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Barack Obama
"Lincoln Sells Out Slaves"
by: Rob Kailey - Sep 13
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If You Haven't Seen This
by: Rob Kailey - Apr 28
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Impeach the President?
by: Rob Kailey - Mar 16
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It's the system, stupid!
by: Jay Stevens - Oct 24
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Rob Kailey is a working schmuck with no ties or affiliations to any governmental or political organizations, save those of sympathy.
taxes

Rehberg, Unsurprisingly, Votes for Big Oil Tax Breaks Again

by: Matt Singer

Thu May 05, 2011 at 09:58:13 AM MST

Yesterday, we asked if Congressman Rehberg really meant it when he said that subsidies to big oil were really on the table when it came to addressing the deficit. Asked and answered. Just now, Rehberg voted to maintain giant tax breaks for the world's biggest oil companies, at a time of record profits (and gas prices).

Two predictions:

  1. Montana newspapers won't have time to cover this on their news pages since reporting is underfunded.
  2. Montana opinion pages will give him space to talk about how he firmly believes everything must be on the table, despite all evidence being to the contrary.
Discuss :: (1 Comments)

Will Rehberg's Record Match His Rhetoric on Oil and Gas Subsidies?

by: Matt Singer

Wed May 04, 2011 at 13:46:41 PM MST

Congressman Rehberg keeps saying that oil and gas subsidies are on the table for cuts. He said earlier when ThinkProgress picked it up. He said it again during a CityClubMissoula meeting. Here it is:



Here's some good news: tomorrow, Rehberg will have a chance to prove that he's willing to take on the oil and gas industry. Note that I said "take on" not "take the money of," which has been his record historically.
Discuss :: (2 Comments)

Time to Get Smart About Messaging--Villains Are the Name of the Game

by: Matt Singer

Tue Apr 05, 2011 at 10:45:02 AM MST

(I just got this in my inbox from an old friend who is a very smart and capable organizer who wanted to share some thoughts on messaging. Happy to repost here.--Singer)

There is something fundamentally different about the way conservatives communicate. When they talk about a topic they not only speak of an event, but they seem to dwell on the people involved. Think of the ugly stereotypes we've become acquainted with over time. The "Welfare Queen", "Border Runner", and now "Anchor Baby" are all part of our political vernacular. Instantly a mental image springs forth to fill in the hazy gaps in our minds, because the Right has not only built the narrative, more importantly they've cast the characters.

These characters are useful and effective because they sum up everything the conservative voter needs to know in a nice little package and glosses over all the useless details. "Anchor Baby" works because it's short, and inherently negative. It's an indefensible position, and if confronted with it in a debate the only logical choice is retreat. Never mind the well established rights granted to a US citizen under the 14th amendment. Don't worry about the untold amounts of money that undocumented workers contribute to the economy each year. Anchor Baby, 'nough said.

Where we've been getting beat stupid for years in messaging, isn't just about using focus-group tested buzz words, it's about narrative based dialogue, or "story-telling" if you want to be smart about it. Part of telling a good story is having an easily identifiable hero and villain. The hero is always either the voter or the crusading politician, a faceless everyman that anyone can project themselves onto. The villain on the other hand, encapsulates all that is wrong with the world and poses an antithesis to our hero. They don't play by the rules, they game the system, and threaten to undermine the good life that we all struggle so hard to achieve. We've already seen them do their magic with labor unions. The specter of the "Union Boss" has replaced the working families that built this country. If you watch and listen closely we're already starting to see the conservatives changing the debate around teachers, the guardians of education. It won't be long before they roll out a two-syllable, pre-tested label for their old nemesis, and the public schools will be ripe for plunder.

Now, think about the villains in the liberal world view. Most of them revolve around some form of the greedy CEO, or faceless corporation. This is problematic because while most Americans consider themselves far from rich, they haven't ruled out the possibility that their luck might change someday. The others include religious zealots and homophobes. Doesn't exactly roll off the tongue or paint a mental image, does it? On one of our most fundamental issues, Education, the waters are so murky we
don't even have a clear story to tell.

But of course there's no reason why we can't learn from our mistakes by copying their strategy. And to those ends I'd like to suggest that our new villain is the "Tax Cheat". The name itself tells us a few things. We're not going to say that he's rich, we'll let the voters fill that one in for themselves. Which is great because this lets us play the class card, without offending any of our wealthy allies and donors who happen to have a conscience. But more importantly it says he has tax liability or that he owes something to society. Few people actually enjoy paying their taxes (although most people like what our taxes afford us), but we pay them nonetheless out of obligation to each other and future generations. Most importantly regardless of what we pay, each of us thinks individually that we pay our "fair share." But the Tax Cheat doesn't. He doesn't contribute a dime toward all the things that make our system work. He still uses the parks, schools, and bridges like everyone else, but we the "tax-payers" end up footing the bill.

None of this is to say that shifting the debate will be easy or cheap. It took years if not decades for conservative strategists to build their narrative in voter's minds. But if we start now by telling our story in the public sphere and door to door we can go after tax loop holes, and companies that make obscene profits domestically but house their corporate offices overseas. We can raise untold amounts of revenue, and won't be forced into balancing the budget on the backs of the poor. But most importantly we can begin to shift the blame in the voter's minds from teachers and workers, to the real enemy of the middle class.

Discuss :: (20 Comments)

Bah!! Back to the Blog and fighting for our rights.

by: Doug Coffin

Fri Feb 18, 2011 at 22:42:22 PM MST

The battle is joined. Witness Madison, Wisconsin and soon Ohio. Public employee unions are the last bastion of unions in America. Currently, about 8% of private sector workers belong to unions while more than 1/3 of public employees still belong to unions. Conservative America and their corporocrat supporters are out to change that, for the worse.

As result of their lost rights to organize and bargain collectively, private sector employees have seen dwindling wages, pensions and health care benefits while their workweek increases to about 48 hours per week. Public employees, because they're still organized, still have some reasonable benefits left. The coporatocracy and their minions, like Governor Walker (R-WI) are out to drive a wedge between public and private employees and then drill a stake through the last vestige of those who stand for employee rights in America.

What is at stake? Historically, organized labor is responsible for:
- The forty hour work-week.
- Abolition of child labor.
- Paid vacations.
- The minimum wage.
- Women's and civil rights/ anti-discrimination.
- Worker's compensation.
...and much more. Why was Martin Luther King in Memphis, TN in 1968? He was supporting sanitation workers who were on strike when when a right-wing extremist shot him to death. He was standing up for worker's rights and the right to collective bargaining. The very rights that Gov. Walker is trying to take away. Bottom line: Civil rights, labor rights and education are joined at the hip. Martin knew that fundamental truth, and you should too.

