[Title is a quote from Chris Fields as overheard on 1130AM’s Late Debate on September 1, 2012]
I am completely and utterly embarrassed as a resident of Minnesota’s Fifth District. Rep. Keith Ellison has always been somewhat of a nut and a provocateur, but I didn’t realize he was just plain incompetent as well. After reading the local lapdog media coverage of the Ellison/Fields’ debate, one would assume it was a good exchange of ideas that was essentially a draw. This would mean Fields held his own against a seasoned politician who has been in Washington, DC for six years. Check out this:
“The two sparred over their jobs proposals: Ellison wants to invest in infrastructure and energy to increase jobs; Fields called on Congress to do more to encourage small business and to stop taxing tips in the service industry.
Fields' supporters booed Ellison when he announced his support for the Obama administration's health care overhaul. Ellison repeatedly suggested that the audience run Fields' talking points on health care through media fact-checking sites because most, he said, have been debunked.”
Now that sounds like it was a tie and maybe Fields had a few facts wrong. The article intimated Ellison really could thrust and parry debate points with the best of them. Then, I read Jeff Kolb’s account of the meeting. I’ve known from reading Ellison's exploits and interacting with him that he’s a loose cannon with loose screws but I didn’t expect this:
“For his part, Ellison alternated between babbling nonsensically, shouting at the audience, and talking over the moderator. He was on the defense, and clearly agitated. Sadly, the debate was on radio and not TV, because the eye-rolling, headshaking and general face-making on Ellison’s part reached truly Al-Gore-ian proportions.”
The debate hasn’t been transcribed but I have done some of that for this post. For a nice slice of the debate, here is the link to the videotape at Patch.com. (h/t James Warden)
It started off nicely enough and the first section was about fixing our high unemployment situation. Fields said, “Small businesses are the engines of job growth. My wife has a small business and yes, she built that.” Pretty standard fair and conventionally he makes a great point. We grow jobs when small businesses are created and grow.
After a semi-incoherent explanation of Obama’s tired green energy initiatives, here is Ellison’s weird response to the unemployment question.
Ellison: “we also need to create incentives so that we can retrofit old windy buildings. You know the fact is most of the energy we lose is through the roofs.” I think we can all agree we lose more energy and money from old windy politicians and Ellison in particular seems to be losing his mind right through his roof.
Then Ellison explains to the crowd his economic theory. If it seems a completely disjointed, you’d be reading it right.
“I had a small business myself and you know when I hired people, I hired them because I needed them, because they had the money to hire me. So it’s not job, it’s not people who own businesses, but the American consumer and middle class that generates business activity, but people need to have more money so they can, so they can spend and so they can help generate economic activity.”
According to my “Collectivism for Dummies” reference book, Ellison is explaining “You Didn’t Build That.” He didn’t do it as succinctly as President Obama or as angrily as Elizabeth Warren but essentially it’s the gist of his argument. Business owners don’t build businesses, society does. At least, that’s the best I could make of his explanation.
After Ellison finished with his Neo-Marxist lecture, Fields, who must speak Ellisonese fluently, explained the green energy boondoggles to the crowd.
Fields: “I’ll say this. Those are failed policies we have tried over the past four years. We have increased our debt substantially. A trillion dollar stimulus plan that has failed. The 20 billion dollars that went in for clean energy programs went to Democratic donors of President Obama and other guys.”
To rebut, Ellison then explains how the Bush era tax cuts, which he characterized as only for the wealthy, created the slowest job growth decade. Ellison seems to believe the 4.5 to 5.7% unemployment rate at that time is significantly worse than our current 8.3% UE along with a shrinking work force. I guess math isn’t his forte either. But I digress.
The debate topic moved to taxes. Fields explained how President Obama believed tax rates shouldn’t go up in a bad economy and he said they shouldn’t be raised now either. However, Fields believes tax reform should occur. The question then went to his opponent.
It seems Ellison memorized some talking points from Debbie Wasserman Schultz and PMSDNC to refute Fields’ reasonable statements. However, he got the intent and sequence out of order.
Ellison: “We had a robust thriving economy during Clinton’s time, and our tax rates were higher than they are now. We should allow the top 2% to go back to that time and we will be able to maintain taxes for people who make under $250,000 a year, and this is deficit wise, because if we just let, extend all tax cuts we will increase the deficit and the debt. So I mean, you cannot simply say we can give taxes away and not even ask the most fortunate among us to pay taxes and say we want to cut the debt.”
I’m glad I had my “crazy to English” dictionary handy. Ellison is NOT suggesting the top 2% income earners should jump into a time machine and return to the 1990’s. He believes they should pay Clinton era tax rates. Second, he believes our budget deficits have nothing to do with spending. Budget deficits are solely due to tax rates. Third, he is under the impression if you have a lower tax rate, that is “giving money away” which suggests wage earners OWE their income to the government and then the government lets us keep a share. Finally, he seems to believe the highest income people in this country don’t pay any taxes whatsoever. The fact is they pay most of the money flowing into the Treasury. Democratic talking points just don’t acknowledge that inconvenient little detail.
There was a question from the audience from a north side Minneapolis minister. He asked about economic development and jobs for minorities. Ellison had an entire list of programs, spending millions of dollars he helped pass. Since the African-American community suffers from a serious unemployment gap now; what Ellison planned hasn’t worked. In response Fields took Ellison apart, point by point including this:
“The $400,000 received for Summit, well that was given to a buddy who does a wonderful job running the school and also has some $90,000 BMW. More crony capitalism right there.”
Fields didn’t just criticize Ellison’s failed spending programs. Fields’ answer for empowering and fixing the economic situation for minorities was poignant, personal, and powerful.
Fields: “In 1984 I graduated high school valedictorian from the south Bronx. I could not pass one half a semester in college because our education was so poor in the south Bronx. If I’m elected I’ll focus on insuring that we close that achievement gap permanently. That is the key to prosperity. That is the key to minorities having access to the American Dream.”
People who have not been properly educated don’t have the actual confidence or the skills to create new businesses and new products. Minorities who don’t have decent access to schools that teach the fundamentals well are handicapped in their future endeavors. Fields is absolutely right that education and opportunity are what is needed. Pumping government money into crony capitalistic and crony socialistic enterprises won’t fix the underlying economy. That only helps the few, not the many.
I listened to the rest of the debate and it showed Chris Fields’ command of the issues. Fields sounded like the seasoned elected official with real solutions while Ellison sounded like a half-baked challenger to the status quo. It also revealed just how completely inept Ellison is. If this is the kind of behavior that he demonstrates in the House of Representatives, no wonder he can’t influence legislation or change minds. The guy is a worthless debater but even worse he doesn’t even understand his own talking points.