Tag Archives: Max Baucus

Congress Deciding How Much More to Punish Hungry Poor People

More than 130,000 low-income people in Montana saw a cut to assistance buying food for their families on November 1st.

Now, a group of Senators and Congressmen are working out how much more they will cut help for hungry families, just in time for the holiday season.

Please call Senator Max Baucus’s office on this issue. You can email too but it’s better if you call.  He currently sits on the conference committee for the Farm Bill that is working on a “compromise” between the House’s $40 billion cut and the Senate’s $4 billion cut to SNAP – on top of the cuts implemented at the first of the month.


GUEST POST: Steve Daines Calls Montanans Stupid

[Note: This is a guest post by independent political blogger Moorcat, who has written some recent popular posts on Cowgirl about the Affordable Care Act.]

This evening, my wife received an email from Steve Daines – our lone House of Representatives Congressman. In this email, he states he is taking a “survey” of the reactions of Montanans to the Federal ACA insurance exchange. Everything you ever wanted to know about how Steve Daines’s position on the ACA can be found in that email. For brevity, I will simply provide a link to this message posted on his official Legislative website. Continue reading

Poll: Daines in Trouble

A public opinion poll was released today showing that Congressman Steve Daines has an abysmal 39% job approval rating. The poll is conducted annually by Montana State University professors and students, in Billings. Steve Bullock has a strong rating at 53%. Baucus and Tester are in the 40s, Tester having perhaps been unavoidably dragged down by what’s going on in Washington, and by Obama whose numbers in Montana are very poor (29%).

If we are to believe this poll, it means that Daines is the most unpopular Montana elected official since Judy Martz.

Continue reading

Again in Butte, the Titans of Industry

Max Baucus is starred in his own show this week, the Economic Summit in Butte, with headlines describing the firepower he’s brought in, the impressive list of CEOs. It makes Baucus look powerful, and of course a big event in a Montana city is good for the city, fills up hotel rooms and bars and restaurants and rental cars and so on.

But a few observers, including the Helena Vigilante and the New Republic, have observed that the conference is not all that it seems, and is much more than one might immediately realize.  They have noted that these captains of industry have come at a price.  They have agreed to come kiss Baucus’s ring because he is the man that, as chair of the Senate Finance Committee, doles out corporate tax breaks and statutory loopholes in federal law, which allow major American corporations, and CEOs, to pay an astonishingly low tax rate, the lowest in American history, and to screw consumers and citizens.

Seen in this way, the summit could be viewed as a farcical commentary on everything that is wrong with American government and policy.  A politician wants to boost his cred with the people, and to do so, he puts together a mega event that costs, not benefits, ordinary citizens.  The Oracle CEO, for example, arrived to talk about how he wants to bring jobs back to Montana. But Oracle has an application in the pipeline to bring 600 foreign workers to it’s operation in Bozeman to do those jobs–instead of hiring Montana or even American citizens, using a thing known as an H1N visa that allows big companies to use imported foreign labor at a savings.

Richard Anderson, the Delta CEO, also spoke about his desire to help Montanans.

Of all the emblems of how the consumer is getting increasingly screwed in our society, Delta is one of the mightiest.  Here was the CEO, sitting on stage and acting as if he cares so deeply for the Montana consumer of his product.

He has a funny way of showing it.  The outrageous prices paid by Montanans are bad enough, but Delta has fashioned an economic model where passengers are treated like cattle, not humans.  The consumer is dictated the terms.  On one recent flight, I dropped my phone and couldn’t pick it up until the flight ended, because there was so little legroom that I was stuck and couldn’t even reach down.   On the flight before that, it was too dim to read a book because there were fewer reading lights than rows, because they had stuffed so many seats in.   And the bag fees–which we were once told was due to fuel costs–have become a permanent thing even though Delta now owns an oil refinery and is thus at least partially immune to fuel costs (and the CEO in fact bragged to the audience in Butte about this very thing).  And don’t get me started on the smell of these planes or the $19 dollar gas station quality food, or the $15 internet.

Finally, let’s recall that if you want to speak to a live person when you book a flight, you are charged an extra $25 for the pleasure of it, and are routed to a person in a foreign country who works for 10% of what a US worker would cost. (In general, union labor was not a very popular thing among most of the company execs who spoke in Butte).

Anderson’s compensation last year was $12.6 million.  And he’s not doing anything he shouldn’t do, really. His job is to squeeze every last dollar out of the consumer.  Delta’s stock has risen impressively in the last several years.  He is thus successful.

