The Billings Outpost

Making democracy work

With the League of Women Voters of Billings asking people to nominate someone for the Joan Harwood Galles Making Democracy Work award, I’m asking, “What does it mean to make democracy work?”

The United States is a representative democracy that has evolved over 238 years, starting with a Constitution that allowed only white men with property to have the right and responsibility to make decisions to current laws allowing universal suffrage with the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

According to Freedom House, 118 of the 195 countries in the world have electoral democracies. Not one is like ours. Robert A. Dahl of Yale University asks why other countries haven’t used the U.S. as a model of democracy in his book, “How Democratic Is the American Constitution?”

Here are some of Dahl’s findings comparing the 22 most developed countries across several decades: The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate; fourth greatest in income gap; 21st lowest in voter turnout; 19th lowest in energy efficiency. What can we do to make our democracy work better?  

• Develop a fair framework for an election process where everyone has easy access to register to vote, vote, and run for office.

• Support free, public education so all citizens know our history and can think critically.

• Look for independent media that research and report the issues. 

• Expect transparency in government with opportunity for public comment.   

• Guarantee that equal treatment is shared by all segments of the population.

• Stop economic exploitation in our policies.

Each of us can find ways to make democracy work. We can and we must if we are to survive as a people and a country.

Betty Whiting

Billings

Last Updated on Thursday, 06 February 2014 09:42

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Live on the edge

During the Christmas break I went by a school. The sign said, to the effect, “Have a safe, fun and happy vacation.” Happy I could see, but fun and safe seem like an oxymoron. When one is young, fun rarely is safe.

Some examples: swinging from a rope in a tree or hay loft, riding a three-wheeler, now four-wheeler as the former has been federally banned, sledding down a hill on whatever is slippery, cardboard, scoop shovel, sled, plastic. From my youth, everything was fun till someone got hurt.

Life is to be lived on the edge. Yes, one can be safe and cautious, but when does that become fear of failure, embarrassment or becoming paralyzing to the point of not doing anything? “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

If you are doing what you enjoy, you are going to make mistakes; you will have accidents. Others will disagree with you or be offended. If you are doing things to please others, sometimes you please neither yourself or others.

For the new year, follow your heart and take that leap of faith.

Lauris Byxbe

Pompeys Pillar

Last Updated on Thursday, 06 February 2014 09:42

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Urge Alzheimer’s funding

Alzheimer’s stories are all around us.

My mom. My husband’s dad. My uncle. My college roommate’s dad and her young sister. My oldest friend’s mom. Most families I know have had this disease strike heartbreakingly close to home.

Today there are an estimated 5.4 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s including as many as 21,000 here in Montana.  

That’s why Montanans should join the Alzheimer’s Association in urging Congress to prioritize Alzheimer’s disease as a vital component of the fiscal year 2014 budget.

Alzheimer’s is not a Republican or Democratic issue – it affects all of us.  It was encouraging to see Congress create and pass, on a unanimous bipartisan basis, the National Alzheimer’s Project Act, which spurred the creation of the first National Alzheimer’s Plan.

The Senate has prioritized the National Alzheimer’s Plan by including an additional $100 million for research, education, care and support; it is vitally important that Congress include these resources in fiscal year 2014.

November is National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. Please contact Sen. Jon Tester today and ask him to provide the funding necessary to support the National Alzheimer’s Plan through Alzheimer’s research, education, outreach, and support activities.

You can contact the Alzheimer’s Association state office in Billings. It offers a great resource and loan library, free education materials, group presentations, support groups (three in Billings), facilitator training and initial care counseling for families facing Alzheimer’s. 

The important thing is to let your voice be heard in Washington on behalf of Alzheimer’s families in Montana and everywhere. 

Joanie Tooley

Alzheimer’s Association

Billings

Last Updated on Thursday, 21 November 2013 11:53

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The average Montanan

The redneck, racist viewpoint of Max Lenington insulting the president and his wife: Do you suppose that this is the viewpoint of the average Montanan against the president of the United States?

James O. Southworth

Billings

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 21 November 2013 11:52

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Crying foul

In the 2010 Citizens United case, the Supreme Court of the United States, by a partisan 5-4 vote, opened the door to unlimited corporate financial support of political activity. Some of this money is channeled through 501 (c) 4 “social welfare” groups, the number of which mushroomed after the court decision. The overwhelming share of this money goes to support conservative political messaging, even though 501 (c) 4 groups, like 501 (c) 3 “charitable groups,” must essentially abstain from political activity to merit tax-exempt status.

A unit of IRS, housed outside Washington and woefully understaffed with politically naive civil servants, is responsible for reviewing applications for tax-exempt status and deciding whether to extend this benefit.

This involves determining whether applicants disqualify themselves because of political activity. 

Only an idiot would deny that the Tea Party was established as a purely political group and has engaged in political activity from its inception. The IRS staff is simply doing its job to target and examine Tea Party applications for tax-exemption. They give the same scrutiny to left-leaning groups, although there are far fewer such applications. To deny tax-exempt status is not to deny an entitlement - it is to withhold a special benefit.

It takes enormous chutzpah for a politically active group to request such a benefit in violation of the law, and they to cry “foul” when it is denied. Perhaps burdening the IRS with a flood of groundless applications was a political strategy in itself?

Lawrence K. Pettit

Helena

Last Updated on Friday, 04 October 2013 19:53

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Flip interest rates

Progressives talk about fairness and ability to pay as they relate to taxes, but not interest. Why? Progressives want to run the government. They want to spend freely, and they want to pay as little as possible for their borrowing.

Progressives are capitalists. Who knew?

At least, they’re capitalistic about their access to funds. Don’t believe them if they tell you that they don’t want a free lunch with mandatory dessert, too.

Government, big business, and banks have squeezed the poor and middle class out of the financial marketplace. The federal government is the biggest financial entity in the country; it has the ability to pay. Multi-billion dollar corporations have the ability to pay, yet they pay the lowest interest mortgage interest on the biggest assets Americans have – their homes – and pay, on average, around one-half of 1 percent on savings accounts, one of the smallest assets Americans own.

Store cards are allowed to charge over 20 per cent annual percentage rate interest. Who allowed them to charge that rate? The government!

So, the answer is to flip the interest rate structure in America. The government should have to pay a minimum of 20 per cent interest on the treasury bonds they sell. Multi-billion dollar companies should pay a minimum of 20 percent on anything they borrow. If they borrow $1,000, they’ll only pay $200 interest a year. Fair is fair.

The middle class and the poor would love to borrow monstrous amounts of money, at one-half of 1 percent interest, which they would spend freely and stimulate the economy. They want a free lunch with mandatory dessert, too. If they borrow $1,000, they’ll pay $5 interest a year, and they won’t even gripe about it.

So, come on Progressives, back this plan to flip interest rates. Don’t you want to help the middle class and the poor?

Conservatives believe that if you want less of something you add cost or you add a tax. This wouldn’t be a bad plan to rein in government borrowing, except the government has the power to tax and the power to print money. But, even those powers will have a limit someday.

Jack Mackenzie

Ballantine

Last Updated on Friday, 04 October 2013 19:54

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