If the corporatocracy has their way, you will lose those rights forever. They will ban the right for workers to organize and bargain collectively with their employer for decent wages and working conditions. Discrimination, poor wages, longer work weeks, vacations, health care benefits and more are all at hand when the right to organize disappears.

Who is the corporatocracy? They are the CEOs and Wall Street financiers who are reaping billions in profits while denying the little people their few. They are the billionaires who buy off our politicians so that hey can get tax cuts, and then convince the ignorant that government deficits result from too much spending. They insist that we have to cut social security, medicaid, WIC and other social support programs to pay for the tax cuts. That's exactly what's happening in WI and in WDC. The deficit comes not from too much spending, but from too many tax cuts for the corporatocracy.

Example: Bill Gates is the hidden face of the corporatocracy. His Gates Foundation funds the
National Center for Teacher Quality (NCTQ) that masquerades as pro-education. But they are partners with the extreme union-busting Center for Union Facts with their "Labor Pains" web site. They are hot to abolish teachers unions, and if they nail the other public employee unions along the way, so be it.

Bottom line: The farther we go down the path to Kafka's Amerika the more we will pay in blood to reverse directions.

We'll be in Helena on Monday (Feb 21st) to fight for our rights. We hope to see you there.

 

Discuss :: (6 Comments)

America vs America: Who wins?

by: Doug Coffin

Sun Jan 02, 2011 at 13:08:20 PM MST

On this first Sunday of 2011, we can see the battles of 2011 shaping up. The Sunday papers are full of alarmist articles that light reader's hair on fire with dire projections/predictions and editorials that ponder solutions. Much of the focus is all about government, the proper role, cost and efficiencies thereof and how those can be melded into a return to prosperity. These are not new problems or new arguments. They portray Americans as pitted against one another, and that is the reality. The real question is: How do we get a collective "win" out of this confrontation?

What we're really seeing is an animalistic, epic battle for resources that all societies face when scarcity comes, and come it will in cyclical economies. A NY Times front page story http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01... is prototypical in what we should expect to see in 2011. It pits the "public employee" against the "working American" and ponders the resolution.

The Garden State (NJ) is accurately portrayed as the most severe example of the problems facing state governments across the country. The NYT article is well written, but it is written for the business reader and published in the Business section which begs a question. Does any newspaper have a "Labor" section? Naturally, the unions don't come off well in the story, nor do public employees or teachers. The reader's comments smoke the author out pretty well on these items.

The lead NYT editorial then discusses the unfelt economic recovery and how cuts on the state and local level will mitigate any real economic growth and/or reduction in unemlpoyment in 2011. True, bad news for Obama and bad news for America.

Montana's Lee newspapers are running a parallel piece by Charles Johnson that frames the debate in the upcoming legislature.  The Helena Independent posted op-eds by MEA-MFT President Eric Feaver and GOP State Senator Ryan Zinke, both very decent people with the best interest of Montanans at heart. Those op-eds, while not diemetrically opposed, do represent different interests. "Smaller government" with a "structurally balanced budget" i.e. a much smaller budget across the board, cannot be consistent with the perceived necessary provision of government services to sustain our health, welfare and economy in the 21st century. Something has to give. So Montana is, indeed, a microcosm of the nation. Published salutes to Jim Peterson and Mike Milburn are also prominent in today's papers along with editorials hoping for collective, sound solutions. Wouldn't we all love that; optimism abounds at the beginning of the legislative session.

In framing the America vs America conflict, let's first consider the "public employee", painted as the poster-child of big-bad government by business and anti-labor interests. The fact is, as pointed out by Feaver and many in the the NY Times reader's comments, that most public employees are hard working middle class Americans. They live right next door, they pay the same taxes and have the same real-life problems as private sector employees. The agenda and rhetoric of anti-government, anti-labor conservative corporocrats provides the proof: Public employees are unionized by necessity as a means to defend themselves and protect their interests. From my "professional left" (and proud of it) perspective, the right to organize as a workforce is fundamental, and public employees are no exception. Of course, my corporocrat counterparts would disagree.

Now let's consider the private sector employee. Concomitant with their loss of labor-organization and collective representation, they have suffered declining wages and benefits for the last thirty years. This is largely the upshot of Reagan's 1980's new conservatism where the CEO is king, stock prices are THE barometer for success in business, and employees are chattel. The losses for defenseless private sector employees, as compared to the unionized public sector, have set the stage for the current middle class cannibalism that is a large part of America vs America.

Reagan's policies gutted labor law enforcement in favor of the Gilded Age ideology, but the anti-labor public relations victory from his bully pulpit did much more to lower the status of unions in the public eye. Unlike public employees, private sector employees largely lost the right to organize and collectively represent their interests. Make no mistake, poor leadership and corruption in organized labor have played right into the conservative game plan all along. But I would submit that pendulum is starting to swing back as Americans recognize the necessity for collective representation in the workplace and modern union leadership is vastly improved over the Hoffaesque versions of the past. The major challenge for modern labor leaders is to avoid the past affliction of promoting their union over the necessity of representing the best interests of their member-employees. Political bargains made by union leaders are often too compromising on that front.

So, the sectorized split of the American middle class among public and private sector employees, or unionized versus non-union employees, is a large part of today's America vs America battle. The other main component is provided by income disparity. Reagan and now Obama both make no apology for unfettered attainment of wealth, be it legitimate or otherwise. Witness the latest financial crash and TARP bailout. There is no doubt that the losses of the middle class have directly translated into gains for Reagan billionaires. This Ayn Rand ideology most certainly proves true in the New Gilded Age transfer of wealth between classes. So it should be according to our new conservatives and corporocrats.

Therein lies the class warfare, income disparity version of America vs Amercia. It recently played out in the federal lame duck session whereby conservatives and Obama cleverly linked unemployment benefits to tax cuts for the wealthy. That link had no legitimacy except to provide a false debate of one versus the other. New-Gilted-Age corporocrats, Republican and Democratic alike, got their uppper-income tax breaks while the perception of Obama's protecting the poor and unemployed played to gullible liberals (....er...excuse me "progressives").

The next act in that play comes this spring where "cutting the deficit" means open season on government benefits for poor and middle class Americans. Look for Obama and congressional leaders repeat the strategy of the lame duck session, were "compromise" nets out to more for the business class at the expense of the populace. And so the beat of modern corporatocracy goes on, further dividing America by income and class.

The bottom line here is that Americans cannot expect a government that is overwhelmingly influenced by the business class to fairly represent their interests as employees. They simply have to do that themselves. The first step is to deny any legitimacy to the notion that public employees are substantially different than those in private sector. Indeed, the private sector workforce needs to emulate the public sector by both defending and utilizing their right to organize and provide collective representation.

