Archive for the ‘Max Baucus’ Category

by JC

— so says Paul Krugman as he describes Max Baucus’ drive to find some votes in the Senate Finance committee.

Krugman points to the fact that neighboring Senator Mike Enzi, R-WY, is the 8th most conservative member of the Senate:

Aside from the fact that Enzi, like Baucus, represents a mountainous state with very few people, it’s hard to see what possible common ground Baucus thinks he’ll find.

The central fact of the health care debate is that there is essentially no agreement on anything — values, philosophy, vision of how the world works — between the two sides. Progressives want universal coverage, and see an expanded government role as essential to getting there. Conservatives believe, in the face of all evidence, that free markets are the answer.

A fool’s errand if I ever did see one. And of course, Enzi is part of Baucus’ infamous Gang of Six.

But it points to the fundamental problem of “getting to yes,” in that there really is no point of compromise that can bridge the chasm between progressives and conservatives–even if you take single payer off the table so that the starting point for compromise is a public plan.

And the compromise position between a public plan and a private solution is not a coop framework. That would sort of be like saying that the result of mixing red with blue can be green, when everybody knows it is purple.

And I have a treat for you, if you click on the full article link below!
Continue Reading »

by Pete Talbot

I picked up Thursday’s Missoulian and the Missoula Independent at the same time yesterday. Both had lead stories on Sen. Baucus and health care reform.

The sub-head on the Indy piece reads: Is Sen. Max Baucus the sellout the left portrays or the savvy centrist poised to finally reform health care?

They teach folks in law school to never ask a question in the courtroom if they don’t know the answer. After reading Mike Dennison’s story in the Missoulian, I can safely say I know the answer to the Indy question. Baucus is a sellout.

Here’s how he sold us out this time: there will be no public option, there will be no requirement for businesses to provide health insurance and there will be no tax increase for the wealthiest Americans to help pay for expanded coverage.

And here’s another (probably) rhetorical question: can anyone beat Baucus in the Democratic primary in 2014? The pundits I spoke to say no way. Even though Baucus has failed his constituents, he just has too darned much campaign money.

This all makes me sad. Very sad.

by jhwygirl

Just read it.

This one too.

by jhwygirl

I read or skim across a whole lot of bad stuff about Senator Baucus, daily. Today, though, was filled with an inordinate bombardment of media concerning our Senator, and I have to say, with regards to bad Baucus news, it really was unavoidable. From the front page of the Missoula Independent

Indy Baucus Cover

…to the front page of the Missoulian with Baucus’ deal appears to shed Obama initiatives for health reform…and also the Helena Independent Record and The Montana Standard and the Billings Gazette.


Then, today too, there is the same newspapers reporting the planned protest for his Big Sky party this weekend. Hell – you can even read about the planned protest and how cheated democrats feel when it comes to our senior Senator down in Wyoming.

In fact, here’s another piece, published in the Billings Gazette, Health care debate ignoring the needs of farmers, ranchers. The author? A farmer from Wisconsin.

Today. Too.

I hope our senior senator reads that piece.

There’s mounting criticism from his colleagues. That, today, too.

Yesterday he was warned “with the gavel,” meaning that procedural steps could be implemented to rid him of his Chair at the Senate Finance Committee.

Liberal Dems are rounding up votes against the Blue Dog plan, and Sen. Grassley (Baucus’ Republican counterpart on Senate Finance) is promising his colleagues that he “won’t sell them out.”

Boy, nothing is easy, is it Senator Baucus?

Thing is, our Senator is on a quest for “bipartisanship” (enter rainbow ponies and tangerine trees and marmalade skies). It has become increasingly crystal – I mean CRYSTAL – clear there is no true intent towards “bipartisanship” on health care reform.

Republicans have spoken openly about the intent to “slow down” the Obama administration by administering a crippling blow to heath care. They believe it more politically advantageous to have Obama lose health care reform – because, you know, it’s all about Obama losing, not the American people dying and going broke – than it is to participate, meaningfully, in the health industry reform negotiations.

I must say, I find this vexing to say the least. This state’s newspapers are blanketed, damned near daily, with criticism rolling out to Sen. Baucus for his failure to fully consider all options – but now he is gutting the basic core of reform that 76% of all Americans were expecting, and I am having trouble imagining how a publicly elected official can run so far a muck of what his colleagues; of his party of his President – of his constituents here in Montana – want with regards to some of the basic tenants of health reform.

He’s one man. I’ve mentioned that before. This all doesn’t come down to what he votes for – there are a whole bunch of other people (mostly white men) that get a hack at that vote. BUT. But Montana’s senior senator has headed up and clearly is still heading up – or stalling, which is the general consensus at this time – health insurance reform.

And here in Montana, we’ve got barely any choice here in terms of coverage. Everyone knows lack of competition drives costs up. Hell – some might say that Montana’s got NO COMPETITION, because what do you call it when one company has 75% of the market share here in Montana? Can there even be competition with a remaining share of 25%?

Does Sen. Baucus know we have no competition here in Montana? Does Sen. Tester? Do they know that 90 people die each year here in Montana because they lack health care? The list of statistics, specific to Montana aren’t lost on these guys – A recent letter from Sen. Tester acknowledged that 154,000 Montanans are without health care.

Instead of seeking that which isn’t possible..that so-called rainbow pony “bipartisanship” perhaps all those Blue Dogs – our own Senator Baucus included – should start doing the work of the people. That includes our senior Senator’s friends, Sens. Olympia Snow and Susan Collins and Arlen Specter


In the end, does anyone want to sit back and say “We got the best we could under bipartisanship,” or do people want to sit back and say “We got the best we could for the American people.”

Senator Baucus, What Say You?

by problembear

Price list:

1. minimum of 2500.00 gets you a handshake and a watered down drink and a burnt up burger.

2. 10,000.00 gets you a five minute sit down with the king himself…

3. 4,000,000.00 gets you any kind of health bill you want.

update: max just got suckerpunched by the republicants on his committee today after he announced yesterday that they were close to agreement on the health care bill…..what a maroon!

delay, divert & derail- that is the republicants game. and thanks to our idiot senator max baucus, it’s working…..i am so mad i could just….well, none of your business!

by JC

This little dandy happened by my email box today, from the Progressive Democrats of America’s Montana chapter:

Dear ****,

“Our” Senator, Max Baucus, is holding a big fund-raiser known as Camp Baucus ($5000 per PAC or $2500 per Individual) at Big Sky, Montana, from July 31 through August 2 for the insurance industry, the pharmaceutical companies, the hospital association, bankers, and other fat cats to raise money for his “leadership” PAC.

