500 million figure has not been debunked, earlier this year the figure of $300 million was debunked by, here.  So, not only do I feel confident in accusing Cravaack of being inaccurate,  he has embroidered on a right wing talking point to create an even greater exaggeration.

But possibly the very worst offense by Cravaack against the truth in the November 15th Telephone Town Hall came when Cravaack repeated the widely debunked claim that the Keystone Pipeline would ‘create 20,000 direct jobs, and 1 million ancillary jobs’.  Fox News appears to be the source for this fact-turd from Cravaack, as reported here.  The State Department incorrectly figured at one point that the pipeline might create as many as 6,500 jobs, but even that number has dropped to zero, with a negative effect of destroying some existing businesses.  There is now a State Department investigation into the process that initially approved the pipeline project as well as the arrival at the job number.   The source for the initial number of 20,000 jobs came from the Canadian company trying to put through the pipeline; even they subsequently dropped the number, first to 13,000, then to 6,500.  The person who made the 20,000 job claim has admitted the number was an exaggeration.  You can read about the independent Cornell study here or on the Cornell press release web site.

No one that I have spoken to on Cravaack’s staff appeared aware that there was a State Department inquiry into the inflated jobs claims, and that there were serious allegations that could best be called crony capitalism.  Since the story was covered by the major news organization,  both broadcast, and print, including the New York Times (which can be read here), I am deeply shocked at the ignorance of both Cravaack and his staff.  There are – or should be – research staffers who prep the  Congressman before he makes such misleading and inaccurate statements to his constituents, especially on the taxpayer’s own nickel.  The fact that all of these misstatements are talking points made by the more inaccurate members of the Republican party in Congress does not excuse Cravaack for stupidly repeating them.  It turns the town hall into a mockery of slandering the political opposition, and the very worst examples of partisan propaganda

I pride myself on being current with factual information from the news; I personally factcheck what I write, and try to be meticulously accurate.  I don’t have a staff of researchers to do this for me.  Of the telphone town halls I have attended so far that have been conducted by Cravaack, I have yet to find a SINGLE fact which he has correctly and accurately used to the participants – not ONE.  That is an intolerable performance from Cravaack and from his office, and he should be held accountable.

If Cravaack can’t get his facts straight, he can hardly do an adequate job for the people he represents in Minnesota.  We deserve better; the entire state of Minnesota deserves better, and the entire nation damn well deserves better.  Cravaack is as bad an embarrassment, as WRONG a member of Congress as Bachmann. He should be ashamed of his job performance, and WE should be voting him out of office for  gross incompetence.

The last thing we need is a knock-off, less-charismatic version of Bachmann  representing Minnesota.