The Billings Outpost

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Rethinking flat tax

As a staunch opponent of a sales tax, I may have to reconsider the flat tax. We have a user tax on alcohol, tobacco, fuels, hotels and/or resort tax. I haven’t seen too many people who have quit because of the price.

The slogan “Sales tax: The rich love it and the poor pay it” may not be true. Are they poor because they consume more alcohol and tobacco or do they consume more alcohol and tobacco because they are poor?

My main objection to the sales or flat tax would be once enforced, every state, county, city, local area or district would want to add their 2 cents.

Think of the revenue a flat tax would generate. However, politicians never seem to run out of ways to spend money they don’t have. Some agencies seem to have a policy of spend it or lose it. Maybe we might have money to offset healthcare costs, or for real education.

Lauris Byxbe

Pompeys Pillar

Last Updated on Thursday, 11 June 2015 14:22

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Compromise on healthcare

[U.S. Sen. Steve] Daines claims to be pragmatic and one who works to find compromise. He recently talked about the Republicans presenting another repeal bill regarding the Affordable Care Act while realizing that [President] Obama will veto it.

Daines says that the ACA is a complex, tangled mess that should be repealed. He acknowledges that Americans expect something to replace it but admitted that Republicans don’t have an alternate plan. He claims there was nothing bipartisan about the ACA, but it was the Republican leadership that plotted to obstruct the President even before he took office by adopting the strategy that if “he is for it, we are against it.”

An obvious example is when Obama incorporated the conservative concept of an insurance mandate; Republicans then cried government overreach. [Rep. Eric] Cantor wanted all Republicans committed to the “against him” strategy because he was afraid if some Republicans voted with the Democrats, they would be able to label the bill “bipartisan.”

If the ACA isn’t bipartisan, it was not Obama’s doing. In 2009 Obama convened a health summit with doctors, insurers, drug companies, consumer advocates and lawmakers. No legislation that brings in so many interests is going to be simple in scope and satisfy everyone.

Obama was re-elected, defeating [Mitt] Romney, who  promised to dismantle the ACA even though Romney’s Massachusetts Health Care legislation was researched for ACA ideas., A true pragmatic approach, and one in the spirit of compromise, would be to forget repealing the ACA and work together to make any changes that are deemed necessary.

Dean Klarich


Last Updated on Thursday, 11 June 2015 14:21

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Oppose Fast Track Authority

Heads up, fellow Montanans! With the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Congress is looking to grant the Obama administration blanket approval to sign huge new trade agreements negotiated behind closed doors, without meaningful public input or oversight.

We certainly understand the importance of international trade to our state and to our country, but “fast tracking” a secretive trade deal — with implications for American jobs and U.S. environmental regulations — a deal giving vast new powers to foreign investors, is not the appropriate way to negotiate an agreement.

Public review and input is the best way to ensure trade agreements that raise, not lower, trade standards between nations. Fast Track Authority severely restricts opportunities for public debate and congressional oversight of trade deals. In fact, it restricts Montana’s voice entirely.

While the U.S. Constitution gives the president authority “to manage relations with foreign sovereigns,” it gives Congress the responsibility “to regulate Commerce with foreign nations.” Enacting Fast Track will upset this balance by delegating Congress’ constitutional authority over trade policy to the president.

Why would any of our congressional members, Democratic or Republican, support this action? Are they willing to allow foreign corporations to interfere with the ability of our state and local government to make and enforce basic laws? Currently, proposed trade agreements could render even such uncontroversial programs as “Buy Montana” subject to legal attack by foreign corporations.

Will you join me and tell our members of Congress that Montanans don’t want Fast Track? Once that authority is granted to the president, the opportunity to make changes becomes impossible. Whatever happened to our system of checks and balances? This is not the way our democracy is supposed to operate.

