John Kline, who famously announced after that the recent redistricting in a press release entitled “Regardless of Maps, We are All Conservatives” and is fond of saying “hundreds of Minnesotans shared with me their thoughts” and “overwhelming majority of constituents told me” has now requested citizen input in the form of a constituent survey.
OK … let’s admit it … it is election season, and what better way to get you to tell candidate Kline your email address and how badly you hate Obamacare and paying taxes, then to offer a survey. A survey in which he selects the questions and determines if any responses will be released to the public examination.
But let’s look at the survey :
1. How do you feel about the pace of the economic recovery?
A.) It’s going well
B.) It’s too slow
C.) What recovery
Your response most likely will be based on your investment portfolio and employment status … yet, that leads to the question, unless the overwhelming answer is “A.) It’s going well”, then does that mean that John Kline was wrong when the Republican-controlled House on January 9th unanimously denied a vote to extended emergency unemployment benefits for three months (see H.R. 3824 : Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act.).
2. Which do you believe would do more to create jobs and stimulate the American economy?
A.) Increase government spending
B.) Across-the-board income tax relief
C.) Fewer government regulations
By “increase government spending” does he mean restoring some of the cuts that were made to the Defense Department or is he asking about infrastructure investment ? “Across-the-board tax cuts” implies that the wealthy will get a tax cut as opposed to targeted tax cuts. “Fewer government regulations” implies that we should reduce regulations over food safety, drug manufacturing, airline safety, clean water, … even requiring a business to pay a premium for overtime worked. (BTW, John Kline has complained that health care aides should not be paid premium overtime.)
3. Which is the biggest hurdle to long-term economic growth?
A.) Government debt
B.) High taxes
C.) Greedy corporations
E. ) Unsure
This is a very interesting question … first, let’s consider that when the GAO talks about “long-term economics” they are generally looking out 75 years, thus the premise of the question may be misunderstood by some constituents. Also, the question is phrased in a way to lead to other questions and fails to provide any history. For example, the government debt has increased because the Bush tax cuts and War on Terror were not paid for … a simple way to lower the debt would be to raise taxes … but “B” implies that they are already “High” … and does a corporation being called “greedy” relate to long-term economic growth. Missing in these choices is the uncertainty created by government in their constant self-inflicted crisis operating style. The obvious question for John Kline is: what policies do you recommend to address any of these choices — will you advocate cutting Social Security to reduce the government debt? How much will you restructure tax policy so that lower taxes actually expand economic growth since the Bush tax cuts apparently did not work. How will you instruct “greedy corporations” to change their ways ? If regulations are reduced, what are the consequences ?
4.The national debt is currently more than $17 trillion and is projected to increase by more than $8 trillion over the next 10 years. To balance the budget Congress should:
A.) Reduce government spending
B.) Increase taxes
Once again, no history or background. The $17 trillion figure is a measure of “gross debt,” which means that it includes debt owed by the U.S. Treasury to more than 230 other U.S. government agencies and trust funds. On the consolidated financial statements of the federal government, this intragovernmental debt is, in effect, canceled out. For example, The Social Security Trust Fund owns $2.7 trillion of the $5 trillion of Treasury securities held in intragovernmental accounts.
Thus the underlying question is : Since “government spending” includes Social Security, what plans does John Kline have for Social Security ?
5.)Should the federal government be required by law to have a balanced budget, as the Minnesota state government and most other states are required to do?
Another interesting question … after all the only Kline For Congress television commercial during the 2012 campaign was John Kline telling voters that we needed a balanced budget amendment. Thus, the question, why hasn’t John Kline been able to get the Republican-controlled House to vote on House Resolution #1 or House Resolution #2 — both are designed to ensure a balanced budget. Of course, when you read the resolutions, it also states that there is a five-year period before taking effect … and would demand either extensive tax increases or severe spending reductions.
6.) Do you support or oppose the President’s health care law that requires most Americans to have health insurance or pay a fine?
