Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Unify for Children's Healthcare

Now would be a good time for Rep. Roskam to demonstrate his campaign-promised ability to "cross the aisle" and work with Democrats for a greater cause - the healthcare of children. At the recent meeting of Governors in Washington, DC, the governors from all the states, Democrats as well as Republicans, pleaded to President Bush to increase funding for Children's Health Insurance Plans. Comments from governors claimed that providng healthcare for children is as much a responsibility of the government as fighting terrorism, and children's healthcare should certainly take precedence over tax cuts for the nation's millionaires and billionaires. Certainly, we all have a responsibility to provide the next generation with as many possibilities for them to rach their greatest potential - and this means decent healtchcare and decent education.

But President Bush instead basically told governors that what they need to do is cut back on healthcare coverage, covering only families who make up to twice the poverty level (about $21,000 for a family of four). That's a $10/hour job, barely enough to pay the rent, let alone utilities, food and transportation. But a mimum "living wage" in Roskam's district is about $16/hour.

This is one issue that cannot be defined as a partisan or principled issue - it is one strictly of economics. The real test our congressman faces is will he join the ranks of those who will tell the president he is wrong on this issue, and that we will not stand to have our children's healthcare be sacrificed. If we are going to really win the war on terror, we must do all we can to live up to our ideals of being the land of opportunity. Eliminating healthcare for the most vulnerable - children of the economic poor - is unacceptable.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Vote on Iraq

To no one's surprise, Roskam voted against the resolution denouncing the troop build-up in Iraq. Simplistically, in his floor statements, he painted this as a war between America and Islamic nations, and that a yes vote on this resolution demoralizes troops, and fuels the enemy. What is fueling the enemies' ranks are secret prisons, torture, and unilateral pigheadedness.

Now would be a good time to call and write Roskam's office (contact info is found at www.roskam.house.gov). Let him know how you feel about his vote. The fact is that these offices do listen, so we have to speak. Here's a sample of what I'll be saying. Please feel free to use and adapt:

"I am writing to express my disapproval of your recent vote supporting the troop build-up in Iraq. While I agree that the consequences of not succeeding will be great, it seems clear that a build-up in troops alone will accomplish little if any good without also increasing diplomatic efforts and changing policies of detention and torture that are driving people to fight our troops. At a time when most of our allies are announcing that they are pulling troops home, this policy of "stay the course" four years after "mission accomplished" that you seem to endorse does not in any way represent the desires of this constituent."
If we flood his office, he may take notice. And the more pressure we can exert on them to cross the aisle, the more successful we will all be in the things that really matter - ending this war.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Guns and Society

It appears that it's going to be another do little week with Congress. The big issue is a non-binding statement denouncing the troop surge in Iraq. This, to me, is really nothing more than an election ploy to get candidates to take a stand on the surge, and then wait and hope that things go good or bad, depending on how one votes so that this vote doesn't come back to bite in the next election. If congress were going to be serious, options would be presented. Of course, we already know that Peter Roskam is going to tow the party line on this one and vote to support the surge without reservation, and it is the "without reservation" that is the problem.

But, given that congress is doing so little, perhaps this is a good time to look at some national news that relates to some issues that congress SHOULD be addressing. Yesterday morning's weather story clouded three news items that I think should concern people: a young man went on a shooting spree in the tourist mall of Salt Lake City (killing 6 people); an 86 year old man shot and killed his granddaughter in Phoenix, and a men were killed in a Philadelphia Navy Yard, a fourth injured, and the shooter then killed himself. And in Chicago, a police officer was shot and killed on his way home from his second job. But gun control seems to be out of the news.

When I was in London last month, the one thing we noticed (and talked about with locals) is this issue of gun control. Now, not to idealize places like London by denying that there is violence, the level of violence is far less, and the level of gun violence in way less. AS we were told by some locals, if we were stopped for any reason, and then found to have a knife on us, we would have the book thrown at us.

Here in the US, we are becoming immune to gun violence. In fact, we seem to becoming immune to unnecessary and violent death - whether it's in the form of gun violence or teen traffic deaths. Specifically pertaining to the gun violence, this should present a problem to Peter Roskam. Over the years, he has been a big cheerleader of the NRA (and they, in turn, have been big donors of his). With one exception (closing the gun-show loophole that requires background checks), he has routinely supported and even proposed legislation that would ease gun ownership. He has proposed ligislation that would require the destruction of background records within 90 days (something law enforcement opposes), and routinely opposed banning assault weapons. While in the Illinois Senate, he even proposed a bill that would have prevented suburban localities from banning handguns. (For those interested, a good resource for Roskam's past records on a variety of issues, go to http://www.answers.com/topic/peter-roskam) On January 10, 2007, the Chicago Sun Times had the following Editorial:

“Banning assault weapons isn't a real issue, said Rep. Peter Roskam during his congressional campaign last fall, because there isn't any real incidence of their use in Illinois. It's a familiar refrain among NRA supporters. Well, tell that to Denise Reed, a resident of Chicago's Englewood neighborhood whose 14-year-old daughter was killed by a stray bullet from an AK-47 while looking out the living room window. And tell that to other victims -- inadvertent or other -- of gang violence involving these decidedly non-sporting firearms.”