Moreover, I would submit that, done correctly, an organized workforce is a net positive for business and economic growth. Striking a proper balance of power in the workplace provides accountability for management, shared goals and ownership and ultimately a fairer means to spread the resulting economic benefits between economic strata. Once again the overriding principle applies that only education-training and organized collective representation in the workplace can protect wages and income for employees.

However, too narrow a focus on Montana and even the United States leads us to forget that we live in a global economy. The competing interests are not limited to our shores vis the flat, smaller world as the niche for resource competition. Global oil consumption is the best example. American consumption has actually declined in the last two years, but our domestic prices are rising because emerging nation (China and India) consumption has risen. America vs America does not serve us well if we're to compete in the global arena.

Ultimately the 21st century economy with its New Gilted Age onset represents our greatest challenge. America's test is to manage our intranational competition so that we can prevail in the international arena. That starts to play out in our 2011 legislature beginning this week. Will something emerge from the postulates of Zinke and Feaver that will ultimately prevail over the Dave Lewis agenda? Are the promises of the GOP leadership, namely Sen. Peterson and Rep. Milburn, valid in constructively working with Governor Schweitzer and even the minority Democrats? If so then we might expect that the session will result in sound, collective solutions from the 2011 session.  

Results on the national level are a quantum step up from Montana. Will the populist Obama that we elected prevail over Obama the corporocrat who is now governing? Will sound, collective decisions from the federal government allow America to regain a balance between labor and management and between economic strata, that is so critical to the future of our nation? Conventional wisdom states that a stable, prosperous middle class is the base alloy of our democracy. Achieving that economic goal intranationally is the only means to competing internationally in both economic and social terms. Finding the line between healthy internal debate and a disparate ravaging for resources between sectors seems difficult.  

Those questions, on the local, national and international levels define 2011 and the ongoing 21st century. The competition for resources tests our individual and collective ability to reason verus our animal nature to compete. Perhaps the first federalist paper states it best: "Whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force. If there be any truth in the remark, the crisis at which we are arrived may with propriety be regarded as the era in which that decision is to be made; and a wrong election of the part we shall act may, in this view, deserve to be considered as the general misfortune of mankind."

The author of that paper, Alexander Hamilton, and the other founding fathers saw that as specific to their era. Realistically, our very human nature dictates that we must face that test regularly, and 2011 is no exception.
   

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Montana State Budget Battle Shapes up

by: Doug Coffin

Thu Dec 09, 2010 at 06:12:47 AM MST

The upcoming budget battle for the state legislature has taken shape. The Montana Organizing Project sponsored a forum yesterday in the Missoula Public Library. Tara Veazey from the Montana Budget and Policy Center laid it out in stark terms. Basically, there is a $700 million dollar difference between what the Governor proposed and the Republican legislature plans to dispose. That is $700 million out of a $4 billion dollar budget for the biennium, or about 18% of the budget. The Gov proposes $3.94 billion, about $200 million over present expenditures and commitments. The GOP is proposing to start at 5% below the previous budget $3.28 billion. Those are huge differences, the battles will be tough and the stakes are high.

For most state agencies the Governor's budget is the high water mark. It's hard to imagine that the GOP will actually add much to any of the Gov's proposed numbers. They have about $200 million to work with to stay under the $3.58 billion legislative fiscal divisions revenue estimate, but there is also $240 million remaining from the previous fund balance. Look for the GOP to cut taxes with the business equipment tax at the top of the list. No, they won't find other revenue to make that up, instead they'll look to cut spending.

The Gov estimates $3.6 of revenue for the biennium.  The Gov's budget is also woven together, so pull one thread and the whole thing comes apart. That thread is likely education funding or the transfer of $100 million from current state funds/reserves into the general fund.

Budget battles not withstanding the MOP forum was straight on in demonstrating that the central function of government is not to manage a budget. Government is supposed to provide services and as David Ewer, the Gov's Budget Director likes to say "Government medicates, educates and incarcerates". So most of he state budget goes to medicaid, CHIP, K-12 education, Higher ed, and prisons. Under the GOP plan, when we factor in tax cuts, state government will be providing a lot less in terms of services.

That means college students will be paying higher tuition, localities will have to raise property taxes to fund our schools and maintain their services, doctors and hospitals will have to charge more and cut services. The GOP would argue that cutting government services creates more jobs and stimulates the economy. Democrats argue that education is the "speartip" of the 21st century economy and that health care is a right, not a privilege. Of course, being a lefty and an educator I'm coming down with the latter. However, a large majority of conservative Montana voters came down with the former. The stakes are huge, because if those voters and the GOP are wrong, Montanans will suffer the consequences for decades.    

Discuss :: (3 Comments)

Thanksgiving day fun.

by: Doug Coffin

Wed Nov 24, 2010 at 11:56:32 AM MST

While others other embrace the mundane Thanksgiving day football, or if you're like me and you want something interesting to do WHILE you watch football....and if you're a policy geek and you want some light work for the holidays you can sleuth through the most excellent Legislative Fiscal Division (LFD) web site http://www.leg.mt.gov/css/fisc... LFD web site. It is a relatively unknown and underutilized asset. I subscribe and  they send me a "chart of the week" that is often informative but sometimes just a curiosity. These are certainly people who earn their money as public employees because they provide a great public asset (thank you Sen. Lewis). Tracking the chart of the week and digging into the site's other features allow some insight into Montana's short-term economic future and a cursory understanding of the state's budget process during the upcoming session.

The first realization is the absence of any "progressive" thinking on the horizon in the upcoming session, because there has been very little historically in Montana. Hence our traditional standing at the bottom of the national economic ladder. I consider "progressive thinking" in economic terms along the lines of Obama's "stimulus", the Fed's current QE2 program or simply investing in quality public education. Montana State government has a very limited history of state government actively spending to stimulate certain economic sectors and that won't change in the 2011 session.

All this makes me a Krugmanite (http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/) where I see an essential role for both federal and state government investment in certain sectors for economic stimulation and development. My career in science makes this a natural believing that there are certain places that government investment has to go, because private investors would be crazy to do so.

My favorite examples are biomedical research and the space program. No private company could ever have conceived of investing in a program to send a man to the moon or develop a space shuttle in the 20th century. Thus, it took the government to spend/invest there, but the payoff was huge. All the products (Teflon, Tang, etc., etc.) and of course a satellite fleet next to none have been the basis for our economic growth in the late 20th century. It goes without saying that the private sector is the twin to government investment where entrepreneurs mine the gold through product development and marketing. Witness how, once the technological groundwork was laid and the risk is lowered to an acceptable level, 21st century companies are moving into space. A corollary also exists between NIH funded research and the pharmaceutical or health care industries. The trick for Montana policy makers is to find our local "space program" and invest accordingly. That's not easy.

