Posted: September 10, 2014 at 7:26 am by Cowgirl

TEA Party Leader Leaves Door to Medicaid Expansion Open

The statements of disgraced Tea Partier Art Wittich [pronounced "WIT-ick!"] reveal a major shift in TEA Party rhetoric about the Medicaid expansion in an article in the Bozeman Chronicle this weekend.

Rather than close the door completely on any kind of Medicaid expansion, as Wittich has done in the past, the former Senate GOP leader told the Bozeman Chronicle that he is “not opposed to negotiating a Medicaid expansion program” but that his version would look different than what has been proposed by Democrats.  By doing so, Wittich is signaling that conservatives have moved on from a single-minded focus on blocking health care for the working poor. This is a major shift and an interesting development in the discussion.  It shows Wittich is willing to publicly admit that conservatives may no longer simply refuse to move forward.

To be sure, in the same article Wittich was again caught lying many times about the Medicaid expansion and how it is paid for, saying he opposes how it is funded.  So he must be called out for these lies once again.  He’s entitled to his own opinion, but not his own version of the facts. 

First, Wittich tries to claim that, “Medicaid was never supposed to be an insurance program. It was meant to provide services to disabled people.”

Fact:  Medicaid provides health coverage to children, seniors, pregnant women, babies, and parents in every state. Able-bodied childless adults have been eligible for Medicaid coverage in other states for decades, thanks to the major Medicaid initiative of the George H.W. Bush administration.

This initiative, called the Health Insurance Flexibility and Accountability (HIFA) initiative or HIFA Waiver program, was created by the Bush administration in 2001 and has been used in many states to provide full basic healthcare coverage to childless non-disabled adults.

The next lie Wittich tells is that “community health centers are funded differently [than Medicaid expansion] eliminating the fear that federal government debt would force states to pay increasingly large shares of the Medicaid program.”

Fact: The federal government has never cut Medicaid support for states.

This is a lie that Wittich has used several times, and it has several times been disproven.  First, the Washington Post has explained that the federal government cutting support for Medicaid would be an “unprecedented” move, as the government has only increased its share of expenditures since the program’s inception and has never reduced them below their original percentage:

There is one time the federal government did fiddle with funding levels, in the late 2000s. That, which you can see in the [below] chart, was to increase their share of Medicaid spending during the recession.

fmap

I know that Wittich does not like being fact checked by this blog.  It’s probably why he’s attacked my blog in public speeches.  However Wittich did not dispute the facts of any of my posts, rather he tried to attack me personally by flatly proclaiming that I’m not a woman, that I’m not a Montanan and that I “don’t know anything about cows.”  Why he thinks this is beyond me.

But I do know that politicians who lie put their reputations and careers at risk when their lies are exposed. Perhaps he’s still worried that if he sticks to the facts people aren’t going to be pleased with his and Jason Priest’s actions to block health care for 70,000 working poor Montanans. Perhaps he’s worried about the thousands of Medicaid expansion ballot initiative signers who vote in this district.  Perhaps for these reasons he is now leaving the door open for Medicaid expansion, in some form or another, to move forward.

Both Wittich and Priest were senate leaders during the last session – but neither will be back in the senate.  Wittich will be running for house, while Priest faces felony partner and family member assault charges.

Posted: September 9, 2014 at 7:46 am by Cowgirl

The Montana GOP Hypocrite of the Week Award Goes to

MonfortonTinFoil…TEA Party legislative candidate Matthew Monforton. Monforton has filed yet another lawsuit to get his name in the paper close down MT primaries, claiming that there is a need to keep democrats from infiltrating them. Monforton has no proof that this happened, because ballots are secret. However it has been proven already by several major papers that this year a bunch of  local Tea Partiers filed paperwork to run as Democrats for local legislative races. Monforton was silent on this dirty, below-the-belt, highly dishonest stuff, and so he is certainly this week’s leading hypocrite.  Congratulations are not in order.

If you weren’t sick of the entire Monforton Melodrama already, you will be today. This individual has filed perhaps his 9th or 10th lawsuit of the election season (and really it is too tiresome to count them). It’s all getting rather ridiculous.

