Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Meeting Roskam about the war

On Monday, March 19, a group of other citizens seeking to bring our troops home from Iraq met with U.S. Congressman Peter Roskam (Rep., IL Dist. 6) at his office in Bloomingdale. Here is there report:

A bricklayer and foster father, a former math teacher, a children's novelty-candy salesman, a retiree from COD and peace activist, friends of a mother who had lost her son to an IED just six weeks ago and a grandfather who still lives with the pain of a grandson lost two years ago in this ongoing war. We all came looking for answers from Peter Roskam; for some vision of how he plans to bring an end to a war, now opposed by 63% of Americans, started on false pretenses and continuing behind a shield of upholding troop morale.

In short, Peter Roskam doesn't have a plan to bring an end to the war in Iraq and is the very embodiment of the President's "be patient and stay the course" non-plan. He feels, he told us, that his slight margin of victory in November was a mandate for his campaign promise to "finish well" in Iraq. When asked by several members of our group what that might look like, he could not articulate anything specific. When asked whether he thought he would tolerate two more years of the heightened violence and destruction (please see Iraq by the numbers for all the figures) or five more or ten he responded that he would not be "cross-examined". Sort of ironic coming from a former personal injury attorney and public servant.

Please be assured that Mr. Roskam was extremely polite and a good listener. His staff was welcoming and we were seen promptly at 9:30 as was promised. Of course, this should be the norm when having a meeting with one's employers but, as anyone who has ever tried to meet with Henry Hyde will tell you, it can often feel as if the constituent serves at the pleasure of the congressperson and not the other way around.

We weren't surprised to learn that Mr. Roskam believes that there are droves of Islamic fundamentalist terrorists who, without provocation, are planning our demise everyday (please go to to see the text of his floor remarks on Feb 16th) and that most of them are now in Baghdad. He believes Mr. Bush's homeland security policies have kept us safe from further attacks (nevermind that passport services overflow calls are being handled by volunteers...a digression but not really). He believes that if we don't keep these terrorists in the playpen we call Iraq, they will wander over here (probably across the Mexican border with all of those social-security stealing "illegals" he campaigned about).

Mr Roskam whose favorite phrase is "let's unpack that" when he wants to debunk something he feels has been been properly thought through, did not have any interest in "unpacking" his own things. He did not want to unpack the reason why we chose to attack Iraq when Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia provided the villains of 9/11. He did not want to unpack his rationale for why he voted for the surge of troops even after assuring Kevin Landeck's grieving father that he was the guy who would offer his ear and make a difference. Rich Landeck told Peter personally that Kevin repeatedly said that the war was being run incompetently and that they could not militarily solve the problems he saw in Iraq. When asked several times whether he would be willing to pack up his own child's things to go to this war, Mr Roskam avoided an answer.

Toward the end of our meeting, Roskam shared an analogy he gives when talking to our grade school children. The U.S., he posits, is like a person standing at the side of the pool and the Iraqis are like a person drowning. The U. S. is reaching out its hand to the Iraqis but unless they reach back, the U.S. can't pull them out. What he neglects to tell them is that it was the U.S. who pushed them in in the first place and then proceeded to hold their heads under water for four years now. Makes you wonder how long it will take him to unpack that. In 2008, District 6 needs to do more than cross-examine Peter Roskam, they need to vote him out.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Roskam named one of the top public enemies of the Middle Class in Congress

Readers of this blog already know the Roskam is an enemy of the Middle Class residents of Il-6, but now he has just been named one of the top public enemies of the Middle Class in Congress. Read more below:

Americans United for Change Unveils List of Top 18 'Public Enemies of the Middle Class' in Congress

These Enemies of the Middle Class to be targeted with Ads, Events and Online Protests to Convince Them to Stand with Middle Class Americans

* Voted against raising the minimum wage for the first time in a decade
* Voted against leveling the playing field for middle class workers by restoring their freedom to choose unions
* Put the special interests first – double check

Washington D.C. – In response to their full frontal, unapologetic assault on the middle class agenda in the 110th session of the U.S. House of Representatives, Americans United for Change today dubbed eighteen Members of the U.S. House of Representatives, ‘Public Enemies of the Middle Class,’ including Peter Roskam (IL-6).

Specifically, Americans United took issue with the Representative Roskam's votes against: 1) H.R.2, the Fair Minimum Wage Act which would raise the federal minimum wage for the first time since 1997 from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour over two years; and 2) H.R. 800, the Employee Free Choice Act, which would level the playing field for middle class workers by fixing a badly broken system for forming unions and bargaining with big business and Corporate America for better pay and improved benefits. Both bills passed in the U.S. House with bipartisan support, and Americans United for Change, the non-profit advocacy organization perhaps best known for leading the fight to beat back President Bush’s disastrous proposal to privatize Social Security in 2005, is now urging Members of the U.S. Senate to do the right thing and move each element of the middle class agenda to the President’s desk.