Most businesses, however, cannot treat a customer like this, because they’d lose their customers.  But Delta, and United, and other airlines, and players like Verizon, Blue Cross and many banks and cable companies, and hospitals–they gradually position themselves into positions of strength, and they’ve also spooked Congress into not taking action to protect the consumer.  In some countries, including many modern thriving democracies, consumers are protected from quasi-monopolistic strong arm tactics like what Delta does.

Not in America. Customers routinely lose in the face-off.  The consumer has very few allies in Washington.  That’s the imbalance that needs to be righted.  Anderson is doing his job, and thus Congress needs to do its.  But it doesn’t.  Congress instead works for Anderson.


Syria and Montana’s Vote

I’m tempted to have a violent, allergic reaction to the President’s advocacy of using force in Syria, given our hangover from the Iraq War, given that the Assad family has been killing Syrians wrongfully, tens or even hundreds of thousands of them, with conventional weapons for decades with no apparent concern on the part of the free world, and given that the White House has not provided much of a vision for a post Assad Syrian regime.

But of all the people on earth to be advocating for a new military engagement in the middle east, Barack Obama is probably the least likely.   For this reason alone, I believe, we should avoid a rush to judgment and think critically about what’s going on.  Barack Obama does not strike me as a person who shares George W. Bush’s love of military invasion.

Also, John Boehner and Eric Cantor, two giant right-wing jerks who have never before supported anything the President has put forward on any topic or issue, immediately announced their support for the President.  This, despite the major political peril of doing so–a strike in Syria, and a bad result, could mean the ouster of both of them, from leadership, or even from office by Tea Party primary challengers in their own districts (conservative voters are anti-war as of late, now that a black man is President).

I assume, therefore, that whatever intelligence Obama showed them was not of the George Bush Dick Cheney Don Rumsfeld junk-bond variety, but of the blue-chip variety, the kind with 99% certainty, the kind that we should have demanded before giving support to Bush to invade Iraq.  I find it impossible to believe that Cantor and Boehner would go out on this potentially suicidal limb based on speculative intelligence.

Obama may also have planned a two-step all along: get authorization and prepare to bomb, and look resolute, knowing (or hoping) that Assad will be forced to make a deal. Then tell Russia’s Putin that if he’s going to carry on a bromance with Assad, he needs to step up and broker a deal.  This is the outcome that might actually now be in the offing.

But it could not occur without Assad’s belief in a credible military threat from America.

Seen this way, if things work out for Obama and America with regard to Assad’s chemical weapons, people like Steve Daines–who announced yesterday that he opposes granting the President the option of using force–might end up finding themselves on the wrong side of history.  Obama may end up masterfully solving the problem by bluffing Assad into folding his hand.  Daines and his faction will be found to have tried to obstruct it all, worrying instead about opinion polls.  So, for that matter, might Tester and Baucus if they vote against authorizing force.  Presumably, Democrats are going to try to buy a little time here, and keep neutral while they carefully analyze what’s happening.  That would be smart.

Then again, it’s been only ten years since we were lied to by an administration that cooked up false intelligence to create a war.  We should recall the pathetic appearance of Colin Powell at the UN, where he played a scratchy audio tape of two Arabs mumbling something barely audible, and presented it to the world as evidence that Hussein was a nuclear threat.  It was laughably unpersuasive.  But, sheepish Democrats, fearing a vote against a war that might eventually prove successful in a narrative written by Republicans, buckled.  They did the wrong thing, and ended up on the wrong side of history.  It cost Hillary Clinton the presidency, most likely.

And so, ironically, could Republicans do the wrong thing in this case by opposing the President’s request.  It’s hard to tell.  I might ordinarily be inclined to say “Fool me once, shame on you.   Fool me twice, shame on me”  (or as George Bush’s famously butchered it, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice….uhhhh….fool me I won’t get fooled again!!”)

But the fundamental difference between now and then: we had an imbecile for a president; now we have an intelligent leader.  And one thing I do know: Obama is not the type to falsify intelligence for the purposes of taking the country to war.

One more thing: as Dick Cheney and company went around on the eve of the Iraq war, trying to claim that Hussein was behind 9/11 and that he was on the verge of having a nuclear missile pointed at us (all complete nonsense), we can imagine that Steve Daines was out there cheerleading for him, acting like a young Republican in all of his asinine conservative glory, pumping his fist on behalf of Bush’s team, parroting the Bush team’s idiotic slogans, and accusing anybody who opposed the the President of not being a patriot, and of being “with the terrorists.”  Now he is suddenly a dove. He apparently thinks war is unjustified even though, from the sound of it, the presence of WMD in this current case is unquestionable, whereas the last time it was doubtful.  What is his standard, therefore, for when force is necessary?