RICH BULEY: Don’t let our Social Security fall into the hands of Wall Street

In the world of politics, memories are very short. Nine years past seems like eons ago. Yet, 2005 should be in a lot of voters’ minds. 2005 was the year that George W. Bush and his Republican controlled Congress tried to turn Social Security over to Wall Street. 2008 was the year Wall Street lost about half its value and almost tanked the entire economy.

One of the supporters of privatization is now the Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, Republican from Kentucky. When McConnell was recently asked about future plans to resurrect Social Security privatization plans should Republicans become the majority in the Senate, McConnell said, “I’m not announcing what the agenda would be in advance.”. Whoa!, He might as well have said, “Of course it’s back on the table, but I’m not going to let the voters know that.”

This is a big deal here in Montana because our Senate seat may go from Democrats who oppose privatization to a Republican, Steve Daines. Although Daines wasn’t in Congress in 2005, we do know that Daines is a good soldier for the Republican leadership. He voted along with leadership to shut down the government, costing us billions. He voted along with John Boehner to cut food stamps and Meals on Wheels. In fact, Daines voted in lock step with his bosses pretty much 100% of the time, no matter how much that vote hurt Montanans.

There is no way Daines will admit it, but a vote for Daines is almost certainly a vote to turn Social Security over to Daines’ controllers on Wall Street.

RICH BULEY: Daines and Zinke are on the crazy train

I just read in the old newspaper that Steve Daines and Ryan Zinke will be attending a fundraiser this week in Billings where the guest of honor will be Dr. Ben Carson. I don’t know how familiar Montanans are with Dr. Carson, but he is a star on Fox News since he’s black, a doctor, and a conductor on the far right wing crazy train.

Although Dr. Carson is a retired neurosurgeon, he now says that he he doesn’t believe in evolution. I write “now says” because I have a hard time believing that anyone could get through hundreds of hours of biology and microbiology classes in training to be a doctor and not believe in evolution. How does he think that viruses mutate?

Dr. Carson went on the Sean Hannity show to feed the viewers some red meat and said that gays were the same as pedophiles and beastialists. That started a petition by Johns Hopkins students and faculty to remove Dr. Carson as their commencement speaker. Even after almost apologizing, saying he was sorry “if he offended anybody”, he maintains that marriage is only between a man and a woman because the Bible tells him so. This brings up an interesting point. The Bible also says its a sin to even touch pig flesh. However, for many years, doctors have used pig valves to replace aortic valves in patients to save their lives. I can’t find Dr. Carson making a public statement about this abomination.

Dr. Carson believes we should have a flat tax system because it is similar to a religious tithe. It also would be a tremendous gift to the rich sine the totality of their income would be taxed at the same rate as the poorest members of society. In another speech, Dr. Carson called the Affordable Care Act, “the worst thing that has happened to this nation since slavery.” I have health insurance at a reasonable cost and I’m not concerned that I will be sold at auction. In the same speech, Dr. Carson went full wing nut and said, “socialized medicine is the keystone in the establishment of a socialist state.” alleging that his statement was a quote from Vladimir Lenin himself. The problem is, Lenin never said any such thing. Rather, the made up quote first appeared when the American Medical Association was fighting tooth and nail to defeat an expansion of MediCare during the Truman administration, 60 years ago.

I really could go on and on here, but I’m sure you get the idea. Steve Daines and Ryan Zinke are glad to hitch their cars to the crazy train. But, that train isn’t going anywhere that will help Montanans.

RICH BULEY: Bought and paid for

Wow! Just, wow! 100,000 mailers have been sent to voters in Montana containing the seal of the state of Montana and calling itself “2014 Montana General Election Voter Information Guide”. The problem is, it does not come from the State of Montana, but from the right wing conservative Hoover Institute at Stanford University. The blogs montana cowgirl and flathead memo (go there for a screenshot) have been on this story, which apparently has not yet caught the attention of the state’s newspapers.

The mailer is obviously designed to aid Lawrence Van Dyke in his quest to win a seat on the Montana Supreme Court. I have personally received mailers from out of state organizations funded by the Koch Brothers on behalf of Van Dyke, but this latest mailer sets a new standard for sleaze. It is very apparent that out of state concerns are trying to buy our Supreme Court. Candidates for Montana’s Supreme Court run as nonpartisans for a reason. Seats on the bench should not be for sale. Unfortunately, it is extremely obvious that Lawrence Van Dyke has been bought and paid for.

RICH BULEY: Do your candidates represent you?

I wrote earlier about LR 126 which is a Republican attempt to limit voting. This is part of a nationwide effort by Republicans to suppress voting. Paul Krugman of the New York Times has an excellent piece entitled “Plutocrats against Democracy”. I encourage everyone to take the time to read and consider the article, especially how it relates to Montana’s elections. I would then encourage everyone to see who big money out of state PACS and corporations are supporting. Then, ask yourself whether those same candidates are going to represent you or their sugar daddies.

