Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Feinstein Embraces “Pearl Harbor Style” Legislating


Radical environmentalists have realized that they cannot win a public debate arguing that a two-inch bait fish is more important than families in the San Joaquin Valley and are scrambling for a new message. They are also crafting a sneak attack to take control of our water.

The Left’s need to re-image the Delta water debate is particularly desperate due to a ruling in the U.S. District Court which rebuked the federal government as having used “sloppy science” to justify the man-made drought. Judge Oliver Wanger ordered federal agencies back to the drawing board.

However, the Left is already pressing ahead with its backup plan with the help of Senator Dianne Feinstein. That plan is concealed in massive $1.1 trillion federal spending bill for 2012 and would designate the entire Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta as a National Heritage Area. If it becomes law, the Heritage designation would establish a new federal mandate to protect the natural, scenic, historic, cultural, and recreational resources of the Delta - a thinly veiled effort to cut off valley water supplies.

Feinstein’s controversial proposal is opposed by water users, farmers, and rural communities. They understand that National Heritage Areas create another layer of government between water rights owners and the government who controls delivery. Many others would also raise concerns if they knew Congress was considering the creation of this new National Heritage Area. However Democratic leaders, at the request of Senator Feinstein, are working to bypass public debate. They want to sneak the Heritage designation into law by air-dropping it into the nearly two thousand page Fiscal Year 2012 Omnibus Appropriations bill (see page 880).

The action taking place this week is particularly outrageous coming from Senator Feinstein, who just over a year ago came unhinged when Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) tried to restore Delta pumping through an amendment on the Senate Floor.

Senator DeMint’s amendment came in the light of day and was subject to both a full public debate as well as a separate vote. Yet Senator Feinstein persisted in describing it as a “Pearl Harbor” style of legislating (see the outrageous video here).

What a difference an election makes. With her allies losing power in the House, Feinstein apparently has changed her view on sneak attacks.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Public Pension Bill Making Headlines

Pension Woes Prompt GOP Move

The new Republican House leadership, whose party benefited in November from public antipathy toward the bailout of banks, is moving to avoid a federal bailout of state and local pension funds.

Congress has little authority over, or responsibility for, state and local public-employee pensions. But with pension liabilities increasingly stressing state and municipal finances, the prospect that the problem will end up in Washington's lap has some academics and politicians urging that the federal government move preemptively.

In New Jersey, concerns about cuts in public pensions have led to a rise in retirements this year.

The latest wrinkle: A bill introduced last week by three prominent House Republicans to deny states and localities the ability to sell tax-exempt bonds—the lifeblood for many governments—unless they report their pension-fund liabilities to the Treasury Department. The federal tax-free status of interest on municipal bonds helps generate demand for the bonds and lowers government borrowing costs.

The goal, the congressmen say, is to get a better handle on funding woes of public pensions, which they say are not always forthcoming about the true extent of their financial exposure.

For decades, the federal government has regulated corporate pension funds and a federal agency, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., can bail them out.

But there is no such federal backstop for state and local employee pensions. Some argue that Washington would be hard pressed to ignore a pension plan if it threatened a major government insolvency.

"The point of this is to smoke the rats out of their holes," said Rep. Devin Nunes of California, who introduced the bill. "What is the total amount of pension debt? No one really knows."

Read the full article from the Wall Street Journal here.

Pension reality check
The Washington Post
December 8, 2010

State and local government spending stands at 12.6 percent of U.S. gross domestic product - the highest share ever. To be sure, this largely reflects the recession, during which state and local spending has been growing more slowly than it did earlier in the decade while GDP has been falling or stagnant. Still, long-term state and local financial commitments, above all for pensions and health-care benefits of public employees, are driving much of the cost. And since states have to balance their budgets, spiraling employee compensation threatens to crowd out the provision of public services such as education, recreation and road maintenance.

Getting states, counties and cities back on a sustainable budget path is primarily their own responsibility. But federal policies can help - or hurt. At the moment, Congress is considering one of each type. On the helpful side, a trio of Republican members of the House - Paul Ryan (Wis.), Darrell Issa (Calif.) and Devin Nunes (Calif.) - have proposed a bill that would require all state and local governments that issue federally tax-exempt bonds to file accurate annual reports of their pension liabilities with the Treasury Department.

Public-employee pension funds are notorious for understating their liabilities through the use of vague projections and rosy investment-return assumptions. This proposal would force pension funds to show what they would earn if invested only in super-safe Treasury securities - a reasonable point of comparison given that pension benefits are usually guaranteed by law. And the bill would declare that the federal government is not liable for covering state and local pension fund shortfalls, another incentive for such plans to enact reforms.

Read the column in the Washington Post here.

Accounting for Public Pensions
The New York Times
December 10, 2010

As companies moved away from defined-benefit plans, most cities and states did not follow. One reason for that may have been that the Government Accounting Standards Board — the public sector equivalent of FASB — has done much less to force good disclosures, or comparable ones.

Having limited information available can obscure problems, but when concerns arise, a lack of good data can have the opposite effect; people assume the worst.

Estimates of unfunded pension liabilities can be breathtaking. Two economists, Robert Novy-Marx of the University of Rochester and Joshua Rauh of Northwestern, put the figures at $3 trillion for state governments and almost $600 billion for municipalities. Those figures are far greater than official government figures, and are highly dependent on interest rate levels, which can and do fluctuate. They may be too high, but there is no way to be sure of that.

Some people say the 1974 passage of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, known as Erisa, led to the demise of private pension plans because companies for the first time really had to honor pension promises. But the trend did not pick up steam until the accountants forced disclosure of real numbers. Most state constitutions have long barred cutting public pension benefits that have been earned, but that fact alone did not force change.

This week, three Republican members of Congress, led by Representative Devin Nunes of California, a senior member of the Ways and Means Committee, proposed legislation to force states and cities to report pension fund liabilities on the same basis, and to force them to disclose market values of assets. The bill would not even allow smoothing, so the state of pension funding will seem volatile as markets rise and fall. Such volatility could be reduced by putting more pension money into bonds than stocks, but doing so would force governments to admit they were likely to earn less on investments, and thus need to put even more money into pension plans.

Read the complete column in the New York Times here.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Immigrant Children Used as a Political Prop by House Democrats


Today, all of America witnessed one more example of the current majority’s failed leadership when immigrant children were used as a political prop by House Democratic leaders.

For the past four years, Democrats had significant majorities in Congress as well as two Presidents – a Republican then a Democrat - willing to sign an immigration reform bill. However, instead of dealing with the issue in the light of day with public hearings and a thoughtful, deliberate, and responsible process, Democrats chose to force a vote on legislation during the waning days of a lame-duck Congress with little chance for debate, no chance of amendment, and no chance of getting to the President’s desk.

Make no mistake, the activity in the House today was nothing more than an attempt by Democrats in Congress to pander to Hispanic voters for partisan political purposes.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

High Speed Train Wreck

Originally printed in the Fresno Bee.

Just days before Halloween and about a week prior to the general election, the White House announced billions in stimulus spending around the country. These grants, a by-product of the stimulus slush fund created by Congressional Democrats last year, were used to provide last-minute re-election assistance to struggling Democrats.

Republicans, including myself, unanimously opposed passage of the trillion dollar boondoggle that financed these grants. At the time, I told The Bee and others that stimulus spending would not create sustainable employment, which it hasn't, but that it would be used to finance the re-election efforts of Democrats, which it was. The Bee not only failed to report my observations during the stimulus debate, but also failed to report the facts as they unfolded in our own community days before the election.

The president's effort to secure the re-election of Democrats who voted for ObamaCare manifested itself locally in a $715 million grant for high-speed rail in the San Joaquin Valley. The announcement of this funding rightly spurred outrage on the part of fiscal conservatives who not only see the stimulus spending as reckless, but view the high-speed rail project to be inappropriate, given California's financial crisis.

Setting aside the timing and manner in which the funds were awarded, as well as the fact that this spending has driven the national debt to an unprecedented and unsustainable level, it is important to understand the facts about high-speed rail in the San Joaquin Valley.

California's effort to establish a high-speed rail system has been chugging along since 1996 at anything but high speed. The projected cost of the system now exceeds $40 billion, but does anyone believe that this will be the true cost?

In one year, from 2008 to 2009, the High Speed Rail Authority was forced to raise its cost projections from $32.6 to $42.6 billion. Indeed, the final price tag of high-speed rail could easily exceed the combined federal highway spending in California for the 50 years from 1957-2007.

