Archive for September 23rd, 2006

Just got a press release about the national sales tax comment Tester brought up about Conrad Burns. Apparently the information comes from Burns’ answers on a recent National Taxpayers Survey. Some highlights from the release:

Burns favors a complete repeal of the entire federal tax code to be replaced with a national sales tax. According to his recent National Taxpapayers Union Survey responses, Burns said he would work to repeal the entire Federal Tax Code and replace it with tax reform including a national sales tax.

I’ll let other bloggers dig up the details, but let me say this: completely repulsive. Basically it would make real what Burns has been working for all along: he wants to put the majority of our country’s tax burden on working- and middle-class Americans.

Ugh.

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7:06pm

Closing statements.

Tester: Talks about being a Montanan and a good public servant. “I’m going to fight for you.” Burns can’t beat me, “I’m one of you. I’m going there back for you and more importantly for your kids and your grandkids.” Talks about health care, Iraq, no leadership in DC. It’s time for a change. (Applause.)

Burns: “He wants a plan for Iraq. He already said he wants to redeploy.” Brings up the losing the war on terror thing. Think of the consequences. Fear. (I’m experiencing the loathing.) Talks about “what’s inside of us.” Touts appropriations. Proud of his service. Accuses Tester of weakening families security, he wants to “cut and run!” Mumbling. Standards of the world. “Freedom first!” (Whistling from the dozen supporters.)

7:02pm

Question to Tester about environmentalists blocking harvesting of beetle-infested forest.

Tester: We need leadership in the legislature. People need to talk. Protect watershed while harvesting the trees. Administration needs to obey the Constitution.

Burns: His people keep filing appeals. Talks about a California judge that won’t let people harvest salvage. We try to pass laws, and we’re blocked every time. “It takes a 39 cent stamp to stop these programs.” Calls people radicals. “Just look who endorses Mr. Tester. It is that group. And you think he won’t be beholden to them?” Talks about Chuck Schumer. Gun control? “That’s people.”

Tester: “With things like the Patriot Act we’d better d*mn well keep our guns.” Burns divides. Frightens people into making decisions. “If they’re supporting me, elect me so I can get them off the dime.” Burns: “good luck.” Tester: “I don’t need it.”

6:57pm

Question: Burns, how can we trust you to be fiscally responsible?

Burns: “There’s no doubt we have a problem.” (Laughter.) Brings up 9/11…talks about fear again…then we had Katrina. “Again we were asked to respond.” Brings up again asset-to-debt ratio, nothin like this has happened before. Inherited a recession, tax cuts, etc.

Tester: “$2500 per person under Clinton, nearly $30000 per person now?” There were disasters. But according to you we have a good enoconmy, why deficit spending? Under incredible spending with a Republican majority in every branch of government…we need to spend well, on the middle class, the economy’s growing, and they’re still spending.

Burns: If you weaken the economy, you weaken families, security, etc. It won’t get us out of this dilemna. “We’ve done a pretty good job…” (I chuckle.) Burns stops.

 6:51pm

Question to Tester, how can you say you won’t take lobbyist money?

Tester: We need earmark reform. He’ll listen to everyone, not just a moneyed few. He will not vote based on who gave him money. He won’t fall out of touch with Montana. They need representation from a Montanan.

Burns: “I’m glad he brought that up.” He says Tester was in DC fundraising with lobbyists. “I was fundraising with American Heart Association,” struggles a little bit with what they were doing. “They were lobbying me. I loved it!” (I bet you did.) Says hospitals, etc, all have lobbyists. “I’ll see ’em.”

Tester: “Herin lies the difference.” “Not once have I changed my vote for money.” Talks about Missoula debate, Burns was at a Virginia debate with lobbyists at a fundraisers. Talks about doing a bill for Vonage, takes a flight on a Vonage flight.

 6:47pm

Tester: Why did you advocate a national sales tax for the US?

Burns: Didn’t necessarily support a national sales tax. Says Tester’s a chicken for not filling out Project Vote Smart survey. “I believe in tax reform.” “I wouldn’t support a sales tax unless there’s tax reform.”

Burns: Taxes on business. Why you cut taxes on 13,000 businesses, but increased on 16,000 businesses? A second question. “What’s the price of copper?” (Tester: $3.43) Burns, asks prices of metals, Tester says “what’s the price of an acre of land in…county?”

