John Mica; A Bond Too Far

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By George Noga

John Mica, beginning his 10th term in Congress, represents Florida’s 7th congressional district which snakes from Winter Park to the Jacksonville city limits. The crazy quilt nature of his district likely discourages serious challengers with a political base only in one part of the district.

That may change when Florida redistricts prior to the 2012 election. A stiff challenge to Mica in the Republican primary is overdue and 2012 post-redistricting may be the right time due to Mica’s apostasy on SunRail and more recently (and more seriously) on the (“BAB”) Build America Bond program – more on that infra.

Despite a generally conservative voting record (100% in some years by the American Conservative Union and over 90% with his party), there are enough reasons why limited government, fiscally conservative voters would want him out. The case for his ouster includes:

He voted against free (actually freer) trade – particularly NAFTA. Free trade should be a bedrock article of faith for true conservatives.

He is an ardent supporter of SunRail, arguably one of the worst ideas of the past few decades. If actually built, it will hemorrhage our tax dollars ad infinitum. This by itself is reason enough to challenge Mica in 2012. He has stated, “(My) efforts will not subside until (I) succeed (with SunRail).

Eleven terms and 22 years are too many. He has contracted a severe case of Potomac Fever and has morphed into a consummate Washington insider. A list of his top contributors reads like a who’s who of big transportation companies. It is troubling that Mica, now Chairman of the Transportation Committee, raises his money outside the district and from companies his committee oversees. Bummer.

 “I can almost guarantee (subsidized bonds will be funded next year).” ˂Mica˃

But the most compelling reason to challenge Mica from the right is his determination to use his new leadership role to push through Congress a new Build America Bond (“BAB”) program. This is corporate welfare of the worst order and it is clear Mica did not get the message from voters in the November election. Virtually every Republican in Congress opposed the original $185 billion BAB program and Republicans rejected it during the recent tax deal with the White House. Now Mica is quoted by the Wall Street Journal as saying: “I can almost guarantee (that the program for subsidized bonds will be funded next year).

“Mica is taking money from voters in his district to subsidize Cadillac pension plans for overpaid government workers in blue states and enriching Wall Street underwriters with hundreds of millions of dollars.”

BABs require the federal government to pay about 35% of the lifetime interest cost on bonds issued by state and local governments not creditworthy enough to issue bonds on acceptable terms without such subsidy. States and cities issue BABs to fund Cadillac pension plans for overpaid government bureaucrats. This is taking money from the taxpayers of Mica’s district to subsidize profligate governments in heavily blue states and to enrich Wall Street underwriters who earned $700 million in BAB fees during the past two years.

Reviving BABs from the dead sends all the wrong messages and rewards bad behavior. Instead of enabling irresponsible, debt-addled governments to continue their borrowing binge, Mica should be encouraging them to reduce their dependence on debt and to make the hard choices necessary to balance their budgets without federally subsidized debt. Mica’s position on BABs is inexplicable and so wrongheaded it demands he be called to account on it.

The final reason Mica should be opposed in 2012 is that he is vulnerable in a Republican primary. With his huge war chest, larded with out of state big business contributions, he is formidable in a general election. His Achilles heel is in the primary – especially if he is opposed by a strong candidate who can raise enough money to get out his/her message.

“Mica is eminently beatable in the 2012 Republican primary. He will be unable to defend his positions on SunRail and particularly on BABs.”

Primary voters are conservative and can be counted on to vote their beliefs – just ask Charlie Crist. Mica’s big edge in funding is of only limited value in a primary. The other critical ingredient to defeating Mica is opposition from the tea party movement in his district.

In short, if the tea party coalesces around a serious, adequately funded candidate, Mica is eminently beatable. He will be unable to defend his positions on SunRail and particularly on BABs. Moreover, he does not fully comprehend the power of a ticked-off, resolute tea party. Unless he changes positions on SunRail and BABs, he is vulnerable. This time he has gone a bond too far.

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