Given the enormous cost increases of California's high-speed rail so far, it is not unreasonable to question whether this project really has the necessary funding. Yet some have suggested that the $715 million grant announcement by the White House solidifies the future of the project. The fine print tells a different story and shows that this enormous undertaking will require billions in bonds, if the state can sell them.

However, even if the funding arrives as planned, Californians are likely to witness obstacles to their first ride on their new bullet train. The nonpartisan state auditor's report on California's High Speed Rail Authority says that the plan "risks delays or an incomplete system because of inadequate planning, weak oversight, and lax contract management."

Recent celebrations over high-speed rail in the Valley should be viewed with skepticism by taxpayers. Particularly when those dollars are promised by the now infamous Dustbowl Democrats who helped take away our region's water supply, decimated our timber industry and fueled a mass exodus of small businesses and entrepreneurs. Indeed, recent years have witnessed high levels of domestic outmigration as long-time residents vote with their feet by leaving the state.

The Bee and other proponents of the high-speed rail plan need to take an honest look at the cost of this plan within the context of the fiscal realities we face. To do otherwise risks a high-speed train wreck of public debt, which may or may not include a completed bullet train.

Now is not the time for fairytales about the future of travel in California, nor is it time to celebrate jobs that have yet to materialize.

The passage of time will tell taxpayers whether they were tricked or treated by President Obama's Halloween surprise. In the meantime, I would hope that Bee writers would refrain from mischaracterizing my remarks in an attempt to blame Republicans in order to protect the Dustbowl Democrats from their own political stunts.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Westlands Water Boarding: The Truth About The Valley Drought Masters.


In 1938, after signing the Munich Agreement with Nazi Germany, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain triumphantly returned to the United Kingdom to declare that the agreement will bring “peace for our time.”

His policy of appeasement and failure to challenge German aggression resulted in six years of war and inevitably dragged the United States into World War II.

The world paid a terrible price to learn that appeasement cannot bring peace but only delays war and emboldens aggressors.

Over the past five years, we have seen another kind of appeasement unfold in the San Joaquin Valley. Water managers have made the decision to appease radical environmentalists who have long sought to replace humans in the valley with tumble weeds and dust devils.

Like Chamberlain, water managers and some farming groups capitulated to a dangerous aggressor. In doing so, they adopted their own version of the Munich Agreement.

The San Joaquin River Settlement was sold as an agreement that would end all lawsuits “for our time.” Farmers and rural communities were promised that the river would be restored but the water would be recovered. Yet appeasement delivered no security and since the agreement was signed into law, new lawsuits have arisen and none of the lost water has been recovered.

In the meantime, radical environmentalists’ Field Marshall, Congressman George Miller, has taken aim at Westlands Water District. In a letter, Miller claims Westlands is deceiving the public and selling “extra” water.

Westlands took their opportunity to set the record straight. But Westlands also used the opportunity to appease valley Democrats and Senator Feinstein – legislators who have voted in favor of fish over families.

Attacking the radical environmental community’s field commander while paying homage to the region’s drought masters seriously undermines the position of Westlands’ farmers. It also threatens San Joaquin Valley communities that depend on Delta water. This self-destructive behavior is akin to death by a thousand cuts.

The irony is that Westlands has a long history of standing up to radical environmentalists, but their actions this week have put them in the same league as many other valley farm groups who have been apologists for valley democrats and Senator Feinstein for decades.

In Washington DC, it is nearly impossible to tell the difference between the valley Democrat drought masters and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, radical environmentalist Congressman George Miller, and liberal senators Feinstein and Boxer. They all voted for Obamacare, voted for the Wall Street bailout, voted to divert water from families to support a billion dollar salmon fishery, and they all support the union card check bill. Finally, they all voted to keep the pumps off and will never voluntarily turn them back on.

While this grand game of appeasement continues, Westlands should keep in mind that their beloved valley drought master legislators are telling them one thing but doing something completely different in Washington DC.

Will the Westlands Water District be holding their next meeting in Munich?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

My Thoughts on the Pledge to America


Some conservatives may look at the House Republican “Pledge to America” with concern – not over what it contains, but what it does not contain. There are, after all, several big issues that are not tackled, including energy security, fundamental tax and entitlement reforms. But I see this initiative as an important step in a far more ambitious plan to restore American liberty and prosperity.

First, the rubber stamp would be put away and the Obama Administration would be subject to meaningful oversight – something essential to the preservation of our freedoms.

Second, the House of Representatives - governed by a new Republican majority - will serve as the standard bearer for limited government and the strict adherence to America’s Constitutional principles.

And thirdly, Democracy will be restored to the People’s House after many tarnished years under the iron fist of Speaker Pelosi and her allies. Committees will examine and write legislation, not unaccountable special interests in the backrooms of the Speaker’s office. Ideas will be debated again, in place of intimidation and vote buying. Bills will actually be read before they are voted on and the American people will again have their voice heard.

These are good reasons to support the “Pledge to America,” as are the many proposals it contains to slim down and reign in government. However, the pledge should be viewed as the starting point not the ultimate solution to our nation’s enormous challenges.

Click here to download and learn more about the Pledge to America.

Click here to read about my comprehensive energy reforms contained in the Roadmap for Americans Energy Future.

Click here to read about A Roadmap for America’s Future, which fundamentally reforms our nation’s tax, healthcare, entitlement, and retirement security programs.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

White House Koch Attack


Modern leftists, much like their communist forefathers, have long used the power of government to exert control and silence dissent. The erosion of free speech in America has come in a number of ways, not all of which are the result of new laws. Such is the case today.

I recently learned that the White House has launched an attack against a privately owned American company, Koch Industries. This attack may include the unlawful use of Internal Revenue Service documents.

As a Member of the House Committee on Ways and Means, which has jurisdiction over the IRS, I am highly concerned that the White House may be prying into the tax returns of its political enemies. For this reason, I have called on my Chairman, Rep. Sander Levin, to immediately conduct oversight inquires into the actions of the Obama White House. Should Chairman Levin fail to do so, I am hopeful that November will bring into power a majority willing to uncover the truth.

The White House attack against Koch is politically motivated. The White House wants to end the company’s lawful financial support for conservative and libertarian causes – effectively silencing its opponents.

Koch’s financial support goes to organizations like Humane Studies, a non-profit that underwrites libertarian academics, the Bill of Rights Institute, another non-profit that advocates adherence to our nation’s Constitution, and the CATO Institute, America’s leading libertarian think tank.

These Koch funded organizations and others like them represent the views of the company’s private owners – men who support limited government and libertarian causes. Their work stands in sharp contrast to that of George Soros, the billionaire socialist who created The philanthropy of these two billionaires helps frame the ideological struggle confronting America today.

Koch’s giving has helped organizations that believe in American freedom and the Republic form of government. Soros on the other hand has built an empire of radical liberal politics. The seeds of Soros’ investments have grown to promote European Socialism in America, a renaissance of big government, and the unprecedented centralization of power.

In recent years, Democrats have become increasingly militant in their efforts to shake down corporate America. For the most part, big business has been willing to participate in the Democratic Party’s protection racket in order to prevent Congress and the President from doing something worse.

The examples are endless. The President extorted insurance and pharmaceutical companies as part of his health care reform initiative; Democrats in Congress extorted America’s financial sector under the auspices of financial sector reform; and radical environmentalists and their friends in Congress have transformed big oil into a cash cow to fund global warming hysteria.

In each case companies like Chrysler, Royal Dutch Shell, and General Electric have either directly financed attacks on our nation’s freedom or agreed not to oppose the attacks in order to maintain favor with their rulers.

The White House attack against Koch is an assault on American liberty. It sends a chilling message to conservative philanthropists concerned about the future of our nation and it signals that, as far as the White House is concerned, equal protection under the law only applies to the President’s supporters. The fact that the White House has chosen this path suggests that President Obama is leading a paranoid, insecure, and dictatorial Administration – one that is in desperate need of better Congressional oversight.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

GOP Decision Time: A Great Leap Toward Honesty


A shorter version of this commentary ran in the Washington Examiner on September 3, 2010. It was featured by Big Government on September 9, 2010.

When John Boehner was first elected Republican leader, he said he felt like the dog that caught the car. This is a metaphor for someone who works hard to achieve a major goal, only to be confronted with the age old question “What do we do now?” If Republicans take back the House and Senate, the party will actually be the dog that caught the car.

Victory at the polls means Republicans will inherit an angry electorate that has been voting for change since 2006. The country is at a crossroads. In one direction there is big, centralized government that usurps the rights of states, local communities, and individual Americans. It’s the job of the Republican leaders to outline another direction, but that direction is not yet clear to them. This must change before the next election.

