Dent Vs. the Tea Party on Abolishing Department of Education

At the State Theatre debate, Jake Towne stated that he would support abolishing the Department of Education – a position supported by Tea Party activists and 111 Republican incumbents and challengers, including would-be Speaker John Boehner.

To the great disappointment of his conservative base, Charlie Dent declined to support abolishing the Department, but promised to slash its funding if given the opportunity.

But though the base is champing at the bit to end the federal role in education (perhaps they would like universal homeschooling?), cuts in education are among the most hated by the broader electorate – certainly in this Democratic district:

The last time the Republicans made a concerted effort to eliminate the Department of Education in 1995, they ran into a strong public backlash. Polling conducted by Hart Research Associates found that 80 percent of respondents in June 1995 wanted the Department of Education to be maintained, while just 17% wanted it eliminated. With a new New York Times/CBS poll finding that education funding is the last area respondents would like to see spending cuts, it’s no stretch to imagine that a strong majority of Americans still support the Department of Education.

Nevertheless, because there exists widespread support for eliminating the Department of Education in the Republican ranks, the issue could soon come to the forefront in a GOP-controlled Congress. A comprehensive review of the voting records and statements of Republican incumbents and candidates finds that there are 111 GOPers who support shutting down the Department of Education. Though a minority (35 percent) of sitting Republicans are on record supporting elimination, the anti-education bloc will undoubtedly swell in the next Congress due to the 36 new GOP candidates who favor shutting down the Department.

This is likely why Dent tried so hard to keep Jake Towne out of the debates. The conservative policy agenda is deeply unpopular, but with Towne acting as the true right wing standard bearer on fiscal policy, it was inevitable that Dent would have to fess up to some really ugly beliefs to avoid pissing off his core supporters.

Charlie Dent: Leave the Chamber of Commerce Aloooone!

Just wow. Once again Charlie Dent sobbed at the debate that Democrats are being sooo meannnn to the Chamber of Commerce for flooding our elections with shadowy anonymous contributions from foreign corporations, foreign state-owned oil companies, and Wall Street megabanks to elect Republicans – all the while undermining our economic recovery by teaching their member businesses how to outsource American jobs to China.

Of course we know that Charlie Dent worked hard for the Chamber’s endorsement, standing with the bankers, the insurance companies, and polluters on every single issue in the 111th Congress, actively obstructing and undermining the recovery in the district he nominally represents. And just to twist the knife a little more, he even voted against forcing these corporate front groups to disclose their donors - easily the most shameful vote of Dent’s sad impotent political career. Keeping voters in the dark about the tidal wave of campaign cash is fundamentally incompatible with democracy.

Via Jeff Pooley, here is a list of some of the banks and corporations who the Chamber has disclosed. Notably, their political priorities line up perfectly with Charlie Dent’s voting record:

Prudential Financial sent in a $2 million donation last year as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce kicked off a national advertising campaign to weaken the historic rewrite of the nation’s financial regulations.

Dow Chemical delivered $1.7 million to the chamber last year as the group took a leading role in aggressively fighting proposed rules that would impose tighter security requirements on chemical facilities.

And Goldman Sachs, Chevron Texaco, and Aegon, a multinational insurance company based in the Netherlands, donated more than $8 million in recent years to a chamber foundation that has been critical of growing federal regulation and spending. These large donations — none of which were publicly disclosed by the chamber, a tax-exempt group that keeps its donors secret, as it is allowed by law — offer a glimpse of the chamber’s money-raising efforts, which it has ramped up recently in an orchestrated campaign to become one of the most well-financed critics of the Obama administration and an influential player in this fall’s Congressional elections.

Voters, Media Finally Realize How Nutty Pat Toomey Is

Voters, and the mainstream media, are finally catching on that Pat Toomey is just as loony as Christine O’Donnell, Rand Paul, and Sharon Angle. Colby Itkowitz reports:

Joe Sestak and fellow Democrats want to make Pat Toomey the fringe candidate by pointing out he voted with Rick Santorum, is being backed by Sarah Palin and once ran Club for Growth, a group that backs two of the nation’s more colorful candidates, Rand Paul in Kentucky and Sharron Angle in Nevada.

Suddenly, it seems to be working.

Fresh poll numbers, including the Morning Call/Muhlenberg College Tracker, show the Pennsylvania U.S. Senate race to be a virtual tie after months of Toomey enjoying a healthy lead.

What’s unclear is whether it will last and what Toomey, a conservative Republican, can do about it, except highlight Sestak’s liberal record and views as a Delaware County congressman.

At their first debate Wednesday night, Sestak showed that his endgame strategy is turning voters off to Toomey by linking him to polarizing figures like Palin or Christine O’Donnell in Delaware. He used their names a number of times in his answers. Toomey, after the debate, called it “silly.”

But it’s not silly if it’s effective.

Larry Ceisler, a Democratic consultant in Philadelphia, suspects Democratic voters may be paying closer attention now. They may be disappointed in President Barack Obama, but they are afraid of the alternative after hearing about controversial Republicans such as O’Donnell, or Paul, or Angle.

“Toomey’s challenge is he can get thrown in with the O’Donnells and the Palins or he can find a way to distinguish himself [in voters' minds],” Ceisler said. “If he loses this race, it’ll be on the social, cultural issues.”

Toomey accepted Sarah Palin’s endorsement yesterday, and defended his plan to privatize Social Security at last night’s debate. I’m glad that Joe Sestak zeroed in on Toomey’s discredited zombie economic ideas, but if it’s social issues that are going to take Toomey down, whatever. The Quinnipiac poll out this morning also shows the race a dead heat, and Pollster has moved it to Toss-up. Good reading on last night’s debate here, here, and here.

15th District Debate: Loose Ends

I doubt I’m going to get around to doing any more debate posts, but I have a few stray thoughts about the remaining questions that I wanted to blog.

  • On the defense budget question, both major party candidates talked about being more discerning with purchases in the appropriations process, but Jake Towne was the only one to say that there’s only so much you can do on that front without disciplining missions and ending our presence in some non-essential countries. He’s absolutely right. US troops are currently stationed in a lot of places where it’s nice to have them, but not critical to our current conflicts or central to our security needs. That’s how you get real savings. We can’t, and shouldn’t, be everywhere.
  • Answering one of the questions about jobs, Charlie Dent mentioned an idea he supports for a carryback capital gains tax credit that he got from Martin Feldstein, the chairman of the CEA under Ronald Reagan, deficit hawk, and an unrepetant supply-sider. But despite his conservative politics, Feldstein has been a loud proponent of countercyclical deficit spending to stimulate the economy since before the 2008 election, and he is still pushing for more deficit spending to stimulate the economy today. Dent is only paying selective attention to economists who confirm his own ignorant views. If he was actually listening to Feldstein, he’d be calling for more stimulus spending. Instead he’s just cherrypicking proposals that jive with his own incorrect diagnosis of the Lehigh Valley’s economy.