Dr. Boozman's Check-up
Oct 14 2011
I just wanted to take a moment to thank everyone in Garland, Hot Springs, Clark, Grant, Dallas, Cleveland, Pike, Howard and Nevada Counties who joined us via phone last night for our tele-town hall.
We had some great questions and comments about our nation’s economic crisis; how the government can create jobs; helping veterans return to civilian life; protecting Medicare and Social Security; securing our borders; and federal bailouts.
Tele-town halls are a great way to stay in touch with the people of Arkansas during the days we are in session here in Washington. I look forward to more in the coming months and hope to hear from you when we call.
Oct 13 2011
The lede from National Journal Daily’s (subscription required) front page story on Congressional approval of three trade agreements says it all:
The future of U.S exports moves to center stage now that Congress approved trade pacts with South Korea, Colombia and Panama—an achievement that lively will be Congress’s biggest on the trade front for years to come. (Emphasis mine)
Hundreds of thousands of jobs can be created if we take steps to increase our exports. Approval of the Panama, South Korea and Colombia pacts is an excellent start and should make a strong positive long-term impact on our economy. It is estimated that these three pacts alone could create over 250,000 here at home.
The National Journal Daily story continues:
Taken together, the three deals represent the largest free-trade agreement since Congress passed the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993. Overall, trade in goods with the three partner countries totaled more than $84 billion in the first seven months of 2011, according to the Census Bureau. The pacts will provide U.S. companies greater access to all three markets as soon as the deals enter into force later this year.
An earlier story from Bloomberg Businessweek highlights some of the economic benefits of each agreement:
The South Korea deal, the biggest since the North American Free Trade Agreement, would boost U.S. exports by as much as $10.9 billion in the first year in which it's in full effect, according to the U.S. International Trade Commission. The accord with Colombia would increase exports by as much as $1.1 billion a year. The South Korea and Panama pacts were signed in June 2007, while the Colombia accord was signed in November 2006.
At a more microcosmic-level, trade is vital to the economy of Arkansas. Over 600,000 Arkansas jobs depend on exports. Over 1,500 companies export from Arkansas, most of which are small to medium businesses. In turn, our agriculture producers, businesses and manufacturers reinvest those dollars into our economy and communities.
The pacts were approved in a bipartisan manner. Republicans and Democrats in both the House of Representatives and Senate cast their vote in support of these trade agreements. This shouldn’t come as a surprise since we have repeatedly said this is one way to stimulate the economy where we find common-ground.
Unfortunately just one day earlier, our Chamber was bogged down in a political exercise. Senate Majority Leader Reid brought up a bill he knew would fail and ensured that his caucus all voted in line with him. That bill—his version of President Obama’s “Jobs Bill”—was destined to fall short of the votes to block a filibuster so he knew he didn’t need to worry about forcing members of his caucus to vote against the bill’s final passage, which many have said they would if it came up for a vote. He went as far as taking powers away from the Minority last week and would not allow us to offer the bill as an amendment, just to protect the image of “unity” in his caucus.
The past two days should be looked at as a case study in how the Senate should operate.
Here’s what Majority Leader Reid should take away from this lesson: The Senate needs more days like Wednesday and less like Tuesday.
As a long-time member of the House Law Enforcement Caucus, I’m proud to join my colleagues in launching the first ever U.S. Senate Law Enforcement Caucus to educate and inform my colleagues and their staffs about the programs and initiatives that are keeping our communities safe, while advocating for the policies and resources law enforcement agencies need to carry out their missions.
This group is made up of 18 bipartisan senators and will serve as a forum for officials, community groups, and other stakeholders to meet with legislators, staff, and one another to share experiences and develop strategies for fostering effective law enforcement. We will work to highlight ways the federal government can better assist agencies at the state and local levels. This will help circulate best practices in administering law enforcement programs during a time of severely limited budgets.
While we must work to rein in spending, we must also continue to provide resources for our men and women who put their lives on the line to keep our communities safe. Through this caucus I will be an advocate for our law enforcement agencies as we work to address the issues important to our nation’s first responders.