For someone who touts himself as so vehemently "pro-life", all of this seems odd. Of course, when you also see how he has voted as far as gay rights, or fudning for supporting programs that serve the poor (and the children of the poor - the most vulnerable in our society), it might be fair to say that what Peter values is equally opportunity and protection for all fetuses and stem cells, but when it comes to a walking, talking and breathing human, it's ok to deny rights, opportunities, and protections.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Roskam and HR 547

Peter Roskam's House website (www.roskam.house.gov) is praising his first congressional amendment this past week, that passed by a 400-3 margin. Here's what his amendment calls for:

"H.R. 547 authorizes $10 million for the EPA to create three new federal programs for research to improve the transportation and storage of alternative fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel. Illinois ranks second in U.S. corn production. The corn grown in Illinois is used to produce 40 percent of the ethanol consumed in the United States. Investment by the ethanol industry in Illinois exceeds $1 billion, generating 800 jobs in plant operations and 4,000 jobs in the industry-related service sector."

Funny thing is just last month Peter voted against authorizing funds for the development of alternative, environmental and renewable fuels. In addition, the monies that Peter identified for this are already approved funds, a sort of "pay as you go" thing that Peter also voted against. So this bill passed so easily because, basically, Congress already approved it. All of a sudden, it looks like we have a slick waffler on our hands.

As my commitment is to stay with voting record, quotes, etc., and not into all the other aspects of Congressman Roskam's dealings and businesses such as fundrasing, I invite you to check out www.dumproskam.blogspot.com for more information.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Roskam's website

It’s been a slow week as far as legislation on the House floor (I’m sure that will pick up next week as the House picks up on the issue the Senate cannot – the “surge” in Iraq). So, I gave Rep. Roskam’s website a look (www.roskam.house.gov). In perusing it, I was struck that on the “Issues” page, Roskam’s office has nothing on Energy or the Environment. He does have repetitive links (Homeland Security/War on Terror – aren’t they really the same thing? Healthcare/Medicare – again, roughly the same?). None of these issues link to anything other than “under construction”, so there’s nothing there. Just interesting that perhaps the two most pressing issues have no mention. Perhaps someone should take some time to educate Peter that our dependence on foreign oil is a significant player in the War on Terror/Homeland Security, and that a healthy environment is crucial to a healthy body, which would then impact on healthcare.

But, let’s turn now to some of Peter’s own words. Here’s what he had to say about Bush’s budget proposal:
“It is imperative that the federal government reach a balanced budget without raising taxes on hard-working American families. Some argue that tax breaks are the reason for the budget deficit. I fully reject that notion. The current tax breaks have increased federal receipts. Out of control federal spending is the cause, and until we stop recklessly spending the taxpayers’ dollars and end our spendthrift ways, that debt will continue to grow. We do not have a revenue problem in Washington, we have a spending problem.”
Two things, Mr. Roskam: To “fully reject the notion” that tax breaks are the reason for the budget deficit is to deny reality; they may not be the only reason, but certainly are a part of the reason, especially when you see who has benefited the most from tax breaks (the very rich) and who hasn’t – the rest of us. Plus, for the first time in our nation's history, tax cuts have been pushed through during war time when expenses always go up. So, we can discuss the issue, but to “fully reject” suggests an inability to communicate.

Second, I think almost everyone would agree about the spending problem, so if you, Mr. Roskam, are serious about this, I would like to see you sign up with Rep. Henry Waxman and investigate the non-compete government contracts, the outsourcing, and the cronyism that has pervaded D.C. I’m sure if you were to do this, you’d quickly see that your two big campaigners – Messrs. Bush and Cheney – have been instrumental in rewarding many friends with wasteful spending. Even the current budget proposal is laden with military expenditures that have nothing to do with equipping the current soldiers, but appear to be wasteful and perhaps “perks for friends”. As cited in this morning’s NYTimes (Feb. 6, 2007) “Steven M. Kosiak, a military budget expert at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said the military appeared to taking advantage of the political support for paying for whatever the troops need to provide in the budget for other items.”

So, Mr. Roskam, if you are serious, be serious with the powers that be before you start turning to social programs that have already received cuts the past few years.