The tealeaves for the upcoming legislative session predict that GOP legislators will be off-task and most certainly tip too far in the direction of the private sector's "magic hand" by over-cutting government spending. This will only serve to starve Montana's economic growth in the long term, evidenced by their cutting educational budgets and other essential services like FWP that maintain the infrastructure for tourism. They will also pass ill-advised tax cuts to fatten corporate profits that only fly out of state. Our consignment to the bottom percentiles of the national income ladder and our legacy of being exploited by other more wealthy states and corporations will continue. Out of state corporations will continue to make money and send their profits back home (e.g. Walmart). The debilitating trend where out of state landowners buy up large ranches and lock out Montana recreationalists will only accelerate. So, if you want to make some money in Montana, invest in the orange paint business.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

What they're sayin across the Big Sky

by: Doug Coffin

Mon Nov 22, 2010 at 08:28:32 AM MST

It's fun to scan Montana's Op-eds for the week from "conservative" to "liberal" newspapers, from Wolf point to Missoula.

Not surprisingly the focus is definitely on budgets, taxes and the upcoming legislative session:

Posted: Friday, November 12, 2010 6:00 am | Updated: 2:44 am, Fri Nov 12, 2010.
Belgrade News
"any effort to arrive at a tax-reform solution that benefits Montana's middle class taxpayers - the majority of us - is blocked before the session even begins by a gimmicky pledge to never raise taxes, at all, ever.
One issue this creates is with our problematic medical marijuana law. The burgeoning new industry - entirely untaxed and virtually unregulated - begs for both. But according to one Republican legislator who spoke to the Belgrade News recently, taxing medical marijuana is "not an option because most of us have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge."

Bob Brown, Former MT Secretary of State and Adjunct Professor at UM editorialized in the Big Fork Eagle on Sunday (11/19) about what Montanans should expect if real budget cutting actually occurs in WDC. Says Brown:
The Republican tide swept across Montana with perhaps even greater velocity than the rest of the nation. There is no question about the mandate for cutting spending here. That being true, Montanans should brace for some belt tightening, because 40 cents of every dollar the Montana government spends comes from our big brother in Washington. The most uncomplicated and frequently mentioned strategy for cutting back is to return federal spending to 2009 levels. That year Montana received $1.9 billion in federal aid. On a per capita basis, only six states were higher on the federal dole than Montana. In 2010 our federal piece of the pie jumped to $2.3 billion. That $400 million increase in one year by itself equates to more than 20 percent of all the money the state takes in from taxes, and would be a $100 million over-draft on the $300 million Montana now has "in the bank." The impact of such federal cuts would surely prove the old saying that a government big enough to give you what you want is big enough to take from you what you have. Since our state constitution requires a balanced budget, we won't have the alternative of going into debt to compensate for federal cuts. Our state government will have to severely cut services or drastically increase taxes, or both. With conservative Republicans now in control of both houses of the legislature, don't figure on any taxing solutions..........swallowing hundreds of millions [of cuts] won't be as easy, but the reality is that our nation can't continue to live beyond its means. Significant reductions at all levels of government have to occur. Nickeling our way out this time will not be an option for Montana. This time we will feel the pain.

Likewise, the Flathead Beacon's Kellyn Brown says: "Every politician has his or her own agenda as to what should be accomplished over the next few weeks, but most would agree with Rehberg's assessment that the budget and tax cuts loom largest."

Most any newspaper from around the state that's saying anything seems to be cautious about great Republican mandates. From the most conservative to the most liberal (if there really is any such thing in MT besides "Left in the West") they all remember the last presidency when the GOP added more to the national debt than the last two Democratic presidents combined. Indeed, my beloved Rachael Maddow (MSNBC) pointed out that the Crown Prince of Conservatism, Ronald Reagan, grew the debt by 187% during his term. GW Bush was a piker by comparison with about 90% and the two Democrats trailed all the Republicans with Carter at and Clinton in the low 40's. I'm not sure how these figures were calculated but the essential point is accurate, the GOP is THE debtor party in historical terms. You have to give them credit for turning the issue around on the Democrats in political terms. I guess that means kudos to the evil genius "Turd Blossom" (Rove).

The Republicans have lost their arrogance and they are doubting the keystone of Reagan's conservatism where tax cuts are supposed to balance budgets. They know better now. "Supply side" economics are dead and buried by the Great Recession. Modern conservatism may stand for "smaller government" but they are even cautious about that. They know that cutting government means sacrificing their favorites, like defense spending, and there simply isn't room for huge tax cuts because the actually do decrease revenues. The Great Recession has brought sobriety to the heady days of the stolen 2000 election when huge tax cuts rolled through. The GOP was sure that the budget would magically balance and prosperity would abound. Neither happened and now the GOP, fresh off the Tea party demolition of its ideology is looking for new ground. They also sense that "small government" isn't really what people want; Democrats and Republicans both know that Americans want "good government" regardless of size. That means that it's not really about budgets and taxes, it's about delivering services and solving problems when resources are thin. Their task is finding the equation to deliver. The Democrats failed during their biennium and the GOP knows the price that they'll pay if they don't find it either.  

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

What will, what could, what should.

by: Rob Kailey

Mon Nov 15, 2010 at 16:07:05 PM MST

Call it lazy blogging if you wish, but this post is certainly going to be a link dump.  Don't hesitate to follow any of them, as your own ideas may form and scream for expression on account.

The Lame Duck session of Congress has now begun.  In truth, I hate that fowl term.  Do these politicians have any less power than they did before Nov. 2nd?  Of course not.  "Lame Duck" is simply handy perception management, and it appears to be needed now more than ever.  Congress will undertake the 'work' of naming post offices and roads, lauding villages which managed to remain solvent for a particular and arbitrary number of years, and otherwise feigning interest in what the American people want.  (I used to only refer to the Senate as the Clown Circus, but now that the House appears poised to be the yipping poodle jumping through flaming hoops for the red nosed ones, I think I'll just extend that term to the entire Congress.)  What the American people really want is Deficit Reduction.  Oh wait, no they don't.  Still ...

The only meaningful thing that the Clown Circus has to tackle before the end of the year concerns revenue, the Bush Tax Cuts.  What the majority of American people want is to repeal the cuts for the wealthy, or let them all expire.  Here's your data.  Notice that of non-voters, the highest percentage wanted to repeal all the tax cuts.  Make of that what you will, but it's not on the table.  That I can guarantee. Something will be done, if only for the political sake of doing something, and the White House/Democrats appear poised to capitulate to Republican demands to extend all the tax cuts.  It could be argued that temporarily extending all tax cuts would lead to a future fight over the permanence of just tax cuts for the not-so-wealthy. Uh, no.  This strangulation of the government's revenue stream is precisely what is dragging this country to hell, and that most definitely favors the Republicants to further the effort to get well rid of that ... person ... in the White House.  The time for the fight is now.  That's what the Left wants, and what should be.

