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Hoping to make some political hay . . .

Well, I just sent the following to Mark Kirk, who currently sits as the junior Senator from Illinois. I'd sent my 2 cents worth as part of a drive to let Congress as a whole know many of us do not want funding for Planned Parenthood cut. I'll let my response speak for itself (I've copied it below); I tried to keep it civil and stay factual, I didn't call him any names, but I also let him know that I understand the history of what's been going on for at least the last 30 years far better than he might have thought.

So, here's what I sent him:

Mr. Kirk,

Here is a copy of the email you sent me:

Dear Mr. Fulkerson:

Thank you for contacting me regarding federal support for family planning and Title X. I appreciate your thoughts on this important issue.

The Family Planning Services and Population Research Act of 1970 established the family planning program in Title X of the Public Health Service Act. Under this program, grants to public and private nonprofit agencies provide contraceptive services to millions of low-income and uninsured women across the country, as well as screening and treatment of a wide range of diseases, including breast and cervical cancer, HIV, sexually transmitted infections, high blood pressure and anemia. For many women and children, Title X serves as an entry point into the health care system, as well as a source of primary health care services. Recognizing the importance of this program, the federal government increased its commitment to Title X by 10.9% between FY2006 and FY2010.

While I have always supported Title X for the basic health care and contraceptive services provided, no element of the federal budget should be singled out from the shared sacrifices necessary to get our economy back on track in this country. In recent years, our country witnessed massive spending increases and unprecedented budget deficits. Between FY2000 and FY2009, federal spending was approximately 20% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and federal revenues averaged 18% of GDP. In FY2009, federal revenue dropped to 15% of GDP while federal spending increased to 25% of GDP – resulting in a $1.4 trillion deficit. The federal deficit was $1.3 trillion in FY2010 and by January 2011 the national debt stood at more than $14 trillion.

The chief threat to restoring our economy is runaway federal spending and debt. In addition to the short-term limits on domestic spending, Congress must exercise restraint in all areas of the federal budget. Statutory changes in the federal budgeting process are also needed to prevent reckless spending in the future, which is why I support a Balanced Budget Amendment to the United States Constitution and a statutory cap on all spending – discretionary and mandatory – to the 40-year historical average of 20.6%. I also voluntarily reduced my Senate office budget by 15% to show that even Congress is not exempt from cutting back and living within its means.

To put our nation on a path of fiscal responsibility, Congress needs to change course from spending money we do not have. Again, while no one program should be singled out, we will need shared sacrifice across all areas of government. Please be assured that I will continue to keep your thoughts in mind as I work to balance the budget and reduce debt.

Again, thank you for taking the time to contact me. To stay informed on important issues, I encourage you to visit my website at http://kirk.senate.gov and my Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SenatorKirk.


Mark Kirk
United States Senator

Please do not think that I will accept far-right talking points as a response in this matter. While it is true that there are problems with the budgetary process in Washington (as well as in Illinois), the blame cannot be placed solely on programs that have had a demonstrably positive effect on the lives of millions of Americans. To even think about cutting health care of any kind, but especially to poor women and girls who have no other way of getting that health care is callous and cruel, at best.

It is also disingenuous to claim that the problem lies solely with how much money is being spent. This fiscal nightmare can be traced back to one period very easily, the period during which Ronald Reagan occupied the White House. It was on his watch that he played tit for tat politics and got the Congress to pass a massive and needless cut in tax rates for the extremely wealthy, chopping the top rate from approximately 60% to less than 30%. I remember that time very well, for Reagan stood there, on TV, and told everyone we'd gotten a tax cut that would go into effect in January of 1986. Imagine my reaction when I got my first paycheck that was for a period totally within that month, and saw that my withholding had gone UP, proving the he had lied to all of us. The economy, which had been in a worsening slump since 1980, got even worse over the following decade. Because taxes actually went up on the vast majority of Americans, this was, in fact, the largest tax increase in history, but even that wasn't enough to make up for the massive cut actually given only to those making over $1,000,000 per year.

When President Clinton managed to get a very modest tax increase on the super-wealthy passed through Congress, and signed it into law he was demonized by the far-right, who falsely claimed it to be the biggest tax increase in history (conveniently forgetting that dubious honor belonged solely to Reagan), but the economy took off like a rocket. Despite the bemoaning of the right wing noise machine, we ended the 1990's with a budget surplus that would have continued for decades, and a true end of deficit spending in sight.

Then there was the debacle in Florida in 2000, where the five votes cast by the Supreme Court placed George W. Bush in the White House (and he was given a far-right majority in Congress, as well, since the people thought they were electing Al Gore and were still operating under the delusion that a divided government is better). The economy began to tank the day after the Supreme Court decision was announced, since the stock market knew very well what was in store. This new Congress happily and speedily took back the Clinton-era tax increase on the wealthy, and cut those taxes even further, then borrowed billions of dollars to send a pittance back to the common man to convince us that we'd gotten a cut, too.

If you're still reading at this point, it should be obvious that I advocate, at the very least, a return to the tax rates that last existed when President Clinton was in office, when the economy was strong, there was common-sense regulation of business and banks to prevent the abuses that led to this most recent financial meltdown, and there were jobs to be had for most everyone.

Do you want to convince me you really care, Mr. Kirk? There is one way you could do that. Begin today to advocate for a return to those tax rates and business and banking regulations as they existed in 1999. The economy will turn around within three months, guaranteed. The federal deficit will be gone within five years, and there will be a surplus within seven. There will be no need to tinker with Social Security then, and we will be able to afford far more realistic health care than the modest current law provides for.

I know you will not do this. Or are you brave enough to show me that you actually have some integrity, and really do want to solve these problems, instead of just repeat far-right nonsense that most people know is a pack of lies? Let's see something from you. Can you step up and take the challenge I'm making? The facts of history bear out what I'm telling you, can you be man enough to admit when you are wrong and make a genuine, honest attempt to help fix the mess, instead of making it worse?

Show me what you're made of, Mr. Kirk. I'd be very interested in seeing it.

James Fulkerson