He takes their money even while he is writing legislation that will affect health care! So Montanans for Single-Payer health care will be there, too. We’ll rally to show Max and his corporate friends we are very displeased with what they’re up to in Washington, D.C.

We’re asking single-payer supporters from across the state to join us at Big Sky this Friday, July 31st from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. (and Thursday as well, if enough people are interested).

[Details below the fold]
Continue Reading »

by problembear

 the health insurance parasites are so grateful to max for taking care of their interests they made him a commercial….

by jhwygirl

….been a while.

I think about health care reform a lot. I think about the cost – but not the cost of providing efficient and accessible health care for all, but the cost of not providing health care. What is that cost if we don’t do anything for ten years?

I want to see that analysis – a comparison of the cost of providing health care versus the cost to the economy of inaction.

I think that all of us have a different idea of cost. I’ve thought that for a while, mainly because of what I stated above, about what I want to know about cost. This article – Cost, by John Feerehy, goes through the many perspectives of cost.

Another thing I think about when I think of health care reform is how many myths continue out there – that Canadian health care is socialized medicine (it is not) and there would be rationing of health care (I’d suggest there already is rationing, what with “pre-authorizations” and “exclusions” already applicable, and many HMO’s regularly denying coverage daily.)

There are attack ads running this weekend against Baucus. Here in Montana – Billings, Bozeman, Helena. Missoula too, of course. The ads focus on Baucus’ heavy receipts from the pharmaceutical and medical industry. Now – while I agree that the kind of fundage that Baucus and his Glacier PAC is taking in does easily give rise to calling into question his and his staff’s connections to the industry – I question the tactic. Few in Montana are unaware of Max’s $$$ connection. In other words, the ads aren’t news. On the other hand, money spent in television and radio ads that educated people as to what, truly, a public option or single-payer system meant, or dispelled myths of rationing and socialization of medicine…now, that, to me, is what is sorely needed.

In other words – the prize is health care reform. Energy needs to be focused there – on health care reform. Can’t get lost in the forest and all that. Attention needs focused on basic issues as far as I can see – not on the distractions along the way.

Head of corporate communications for health care insurer CIGNA, Wendell Potter was on Bill Moyers Journal two Saturday’s ago. He talks about his own eye-opening experiences which occurred at some point in 2007 – first a “health care expedition” in the town of Wise, West Virginia:

I borrowed my dad’s car and drove up 50 miles up the road to Wise, Virginia. It was being held at a Wise County Fairground. I took my camera. I took some pictures. It was a very cloudy, misty day, it was raining that day, and I walked through the fairground gates. And I didn’t know what to expect. I just assumed that it would be, you know, like a health– booths set up and people just getting their blood pressure checked and things like that.

But what I saw were doctors who were set up to provide care in animal stalls. Or they’d erected tents, to care for people. I mean, there was no privacy. In some cases– and I’ve got some pictures of people being treated on gurneys, on rain-soaked pavement.

And I saw people lined up, standing in line or sitting in these long, long lines, waiting to get care. People drove from South Carolina and Georgia and Kentucky, Tennessee– all over the region, because they knew that this was being done. A lot of them heard about it from word of mouth.

There could have been people and probably were people that I had grown up with. They could have been people who grew up at the house down the road, in the house down the road from me. And that made it real to me.

….ain’t America great?

Later, Potter, in his capacity as communications director, had to quash the horror stories that were beginning to surface surrounding rationed managed health care policies:

It was just the most difficult. We call them high profile cases, when you have a case like that — a family or a patient goes to the news media and complains about having some coverage denied that a doctor had recommended. In this case, Nataline Sarkisyan’s doctors at UCLA had recommended that she have a liver transplant. But when the coverage request was reviewed at Cigna, the decision was made to deny it.

It was around that time, also, that the family had gone to the media, had sought out help from the California Nurses Association and some others to really bring pressure to bear on Cigna. And they were very successful in getting a lot of media attention, and nothing like I had ever seen before.

Most damning, perhaps, is Potters inside take on the involvement of both the Democratic and Republican party special interests in marginalizing anyone who advocated for this so radical as single-payer or public option.

Wendell Potter was an insider, well compensated, who worked on the end of things where a portion of his job was dedicated to making-look-good bad health care stories that had seen the light of day. 15 years. His interview – here’s the transcript – is well worth the read.

Or….you could watch the video:

Anyways….those are my thoughts, and I’m sticking to them. Some of them, in fact, earlier were incorporated into emails to both Senator Baucus and Senator Tester. Have you emailed your Senators this week and told them what you think about health care reform?

“The Finance Committee keeps dragging their feet and dragging their feet and dragging their feet,” says Iowa Senator Tom Harkin.

“It is a really, really bad way to try and develop support and ideas,” says WV Senator Jay Rockefeller.
by JC

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid postponed a vote on health care in the Senate today, and Iowa Senator Tom Harkin laid the blame squarely on the shoulders of Baucus and the Finance Committe.

The process will be difficult since Finance, led by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., is seeking a bipartisan deal… Reid said the decision to delay a vote was made Wednesday night in the hopes of getting a final bill that can win at least 60 votes in the Senate… Reid said he had listened to the requests from senior Republicans working with Baucus to allow more time for a compromise to emerge.

I guess it’s more important for Baucus to get to “Camp Baucus” and hob nob with his contributors–which most likely be heavily skewed towards health industry lobbyists–than it is to hew to the timeline Obama had laid out to get the Senate vote on the merged health bills before the Senate August break.

Senator Jay Rockefeller said on being shut out of Baucus’ process:

And in the Senate, Finance Committee members shut out of bipartisan talks warned Chairman Max Baucus that their votes could not be taken for granted as he works toward a deal with Republicans.

“Don’t think we are so desperate, we are not going to fall into line,” Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) said, describing the message Democrats delivered to Baucus. “I’m not allowed into the meetings, the real meetings they have, what they call the coalition of the willing. It is a really, really bad way to try and develop support and ideas.

Reid and Baucus’ caving in to republican and conservative democrats’ demands that the process be slowed is going to result in a really ugly month of disinformation and rightwing ideological flak being spewed out. This process is going to get so rancid, that hopes of holding on to a good bill with a strong public option have been greatly diminished “in hopes of getting it right.”

