Archive for January 29th, 2007

by Jay Stevens

Republican Roger Koopman — who believes the Earth is 4,000 years old — disagrees with the state administration on how to deal with the state budget surplus. Instead of giving a one-time $400 tax rebate to Montana-based homeowners, he wants to institute propety-tax relief to all property owners in the state.

Koopman’s proposal favors rich, out-of-state corporate interests over those of his constituents, the people of Montana. Why? Because Koopman’s proposal would give more money to the out-of-state interests than it would in-state homeowners. If the budget surplus were a pie, the governor’s plan gives an equal slice to everybody, while Koopman’s gives half the pie to the fat man and a little sliver to everyone else.

Koopman dismissed the Democrats concerns as philosophical differences.

“I don’t look at people in terms of classes,” Koopman said. “And I don’t look at companies somehow as some kind of villain that should not receive tax breaks or taxes back like anyone else.”

This talk of class reminds me of Paul Krugman’s column this week on the partisanship so prevalent in today’s politics. In it, he argues that partisanship is only natural in today’s climate of the growing gulf between the haves and the have-nots.

You see, the nastiness of modern American politics isn’t the result of a random outbreak of bad manners. It’s a symptom of deeper factors — mainly the growing polarization of our economy. And history says that we’ll see a return to bipartisanship only if and when that economic polarization is reversed.

Whether Koopman likes it or not, there is a growing divide between the classes. Under Republican rule, the wealthiest in our country got all the breaks, and the economy has rebounded — for them. Meanwhile the middle class labors under rising housing and health costs, stagnant wages, and an uncertain future.

Whether Koopman actually looks in terms of classes, he’s legislating in terms of classes. He can deny it, but with this bill, he’s thumbed his nose at all the working Montanans who struggle with escalating living costs.

We need strong partisan leaders rignt now to implement the legislation to return the country to its egalitarian ethos. That is, we’ll need someone strong enough to stand up to the insurance industry and their cronies in order to implement universal health care. A good health care plan that works for everyone will be bitterly and loudly opposed by folks like Koopman, who represent the money against the people.

The Missoulian article ends with this little exchange:

When asked by Rep. Norma Bixby, D-Lame Deer, how his bill would help the “poorest of the poor,” Koopman said it would help wean poor people from their dependency on the government by giving them their money back.

“Freedom works and big government doesn’t,” Koopman said.

After the hearing, committee member Rep. Ed Butcher, R-Winifred, called the debate over Koopman’s bill a debate between socialism and capitalism.

But Jim Farrell, executive director of the Montana Democratic Party, dismissed Butcher and Koopman as “free-market zealots and fanatics.”

Man, Koopman is an idiot, isn’t he? “Freedom works and big government doesn’t,” is hilariously irrelevant. It boggles the mind just seeing the quote alongside the issue. And it’s always nice to see the Republicans trot out the “S” word whenever they’re — rightly — accused of allying themselves with big business.

Maybe sometime these guys should change up every now and then and consider the needs of their constituents first. A guy can dream…

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