Monforton refuses to acknowledge two simple facts. First, that the voters of Montana rejected the wingnut faction of the GOP this primary season. This is Monforton’s own faction so that concept must undoubtedly be a difficult one for him. Second,  that if the Republican party in Montana had really wanted this, they would have put it in place a long time ago. Even yesterday, the GOP executive director Bowen Greenwood stopped short of calling the lawsuit a good idea.  Instead, he said that his “personal” opinion, and not that of the GOP, it is certainly a “strong” idea–”…but I’m not inclined to spend valuable time and resources” on it.  Ouch.

Greenwood was not smart to say even that much. Closing primaries in MT would harm Montana Republicans, not help them. A large number of independent and third party conservatives would, rather than registering as a member of any political party, simply be disinclined to participate.

But this is about Monforton’s hypocrisy, not the problems with his proposals.  By refusing to address the eight fake candidates–the TEA Partiers who filed as Democrats in a nasty plot to invade and infect the Democratic Party, Trojan Horse style–Monforton shows that his strategy is one of press release by lawsuit rather than improving elections. Especially because Monforton even recruited one of the fake “democrats” to be the plaintiff in one of his frivolous lawsuits–his lawsuit to block a Medicaid expansion ballot initiative. 

He is a hypocrite, and at this point, a most tiresome one. 

Posted: September 8, 2014 at 7:23 am by Cowgirl

Wingnuts, Out-of-Staters and Wall Street Law Firms Dominate TEA Party Supreme Court Candidate Donations

Tomorrow, the latest campaign finance filings for the Montana Supreme Court race will be due, so it’s a good time to look at what TEA Party Supreme Court candidate Lawrence Van Dyke’s past finance reports reveal about him so far.

  • Over 60 percent of VanDyke’s donors (and 70 percent of his dollars) are not from Montana, with many of them from California, Texas and the D.C. area.
  • Nearly 20 percent of his donors are from a “white shoe” Wall Street and Washington, D.C. law firm, Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher, LLP, making up more than a third of the money he has raised for his entire campaign to date.
  • Interestingly 18% of the dollars donated to VanDyke come from Gibson, Dunn, Crutcher LLP employees/attorneys, none of whom listed Montana as their home addresses.

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, LLP is a global law firm that works for the most powerful big banks on Wall Street, has a powerful practice in Washington, D.C. and LA and is typically on the side of very large, corporate interests on both a national and global scale.  It is the firm for whom VanDyke used to work in Washington, D.C. before he joined then TEA Party poster boy Ted Cruz of Texas as an attorney in the Texas Solicitor General’s office.

Many of his out-of-state donors appear to be affiliated with the Federalist Society.  Lawrence VanDyke has written extensively for that right-wing organization.  He even used the Federalist Society to defend his  infamous Harvard Law Review piece in favor of teaching creationism in public schools.

No surprise that MT Family Foundation and creationist “museum” bankrollers Greg and Susan Gianforte each kicked in $320 to help advance the cause of teaching Montana’s children that the Flinstones is not a cartoon as much as scientific fact. (VanDyke is also a defender of the loony and offensive “pray away the gay” conversion therapy.“)

Other donors, like Andrew Brasher, the solicitor general of Alabama, took time out from trying to shut down women’s health clinics in Alabama, to write VanDyke a $320.00 check.

You can see all of VanDyke’s donations at the Commissioner of Political Practices website or download them as a zip file here. But here is a summary:

 

$29,255               The amount VanDyke has listed as “receipts”

$1,380.28             The amount VanDyke has spent

114                         Total donors

70                           Out of State Donors

44                           Montana Donors

22                           Donors from Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, LLP (VA, CA, TX)

$5,330                   The total amount donated to VanDyke so far by Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, LLP employees/attorneys.

$8,505                   Total amount raised from people with addresses in Montana.

$20,750                 Total amount raised from people with addresses not in Montana.

 

Posted: September 8, 2014 at 6:37 am by Cowgirl

NEW REPORT: 100 Plus GOPers on Record Opposing Citizens United, Including Many Montanans

As the U.S. Senate gets ready to vote today on a proposed constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling and allow for overall campaign spending limits, a new report shows it isn’t just democrats who oppose Citizens United.  There is increasing Republican support across the country for such an amendment–including support from several Montana Republicans.