Well, if not now, then when? The Senate has had 15 years since Clinton’s health care reform bill went up in smoke. And republicans have repeatedly stated that their intent is the same this time around, to kill reform as a political victory against Obama.

by JC

I think this one is better seen than written about. The details are just too gory. Brought to you by WeWantThePublicOption.Com

Baucus also headlined a Washington Post article, “Industry Cash Flowed To Drafters of Reform” revealing the extent to which Baucus and other key lawmakers are using the runup to dropping the health reform bill to pander for big bucks:

As his committee has taken center stage in the battle over health-care reform, Chairman Baucus (D-Mont.) has emerged as a leading recipient of Senate campaign contributions from the hospitals, insurers and other medical interest groups hoping to shape the legislation to their advantage. Health-related companies and their employees gave Baucus’s political committees nearly $1.5 million in 2007 and 2008, when he began holding hearings and making preparations for this year’s reform debate.

Top health executives and lobbyists have continued to flock to the senator’s often extravagant fundraising events in recent months. During a Senate break in late June, for example, Baucus held his 10th annual fly-fishing and golfing weekend in Big Sky, Mont., for a minimum donation of $2,500. Later this month comes “Camp Baucus,” a “trip for the whole family” that adds horseback riding and hiking to the list of activities.

Of course, we all believe the disclaimer, don’t we???

Does all this money influence Baucus’s decision-making? Of course not, says spokesman Tyler Matsdorf. Baucus “is only driven by one thing: what is right for Montana and the country.” That’s two things, but so be it.

If Max is truly driven by “what is right for Montana” then maybe Montanans should tell Max that him taking extravagant amounts of health care campaign dollars isn’t good for Montana. Of course if you could afford to pay for one of his “Camp Baucus” trips, you could tell him yourself. But maybe just $25 to help air the ads in Montana would be a start.

by jhwygirl

Figure this as Part II of a previous post, titled Beware of Public Option Smokescreens.

A little over a week ago, Jane Hamsher, principle blogger behind firedoglake whipped out with what is being called The Whip Project. It is/was a call to action for progressives to contact any and all Blue Dog Democrats and gain commitments from them for meaningful health care reform that includes a strong public option. They’ve had some success, most recently gaining commitments from Senator Kay Hagan (North Carolina), Sen. Ben Nelson (Nebraska) and Rep. Jerry Nadler (New York) for strong public options or a no vote.

Many advocacy groups have taken up television ads in Washington DC and the home states of those electeds being targeted. This has obviously caused some consternation amongst those Blue Dogs and their protective staff. So much so that one primary Blue Dog – Montana’s very own Sen. Max Baucus – agreed to meet with one such group (Laborers’ International Union of North America) upon their promise to take down an ad it had been airing.

Other groups, too, have removed ads with promises of meetings. Big groups have conceded their ads (for now): AARP, the American Medical Association, America’s Health Insurance Plans, the Federation of American Hospitals and AdvaMed. As Roll Call reports (sorry, subscription required):

Several major industry stakeholders, however, will be noticeably absent from the advertising airwaves over the July Fourth recess….AARP, the American Medical Association, America’s Health Insurance Plans, the Federation of American Hospitals and AdvaMed all say they are sitting out this recess when it comes to advertising campaigns.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America will be running positive ads touting health care reform.

The groups have been holding their fire in response to threats from the staff of Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and White House aides, who have warned that any groups that run ads attacking reform efforts before the bills have been crafted would lose their seats at the bargaining table.

Say what?! More threats? A month ago Baucus warned K Street to stay away from anti-health care reform electeds.

At least his staff are equal opportunity threateners (sic), right?

Not to be outdone, Obama has gotten into the fray, too: Washington Post reports that just yesterday, in a strategy call with half a dozen Senate and House Democrats, Obama complained that liberal advocacy groups ought to drop their attacks on Democratic lawmakers and devote their energy to promoting passage of comprehensive legislation:

We shouldn’t be focusing resources on each other,” Obama opined in the call, according to three sources who participated in or listened to the conversation. “We ought to be focused on winning this debate.

Boy – what to say about that? Most doctors and nurses agree – hell, even the AMA recently came out saying the same – that a public option was necessary for meaningful health care reform.

What’s increasing clear is that getting that meaningful public option means whipping a whole bunch of Dems into committing to a strong public option.

So why Obama would be critical of progressive groups seeking to ensure, essentially, meaningful health care reform leaves me a little perplexed.

Half-assed reform-in-name only isn’t why I voted for Obama – and I’m pretty darn sure it isn’t why a whole bunch of others voted for him either. There are other reasons, certainly, why I cast that vote for Obama – but let me just say that breaking another (Gitmo, anyone?) “big one” would be a tremendous disappointment.

On another note – that WaPo article mentioned that in that Friday-before-the-Saturday July-4th-holiday call, leaders of both chambers expressed optimism that they will hold floor votes on legislation to overhaul the $2.2 trillion health system before Congress breaks in early August.

So what do I take out of all of this? I take out of it that continual calls and emails to Baucus, Tester and Rehberg are having some effect. I take out of it that donations, however nominal that you can muster, to organizations like Democracy for America, Move On, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and Progressive Change Campaign Committee – groups that are keeping the pressure up and have the infrastructure to
mount the massive effort needed – are helpful also.

Let them know politics have changed. That they were elected to represent, and that they represent you – not PhRMA – and that failing to recognize that will have dire consequences for their re-election.

by jhwygirl

Once it’s out there, it’s out there. Kinda hard to remove it.

by Pete Talbot

I read the obit of a distant acquaintance in today’s Missoulian. She was six months younger than me.  Cancer took her way too early, at 54-years-old. 

I know Marcia Trotter’s sisters and brother better than I knew Marcia.  It’s a large, well-known Missoula Family.

It’s sad news but the final line in the obit really caught my eye:

To honor Marcia’s memory, her family requests that you support universal health care.

Got that Denny, Max and Jon?

by Pete Talbot

This picture says it all.  The online photo doesn’t do justice to the Missoulian’s print version, but you get the gist.  These guys put the word bitter in Bitterrooters.

It’s Teabagger II and it was held Monday in Missoula at the offices of Sens. Baucus and Tester.  It was attended by about 60 people from south of the Missoula-Ravalli County line. 

There’s an interesting mix of issues that’s making these folks cranky: bailout packages, stimulus spending, federal hate crime laws and health care reform — all of which lead to “authoritarian socialism.”

Now they don’t offer any solutions to our economic woes or failed health care system.  They imagine the economy will right itself — an undying belief in the free market that got us into this mess.

I’ll also bet that there are a few in that crowd on Medicare.  They just don’t want other folks to have public health care benefits.

And I don’t recall their anger when George W. was racking up huge deficits from the ill-fated Iraq War.