Tester: Raised fees on access on public lands, which people wanted to pay to enter public lands. “Let’s talk taxes.” Again with the national debt: “the birth tax.” Superfund penalties taxpayers now have to pay. Says Burns in the pockets of lobbyists. He’ll represent middle class.

6:42pm

Why does Congress underfund veterans? What are you going to do about it?

Burns: I’ve passed the biggest appropriation for veterans. “I did it broad daylight. I do everything in broad daylight.” (Laughter.) Touts his own approations… “I built…this, I built…that.” “Thank you, Conrad.” (Thanks himself.) “I qualify for benefits, but I don’t take ’em.” Tells a story. Says the military are self-reliant.

Tester: We send people in harm’s way and we need to support them. Body armor, benefits, and medical care they were promised. Tells his own meeting with a young soldier who’s foot was shot. “Last time I mentioned it, Burns said, ‘he oughta call me.’ That’s not how it should work.” We haven’t funded it at the needed levels. Funding should be an automatic part of the budget.

Burns: “Thank your brother for his service. When you get home.” (Tester: “You can thank him now. He’s right here.”) Says he helps people because of big government bureaucracy.

 6:36

Question: Tester, you raised taxes and increased spending in the state? How’s that going to work at the federal level?

Tester: Says the reality, he didn’t want to pass tax burden to local school boards. His programs are good and useful. Touts the balanced budget and in a timely manner. Burns is spending faster than the growing revenue, putting debt burden on unborn children.

Burns: Talks about Tester’s taxes, and his appropriations for Montana. “He wanted to tax combines and pickup trucks.” Etc.

Tester: “You are a borrower and a spender.” (Interrupted and sent back to Burns.)

Burns: Talks about tax raises. “My gosh. At least be honest.” Says he’s going to lower tuition, but since he’s been in the state legislature, tuition going up 48%.

Tester: “You’re running this country into bankruptcy.” “China’s buying our debt.” Because of Burns fiscal irresponsibility. Votes for funding, programs aren’t funded, talks about the underfunding for veterans. Votes for veteran funding, then votes against it in back-room deals.

 6:30pm

Minimum wage. Why did you vote against the minimum wage, Burns, while voting for pay raises?

Burns: I’d vote for a raise in the minimum wage when there’s protection of small businesses. Then talks about the cr*p bill in which minimum wage was wedded to a repeal of the estate tax. Claims the raise wouldn’t increased taxes…etc…

Tester: Supports the minimum wage. It’s long overdue. Tax cuts should be for the middle class. His tax cuts benefited the very rich. “Why do we have to give tax cuts to Paris Hilton?” “Every child is born with a $28,500 tax in the form of federal debt.”

Burns: There’s never been a tax increase he hasn’t voted for. “I don’t vote for tax increases.” Says unemployment in Butte is 3.3%, “you’re economy is booming.” (Probably news for Butte folks.)

 6:26pm

Tester’s asked how he plans on keeping the country safe. “Especially as you’re against the Patriot Act.”

Tester: The Patriot Act takes liberties from Americans. Talks about making the borders secure, using police action, not invading with the use of military. The President needs a plan, and we need to bring our troops after training Iraqis to do US military jobs.

Burns: Patriot Act, the tools to catch drug kingpins and terrorsts. “He’s soft on terror.” Says we should wiretap terrorists. Says he doesn’t want us to go to football games without worrying about getting blown up. Tester doesn’t understand the enemey, because they’re global. “We cannot afford another 9/11.” Tester wants to weaken the Patriot Act.

Tester: “Let me be clear. I don’t want to weaken the Patriot Act, I want to repeal it.” (Applause, which Tester halts.) It takes away your freedoms! Take away your freedoms, the terrorists win! We need to fight the terrorists, we need to be dilligent. (Tester is on a roll. Forceful, has to restrain us from cheering. 

6:19pm

Burns, you hold Mike Mansfield’s seat who refused to see lobbyists. Explain your relationship with Jack Abramoff! (Sweet question!

Burns: “I’m supposed to go over that in two minutes. Here we go again.” Calls it politics and baseless allegations. Claims he doesn’t do anything for bringing dollars to Montana. “Nothing to do with it.” “Montanans are first in my office.” Calls the allegations baseless. “I’ve never shorted my state.” “Never.” Calls it lies. “Politics at its worst. In its worst light.”

Tester: Burns changed his vote on the Marianas Islands on slave labor. Brings up the Saginaw Chippewas. He gave Abramoff everything he wanted. Talks about staff who leaves to lobbyist firms. “We need a change.”

