RICH BULEY: If the oil companies can’t afford it, who can?

Another day, another fact free guest editorial by a conservative Republican. This time, by Brad Johnson, former MT. Secretary of State and serial office seeker. Mr. Johnson doesn’t want poor oil companies being taxed more to pay for our highways. He acknowledges that we need funding for a new Highway funding bill, but he doesn’t say where the money should come from. Well, if the money doesn’t come from the companies which benefit most from oil usage (You know, Exxon, Conoco, Chevron, BP, Shell) then it has to come from someone else, like you and me.

Let’s start here with some facts. The Highway Trust Fund was established to build and maintain highways across the U.S. It was established in 1956 at the same time the Interstate Highway system was begun. It is funded by taxes on gasoline, currently 18.3 cents for gas and 24.4 for diesel. The problem is that the amount of the tax has not been raised since 1993. Inflation over the past 21 years has eroded the Trust fund balance to almost nothing. So, now its crunch time. Congress really can’t ignore the issue any longer. So, the question is: where does the money come from?

Back in February, the Obama Administration proposed a $300 billion bill financed by closing corporate tax loopholes. Republicans, however refuse to even consider the bill because, of course, their constituency is big corporations. The only other realistic fix is to increase the gas tax. But, a gallon of gas is way more expensive now than it was in 1993 so a lot of drivers can’t afford it, and most Republicans have taken a pledge not to raise taxes anyway.

So, does Johnson offer a solution? Of course not, he’s a Republican. Instead, he just says no. If he thinks corporations like Shell, Exxon, BP, and Chevron, the second, fifth, sixth and twelfth most valuable corporations in the world, can’t afford more taxes, then who the heck can?

RICH BULEY: Daines’ obfuscation of his history

I was looking at Steve Daines’ website and was shocked to hear Steve say in a video: “As a fifth generation Montanan, spending time in Washington D.C. was never high on my list of things to do.” The reason I was shocked was because when Daines was 22 years old, he was darn proud to be a delegate at the 2014 Republican National Convention. I guess he must have just forgotten about his interest in national Republican politics.  Daines also implies that he didn’t want to leave Montana and go live in a big city. Yet, immediately upon graduation from college, Daines left Montana to work for the huge conglomerate, Procter and Gamble. I don’t know where exactly Daines worked for his first seven years with P&G because his bio doesn’t say, but I do know that P&G P&G is headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Daines’ bio does state that he split his time at P&G “…between work in the United States and international assignments.” What Daines doesn’t mention is that he spent six years in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is a little bit different from Montana in that has over 7 million residents crammed into 426 square miles. Daines’ campaign bio states that he worked in China selling American products overseas. That statement, though, is not true. What Daines really did for P&G was to help sell products made in China to Chinese with the P&G brand slapped on them. An article in Fortune Magazine explains that the products are actually made in China because P&G can get away with paying the workers only $100 a week. Unfortunately, the article doesn’t state how many hours a week the workers worked for their slave wages. I guess Daines isn’t too proud of his work, since he tries to obfuscate it as much as he can.

RICH BULEY: It’s going to be a tough week

So, I woke up on Monday morning after a great weekend and start looking at the news. The first article I’m struck by is an AP story in the Missoulian about how much dirty coal is exported from the U.S. to other countries. Exports have about doubled in the last ten years which has totally negated any gains the U.S. has made in controlling carbon emissions.

Then, I read a story about an EPA report that concludes that natural gas pipelines leak a lot of methane into the atmosphere. The problem is methane is 86 times worse than CO2 for trapping heat.

And, speaking of leaking pipelines, everyone has heard about the Keystone XL pipeline designed to carry Canadian tar sands oil through Montana and the U.S. to be refined and shipped to everywhere but the U.S., but few people, including myself, have heard about tar sands being mined in Utah. A Calgary based mining company wants to make Utah look like northern Alberta.

Then, to top it off, I learned that scientists believe that we are in the early days of the sixth mass extinction event, and it is human caused. Meanwhile, our congressman and Republican candidate for Senate, Steve Daines continues to believe climate change is not caused by human activity. Of course, that’s unsurprising since he also wants students to be taught that dinosaurs and people coexisted. Looks like its going to be a tough week.