RICH BULEY: Keystone XL will not create as many jobs as you think

I think it is high time to lay to rest the lie that construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline will result in 5000 Montana jobs as alleged by Steve Daines in Monday’s debate.  The actual number of jobs for Montanans will be between 93 and 257. And, those jobs will last only one to two years. The fact of matter is the pipeline will only create about 5000 jobs in the entire country, and 90% of those will be filled by Canadians. Only 35 permanent jobs will be created.

Further, as the Cornell study found, the pipeline may actually result in a net loss in jobs. That is because the pipeline will allow TransCanada to bypass existing refineries in the MidWest actually causing gas prices in the United States to increase!

The Keystone XL Pipeline is a boondoggle for the developer TransCanada since it gets to transport its tar sands through Montana to be refined in the Gulf Coast, but it does nothing to benefit Montana. Rather, Montana just takes the risk of a rupture.

RICH BULEY: Collapse of the middle class

In my last post about the Senatorial debate, I wrote some about how the Republican economic policy of “trickle down” has killed the middle class. Coincidentally, a brand new study graphically shows how the middle class has been screwed.

The end of World War II began the great expansion of the middle class in America. From 1941 Until 1981 (the beginning of the Reagan “trickle down”) the share of wealth of the bottom 90% of families increased from 20% to 36%. Since Reagan the bottom 90% of families have lost all of those gains. We are now back to where we were at the Great Depression.

But, has the Republican trickle down been the cause of the precipitous decline of the middle class? Why yes, yes it has. Because wages for the 90% has remained stagnant for the last 30 years, the 90% has been unable to save any money. On the other hand, the top 10% saves 35% of their income.

The big problem here, is that if these Republican policies are not changed, then: “Ten or twenty years from now, all the gains in wealth democratization achieved during the New Deal and the post-war decades could be lost. While the rich would be extremely rich, ordinary families would own next to nothing, with debts almost as high as their assets.”

The authors describe what must be done to avoid the total collapse of the middle class, and it includes everything that Steve Daines is against. The remedy:
” First, current preferential tax rates on capital income compared to wage income are hard to defend in light of the rise of wealth inequality and the very high savings rate of the wealthy. Second, estate taxation is the most direct tool to prevent self-made fortunes from becoming inherited wealth—the least justifiable form of inequality in the American meritocratic ideal. Progressive estate and income taxation were the key tools that reduced the concentration of wealth after the Great Depression. The same proven tools are needed again today.”

Put simply, a vote for Steve Daines or any Republican is a vote for the destruction of the middle class. A vote for Amanda Curtis and other Democrats is our only chance to recover the losses of the last 30 years.

RICH BULEY: No surprises in the debate

There were no real surprises in the debate between Steve Daines and Amanda Curtis. There were a couple of statements made that need highlighting or explanation, though.

The first question to Steve Daines was a simple one, would he vote again to shut down the government? Daines didn’t answer the question and blamed the government shutdown of 2013 on Washington being broken. Any Congressman, such as Mr. Daines knows that spending and budgeting are controlled by Congress and all spending bills must originate in the House of Representatives. Because of this, when the U.S. reaches the end of its fiscal year in October, the House must raise the federal debt limit. This is basically an accounting procedure since the House has already approved and spent the money. But, in 2013, the Republican controlled House decided to hold the debt limit hostage for one reason only, they wanted to defund the Affordable Care Act. It wasn’t a “Washington breakdown”, it was simply a tea party tantrum supported by Steve Daines. And, by the way, although he was specifically asked twice, Daines refused to say he wouldn’t vote for another shutdown.

When asked about the Affordable Care act, Amanda Curtis supported the idea of making health care available to all. Daines called for a complete repeal of the ACA and said it should be replaced by a “Montana based solution.” But, what the heck does that mean? Daines didn’t say. I guess Daines wants to kick the can over to Montana’s state government. Montana doesn’t have the money or ability to completely run its own system. I guess Daines just thought it made a good sound bite rather than making good sense.

One of the big dilemmas facing Republican candidates this year is their past support of “Person hood” Constitutional Amendments. Steve Daines is a co-sponsor of the federal bill. The big problem with such bills is that, not only would they outlaw abortion in any circumstance including rape, incest, or the life of the mother, they would outlaw popular forms of birth control such as the pill and IUDs. The other problem facing Republicans is their approval of the US Supreme Court decision, Hobby Lobby, which allowed corporations to decide what provisions of a health care policy they don’t like. The Affordable Care Act mandates health policy coverage for contraceptives at no cost. Hobby Lobby, didn’t want to pay for policies that included contraceptive coverage.

