published Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

Pam's Points: Standing up for roads, walking horses and long-term care

A taxing bit of courage

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., has faced quite the Republican backlash for his bipartisan plan to raise federal gas and diesel taxes for the first time in 20-plus years for road building and road improvements on the nation's highways and bridges.

With the federal Highway Trust Fund expected to run out of money in August, Corker is proposing to raise the current 18.4 cent-per-gallon gas tax and 24.4 cent-per-gallon tax on diesel by 12 cents over the next two years. A 6 cent increase would come next year and a similar boost the following year. The tax would then be pegged to inflation to avoid future shortfalls. Gasoline and diesel taxes were last raised in 1993 and now have only 63 percent of the buying power they once had, according to Corker.

To make his plan palatable to fellow Republicans, Corker calls for offsetting the fuel tax increases with other tax cuts, including personal or corporate income tax deductions that include the fuel tax increases.

Some Democrats have called Corker's proposal "a move that truly passes for courage these days in the GOP ranks." But Republicans such as Tennessee's U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn labeled it more of Washington's "spending problem."

Here's the rub for Blackburn and her ilk: There's no such thing as a free lunch. Those roads and bridges can't maintain themselves, and road workers don't work for free. When the bridges and roads are unsafe, the free flow of commerce is threatened.

And here's the rub for Democrats: Corker is not especially brave. If he were brave, he'd be tackling votes to stop obstacles to fully implement the Affordable Care Act and to improve long-term care. If he were brave, he'd be rallying for Common Core to give our children a better education. If he were brave, he'd be signing on to the law that would outlaw pads and chains on Tennessee walking horses.

Potholes are a fairly easy rallying point. But at least they are a start.

A horse of another color

Speaking of Congressional courage, we're still waiting for Congress -- and especially Tennessee's delegation -- to bring back Tennessee's real walking horses by banning the pads and chains and soring practices that have corrupted a beautiful breed in recent decades.

Last week, owners of sound and flat-shod Tennessee walkers took their horses to a "walk on Washington" to raise public awareness of the abusive training method known as "soring," which uses caustic chemicals and other pain-inducing tactics to make the animals step higher to win contests.

Soring has been illegal for more than 40 years, but the walking horse industry largely polices itself, so the problems go unresolved. Only in the past two years has anyone been convicted of the abuse, and that happened after secret videos were made by the Humane Society of the United States and turned over to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

New proposed legislation, the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act, would toughen the law. It has 291 co-sponsors in the House and 55 co-sponsors in the Senate. Those numbers might make it seem like a slam-dunk, but that's not the reality.

Instead of helping rid Tennessee of this problem, lawmakers in Tennessee and Kentucky (another big walking horse state) are rallying to an alternative and softer bill that really would just continue the industry's status quo. The alternative was introduced by Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander and co-sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

McConnell is said to be blocking the PAST Act in the Senate, and Tennessee's Rep. Marsha Blackburn, with her own version of Alexander's bill, is blocking the PAST Act in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where she is vice chairman. The Tennessee representative has 12 co-sponsors for her bill.

So much for counting co-sponsors.

Chalk up another last: long-term care

Tennessee in recent years has been trying to paint itself as a haven for retirees. Let's hope those folks didn't read recent reports that the Volunteer State -- along with Alabama and Georgia -- ranks low, low, low in the country for quality long-term care systems, according to a new AARP report.

Tennessee ranks 48th, Alabama ranks 50th and Georgia ranks 36th.

Not to worry, though. There's always one sure alternative. Don't live long enough to need long-term care.

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timbo said...

I heard Corker yesterday on WGOW. He is making this out as bravery and nothing could be farther from the truth.

This is the chickensh!t way liberals and Rhinos try to solve problems...throw money at it. I always new that Corker was no conservative and this proves it once and for all. He says "we have to pay for it" but we already have. There is no program taken care of by the the Feds that is more wasteful than the highway department. This is where the famous "bridges to nowhere" come from. It is rife with waste and political and actual payoffs. FIND THE MONEY BY CUTTING WASTE FROM THIS AND OTHER PROGRAMS. This is the conservative way.

Now for Corker to position himself as "brave" is ridiculous. He is taking the easy way out to "solve" a problem. Without fixing the program, any new money will be flushed down the federal toilet.

Being preached too by big spenders like the Democrats or establishment Republicans like Corker and Alexander, after they have gotten us into this 17 trillion dollar debt is beyond arrogance. They are the disease and conservatives are the cure. Not lame, do or say anything, Rhino Republicans and big spending democrats who got us into this mess in the first place.

In a way, this is good, Corker has come out of his closet as the liberal he has always been. We now have an issue to get rid of him in a few years. Thanks, Bob.

June 24, 2014 at 9:23 a.m.
moon4kat said...

I disagree with timbo, and think there is at least a possibility that Corker will eventually become the kind of non-partisan statesman Tennesseans need.

June 24, 2014 at 9:36 a.m.
timbo said...

moon4kat....You mean wishy-washy Republican that agrees with Democrats. We don't need murky, squishy, politicians. We need people who have a core set of beliefs and make decisions accordingly.

