RICH BULEY: Who are the Republicans really working for?

Hey, do you remember how we’ve been told over and over that the Keystone Pipeline is all about American energy independence and a big jobs bill? You didn’t actually believe that did you?

Well, if you did……… “Psych!” Democrats in the Senate offered two amendments to the legislation forcing the building of the Keystone. One amendment sought to prohibit the export of oil carried in the pipeline. It was defeated 57-42. The second amendment sought to require the pipeline to use made in America steel. That one was defeated 53-46.

Your Republicans; still working hard for not you.

RICH BULEY: What Republicans represent

Just in case there is anyone who is still unsure about who the Republicans in Congress represent, I’ll clue you in. It isn’t you. About the first thing the Republican Congress thought to do in the new session was to help out the poor, down on their luck, Wall Street banks. You didn’t think all that campaign money to Republicans was free of puppet strings, did you?

RICH BULEY: It’s the American way

Montana’s Republicans in the Legislature keep supporting failed ideas. At the top of the list is the idea to spend tax money on charter schools. Republicans like to frame the issue as being one of “school choice”. Leaving aside the obvious hypocrisy of promoting “choice” for schools, yet opposing the same for women, the scheme is simply one to divert tax dollars to for profit private organizations.

The Republicans are still pushing this idea even though it has been tried already in many states and failed spectacularly. Republicans really should read the news once in awhile. In Pennsylvania, a charter school abruptly closed over the Christmas holiday after ripping the state off to the tune of $1.5 million and under threat of license revocation for not meeting educational standards. Just 2 days ago, in the Republican paradise that is Scott Walker’s Wisconsin, a charter school was forced to close. It appears that most of the tax money went to exorbitant salaries for the administrators rather than to the students. In other words, it was run like an American corporation.

These are hardly isolated examples. The failure rate of charter schools in Florida is almost 25%. In Columbus, Ohio 17 charter schools closed in just one year. For anyone who can use the google machine, the stories go on and on. They strip out all the money, pay themselves and leave the students and taxpayers holding the bag. In Ohio alone, an audit found that charter schools had misspent $22.6 million of tax money that the state will never recover.

Here’s the thing, though. Such losses are inevitable and totally foreseeable. It’s just take the free money and run. Its greed, and greed is the American way.

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: 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: What the GOP is really all about

What a great day it is to celebrate the magic of the free market and the liberation of deregulation! The Public Service Commission voted to allow Northwest energy to buy the power generating dams in Montana from PPL. This will make the second time Montana’s rate payers get to purchase the exact same assets resulting in the highest rates for electricity in the region! Man, if that doesn’t get you excited about deregulation, I don’t know what will.

This fiasco goes back to the halcyon days of the mid 1990s when Montana state government was totally controlled by Republicans. Marc Racicot, who later cashed in as a D.C. lobbyist for (surprise) energy companies, was the Governor. Current Stevensville Legislator Fred Thomas was also an ambitious legislator in those days, and was the rising star of the Montana GOP.

In 1997, Senator Fred and Governor Marc believed that any regulation was bad and that the free market system was the cure all for whatever ailed us. So, they, together with the executives of the Montana Power Company, decided to deregulate Montana Power so it could sell its assets and try to make some quick money as a telecom company. Montana Power then sold its dams, which had been built by ratepayer money, to a Pennsylvania firm, PPL. Of course, the consumers were told that the magic of the free market system and competition would make energy rates plummet. Except, the result for ratepayers was the opposite, rates skyrocketed. Then, the telecom company went bankrupt in 2003 and shareholders got 29 cents a share, down from $65 a share at the time of deregulation.

Now, in a magnificent victory for the Republican mantra of the infallibility of the free market and deregulation, we Montana rate payers get to pay $870 million for the same dams that we had already paid for once. Sure, everyone in Montana has been paying out the nose for this debacle since 1997 and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future, but at least Marc Racicot got to move to D.C. where he doesn’t have to pay these rates, and he got rich. And really, isn’t that what the Republican ideal is? A few getting rich off the backs of millions?


