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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Stauber votes no again

Eighth District congressman fails to represent the interests of our region


It seems nearly every missive from the office of Pete Stauber in recent months has left us here at the newspaper shaking our heads, jaws agape. We think we’ve grown used to the congressman’s hyper-partisanship and his constant dissembling, but then the latest press statement arrives and, somehow, he manages to lower the bar even further.
Perhaps he believes that his over-the-top rhetoric will prevent his constituents from realizing a basic fact about their Eighth District GOP congressman— that he regularly votes against the interests of our region.
Take the recently-passed Inflation Reduction Act, which Stauber, naturally, voted against. The wide-ranging measure takes a number of worthwhile steps in the areas of energy, health care, and taxes.
On the healthcare side, the measure caps insulin prices for Medicare beneficiaries at just $35 for a month’s supply, far less than the hundreds of dollars that many insulin users currently pay. The law also, for the first time, gives Medicare the ability to negotiate lower prices on a number of high-use pharmaceuticals and it requires that drug companies pay a rebate to Medicare if they raise drug prices faster than the cost of inflation. The new law also sets a $2,000 annual out-of-pocket cap for drugs purchased by Medicare Part D beneficiaries. At the same time, it maintains the enhanced premium assistance for middle income individuals or families buying health insurance on the private MNsure marketplace.
Stauber, in his statement, doesn’t say much about the healthcare side of the bill, since he undoubtedly knows these items will be popular with the vast majority of his constituents. But he does take time to parrot a long-overused drug company talking point, suggesting that any controls on drug prices will stifle drug innovation. As if Americans are, uniquely on the planet, supposed to be held financial hostage by drug companies so these fabulously wealthy companies can throw a couple percentage points of their profits towards their next big seller. No other government officials in any other country have ever tried selling this line of manure to their people. It’s only trotted out by Republicans, like Stauber, right here in the U.S.
On the energy side, the bill will help folks in the Eighth District save money, by paying a good chunk of the cost of improving the energy efficiency of their home. The bill includes truly hefty rebates on highly-efficient heating systems, such as air source heat pumps, as well as many appliances, which will help reduce your energy bill. It also makes major investments in renewable sources of power and offers 30 percent tax credits for homeowners who install photovoltaics on their roof. That’s another investment in lowering electric bills, while simultaneously addressing the climate crisis.
Stauber calls the measure “a $12 billion attack on clean energy production, which will further punish American families at the pump.” Yes, that strikes us as unintelligible gobbledygook as well.
The measure, incidentally, had a number of sweeteners for the oil and gas industry, at the behest of West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, but Stauber doesn’t mention any of those measures.
On taxes, he states that the new law’s $80 billion investment in the Internal Revenue Service is intended to “harass and intimidate American families, farmers, and small businesses.” That’s not just false, it directly ignores the very real disaster the U.S. has experienced for its chronic underinvestment in the IRS. Pity the poor taxpayer who is trying to do his or her own taxes (to save money) and has a question for the IRS. Only one in ten taxpayers looking for help is actually able to reach an IRS staffer because of their depleted workforce. At the same time, the agency’s auditing division is so overwhelmed that the wealthy have all but gotten away with murder in recent years. And because auditing the taxes of the wealthy is complicated and time-consuming, the agency has focused in recent years on the easy audits, mostly of low and middle-income families who qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit. Meanwhile, the real scofflaws get to skate. Current estimates put the uncollected tax bill in the U.S. at nearly a trillion dollars a year, and the vast majority of that is from the wealthy and large corporations. Having the auditors to go after these big-time tax cheats would go a long way toward addressing the federal budget deficit and allow for lower taxes on the rest of us.
A law that reduces the price of prescription drugs, helps Americans cut their energy use and save more money, addresses climate change, and makes our tax system fairer would seem to help an awful lot of residents of the Eighth District. So why is Pete Stauber voting no on this kind of legislation? Who is he really representing? Certainly, not us.