One of my favorite quotes comes from a Corvallisite: “As far as I know, Baucus has gone along with everything Obama wants.” That’s not entirely true but for the most part, Baucus has voted ‘yea’ on the Obama platform.  What’s he supposed to do?  Vote the Dick Cheney platform?  Max got something like an 80 percent margin in the last election.  I’m sure he believes he has a mandate.

Anyway, if Max and Jon won’t agree to go to Ravalli County and “answer our questions,” the teabaggers will start a recall petition. That should keep them busy for awhile.

by jhwygirl

Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor under the Clinton Administration has a blog, succinctly titled Robert Reich’s Blog. With that resume, he isn’t your stereotypical blogger, and well worthy of paying careful attention.

In his most recent piece, titled How Pharma and Insurance Intend to Kill the Public Option, And What Obama and the Rest of Us Must Do, he provides first hand information on what the public option means for Republicans, moderates and those opposed to national health care reform.

Disappointing stuff to read, I have to say. Very disappointing. If you are advocating for single-payer, or even willing to accept a strong public option – and especially if you are from Montana – you will find this post not only disappointing, but disturbing, to say the least:

So they’re pulling out all the stops — pushing Democrats and a handful of so-called “moderate” Republicans who say they’re in favor of a public option to support legislation that would include it in name only. One of their proposals is to break up the public option into small pieces under multiple regional third-party administrators that would have little or no bargaining leverage. A second is to give the public option to the states where Big Pharma and Big Insurance can easily buy off legislators and officials, as they’ve been doing for years. A third is bind the public plan to the same rules private insurers have already wangled, thereby making it impossible for the public plan to put competitive pressure on the insurers.

Max Baucus, Chair of Senate Finance (now exactly why does the Senate Finance Committee have so much say over health care?) hasn’t shown his cards but staffers tell me he’s more than happy to sign on to any one of these. But Baucus is waiting for more support from his colleagues, and none of the three proposals has emerged as the leading candidate for those who want to kill the public option without showing they’re killing it. Meanwhile, Ted Kennedy and his staff are still pushing for a full public option, but with Kennedy ailing, he might not be able to round up the votes. (Kennedy’s health committee released a draft of a bill today, which contains the full public option.)

A few days ago I came across this article in Bloomberg, titled Kennedy Health Plan Would Include Public Insurance. It was paragraph 7 that drew my ire:

Kennedy’s proposals might go further than another plan being drafted by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus. Baucus, a Montana Democrat, has said he is weighing whether to include a government-run program in a measure and, if so, how it might be structured to attract Republican votes and industry support.


I had to check the date on that article. “Is this thing a month old, or what?,” I thought. But nope – that was written just two Fridays ago. I let that one ride, thinking, possibly, that the article was overly-biased to its corporate-leaning audience…but with Reich’s post this past Friday, I’m not thinking that any more.

Baucus got away with Medicare Part D back in (what was it?) 2005. With little repercussions and plenty of kudos from the Republican side, looks like all he took out of it was encouragement. Which is rearing its ugly head once again.

Jon Tester campaigned for his senate seat mentioning the Medicare Part D fiasco at nearly every campaign stop he made. At some point, Senator Jon Tester needs to speak out and talk about meaningful public option, and he needs to let both Montanans and Baucus know that is where he stands, and that a strong and viable public option is what he expects.

Montanans want to know that we’re getting some representation over there in Washington, and it is becoming increasingly clear that Baucus is not only ignoring us, he’s obfuscating a public option plan.

From the looks of things, he’s trying to pull a Medicare Part D type ‘reform’ – in name only – again.

by Pete Talbot



(These photos won’t win any awards but try snapping pictures while holding a sign.  It may not look like it but there are about 200 people at this rally for single-payer health care held at Sen. Baucus’ office in Downtown Missoula on Friday.)     





I’ve been to a Baucus listening session. Attended the Forward Montana presentation by Ezra Klein.  I’ve talked to area doctors.  I’m really trying to get educated and stay objective.  I still keep coming back to this:

Keep single-payer health care on the table.

I know, there are progressives out there who will consider it a victory to get some sort of public option (read government-managed health care) through congress.  There are those in the lefty blogosphere who are accepting of Baucus’ strategy and are resigned to single-payer being left on the cutting room floor. Then there are my friends at SEIU who also aren’t challenging Baucus on single-payer.  

I heard Mr. Klein say that Max is working hard on health care and there’s no way single-payer could pass.  I also heard him say, during the Q and A, that “intellectually” he thinks single-payer is the best solution.    

And there are a lot of folks out there who think, whether it’s for “intellectual,” economic or emotional reasons, that single-payer should be part of the debate.  And they’re angry.  I saw many of them at the Baucus listening session at St. Pat’s Hospital.

Can you blame them for being angry?  Can you imagine how the health industry corporations would have reacted if instead of saying single-payer is off the table, Max would have said that the private sector is off the table? 

The policy wonks are saying single-payer is a non-starter.  So maybe Max is crazy like a fox.  He knows single-payer won’t make it through congress this year.  Maybe he figures that he can get some watered down public option through. Then, it’s just a matter of time before the public option trumps the private insurance industry.  Then again, maybe Max just doesn’t want to piss off the big insurance/health care/parma industries.  I don’t know.

The doctors I spoke to said single-payer is inevitable — 20 or 30 years down the road.  I’m not willing to wait that long.

Let me employ a cliche: we have to push the envelope.  If our health care system is going to evolve, we must keep the pressure on.  Keep single-payer on the table.

by jhwygirl

It’s worthy to note the President Obama did not campaign on single-payer. He did, in fact, campaign on health care geared towards a public option.

From his letter to Senator Edward Kennedy and Senator Max Baucus:

The plans you are discussing embody my core belief that Americans should have better choices for health insurance, building on the principle that if they like the coverage they have now, they can keep it, while seeing their costs lowered as our reforms take hold. But for those who don’t have such options, I agree that we should create a health insurance exchange — a market where Americans can one-stop shop for a health care plan, compare benefits and prices, and choose the plan that’s best for them, in the same way that Members of Congress and their families can. None of these plans should deny coverage on the basis of a preexisting condition, and all of these plans should include an affordable basic benefit package that includes prevention, and protection against catastrophic costs. I strongly believe that Americans should have the choice of a public health insurance option operating alongside private plans. This will give them a better range of choices, make the health care market more competitive, and keep insurance companies honest.

The writing is on the wall – and it’s been on the wall since Obama was chosen as the presidential nominee for the Democratic Party.

