Recently I read a piece in the Gazette about how, supposedly, minimum wage hurts teen employment. The writer advocated for lowering or eliminating the minimum wage.
Nearly 90 percent of workers receiving minimum wage are 20 years old or older, according to the Economic Policy Institute. One only has to visit a few retail establishments to realize that some of these folks are senior citizens, too.
In fact, Montana ranks fourth in the nation for the number of people holding down two or more jobs to make ends meet.
Higher teen unemployment is not the result of minimum wage, but a symptom of the current economy. More people are settling for the minimum wage jobs that used to be done by teens in the absence of better paying jobs. This group includes single moms, college students and senior citizens. Lowering minimum wage will not put food on the table for working moms, supplement pensions for seniors or re-pay student loans.
Dennis Rehberg has continually voted against federal minimum wage increases. That is one more reason I am voting for Jon Tester for the U.S. Senate. Steve Bullock led the campaign to increase Montana’s minimum wage in 2006. He has earned my vote too.
Last Updated on Sunday, 16 September 2012 11:56
A promising start but a bitter end for Gov. Brian Schweitzer. I started a business, Rx Depot, in 2003 to help Montana residents learn about and access inexpensive Canadian patent prescription drugs. It was Business 101: Find a need and fill it.
The Montana Board of Pharmacy came knocking before the doors were open and the message was clear: “Montana drug revenues are our business, buster.” So began a six-year odyssey of court hearings and a Supreme Court appeal as I fought to represent the interest of Montana drug consumers and the board fought to represent the financial interests of Montana pharmacies.
The first action was a court hearing in August 2003, at which the board demanded an illegal injunction that the court granted, stating that it would be illegal and then dissolved it four months later because it was ... illegal. The damage to the business was obvious, but the state ducked responsibility because the illegal injunction was ... the judge’s fault.
I started another business, Canadian Connection, in April 2004 and the board was back in my office shortly saying, “We’ll do the dance again.” Then the plot thickened. Out of the West rode Brandin’ Iron Brian Schweitzer, a budding politician looking for a hot issue and cheap Canadian patent prescription drugs was just the ticket! So you rounded up some seniors and headed north cursing the drug companies and the U.S. Congress. You were in high dudgeon.
That’s when our paths crossed and it was an ill-fated meeting. We both ended up in the vendor area at MontanaFair in Billings in August 2004. You came over, introduced yourself and asked what I thought about your new plan to change the law on drug importation announced earlier in the day in The Billings Gazette. Not having read the paper yet, I was speechless. You seemed to deflate like a soufflé and that was that.
When I did have a chance to see the paper and your web site, it was apparent that you planned to change the law on importation. Unfortunately, that is a federal law, not a state law.
At that time, I and most Montanans hadn’t yet realized that your ego is as big as all outdoors and, on your signature issue, cutting the cost of U.S. patent prescription drugs, no one was going to lead Montana drug consumers to the promised land except “Moses” Schweitzer. But when you couldn’t do what you wanted to do, you failed to do what you could do. That was the Greek tragedy of “hubris.”
Although my business, assisting Montana drug consumers to learn about and access Canadian drugs, is allowed by the U.S. Government and about 45 states and understood to not be the practice of pharmacy, “Moses” gave the Board of Pharmacy the green light and spending authority (per Board Minutes) to get rid of me. You would brook no rival in the “doing good” business.
That’s when the Christian morality play of some of the Seven Deadly Sins began to play out. The “greedy” Board of Pharmacy with a voracious “gluttony” for every last dollar of revenue and profit from Montana drug consumers embarked on a six-year crusade through the court system to put me and others who might follow out of business.
It became six years because I wouldn’t cave to its “lust” for power and was willing to endure the “wrath” of all the King’s horses and all the King’s men. Now the board’s actions were perfectly understandable; it was simple naked economic self-interest.
The surprise for me was the conduct of the judiciary. If sloth be considered intellectual laziness and lack of diligence, it was the judiciary’s stock in trade. Through the district courts and a Supreme Court opinion, law, fact and precedent failed to be recognized.
My exercise in self representation cost about $900 in filing fees and transcript costs and seven unremarkable days in the Lewis and Clark County stone hotel. You, on the other hand, probably expended something north of $100,000 in taxpayer-funded legal costs to make the state safe for international drug companies and Montana pharmacies.
On the issue of helping Montana drug consumers escape the outrageous costs of U.S. patent prescription drugs, you came in with a bang but eight years later are going out with a whimper. A drug company CEO couldn’t have bollixed things up worse for Montanans. I can only reiterate my earlier opinion: On your signature issue you have been a fraud, a sham, a modern day grifter with three shells and a pea.
