It may be a matter of opinion, but I was a bit disappointed with Wednesday’s Iowa Energy Forum‘s “A Conversation On Energy Luncheon”Â event at Hy-Vee Hall in Des Moines.Â A similar event was held by the group, which isÂ sponsored by theÂ American Petroleum Institute, last yearÂ (May 25, 2011).Â One might think that an event hosting two sitting US Congressmen (Leonard Boswell-D and Tom Latham-R)Â who happen to be running against each other in this year’s election would be an opportunity to have some real discussion about the issues impacting Iowa and American energy concerns, but compared to last year’s event this was a bit of a yawner.
Last year we got a panel of experts from theÂ Iowa energy industries discussing what’s actually being done to expand the development of various energy technologies, including a strong speech by Governor Terry Branstad, and gobs of data regarding energy production and consumption in Iowa.
This year we got mostly platitudes and commitments to vote for good energy policy.
Both congressmen had an opportunity to speak without hearing the other speak first and then answered a few written audience questions.
Congressman Boswell was rather distracted at firstÂ withÂ pointing outÂ his military record, which was totally irrelevant to the topic, and although he proclaimed support for the Keystone Pipeline he hedged regarding the routing of the pipeline as the only obstacle for approval of Keystone.Â His message is essentially that we need “all of the above” solutions for energy independence, and that we need to upgrade the energy infrastructure including improvements to the electrical grid andÂ expansion of natural gas fuling stations along the major interstates.
BoswellÂ also made a point of discussing the impact of climate change onÂ generalÂ infrastructure… he provided an anecdotal story about someone in Alaska that was showing him a location where the ground was dry and supposedly had 10 feet of ice many years ago.Â His punchline for this was that permanentlyÂ frozen ground did not require digging foundations for supports, but now that areas of the country are losing their permanent frozen ground, those things built on them have to be rebuilt.Â Although I think the topic is worthy of discussion (and I give Boswell credit for not discussing the idea of human causality), I never got the connection to energy independence.Â Maybe I’m slow.
Tom Latham expressed the same support for Keystone sans concerns about the route.Â He made an excellent case for the fact that in the early ’70s, our leaders in Washington said we would never have another oil crisis because we would ensure that we had a fully independent domestic oil resource… but as soon as OPEC opened up the spigot we apparently forgot all that.Â 40 wasted years.
Not only did Latham attack Cap and Trade as ill conceived, he pointed out that the EPA was preparing to release a number of regulations the day after the election, each expected to cost Americans over $100 Billion, modeled after the failed legislation.
Latham also explained that with over $70 Trillion in long-term unfunded liabilities, expanding domestic energy production would bring the government tens of Trillions of dollars to fund those liabilities.
All in all, I appreciate both congressmen taking the time to share their thoughts about energy.Â I would rather (or additionally) had some Iowa specific information provided at the event like last year.Â Although the conversations with the congressmen were somewhat interesting and perhaps relevant to the upcoming election, the fact that the format was specifically non-partisan, non-debate, non-confrontational kept the whole impact very low.Â I’m not really saying it should have been an election showdown… I’m just saying I could have gone to the two candidates web sites to get the total information I got at the forum and used a much smaller part of my day to do it.Â I think this organization would do well to focus on promoting Iowa Energy production and the impact it is having on Iowa and the US.
The food was really good though.Â (grin)
Probably the most interesting conversation happened outside the event while Boswell held his media availability.Â Short version is this: my friend Kevin Hall of The Iowa Republican had the “nerve” to ask the congressman whether he still supports Cap and Trade.Â This set off a firestorm of reaction from Boswell’s staff who could not believe the audacity of a mere “blogger” to represent themselves as “media” and ask the important man from Washington a question that doesn’t need to be asked.
Yes, that really happened.
I don’t want to spend the 10 ‘graphs that I have pent up inside explaining why this topic frustrates me (you’ll get them soon enough).Â It’s not worth the time right now, and keeping this to the “short” version, I just want you to know this was the most childish response I’ve ever heard to a hard question.Â It is to Congressman Boswell’s credit that he did not join in the behavior of his staffers and answered the question.Â You can read the whole story from Kevin here.
Oh, and the congressman said “Yes”.Â Of course he still supports Cap and Trade.
Other commentary and analysis of the forum: Caffeinated Thoughts, The Des Moines Register, and more Des Moines Register.
Photo 1 Â© vencav – Fotolia.com
Photo 2 Â© The Conservative Reader.
In a wildly under-reported story, last Monday the Des Moines Register uncovered a shocking factâ€”Leonard Boswell is a blue dog Democrat.
To anyone paying attention to politics, and familiar with Mr. Boswellâ€™s votes during his last term, this certainly comes as quite the revelation.Â The front page headline was written by Jennifer Jacobs and titled â€œOpinions vary on effectiveness of Blue Dog democrat Boswellâ€.
