How Do You Do It, Max Baucus?

baucusMax Baucus has represented Montana in the U.S. Senate since 1978, and has been re-elected six times.  He plans to run again next year.

Baucus has overcome a slew of criticisms to maintain his grip on the biggest pot of money on planet Earth.  Critics say Baucus has lost touch with Montana, doesn’t live there, and rarely visits the state he represents.   I believe voters cut him some slack on that one.  His work is in the nation’s capital, and it makes sense that he should have a home there.  Still, many Montanans are concerned that 91% of his previous campaign funds came from out-of-state sources.

Max’s personal morals have also been called into question, including lurid stories in the national press of divorces and infidelity, jobs for girlfriends, and crony capitalism.  The video of Baucus’ apparently-inebriated speech on the Senate floor has 2 million YouTube hits.  Defenders say he was just “tired” – watch the video and judge for yourself.  But Bill Clinton lowered the threshold of voter pain on skanky behavior, and Barack Obama has established crony paybacks as an acceptable primary fundraising strategy in the expensive world of national politics.  The “Foster Brooks” impersonation was avoided by the mainstream media.  Montanans might believe lapses in personal ethics can be overlooked if their congressman votes right.

Montanans should be alarmed, however, when Baucus’ votes and considerable influence run counter to their principles.  Responses from the last five years of Montana Chamber of Commerce surveys indicate:

    • 64% (5-yr. avg.) of Montana voters say our national economy is on the ‘wrong track’, versus 23% ‘right track’, with chronic unemployment, anemic GDP growth, and irreparable debt and deficits.  All that time Senator Baucus has been at the helm of Senate committees including Finance, Taxation, IRS Oversight, Long-term Growth,  Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Growth, and Deficit Reduction.  The Senate has not passed a budget for four years, and looks as if they never will.

    • While Montanans’ top financial concern continues to be health care costs,  Senator Baucus led the charge for ObamaCare, despite knowing it would raise taxes on Americans, damage Medicare, and add to the national debt and deficits.  He has always been tight with “Big-Pharma” lobbyists, and remains one of the leading recipients of political contributions from health insurance and pharmaceutical companies.

    • A solid majority of Montanans have unfavorable opinions of environmental groups, labor unions, and trial lawyers.  Baucus supported unpopular global warming legislation, the unions salivate over the millions of new members they will gain thanks to his health care reform plans, and trial lawyers shovel endless money to Baucus campaigns in exchange for avoiding tort reform in Max’s health care bills.

With all of this baggage, and Baucus’ apparent disdain for Montana voters, how does he keep getting re-elected?

Is it the huge sums of money required for an opponent to even consider going toe-to-toe with the well-connected incumbent Senator? (He has already amassed a $3 million war chest for the the next go-around.)

Is it the decades of pork he has funneled to his state? (Montana receives $1.47 back from the federal government for every dollar it pays in taxes.)

Is it his personal charm and boyish good looks? (Women do tend to vote for Democrats.)

It’s time for good conservatives (some of whom are Republicans) to start a serious search for a Senate contender who does not have personal baggage, who can win the hearts and minds of those with financial means, and who is serious about a calling higher than re-election.

Can anybody displace Max Baucus?  It just doesn’t seem like it should be that hard.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

How do you do what you do to me?
I’m feeling blue.
Wish I knew how you do it to me,
But I haven’t a clue.

How Do You Do It? – Gerry and the Pacemakers
(also recorded by the Beatles)
Here’s a great video of one of the most under-rated musicians (Gerry Marsden) and bands (the Pacemakers) of the sixties and the British Invasion. Enjoy!

What Happened to Jon Tester?

This is a subject that saddens me.

Our American political system has deteriorated into such a polarized, intransigent mess that the only way legislation can be passed is when one party holds the house, the senate, and the presidency.

Now, I’m not saying that every issue should be negotiated, and the parties should always meet in the middle.  In any debate, one side usually is right, and the other is wrong.  If there is gray area the question at hand may be too broad, and should be refined until there is an obvious correct answer, or at least one that a thoughtful, bipartisan majority can agree upon.

In the US Capitol today independent thought, or at least the expression of it, is frowned upon – especially in the Democrat party, as evidenced by their fairly consistent party-line votes for the last many years, and the robotic talking points they recite.

It’s all about the money.  Congressmen are no longer citizen legislators.  Because of the enormous cost of getting elected, candidates must sell their souls to their parties and to their financial backers to even enter a race.  Once elected, they are part of the big money machine.  The federal government has become so huge (and in some cases corrupt) that top-down control is rigidly enforced.  A rebel in the ranks must be quickly brought into line or summarily dispatched.

Even if a legislator starts out well-intentioned, he or she soon finds out that failure to follow instructions is fatal; conversely, going with the party flow can be very rewarding for both careers and pocketbooks.  Isn’t it amazing how legislators become wealthy “one-percenters” so quickly on a civil servant’s salary?  And, once elected, staying in office is pretty easy with access to the big money and the political machine.

A case in point – I was one of Jon Tester’s high school teachers, and he impressed me.  I found him to be an outstanding young man in every way – honest, motivated, sincere, intelligent.  I expected great things from him.  On my return home to Montana after 25 years away, I was not surprised to learn that that he was a state legislator.  A Democrat?  Well, that was something of a surprise.

Senator Jon Tester – (D-Montana)

When he was elected to the US Senate, I really hoped that he would remain the straight-shooting small-town guy I knew from school.  But predictably, it was not to be.

Looking at his voting record, I know that Jon is forced by his party to support many positions that are against the best interests of his fellow Montanans.  If there were no parties, no personal financial interests, no rigid political hierarchies to maintain, I’m sure that Jon would vote quite differently – based on who he was, where he was raised, the values he grew up with, and the needs and wishes of his friends and neighbors.   Instead, he must cater to the government employee unions, the radical environmentalists, and the other special-interest supporters of his party.

So we can no longer vote for a Democrat for Congress based on his or her merits and expressed viewpoints.  We know that his or her personal convictions won’t matter.  Independent Republicans have become an endangered species.  Independent Democrats are now extinct.

I would love to support the guy Jon Tester was.  But because he is now in lock-step with the Democrat party leaders whose actions I can’t condone, I can’t support the senator he has become.  A vote for Jon is a vote for Obamacare, for Harry Reid’s refusal to present passed House bills to the floor or to write a budget, and for bigger government and more debt.  I’m not sure Jon supports any of that stuff in his heart.  But his future votes have already been bought and paid for.

And that’s sad.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

I’m looking through you, where did you go?
I thought I knew you, what did I know?
You don’t look different, but you have changed
I’m looking through you, you’re not the same

I’m Looking Through You – the Beatles