We all know where Baucus has taken the Senate Finance Committee, Kennedy’s plan is similar, only that his public option is described as more “robust” and would be available to households of up to $110,000.

These bills are moving now – The Hill is reporting that legislation will begin rolling through congress sometime in mid-June.

Sharpen your pencils people – think it’s been interesting so far? Once it hits the floor – and with that schedule, D.C.’s Starbucks and Domino’s are going to be real busy – it’s going to be prime-time viewing material.

Anyone say Summer Blockbuster? Health Care Showdown in D.C.: Healthcare CEOs, worried about profits and dividends, head to Washington to try and stop Americans from gaining access to health care.

(Wherein I find myself shaking my head…)

by jhwygirl

Supermontanareporter John Adams writes in his newest blog out there on blogspot (called, aptly, The Lowdown) that Senator Baucus will be meeting in Washington on Wednesday with single-payer health care advocates.

Now – Baucus has met with single-payer advocates, but up until now, not high-profile. He not only left them off the table at a May 12th round table discussion, he had 5 protesters arrested. Now, even as I write that, it would be grossly negligent to point out that Senator Baucus has openly said that single-payer is off the table. He doesn’t – or didn’t – want to waste his time:

“We’ve got to reform our system fairly quickly, and to be candid with you, very few members of the House and Senate advocate single-pay. The vast, vast majority do not,” Baucus said in an interview Friday. “It tells me that if I go down that road, it’s not going to be successful — it’s not going to pass the Congress.”

Supermontana Great Falls reporter John S. Adams has hit this story numerous times (here, here, and here – at least) – as has Mike Dennison of Lee Newspapers (here). Vince Devlin, of the Missoulian, did a nice piece of coverage on the Senate Finance Committee’s public hearing in Pablo.

I’m sure there’s other stuff out there – and anything I’ve missed, please add a link in the comments below.

With Baucus at the forefront of health care reform, Adams and Dennison’s coverage is important. Columbia University’s Columbia Journalism Review points out that Montana reporters are leading the way to help bring single-payer advocates to the table in congressional discussions on health care reform.

The Columbia Journalism Review? That is a big WOW in the journalism world. Real big WOW.

Now – it’s hard living in Montana to understand the perspective out there in the rest of the U.S. with regards to single-payer, especially when our Senator is front-and-center – but when the Bill Moyers Journal is spending a full show addressing the issue, you gotta assume it’s taking notice.

Left in the West has wonkishly written extensively on the subject of health care reform. Substantive meat-and-potato stuff. Single-payer has been shown to have the largest amount of public support, but it is also said to be by most policy wonks and influential members in both the House and the Senate to be impossible to pass. I don’t know about that – I’m not a mind reader, nor do I play one on TV – but I do know that if you want to be taken seriously, you have to educate and inform yourself on the subject.

I got to thinking last week that Montanans have probably some of the most comprehensive access to influencing health care policy and reform as it moves forward. A call on Friday to a Senate Finance Committee staffer (via a helpful staffer at Baucus’ office in D.C.) has gone unreturned (but my call was Friday and it is only Monday), and I’ve no doubt that the guy is pretty busy. All I was looking for was a list of the public meetings held by other senators on the Senate Finance Committee in other states, but my verbal question was returned with a “I’m not aware that other senators have held any meetings.”

So, consider that folks: Your voice is helping to shape health care reform. It’s quite possible that your voice has had more of a forum than that of other citizens simply by nature of the public meetings that have been held in Montana over the last 5 or 6 months or so. St. Pat’s here in Missoula has hosted 2 or 3 at this point.

It’s important to be polite and civil. That’s not just advice about talking about health care – remember the adage ‘You get more bees with honey than you do with vinegar’? – but about life. Whether your are negotiating with the upstairs apartment across the street at 11 p.m. about turning down the music or you are telling your senators that you prefer single-payer, being nice about it goes a long way.

A while back I wrote about snark and its usefulness and how it can destroy. In a bad way. I certainly am not immune to writing some snarky post, and often I use a snarky headline just to grab attention in hopes I might get someone to read the fruits of my labor – but I do take quite the effort to be respectful, and to consider that I might one day be meeting with the people I write about (as has been the case). That doesn’t mean I won’t disagree – anyone who knows me knows that I’m not shy about disagreeing with them face-to-face – but it does mean I won’t be calling you an asshole. Or at least not likely. You really got to push the buttons several times for me to call you out.

I can hear Wulfgar! here thinking “Aww – come one – sometime people are assholes and you gotta tell ’em so,” and he’s right. Which makes me glad that Wulfgar! is around to balance the sanguine nature I sometimes work too hard at keeping front-and-center.

A while back Matt Singer posted up the newest reports out of the Senate Finance Committee on health care. It’s heavy reading – as he notes – and I’ve yet to get at it. What it all comes down to is cost, and that is the heart of the issue, and why it is sitting in Senate Finance.

I have said that I don’t really have a problem with a strong public option, where there is a government option on the board with which private insurers can compete against. While I get the single-payer advocates, certainly, and I’ve read truckloads on single-payer, one short statement from a someone I respect immensely has me questioning myself:

Mark my words, a public-private “balanced” plan will fail. The public plan will be inundated with low-income, elderly, sick, etc. people who can’t afford a private option. it’ll be a massive drain on the treasury, and the right-wingnuts will point to it and say, “See.”

Now – aside from the defeatist sense that might be taken from the statement, he may be right. Maybe we should be going all out single-payer. I’m pretty sure the math will show that the above statement is correct. Any actuaries out there would probably back that statement up.

Two articles popped up on the NYTimes over the weekend which illustrate the affect that single-payer advocates are having on the health care debate. This one writes to Senator Edward Kennedy’s counter proposal on health care which is described as a “robust public health care plan, a government-sponsored entity that would compete with private insurers,” while this brief post notes that it is likely that Senator Kennedy’s proposal and Senator Baucus’ proposal will likely merge at some point.

Single-payer advocates might want to take note. While writing letters, they might want to consider writing Senator Kennedy – who heads up the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions – and they also might want to write letters to the editor to national papers like the New York Times and the Washington Post.

Peace, my friends. Happy June!

by Pete Talbot

First this

Mark your calendar, folks.  As part of a statewide and national campaign, there’ll be a rally at Sen. Baucus’ Missoula office at 280 E. Front St. on Friday, June 5 at noon.  