I am far less interested in the article itself than I am in the fact-like pronouncement that Leonard Boswell, especially recently, fits in the â€œblue dogâ€ pack.Â Though he is officially a member of a group of U.S House members called the â€œBlue Dog Coalitionâ€, his voting record puts him so clearly opposite of nearly every one of this coalitionâ€™s mission statements that itâ€™s truly laughable.
We will look at the record in a second, but let me first say that this is not the only time the Des Moines Register has been called out hereâ€”and technically it could happen almost daily.Â The reason this headline catches the eye is that with election season underway, characterizations and even subtle hints can go a long way in influence uninformed voters in November.Â Especially if advertising Boswell as someone who has been tight with the purse strings becomes a campaign strategy, which would be smart politics, this is a notion that has to be quickly and forcefully refuted.
The bottom line is that Leonard Boswell can call himself whatever he wants, and the Register can shrug off critical thinking and follow suitâ€” but that doesnâ€™t make it true.Â The fact is that if he is a blue dog, then Steve King is socially moderate and Kim Pearson and Tom Shaw â€œgo along to get alongâ€.Â Letâ€™s dig inâ€¦
For those unaware, a blue dog Democrat is a legislator in the House who is fiscally conservative and philosophically breaks with their party on the level of government spending and taxation that is appropriate, and by their own definition even moral.Â Though they recently are trying to branch out into other issues like energy and economic growth, by and large their purpose is to oppose overspending and battle fellow Democrats when need be.Â This being the case you would expect to see some sort of opposition from â€œblue dogâ€ Leonard Boswell to the direction the Country has swerved in following President Obamaâ€™s election.Â Instead, in the last three and a half years the national debt has increased $5 trillion dollarsâ€”and Mr. Boswell has cast â€œyeaâ€ votes all along the way.Â Here is the record.
The following are key votes the Congressman has taken on major tax and spend issues since 2009.
Voted in favor:
â€¢Â Economic Stimulus Billâ€”over $800 billion added to the national debt, more than a trillion dollars with interest included (passed the House 246-183 on Feb. 13, 2009).
â€¢Â Obamacareâ€”price tag of $900 billion over 10 years at passage, most recent CBO scoring nearly doubled this amount to $1.76 trillion (passed the House 219-212 on March 21, 2010).
â€¢Â Cash For Clunkers â€“cost of nearly $3 billion (passed the House 316-109 on July 31, 2009).
â€¢Â Extending Unemployment Benefitsâ€”April 15, 2010 (passed 289-112), May 28, 2010 (passed 215-204), and July 22, 2010 (passed 272-152).
â€¢Â Raising the debt ceilingâ€”passed the House 218-214 on December 16, 2009.
â€¢Â Cap and Tradeâ€”according to the Obama administration itself, would have cost Americans up to $200 billion a year (passed the House 219-212 on June 26, 2009).
â€¢Â Cut, Cap, and Balanceâ€”passed the House 234-190 on July 19th, 2011
â€¢Â Debt ceiling bill â€“ This is the John Boehner version that would have raised the debt ceiling in exchange for limits on discretionary spending (passed the House 218-210 on July 29, 2011).
â€¢Â Reducing spending to F.Y 2008 levelsâ€”passed the House 256-165 on July 25, 2011.
One can make many claims about Boswellâ€™s last term in Congress, but given this record it is hard to imagine how any fair-minded person could call him fiscally conservative.Â Besides the unbelievable amount of money he voted to add to our national debt, the other thing to note is how close many of these votes were.Â In particular, the Obamacare and Cap and Trade votes authorized borrowing hundreds of billions of dollars per yearâ€”and passed by a combined 14 votes. If there ever was a time a blue dog would stand up for their principles of responsible spending it would have been then.
Why It Matters
To bolster the claim that he is a centrist, the Register story uses a National Journal analysis of his votes in 2011 (right before an election year) which places him more liberal than 61.8% and more conservative than 38.2% of his fellow House members.Â While this point is highly arguable, any description of him as concerned with deficits and high taxes cannot be made with a straight face.Â In our current political climate of outrage over debt, the failure of the Stimulus Bill, and the GSO and Solyndra scandals, any distancing of himself from these issues would be a huge re-election assetâ€”and one he clearly has not earned.
What is really ironic here is the fact that this story follows a weekend in which the Des Moines Register published a piece telling their readers that they would soon be charging for online access to much of their content.Â This transition has many affiliated with the paper very nervous, as there is a high probability of it being a disaster.Â As long as they continue doing things like allowing Democratic politicians to self-identify themselves without publicly asking questions like â€œis Leonard Boswell truly a blue dog?â€â€”not only will their bottom line struggleâ€¦they will struggle to remain in operation.