Last Updated on Thursday, 23 August 2012 21:52
Businesses complain about “uncertainty,” but they are just sitting on a trillion dollars instead of investing it in the future of the nation. They could take a chance and hire a few people with all that money. After all, thousands of Americans have given their lives to our country in wars, with no certainty of living through it. Now businesses demand “certainty” in order to invest in the future of this nation? Who has “certainty?” Do you? I don’t.
And, not only do they want “certainty,” but they attack the Environmental Protection Agency and want regulations rolled back as well, so they can pollute to any extent they think “necessary.”
The idea of “tax reform,” while really needed, makes me cringe, because nearly every effort at tax reform in the past has resulted in more tax breaks for those who can afford to make large contributions to elections. That is what complicates the tax code.
Now 1 percent of the population owns nearly everything and they are buying up foreclosed homes like greedy grizzlies. Coal companies are eyeing public lands. Corporations are taking over public schools. There is even the intention of privatizing postal service!
In this era of corporatizing everything, whatever happened to the concepts of “the public interest” and “the common good?” Gone with the melting glaciers.
Last Updated on Thursday, 23 August 2012 21:51
I am really concerned about Rep. Dennis Rehberg. I’m afraid his rough ride in the boat accident affected his memory on our border problems.
Rep. Rehberg is sponsoring House Resolution 1505, giving our northern borders to the federal government, Department of Homeland Security and the Border Patrol.
He’s got Canada confused with Mexico.
Last Updated on Thursday, 23 August 2012 21:49
I recently read an opinion editorial by union representatives printed in several papers across the state. It is interesting that the focus of this opinion is that their jobs are more important than the agricultural jobs that now support many of the hardworking Montanans who live in the Tongue River and Otter Creek valleys.
The Tongue River is a pristine untouched valley. The agriculture production here is comparable to production in the San Joaquin Valley in California. That will all change with the development of Otter Creek Coal.
The Tongue River Railroad that must be built to transport the Otter Creek coal will devastate our valley. And, it (like all railroads) will cause fires. We have seen enough fires in Eastern Montana this year to last for several lifetimes. The railroad is proposed along the river where there is no road access. To be able to fight the inevitable fires, highways will need to be built.
These roads will be paid for by the hardworking taxpayers of Montana. When this railroad was first proposed, the coal it would haul was destined for upper Midwest markets. The coal is now going to Asia – mainly to China. I do not think it is in the public interest to use condemnation to build a railroad that will be used for Asia and China. The Otter Creek development is not about creating jobs, it is about securing more money for one of the richest corporations in America, Arch Coal (who has leased the Otter Creek coal and is also one of three owners of the Tongue River Railroad). Will we continue to step on the backs of the hardworking farmers and ranchers of Montana to bankroll the richest people in the world?
The railroad will transport the coal to ports near Seattle to ship to China. There are hundreds of railroad crossings across Montana, including in our cities and towns. Burlington Northern will not pay to upgrade these crossings if life, health, or safety issues make that necessary. It will be you and me - the taxpayers of Montana - who will be expected to pay for these upgrades.
The Otter Creek coal serves as an aquifer for water in the area where I live and ranch. That water will be pumped out of the ground to mine this coal and most likely discharged into the Tongue River. The Tongue River is already being harmed by coal bed methane discharges in Wyoming and discharges by the Decker mine that go into the Tongue River Reservoir. Our irrigation land is at risk.
Otter Creek development is not about jobs. It is about corporate greed, plain and simple.
Last Updated on Thursday, 23 August 2012 21:48
Sometimes the important things get lost in a campaign. “Issues” are easily manipulated by the press or partisans.
For 41 years I was associated with the American Legion Montana Boys State program; for more than half of those years, I served either as the program’s chief counselor or as its director. The program offers high school junior boys - the “cream of the crop” – an opportunity to learn about citizenship and leadership and much, much more.
Steve Bullock was one of the best counselors Boys State ever had. For more than 15 years, Steve gave up a week of vacation, for no pay, to come to the University of Montana-Western in Dillon and help young men formulate the principles of their citizenship and leadership. (Steve is a former Boys State governor elected by conservative young men from every town and city in Montana who trusted him to lead and represent them.)
As a counselor, every day at 6:30 a.m., Steve led 400 young men in singing the Star-Spangled Banner and “God Bless America.” (Neither he nor they were trained singers.) Also, because he is a Boston Marathoner, I asked him to “warm up” the delegates to get a good start on the day.
Steve is a patriot. He taught love of God and country. He explored the meaning of freedom. He taught respect for the American flag – stars and stripes forever.
Steve was effective because he not only taught these values, he lived them. No young man who became acquainted with Steve at our program has forgotten or will forget him. He is a patriot in every sense of the word. I do not personally know every candidate, but I do know Steve. He continues to live those Boys State ideals.
While issues are important, they change daily. What is more important is knowing a candidate’s values. My vote will be for a proven and practicing patriot who lives that value every day.
K. Paul Stahl
Last Updated on Thursday, 23 August 2012 21:47