Americans punished Republicans in the 2006 and 2008 elections. Conventional wisdom said the country wanted change. The truth is that Americans saw no real difference between Democrats and Republicans. The Republican brand has gone stale and paved the way for a new era of big government and socialism. As Newsweek boldly proclaimed in early 2009, “We are all socialists now.”

Thankfully, the prospect of this socialist era enduring is slim. The American public has learned what socialistic polices really mean. A budget deficit that was $161 billion when the Democrats took control of Congress in 2007 and four years later projected to be $1.47 trillion; and a national debt held by the public that was $5 trillion and four years later projected to be $9.2 trillion. This and a lot more, including a projected $2.6 trillion cost to implement the Democrats’ healthcare bill, have soured the experience of most Americans with a Socialist Golden Age. As Margaret Thatcher said, “…Socialist governments traditionally do make a financial mess. They always run out of other people's money.” We just didn’t know that the White House and the Democratic Congress would run out of other people’s money so soon, or that they could accelerate our financial mess so rapidly.

President Obama will be remembered in history for his sweeping legislative success in bringing about an unprecedented era of big government in an American “Great Leap Forward.” And like China’s Great Leap Forward under Mao during the late 1950s and early 1960s, the result will be economic failure. At the forefront of our financial mess are broken entitlement programs. The President has hastened our financial catastrophe but he is not alone in doing nothing to fix the unfunded entitlement liabilities, which are in excess of $60 trillion for Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. The line of politicians wanting to avoid this problem, or unwilling to understand it, extends back for decades.

The Republican leadership has taken the innovative approach of “listening” to the American public, using the latest technology to give Americans a voice in their government. Americans can go online or use their cell phones to recommend cuts in spending on the Republican Whip’s site “You Cut” or submit their ideas to the Republican Leader’s site “America Speaking Out.” Good ideas are then mentioned on the floor of the House of Representatives or may be included in any future Republican agenda.

But listening will only get you so far. At what point do Republican leaders break the news that the country is racing toward financial catastrophe? The Republican Party is not serving the American people well if its leaders imply that catastrophe can be avoided by texting votes for cuts that even if they were adopted would have little impact on our nation’s growing debt. A freeze in spending is good; eliminating earmarks is great; shutting an entire cabinet agency might even be better. Yet after all that, our country still goes bankrupt because the tough decisions on entitlement and tax reform are being ignored.

Republicans should learn a lesson from the Contract With America. In 1994, Republican candidates ran on a set of promises that had been poll tested and focused grouped. An election was won and there were legislative successes in the 12 years that followed. Yet by 2006 and the end of Republican control of Congress, the GOP had failed to convince the public that they could govern any better than the Democrats. The lesson is clear: Republicans have to define themselves through more than rhetoric and platitudes as the protectors of states’ rights, local community control, and, most importantly, individual freedom from the growing power of the federal government.

As the 2010 elections rapidly approach, the Republican leadership must put forward a credible plan that reforms entitlements, simplifies the tax code, and has a real energy policy. These policy changes would result in a balanced budget, a shrinking trade deficit, repayment of the national debt, and put Americans back to work. History will reward Republicans if we are honest with the American people; but first we must be honest with ourselves.

Devin Nunes, a Republican, represents the 21st congressional district of California. He is the author of Restoring the Republic (WND, 2010).

Friday, July 30, 2010

A GOP Energy Alternative


Out of the most tedious congressional debate sometimes comes a little ray of policy sunshine. The GOP got a glimmer this week.

As congressional Democrats plotted how to make their "oil-spill" legislation a political liability for Republicans, and as Republicans flapped over how to avoid that fate, one GOP member excused himself from the circus. California Rep. Devin Nunes instead unveiled his "Energy Roadmap," a companion bill to Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan's plan for tax and spending reform. Mr. Nunes wants to get his party thinking about a modern, principled energy policy. Lord knows the GOP could use the help.

Republicans have spent the past decade staying largely true to their belief in cheap fossil fuels, but the rise of the climate debate and "green energy" flummoxed them. Unwilling to be seen as against "clean" energy, they embraced green subsidies. Some excused it as the political price of continued drilling; others just liked the pork.

Calif. Rep. Devin Nunes's nuclear proposal would do more to reduce carbon emissions than any Democratic plan on the table.

Whatever the reason, it's been a boon for ethanol, solar panels, switch grass and General Electric. The Republicans' 2005 energy bill was an ode to Jimmy Carter, putting the government back in charge of picking energy winners and losers via handouts and loan guarantees. President Bush praised "wood chips." Even as gas prices soared to chants of "drill, baby, drill," Republicans carefully adopted the motto: "All of the above." Heaven forbid anyone think Republicans were not for solar water heaters.

And yet this defensive crouch has not, in fact, earned Republicans more oil drilling or nuclear power. All it has done is distort energy markets and embolden Democrats to ratchet back fossil fuels, crank up subsidies, and go for cap and tax. Republicans dissemble, having long ago ceded the right to talk about free energy markets.

On nearly any policy issue—Social Security, taxes, health care, education—Republicans are at least aware of a savvy conservative reform position. Not so energy policy, where they remain confused.

Purists will advocate getting government out of the regulatory way while axing all subsidies—and that would indeed be bliss. But it doesn't help Republicans with today's political realities. The carbon debate will continue to rage; renewables aren't going away; and many Americans worry about both foreign oil and the environment.

Mr. Nunes' interest is how to answer these concerns in a more free-market way. The Californian's road map is the product of years of work, most recently with Mr. Ryan and a handful of Republicans with energy expertise—Illinois's John Shimkus, Utah's Rob Bishop, and Idaho's Mike Simpson. It's a bill designed to produce energy, not restrict it. It returns government to the role of energy facilitator, not energy boss. It costs nothing and contains no freebies. It instead offers a competitive twist to government support of renewable energy.

The bill is unabashedly focused on allowing America to responsibly access more of its own low-cost resources. It opens up more of the Outer Continental Shelf, and takes another run at opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It restores the leasing for Western oil shale that the Obama administration has squelched.

Rather than throw federal loan guarantees at uncertain nuclear plants, the legislation attacks the true problem: bureaucratic roadblocks. It streamlines a creaky regulatory process, requires the timely up-or-down approval of 200 plants over 30 years, and offers new flexibility for dealing with nuclear waste. Mr. Nunes likes to point out that his nuclear provision alone would do more to reduce carbon emissions than any Democratic proposal in existence. And it would in fact create, ahem, green jobs. Imagine that.

The bill accepts the argument that renewables serve a purpose but can't yet compete against traditional energy. It would divert all the federal resource royalties into a fund. Companies or individuals with proven renewable technology would take part in a reverse auction. They'd bid for government bucks; those that can produce the most megawatts for the least money win. Auction winners forego other federal handouts. And consider this: The more fossil fuel extraction, the more royalties (potentially hundreds of billions of dollars) available to boost alternative energy.

In a better world, renewables would sink or swim. But Mr. Nunes notes that if there is a public will for supporting these technologies, this is at least a "more free-market and transparent way to deploy them immediately." Today, bureaucrats choose unproven technologies on which to bestow taxpayer grants. Blanket tax credits flow to industries—regardless of individual companies' merit. Auction participants, in contrast, would compete, and the market would first have a say in their success. If the GOP is determined to go green, this is megawatts more principled than the status quo.

Mr. Nunes doesn't suggest his bill is the end-all-be-all; his primary goal is to get his party engaged. Watch for the GOP response. The Republican leadership has shown little inclination to adopt bold proposals for the midterms. And the oil spill has spooked it on energy. Yet Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's recent decision to shelve cap-and-tax has shown that even Democrats now acknowledge the public isn't buying their high-cost, government mandate, subsidy approach. If not some new GOP energy principles now, when?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Gangsters Going Green in our National Forests: Marijuana Green


Yesterday, I introduced the Federal Lands Counterdrug Strategy and Enforcement Enhancement Act (H.R. 5645), legislation designed to combat drug trafficking on our nation’s public lands.

Drug traffickers, primarily Mexican and Asian drug gangs involved with cannabis cultivation and marijuana distribution, are increasingly using our nation’s public lands to operate large-scale operations. Eighty three percent of all plants eradicated from U.S. forests between 2004 and 2008 were removed from national forests in California. Sadly, Tulare County recorded three consecutive seasons in which the number of marijuana plants seized exceeded $1 billion.

This illicit activity poses a significant threat to our nation and those Americans who choose to camp, hike, hunt, ride, or otherwise use our nation’s public lands.

