Monday, August 13, 2012

Chris Collins Thinks Substance Is For Suckers

Submitted for your skepticism.

That's an email sent by Chris Collins to supporters just a few days after GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney chose Medicare hatchet-man Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate. It's not surprising that Collins would attempt to find an attack avenue using Medicare as an issue in the NY27 race since the Ryan budget plan of 2011 received most of the credit for Congresswoman Kathy Hochul's easy victory in last year's special election in a heavily Republican district.

Collins refused to take any position whatsoever on Paul Ryan's plan for Medicare, but that didn't stop him from attempting to turn the issue into a ham-fisted attack on Kathy Hochul. As usual, Collins' latest release is so full of misdirection, fantasy and outright lies that we'll need to break it down point by point.

"Typical Kathy...

She's at it again.  After voting to cut $700 billion from Medicare and Medicare Advantage, Kathy Hochul is back to scaring seniors with half-truths, lies and distortions." 

No one is going to accuse the Collins campaign of having a sense of irony. The cuts Collins is discussing here have zero effect on benefits to seniors. They are aimed at disbursements to providers and the Medicare bureaucracy. The real fun fact about this attack is that the Ryan plan for Medicare contains the same 700 billion in cuts. Collins knows this and even told the Batavia Daily News that the Ryan plan doesn't go far enough with its cuts.

2: The second portion of the Collins email is a donation ask. This is typical for a campaign email from any candidate, a simple link to a donation page that says their opponent is killing puppies and if you want to help stop such disgusting behavior you need to send five or ten or twenty-five dollars right now.

That’s right - she’s the only candidate in this race who voted to cut Medicare - by $700 billion.
That’s the kind of hypocrisy typical politicians like Kathy are known for.  They say one thing at home, but do another in Washington. 
 Kathy Hochul is the only candidate in this race who has ever voted for any bill. She's a Congresswoman, that's sort of what they do. We've already addressed the $700 billion myth, so let's just move on.


We have serious problems ahead of us.  As a result of Barack Obama and Kathy Hochul’s reckless policies of massive debts, skyrocketing taxes and economic failure, our country is at a tipping point.  
Their failed policies have jeopardized the very programs they claim to protect - like Medicare.

There is nothing true about this statement. Taxes are at a 30 year low. Allow me to repeat that: Taxes are at a 30 year low. This cannot be denied. Collins, much like Mitt Romney is attempting to run against a fictional opponent rather than the one standing right in front of him. 


But even worse, their failed policies have jeopardized the the future of our children and grandchildren.
We need to get serious about cutting our spending, reducing the debt and fixing our economy.  To do that, we need serious leaders who will tell us the truth, and not use scare tactics like Kathy Hochul. 

Right, Collins for the kids. What does that statement even mean? Nothing, nothing at all. I'll let you decide who's using the 'scare tactic' here.


We deserve a real debate about the solutions to address these problems.  But with typical politicians like Kathy Hochul who campaign based on distortions and half truths, we won’t have that debate. That’s why we need a change. 
This little gem is the crowning achievement in this communication from Candidate Collins. A fundraising email full of distortions and half truths sent out at the direction of a candidate that refuses to have an public opinion about the issue being discussed is finished off by accusing Congresswoman Hochul of engaging in the same behavior without providing a single example of her doing so.

Chris Collins continues to be a willfully ignorant and purposefully non-substantive candidate. He uses poorly thought out e-mails and press releases to define a platform that doesn't appear to have any planks.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Taxation Misrepresentation The NY-27 Way

Last night in Washington D.C, members of the House of Representatives voted on two separate tax relief extension bills.

First up was H.R. 15, the version introduced by House Democrats. The highlights of this bill were extensions to tax cuts for the middle class through December 2013, a 5% increase in the capital gains tax that would have moved the current rate on self-replicating wealth from 15-20%, a reset of the tax rate on income over $250,000, and extensions of the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit. Local representatives Kathy Hochul, Brian Higgins and Louise Slaughter all voted in favor of the bill which was eventually defeated by House Republicans.