RICH BULEY: A little racial tension in Missouri?

Sometimes politicians slip up and allow their real selves to be exposed. Take for example, the city councilman from Poplar Bluffs, MO., who apologized for putting racist photos on his Facebook page. Of course, he said he didn’t mean to offend anybody, explaining, “At one time I was a very active Republican, very opposed to Obama.” So, apparently he and other Republicans opposed to Obama figured the best way to oppose Obama was to post racist photos on Facebook. And, apparently they posted the racist photos because race was why they were very opposed to Obama.

Then, when some of the smarter Republicans in Missouri didn’t think it was a very good idea for the true feelings of Republicans to be exposed, got the councilman to then apologize to the Republican Party saying, in direct contradiction to his original apology, “Anything I have said, that I have referred to the activity because I was a Republican, that is not true.”

It is hard to believe there is some racial tension in Missouri these days, isn’t it?

RICH BULEY: Why is Montana a red state?

I have written before about how the entire Republican theory of trickle down economics has been a fraud. More evidence continues to prove that fact. A study from Stanford has shown that since 1984 (end of Reagan’s first term), the median wealth in the United states has declined by 20%. Meanwhile, the wealth of the top 5% has increased almost 100%.

Even more shocking is that the bottom 25%, which would include a lot of Montanans, has declined 60%! The numbers are truly shocking. Wealth is generally defined as assets minus liabilities. The biggest asset held by most middle income families is the equity in their home. The median family (those at 50%) had wealth of $87,992 in 2003. Then the recession of 2007 hit (Bush the 2nd era) and in 2013, the 50% mark was only $56,335. In the same time, those at the 25% level went from $10,192 to only $3,200.

Now, we have Republicans Zinke and Daines running for national offices promising more of the same. I really don’t understand why anyone who does not have at least $750,000 in wealth would ever vote Republican. The Republicans have destroyed the middle class and sent those who were on the edge into poverty. And yet, Montanans still vote red. Amazing.

RICH BULEY: The anti-Robin Hood

Congressman Paul Ryan (R WI) has released a new Republican Budget proposal. Unsurprisingly, the proposal includes many cuts to programs for the poor, leading some to call Ryan, the Anti-Robin Hood . The Republicans not only seek to starve the poor and disabled, but also seek to make further tax cuts for the rich and increase defense spending, also known as welfare for defense contractors.

Hidden in the depths of the proposal is the Republicans’ most radical idea – the killing of Social Security. Social Security has a $3 trillion surplus, which has been built up in anticipation of the retirement of baby boomers. Rather than hold onto $3 trillion in cash, the Social Security Administration has invested the money in U.S. government bonds, widely considered to be the safest investment in the world. These are the same bonds that anyone can buy from the U.S. government.

A bond is essentially a loan to the government. Say you purchase a $1000 bond. That money is then used by the government to pay its ongoing obligations. In return, you receive a document promising to pay the money back together with interest. In his budget, Ryan states: “The [Social Security] Trust Fund holds Treasury securities, but the ability to redeem these securities is completely dependent on the Treasury’s ability to raise money through taxes or borrowing.”

Ryan appears to be stating that in order to balance his budget, he wants the U.S. government to default upon its debt to the Social Security Trust Fund and, by extension, default upon its obligations to the elderly of the country. There are ,however, major problems with Ryan’s plan. The main one is that default is unconstitutional. Section 4 of the 14th Amendment states: “The validity of the public debt of the United States … shall not be questioned.” Article I, section 8, clause 4 provides that the Congress can borrow money “on the credit of the United States.”. These 2 provisions together mean that Congress can borrow but can’t renege.

Of course, the other problem is that all of the money in the trust fund was put there by workers and employers for the sole purpose of providing some security for workers in their old age. When Republicans say they don’t want to pay back the money they borrowed for the Iraq war and the Bush tax cuts, what they really mean is they want to help the rich on the backs of the working class.