Traffickers find the remoteness of the public lands appealing as it reduces the risk of detection. By cultivating marijuana on our public lands, international drug trafficking organizations avoid the risk and expense of smuggling their product across the border. It also makes distribution less risky because it can be easily driven to major cities, where it is distributed to street dealers. Accordingly, cultivation of marijuana is expanding from the “M7” states (California, Hawaii, Kentucky, Oregon, Tennessee, Washington, and West Virginia) into Utah, Idaho, Texas, Wisconsin, and Ohio.

Drug traffickers also are growing increasingly aggressive toward law enforcement officials and members of the public who enter the area in which drugs are being cultivated and produced. They are encircling their plots – some of which have as many as 75,000 plants – with crude explosives and patrolling them with firearms, including AK-47s. In one instance reported last year by The Washington Post, two Lassen County law enforcement officers were wounded by a gunman guarding a grove on Bureau of Land Management property. In another incident, an eight-year-old boy and his father were shot after they accidentally stumbled onto a hidden marijuana grow in El Dorado County. One Placer County law enforcement official reported that, “In every garden, every single encounter, we find weapons.”

Moreover, drug traffickers are causing serious and extensive environmental damage to our public lands. Animal poisons are used as are chemical repellants, fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides – many of which are banned in the United States. Traffickers often pour fertilizer directly into streams and pools and run it through their homemade irrigation systems. The use and abandonment of these and other hazardous substances – such as gasoline – results in toxic levels of chemicals in the soil, groundwater, streams, and rivers. Eventually, these hazardous substances enter our residential and agricultural water supplies.

I find this situation utterly unacceptable. We cannot meaningfully address drug trafficking on public lands without a comprehensive strategy. Such a strategy has been authorized and developed for the southwestern border and I am firmly convinced that one should be done to better combat drug trafficking on public lands.

The legislation that I have introduced will directly address this situation by requiring the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to develop a strategy to combat drug trafficking on public lands. My legislation will also increase the penalties available for cultivating or manufacturing drugs on public land.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Monuments to Unemployment


As Americans confront the economic hardship of double digit unemployment and economic stagnation, they are looking to their national leaders with growing distrust. And why shouldn’t they? Leaders in Washington have shown a disregard for the economic health of our country, pursuing policies that destroys jobs, lowers economic growth and bankrupts the U.S. government.

President Obama may soon worsen economic conditions—particularly in rural America. According to a leaked Department of Interior (DOI) memo, the President is currently considering the establishment of 14 new National Monuments in 9 states. These designations will have a devastating impact on surrounding communities because a monument designation forces out people dependent on public lands for their economic survival.

Without logging, mining, drilling, and other resource management activities, communities in and around these new monuments lose their jobs. Economic collapse comes astonishingly fast as the infrastructure needed to extract, process and transport resources vanishes almost overnight. Meanwhile, our nation becomes increasingly dependent on foreign energy sources, timber, and even food.

The ability of Presidents to act unilaterally and restrict access to public lands is rooted in the Antiquities Act of 1906. The century old law was enacted in response to fears of the destruction and theft of U.S. archaeological sites and treasures; since then, it has been used on a much grander scale by both Democratic and Republican administrations. Today, there are 71 National Monuments located in 26 states, covering some 136 million acres.

Many of these monuments warrant protective status. Montezuma Castle National Monument in Arizona, for example, represents one of the best preserved cliff dwellings in North America, while the Aztec Ruins National Monument in New Mexico protects the prehistoric remains of an ancestral Pueblo society. The protection of these sites and others like them was in accordance with the intent of the Antiquities Act, which authorized the President to proclaim national monuments on federal lands with “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest.”

However, various White House Administrations have interpreted the law as providing the President much broader powers—a view upheld by the courts. This has made the Antiquities Act an irresistible tool of radical environmentalists and their allies seeking to restrict access to public lands. Environmental politics was behind, for example, President Clinton’s establishment of 19 new monuments – including designations in California – that decimated the state’s timber industry. California lost 84 wood product mills and factories, representing more than 54,000 jobs. Sierra Forest Products and the small community of Dinuba were among the casualties as Sierra and Sequoia National Park timber production plummeted from 183 million board feet per year to only 10 million.

These “political” monument designations are clearly not in keeping with the spirit or intent of the Antiquities Act. For this reason, I have introduced legislation – the National Monuments Designation Transparency and Accountability Act – that requires all new monuments to be approved by Congress within two years of their establishment. Without Congressional approval, a monument designation made under the reformed Antiquities Act would terminate as would any restrictions placed upon its uses.

To restore meaningful oversight and transparency, consultation with local communities and the public will be required prior to future designations. My bill will also require that within a year of a new monument designation, the Department of Interior produce a report on its economic impact, in addition to the impact on our nation’s energy security.

The changes I have outlined are intended to prevent use of the Antiquities Act for political purposes. My bill will not eliminate existing National Monument designations, nor will it prevent the President from acting to protect national treasures or important historic sites in the future. Instead, the reforms I propose will force the President to justify his actions before the American people. Without reform, rural America remains at risk of politically motivated land restrictions that not only undermine our economy but increase our nation’s dependence on importation of goods that can and should be produced here.

Many organizations associated with public lands and rural America support the reforms I have outlined. To date, endorsements have come from: American Sheep Industry Association, Arizona Wool Growers Association, California Forestry Association, California Wool Growers Association, Colorado Wool Growers Association, Idaho Wool Growers Association, Independent Oil Producers Association, Montana Wool Growers Association, National Association of Counties, Public Lands Council, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Nevada Cattlemen’s Association, Nevada Wool Growers Association, New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association, New Mexico Federal Lands Council, New Mexico Wool Growers, Inc., Northern New Mexico Stockmen’s Association, Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, Oregon Sheep Growers Association, South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association, Texas Sheep & Goat Raisers Association, Utah Cattlemen’s Association, Utah Wool Growers Association, Washington State Sheep Producers, and Wyoming Wool Growers Association.

If you or your organization would like to be added as supporters of the National Monument Designation Transparency and Accountability Act, please contact my office.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Garden of Eden Without A Garden


Recently, U.S. District Court Judge Oliver Wanger ruled that the science used to block Delta water deliveries to farmers and rural communities was flawed and incomplete. The judge’s order, which increases water flows to our communities, is a significant victory for farmers. But is it time to celebrate?

Some in our community, including political leaders, have grasped this decision as evidence that San Joaquin Valley residents can win their water back, despite inaction by Congress. The truth, however, is that Judge Wanger’s decision will not provide water supply certainty to valley farmers or residents. That’s because the judge’s decisions are made within the confines of bad laws sent down to him by Congress – laws that have been expanded, exploited and transformed by the left in order to gain control of our nation’s vast resources. For this reason, it’s not a matter of if but when the courts will be forced to restrict pumping activity again.

San Joaquin Valley farmers have delivered a bounty to our nation and the world. This bounty has come from hard working family farmers who cultivate the bulk of our nation’s fruit and vegetables using the most advanced cultural techniques available. Many of the more than 300 crops produced in California are grown exclusively in our state and are recognized around the world for their quality. However, without reliable water supplies there would not be enough food produced from San Joaquin Valley farms to feed Californians, let alone the world. Despite this fact, legislators continue to enact laws like the San Joaquin River Settlement that reduce our water supplies and dry up farmland.

It is no secret that environmental activists and their patrons in the Democratic Party want to transform our region into marshland and desert. These radicals are seeking the restoration of the natural landscape of the San Joaquin Valley and admit that such an effort would require abandoning at least 1.3 million acres of farmland. A key element of this plan involves the incremental diversion of the water supplies needed by farmers and rural communities. These diversions are made in the name of the environment but lack the scientific grounding to demonstrate any meaningful environmental benefit.

Pressure from suffering farmers and residents, which has gained significant national exposure over the past year, did not compel Congress to legislate relief to end the government-imposed drought. However, as a token to valley leaders, Democrats funded a Delta water study by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). Water groups, farming organizations and Democratic lawmakers sold this new study to the public as the precursor for change in how Delta water is managed. These hopes, however, ignore the presence of environmental radicals and activists that populate government and pollute policy.

We have already witnessed clear political bias at the NAS. A prominent scientist, Dr. Patricia Glibert, was recently removed from the NAS committee studying the Delta because her research didn’t support the claim that water exports are harming the environment. Dr. Glibert’s research suggests that urban wastewater pollution and high ammonia concentrations are to blame for species decline in the Delta – a fact long argued by San Joaquin Valley water users. However, environmentalists and their Democratic friends in Congress reject this possibility because it would interfere with their campaign to end Delta water exports.