WOW … he waited until Question 6 to ask the one that he will base his re-election campaign on ! Of course, he does not acknowledge other aspects of the ACA like pre-existing conditions, just that there is a requirement that most people have health insurance.
7.) What is the top concern you have with the health care law?
A.) Individual Mandate
B.) Increased health care costs
C.) Losing access to my doctor
D.) IRS enforcing insurance coverage
E.) I have no concerns
This is a repeat question from John Kline’s TeleTown Hall meeting of November 18th … kinda surprising that he is still including the IRS when he should know that the law prohibits the IRS from using liens or levies to collect any “payment you owe”.
Of course, this is just asking people’s opinions … not educating them … that the growth of healthcare is being reduced as a result of the cost-containment provisions contained in the ACA. For example, there are new limits on how much insurance companies can charge for administration and profits (with rebates to consumers if they charge too much … aka the Franken-provision), and state review of rates proposed by insurance companies.
Losing your doctor is a concern, but in a free market, should the doctor be required to accept insured patients … it is the insurance companies that are negotiating the payment rates.
8.) Are you satisfied with your current health care coverage?
A great question that can be answered many ways — and no explanation is required.
“YES”, I am happy because I now have affordable health insurance that does not restrict me because of pre-existing conditions.
“NO”, because there are still not enough insurance carriers competing in the Second District.
9.) What should be done to ensure America’s energy independence? (Choose multiple)
A.) Promote new and expanding alternative energy technologies
B.) Expand nuclear power including new nuclear power plants
C.) Exploring and expanding all of America’s oil and natural gas resources
D.) Encourage conservation and improve efficiency
E.) All of the above
Considering that John Kline has failed to embrace “clean” energy (wind, solar), he might not want to hear how many people click “A”. “Expand nuclear power” is a surprising suggestion when four nuclear plants have closed last year and dozens are at risk of early retirement, as the industry faces low-cost competitors natural gas. Hmmm … he could have mentioned “nuclear fusion” which uses a fuel source derived from water which would mean that fusion could be exploited in power plants as an unlimited source of clean energy. “expanding all of America’s resources” is already the Kline Agenda (after all, John Kline is Minnesota’s Coal Man). And option “D” could create another surprise for John Kline who failed to embrace fuel standard legislation (voting against a bill that President George Bush approved.)
10. The federal income taxes you pay are:
B.) Too low
C.) Just right
Hmmm … no mention of tax fairness.
11. We can all agree the tax code is too complicated. What is the best way to reform our tax system? (Choose multiple)
A.) Establish a flat tax
B.) Implement a national sales tax
C.) Reduce the maximum tax rate to 25 percent for families and businesses
D.) Scale back deductions and loopholes that distort the tax code
Hmmm … this is essentially the same question that he asked in his January 2005 constituent survey which revealed :
Constituents were asked to share their preference among the four reform proposals currently being weighed. The responses broke down as follows:
49% Flat Tax: The Flat Tax would replace the graduated income tax and most deductions and exemptions with a flat tax on income. Proposals include a truly flat rate of 20 percent or a rate of approximately 22 percent, which would enable the retention of deductions for charitable donations and mortgage interest.
27% National Retail Sales Tax: The National Retail Sales Tax would replace federal income, estate, and Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes with a tax on the sale of goods and services. The rate would be set at 23 percent in 2005. In following years the tax would be set at a blended rate taking into account a fixed general revenue tax rate of 14.91 percent and rates to be determined to support Social Security and Medicare. Many have suggested exempting goods such as food and pharmaceuticals from the tax.
20% No Change.
Eight years later … and John Kline is still asking the same question … while proposing tax breaks for selected industries
H.R.494 : Small BREW Act
H.R.1918 : Brewers Excise and Economic Relief Act of 2013
H.R.792 : Traditional Cigar Manufacturing and Small Business Jobs Preservation Act of 2013 (he is a Member of the Washington DC Congressional Cigar Association)
H.R.1317 : Hearing Aid Assistance Tax Credit Act 2013
H.R.1708 : Affordable Footwear Act of 2013
IF “We can all agree the tax code is too complicated”, why is John Kline pushing for more changes to the tax code ?
