22 September 2010

Irresponsible Political Hack: Brian Higgins

Stephen Kershnar
Brian Higgins: Western New York’s Big Spender
Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer
September 12, 2010

Many people wonder how our federal government could have become so irresponsible. Western New Yorkers need not look elsewhere to discover the answer. The state’s 27th Congressional District includes two-thirds of Buffalo, most of the city’s Eastern and Southern suburbs, and all of Chautauqua County. It’s a district that has been gerrymandered for political purposes. This district has repeatedly elected Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY). Higgins is a great example of why Americans are disgusted with Congress. One recent NBC/Wall Street Journal August survey found that only 21% approve of the job Congress is doing. The 21% must have been on drugs.

How bad is Higgins? In 2009, Higgins received an F from the National Taxpayers Union (NTU). This grade doesn’t do justice to his assault of the taxpayers. In 2009, the NTU gave him a grade of 2 (out of 100). Just imagine what you would think if your child or students earned that grade. He consistently soaked the taxpayer more than his Democratic colleagues have done over the last five years do and that’s not easy. Despite his voting pattern, he faced minimal Republican opposition in 2006 and 2008 and received more than 70% of the vote in both elections.

Not only does he view the taxpayer as a chicken, fat and ready for the plucking, he is also an unimaginative lockstep Democrat. According to The Washington Post Votes Database, he voted with a majority of his Democratic colleagues 99.1% of the time during the current Congress. This, of course, does not include the roughly one out of twenty votes that he missed.

It is worth considering some of the bills he supported. Higgins voted for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) that was signed into law by President George W. Bush in October 2008. The program was sold as a plan for the government to spend up to $700 billion in order buy toxic assets. These are illiquid, difficult-to-value assets from banks and other financial institutions. The program mysteriously transformed into a program that allowed the government to own portions of banks and other major industries. This involved giving $40 billion to deserving institutions as Citigroup, Bank of America, and AIG (American International Group). The evidence that this was necessary to avoid a financial meltdown is weak at best. In contrast, it is clear that it was sold to the American public under false pretenses. In Higgins’ defense, he joined economic heavyweights as Presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain in voting for this monstrosity.

Some of the TARP money was used to nationalize GM. The U.S. government got 61% of it and GM’s union got 17.5% ownership stake. Chrysler also got $11 billion. How any of this related to toxic assets or financial institutions is still a mystery.

Higgins and the Democrats then became spending legends. Not satisfied with TARP, they passed the Stimulus Bill in February 2009. It allowed the government to spend $787 billion for a Christmas tree of benefits for various groups, including extending unemployment benefits and massive handouts to the states. Apparently, these generous souls were horrified at the idea of cutting taxes, but the idea of shoveling money at state governments just felt right. At the time the bill was passed unemployment was 8.2%. It is now 9.6%. Even the Congressional Budget Office predicted that in the long run the massive spending bill would be a drag on the economy. Of course this money went on the federal credit card since the country was already running a deficit. This past August, Higgins and company spent another $26 billion in welfare to state governments so that they could continue their irresponsible spending on education and Medicaid. The bill was a thinly disguised payoff to prevent layoffs to key Democrat constituencies.

Higgins further distinguished himself by voting for such abominations as Obama Care (the attempt to further socialize medicine) and cap and trade (a series of massive new energy taxes and regulations). After the election one can bank on Higgins joining Democrats when they try to give amnesty to illegal aliens and raise taxes on the rich, small businesses, inheritors, and other chickens ready for plucking.

Higgins won a tight election in 2004. However, given the spread of his recent victories, it appears that he is now the 27th District’s Congressman for life. Why does he keep getting elected?

One reason is that Buffalo is a left-wing city. According to Wikipedia.com, even when Jack Quinn was the 27th District’s Representative, it was the most Democratic district in the country to be represented by a Republican. Also, Buffalo is one of the poorest cities (roughly 29% of its people are below the poverty level) and poor cities do not vote for Republicans. Buffalo hasn’t elected a Republican mayor since 1954. This is a common pattern among the poorest cities. If you consider other poor cities, such as Detroit, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Saint Louis, Milwaukee, and Philadelphia, none of these cities has elected a Republican mayor in years. Two have not elected one in a couple of decades (Cincinnati and Cleveland) and the rest haven’t elected one in nearly 50 years. Obviously, this has worked out well for the residents, who remain mired in poverty.

A second reason is that Higgins gets infused with union money. According to OpenSecrets.org, five of his top six contributors (11 of his top 25) to his 2009-2010 campaign committee are unions. An interesting issue is whether union support explains his vote or whether the causal arrow goes in the opposite direction. My guess is that it goes both ways.

A third reason is that the local news media have not highlighted just how far left Higgins is. One searches in vain for Buffalo News articles highlighting Higgins’ spending habits or his lockstep party voting (perhaps I missed the articles). Higgins actually labels himself a moderate, raising the issue of whether his nose grows longer when he says this. A fourth reason is that Higgins dispenses pork to generate further support. He is hardly alone in doing so. Here he joins the long tradition that includes Congressmen we can all be proud of, such as the late Dan Rostenkowski, Ted Stevens, and Robert Byrd.

Brian Higgins is far-left member of Congress and part of the Obama revolution. He is a case study in how a big-spending Congress stays in power and runs the economy into the ground. Western New York has only itself to blame for him.