“More and more of America’s working people are struggling to make ends meet, and our middle class is disappearing,” said Jeremy Funk, spokesman for Americans United for Change. “At least two meaningful pieces of legislation to reverse this trend have already come before Congress this year – and, unfortunately, these eighteen Members were no where to be found when the middle class families they represent needed them most. Just last week, they each opposed the Employee Free Choice Act, which would give middle-class workers a fair shake by fixing a badly broken system for forming unions and bargaining with Corporate America for better pay, improved benefits and retirement security. Earlier this year, each of these Members opposed the first increase in the federal minimum wage in a decade. They couldn’t even be counted on to stand up for the most vulnerable workers in their states who live in borderline poverty. It’s a question of priorities and a question of values – and it’s clear that each of these Members have lost touch with the values of middle class Americans, whom overwhelmingly support these important initiatives. Until they get their priorities straight in Washington and stop pandering to the special interests at the expense of working people, we will continue to identify each Member as their districts’ ‘middle class public enemy #1.’”

While more than 18 Republicans voted against both the minimum wage increase and the Employee Free Choice Act in the House, these 18 were selected as public enemies of the middle class because they either come from districts where these issues have gained added resonance because of the growing disparity between the wages of workers and corporate executives or because they had been identified as persuadable on these issues.

“Americans United for Change is prepared to make ‘poster children’ out of there 18 members – and others – who continue to put the interests of the corporate America – which has had its way in Washington for the past six years – ahead of the interests of families and workers,” said Funk. “If it takes television ads, online protests and public events with angry constituents to get these folks to do the right thing by middle class Americans -- then so be it.”

Why middle class workers support the Employee Free Choice Act:

The Employee Free Choice Act would: 1) strengthen penalties for companies that illegally coerce or intimidate employees in a effort to prevent them from forming a union; 2) bring in a neutral third party to settle a contract when a company and a newly certified union cannot agree on a contract after three months of negotiations; 3) establish 'majority sign up', meaning that if a majority of the employees sign union authorization cards, validated by the National Labor Relations Board, a company must recognize the union.

It would level the playing field in a system that’s stacked entirely in employers’ favor – a system that routinely lets corrupt employers’ get away with harassment, intimidation, coercion and even dismissal of workers who try to organize unions. See this report from American Rights At Work exposing the shocking reality of routine company union-busting intimidation tactics in the workplace.

The Employee Free Choice Act is overwhelmingly supported by 69 percent of American public, according to a recent poll from the AFL-CIO. More than half of U.S. workers – nearly 60 million – say they would join a union right now if they could.

Workers who belong to a union earn 30 percent more than nonunion workers. Union workers are 62 percent more likely to have employer-provided health coverage and four times more likely to have pensions than nonunion workers.

Why middle class families support the Fair Minimum Wage Act:

The minimum wage has not been increased in nearly a decade, making this the longest span without a minimum wage increase since the wage was first implemented.

Adjusted for inflation, the minimum wage is at its lowest level in 50 years.

83 percent of Americans support an increase in the federal minimum wage.

Workers earning the minimum wage will only make $10,700 over the next year, $4,367 under the poverty threshold for a family of three. 3

Nearly 13 million people would likely benefit from the increase – 5.6 million directly and 7.4 million indirectly.

See this report from the Center for American Progress debunking the myth that a minimum wage increase would hurt small businesses.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Roskam again votes against everyday working men and women.

Last week the House passed the Employee Free Choice Act, which will level the playing field for middle class workers by restoring freedom to choose unions and strengthening penalties for companies that illegally coerce or intimidate employees who want to unionize. While the bill passed 241-185 with several Republicans voting for it, Roskam continued to be a rubber stamp for his party leaders.

He clearly voted against the interests of everyday working men and women - and not even the $500,000 ad campaign the Chamber of Commerce (CoC) launched in districts like his can change this fact. The CoC, and their conservative allies like Roskam, have constantly fought against raising wages and increasing safety standards in the workplace are now fightin this bill claiming they are “protecting” American workers. Rubbish! The CoC is not spending millions of dollars to “protect” American workers, rather they are trying to protect the profits they gain from access to low wages non-unionized workers earn.

The Employee Free Choice Act is needed in the first place because of the intimidation from the companies that employ every tactic available to prevent workers from forming unions. Did you know that every 23 minutes a U.S. worker is fired or retaliated against for their support of a union? Here are a few more interesting statistics:

91% of employers force employees to attend one-on-one anti-union meetings with their supervisors during union organizing drives.

51% of employers illegally coerce workers into opposing unions with bribes or special favors during union organizing drives.

30% of employers illegally fire pro-union workers during union organizing drives.

Roskam has already voted increasing the minimum wage. This is another clear example of Roskam voting against everyday, hard working residents of Il-6. We need to shine light on these vote so that every one of his constituents know how sneaky Pete is voting against the interest of hard working middle class citizens.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Wood Dale’s Mayor correctly questions Roskam’s ability to get federal dollars for vital Il-6 tranportation project

I just noticed an article in Saturday’s Daily Herald discussing an important Il-6 transportation project, the long-planned major overhaul of Wood Dale’s notorious intersection of Wood Dale Road, Irving Park Road and the train tracks.