After defeating H.R. 15, House Republicans introduced their own, much shorter, tax bill, H.R. 8. It is shorter because it is simply a continuation of what we're doing now with some minor adjustments to specific amounts. Hochul, Higgins and Slaughter all voted against this bill, but it passed the House 256-171. It will not pass in the Senate.

Now that the background is done, let's look at how the votes on these bills are being used as campaign fodder in the NY-27 Congressional race.

Republican candidate Chris Collins wasted no time before making outrageous and barely factual statements about Kathy Hochul's votes. His statement also included a poorly constructed populist narrative that would only be construed as sincere if you didn't know anything at all about Collins.

First, the substance. In his statement, Collins accuses Hochul of voting 'against extending the Child Tax Credit and the Marriage Penalty Tax Relief which were included in the package passed by the U.S. House of Representatives today.' This, while not exactly a lie, fails to address the fact that Hochul voted for extending the Child Tax Credit in the Democratic version of the tax relief bill. This signifies that she is not opposed to the Child Tax Credit, but instead to the extension of tax breaks for millionaires. Marriage Penalty Tax relief is a misnomer at best. There was never a tax penalty for being married, only a lack of incentive to file jointly if spouses had significantly disparate incomes. Hochul supports what is essentially a return to the Clinton-era tax structure, with some extended benefits for the working class. Collins is apparently demanding that she support the status quo, which is an unbelievably dense position since the only thing we can all seem to agree about is that our economy sucks and things are terrible.

Collins then goes on to say that 'Official records show that Kathy Hochul may be one of Congress’ more wealthy members, having disclosed assets that total between $1 million and $2.3 million. In addition, Hochul and her husband, an Obama political appointee, together jointly earn over $325,000 annually, placing them in the top 1.5% of earners in the United States.' I'm not sure I've ever seen a more ironic statement from a candidate, so let's break this down.

Collins seems to be donning his populist costume here, but it doesn't fit very well. This attack on Hochul probably needs to be fisked sentence by sentence so let's drag our Bull-Shit-O-Meter up from the basement and get to work:

Sentence 1:  'Official records show that Kathy Hochul may be one of Congress’ more wealthy members, having disclosed assets that total between $1 million and $2.3 million.'
On a bullshit scale of 1-10, this statement ranks a 9.5. The only reason it wasn't a perfect 10 was because there actually is a financial disclosure document that details Hochul's assets. The rest of this sentence is nonsense. Although 2012 comparisons including liabilities were not readily available, using the best information at my disposal, it took me about ten seconds to learn that the 'official records' referenced by Collins when compared to other members of Congress actually show that Hochul is most likely in the bottom third of House members when it comes to wealth.

Sentence 2: In addition, Hochul and her husband, an Obama political appointee, together jointly earn over $325,000 annually, placing them in the top 1.5% of earners in the United States.
When I applied my Bull-Shit-O-Meter to this statement, something strange happened. The needle swung back and forth between 0 and 10, metronome style. I was confused until I realized what the problem was: I had the wrong tool. I opened my drawer and there, nestled between the Sarcastoguage and the Snarktimeter, lay my Irony-ometer. It was just what I needed and when I applied the tool to this statement, it promptly exploded.

As it turns out, the numbers used in Collins' attack on wealth are correct, but the sentiment is not. Collins seems to want you to believe that he is both Robin Hood and the Sheriff of Nottingham. There is no sincerity whatsoever in the Collins position on this issue, in fact, it assumes that you, the voter are a misinformed, zombie, coma patient...but I digress.

The Collins statement goes on to accuse Kathy Hochul of working for the government. We'll have to assume (since we are all morons) that Mr. Collins actually loathes the idea of being a Congressman and that he's just doing it because Jesus told him he had to...or something...

After that, Collins prints a list of generally bullshit talking points that were prepared by his party's majority on the Ways and Means Committee.

I feel like I'm going to be doing a lot of these little pieces on the nonsense coming out of the Collins camp between now and November, and I'm not going to let Congresswoman Hochul slide either. I absolutely detest inanity and obfuscation in political campaigns.

The Siren call of bullshit, smirking accusations seems to be too much for Collins. He simply can't help himself. He and many members of his party think their wobbly platform is enough to win as long as they can get their rabid base foaming at the mouth and the under-informed centrists to believe the nonsense.

