SuperCommittee Appointee Fred Upton (R-MI)-- Not Just A Disaster For Our Economic Health, A Disaster For Health In General
More than a few people were surprised when John Boehner chose Michigan plutocrat Fred Upton for the SuperCommittee. Is he, they wondered, dependable enough to stick with the party's lockstep obstructionist line? In the past, Upton has cultivated a reputation as a mainstream conservative. But, those paying attention have seen a marked change in him since the rise of the Tea Party. These days, Upton has not just signed onto the Grover Norquist pledge, he's swallowed whole the entire far right agenda being pushed by the Koch Brothers and the other ultra-reactionary billionaires financing the teabaggers. Upton gave up his mainstream conservatism to embrace a radical right, even fascist ideology with nary a whimper.
Louis and Emory Upton founded the Upton Machine Company in 1911 and the congressman's grandfather, Freddy, transformed it into Whirlpool in 1950, which he headquartered in Benton Harbor 6 years later, still part of Upton's economically depressed congressional district. They began buying up other companies-- like KitchenAid, Maytag, Jenn-Air, Amana, Magic Chef and Dixie-Narco and by 2007 they were closing plants all over America, offshoring in a search for non-unionized slave labor. In 2007 alone-- as annual revenues surged past $19 billion, the Uptons closed plants in Newton, Iowa, Searcy, Arkansas and Herrin, Illinois, taking 4,5000 jobs out of America. The next two years saw plant closings in La Vergne, Tennessee, Oxford, Mississippi and Evansville, Indiana while sucking nearly $20 million in U.S. Department of Energy funding as part of its Smart Grid Investment Grant program.
Evansville's Whirlpool factory, which has employed several generations of Tri-Staters and once gave backing to the city's claim as "Refrigerator Capital of the World," will close next year, leaving at least 1,100 people unemployed as production moves to Mexico.
...Company officials cited global economic conditions as well as a decline in demand for the freezer-topped refrigerators produced here as reasons for closure of the 1.7-million-square-foot factory.
It was news that stunned many of the workers, though the company has been steadily shaving jobs over the past few years.
...One employee, 46-year-old Robert Gross of Mount Carmel, Ill., said employees had heard rumors that the plant would close for many years, but that employees were still stunned and upset that the company is moving the jobs to Mexico.
"You guys are making a lot of money, but you guys are sending our jobs to Mexico. It's just not right." Gross said he told a company official.
It will be, by far, the largest blow the current recession has dealt to Southwestern Indiana's economic infrastructure. Vanderburgh and its neighboring counties had been affected less than counties farther north in the state. As of July, unemployment in Vanderburgh County stood at 8.2 percent, while most counties in northern Indiana were well into double digits.
So why exactly did Boehner chose Upton for this crucial position on the SuperCommittee? An article in last week's Washington Post points to the answer: Some of the country’s best-known multinational corporations closely guard a number they don’t want anyone to know: the breakdown between their jobs here and abroad. The Upton family is certainly adept at playing that game and that game is at the very heart of the devastating Republican economic agenda for America. The big American multinationals like Whirlpool have cut 2.9 million jobs in the U.S. while adding 2.4 million jobs overseas during the Bush years.
Some of the same companies that do not report their jobs breakdown, including Apple and Pfizer, are pushing lawmakers to cut their tax bills in the name of job creation in the United States.
Few Republicans are as wily and practiced in obfuscating this harsh reality as Upton. Last week his own constituents in Kalamazoo were furious about his anti-jobs agenda and let him know it at a townhall meeting. Watch:
And while Upton was doing his little song-and-dance about jobs, he got a letter from the American Lung Association, not exactly a partisan organization, but an organization worried about his recent statements about abolishing the EPA-- and one that has clashed with Upton in the past.
As you and your colleagues on the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction begin your deliberations, the American Lung Association writes to urge you to prioritize and protect investments in public health and to produce a final bill that is free from any policy riders.
The American Lung Association is the oldest national voluntary health organization and the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease through education, advocacy and research. The American Lung Association wishes to call particular attention to the importance of maintaining lifesaving investments in the budgets of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
• CDC is at the heart of our nation’s efforts to prevent and reduce diseases such as asthma and those caused by tobacco use. Preventing and reducing chronic diseases will result in greater American productivity and fewer healthcare costs.
• EPA plays a critical role in protecting the public health from life-threatening air pollution that can cause asthma attacks, heart attacks, strokes, cancer and shorten lives.
• NIH works to find cures and treatments for diseases such as lung cancer, emphysema and asthma.
• In addition, the American Lung Association calls on the committee to preserve and maintain the levels of funding for the Prevention and Public Health Fund as defined in the Affordable Care Act. The Fund was created to be a dedicated investment in addition to current appropriations to prevention and public health in order to reduce medical costs and improve the health of all Americans.
Reduction in funding for these critical public health agencies and to the Prevention and Public Health Fund will lead to greater healthcare costs and burdens on the Medicaid and Medicare system-- driving up spending instead of reducing it. Finally, legislation that is as important and as far-reaching as what will be produced by this committee must not include policy riders that prevent agencies from taking the steps they are required to do to protect public health. The American Lung Association calls upon the Joint Committee to reject the inclusion of any policy riders from its final product.
Continuing investments in public health today will save lives and healthcare dollars both now and in the future. The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction must protect the public health by maintaining funding for these critical health agencies and by not including any policy riders that would hamper federal agencies from carrying out their responsibilities to protect the public health.
It was signed by Charles Connor the president and CEO of the organization. As we pointed out last week, progressive Iraq war vet, John Waltz, is taking on Upton for the southwest Michigan congressional seat, a seat President Obama won in 2008 with 54% of the vote. Of the 7 counties that make up the 6th district, Obama won majorities in Berrien (52%), Calhoun (54%), Cass (51%), Kalamazoo (59%) and Van Buren (53%).
Upton has never had a serious Democratic challenger before. The voters don't especially like him but they had no one to inspire them in the past. John Waltz is changing that. Let's take Calhoun County, for example. In 2008 Obama took 34,561 votes and McCain took 28,553. On the same day Senator Carl Levin took 37,323 votes and the clownish Republican opposing him, perennial candidate Jack Hoogendyk, won 23,060. But just down the ballot in the House race, only 1,851 voters bothered to mark their ballots for Upton (and only 817 for his Democratic opponent). Think about that kind of a fall off. Clearly Calhoun County voters were willing to turn out for Obama and Levin. Upton spent $1,527,587 on that race and Democrat Don Cooney, a professor at Western Michigan University, spent $84,883. Last year, running in Kentucky, Waltz raised close to half a million dollars. This year he'll intends on giving Upton the fight of his political life. (Please consider pitching in here.) I asked him if he thought the letter from the American Lung Association would make Upton stop and think about how badly he's veered away from the mainstream. He didn't.
" Once this letter hits Fred Upton's office there is a good chance it will end up in the waste bin because he has been bought off by mega corporations who want a free pass to pollute. Upton has pledged his allegiance to the Tea Party and has sworn a blood oath to eliminate the EPA. Considering he represents a district that borders Lake Michigan and the huge oil spill in the Kalamazoo river last year his anti-environmental agenda is destructive and backwards. If we don't stop Upton in 2012 we can fully expect him to be the chief architect of tea party policy."