However, the people covered by these health insurance policies like being able to afford contraceptives. In fact, the American public, by an overwhelming margin believe that birth control should be easily available and cheap. After all, isn’t it much more cost effective to fill a birth control prescription, than to pay for a Caesarian section? So, Mr. Daines, even though he has co-sponsored a person hood bill, supports the Hobby Lobby ruling, and has voted continually to repeal the Affordable Care Act, said, “I want to make it clear that I support the availability of contraception.” Really?

One of the best questions asked by the panel was addressed to Mr. Daines asking whether his economic plan of less governmental regulation and lower corporate taxes wasn’t just “trickle down ” economics which has failed to help the middle class. It is certain that Republican “trickle down” economics is killing the American middle class. Mr. Daines’ answer was, dig more coal. I’m not sure if Mr. Daines is aware, but here in Missoula County, we don’t have coal. Nor does most of the nation. Daines then again brought up the supposed Obama “War on Coal” which he contended is keeping the Crow Reservation from mining coal. That is a bald faced lie. The Obama Administration has approved the mine! There are two reasons the coal has yet to be mined. One is that its not profitable. Two is that the coal would have to be transported through other Indian reservations that want no part of the coal.
I laughed out loud when Mr. Daines said that we can’t have a serious discussion about reforming Medicare because as soon as someone makes a suggestion, there are a bunch of thirty second ads running. Does anyone remember the ad Steve Daines ran this summer with a nice pink haired lady saying she couldn’t support John Walsh because he might cut Medicare? I do! The ad contained the absolute lie that Obamacare will cut Medicare funds.

Further on the issue of Medicare, Mr. Daines flatly denied that he had voted to turn Medicare into a voucher system. That denial is a lie. Mr. Daines voted for the House Concurrent Resolution 96, of 2014. This was popularly known as the Paul Ryan Budget proposal. The text of the Resolution as it relates to Medicare is:

“For Medicare, this budget advances policies to put seniors, not the Federal Government, in control of their health care decisions. Those in or near retirement will see no changes, while future retirees would be given a choice of private plans competing alongside the traditional fee-for-service Medicare program. Medicare would provide a premium-support payment either to pay for or offset the premium of the plan chosen by the senior, depending on the plan’s cost.”

That, ladies and gentlemen, is a voucher system. Daines did indeed vote for it, as recorded here.


RICH BULEY: Curtis vs. Daines

Since the election is just a few short weeks away, I thought it would be useful to compare and contrast the candidates on various issues. Let’s start with the senate race between Democrat Amanda Curtis and Republican Steve Daines.

Women’s Issues

Amanda Curtis supports a woman’s right to choose and believes that right is protected under the Constitution. Curtis further believes contraception and family planning decisions should be made between a woman and her doctor, not the government.

Steve Daines supports the outlawing of abortion under any circumstance, including instances of rape or incest. Daines is a cosponsor of the Federal Life at Conception Act which would amend the Constitution to provide that a human being is fully formed at the time of conception. Not only would this then outlaw all abortions, it would outlaw many regularly prescribed forms of birth control. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has gone on record opposing such bills since they would outlaw common forms of birth control such as the “pill” and IUDs. Further, an egg may be fertilized (conception) but unless it implants in a woman’s uterus, it will not survive. Therefore, medical science considers implantation to begin a pregnancy, not fertilization.

Amanda Curtis strongly opposes the U.S. Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision. That decision allows corporations to decide whether their employees have access to insurance paid birth control, rather than the insured women.

Steve Daines supports the decision and believes that the religious beliefs of a for-profit corporation should trump the rights of affected women.

As a working woman, Amanda Curtis supports the Paycheck Fairness Act which mandates that workers of both sexes should receive equal pay for equal work.

Steve Daines, nonworking multimillionaire, does not support equal pay and voted against allowing the House of Representatives to even vote on the bill. The reason given by spokespersons for denying a vote was that, and I am not making this up, it would “perpetuate the narrative that Republicans are anti-women.”

Because women account for 62% of all workers who earn the minimum wage, increasing the minimum wage is certainly a woman’s issue. the federal minimum wage has not been raised for the past eleven years. The actual value of the minimum wage in real terms has declined 30% over the last 30 years.

Amanda Curtis believes all workers should receive a livable wage.

Steve Daines believes we shouldn’t even have a minimum wage.

I’ll contrast the candidates on other issues in the coming days.


RICH BULEY: The evils of secrecy

The most infuriating news report I’ve read in a long time is an an investigation by the New York Times exposing the secret discovery of chemical agents by, and injury to, US soldiers in Iraq. The discovery of mustard gas and sarin was kept secret from even exposed soldiers because the chemical weapons were those supplied to Iraq by the United States during the Reagan and Bush I years. They were not the WMDs that Bush the younger lied about to get us into the war.

Go read the whole report. It exposes the evil of secrecy in the interest of “National Security”. Anytime you hear that something must be kept secret because of national security, you can be pretty sure its being kept secret to cover up massive malfeasance of the military, the CIA, or the administration.