The consequence of Dr. Gilbert’s removal is significant. It stacks the deck against an honest evaluation of the science used to attack valley farmers and allows activists to manipulate the outcome. Indeed, Dr. Gilbert’s removal resulted in the resignation of another prominent researcher, Michael McGuire, who explained that he couldn’t contribute to the final NAS report if all views were not considered.

The NAS is being exploited to justify suffering in the San Joaquin Valley – with no real discussion of the facts. The silencing of Dr. Gilbert would be laughable if we were describing a study commissioned by the former Soviet Union, but we are talking about U.S. National Academy of Science.

What does all of this mean? San Joaquin Valley residents will remain in the cross hairs of radicals for the foreseeable future. It is unfortunate that the views of these radicals are not more widely scrutinized by the press – particularly in our region, the western front in the battle against radical environmentalists. Instead, organizations like the Natural Resources Defense Council, Defenders and Wildlife, and EarthFirst are free to conduct their anti-capitalist, anti-development campaign behind what amounts to an environmental Iron Curtain. Those of us who try to expose the truth often find ourselves with few allies. Instead, we are often mocked and ridiculed; or worse subject to epithets in an attempt to change the subject and destroy us personally.

Ongoing efforts to block water deliveries to our region and points further south are clearly part of a nightmarish master plan to control California’s basic natural resources and prevent them from being used in economic development. With this power, the radical environmentalists can achieve their goal of transforming the San Joaquin Valley into a Godless green utopia; that is, a Garden of Eden without a garden.

It is time for Californians and, in particular, San Joaquin Valley residents, to take a stand. We must all recognize that donations to radical environmental groups help finance the assault on our communities. These groups infest our schools with propaganda and hijack local governments with green causes based on junk science.

San Joaquin Valley residents, including our region’s hard working family farmers, are not enemies of the environment. Far from destroying nature, the great water projects of the 20th Century enhanced our environment by creating a greenbelt suited to growing crops that feed the world. Our rich agricultural heritage can be kept alive but only if politicians are held accountable for their actions not their words.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Cuban Communists and the California Farm Bureau


Earlier today, the House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee held a hearing to discuss the liberalization of trade with Communist Dictator Castro’s government. You can see video of the hearing here.

You can read my full remarks to the committee below:

Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade

"I do not support liberalizing trade with Cuba, a nation governed by a brutal Communist Dictatorship. To justify this initiative, some may draw parallels with China or other foreign powers that have also been hostile to American freedom. But make no mistake, Cuba is not China and these comparisons are not valid. Here are a few reasons why:

• Cuba, not China, is stoking anti-American sentiment throughout the Western Hemisphere and is openly hostile to our nation.

• Cuba is a state sponsor of terrorism – along with Iran, Syria, and Sudan.

• Cuba is one of a handful of totalitarian states remaining in the world, alongside Burma and North Korea.

• Trade with Cuba means trade with one company – Alimport. Any talk of open trade with Cuba is a distortion. What we are talking about is open trade with Castro’s import/export regime.

Let me be clear, I am not defending Chinese currency manipulation. And I believe the U.S. has many challenges ahead with respect to our relationship with China. But it is inappropriate and dangerous to use the China model of engagement for the brutal totalitarian regime in Cuba.

And while I understand that American foreign policy has taken on a bold new look and feel under the Obama Administration, I am compelled to ask a basic question: Is this Congress seriously proposing to advance trade with terrorist states before completing work on agreements with Democratic allies and strategic partners?

Trade with Cuba is not a question of economics, it is a matter of geopolitics and American national security.

I recognize that liberalization might make a few Americans a lot of money. And I don’t blame certain elements of our economy, including the California Farm Bureau, for entertaining profits over the larger ideals of freedom and national security.

To my knowledge, no members of the California Farm Bureau have been murdered for their political views. Here is a picture depicting Cubans murdered by the Castro regime.

And it might come as a surprise to supporters of trade with Cuba that killing a cow in that country, without government permission, results in longer prison sentences than killing a human being.

The California Farm Bureau and other exporters do not represent this nation’s national interests. The American people are tired of sectional interests governing our country. As leaders, we are charged with the responsibility of putting aside these narrow interests in favor of the national interest.

As a Representative of California’s number one agriculture district, I can assure you I have done so with respect to Cuba.

Yet, I fear many of my colleagues have lost sight of this responsibility.

While we discuss trade with Cuba, this committee has sat idle while Congressional leaders have blocked consideration of vital agreements with Columbia, Panama, and South Korea.

Our allies in Central and South America are under constant assault by hostile powers – including Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez. Without our support, we leave these friendly Democracies at the mercy of anti America sentiment and militant Marxist ideology.

So I ask, when will the House consider the Columbian and Panamanian agreements?

And while we are asking questions, I would also like to know why so many anti-trade Democrats - those responsible for holding up consideration of important free trade agreements with our Democratic allies - are so intent on liberalizing trade with the Communist Dictatorship in Cuba?

I understand that some in this House may share the Marxist views of Castro and Chavez, but we must all recognize that American freedom is incompatible with these regimes.

And quite frankly, with so many opportunities to enhance trade relationships with democracies, it is utterly incomprehensible that time and tax dollars are being wasted on Cuba. Yet here we sit.

I urge my Democratic colleagues to take a stand one way or the other. Either end the waiting game currently confronting our allies – Columbia, South Korea, and Panama, and give them a vote on their trade agreements. Or kill them now and get on with your agenda.

Perhaps some of my colleagues would be more comfortable negotiating free trade agreements with Iran, North Korea and Venezuela."

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Dimmer Switch in the Oval Office: Obama’s Energy Rationing Plan


Two of President Obama’s advisors testified before the House Ways and Means Committee this week to discuss U.S. energy policy (view my questions here). They focused on “green energy” yet were forced to admit that windmills and solar panels will be inadequate to satisfy our nation’s growing needs (see details from my 2008 report here).

Our nation’s current energy supply is inadequate and we are dangerously close to capacity in many regions – relying on outdated transmission and generation systems. Consumers are paying the price with high rates, not only in California but in many other states.

Furthermore, more than half of our energy comes from imports. This makes the United States highly vulnerable to external pressures and economically damaging price shocks – more so than at any time in our history.

What is the Obama solution to this problem?

Energy “productivity” and government control are the linchpins of his plan. In this instance, “productivity” is radical environmentalist code for high energy prices and forced rationing. (You can see President Obama admitting high prices will be part of his plan by clicking here.)

If President Obama and his Democrat supermajorities in Congress have their way, new government edicts and bureaucrats will dictate how you use energy and under what circumstances energy consuming products can be sold to Americans.

The Energy Star system, developed to inform consumers and encourage conservation, will become an Energy Czar system with national laws that mirror California’s outrageous policy banning big screen televisions. Economic prosperity and affordable energy are directly linked. Without abundant and affordable energy supplies to grow our economy, more jobs will be sent to China and other nations that make actual energy production a priority.

We can’t let President Obama put a dimmer switch in the Oval Office – where our consumption of energy will be subject to the whims of Soviet-style resource allocators.

There is a better way.

I will soon be introducing a bill I am co-sponsoring with Rep. Paul Ryan called The Roadmap for America’s Energy Future, which is part of our larger Roadmap reform initiative. The bill takes advantage of our nation’s abundant fossil fuel resources, along with extensive nuclear power development, to power America until advanced alternatives are able to replace them. Keep an eye on my blog and website for details in the coming weeks.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Soviet Socialism, American Leftists, and European PIGS


(On April 1, 2010, The Flash Report publish my article on "Soviet Socialism, American Leftists, European PIGS.")

We have heard a lot lately about my comments relating Obamacare to the failed socialist policies of the Soviet Union. Liberals and a host of radical leftists have mocked my observation in their blogs and some mainstream news outlets have even poked fun at me. However, the transformation of America is no laughing matter.

The parallels between leftist policies today and those of failed socialist states are undeniable; so much so that even a Russian state-owned news commentator was forced to concede my point:

“Republican Devin Nunes accused the bill of continuing the failed Soviet experiment. He was overly emotional but there is a grain of truth in what he said... Apparently, the socialist experience has proved too tempting to be resisted.” (RIANOVOSTI News, March 22, 2010)
Thanks to increasing regulation, rising taxes and greater centralization of power in Washington America is slowly leaving behind the foundation of its economic strength; namely the entrepreneurial energy that comes from freedom. And while a full-fledged Marxist revolution may not be on the horizon, the transformation of America in the image of European socialism is real and it should be of great concern to us all.

The most obvious example of failed central planning remains the Soviet Union. However, failed socialist policies are not limited to the history books. Consider the economic decline and social unrest in Europe.

