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.

RICH BULEY: “Well, Duh!”

This just in from the “Well, Duh!” department; America’s retailers can’t make money because workers’ wages have remained stagnant. It appears that overpaid CEOs at huge corporations have figured out that if workers have no money to spend, the workers can’t buy their stuff. That is the “demand” part of the the law of supply and demand.

Ironically, these same CEOs have been supporting the Republican politicians who have been killing the middle class. Since the Reagan revolution and the institution of “trickle down” policies, wealth has continued to become more concentrated in the upper percentiles. The top 10% takes home 50% of all income in America. The 10% doesn’t spend money at Wal Mart, Applebee’s or McDonalds.

On the other end of the scale, the average American family makes LESS than the average family of 15 years ago. This is the first time that has happened since the Great Depression! Speaking of the Great Depression, wealth inequality is now at its worst since the Great Depression.

In another bit of irony, the big business CEOs, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Republican Party are all opposed to raising the minimum wage. The federal minimum wage has not been raised for eleven years. The value of the minimum wage in real economic terms has declined 30% over the last 30 years. So, when Wal Mart or McDonalds pays its workers the minimum wage, their own workers can’t afford to shop at their own stores, and they can’t make a profit. Its not karma, its just supply and demand.

RICH BULEY: Steve Daines and the Missoulian

Way back in 2012, the MIssoulian wrote an editorial endorsing Steve Daines for Congress. In that endorsement, the Missoulian stated it was doing so because, “… it is of the utmost importance that Montana’s choice for U.S. representative be able to forge coalitions to craft meaningful legislation and get it approved quickly.”

So, how did that work out? As far as coalitions went, Daines voted in lock step with the Tea Party zealots, so no coalitions. How about “meaningful legislation”. None, but Daines did vote in vain 50 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

The Missoulian editorial went on to state, “Another major priority for Daines involves getting a handle on the federal budget to reduce the national debt – a goal that can only be accomplished if the economy is once again robust.”  Daines attempted to thwart the economic recovery by shutting down the government and costing the economy $24 billion. Then Daines tried to reduce the national debt by cutting food stamps and Meals on Wheels. These cuts, though, only amounted to 0.008% of government spending.

In the same election of 2012, 75% of Montana voters approved LI 166 which called for a Constitutional Amendment to overturn Citizen’s United and clarify that corporations are not people. Daines was called upon to introduce such a bill in Congress. Of course, he didn’t. Rather, he  enthusiastically supports Citizens United and actually receives money from them.

It will be interesting to see what the Missoulian editorial board says this election.

RICH BULEY: Guns vs. Ebola

A slogan like Steve Daines’ “Less Government More Jobs” always sounds great in the abstract. The “less government” part has real world consequences, though. Since ebola seems to be in the news, its worth noting that cutting the CDC does have real life and death consequences. According to the Director of the National Institute for Health, but for the Republican cuts, it is highly likely an ebola vaccine would now be available.

This also might be a good time for the U.S. Surgeon General to take the lead in protecting and informing the public. The problem is, we don’t have a Surgeon General. President Obama nominated Dr. Vivek Murthy on Nov.14th, of 2013. Yet, there still hasn’t been a Senate confirmation vote. Why not? Because the National Rifle Association opposes Dr. Murthy. You see, Dr. Murthy, an experienced emergency room physician, supports some gun regulations since he has been on the front lines treating the slaughter victims. Of course, that means that the NRA and the obstructionist Republicans refuse to allow a vote. By the way, 12,000 Americans are killed every year by guns. One American has died from ebola.

RICH BULEY: Why do Republicans want to keep people from voting?

A critical issue facing Montana’s voters is LR 126, which is a Republican attempt to limit voting. This initiative was brought to the voters by the Republican dominated House and Senate after Governor Bullock vetoed their passage of the same law.

The Missoulian reported on a debate of the issue between Secretary of State Linda McCullough and Republican legislator Champ Edmunds. The only argument expressed by Edmunds for abolishing same day voter registration was that it would be more convenient for the various County Clerks and Recorders. Really? Republicans want to restrict voting because it would mean less work for County Clerks?

Let’s take a look at that argument. This could be the first time ever that Republicans have been concerned about government employees working too hard. Let’s take the argument to its logical extension. If you’re truly worried about clerks working too hard, why keep the polls open at all?

Why is it only Republicans who want to keep people from voting? Republican Legislatures across the country have enacted voter restriction laws. The answer is simple, Republicans can’t win without cheating. A just released opinion by noted conservative judge Richard Posner reviews all the recent voter restriction laws (all passed by Republicans) and eviscerates the rationales presented by Republicans. As Judge Posner concluded: “There is only one motivation for imposing burdens on voting that are ostensibly designed to discourage voter-impersonation fraud, if there is no actual danger of such fraud, and that is to discourage voting by persons likely to vote against the party responsible for imposing the burdens.”

Preserve everyone’s ability to vote and vote No on LR 126. And, remember, a vote for Republicans is not only a vote against Democrats, its a vote against Democracy.

RICH BULEY: Who do you want running the country?

Those who have been paying attention to Montana’s Congressional race will remember the kerfuffle when Republican candidate Ryan Zinke pulled out of a confirmed debate in Billings with Democrat John Lewis. At the time, Zinke said he had to pull out because of a scheduling conflict, even though he had previously agreed to the date. The cause of the scheduling conflict was not disclosed, which led to a fair amount of criticism. It was then learned that the conflict was an appearance in Texas with Republican Congressman Pete Sessions.

So, why was the appearance with Sessions so important to Zinke and why was it so secret? I believe it is because Pete Sessions is rather famous for being the Koch brothers’ most favored servant. Sessions has a 100% record of voting for the interests of Americans for Prosperity. Of course, it is well known that Americans for Prosperity is the PAC used by the Koch brothers to buy elections. This year alone, the PAC will spend $124 million to elect Koch minions. I have previously written about the fact that Republican Steve Daines is a bought and paid for tool of the Kochs. It is obvious that Zinke’s price has now been met.

Why do I believe that Zinke is now another horse in the Koch brothers stable? Well, Zinke, apparently chagrined by the bad publicity of avoiding the Billings debate, actually showed up at the last minute. During the debate, Zinke played his puppet role perfectly. At one time, Zinke, who has a B.S. in geology signed a letter to President Obama pleading with him to act to combat the imminent problem of climate change. At the debate though, Zinke became a climate denier. What changed? Certainly not the science, which has only become stronger. We know, however, that the Koch brothers have become unimaginably rich by polluting our air.

During the debate, Zinke also said that Republican Congressman Paul Ryan’s budget proposal was a “fine framework” for future budgets. Mr. Lewis pointed out that the only way the Ryan plan could balance the budget was by killing Medicare and turning it into a voucher system as well as cutting and privatizing Social Security. Since Medicare and Social Security are vitally important to Montana’s citizens, why would Zinke endorse such a plan? Well, the Kochs have been trying to abolish Social Security for decades!

The Kochs not only are opposed to a rise in the minimum wage, they have worked tirelessly for decades to abolish the minimum wage. the Kochs believe that the rich shouldn’t pay taxes and that any program designed to help the poor, disabled, or elderly is Communism and immoral. The Paul Ryan-Koch budget proposal not only calls for gutting Medicare and Social Security, it calls for abolishing the estate tax, abolishing corporate taxes, and cutting the income tax rate to 25% for the highest incomes.

This election really presents a stark choice. On one hand, you can vote for Daines and Zinke which means voting for the Koch brothers to run the country, or you can vote for Amanda Curtis and John Lewis and have the people run the country.