If Jim Oberstar came back to Minnesota’s 8th CD to reconnect to his constituents after almost 50 years in Washington, 36 of them in the House, he sure has a funny way of demonstrating it.  His Iron Range constituents, where mining is a major strut of the local economy, worry about the impact of the cap-and-trade bill for which Oberstar voted and which Democrats insist they will try to pass again in 2011.  In a sometimes-unruly debate in Duluth today, Oberstar accused those worried about the economic impact of cap-and-trade of being in the Flat Earth Society:

On cap-and-trade legislation aimed at reducing carbon emissions, which Oberstar voted for before the bill failed to advance, Cravaack said the nation can’t afford higher energy costs. He claimed increased costs for electricity from the carbon-cutting effort could kill Minnesota’s taconite industry.

Oberstar countered that taconite and steel industries are afforded a credit in the version of legislation he voted for, saying the nation needed to make some progress in stemming carbon emissions widely blamed for spurring global climate change.

“It’s changing our way of life. We have to deal with this issue’’ of climate change, Oberstar said to boos and cat calls from Cravaack supporters. Oberstar said the claims carbon cutting legislation will put “our industry [out] of work is fundamentally wrong.’’

When the heckling on climate change grew louder, Oberstar accused the Cravaack supporters of being in the “flat earth society.’’ When he tried to rattle off statistics on warming trends, he was shouted down again with calls of “liar.’’

Oh, they got a credit.  Well, that makes all the difference, doesn’t it?  Actually, it doesn’t.  The credit applies only to their own emissions.  Cap and trade will make energy costs skyrocket, and mining operations use a lot of energy – as do other manufacturing operations, and agriculture, all of which MN-08 constituents need for economic stability. Oberstar’s cap-and-trade bill would dump higher energy costs in a district where economic health is always at the top of voter concerns, and more so now than ever.

Chip Cravaack attacked Oberstar for his Porkulus vote as well, to which Oberstar pointed to roads and airports as signs of job-creating success:

“Did the stimulus bill work? No,’’ Cravaack said. “The United States government does not create jobs.’’

Cravaack said the government would create more jobs by cutting business taxes.

“Get rid of the regulations and restrictions,’’ Cravaack said, adding that “I trust you with your money. He (Oberstar) trusts government with your money.’’

Oberstar countered that the stimulus bill and related federal economic efforts helped slow job loss in the nation while providing private sector jobs rebuilding roads, bridges and buildings nationwide. Oberstar said the new federal spending created 13,000 construction jobs in Minnesota alone and will help pay for new airport terminals in Duluth and Brainerd and 535 miles of highway reconstruction in the state.

Can anyone spot the fallacy in this argument?  None of the jobs Oberstar highlights are permanent.  They will at best last a few months, perhaps one or two years in terms of the airport terminals Oberstar mentions.  Most of the highway construction has already been completed, and all of it would have happened anyway; all Porkulus did was move it forward on the schedule.  And all of these projects benefit the public sector, not the private sector.  Instead of creating an investment-friendly environment where capital could go to creating permanent jobs, Oberstar and the Democrats confiscated capital in both the present and the future to fund a public-works version of Cash for Clunkers.

Oberstar also pledged to defend ObamaCare if sent back to Congress:

When asked what their first priority would be if elected to Congress, Republican Cravaack said he would “get rid of Obamacare’’ to shouts of glee and applause from his supporters.

“I want to make sure that never happens,’’ DFLer Oberstar snapped back, adding that he would work to protect health care reform. He said his top priority would be to pass a federal transportation funding bill to put construction workers back to work rebuilding the nation’s highways, rails and airports. …

Oberstar countered that “health insurance company bureaucrats’’ already are standing between patients and doctors, denying coverage and looking after corporate “bottom lines’’ rather than patient care.

True, but that’s the problem with third-party payer systems in general, which ObamaCare worsens rather than alleviates by forcing everyone into that paradigm.  Also, when an insurance company “bureaucrat” acts in that manner, consumers can choose to go elsewhere.  When it’s government that does it, there are no other choices, which is one of the reasons why government should not assume the role of service providers except where only government can do it, such as law enforcement and public safety.

Beyond that, however, Oberstar seems very much out of step with the electorate with his full-throated defense of ObamaCare.  In the last Rasmussen poll, Minnesotans narrowly favor repealing ObamaCare 50/47, and 52/45 among those “certain to vote.”  Given that its popularity is almost certainly much higher inside the Metro area of the state, the chances of Oberstar’s “send me back to Washington to protect ObamaCare and impose cap-and-trade” message resonating in the 8th CD seems, well … low.

But then again, maybe that’s what happens when a man spends almost his entire adult life in Washington rather than in the district he thinks he represents.  He can tend to forget that Americans like to make their own decisions and don’t think highly of people making those decisions almost 2,000 miles away instead.  And if that wasn’t enough, accusing those constituents of being idiots who can’t comprehend his genius probably won’t help much, either.

Update: In another measure of how far Oberstar has moved away from his constituents, the former chair of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus lost the endorsement of the National Right to Life Committee, which endorsed Cravaack instead:

The former chairman of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus first lost the support of a statewide pro-life group because of his vote for the abortion-funding ObamaCare bill. Now, Rep. Jim Oberstar of Minnesota has lost the endorsement of the National Right to Life Committee.

Due in part to Oberstar’s vote and his own pro-life views, NRLC today endorsed Chip Cravaack in his campaign to unseat Oberstar for Minnesota’s eight district seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“We’re proud to endorse Chip Cravaack for Congress,” said National Right to Life Political Director Karen Cross.

She told LifeNews.com: “Chip Cravaack is firmly committed to repealing the anti-life provisions of the pro-abortion, pro-rationing Obama health care law passed by Congress in March – a law that Jim Oberstar voted for and helped enact.”

One state organization, Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, had already pulled their endorsement of Oberstar and announced support for Cravaack.