12. Should the federal government have more or less control over setting education policy in our schools?
Key phrase “setting education policy” … can’t we agree that improving the quality of education is essential and to focus on improving schools rather than allowing “dummying down” will not prepare tomorrow’s workers ?
13. Please share with me any additional thoughts you have on issues important to you.
Finally, the only question that really matters … what issues do you care about ?
How about these 13.
#1. Allow a vote on Peter King’s (R-NY) H.R. 1565: Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act of 2013 to address background checks on firearm purchases.
#2. Allow a vote on H.R. 377 : Paycheck Fairness Act for which Discharge Petition #1 has 197 Members requesting that Chairman Kline move the bill out of Committee.
#3. Allow a vote on H.R. 15 : Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act … even Republican Members have sponsored this legislation as well as garnering the support of the US Chamber of Commerce.
#4. Allow a vote on James Sensenbrenner’s (R-WI-5) H.R.3899 : Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014 to address the complaints of the US Supreme Court.
#5. Allow a vote on H.R. 1755 : Employment Non-Discrimination Act which has Republican and Democrat support (over 200 sponsors) but is hung up in Chairman Kline’s committee. The Senate approved ENDA in November.
#6. Define for your constituents the future of Afghanistan. With your approval of $1.12 billion to Afghanistan for fiscal 2014 for overall civilian assistance, how long will our tax dollars be needed ?
#7. CBO “Options for Reducing the Deficit: 2014 to 2023” identifies options which would affect specific DoD programs. Do you favor any or all of these :
Cancel the F-35 (Joint Strike Fighter) program and buy the most advanced current versions of F-16 (Air Force) and F/A-18 (Navy and Marine Corps), saving $37 billion from 2015 to 2023.
Cancel the Army’s Ground Combat Vehicle Program and acquire upgrades for the Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle (-$15 billion);
Stop building Ford Class Aircraft Carriers after the U.S.S. John F. Kennedy (-$18 billion); Cut the ballistic missile submarine force to eight in 2010 by retiring one submarine per year from 2015-2020 (-$16 billion);
Limit the buy of the Littoral Combat Ship to 24 already built or under contract and then cancel the program (-$18 billion);
and defer development of a new long-range bomber until after 2023 (-$32 billion).
#8. Allow a hearing on Richard Hanna’s (R-NY-24) H.R. 3461 : Strong Start for America’s Children Act and demand a vote by the full House.
#9. Allow a hearing on Phil Roe’s (R-TN-01) H.R. 3121 : the American Healthcare Reform Act. This should be easy since Chairman Kline is a co-sponsor and the legislation is the replacement for ObamaCare … and voters need to hear what is in the bill and who supports it.
#10. Renew the Higher Education Opportunity Act before it expires so that students and parents know the future of Pell Grants, TRIO funding. Chairman Kline has encouraged cuts to Pell Grants and voters need the future of the program.
#11. Sponsor James Sensenbrenner’s (R-WI-5) H.R. 3361 : Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ending Eavesdropping, Dragnet-collection, and Online Monitoring Act ( aka FREEDOM Act) to address privacy protection and NSA surveillance. The legislation has 134 co-sponsors including Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum.
#12. Sponsor H.R.872 : Free Trade With Cuba Act which has the support of Minnesotans Collin Peterson, Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum as well as other Members … this would help a number of Minnesota industries ranging from agriculture to medical device manufacturers.
#13. Lastly, please explain why the House is only schedule to work 113 days this term with this list of pending legislation.
Second District voters can fill out the Kline survey … or/and they can offer their thoughts on the Roundtable by adding a Comment offering thier own thoughts for Question 13.
But the Kline survey tells us that Nothing has been accomplished … this term … and leads to the question of what has been the Kline accomplishment over his decade in Congress and does he deserve another two years ?