Burns: “It doesn’t change.” “All baseless allegations.” (Stifled laughter.) “Worked for the state. That’s what I’ve done. Probably better than anybody in a long, long time.”

Tester: Grabs the microphone, reminds us not to heckle Burns. “Baseless allegations? I think not.” You’re under investigation…”

He’s interrupted by the panel who won’t let him finish. 

6:10pm

Question: Protecting jobs.

Tester: Federal programs have helped Butte. Started by Melcher and continued by following Senators, including Burns. “We can do better.” Talks about how Burns hasn’t delivered, water programs, border, cuts in meth projects. Touts state legislation’s help for Butte. Says he’ll do better.

Burns: “When they came to me, we acted.” Says Butte had its vision and he was a “part of that.” He facilitates. He loves the state. He loves Butte. “There’s no litmus test for visitors.” “Montanans ride first class.” (Except for his wife.)

Tester: We need Montana values in DC. We need Butte values. “I’m not going to cut deals with K Street lobbyists like Jack Abramoff.” “You will be priority number one.” 

6:00pm

Here’s the debate!

The candidates are introduced. Both receive standing ovations from their supporters. Burns’ crowd goes first.

Interesting note: The Resodyn Corporation — a Burns sponsor — is in part paying for the venue. They had a whole bunch of seats saved, all of them filled with Burns’ supporters. Without these seats, Burns’ supporters would probably be pushed to the back.

Opening statements.

Tester: Thanks around, people, Senator, sponsors, the crowd.

Talks about the money Burns claims he’s bragged he brought to Butte. Cites the former great lawmakers from the state who helped Butte, Tester’s going to support Butte. Don’t fear that Tester as Senator isn’t going to look out for Butte. Then lists his own appropriations from the state legislature he delivered. He’s honest.

Butte: “That’s what I like about Butte,” referring to the director of the chamber of commerce calling him by his first name. (Eww.)

There are differences in how we view Montana. Talks about how Butte’s attitude and economy has changed. He’s proud. A bipartisan effort. They wanted to do something different. “The only thing we did was to facilitate it.” Then mentions federal appropriations he’s brought to the city.

Claims Tester is a big taxer and a big spender. “I’m the opposite.” (The crowd murmurs. I bite my fist.) 

5:56pm

Hey readers: is this debate being broadcast on the radio or television live? I thought I heard that KPAX is showing the debate — but live? How about radio? I guess I could Google it, couldn’t I?

The lower section of the theater is now full. The newcomers are relegated to the balcony seates. Cece said the theater holds 1,200. If that’s true, I’d estimate the crowd at a lively 800 or so. Eighty percent Tester supporters? Ninety? Hard to tell. I think they ran out of “Fire Burns” tee shirts. What a great crowd. 

Ooo…the debate is about to start… 

5:43pm

A low table draped with a white tablecloth sits astride the center of the stage. Four men sit at the table in the spotlight.

The media.

To be honest, watching the media at this event has been somewhat…I dunno…weird. Cameras with primped and stuffed news people parading in front of them. It’s like this show is about them.

Colby Natale and Jeff “No Last Name” are here, too, though neither is blogging the debate. So I guess this is it, isn’t it? 

5:30pm

The room slowly fills. Mainly with the yellow “Fire Burns” tee-shirts. Despite the GOP’s call to fill the place, it looks like the call went on deaf ears. I could count Burns’ supporters on one hand. Really. Even if you count the crew-cutted, gum-chewing, low-browed staffers. (Where do they get these guys anyway? Do they troll the reject line for “The Apprentice” or something?)

The Firecracker and her daughter, Cece, discuss nicknames. 

5:09pm 

Greetings, 4&20 b’birders, from Butte’s Mother Lode Theater. I’m sitting here with Firecracker, and Firecracker’s daughter, Cece, and the place is slowly filling up. I’d say that so far Tester supporters easily outnumber their Burnsian counterparts, but it looks like the rush was greatly exagerrated.

It’s significantly colder here in Butte than it was in Missoula, the peaks opposite the city are already snowbound. It was a beautiful, sunny ride up in the car with the Griz game on — Montana kicking the living sh*t out of Sacremento State — and hearing that Montana State was losing to Eastern Washington. Life is good.

I do owe some bloggers an explanation: I originally planned on watching Mr. Proud and Ms. Marvelous this weekend, but my wife’s camping trip plans fell through. (Bow hunters chased off the trumpeter swans she wanted to see.) So here I am.




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