RICH BULEY: The RIGHT kind of tax reform

Tax reform always seems to be a hot topic in congress, but, it seems that Congress never gets around to the right kind of reform. I have a suggestion for Montana’s  delegation: how about doing something about this, 7 huge corporations having a negative tax rate despite reporting $74 billion in profits?

Or, how about this, 29 of the 100 largest American corporations paid their CEOs more than they paid in taxes? I don’t think I’ll hold my breath.

RICH BULEY: Pipeline spill waiting to happen

I just wrote about the 50 job Keystone XL Pipeline being a disaster in waiting. I thought I would expound on that a little. The proposed pipeline would be built and maintained by the Canadian corporation, TransCanada. So, how well have Canadians done in constructing and maintaining their pipelines?

Well, in Alberta in just the past 4 months there have been over 90 pipeline spills. Whats to worry about? That’s not even one every day! I guess that is where all the jobs Steve Daines promised will come from, cleaning up all the goo.

RICH BULEY: Jobs from Keystone XL are a lie

Back before the election, I wrote a post contending that the promise of 5000 Montana jobs resulting from the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline was a lie. I said that there would only 5000 temporary construction jobs in the entire United states and maybe only 35 permanent jobs in all of Montana. I was wrong. The CEO of TransCanada admitted that only 50 permanent jobs would be created in the entire United States!

Remember, this entire boondoggle and disaster in waiting is being sold as a jobs, jobs, jobs creator.

RICH BULEY: Hyping up the fear for elections

Do you remember those crazy days before the election when every Republican and most news outlets were in a panic about the threat of ebola and how it was coming across every border? And do you remember the scientists and the Obama administration telling everyone to calm down, that there was no chance of an epidemic in the United States? And do you remember Republicans screaming that the CDC didn’t know what it was talking about, and that Obama didn’t care about Americans, and to be afraid, very afraid?

Gee, it turns out that the scientists and the Obama administration were right since there are exactly ZERO ebola patients in the United States. And yet, not a word from Rand Paul, Jodi Ernst, Bill O’Reilly, or Sean Hannity thanking them for keeping us safe. You know, its almost like they cynically hyped up the fear just to win an election.

RICH BULEY: What are the costs of doing nothing?

This morning the Missoulian published a guest column by Republican Public service Commissioner Bob Lake. In the column, Mr. Lake argues that the costs of complying with the EPA’s Clean Power Plan are unreasonable. In making his argument, Mr. Lake exclusively relies upon coal industry data which, I don’t think, is particularly reliable.

But, before I examine the particulars of Mr. Lake’s column, I want to first note a special bit of irony here. The Public Service Commission just approved a ratepayer financed purchase by Northwest Energy of Montana’s hydroelectric dams for $870 million. These are the same dams that were financed by ratepayers of Montana Power but were sold off when Republican governor Marc Racicot and the Republican majorities in the House and Senate passed the infamous Montana Power deregulation bill in 1997. This resulted in Montanans having the highest electricity rates in the Northwest, after previously having the cheapest. So now the Republicans are supposedly concerned about the ratepayers? I don’t think so. I think Mr. Lake is more worried about big energy companies.

Mr. Lake relies upon a survey done by Partnership for a Better Energy Future in arguing that Montanans don’t want a cleaner environment “at any cost”. Well, Duh! Who is PBEF, though? It is an industry lobbying group with members such as the American Petroleum Institute, American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, and the Montana Coal Council. The PBEF conducted a survey of persons residing in eleven states, not nationally as stated by Mr. Lake. Besides Montana, the other 10 states selected were mostly red states such as Georgia and Arkansas. Somehow, I think that maybe the pollster was looking for the right kind of person.

The survey itself is laughable. Rather than referring to the proposed regulations coming from the Environmental Protection Agency, the questions always refer to President Obama personally making the rules, as if no government scientists were involved. Then the survey asks if people would be less likely to support the regulations if it increased their electricity bills by $130 a month. Of course they got the answer they wanted. But, is there any realistic evidence that this will occur? Who cares! Mr. Lake also cited that 41% of Montanans questioned would be unwilling to pay anything more to reduce “global carbon emissions by 1.5%”. But, reducing global carbon emissions is not the goal of the regulations. Rather, the goal is to clean up power plants in America which will cost us $93 billion in health care if we do nothing.

Since Mr. Lake wants to talk about costs, let’s talk about the costs to the United States if we do nothing. 150,000 more children will suffer from asthma attacks, up to 6000 people will die prematurely, and we will spend tens of billions of dollars more in health care costs. I realize that no industry wants to change. But, if we don’t start cutting carbon emissions now, how expensive will it be for our kids and grand kids to clean up our mess? Climate change will only get worse and we are at a tipping point. If not now, Mr. Lake, when? And what will be the cost of waiting? Those are the questions you need to answer if you truly are concerned about costs.

RICH BULEY: Why the Republicans won

After a couple of days to read and reflect upon the elections, I’ve come to some conclusions about why the Republicans did so well. The primary reason was extremely low voter turnout nationwide. In the last two presidential elections approximately 130,000,000 Americans voted. This year, only 83 million voters bothered to show up. That is only 36% of eligible voters which is lower than the previous record of 38% in 1942, which, of course, was in the middle of World War II.

Here in Montana, while Republicans turned out in great numbers, Democrats didn’t, especially in their traditional urban strongholds. So, the question is why? I think there are two primary reasons. The first is that the Republican base was highly motivated to vote while Democrats weren’t. We have to remember that Republicans have their own 24/7 propaganda television channel, Fox News. Republicans also have their own super dark money network funded by the likes of the Koch brothers. So, for six years they’ve been fed crap about how President Obama has been destroying America every day. Steve Daines and Ryan Zinke didn’t run against Curtis and Lewis, they ran against Obama.

Quite frankly, there is a significant portion of Montana that just hates President Obama. Remember when Obama was first elected and gun stores in Montana ran out of ammunition and semi automatic rifles because folks believed Obama was coming to their houses to take their guns? And, let’s face reality, in Montana as well as the rest of the country, there are plenty of folks like the guy who called into C-Span and said, “Republicans hate that ni***r Obama”

The other problem in Montana was the candidates for the Senate and the House. On the senate side, the disaster of the implosion of John Walsh killed whatever chance the Democrats had of keeping that seat. Considering Amanda Curtis only got into the race less than 2 months before the election, she did pretty darn well. She received no money from the national Democratic Party as it had already written the race off. But, I think she really appealed to a lot of voters and it will be interesting to see what she does in the future. On the House side, John Lewis was never going to win. Lewis is a good guy, but as a campaigner he’s so low key that it was impossible to get anyone excited. Plus, he had no chance of overcoming the stigma of being an aide for Max Baucus. Nobody liked Baucus.

I think it is very important to realize that although Republicans won a lot of seats, there is no conservative mandate. Remember that voter initiatives to raise the minimum wage passed in red states like Arkansas, Nebraska, and Alaska. There is no chance that Republicans will raise the national minimum wage. Pot legalization passed in Oregon and Alaska and gun control passed in Washington state, not D.C. Polls consistently show that significant majorities favor same sex marriage, reasonable gun control, health care, abortion availability, and raising the minimum wage.

So, why didn’t these people show up at the polls? My theory is that most people are satisfied with the way things are going. It is pretty hard to motivate folks to get out and vote if they aren’t angry. I think that is certainly going to change over he next two years of Republican control of the Senate and House.

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.