The new report was released by Free Speech For People, a national campaign at the forefront of the amendment movement.  The group has also joined with Montanans in the court battle to keep Montana’s campaign finance limits in place. The organization and its allies joined the defense of Montana’s campaign finance limits with an amicus brief and and amici brief in Lair v. Motl. 

The report issued today highlights more than 100 Republican elected officials joined Dems across the country by going on record calling on Congress to pass an amendment bill and send it to the states for ratification.

The list of the Montana Repubs–including some state legislators–can be seen in the report, entitled “Across the Aisle,” which is available online here. [pdf]  The Montanans are listed on pages 7, 10, 12, and 13.

Also listed are Republicans from other states who filed Amicus briefs with Gov. Bullock in his U.S. Supreme Court fight to keep corruption out of Montana elections (page 18.)

The release of the report is timed to correspond with today’s (Sept 8) Senate vote on the Democracy For All Amendment (S.J. Res. 19), which would allow for overall campaign spending limits and would end the big money dominance of our elections. Fifty US Senators are already on record in support of the amendment.

Posted: September 5, 2014 at 5:07 pm by Cowgirl

Ire Increases Against Those Hiding from Debates

An interesting week in Montana politics.

Montana Public Radio commentator Evan Barrett published an editorial in the Standard and the Missoulian on how debates strengthen democracy. Montana Secretary of State Linda McCulloch wrote an editorial in the Missoulian about how ducking debates is a disservice voters. And the Bozeman Chronicle editorial board wrote that Zinke was wrong to cancel the only debate with Lewis.

And of course there was the scathing Billings Gazette editorial: Zinke Flunks Political Courage Test. This criticism is especially biting since it is directed at a man whose campaign bus is (improperly) emblazoned with the Navy Seal logo and who was busted trying to take credit for killing Osama bin Laden.

In the U.S. Senate race meanwhile, after Congressman Steve Daines backed out of a televised debate scheduled for October 4, Amanda Curtis is challenging him to answer to Montana voters in series of fourteen debates.  He has not agreed to a single one.

So it seems that the only Montanans left who don’t want the debates are Steve Daines and Ryan Zinke.  These two stale politicians, mired in the stench of the Potomac, believe that Washington politics as usual is all that matters.  Instead of speaking directly to voters, they’ll be saturating the airwaves with dark money dirty campaign ads as is the beltway norm.

 

Posted: September 3, 2014 at 8:54 pm by Cowgirl

TEA Party Legislator Says it Warms His Heart to See Young People in Handcuffs

Dave Hagstrom

Rep. Dave Hagstrom (R-TEA Billings) is a real piece of work.

A TEA Party lawmaker says it warms his heart to observe young people  in handcuffs and headed to jail.

In a letter to the editor in the Billings Gazette this week, TEA Party Rep. Dave Hagstrom (R-Billings) wrote:

The other day I was driving between jobs and passed a scene similar to what I have observed before, one that always warms my heart and makes me grateful.

Out on a driveway between a home and a shed in the yard was a gathering of about six people. Two, a man and a woman, were wearing logoed shirts, bullet-proof vests and had large black belts with holstered guns. The other people were younger types, all with their hands behind their backs, I imagine in handcuffs….I suspect they were driving them to the jail.

Hagstrom is apparently no fan of young people because, as he claims:

Over the years I have experienced vandalism, property destruction and theft at the hands of young, irresponsible, lazy law breakers.

This is not the first time Hagstrom’s comments have raised eyebrows.

Hagstrom, who is a landlord in a lower-income neighborhood in Montana’s largest city, sent a letter to his tenants telling them “to accept that they don’t need ‘to live as long as they currently do, or as ‘comfortably’ as they currently do,’” the Billings Gazette reported.

The state legislator also made national news for his bizarre comments about sex and ballpoint pens on the floor of the state House of Representatives.  He later tried to lie to the press about what he said, but the comments were recorded on public video.