However, it can't be done.  Lame Ducks are lame, and the Teapublicans run the show.  Not.So.Fast.  No, they really don't.  Not in this session they don't.

As if in evil Kabbalistic confluence of forces, late last week the cat-food Deficit commission released their suggestions for how to screw the middle class while fostering our betters to new heights of financial security.  We've dug us a big ole hole of debt, and what is to be done?  Well, let's see.  Here's an overview, and nobody seems to like this.  My opinion, of course, but it seems way too top heavy on cutting and lite by far on revenue.  The Republicants love to equate governmental budgeting with family finance.  Allow me a relevant anecdote.  Every time I have found myself in fiscal trouble (often) I have cut my spending even for essentials, which often makes things worse.  I have also struggled to increase revenue.  Several times in my life I've held two jobs.  I have always, successfully, sought to improve my position through promotion.  Notice please how simply that equation works.  Cutting expense while, sometimes radically and painfully, increasing productivity.  What a marvelously simple thing.  Yet that isn't what is 'could be' to the cat-food commission.  What they seek is to cut the reward for productivity, while scattering the pain of expense more broadly among those who can least afford it.  Well, I'm glad we had this talk.

What will be will be.  But I'm not completely disenchanted with fantasy, so let's us see what you'd do.  Given that the rich and privileged will do what the rich and privileged do, how would you, given the power, deal with the deficit ... fourth or fifth on the priority list of America as it is?  How would you solve our budget crisis?  I did it through defense cuts, and increase of revenue.  Your turn.

Here's where the real link dump comes.  I love MetaFilter.  I truly do.  And comments like this are why.  kluiless offers more compressed knowing than I could ever offer in a post here.  Read it, follow the links and tell us what you think.    

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

Well, maybe there should be a tax!

by: Jay Stevens

Tue Oct 05, 2010 at 09:58:34 AM MST

KRTV's Helena Bureau Chief Marnee Banks jumped into the blogosphere recently (h/t Cowgirl) with The Banks Account, and yesterday brought up CI-105, an initiative that not too many are talking about.

First off, CI-105. The ballot language:

There is no existing state or local tax on transactions that sell or transfer real property in Montana. CI-105 amends the Montana Constitution to prohibit state or local governments from imposing any new tax on transactions that sell or transfer real property, such as residential homes, apartments, condominiums, townhouses, farms, ranches, land, and commercial property, after January 1, 2010.

Okay, so it's a ballot initiative that would overturn a tax that, erm, doesn't actually exist.

According to Banks, the backers of the initiative are the Montana Association of Realtors, represented by...Chuck Denowh! Who has a well-heeled history of setting up astroturf organizations for corporate initiatives! So...you know...what's the catch to this thing?

{Helena City Commissioner} Paul Cartwright says CI-105 is a scam from the National Association of Realtors. He also claims N.A.R. dumped over $1 million into Montana to get this initiative passed. "Back in my day we used to call these outside agitators," Cartwright added.

Then Cartwright went on to claim, "Perhaps the N.A.R. is bankrolling David and Charles Koch." Cartwright claims the Koch brothers own a 250,000 acre matador ranch outside Dillon. He says CI-105 would help landowners like the Koch's much more than it would the average Montanan.

"Is the National Association of Realtors in it to help me, or in it to help the Koch brothers?" Cartwright asked. "If you look around the table and can't see who the sucker is, it would be you," Cartwright said as he told the commission he will be voting against CI-105.

Helena Mayor, Jim Smith, also spoke out and said he didn't understand the logic behind this initiative either.

So...what's going on here? Is this a reaction to a provision in the health care bill that would slap a 3.8-percent tax on high-end real-estate sales? Or real-estate transfer taxes in other states? Whichever, it's true what Cartwright says, that more expensive homes will incur more tax penalty under such a system - if it were ever to be implemented in the state.

But...why not impose a real-estate transfer tax on high-end hobby houses? You know the kind - the ones with a gajillion acres and obstructing our access to rivers and wilderness areas. What a great idea!

So here's what we do. First, vote down CI-105. Then, in the legislature, pass a real-estate transaction tax on Montana's super-deluxe McMansions.

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

The unbearable lightness of making a quarter of a mil

by: Jay Stevens

Fri Oct 01, 2010 at 13:15:35 PM MST

Matt Yglesias posted this revealing graph about class structure in today's US, to which he adds this comment:

...perhaps the best way to describe the social reality that Cervone is noting here is simply to abandon the idea of the United States as a predominantly middle class society. Instead, there's a smallish economic elite composed primarily of high-ranking executives and the princes of Wall Street. Then there's a much larger middle class composed, more or less, of people with college degrees like this hypothetical cop/principal couple. And then there's the working class majority with no bachelor's degree.

Which reminds me of the Chicago law professor who complained about how limiting his $500k/year household income was, and Delong astutely noting that, to the professor, no doubt his income feels limited because he compares himself to his financial betters, whose income has exploded, while his own strata has merely grown moderately.

That professor took down his post because (a) his wife disagreed with his opinion, and didn't want to share her family's financial details with the world, and (b) a lot of people gave him a cr*pload of sh*t about his views. Which is a shame, because from his viewpoint, his opinion isn't unreasonable. Still, that his family has nearly as much yearly disposable income -- after taxes, bills, household and education expenses -- as half of Montana households' total income (or the median Illinois household income, if you think geography should be factored in), shows the professor suffers from a bad case of classist myopia.

This all explains the hysteria coming from the $250K crowd, who contemplate a tax hike if Bush tax cuts for the wealthy are rolled back, and all of the "debate" on what it means to be "rich." The fact of the matter is, if you make $250k, no matter where you live, you're doing all right, much better than the vast majority if American households, for most of whom their slice of the American pie has been steadily shrinking under conservative rule.

In any case, the graph also makes it clear just who benefits from free-market economic policy. And it's in this context that raising taxes on the "ordinary" rich is unfair.

Discuss :: (2 Comments)

Liberty or Banana Republic

by: Jay Stevens

Fri Sep 24, 2010 at 12:39:25 PM MST

This kind of tripe makes my stomach turn:

In the 1980s, fewer than a third of Americans received some sort of government benefits. That figure has risen to about 50 percent, The Wall Street Journal reported last week. At the same time, 45 percent of Americans pay no federal income taxes.

If these trends are not reversed, we can kiss the United States of America goodbye. We will soon reach a point at which most of the people have their standard of living subsidized by the earnings of a quarter, or maybe a fifth or fewer, of the rest. No nation can sustain the economic and cultural strength that has graced the United States while transferring so much wealth from so few to so many.