Oct 07 2011
Arkansas and many other states are working hard to protect water quality and reduce excessive nutrients in our rivers, lakes, and streams, but the EPA still forces a heavy-handed top-down approach to many regulations and water quality standards. Senator Boozman asked questions to the Acting EPA Assistant Administrator, Nancy Stoner, relating to these problems during an Environment and Public Works Subcommittee hearing on the topic of nutrient reduction approaches.
Oct 06 2011
The Associated Press recently wrote a story highlighting our efforts at connecting with Arkansans through social media. These tools open up new doors allowing us to communicate in a whole new way. We’re using this technology to stay engaged on the issues important to Arkansans as Facebook and Twitter make it easier to keep people informed about the discussions in Washington and how we’re helping throughout the state. You can connect with us on twitter @johnboozman and our Facebook government official page.
Our newest outreach tool is Skype. Earlier this week from our Washington office I did an interview with KARK about our social media activity and the recognition we received.
Oct 04 2011
We have all encountered the aggressive salesperson at some point in our lives. At car dealerships, service companies and shopping malls across the country, these forceful salespeople implore high-pressure tactics to close the deal with you. They distort the truth, promise the world to you and generally tell you whatever to takes to make the sale. This technique is known as the “hard sell.”
Successful salespeople will tell you to avoid this approach. It turns the customer off, loses their attention and leads to a general distrust of the person making the pitch. Once a salesperson crosses that line, it is nearly impossible to get the customer back. President Obama, desperate to sell his plan to raise taxes, may have crossed that line with his latest sales pitch.
The non-partisan FactCheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, found that President Obama’s claim that he pays a lower tax rate than a teacher making $50,000 a year isn’t true.
At a recent town hall meeting sponsored by the social media firm Linkedin, President Obama said, “Somebody who’s making $50,000 a year as a teacher shouldn’t be paying a higher effective tax rate than somebody like myself or Jeff [Weiner, CEO of Linkdin], who’ve been incredibly blessed.”
Along with the disingenuous wealth redistribution argument of this claim, there is also a major factual error with this statement. As FactCheck.org points out, a single taxpayer with $50,000 of income would have paid 11.9 percent in federal income taxes for 2010. The Obamas paid more than twice that rate—25.3 percent (and higher rates than that in 2009 and 2008). If the $50,000-a-year teacher in the President’s illustration shared the same tax situation as the Obama’s—supporting a spouse and two children—he or she would have paid no federal income taxes at all.
When FactCheck.org asked the White House about this, an Administration spokesperson told them: “The President was not offering a literal comparison of his personal tax rate.”
Comparing the amount of taxes you pay versus the amount of taxes someone else pays, is a textbook example of a literal comparison. It is apples to apples. And it exposes the underlying flaw in the President’s approach to our economic crisis. Instead of convincing the American people of the merits of his policies, the President has resorted to emotional appeals to stoke the public’s frustration and pit sides against each other. It isn’t important if these appeals are true or not, it seems, as long as those lines generate applause.
So with 14 million unemployed Americans, the President’s only answer is to double-down on government spending. He knows he cannot convince us to spend more while we are $14 trillion in debt, but this time he can claim it is “paid-for” as long as he can get his tax hikes through Congress. However, the American people lack faith in his recycled stimulus plan, given that it failed to the first time, and are not supportive of a tax hike to fund another “Big Government” plan that is not likely to succeed.
This leaves the President with few options other than to give the American people the “hard sell” or abandon his approach. Unfortunately, he seems to have chosen the former over the latter.
The internet has changed the way we live. This growing technology sector has changed the way we do business and we need to promote and encourage this continued growth that is responsible for millions of jobs.
Unfortunately, the internet is under attack by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which recently decided to move forward with its ill-advised open internet order to “fix” problems that they admit don’t even exist.
Earlier this week, the Obama administration gave approval for rules commonly referred to as ‘net neutrality’ but I have serious concerns. This article published by Forbes describes some of the negative impacts that will result from these rules.
Fortunately, there will be much standing in their way of implementation from legal action to congressional regulation.
Internet providers such as Verizon and MetroCPS have already filed legal challenges on this issue even before the rules were published but they were dismissed by the court for being premature. Now that the rules have been published, they’re fair game.
The House passed a Resolution of Disapproval earlier this year nullifying the rules. Since they have been published, the Senate will have 60 (now 56) days to pass a similar resolution. As a Member of the Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee, which has jurisdiction over the FCC, I cosponsored a joint resolution of disapproval and will vote against this unfair practice.