As a result of government dominance throughout the European economy, member states are facing the current global economic crisis with limited options. The direct pain confronting Europeans is therefore magnified, just as the prospects for economic recovery are limited. These limitations are practical, resulting from the patchwork of laws and regulations imposed on their economies, as well as political, the result of mass dependence on government programs—a dependence shared by all but a handful of wealthy elites.

Evidence of this fact is widely available today. For example, French leaders recently cut federal spending in an attempt to address their national debt crisis. The cuts, however, resulted in massive general strikes, as well as social unrest—riots, looting and mass demonstrations.

Throughout Europe political leaders have been burned in effigy by protestors. They are being forced to choose between social order and financial order. Pay cuts for government employees, for example, result in general strikes. More radical reforms, including those needed for long-term economic health, can’t even be discussed openly.

In the final analysis, without the support of the masses, EU governments are left without the ability to change course and are forced to preside over national decline. I refer to this condition as an economic death spiral.

EU democracies face this threat because deficit spending cannot sustain an economy long-term. At some point, foreign lenders will resist additional financing—a problem already faced by a group of European countries known as the PIGS. The PIGS are Portugal, Ireland, Greece, and Spain. Together they have a combined debt of approximately $198 billion. Spain’s debt is highest, at $116 billion, followed by Greece at $37 billion, Ireland at $30 billion and Portugal at $15 billion.

Some have suggested these nations could be the first in the developed world to default on their credit obligations but the more likely scenario is that they will face long-term economic stagnation. This means high unemployment, high interest rates and little prospect for improvement.

Interestingly, you don’t have to look as far as Europe to find such as doomsday scenario. Leftists in California have driven the state to the brink of bankruptcy with a deficit of $20 billion. If major reforms are not enacted, California will join the PIGS of Europe as another failed social democracy. Perhaps worse, if Obamacare and other Democratic policies are allowed to continue unaltered, America itself will join in this fate.

Click here for the link to my article.

Friday, March 26, 2010

How to "Bee" a Victim


The Fresno Bee seems to have joined forces with the Socialist Worker, an online propaganda tool of extreme leftists, in defense of the very people who are taking our jobs away. Together, they want you to believe that Democrats are the victims of partisanship, not the party responsible for it.

Now that the President’s big government health bill has become law, Democratic lawmakers are scrambling to divert the public’s attention away from themselves. Democrats don’t want to discuss what they did to the American healthcare system or how much it will really cost our country. Instead, they hope to transform themselves into victims with a well coordinated smear campaign against Tea Party protestors, myself and others.

With the help of newspapers like the Fresno Bee valley Democrats are trying to hide from their record. They are relying on textbook leftist maneuvers; demagogue the issue, smear opponents and cry victim. One of our region’s lawmakers went so far as to label protestors “terrorists in training.”

This arrogance has caused an outpouring of anger—an anger shared by the vast majority of San Joaquin Valley residents. These are the real victims; the farmers, farm workers, business owners and residents of the San Joaquin. They have had their livelihood stolen from them by irresponsible government policies and are receiving no help from this Congress. My own efforts, which have included specific legislative proposals and amendments to legislation, have all been blocked without debate.

Since 2006, the Speaker and her allies have gutted the Peoples’ House of many of the most important principles associated with our Democratic Republic. For the first time in history, and with the Rules Committee leading the charge, the House of Representatives is being operated under Martial Law on a continual basis—limited debate and no amendments under an open rule.

The Fresno Bee has ignored these facts despite having a reporter based in Washington and a valley lawmaker serving on the Rules Committee. Instead, I have been criticized for my strong language during debate. While it is true that I could use less strong rhetoric to impress the editors of left leaning newspapers, doing so would fail to convey the significance of what the Democrats have done and are doing to our great nation.

You can view recent statements on my blog (click here). I have also posted new videos on YouTube (click here).

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Washington has changed, not me

From the March 24 Edition of The Fresno Bee:

Since the Democrats gained their majorities in Congress in November 2006, the atmosphere in Washington has changed; not me. This change was not just in leadership but in tactics.

Fresno Bee columnist Bill McEwen wrote Tuesday that I have become cartoon-like in my rhetoric; a caricature of my real self. However, to reach this conclusion one must first ignore the record of the Democratic-controlled House under Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Consider, for example, the widely reported comments of Rep. Alcee Hastings, Speaker Pelosi's Rules Committee point man for "legislative process."

During a March 21 hearing, Congressman Hastings said, "There ain't no rules around here, we're trying to accomplish something. And therefore, when the deal goes down, all of this talk about rules -- we make them up as we go along."

You might be surprised to learn that Rep. Hastings is a former federal judge. Former -- not retired -- because he was impeached by a Democratic-controlled Congress in 1989 for bribery and perjury. It is oddly appropriate that he would serve on the Rules Committee. Even worse, these remarks occurred during the historic health-care debate, and preceded passage of a law that enabled the government to take control of one-sixth of our economy.

In my experience, there are few words that describe Speaker Pelosi's tactics better than "totalitarian." Indeed, the word conveys both the personal nature of her leadership, as well as the greater implications of a political philosophy operating on the basis of "the ends justify the means."

I use "totalitarian" because it describes what is happening in the Peoples' House. The word means: "Of or pertaining to a centralized government that does not tolerate parties of differing opinion."

To be sure, the tone of public debate has grown increasingly shrill. However, to simply characterize my rhetoric as "cartoon-like" misses the very real horror inflicted on the American people by one-party rule under the Democrats. That horror has manifested itself in the transformation of the Peoples' House into an institution used solely for the benefit of the political left.

For the first time in the history of our republic, the House has not permitted debate under an "open rule" on any legislation. Closed rules have permitted Democratic leaders to hide their agenda from the American people. It has also made the resolution of serious challenges confronting the American people, such as the California water crisis, virtually impossible. For example, I have repeatedly been blocked from offering legislation or amendments that would resolve the water crisis facing the San Joaquin Valley.

At the same time, these oppressive rules have been used to pass highly controversial and far-reaching public laws that would have otherwise not passed -- or at least, not in the form in which they were enacted. The only bipartisan vote that occurred was in opposition to the health-care bill. This clearly demonstrates that the legislation would have looked different if the House were permitted to reflect the will of the people.

It is a travesty that the House -- a body our Founders' intended to be responsive to the will of the people -- is no longer an institution of debate. It is not a place for the free-flowing exchange of ideas.

I have witnessed the worst character of government and have fought to implement reforms in the face of opposition from both Republican and Democratic leaders. I have authored earmark reform legislation, sought the establishment of a fair redistricting process to end the practice of politicians picking their voters, and have exposed both Republican and Democratic leaders who have violated the public faith.

Thousands of people in the Valley have lost their jobs because of the misguided and dangerous views of leftists. With regional unemployment near 20%, Fresno Bee columnists and editorial writers should begin listening to the victims of oppressive government policies because no amount of federal spending will create jobs taken from our region by the government.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Laying the Cornerstone of a Socialist Utopia


Yesterday, the House passed Speaker Pelosi’s vision of healthcare in America. Here is why I voted “no” and why the American people should re-examine the Democratic leadership of our nation.

First, I do not accept the premise that it is necessary to upend the health coverage currently available to all Americans for the sake of covering those who are uninsured. Expanding access to insurance is far less complex and far less costly than Democrats would have you believe. It does not involve a government takeover of 1/6th of the American economy. It involves insurance market reform but it also and more significantly involves providing choice and competition. The bill I support, the Patients’ Choice Act, provides the framework for such an effort. However, my views were not considered nor were the views of other lawmakers who sought to improve the system we have today. That’s because Nancy Pelosi and her liberal associates intend to destroy private healthcare with the ultimate goal of a Washington centered government healthcare monopoly.

Even before this monopoly takes its final form, the Democratic bill will speed our nation into financial crisis. Simply put, we can’t afford a new government healthcare program—a fact acknowledged by the President and Congressional Democrats. This is why they claim their reforms cost nothing; that it will actually reduce the debt. In truth, the bill conservatively spends a trillion dollars and the final toll on our budget will be many times greater than the initial cost. In their urgency to enact their plan, Democratic leaders papered over the financial problems we face with new government agencies and creative accounting gimmicks. Ultimately, the mechanisms created by this new law will force federal bureaucrats to ration benefits to control spending—a practice that is already common in government programs such as Medicaid.

Unchecked federal spending and the new entitlement just created should concern every American. Our nation’s long-term financial outlook is worse than at any point in American history. Spending by the federal government outpaced revenues by $1.4 trillion last year and the red ink continues as far forward as we can see. In the real world, this financial condition would result in bankruptcy. Washington, however, can print money and borrow from foreign governments as long as those foreign powers are willing to keep us afloat. Any bets on when the Chinese will cut up the U.S.A. credit card?