Here’s a note from Montanans for Single-Payer, the organizer of events across the state:

” … as part of national events held by Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) and Healthcare-NOW! rallies are planned to give Montanans an opportunity to show their support for single-payer universal health care and to continue to request that Sen. Baucus include single-payer representatives in the national debate on health care reform … ”

More information at and a contact for the Missoula event is Bill LaCroix at  

See you there.

Max gets hammered 

I overheard some Baucus staffers saying they were surprised by the overwhelming support here in Montana for single-payer. Sure, Missoula was bound to be feisty, but Anaconda? Glasgow? Pablo? I don’t know what Max was expecting with his “listening” tour but apparently his staff is getting an earful.  We’ll see if the message gets through to the senator.

I went to the session in Missoula.  The anger over our broken health care system was palpable.  A standing-room-only crowd responded with shouts and applause over any mention of single-payer.  “Bullshit,” said one audience member as a Baucus staffer tried to explain the complex issues the senate was facing.

In some ways, it was a surreal event.  It started out with a welcoming video from the senator himself, which due to technical difficulties, didn’t air.  Then a powerpoint presentation on the health care problem and Max’s role in the debate.  Then a panel discussion.  Then, fifty minutes into the program, an opportunity for the audience to speak (the program was scheduled to run an hour).  Staff did take questions after the hour was up but for how long I’m not sure.  I couldn’t stay for the whole thing.  For Christ’s sake, the session was scheduled for 10 a.m. on a weekday — kinda hard to get too much time off.

There were three gentlemen standing in front of me.  Dressed in khaki Dockers and polo shirts, they’d shake their heads at any mention of “Canadian style” health care or other single-payer systems.  Don’t know if they were health care industry reps or just conservative guys with really good, private health insurance plans.  
“You say something,” said one.  “No, you,” said another.  “Not me,” said the third, “the crowd’s against us here.”  And he was right.

Stupid is as stupid does  

Problembear beat me to the punch and Jay has some good comments over at Left in The West, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t comment on the Republicans’ really bad roll out of their anti-health care reform campaign.

“Our role right now is to stand up and say, ‘Let’s take a minute, let’s not rush to health care reform just for the sake of health care reform,'” said lead organizer Jake Eaton.

That has got to be the stupidest quote I’ve heard in a long time. We shouldn’t rush to health care reform just for the sake of health care reform?  Sure, let’s take our sweet-ass time, Jake.  Health care in America is hunky-dory — we all have nothing better to do than try to reform this great system of ours — we’re thrilled with the status quo.

Lee newspapers’ Mike Dennison has the story about this anti-reform group called Patients United Now and its shadowy front organization, Americans for Prosperity Foundation. 

But it gets better.  Does that name Jake Eaton ring a bell?  He was the guy who fled the state in disgrace after heading up the failed voter suppression drive for the Republican Party last summer.

Just when you thought the Republicans couldn’t do any worse …

by jhwygirl

I’ve yet to write about Ezra Klein’s visit to Missoula last week to speak on health care (or my meeting with Wulfgar! – I don’t know which was a bigger event!), but one thing that Ezra spoke of was our senator’s important – very important – roll in instituting some sort of health care policy.

Max is the man, because, when it comes down to it, it’s about the money. It’s always about the money. And with Sen. Baucus as Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, nothing will get done without going through his committee.

Before heading home, Ezra Klein sat down with Montana journalist Mike Dennison for an interview. While that interview was posted in several places, the Billings Gazette gets the link because it had the most comments.

I’ll note that blogs aren’t unique in having commentators that resort to personal attacks – in this case, the usual: Forward Montana – and anything but the subject at hand.

Congressional Quarterly Politics has a nice interview with our Senator Baucus on the subject of health care. Baucus is clearly wrestling with the idea of having a government-run health care insurer – whether it is necessary and what, if any, role one would play.

Wednesday begins the formal policy discussions in the Senate on health care reform and national health care.

While a government-run insurance plan was still on the table, Baucus said “it might be a bit on the side of the table.” Instead, he said, he would focus on preserving the insurance system for self-insured companies while expanding private insurance and public programs such as Medicaid, the insurance program for the poor. “We’ll end up with more private insurance and more public insurance,” he said.

He later backed off that statement slightly, saying he might return to the government-run idea later on. Baucus has previously backed the idea of a government-run plan to compete with private insurers and drive down costs, but the political difficulty of the idea has put pressure on him to drop it. Many Republicans vehemently oppose any idea of a government-run insurance plan, while many of the left are demanding its inclusion.

The CQ piece mentions Baucus’ “white paper”. People should really go read it before going off and ranting about “socialism”.

It’s fair to note that while there were many skeptics when it comes to Baucus and health care reform, virtually all health care policy analysts on the progressive side have agreed that Baucus is serious about health care reform and that he is clearly seizing his lead in guiding the process.

On Tuesday, Baucus released this report to the Senate Finance Committee as a precursor the the initial discussions, which begin Wednesday, April 29th.

Health care is the largest policy initiative that has been so very very long in coming, in all honesty there’s a part of me that can’t comprehend that there is actually going to be serious discussion working towards solutions. It’s not something that I’ll be reading about like fiction or hypothetical – it’ll all be something that is going to end up being something real.


by jhwygirl

While the State of Montana ranks just 41 in political clout, its congressional representation fairs fares much better.

On a clout-per-member basis, Montana ranks 6.

Capitol Hill publication Roll Call just dished out its biennial rankings, which are based on a number of things including size of delegation, positions on committees and the importance of those committees, seniority, spread of members in the majority party, and per-capita federal dollars put into the state.

Funny. We’d probably gain to 40 in the state ranking if we ditched Denny and elected a Democrat. Notice how Minnesota will drop a slot if it ends up that Norm Coleman (somehow) comes out on top.

by Pete Talbot

Well, there are a lot of differences between Senators Jon Tester and Max Baucus, and some similarities, too.

And, IMHO. Jon isn’t perfect and Max isn’t all bad. As a matter of fact, if you compare Max to Rep. Denny Rehberg, Max looks like a compassionate, progressive statesman — but that isn’t setting the bar very high.

I think this vote speaks volumes, though. The original bill came out of the house as part of the $410 billion omnibus appropriations act (HR 1105). But the senate had to vote specifically on whether members of congress should vote on getting an automatic cost of living raise. Jon voted against the automatic raise. Max voted for it.

It’s hard to tell where Denny is on this one. He voted against HR 1105 but then that was a huge appropriations bill and the pay raise was just a tiny portion of it. He was NOT a co-signer of HR 156, which is a house bill denying the automatic pay raise that’s still in committee. This bill had 112 co-signers from both sides of the aisle, so I’m guessing that Denny, the 15th richest member of the house, is all for a pay increase but we’ll have to wait and see.