After the remarks, which were made during the 2013 legislative session, Hagstrom was lampooned in a segment called “The Sideshow, this week in GOP Jaw Droppers,” by Chris Matthews.  The segment shined a light the most ridiculous things actually said by Republicans across the nation:

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

 

Posted: September 3, 2014 at 7:26 am by Bud White

GUEST POST: Job Creators, Myth Makers

by Bud White

One of the greatest hoaxes perpetrated on the American populace is this notion of “Job Creators” being the ones we must coddle, provide every incentive imaginable and otherwise treat with kid gloves in fear they may take their creative wonders somewhere else and leave us jobless and destitute.

Well here’s a news flash: They have already taken many of the jobs somewhere else and left the country destitute. It is obvious the current strategy did not produce the desired results.

To get to the bottom of this hoax one must come to the realization that these movers and shakers are not motivated by some benevolent sense of societal obligation to give everyone a job. They are first and foremost motivated by maximizing revenues and reducing costs in their organizations as a means of increasing their own personal wealth. They don’t create jobs, they simply hire people. And only when they absolutely cannot accomplish their goals without doing so. And paying employees the least amount possible is a way of reducing costs. This is the way it works in business. It is not necessarily a bad thing as long as they, and everyone else as well, understand the true source of their wealth.

It is in this area that things have been turned upside down. Presently these titans of industry and finance believe they are the sole reason for their success and it is due to some exalted level of intelligence on their part, an unparalleled work ethic and in many cases shear entitlement.

And this message has been repeated to the point that not only do they believe it, but they got just about everyone else believing it too. This isn’t the first time this paternal explanation has been used to justify why some people deserve all the wealth and everyone else should just be happy with the paltry scraps thrown out the back of the cart. It was used to perpetuate the enslavement of a group of a people who were said to lack the intelligence or motivation to take care of themselves. Later, Social Darwinism was used to explain away the excessive levels of inequality of the first Guilded Age. And the modern day Conservative revival of the past four decades is steeped in this misdirection that all our problems are caused by undeserving lazy poor people, welfare queens, immigrants, degenerates and otherwise parasitic miscreants.

Lost in the telling of this myth is the fact most of those supposedly undeserving masses actually work and are an integral part of the process that makes it possible for those at the top to amass their obscene wealth. Without the employees the organizations that generate that wealth would not be able to function. Also it is those very same employees who go out and spend what income they can at those very same organizations, thus providing much of the source of the wealth that moves through the organization.

The problem is the hoax is so ingrained in our national psychic that the devaluation of the role of the employee is unquestionably accepted and the importance of those at the top is grossly exaggerated. Couple that with an economic collapse perpetrated by many of the most egregious abusers of this dynamic and it is no wonder the average employee is afraid to challenge the authority imposed on them.

Through all this it is important to remember similar abuses of the past were overcome and can be used as encouragement and example for action today. Slavery was abolished through an incredibly long, persistent and costly effort. The labor abuses of the Guilded Age were corrected through decades of efforts founded in the populist labor movement. Inequality, no matter the form, can be overcome. Women finally got the vote. Jim Crow laws were dismantled, although there are efforts to today to revive them in many forms.

Recently Walmart and McDonalds employees have joined in protest to demand higher pay. This is no different from the protests against unsafe work conditions by the garment workers in the streets of New York a hundred years ago. And the arrest of those McDonalds workers is much like the armed strike breakers sent to beat down mine workers. It is the same today as it was then. Unless people join together, stop blaming the victims, refuse to accept the myth and demand change, it will be business as usual. Those at the top have been the sole beneficiaries of the myth and they have no motivation to change as long as the myth continues.

Despite the fact that their level of intelligence actually isn’t that much greater than most, they are certainly not stupid, at least for the most part. There are always exceptions of course. If they perceive a sea change, they will be more willing to come to the table. Not enthusiastically perhaps and definitely not without fighting back. And if the public continues to be fooled into thinking the myth is truth, then those at the top are perfectly justified in their perception that those below them are truly less intelligent, lacking in moral standard and not deserving of a greater share.

It is time to throw aside the myth and begin the long path to correct the imbalance. It is time to recognize the value of everyone all along the economic scale, not just those at the top. And it is time to make those at the top realize the same. It won’t be the end all, but it is an essential step. Without it, any efforts to increase the share of the wealth more equitably among everyone will be all the more difficult, if not impossible.