Sadly enough, they may be right.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Chris Collins Writes A Letter

It's almost August. Too soon for anyone to care much about local elections, but not too soon for candidates to start making ridiculous statements about one another.

Enter Chris Collins and a letter he wrote to Kathy Hochul dated today, July 31st, 2012. In it, he calls on Democratic incumbent Kathy Hochul to support an extension to the 2001 and 2003 middle class and small business tax cuts and to break with the President 'just once' in order to do so.

Apparently, Mr. Collins, despite all of his self-proclaimed business acumen, has failed to learn how to count. Representative Hochul was one of only 18 house Democrats to vote with House Republicans in favor of a $46 Billion small-business tax cut last April. 

In fact, Representative Hochul, according to her congressional voting record is actually one of the most conservative members of the Democratic Caucus, voting with her party only 82% of the time. By the numbers she is the 24th most conservative Democrat out of the 192 currently serving in Congress.

As for the middle class tax cut extension, it was Representative Hochul who issued her own press release four days ago calling on Mr. Collins to support tax cut extensions for American workers.

Now, here's the important part: Middle class tax cuts don't mean the same thing to both candidates. The 2001 'middle class tax cuts' that Mr. Collins is referring to are commonly known as the Bush tax cuts that reduced tax rates on income over $500,000 roughly 3%.. When you watch MSNBC or listen to liberal talk radio, you will hear this rate commonly paired with the phrase, 'The wealthiest one percent of Americans.' These tax cuts were originally scheduled to expire at the end of 2010, but were extended after President Obama made a deal with Congress that included an extension to his own payroll tax cut as well as guaranteeing long-term unemployment benefits.

When Representative Hochul, who supports a marginal tax increase on top earning Americans, calls for extended tax relief for the middle class, she means the payroll tax cut, in place since 2010, that reduces the amount you pay the Social Securtiy Administration by about 2% and puts roughly $20-40 per week back into the pockets of  work-a-day Americans. Extended out over a year that's up to $2000 dollars extra for the average wage earner, or, in layman's terms, about 100 big boxes of diapers. This cut can accurately be described as 'middle-class' because no one in America pays a dime in social security taxes on income earned over $110,100. I doubt the Collins family ever worried much about the cost of diapers.

This game of dueling press releases cuts directly to the core of modern American politics. Our politicians do their best to run out a string of banalities designed (by professionals) to appeal to the lowest common denominator. In short, this stuff isn't complicated, but you have to want to understand it. Politicians and their handlers assume, correctly, that you don't want to understand it. You're getting what you paid for with regard to our level of debate.

Candidates like Collins and Hochul are becoming the norm.

Collins is a wealthy, empty suit who came to the fight armed with talking points about an economic policy that only works in a vacuum or an Ayn Rand novel. He's not John Galt, and neither, by the way, are you. You're not even Hank Reardon.

Hochul, like many Democrats, is bad in a different way. She makes the same assumptions about voters that Collins does, but instead of challenging them to raise their level of understanding she relies heavily on cliche. The tragedy here is that Hochul is actually very good at her job as a Congresswoman. She genuinely cares about constituents and she never misses an opportunity to communicate with people directly. Sadly, the Hochul campaign differs dramatically from the Hochul reality because she has chosen to fight on Collins' home court. No one ever told her that you can win an argument against a person who stubbornly refuses to have any clue what he's talking about.

What's the result? Two separate communications from candidates coming four days apart that look nearly identical but are addressing completely separate points.

We're not having a debate about the benefits/drawbacks of certain economic policies. We're not talking about the wars we fight. We're not talking about the weakening American middle-class. We pretend to talk about those things, they are listed as issues, but honest discussion isn't happening and it's your fault.

Don't let Chris Collins pretend to be the savior of the middle class when his entire platform is essentially a plan to protect some bourgeois notion that a wealth class hoarding money is also creating jobs for the poor. Don't let any candidate for office get away with answering your questions with a talking point from their own website. Life in America is bad and getting worse for almost all of us and our political class is being intentionally useless while we drown.