Democrats love guys like Corker. He is the best of both worlds.

Tim

June 24, 2014 at 10:20 a.m.
Plato said...

Highway and bridge construction and maintenance should be paid as a function of miles driven, not gallons purchased. But since gallons purchased is the only feasible method we can access that tax, then the tax needs to be adjusted for the mileage increase in vehicles that has occurred over the past ten years.

IOW - since the government is getting much less per mile driven to maintain the roads and bridges, it needs to adjust the tax upward to maintain the needed level of funding.

No one likes taxes, but if we want safe roads to drive our vehicles on that cost money and those of us that use the roads should not complain about paying our fair shares.

Sometimes I agree with Bob and sometimes I don't but he's on the right side of this issue and I endorse his bill.

June 24, 2014 at 12:15 p.m.
Plato said...

timbo said...

"moon4kat....You mean wishy-washy Republican that agrees with Democrats."

He's a pragmatist that is trying to do what he thinks is right, not Republcian Right or Democrat Right but just Right for the people - not slinging mud for political purposes, siding with corporate donors and filibustering every piece of legislation that comes to the floor like many of his colleagues.

Corker is a damn smart businessman and people should listen to what he has to say, rather than viewing everything through some ideological lens.

June 24, 2014 at 12:19 p.m.
timbo said...

Plato...Why isn't it "right" to stop waste first before you go and tax people. I can't believe that you "progressives" don't see just how regressive this tax is. It will hurt poor people much more than wealthy people.

Corker is a smart guy but had many benefactors that made his business life a lot easier. Not as bad as Alexander, who is just a blatant crook. Corker was basically a landlord that borrowed money with help from his friends. His "smartness" is how he manipulates the public, not his business acumen.

I don't see raising taxes as pragmatic. I see it as the easy, uncreative way to give more power to the federal government. That is not how Corker portrayed himself when he ran the first time. He is positioning himself to run for president in 2016. That will be a hoot.

Corker is a senator because he raised over $40 million dollars for the Republican party over the years.

There are businessmen out there ten times better to listen to than Corker. If you were one, you would know what I mean. Your ideological lens is that you think that wishy-washy is better. I don't. If you run as a conservative, you need to vote as a conservative. If you want to run as a squishy moderate, then run that way and see if you get elected.

June 24, 2014 at 1:39 p.m.
tipper said...

I'm a liberal democrat about to give Old Timbo a heart attack. What's so brave or courageous about Corker taxing working people and middle incomes 12 more cents at the pump? Infrastructure is the government's responsibility. If the Highway Trust Fund needs more money, Corker should push his party to reallocate some of the billions of dollars of taxpayer funded subsidies handed out to corporations, multi-nationals, and the fossil fuel industry. That would take real guts. Taxing the already over-burdened while letting profiteers skate is typical of Corker and Republicans. He's beginning to look and act a lot like Eric Cantor. And I'll look for personal income tax cuts from Republicans when I see them coming.

June 24, 2014 at 2:12 p.m.
timbo said...

tipper...that is what I have been looking for...an honest liberal. I knew there were some out there. I agree with your statement completely.

We don't have to agree all the time but the hypocrisy on both sides makes me ill. This will devastate middle and low income folks.

June 24, 2014 at 2:36 p.m.
Plato said...

timbo said...

"Plato...Why isn't it "right" to stop waste first before you go and tax people. I can't believe that you "progressives" don't see just how regressive this tax is. It will hurt poor people much more than wealthy people."

Had you read the oped piece on the right side of the paper yesterday you would have learned that Corker's proposal would involve off-setting tax credits in other areas. I'm all for stopping waste in government spending - but while we are waiting for someone to get around to that, the roads and bridges need to be fixed and as a businessman I believe like Bob Corker that we need to pay for what we spend, not put it on the government credit card and pass it on to the next generation.

BTW I'm not a "progressive" I'm a centrist Dem and a pragmatist.

June 24, 2014 at 4:54 p.m.
mkelly54 said...

What I'd really like to see is a complete rewrite of the tax codes. It is completely unfair for corporations to use loop holes to escape their responsibilities. While it's true corporations pay for fuel and service fees, their trucks run on our highways. Their products are shipped on railroads. However, it is unconscionable for companies to continue to find ways to avoid paying taxes on their profits – paid for by the majority of Americans – and not be responsible business citizens.

For companies like GE and others to make billions in profits and not pay their fair share is, well, unfair.

The complaint is that US corporate taxes are too high. That's true. But when you throw in the lack of payment by the corporations, the rate is unbalanced.

Rewrite the tax code. Get rid of tax loopholes. Make sure taxation is equal for all income levels. And the money will be there.

June 25, 2014 at 10:55 a.m.
timbo said...

Plato....raising taxes..taking my and your money from us, is a last resort. Your saying, they are doing wrong so let's do something worse to fix it because of expediency.

I could care less what that Republican establishment lap dog Clint Cooper says about anything. He is a liberal who agrees with the left side more often than conservatives. During the primaries the endorsements on both sides were Pete and Repeat. When you agree with Sohn all the time you need to do some soul searching.

June 25, 2014 at 2:38 p.m.
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