According to a recent poll conducted by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and the American Hospital Association’s Health Research and Education Trust, the average cost of a family policy climbed 9 percent in 2011 to $15,073. This is a dramatic turn, as President Obama pledged that the new law would reduce premiums on average by $2,500 for American families.
The group’s findings, based on data collected through May, also showed that health insurance is consuming a bigger share of employer costs, preempting pay raises and making companies pass on more medical costs to their workers, benefit consultants said. President Obama promised that if you like your plan, you can keep it. Yet, the survey found that only 56 percent of workers are still in plans of their choice that pre-date the new health law’s enactment last year.
The partisan health law pushed through by President Obama in 2010 has contributed to a dramatic increase in health costs, forcing employers to significantly cut back medical coverage and limit pay increases for workers. This $2.6 trillion law threatens the economy and job creation. I have voted to repeal this law and will continue to fight for a full repeal and support efforts that create a business friendly environment that empowers private sector job growth.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) has formally requested the Security Council to grant them full United Nations (UN) statehood, a cynical move that is detrimental to the peace process and the historic sea change that the Middle East has seen in recent months.
The United States has maintained the consistent position that the PA and Israel need to pursue peace through direct negotiation. The goal should be working toward a two-state solution, but it has to be agreed upon by the two parties directly involved. It will not be a successful solution if the borders of the two-states are forced upon the parties by the UN.
By requesting recognition as a state by the UN, the PA is not acting as a good faith partner in forging a peace agreement. With this effort, the PA is hampering the peace process. They are clearly more eager to use the auspices of the UN, including the International Court of Justice, to harass the Israelis than to resolve their issues with them.
President Obama has made it clear that he will use his veto authority and I applaud him for standing strong with our only democratic ally in the region. But the U.S. needs to be more engaged in the peace process and get the two sides talking again.
In June, the Senate passed S. Res. 185, a resolution that I cosponsored, which reaffirms the commitment of the United States to a negotiated settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. The resolution also states that Palestinian efforts to gain recognition as a state outside direct negotiations demonstrates an absence of a good faith in the commitment to peace negotiations.
S.Res.185 also reiterates that actions that run counter to the Senate’s conditions will have implications for continued United States aid. Should it persist, the PA’s ongoing campaign to receive statehood from the UN clearly falls in that category and warrants a reevaluation our financial contributions to them. Currently, we are the largest donor nation to the PA, providing $500 million in aid this year. In the light of these circumstances, reduction or elimination of that aid should be placed under consideration of Congress.
This conflict is not beyond a diplomatic resolution, but it requires US commitment, not disengagement. Time is of the essence. The State Department needs to redouble US efforts to bringing the parties back the table and talking again, instead of driving them to unilateral actions. No one wins if the current course of action is allowed to continue.
Sep 21 2011
Roby Brock and Michael Tilley at Talk Business published a very informative story earlier this week that examines the decline in manufacturing jobs, both in Arkansas and at a national level.
They note at the onset of the story that the number of manufacturing jobs in Arkansas is at its lowest level since 1968. Despite this alarming news, a study released earlier in the year by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and linked in the Talk Business story, points out that the US is still the world’s largest manufacturing economy, producing 21% of global manufactured products. If taken alone, U.S. manufacturing would be the 9th largest economy in the world.
So, if our manufacturing sector is still the strongest in the world, why are we losing manufacturing jobs in the Natural State and across the country?
Well, as the NAM report points out, other countries—especially in Europe and Asia—promote tax, regulatory and trade policy that spurs innovation and investment in the manufacturing sector.
Our current tax, regulatory and trade policy run counter to this international trend.
We can jumpstart the manufacturing sector if we get the federal government out of their way.
- Simplify the tax code and reduce the corporate tax rate to levels that are comparable with our trading partners;
- Along those same lines, promote tax policy that encourages innovation;
- Stop the heavy-handed regulations and give our manufacturers a sense of certainty in terms of the rules under which they have to operate; and, perhaps most importantly,
- Open more markets for our exporters by passing pending trade agreements with Panama, South Korea and Columbia.
By taking these steps, we will create more manufacturing jobs and give a permanent shot in the arm to our entire economy.