Where to begin? How about with the fact that those paying no federal income tax are still paying taxes, and usually at much higher rates than those in the upper tax brackets? Sales taxes, property taxes, the payroll tax, gasoline tax, fees, all of these are essentially flat taxes, which impact those with lower incomes much more than those with more, so much so that many working-class Americans are paying a higher percentage of their earnings in taxes than the richest among us.

Second, the growing numbers of Americans slipping out of the tax brackets is a symptom of the growing divide between rich and the rest of us, not the machinations of a greedy underclass. The causes of unequal income distribution is hotly disputed, but it's likely it was spurred in large party by a more pro-corporate conservative US fiscal policy, the decline of unions, the implementation of  free trade policies, and a whacked-out wage system that unjustly rewards a small and select group of self-anointed superstar corporate executives. That's right: the socio-political trend that's pushing more Americans into poverty is a result of free-market greed and insane economic policy. We are a nation that has come to worship greed and material consumption.

So, yeah. Whoever wrote this editorial is blaming the poor for their own misfortune, while urging us all to suck up more to the ueber-rich and free them from the disastrous consequences of their own self-serving and destructive policies.

No thanks.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

The wretched of the earth

by: Jay Stevens

Tue Sep 21, 2010 at 06:32:09 AM MST

Gregg links to a the sad lament of a University of Chicago law professor :

Like most working Americans, insurance, doctors' bills, utilities, two cars, daycare, groceries, gasoline, cell phones, and cable TV (no movie channels) round out our monthly expenses. We also have someone who cuts our grass, cleans our house, and watches our new baby so we can both work outside the home. At the end of all this, we have less than a few hundred dollars per month of discretionary income. We occasionally eat out but with a baby sitter, these nights take a toll on our budget. Life in America is wonderful, but expensive.

My first reaction to a guy who whines about his disposable income after sending his kids to private school and paying out the monthly wages of his gardener and nanny resembles Michael O'Hare's, who notes that the professor's income is around $400-500K, which, after student loans, taxes, and mortgage payments, leaves his family $245 a day:

The next time you come upon a Chicago law professor in his scuffed Gucci loafers and tattered Armani on the sidewalk, holding up his libertarian down-with-government sign and shaking his tin cup to get his doctor wife and hollow-eyed waifs through another tough week in their million-dollar hovel, please don't just walk by. Remember, it could be you. Be a mensch: throw a nice shiny 3/8-inch washer and couple of nickel slugs in there, with my blessings.

It's worth mentioning that O'Hare points out the prof's biggest expense is not "financing government," as he claims: his expenditures on "private consumption" outweigh taxes 3-to-1. The professor is also "choosing not to divide his public expenses into, say: education, policing, national defense, fire protection, keeping his street paved, subsidies to corn farmers and oil companies, etc."

Brad Delong takes the more charitable view, noting that the professor probably does feel he's living like "most working Americans," and living from paycheck to paycheck.

But first, a "reality check" from Delong. "The median household income in the United States today is $50,000." Which means that the professor and his doctor wife make nine times that amount. "The Hendersons are solidly in the top 1% of American households," notes Delong, "by any standard, they are really rich." So why does the professor get off on thinking he's entitled to more?

And here is the dirty secret: Professor Henderson thinks that that is the way things should be because he knows people for whom that is the way it is....

...He doesn't say: "Wow! My real income is more than twice the income of somebody in this slot a generation ago! Wow! A generation ago the income of my slot was only twice that of somebody at the bottom of the 10% wealthy, and now it is 3 1/2 times as much!" For he doesn't look down at the 99% of American households who have less income than he does. And he looks up. And when he looks up today he sees as wide a gap yawning above him as the gap between Dives and Lazarus. Mr. Henderson doesn't look down.

Instead, Mr. Henderson looks up. Of the 100 people richer than he is, fully ten have more than four times his income. And he knows of one person with 20 times his income. He knows who the really rich are, and they have ten times his income: They have not $450,000 a year. They have $4.5 million a year. And, to him, they are in a different world.

And so he is sad. He and his wife deserve to be successful. And he knows people who are successful. But he is not one of them--widening income inequality over the past generation has excluded him from the rich who truly have money.

And this makes him sad. And angry. But, curiously enough, not angry at the senior law firm partners who extract surplus value from their associates and their clients, or angry at the financiers, but angry at... Barack Obama, who dares to suggest that the U.S. government's funding gap should be closed partly by taxing him, and angry at the great hordes of the unwashed who will receive the Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security payments that the government will make over the next several generations.

Also note that the professor responded to O'Hare's post on Delong's site, noting that, after his kids' private school tuition, he has far less than $245/day in spending money. It's more like "$80 per day for five people."

Which comes to $31,360 a year.

After taxes, after household expenses, after mortgage payments, loan payments, and retirement savings.

Cry me a river.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

The wretched of the earth

by: Jay Stevens

Tue Sep 21, 2010 at 06:30:58 AM MST

Gregg links to a the sad lament of a University of Chicago law professor :

Like most working Americans, insurance, doctors' bills, utilities, two cars, daycare, groceries, gasoline, cell phones, and cable TV (no movie channels) round out our monthly expenses. We also have someone who cuts our grass, cleans our house, and watches our new baby so we can both work outside the home. At the end of all this, we have less than a few hundred dollars per month of discretionary income. We occasionally eat out but with a baby sitter, these nights take a toll on our budget. Life in America is wonderful, but expensive.

My first reaction to a guy who whines about his disposable income after sending his kids to private school and paying out the monthly wages of his gardener and nanny resembles Michael O'Hare's, who notes that the professor's income is around $400-500K, which, after student loans, taxes, and mortgage payments, leaves his family $245 a day:

The next time you come upon a Chicago law professor in his scuffed Gucci loafers and tattered Armani on the sidewalk, holding up his libertarian down-with-government sign and shaking his tin cup to get his doctor wife and hollow-eyed waifs through another tough week in their million-dollar hovel, please don't just walk by. Remember, it could be you. Be a mensch: throw a nice shiny 3/8-inch washer and couple of nickel slugs in there, with my blessings.

It's worth mentioning that O'Hare points out the prof's biggest expense is not "financing government," as he claims: his expenditures on "private consumption" outweigh taxes 3-to-1. The professor is also "choosing not to divide his public expenses into, say: education, policing, national defense, fire protection, keeping his street paved, subsidies to corn farmers and oil companies, etc."

Brad Delong takes the more charitable view, noting that the professor probably does feel he's living like "most working Americans," and living from paycheck to paycheck.

But first, a "reality check" from Delong. "The median household income in the United States today is $50,000." Which means that the professor and his doctor wife make nine times that amount. "The Hendersons are solidly in the top 1% of American households," notes Delong, "by any standard, they are really rich." So why does the professor get off on thinking he's entitled to more?