RICH BULEY: Reaping the results

One topic that is hardly ever talked about is America’s obsession with incarceration. A recent article in The Atlantic shows that we incarcerate individuals at a rate 5 to 10 times greater than other developed nations. It could just be an example of American “Exceptionalism” that I always hear about, apparently Americans are just exceptionally evil. Or, it might be something else. When I looked at this graph from the Atlantic article:

I couldn’t help but be reminded of other graphs I’ve seen that are remarkably similar. The graph of the rate of incarceration is almost an exact mirror image of ones showing the growing rate of inequality in America:

Both the rate of inequality and the rate of incarceration have been rising sharply ever since about 1980 when Ronald Reagan and the Republicans were swept into office, beginning the conservative policies known as the “Reagan Revolution”. Two basic tenets of those policies were that rich people should be richer because the money will “trickle down”, and that America needed to be tough on crime, especially drug offenses.

Now, 34 years later, we are reaping the disastrous results of those failed policies.

RICH BULEY: Repubs sure showed Obama!

There has been an interesting confluence of articles recently. There is the fact that June 2014 is the hottest ever recorded. That followed the news that May was the hottest on record Meanwhile, on Saturday, the Missoulian ran an article about how coal companies want to get a railroad built so they can ship even more coal to China. Obviously, we need more coal burned!

I also see that Montana ranks dead last in children’s health. We’re number 50! And the Republicans in Montana’s Legislature thought it would be a good idea to refuse federal money to expand Medicaid to help those in poverty improve their health care. Sure, we have the unhealthiest kids in America, but those Republicans sure showed Obama how much they hate him, didn’t they?

Sheesh!

RICH BULEY: Politicians need to believe in science

I have written in the past that we would be much better off if we elected politicians who believed in science. The same could be said for appointed Supreme Court Justices. In the infamous Hobby Lobby case, not only did the Supreme Court rule that corporations have that good old time religion, they ignored well settled scientific facts to do so.

Hobby Lobby’s argument before the court was that its primary shareholders objected to a few contraception methods because they believed them to be “abortifacients”. In other words, they believed these methods didn’t just prevent pregnancy, but ended actual pregnancies. The problem is, that belief just isn’t supported by science. An actual OB-GYN physician explains just how wrong this belief is. The key  is that although some believe any fertilized egg is a pregnancy, the medical science community defines pregnancy as the implantation in the uterus of a fertilized egg. Why is there no pregnancy until the fertilized egg is implanted? Because about 80% of all fertilized eggs fail to implant and are discharged from the woman’s body. A woman can can have fertilized eggs every month and never get pregnant without birth control.That is nature. If Hobby Lobby believes that God is responsible for nature, then they must also believe that God is the worst abortionist in the world.

The anti-choice, anti-science crowd continues to spout the “every fertilized egg is a person” nonsense on Fox News. Bill O’Reilly goes even further in contending that since an egg has DNA in it, it is human. He then contends that pro-choice advocates are executioners. Of course, O’Reilly is the same guy who said, “Tide go in, Tide goes out…You can’t explain it.” (hint: the moon). But, here’s the thing, ALL human cells have DNA. That means every tome Bill cuts his hair, he’s killing DNA. Every time he clips his toe nails, he’s an executioner. According to Bill, the removal of DNA from a body is the same as murder. Does that mean the removal of a tumor is murder? Is it against God’s law to kill human cancer cells? Sperm cells have DNA. If those cells are spilled, is that murder?

Apparently, Bill O’Reilly and the Fox crowd believe that Monty Python’s “Every Sperm is Sacred” is a documentary.

 

RICH BULEY: Republican predictions predictably wrong

Yesterday I took Steve Daines to task for either not knowing how ObamaCare works or, if he does, lying about it. Daines has spent his entire time in Congress opposing ObamaCare. Even though ObamaCare has been in full effect for less than a year, we can already see results which show that Daines’  judgment is, how shall we say, miserably wrong.

Although Daines contended that ObamaCare would bankrupt the country, the Congressional Budget Office has just reported that the rate of government spending on health care is declining faster than originally predicted and the decrease is BECAUSE of ObamaCare. One would think that a self proclaimed fiscal conservative would welcome this news, but wrong way Daines continues to oppose ObamaCare.

