Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:
Time for the monthly newsletter. Senator Franken’s projects and grades:
Preventing the Next Financial Collapse. Al is working on amendments to banking law relating to credit ratings. Sorry, Al, but phony credit ratings didn’t cause the collapse, that was a combination of existing government regulations: CRA forcing lenders to make bad loans in the name of affordable housing, FNMA downgrading its definition of “prime” to guarantee the bad loans, Chris Cox at SEC suddenly implementing “mark to market” rules that panicked investors and triggering Lehman Brothers bankruptcy. All those regulations remain so tinkering with credit rating law isn’t even closing the barn door after the horses are gone, it’s more like gilding the weather-vane on the barn roof, worse than useless. Grade: F.?
As the economy “recovers” but never improves, it’s necessary to keep up appearances by continuing to try to throw blame off of government, for the benefit of the low-information voter.
Creating Jobs with the Energy Section of the New Farm Bill. Al’s really proud of this section, it’s chock full of subsidies for wind, advanced biofuels, biomass, the whole nine yards. We’re sure to wean off foreign oil this time! Geez, Al, ever heard of Solyndra? If you want to make America energy independent, open up federal lands. The President brags that his administration has signed leases to look for oil, but forgets to mention that they denied permits to actually pump the oil. North Dakota is showing the world that the best way for government to help energy production is . . . get the Hell out of the way. Throwing another boatload of money down the same Alternative Energy rathole will produce jobs only for smooth talking hucksters. Grade: F.
Upgrading Minnesota’s Water Infrastructure. Any time a Democrat talks about infrastructure, I grab my wallet. This bill might be the exception to the rule. He’s talking about the Water Resources Development Act, which is Congress’s way of funding a bunch of water-related activities ranging from flood control to water treatment plants to wetland preservation projects. It comes up for renewal every few years and contains most of the funding for the Army Corps of Engineers, for example. We always can nitpick particular line items but as spending bills go, this one isn’t too bad. Control of federal waters is a reasonable component of regulating interstate commerce so this act is more Constitutional than most. Grade: C+.
Breaking the Veterans Affairs backlog. Al, in the Senate, and Tim Walz in the House, introduced the Quicker Benefits Delivery Act. It prohibits the VA from requiring additional medical exams by in-house doctor if the disabled veteran already provided one from a non-VA doctor. They also tinker with the rating system for full or partial disability, hoping this will speed claims processing. Veterans are a federal responsibility so this is Congress’ job and the backlog is a disgrace. We spend millions of dollars every hour sending men and women to fight wars all over the world; the very least we can do is take care of our disabled vets when they come home. I don’t know enough about disability law to know if it’ll work but kudos to Al for at least trying to do something to make it right. Grade: A.
GPA this month: D
It’s a gift.