Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Columns

September 20, 2013

RONNIE ELLIS: Some random thoughts

FRANKFORT — It was a slow news week, so here are random thoughts and observations.

Last week I criticized lawmakers’ political pandering on new science standards, but this week, I saw a more positive side of lawmakers. At a meeting of the House select committee looking into allegations of sexual harassment against a former lawmaker, the three Democrats — and especially the two Republicans — sounded like they are more interested in facts and reform than in political advantage.

Republicans Robert Benvenuti and Julie Raque Adams lost two votes on party lines. Adams suggested Benvenuti — a former Inspector General in the Cabinet for Health and Family Services — chair the panel and she and Benvenuti suggested action by the committee require a super-majority vote of four.

They lost both votes 3-2 as Democrats chose Jeff Donahue to chair and voted to act by simple majority. But the general attitude was non-partisan. Given the subject and the potential for Republicans to exploit the issue in next year’s elections, that bodes well for the committee.

We suffered through another week of back-and-forth between Mitch McConnell and Alison Lundergan Grimes trying to outdo the other in their loyalty to coal. Both blamed the policies of Barack Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency.

No doubt stricter emissions standards make it hard for the industry to plan and expand. But has anyone noticed that the companies announcing layoffs of miners are shutting down existing operating mines, suggesting they can’t sell all the coal they’ve already mined?

Kentucky’s congressional Republicans are outraged over Obama’s “war on coal” and its impact on eastern Kentucky. But all five Republican House members voted to cut the SNAP or food stamp program by $40 billion, a program on which eastern Kentucky is more dependent than most of the country.

Apparently we’re headed for a government shutdown in Washington. A small number of tea party House Republicans prefer to shut the government down rather than allow the Affordable Care Act to take effect. But they’re enough to threaten Speaker John Boehner’s hold on his job, so he and the House leadership will apparently go along.

If “Obamacare” is such a disaster and so reviled why do Republicans say “this is our last best chance” to kill it? Don’t they hope to win control of the Senate in 2014 and the White House in 2016? Then why threaten seniors’ social security, the pay of our soldiers, or the feeble economic recovery now?

Could it be they fear that once the law takes effect a lot of people might like it and some of the scary descriptions of death panels, government “takeover” of health care and soaring costs might prove inaccurate?

The same Republicans also threaten to hold an increase in the debt limit hostage. Polls show the public opposes raising the debt limit. But if you ask them if the United States should pay its bills, they’ll say absolutely. The public reasonably wants spending controlled and Democrats need to compromise. But does the public really want to renege on our existing bills?

Isn’t it time someone in Washington (Democrat or Republican) explain what’s at stake if we default? That it will actually increase the deficit, likely increase mortgage rates for many of those who are against raising the debt limit; and that most reputable economists think it might wreck our economy.

Aren’t Republicans supposed to be the party of fiscal and moral responsibility, the same people telling us SNAP reductions are necessary to cut off cheats and scofflaws?

Maybe it’s asking too much for straight talk or consistency from politicians of either party these days.

RONNIE ELLIS writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at rellis@cnhi.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.

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