The logic behind Speaker Pelosi’s health bill math defies common sense. Indeed, anyone claiming to make things cheaper by having the government provide it would do well to delegate financial decisions to someone else. A quick glance at the Treasury Secretary’s annual financial statement is all the proof we need. The United States is in a financial freefall and a new government healthcare entitlement will only make things worse. Existing entitlement programs like Medicare have unfunded liabilities amounting to $43 trillion—a figure that grows by nearly $2 trillion per year.

If all of these facts were not enough, the Democrats enacted their new law as a result of bribery. The American people have heard about many of the deals made prior to the vote. The Cornhusker Kickback, Florida Gatorade, and Louisiana Purchase are but a few examples. It is a national disgrace that our Congress has become an institution dependent on extortion to enact major legislation. And while the process is not easily discussed or understood, we cannot ignore the historic level of oppression implemented by Speaker Pelosi’s Rules Committee in her effort to gain passage of the bill. As much as the content of the bill itself, the manner in which it passed Congress provides clear evidence that the bill was about government power not the health of America.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Stockholm Syndrome in the San Joaquin Valley?


Yesterday, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released its preliminary report evaluating the science used to justify pumping restrictions on the Delta.

The study, originally requested by Senator Dianne Feinstein and valley Democrats, was sold as proof that Congress cares about San Joaquin Valley communities. At the time it was originally announced, agriculture lobbyists and water managers hailed the study as progress. So too did radicals in the environmental movement.

Indeed, a release dated October 16, 2009 by the Environmental Defense Fund stated, “We applaud the Obama Administration for its commitment to scientifically rigorous and balanced approach.” And why shouldn’t the environmentalists support such a study? As I will now explain, turning our fate over to science represents a dangerous concession.

Farmers and water users should never have accepted the NAS study as evidence of help by Congress or the Administration. Simply put, it was not help. If anything, it was a delaying tactic that has resulted in more pain for our region, not less. Waiting on the NAS for Congress to act has meant another year and billions of gallons of lost water.

The danger associated with the NAS study is more than the delay in action it is used to justify. The very idea of conducting a study concedes that two inch smelt are rightfully preserved at the expense of San Joaquin Valley communities. I and others reject this premise and the backwards ideology that defends it.

The representatives of California’s agriculture and water interests who applauded the commissioning of an NAS study appear to be suffering from Stockholm syndrome. They don’t understand that they have made a concession that will ultimately lead to their own destruction.

I have come to think of these groups as hostages. Though well intended, they have lost perspective due to their captivity. They have even begun to see their jailors as advocates. The first major concession came in 1992 with the Miller-Bradley bill, which diverted a million acre feet of water away from San Joaquin Valley communities. At the time, residents were promised that this enormous water diversion would be the last and that future water deliveries would be secure.

Of course, history demonstrates otherwise. Lawsuits, legislation and regulation have continued to attack San Joaquin Valley water supplies. In 2009, Democrats enacted the San Joaquin River settlement. This bill passed with the support of most of the hostages, Friant water districts, based on the commitment of Democratic Congressional leaders that water used to restore the river would be recirculated. It didn’t take long to uncover the truth. Water will not be recirculated. In fact, as much as 250,000 acre feet of water will be lost on an annual basis. Worse, the legislation sets up farmers on the east side of the valley for lawsuits and future water losses.

Let me be clear. Those hailing the NAS study make a dangerous concession. Congress, not God, created the Endangered Species Act. Americans can never accept the premise that the government’s responsibility to wildlife supersedes its responsibility to the people. This bizarre view is what has helped to transform the Endangered Species Act from a law seeking to ensure the conservation and responsible management of our resources to one that commands the unnatural preservation of nature.

Recent history shows us that the radicals in the environmental movement are fighting a war of attrition. They have patiently fought to remake California in their own image—a green utopia where communal gardens feed villages, windmills power homes, and commutes take place on bike trails and sidewalks. At the core of this neo-Marxist ideology is anti-capitalism and a loathing of the individual freedoms that have made America great.

To achieve their warped view of a sustainable society, radical environmentalists have been attacking rural California for years. In the 1990’s, they devastated the state’s timber industry. A total of 84 wood products mills and factories were closed. The diversion of water from rural communities and farms, as previewed by the destruction of the Klamath Basin in 2001, represents the tipping point. Without water, the culture and communities we built in the San Joaquin Valley will wither and die.

If we are going to save the San Joaquin Valley from those who want to restore it to a natural state—one that is characterized by dry land and tumbleweeds—we will have to begin to force our representatives to fight. Not just our elected representatives in Congress, but the many advocates who claim to serve the interests of rural communities, farmers and water users in our region. Stockholm syndrome is real. And if we don’t wake up and begin to fight, we will lose more than our water.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Unnatural Greenies: The Two Faces of Radical Environmentalism


The Natural Resources Defense Council, Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club and others tell us that the reason the San Joaquin Valley needs to be transformed into a desert is because the Delta pumps are destroying the salmon population and the water is desperately needed to save the Delta ecosystem.

To this end, environmental radicals, operating in the name of Gaia, Mother Earth, the wiccan religion and a host of other cult-like organizations, have litigated, legislated and extorted away the water needed for San Joaquin Valley communities.

Yet despite their ability to command the agenda of our government through powerful alliances in Congress, none of the endangered fish have shown signs of recovery. Actually, more species are in danger today than when the water diversions started, according to the EPA.

So what do you do if you are a green radical whose agenda is losing credibility? Apparently you start attacking sea lions. Within the last few days, we have again witnessed the ludicrous nature of the extreme environmental movement.

On March 8, wildlife officials off the coast of Oregon were dropping explosives into the water and shooting sea lions because they were eating too much salmon. Read the article here.

A few days later, marine mammal experts were struggling to save starving sea lion pups washing up on beaches. We are told that the pups, which are suffering from extreme malnutrition, are being saved because they are the victims of a warming ocean (global warming no doubt). Read the article here.

Was it really El Nino that orphaned and starved sea lion pups near Los Angeles? Or could the pups have lost their parents to crazed wildlife officials armed with clubs, explosives and shot guns?

Perhaps Congress should form an investigative committee. At the very least, during this time of economic crisis, we should know why money is being spent to kill sea lions in Oregon while rescuing their pups in California.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sea lions killed for eating too many salmon


PORTLAND, Ore. — Wildlife officials have tried everything to keep sea lions from eating endangered salmon, dropping bombs that explode under water and firing rubber bullets and bean bags from shotguns and boats. Now they are resorting to issuing death sentences to the most chronic offenders.

A California sea lion last week became the first salmon predator to be euthanized this year under a program that has been denounced by those who say there are far greater dangers to salmon — including the series of hydroelectric dams on the Columbia.

This is the second year of the program, which is administered by wildlife officials in Oregon and Washington and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Last year, 11 sea lions were euthanized. Another four were transferred to zoos or aquariums.
The sea lions represent a massive headache each year as chinook salmon begin arriving at the Bonneville Dam east of Portland, congregating in large numbers as they return from the ocean. Sea lions have become keenly aware that the dam is a great spot to feast on salmon, easy pickings as they wait to go up the dam's fish ladders.

"They learn. They come up here and know it's a good place to eat, and sooner or later the salmon are going to arrive," said Robert Stansell, a fisheries biologist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Officials are tracking 63 additional sea lions listed as repeat offenders. They are identified by scars or by numbers that were branded on them by researchers.

"To get on that list, we have to have observed them as distinct individuals," said Jessica Sall, spokeswoman for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. "They are not responding to hazing, and they're eating chinook salmon."

Sea lions have gobbled salmon forever. But their numbers have soared in recent years, as has the number of those cruising upriver to dine on salmon at Bonneville Dam. Frustrations peaked, especially among fishermen who have watched sea lions snatch salmon right out of their gill nets.

The Bonneville crowd of hefty mammals — they can reach more than 600 pounds and eight feet in length — have become the enemy of commercial and sport fisherman, who are allowed to catch and keep hatchery-raised fish, and a concern for conservationists trying to restore migratory runs, since sea lions don't distinguish between hatchery and wild fish.

At least three of the upper Columbia River spring salmon runs that pass through the dam are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, most significantly the spring chinook salmon run.
The sea lions' growing numbers forced state, federal and tribal agencies to intensify efforts to protect the region's multibillion-dollar salmon recovery program.

The sea lions are protected by a 1972 federal law, but an amendment leaves open the possibility that some can be captured or killed if the states request it. Oregon and Washington did in 2006 with the support of Indian tribes and sport and commercial fishing groups.