Maybe I’m missing something here.  Most Democrats voted the same way Baucus did and most Republicans voted with Tester.  But the Democrats that I have the most respect for, like Russ Feingold out of Wisconsin, voted with Tester.

Oh, and by the way, Max and Denny, how’s your taxpayer-paid health care treating you these days?

by Pete Talbot

I’ll cut to the chase. Baucus did the wrong thing, again, and Tester did the right thing – I think.

The vote on Thursday to release the second half of the funds ($350 billion) to ailing financial institutions passed the senate.

Baucus voted to release the funds; Tester voted present, “giving live pair.

I thought I was a reasonably savvy student of congressional voting but “giving live pair” was a new one for me. Here’s how that vote was explained over at Daily Kos:

What “giving live pair” means is that he was exchanging a vote with someone who wasn’t there. Three senators weren’t there. One of those three is who Tester was “giving live pair” for.

Say Tester was going to vote “no,” and Senator X was going to vote “yes,” but wanted to attend his daughter’s piano recital today. Sen. X approaches Tester and asks him to “give live pair.” If Sen. X showed up at the vote and voted “yes,” and Sen. Tester voted “no,” the outcome of the bill would be the same as if neither of them voted. So Tester votes “present, giving live pair,” and Sen. X goes to the piano recital, knowing his absence didn’t affect the outcome of the vote.

(Quick note: if you go to the roll call link above, a “no” vote was to release the funds and “yes” vote was to withhold them. The vote to release the funds passed 52-42, with two voting “present” [Tester and Hatch] and three not voting [Brown, Bunning and Kennedy].)

In an earlier press release, Tester indicated displeasure with the bailout and specifically the lack of oversight. So, I’m guessing he would have voted “no” but gave one of the three senators who weren’t there and was going to vote “yes,” a break.

This is weird stuff and although I believe Tester did what was right, I’m not sure a “giving live pair’ vote will play that well in Montana. Folks here kind of like votes to be a simple “yes” or “no,” and will tolerate an occasional abstention.

I hope that Tester can adequately explain why he did what he did because I believe he’s a principled fellow.  I won’t hold my breath for an explanation from Max on his vote.

Equally interesting is that mostly Republicans voted against the bailout but they were joined by Democrats like Bayh and Feingold.  And mostly Democrats voted for the bailout but were joined by a number of staunch Republicans.

Finally, don’t get me wrong, I’m in favor of a stimulus package and believe the government has an extremely important role in getting our economy back on its feet. I’m just not a big fan of throwing billions of dollars, with little or no oversight, at the folks that got us into this mess.

by Pete Talbot

Missoula cats

Cats bring out the same sort of passion that folks usually reserve for dogs and guns. Just witness the traffic on the unofficial Missoula municipal listserv.

If you’re not a subscriber of this very informative service, go here. And here’s the new ordinance language. (I’ve also copied some of the comments below the fold).

The gist of the ordinance is to cut down on the number of reproducing cats by encouraging spaying and neutering, and requiring a breeder’s license for folks who have more than five felines. This is a good idea and will, I hope, reduce the number of cats that have to be euthanized because they’ve been abandoned, or are feral or just out cruising.

The Missoulian’s Keila Szpaller tells us the ordinance is headed back to committee. While the cat ordinance may not generate the clever copy that the chicken ordinance did, I imagine we’re in for a number of stories on the subject over the next few weeks. There’s going to be some new language suggested for the dog ordinance, too.

Bankruptcy, Baucus and Rehberg

The 2005 Bankruptcy Bill was bad for consumers and a godsend for the banks. Fortunately, congress could be looking at some reform in that law.

Former Montana resident and current political columnist David Sirota writes about a new bankruptcy bill. It would start in the U.S. House, and it will be telling to hear Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg’s input, if any, on the bill. Denny actually had a couple decent votes at the end of the last congressional session (‘no’ on the bailout, for example), breaking a string of horrendous votes.

If it makes it through the House, Democratic Sen. Max Baucus will have a significant role as Finance Committee Chairman. He voted for the 2005 Bankruptcy Bill. Let’s hope he does better on a new bill.

And I’m betting that our other senator, Jon Tester (D), will do what’s best for consumers if a bill comes around. Congratulations, by the way, on your Appropriations Committee appointment, Jon.

(It should be noted that Rehberg is back to form. A recent roll call of his votes this session includes: a vote against women [wage discrimination – HR 12] and a vote for derailing bills [H Res 5]. Is it too soon to start looking for his 2010 opponent? I don’t think so.)


I didn’t realize what a hot ticket the inauguration is. It sounds like a helluva party. Hotels are booked solid and DC residents are renting out their spare rooms to the masses.

Montana’s governor and members of congress will all be riding horseback in the parade, along with members of the Crow Nation.

My ticket must have gotten lost in the mail so I’ll probably head down to the Elks Lodge instead, around 7 p.m. Here are some details.

Continue Reading »

by jhwygirl

While I’m not completely cold-hearted and I do sympathize with the situation, someone please explain to me why anyone in Washington – including Rehberg, Tester and Baucus (although the news article doesn’t mention Baucus here) – want to maintain sweetheart real estate deals for cabin lessees on national forest ground?

Now, Georgetown Lake USFS cabin lessees have gained the ear of the Montana Standard, who has apparently taken up their cause.

“I can’t afford to stay there for $8,500 a year,” said Martelli, an Anaconda retiree. “I’m going to try to sell it if I can but I don’t know anybody else that would buy it and pay that kind of lease price.”

Really? With land being bought up faster around that lake than they can build ’em, and he doesn’t think he’d be able to sell that cabin because now one would be able to afford the lease price? An annual lease price that would seem a deal as compared to a mortgage?

What is the benefit? Leaky septic tanks and higher fire danger? Higher fire fighting costs if when fire moves through?

Beyond that those leases – as Martelli alludes to in the article – get passed down from lessee to lessee, often kept in the family forever. They’re not put out there competitively or fairly for the rest of the wanting-a-sweetheart-deal-cabin-site public. Why’s that fair?

I know that sounds harsh – and I’ve talked with several who maintain these cabin sites – but I’ve yet to be able to justify having the federal government facilitate maintenance of a family tradition, a family heirloom – call it what you will.

I’ll even acknowledge that these cabins are for the most part pretty modest – some are shacks, frankly (which doesn’t help my higher fire danger complaint) – and that higher leases will result in the sites being sold over to what will result in higher end cabin lessees.

