The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK


April 13, 2013

Old school for old boys

ENID, Okla. — While Max Baucus and Jon Tester are both Democrats, both U.S. senators and both Montana country boys, last month’s hurried vote to fund nearly $1 trillion of current federal spending shows just how different these Big Sky legislators really are.

Baucus, a ranch kid with two degrees from Stanford University, has spent nearly 50 years in state and federal politics. He is a six-term U.S senator, chairs its Appropriations Committee and is a senior member of the Ag Committee. He is up for re-election in 2014.

Politically, Baucus is more pragmatic than Democratic. He teamed with George W. Bush to pass the landmark Medicare prescription drug benefit and Barack Obama to pass the Affordable Care Act.

In early April, Baucus was profiled by both the New York Times and the Washington Post. The Times piece was tough. It tied the Baucus-led Finance Committee’s effort to rewrite the nation’s tax code to “at least 28 former aides” who now work “as tax lobbyists, representing blue-chip clients that include telecommunications businesses, oil companies, retailers and financial firms…”

And, noted the Times, “…many of those lobbyists have already saved their clients millions — in some cases, billions — of dollars after Mr. Baucus backed their requests to extend certain corporate tax perks… as part of the so-called fiscal cliff legislation in January” 2013.

For example, “Baucus aides who later became lobbyists helped financial firms save $11.2 billion in tax deferments …”

A current staffer explained the actions this way: “Every vote has to answer one question for him and that is: How is it impacting Montanans?”

OK, just how are $11.2 billion in tax deferments to global financial firms impacting Montana’s farmers, ranchers, business owners and citizens?

And more to the point, as chairman of the Senate’s most powerful committee, Baucus is now in charge of rewriting the entire federal tax code. That means he’s working for every American, not just every Montanan.

Every Montanan includes his Senate colleague, Jon Tester, a music teacher by training and farmer by birth. Tester’s old school flat-top haircut is a billboard for who he is: the Senate’s only farmer who totes home-butchered beef to Washington, D.C., in his carry-on luggage.

On March 20, Tester took a rhetorical butcher knife to the Senate floor to carve up the rules that had stopped debate on two riders to the must-pass, $1trillion continuing resolution.

The riders were odious. One repealed a successful, three-year campaign to give poultry farmers more power in negotiating production contracts; the other allowed genetically modified crops to continue to be grown despite any court ruling that required them stopped.

Tester asked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, for time to debate the two riders. Reid, under the dual pressures to keep the wheels of government turning and for Congress to leave town for a two-week Easter holiday, turned him down.

During consideration of the CR, however, Tester publicly objected to the riders and the process that delivered them. The “ultimate loser” to this in-the-dark action Congress was ready to take, he explained, “will be our family farmers going about their business and feeding America the right way.”

The Senate approved the CR, and both riders, by a 76-23 count. Tester was the only Democrat to vote against it; his fellow Montanan, Baucus, voted for it. (It became law within a week.)

The vote represents more than just bad law being made by a bad process.

It’s a scream for more transparent government because, regardless of which corporate mule carried these riders to completion, neither could have withstood an hour of sunshine had they been offered, discussed and voted on through the same open process that you and I conduct our church meetings.

Congress should be no different. It needs more open lawmaking and fewer lobbyists, more bottom-up debate and less top-down dismissiveness, more well-lit transparency and less in-the-dark committee work.

In short, it needs more old school democracy and less old boy cronyism.

Text Only
  • Danna Zook cutout web.jpg Producers need to consider cow supplements

    Springtime for many Oklahoma producers often means calving time.

    April 12, 2014 1 Photo

  • Master Gardener logocmyk.jpg It’s time to dirty hands

    Bees are venturing out to visit the new flowers. Keep a close watch on your garden. Often, helpful pest-destroying insects are out, getting ready to work for you, also. These, and the bees helpfully pollinating flowers, shouldn’t be discouraged by the undiscriminating spraying of insecticides.

    April 12, 2014 1 Photo

  • farm - 4H web.jpg 4-H’ers meet with state lawmakers

    Sen. Eddie Fields spoke to the group upon their arrival at the Capitol.

    April 12, 2014 1 Photo

  • Canola tour to have stops in area

    The tour will be held at the canola field of Flying G Farms located 91⁄2 miles west of Orienta on U.S. 412 and then north into the field.

    April 12, 2014

  • farm - Rick Nelson web.jpg Money up front can mean bigger returns later

    Implants are a safe, effective technology that typically offer a 10-to-1 return on investment.

    April 5, 2014 1 Photo

  • FFA logo.jpg 9 area students to receive WLC program scholarships

    FFA members will tour our nation’s capital, visit with members of Congress and perform a service learning project within the Washington area, while building friendships with fellow FFA members from across the nation.

    April 5, 2014 1 Photo

  • FFA logo.jpg NW Oklahoma FFA members named proficiency finalists

    Three finalists are selected in each of 49 agricultural proficiency award categories. The state winner in each area will be announced April 30 during the 88th State FFA Convention held at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City.

    April 5, 2014 1 Photo

  • NWDJLS_Swine_8_BV.jpg Today’s 4-H creating blue ribbon kids

    The constant that 4-H has is that we give kids an opportunity to excel in a niche that they can kind of create for themselves.” — Jim Rhodes, 4-H youth development program specialist for Northwest District

    March 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • farm - Rick Nelson web.jpg Managing cowherd fertility is important

    Yet, recent survey data suggest only 18 percent of beef-cow operations in the United States evaluate the cowherd for pregnancy. This is unfortunate, since a large portion of the financial losses attributed to infertility in beef cows is attributed to maintaining open cows.

    March 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Master Gardener logocmyk.jpg Gardening workshop is April 12

    Dee Nash, a native of Oklahoma, will be the key note speaker. She will speak on “Lemonade Gardening: Making the Best of Extreme Conditions or Lemonade out of Lemons.”

    March 22, 2014 1 Photo

Featured Ads