Do you remember last fall and the Republican predictions of disaster when ObamaCare was being rolled out? They were all wrong. The number of uninsured people continues to fall to historic lows. 62% of those insured said they could not have afforded health care before. Most importantly, actual people are very happy with ObamaCare. An independent survey reports that 81% of enrollees are optimistic that ObamaCare will improve their access to health care. The same survey found that 78% of people were satisfied with their plan including 74% of Republicans!

Since Daines voted 50 times to deny all these millions access to health care and voted 50 times against lowering federal spending, how can his judgment be trusted on any vote?

RICH BULEY: A lie that refuses to die

Steve Daines has been running a TV ad featuring a female cancer survivor who states:: I’m a breast cancer survivor. That’s why I dyed my hair pink, I really depend on Medicare. When I heard that John Walsh said ObamaCare wouldn’t hurt seniors, I couldn’t believe it. ObamaCare cuts billions of dollars from Medicare, putting my care at risk. Walsh also believes that privatizing Social Security should be on the table. That’s just too risky.”

That is not just a lie, it is a zombie lie. A zombie lie is one which just refuses to die. The truth is ObamaCare does not cut any money or any benefits from Medicare. The lie has been debunked many times (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here). Steve Daines has voted to repeal ObamaCare 50 times. In a bit of irony, Daines has also twice voted Republican budgets which include the very same savings from Medicare as ObamaCare. One has to wonder about his votes since Daines, if he believes what he says, is either totally ignorant or totally delusional. The other possibility is that he is just a stone cold liar. I suppose it is entirely possible that he’s not really stupid, but is, in fact, the kind of politician everybody says they hate: the kind who will say anything to get elected.

The other part of the commercial, that John Walsh supports privatizing social security is likewise totally false. John Walsh has never said that and, in fact, is endorsed by the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, a group that adamantly opposes privatization. Daines doesn’t mention that the House Republican budget proposal of 2005 contained actual provisions to privatize Social Security. The Paul Ryan Republican House proposal of 2011 also contained plans to privatize Social Security. If the lady in Daines’ ad is scared of privatization, she better vote for Democrats rather than lying Republicans. It is truly tragic that she believes the zombie lies.

 

RICH BULEY: U.S. defense spending out of control

In one of the least surprising stories of the year, the United States continues to spend as much on defense as the rest of the world combined. The U.S. spent $618 billion in 2013, more than 3 times the amount spent by the next highest spender, China, which spent $171 billion.

The annual spending, though, does not include the cost of taking care of the veterans who are injured in our various incursions throughout the world. Because of the scandal at the V.A. hospital in Phoenix, Congress looked into what it would cost to actually fix the problems of the V.A. Congress was a bit shocked to learn it would cost about $50 billion per year. Predictably, the same Senators who can’t wait  to rush the military into any conflict around the world, screamed like stuck pigs at the cost, howling that we just don’t have the money. Why is there always money for jets that don’t fly, but no money for actual people?

Here’s a crazy bit of advice to Congress. Wars are expensive. If you don’t want to pay for them, don’t get involved in them. And, if you don’t want to fund the V.A., why not go to a national health care system like the rest of the world since we spend more on health care than anyone else in the world. Of course, a lot of that money is wasted since our outcomes are the worst in the developed world. For example, Belgium spends half as much per capita, about half as much as a percentage of GDP, and yet has a higher life expectancy.

For all the continued cries from politicians about being fiscally responsible, just a cursory look at our military and health care expenditures clearly shows that all the folks in D.C. don’t give a damn about responsibility or efficiency.

RICH BULEY: Why so much welfare for the military budget?

Some time ago, I wrote a post about government spending choices. I have also written repeatedly about the boondoggle which is the F-35 fighter jet. Well, the F-35, which is 7 years behind schedule, was to be unveiled at an air show in England next week. Problem is, though, its engine catches fire.

In terms of priorities, what could the government buy for the money spent on a jet that doesn’t work? Well, the government could have instead purchased a $600,000 house for every homeless family in America. When it is all said and done, the F-35 will cost about $500 billion to develop and $1 trillion to maintain. That would be enough to rebuild all the deficient bridges and roads in the U.S.

Welfare for The Military Industrial Complex is clearly the number one priority of Congress. The question is: why?