On the other hand – that additional revenue would end up in the pockets of local government entities via PILT payments.

I’ve blogged about this before, here.

Anyone, please – explain to me why the federal government should be in the business of leasing prime vacation lands at what amounts to effectively subsidized real estate prices?

by Pete Talbot

Dear President-elect Obama,

I’m sorry we couldn’t deliver our three electoral votes to you. You worked hard for them. You visited the state and talked western policy. You set up offices and hired staff and had the best ground game I’ve ever seen. John McCain never set foot in Montana.

You came close — only 12,136 votes separated you from McCain. And compared to the 20-point win that George W. Bush had here four years ago, what you did was miraculous.

I’m still scratching my head, though. In almost every other statewide category, Montana went blue: senator, governor and all four tier b’s (unseating the sole Republican incumbent with a new secretary of state). And two-out-of-three newly-elected PSC commissioners are Democrats.

Another confusing example is Gallatin County. I hoped for better numbers from there. It did, after all, almost go for Sen. Tester in 2006 (Burns won by less than 200 votes). But this year, Obama goes down by over 1400. Perhaps Barack should work on a flattop haircut for 2012. Even Gallatin County voted for you, by a 1609 vote margin.

I don’t believe race was a factor. I think most Montanans who voted for McCain did so because of issues like taxes or defense or the “experience” card or some ingrained conservative Christian belief.

And guns played a role. Even though you came to Montana and assured us you wouldn’t take away our guns, ugly rumors persisted. Next time through, make sure to get that ubiquitous firearm photo op.

We wish you well, Mr. President, and may you bring people together to help solve the numerous problems facing our country. Godspeed.

An unpleasant aside

After saying race wasn’t a factor, well, you still run into this: On my way to Bozeman on election day, I stopped by the Cardwell Store, there between Whitehall and Three Forks, for a cup of coffee and a Slim Jim. Two good-old-boys were at the counter and one said, “I better go vote.” To which the other said, “Yeah, I’d hate to see this election get nigger-rigged.”

I’m not even sure what he meant but I left my merchandise on the counter and walked out. Came up with some really choice things I should have said about five miles down the road.

Now I’m sure that everyone in Cardwell isn’t an ignorant racist pig but I won’t be stopping by again, ever, to find out.

It’s a sad anecdote, but there’s one good thing about it; the guy was old and will soon be dead.

I love Missoula

On a more upbeat note: Missoula delivers. One or two flies in the ointment: that HD-100 race where Willis Curdy is losing by a measly 33 votes to Republican incumbent Bill Nooney (provisional votes still being counted, final results Monday). But that’s democracy; you can choose the anti-education, anti-senior, anti-young person, anti-environment candidate if you want.

Same with SD-7, which has a little bit of Missoula County in it and where veteran lawmaker Paul Clark lost to anti-government zealot Greg Hinkle.

Otherwise it was a sweep: Gutsche over Mood for the PSC, the improbable county commissioner outcome, nine-out-of-ten state reps, and two state senators.

The Emergency Operations Center Bond going down wasn’t really a surprise. With property taxes in the mail and it being a slow economy and all, folks are tightening their belts. In better times, I think it would have passed. It also wasn’t one of the strongest campaigns I’ve seen run in this town.

Ravalli County blues

Is it too harsh to recommend a toll booth at the Ravalli/Missoula County line? Those Bitterrooters should pay extra to come and visit an eclectic town that values education and planning. Maybe we could funnel the toll revenue into preserving Ravalli County open space, while there’s still some left.

I know that there are progressives in Ravalli County but time-and-time again their issues and candidates get hammered.

Both West Fork Blues and Rebecca have excellent comments on the results in the Bitterroot.

Statewide conundrum

Despite Democratic wins in most of the big-ticket races, the Montana House is tied and the senate losses seats (R’s 27-D’s 23). Throw in a Democratic governor and I smell gridlock. But maybe not, lots of talk from candidates of all stripes wanting to “reach across the aisle.” We’ll see.

I, like Jay and others, have to wonder about this split ticket voting. How can our Democratic governor win by an almost two-to-one margin and still have the Montana Senate lose its Democratic majority? Did the Republican Party focus on legislative races because it knew most of the others were hopeless? Any insights?

We’re a two party country

Third parties didn’t fare well. Libertarian Don Eisenmenger received about 7 percent in the OPI race, which I believe was the party’s best showing. Presidential candidate Bob Barr got 0.3 percent. In the U.S. House race, perennial candidate Mike Fellows got 3 percent, and Stan Jones got 2 percent in the governor’s race.

For Constitution Party candidates, Ron Paul got slightly over 2 percent in the presidential race. That party’s best showing was in Missoula County with Kandi Matthew-Jenkins getting a little better than one-third of the votes against Cliff Larson in SD 50 (there was no Republican in that contest). And in the SOS race, Sieglinde Sharbono received around 3.5 percent.

Nadar’s Independent ticket garnered slightly less than 1 percent.

And finally

Who ever thought we’d have a president with a name like Barack Obama? It pales in comparison, though, to the candidate from HD-15 — my favorite name on the ballot — Frosty Boss Calf Ribs. I’ve met some of the Boss Calf Ribs clan up in the Browning area but don’t know Frosty, who was unopposed. Kind of makes our Anglo names like John Smith and Jane Doe seem rather lame. Congratulations, Frosty.

by Pete Talbot

Here’s what I hear:

Field office phones are ringing positive for Sen. Jon Tester — not so much for Sen. Max Baucus.

Rep. Denny Rehberg’s folks don’t talk to me a lot but I’ve heard he’s getting positive feedback, too.

For the record, Tester and Rehberg voted no on the $700 billion bailout bill (Rehberg — twice). Baucus voted yes. Some folks are calling campaign offices to have their ‘Max’ signs pulled from their yards.

Max followed leadership and voted with the majority, doing what I’m sure he thought was the right thing.

Tester’s not up for election, and Rehberg and Baucus will surely win, so these three all voted their conscience. Of course, the entire Montana delegation is getting a ton of calls, pro-and-con, on the vote … and the economy. People are scared and for the first time in eight years, fear may help the Democratic Party.

The people want change which is why Rehberg voted “no” (one of the smartest vote he’s made since he’s been in office). They admire Tester’s vote.

Baucus is in Montana doing damage control, talking to the press and his constituents about why he voted the way he did.

But still, the market dipped below 10,000 for the first time in four years. Wall Street wonks are wondering if $700 billion is enough. All the candidates have their work cut out for them — especially after the election when they’ll have to try and fix this financial crisis.

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