And here is the dirty secret: Professor Henderson thinks that that is the way things should be because he knows people for whom that is the way it is....

...He doesn't say: "Wow! My real income is more than twice the income of somebody in this slot a generation ago! Wow! A generation ago the income of my slot was only twice that of somebody at the bottom of the 10% wealthy, and now it is 3 1/2 times as much!" For he doesn't look down at the 99% of American households who have less income than he does. And he looks up. And when he looks up today he sees as wide a gap yawning above him as the gap between Dives and Lazarus. Mr. Henderson doesn't look down.

Instead, Mr. Henderson looks up. Of the 100 people richer than he is, fully ten have more than four times his income. And he knows of one person with 20 times his income. He knows who the really rich are, and they have ten times his income: They have not $450,000 a year. They have $4.5 million a year. And, to him, they are in a different world.

And so he is sad. He and his wife deserve to be successful. And he knows people who are successful. But he is not one of them--widening income inequality over the past generation has excluded him from the rich who truly have money.

And this makes him sad. And angry. But, curiously enough, not angry at the senior law firm partners who extract surplus value from their associates and their clients, or angry at the financiers, but angry at... Barack Obama, who dares to suggest that the U.S. government's funding gap should be closed partly by taxing him, and angry at the great hordes of the unwashed who will receive the Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security payments that the government will make over the next several generations.

Also note that the professor responded to O'Hare's post on Delong's site, noting that, after his kids' private school tuition, he has far less than $245/day in spending money. It's more like "$80 per day for five people."

Which comes to $31,360 a year.

After taxes, after household expenses, after mortgage payments, loan payments, and retirement savings.

Cry me a river.

Discuss :: (2 Comments)

Cracking Down on Tax Compliance Helping Montana

by: Matt Singer

Mon Aug 09, 2010 at 08:32:03 AM MST

(Thanks to Eric Feaver for bringing this to my attention.)

Dan Bucks is bringing 'em in -- tax dollars owed to the State of Montana.

One of the truly insane things that often happens when anti-tax folks take over government is to cut the budget for tax enforcement, even though, as Charles Johnson reports here:

Over the past two years, every $1 spent on tax audits has yielded $8 in tax revenue, the Revenue Department said. That's up from the $5 in tax revenues produced from each $1 spent on audits from 2002 to 2004.
Cutting tax enforcement is basically subsidizing lying, cheating, and, to a lesser extent, honest mistakes.

But those of us who pay our taxes deserve a government that makes sure everyone pays what they owe.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

You're too well off! (Unless you're rich.)

by: Jay Stevens

Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 09:05:06 AM MST

Here's a question: how do some people sleep at night after writing drivel like this?

Billionaire owners can afford to run their leagues however they wish. But in the real world it makes little sense to punish success or reward failure. Yet that's exactly what the federal government's tax policy does.

According to a recent report by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, in 2007 (the most recent year for which figures are available) the top 20 percent of earners paid 70 percent of all federal taxes. The bottom 40 percent of earners paid no income tax.

The only way you can make this argument is if you conveniently narrow its scope to federal income taxes. That's right, you have to leave out the payroll tax, property taxes, various sales taxes, and local, state, and federal fees - all of which hit the working- and middle-classes the hardest. And you have to ignore that taxes on capital gains - income earned from investments - has been steadily whittled down, which directly benefits the richest among us. And that's also ignoring the byzantine tax credits and loopholes created for people with capital to slip out of paying any taxes. In 2008, the GAO reported that "72 percent of all foreign corporations and about 57 percent of U.S. companies doing business in the United States paid no federal income taxes for at least one year between 1998 and 2005."

In short, to make this argument, you have to deliberately ignore actual tax policies. In reality, we do not have a progressive tax system. Instead, we have a system that's been deliberately engineered to redistribute income from the poorest to the richest.

And the premise of the article, that income rewards good work is laughable on its face. It's like the author has lived in a box his whole life. Money rewards money, not success. The unregulated financial system created the current recession - which collapsed on defaulted mortgages...for the rich - yet hits working- and middle-class families the hardest. Wealth isn't a measure of an individual's ability, it's too often the result of  having all the doors of society - education and economic opportunity - opened by money. Our nation's fiscal policy is aimed at propping up the wealthy, creating economic safety nets that allow the rich to take ill-conceived risks without having to suffer any consequences.

Ordinary taxpayers end up shouldering the bulk of costs of oil spills in Alaska and the Gulf or the medical bills of workers and their families suffering from asbestosis and other health conditions related to industrial pollution. Ordinary taxpayers bail out huge, multi-billion dollar investment banks when they lose their shirts at the blackjack table.

But Feulner's article should serve notice that, once again, the conservative lackeys of big business are sharpening their pencils in preparation to turn the facts upside-down: the rich are poor, the poor are rich, and the problem is that you have too much money.

Discuss :: (4 Comments)

Tax Day!

by: Jay Stevens

Thu Apr 15, 2010 at 10:26:13 AM MST

(Image brazenly stolen from the Missoulian's Twitter feed.)

While we wait in breathless anticipation for the Missoulian's live Tweeting of Missoula's Tax Day protests, here are some facts for Tax Day:

A majority of Americans think the amount of taxes they'll pay this year is fair. And by "majority," I mean more than 60 percent of all Americans, including Republicans. Heck, a plurality of Tea Baggers think their tax rate is fair! Which is especially interesting, given what Tea Baggers (wrongly) think about our nation's taxes.

The total cost of the Republican Congressional obstructionism to the American taxpayer: 1.32 billion dollars. Now, that's what I call "waste."

The "Tea Party Express" - that bus touring around the country and whipping up Tea Baggers everywhere - is not the grassroots rally it's made out to be. It's actually a PAC run by Republican operatives.

Fox News, despite Rupert Murdoch's statement that his network "shouldn't be supporting the Tea Party," is actively participating in Tax Day protests. Sean Hannity is even going so far as front-lining a fundraiser for the Cincinnati Tea Party.

Tea Baggers fear socialism, but love Social Security and Medicare.

A recent NYTimes/CBS poll confirms what we knew all along: Tea Baggers are predominantly angry old white dudes. Besides hating poor people and blacks, they're a bit delusional. Check out this question from the poll results: "Regardless of your overall opinion, do you think the views of the people involved in the Tea Party movement generally reflect the views of most Americans, or not?" A whopping 84 percent of Tea Baggers said their movement "reflect the views of most Americans," while only 25 percent of Americans said the same thing. And four percent of Americans have actually attended a Tea Bag rally or have given money to Tea Baggers.