Two years ago, the National Marine Fisheries Service authorized Oregon and Washington officials to first attempt to catch the sea lions that arrive at the base of Bonneville Dam and hold them 48 hours to see whether an aquarium, zoo or similar facility will take them.

Otherwise, they could be euthanized, along with those that avoid trapping. Only California sea lions can be destroyed. Stellar sea lions cannot be killed because they are protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Supporters say the program works. The numbers of sea lions at the dam have dropped, although the 4,489 salmon they ate last year was the highest since tracking began in 2002.

Critics, led by the Humane Society of the United States, say that a far greater danger to salmon are hydroelectric dams on the Columbia, which are an obstacle to salmon both as they head out to sea and when they return from the ocean to spawn.

The Humane Society also says fishermen catch three times as many salmon as sea lions eat.
The Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission this year has begun tracking the sea lions' movements with acoustic transmitters and cameras placed along the river. Instead of just reacting to the sea lions, the data might help authorities plan a more successful campaign, a fisheries scientist says.

"All of the counts that you hear, all of the impact on salmon, is based on what they can see from the dam," said Doug Hatch, of the inter-tribal commission. "That doesn't account for the whole 150 river miles below the dam."

The frustration comes as experts predict the largest spring chinook run since 1938. Thanks to good ocean conditions for young salmon, an expected 470,000 fish will head up the Columbia River, compared to 169,300 in 2009.

The primary weapon against the sea lions still remains hazing, but even that has limitations.

"The problem is, as soon as the boats go around the corner, they're right back," Stansell said. "Some of the animals that have been there a long time don't even move when they get hit in the back with a rubber bullet. They just keep eating their fish."

Friday, February 26, 2010

Dust Bowl Democrats


As you will recall, on February 11th the Dust Bowl Democrats public relations machine touted a new water amendment that would mandate 40% of normal deliveries to our region. Despite the fact that nobody was allowed to read the proposal, valley newspapers, Democrats and farm groups naively rallied to support it.

I have been heavily criticized for suggesting valley residents read and understand the Democrats’ proposal prior to endorsing it— particularly since many of our region’s “leaders” did not do so themselves. For my part, I was not willing to jump onto the Dust Bowl bandwagon for the sake of political expedience, good press or some misguided notion of bi-partisanship.

According to the authors of the plan, we would see action as part of a new jobs package. However, when the Senate passed its jobs bill earlier this week, no California water language was included. Instead, a meeting was held between Obama officials and Congressional Democrats, which resulted in a “promise” of more water. Sound familiar?

This miraculous change of heart on the part of Obama Administration is an acknowledgement that there is water available for valley farmers—even under the draconian Delta smelt biological opinion. This concession is an indictment of the Administration’s 2009 actions that resulted in food lines and economic devastation in communities throughout the San Joaquin valley.

I have been asked, “What does this change mean in real terms?” My answer is that thanks to the hard work of Congressional leaders, the federal government is now poised to provide a 5% water allocation to the San Joaquin Valley. That’s right, 5%. “We have come a long way,” says Senator Feinstein, because Obama Administration officials have promised to search high and low for more water.

San Joaquin Valley residents are again being sold short by Dust Bowl Democrats. This year, we have over 120% of average snowpack and some dams are preparing to spill water that cannot be stored. With these facts, will the Dust Bowl Democrats continue to blame drought as the cause of our problem? Or will they acknowledge that the government, working on behalf of radical environmentalists, caused the crisis? It is time to end San Joaquin valley water shortages. The quickest way to do this is to pass the Turn on the Pumps Act, just like Congress did for New Mexico in 2003.

In closing, I want to point out that I am not alone in my skepticism of the latest Obama Administration promises. One valley Democrat’s reaction was the statement “trust but verify.” Just as Reagan could not accept Soviet arms reduction promises without independent verification of actual disarmament activity, we cannot accept Obama Administration promises that “help is on the way” without proof through their actions.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The California Water Reliability Act


Earlier today, I unveiled a new legislative package that will provide long-term water security to the people of California. The bill, titled the California Water Reliability Act, would immediately restore the flow of water to dry San Joaquin Valley communities. At the same time, it will provide the infrastructure needed to deliver long-term water reliability for rural, urban, and environmental purposes.

We need a sensible approach to water policy in California. Infrastructure built in the middle of the last century cannot meet our long-term needs – particularly when radicals in the environmental movement are demanding ever increasing amounts of water for their own misguided purposes.

When the state and federal water projects were built over 40 years ago, more than half of the water was dedicated to satisfying the needs of communities throughout California, including San Joaquin Valley farms. This water made it possible for the largely arid State of California to grow into an economic powerhouse and spurred the development of the world’s most diverse and abundant farming region.

Over time, lawsuits and the actions of liberal lawmakers in Congress have fundamentally changed the operation of California’s water projects by diverting large amounts of fresh water. This is most prominently exposed by the fact that more than 75% of the water that enters the Delta is now being wasted to the ocean in a vain effort to prop-up the faltering Delta ecosystem. The result of these changes is an artificial water shortage; one that I and others have labeled a government-imposed drought. It has also vastly magnified the impact of periodic dry conditions that are part of life in the Golden State.

At some point, families and California communities will have to become the priority of our government again. New dams, new canals, and a renewed commitment to serving the needs of the people are what we require. The California Water Reliability Act will deliver results while others continue to offer lip service.

The bill is both common sense and comprehensive. It will fast-track construction of a Delta bypass, as well as new surface water storage (including Temperance Flat) and a number of water circulation projects. In addition, the plan will rewrite the San Joaquin River Settlement to focus river restoration on a more financially feasible and environmentally sustainable warm water fishery. Finally, it will reform and improve the Central Valley Project Improvement Act to ensure the law attains measureable environmental goals.

We can and will have responsible environmental policies when the California Water Reliability Act becomes law. Radical environmentalists should never have been allowed to decide the terms under which water is allocated. Their record is clear. They take as much as they can get and come back for more. That’s why the San Joaquin River Settlement must be re-written – so that the eastside of the valley isn’t subjected to the same ongoing attack as farmers and communities on the Westside. And that’s why Delta pumping must be restored by Congress until new infrastructure is built to deliver the needed water around the Delta.

For more information on this issue and the California Water Reliability Act, please visit

Friday, February 12, 2010

Feinstein Water Proposal: Approach With Caution


I am sure you have seen press reports over the past two daysthat Senator Feinstein is proposing a New Mexico style fix to our watercrisis.  Please see the Fresno Bee story here for details.

Here's what occurred in New Mexico back in2003.  Radical environmentalists cut-offwater to the citizens of Albuquerque to save the Silvery Minnow (see mytestimony to the House Resources Committee last week here).  Congress, in abipartisan manner, quickly stepped in and provided a two-year fix to thesituation and restored water deliveries.

It must be noted that Senators Feinsteinand Boxer led the charge to defeat a proposal to provide such a fix for ourCentral Valley farmers just last year, despite the fact that theyboth supported the fix for New Mexico in 2003.  However, it wasn’t just theSenators who voted to kill such a proposal; the House Democrats also votedseveral times against a New Mexico style fix last year.

So until we see the proposal in legislative text andunderstand what it does, we should approach it with caution.

Farmers need to be careful and not blindly accept a deal. Don’t be the dog that has been starved and kicked by its owner for years onlyto lick their owners’ hand when a mere morsel is offered under the table. Senator Feinstein says San Joaquin Valley families will get 38-40% of theirwater with this proposal.  Is that a guarantee or a political talking point?

We have been guaranteed a lot from the Obama Administrationand Secretary Salazar over the past year and have gotten nothing in return.  Are they going to publicly support this proposal in writing, or leave uswith empty promises again?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m encouraged that the Democrats arefinally waking up to the problems in the San Joaquin Valley.  Yet, I must ask: What has changed?  Over the past twelve months, the Democrats have flatlyrejected a New Mexico style fix.  Then, suddenly, in an election year, theycome out of the woodwork to help.

So, is this an election year ploy to protect Democrats, orare they actually going to do something to protect the Valley?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

They Really Want the Pumps Shut Off


Yesterday, the Fish and Wildlife Service filed the required 48 hour notice of implementing the Delta smelt Biological Opinion.  They found two smelt entrained in the pumps which triggers the BiOp.  Therefore, the pumps will basically be shut down Wednesday at 5 pm.

Friday we get a two week TRO on the Killer Whale BiOp (some good news), then they smack us with the other hand and implement the Delta smelt BiOp.  If I was a conspiracy theorist, I would say that they magically found two smelt because a TRO was issued last week.  They really want the pumps shut off.