While I am in general fascinated by transportation planning (this is actually true, I studied Urban Planning at the University of Illinois), what I want to call your attention to is the following excerpt with quotes from Wood Dale’s mayor Ken Johnson:

And with the influential Henry Hyde of Wood Dale now retired from Congress, Johnson said he was skeptical about Washington ever coughing up the remaining funding needed.

"Can we count on a freshman congressman (Republican Peter Roskam of Wheaton) in a minority party to get us $30 million?" Johnson said. "Our federal people tell us no, so we'll just have to hope we can use that $11 million we already have to increase safety some other way."

The mayor and his federal people are correct. Roskam doesn’t have the influence of Hyde to deliver for the people of IL-6 and never will. This is not just because he is a freshman member in the minority. Henry Hyde was in the minority for most of his career, but was effective in gaining influence and respect because he wasn’t just a rubber stamp who blindly followed his party. Hyde, while very conservative, served his country in war and was able to cross the isle to support gun control and family leave legislation. We’re still waiting for Roskam to demonstrate some ability to be an independent voice and not just a rubber stamp. Until then residents of Il-6 will suffer the consequences.

Raising Money from Terrorists

The DCCC has some great info how the National Republican Campaign Committee (NRCC) has taken money from an accused terrorist financier and refused to donate this money to charity. This is despite the fact that the National Republican Senate Committee (NRSC) already has. The DCCC goes on to list the 22 Republican Reps who have taken money since the accused terrorist started donating money, and of course Rep. Roskam is among them. As the saying goes, “You can tell who a person is by the company they keep.” Rep. Roskam should do the glaringly obvious right thing and call on the NRCC to donate this money back. If they do not, we should call on him to donate his portion of this terrorist money to charity.

One thing Roskam and NRCC should NOT do is just give the money back. I’ve heard some suggestion of that from the media, and this has always struck me as silly. Just because the money is tainted and shouldn’t be used to further your conservative political agenda doesn’t mean you should return it to an accused terrorist. We would all be much better having that tainted money do good for a charitable cause. Since Sneaky Pete claims he cares about seniors so much that he won’t even collect taxes from oil companies and with seniors facing such high prescription drug prices as a result of members like Roskam forbidding the government to negotiate for lower prices, I think we should call on him to donate the money to a charity that helps seniors buy prescription drugs. Any other suggestions on what charity this terrorist money should go to?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Roskam’s ineptness – needs to ask Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board what they do

Take a look at this rather hilarious exchange from a House Financial Services Committee hearing with Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, Ben Bernanke. Basically, Rep. Roskam asks him what the Federal Reserve Board does. Now I know there is no such thing as a stupid question, but one would expect an elected Congressman to have a basic knowledge of this sort of thing. Remember, he has a full staff and is on the Financial Services Committee! Its amazing he wasn’t laughed out of the hearing. I wish I could get a video of this so I could see the look on Bernanke’s face as he was answering. I also wonder what the more than 60,000 professionals working in finance in the Sixth District would think of the fact their elected Representative sitting on the Financial Services Committee actually had to ask the Chairman what the Federal Reserve Board does.

REP. PETER ROSKAM (R-IL): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman, I'm a new member of Congress and a new member of the committee, and I have appreciated the detailed questions that my colleagues have asked.

I guess I would ask a broader question, and that is, you know, it seems to me that economic strength and weakness, success and failure, is mysterious in a lot of ways. And it's difficult for somebody outside of this arena to gaze in and really discern all the factors that go into a good successful mix. And I know there's really nobody that can do that.

But for purposes of this committee and future committees that have this responsibility of oversight for you, Mr. Chairman, and the Fed, what are the things that you're responsible for? What are the tools that you have at your disposal? And could you sort of -- and maybe, in an Econ 101 sort of fashion in the remaining four minutes, just break that down and say, "Look, these are the things that we frankly have no influence over but are just off the table." I think that would help me and maybe some other members of the committee in the future.

MR. BERNANKE: Well, the Federal Reserve has multiple responsibilities. The one that's best known is our responsibility for monetary policy, which we use to pursue the congressional mandate of price stability and maximum sustainable employment.

It's important that the Federal Reserve be independent and be able to make independent decisions about interest rates in order to preserve the credibility of the central bank. However, it is also important that Congress exert oversight over the Federal Reserve to make sure that we are following our stated mission and that we are pursuing coherent and rational plans.

The other areas include banking, where we are involved in developing the new capital (accord ?), providing various guidances and regulations together with the other banking agencies. And there we are more like the other agencies in terms of the kinds of responsibilities we have.

We have considerable responsibility in the consumer protection area -- that's come up a lot today -- for various regulations that provide disclosures to consumers on credit cards, on mortgages, and that provide some tools to address predatory lending or high-cost lending. And there we are -- like other agencies, we are given instruction by the Congress, by the law, in terms of what the Congress wants us to achieve and with what instruments. And then it's our job to implement the regulations that will most effectively accomplish Congress's goals.

So we have a range of activities, all of which fall under the oversight of Congress, obviously.