And now for some opinions:

John Cole: "This is just a Republican operation, plain and simple, and you'll watch the tea partiers go to bat for their Republican and Wall Street masters the next couple of months as we try to pass Financial reform.

"For chrissakes- the tea party idea came from Rick Santelli- a broker. Anyone who thought these guys were mad at Wall Street was engaging in magical firebagger thinking, and some of us told you that from the get-go."

FDL's Thers: "Probably the best thing that has thus far happened to the Tea Bag Party Movement would be the Tiger Woods fucking a lot mega-scandal, for the simple reason that without Tiger, the Tea Bag Party Movement would be the most tedious, trainwrecky, make-pretend important thing to have made normal people want to kill themselves over ever since the OJ trial or, I don't know, that Peaches Browning shit. I mean, Christ, what is there to say about a "movement" that spendspretty much all of its energy screaming about how it really and for true isn't jam-packed with crazies?

"Well, you can say that it's boring, is what you can say about it, because most of what they do is snivel about how oppressed they are, and that is a very wearying class of behavior to be annoying us with....

"To keep it simple, there's Fox News America, there's Village America, and then there's Fucked-Over America. As a citizen of that latter region, I'm getting pretty damn Fed Up."  

Discuss :: (28 Comments)

Realtors Hiring Out of Staters to Protect Out of Staters from Paying Fair Share of Taxes

by: Matt Singer

Mon Mar 15, 2010 at 15:55:18 PM MST

We haven't had much opportunity to discuss the Montana Realtors' effort to foreclose real estate transfer taxes through a Constitutional Amendment this November, but this should be taken for what it is -- an invitation to more speculation that leads to housing bubbles and a "Please Change the Fabric of Our State" invitation for fancy pants characters from California.

More interestingly, the campaign is apparently hiring out-of-state signature gatherers, which makes sense since Montana's unemployment rate is currently so low.

From an email I just got from Terry Minow of MEA-MFT:

They're back!!! Paid, out of state signature gatherers were working this weekend in Helena. Melissa Case saw signature gatherers in front of VANNs IGA here in Helena.  She visited with them and found out they were not from Montana, a violation of Montana state law. She also heard them mischaracterizing the ballot initiative they were asking people to sign.

How can you help?

  • Please let me know if you see signature gatherers in your town.
  • Talk to them, ask where they are from, and listen to their pitch. Don't challenge them-act like you are interested in signing-play along!
  • If they are not from Montana, or are not explaining the initiative truthfully, take notes-date, place, time, location, and what they said, and let me know.
  • Ask if they are getting some kind of bonus per signature.
  • If you can take a photo, that would be good too.

As you know, we got three initiatives thrown off the ballot in 2006 due to signature gathering fraud. Thankfully we were able to work with the 2007 legislature to pass initiative reform that requires signature gatherers be Montana residents and banned paying on a per-signature basis.

The summary of the initiative is below. While there  is no realty transfer tax now, it is dangerous to set tax policy through initiatives and constitutional amendments-take a look at California!

I should note that I ran into some signature gatherers this morning on this very initiative. The team looked like they might be local, but I'd wager against it. There's something hilarious and deeply ironic about hiring a bunch of folks from out of state to pass tax policies helpful to people from out of state while spending lots of money talking about protecting Montanans. Maybe this whole thing is a front for that same outfit running the ads attacking Jon Tester on the imaginary bank bailout.

Either way, looks like we should all be ready for some big money to look to keep Montana as their personal playground.

Discuss :: (3 Comments)

Robbing the poor to feed the rich

by: Yellowstone Kelly

Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 07:51:17 AM MST

Jeff Essman, a budding legislative superstar for the R's, has an idea.

It has legs.

Forty-five fellow R's, including twenty-one Republican legislator wannabes have signed on to it.

Here it is:

Oregon just raised it taxes on businesses. And Senator Jeff and 44 others say we need to advertise in Eugene and Ontario and Hines and elsewhere and entice businesses there to come to Montana because of our business-friendly tax climate.

To his and the R's credit, the rhetoric is, well, rhetorical:

Essmann said Oregon had taken a "higher tax path" to the detriment of good business. And while Montana's own tax system isn't perfect, he added, it does offer a favorable tax policy when compared to Oregon.

Among the advantages, Essmann named Montana's top marginal income tax. He said it helps small businesses retain capital and reinvest it, making it possible to expand and hire new employees.

"We need to leverage every competitive advantage we can," Essmann said. "We think now is the time, when we have a need for more jobs - and with small business in Oregon feeling under duress - to advertise the availability and the quality of our work force, and have Oregon businesses take a look."

So, what's going on? Jeff and his fellow travellers might need to review how the higher tax path was accomplished. By a vote of more than half of the state's registered voters.

Actually, there were two initiatives that passed. The Montana R's conveniently ignore the fact that the Legislature approved the tax increases last spring. Irate Oregonians took matters into their own hands and gathered enough signatures and place the tax increases on the ballot. By gum, we'll show 'em. Measure 66, which raises taxes on households earning $250,000 or more, passed by 54 percent. Measure 67, which increases corporate levies, passed with 53 percent.

Those damned, pesky voters.

So, now, let's see, Oregon bad. Montana good.  

There's More... :: (5 Comments, 703 words in story)

Oregon Voters Say Hell Yes to Taxing the Rich

by: Matt Singer

Wed Jan 27, 2010 at 09:58:40 AM MST

Montana lawmakers, take note:
Oregon voters bucked decades of anti-tax and anti-Salem sentiment Tuesday, raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy to prevent further erosion of public schools and other state services.

The tax measures passed easily, with late returns showing a 54 percent to 46 percent ratio. Measure 66 raises taxes on households with taxable income above $250,000, and Measure 67 sets higher minimum taxes on corporations and increases the tax rate on upper-level profits.

Turnout was over 60% and voters in initiative-heavy Oregon hadn't passed a tax hike in close to 80 years...so this vote is huge.

Oregonian Jonathan Singer offers his take at MyDD:

The message out of Oregon, like the message out of Massachusetts, is resonating: Voters are in a populist mood right now -- not an anti-government one, necessarily, but a populist one nevertheless. The progressive brand of populism that resonated with Oregonians this month is slightly different than the one that rang true in Massachusetts. Yet the message is just as clear.

The real question now is whether DC will listen, or if instead it will continue to cling to its common wisdom.

Additionally, let me vouch for the Oregonians behind this campaign. Kevin Looper is hella smart and one of the best field minds in the country. From what I can tell, their campaign pulled out the stops. They registered and re-registered voters, knocked hundreds of thousands of doors, and made something like a million phone calls.

You want to win? Hone your messaging, mobilize your base, and even in a recession, we can hike taxes on the rich to pay for necessary services.

Thanks, Oregon, for the good news.

Discuss :: (3 Comments)
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