Jean Lemire Dahlman


Last Updated on Thursday, 11 June 2015 14:20

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FCC rules hurt Montana

Montana is just beginning to see the makings of a legitimate technology sector in our state. It’s not just in Bozeman and Missoula; the potential for technology startups exists anywhere in the state with a decent Internet connection.

The upside is that Montanans in smaller communities have opportunities to connect to education, start businesses, and reach global audiences like never before.

It’s because that potential opportunity is so important that the new proposal by the Federal Communications Commission to impose heavy, top-down regulations on Internet connectivity should have Montanans concerned.

The FCC proposes to begin regulating the Internet just as they regulated telephone companies in the 1930s (in fact, they’re using the same Title II statute that was implemented over 80 years ago). They want Internet providers to be considered “common carriers,” with a one-size-fits-all business model mandated for all interactions between providers and consumers.

Those regulations didn’t serve well for telephone service, as evidenced by the innovation and explosion in consumer choice that followed the breakup of Ma Bell. They won’t serve Internet consumers or entrepreneurs well either.

The FCC’s ruling has created many unfortunate victims throughout American society. In this case, rural states like Montana will be the losers.

Under the FCC’s rule, Internet companies will find it much more difficult to invest in new infrastructure. The first investments to go will be the most marginalized ones: specifically, rural areas with low population density.  When the FCC’s rule goes into effect in June, we can expect that rural Montana will be treated as second-class citizens with subpar access to the Internet.

Worse, as Internet investment potentially dries up in rural areas and new technology is deployed in more populous states, the gap between the Internet haves and have-nots could only widen.

The frustrating part is that the FCC’s proposal for increasing its regulatory authority over the Internet isn’t even necessary. Over the past 30 years we’ve had nothing but amazing growth in Internet availability — all accomplished without the intervention of the FCC.

Why now, after the existing model has proven itself time and time again, would we suddenly scrap it and try something else — especially when that switch is a move from the free and open market to Big Government central planning?

Montanans deserve the same Internet accessibility as the rest of the country and all the education and economic opportunity that goes with it. Please join with me in encouraging our delegation — Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines — to support bipartisan legislation that will keep the Internet free and open.

Sen. Doug Kary


Last Updated on Thursday, 04 June 2015 12:11

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Blame Iran on GOP

Dear Republicans, if you had an understanding of U.S. history with Iran, you’d know that Dr. [Henry] Kissinger, U.S. secretary of state, was the major thrust to give Iranians the nuclear bomb. Yeah, it was Republicans who tried to own the Middle East with a nuke in Iran yet not a word from Congressman [Ryan] Zinke on the mass amount of nuclear bombs held in the Apartheid Jewish state.

Congressman Zinke has zero knowledge of U.S. involvement in making a puppet of the great nation of Iran. Briefly, Iran has zero interest in imperial hegemony as the U.S. State Department advances these crimes daily with impunity.

The “My country right or wrong” mentality is going to wipe us off the map; it’s already made us the laughing stock of the world.

Will Crain


Last Updated on Thursday, 04 June 2015 12:07

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Watchdogs will be missed

It’s a disappointing time for Montana’s Fourth Estate because the bylines of Chuck Johnson and Mike Dennison will no longer appear in Lee newspapers. With their years of experienced and insightful coverage of Montana’s Capitol, Dennison and Johnson held elected officials and government accountable, and held watch over our democracy.

We get it that traditional newspapers struggle to keep up with internet competition. Lee Enterprises stock is down 16 percent year-to-date. Lee newspapers and other hallmarks of the Fourth Estate have had to adapt. Sadly, adaptation has meant cutting loose exceptional journalists, and closing up shop – leaving the public with more information noise and less journalism. The medium of the “new media” is not the message. The message comes from substantive journalism and skilled journalists like Johnson and Dennison.

It’s been reported that the two were given a steep pay cut option. According to proxy statements, Lee Enterprises Chief Executive Officer Mary Junck makes nearly $3 million a year in salary, bonus, stock and more. Wonder if she and other Lee brass will step forward to take pay cuts? Wonder if they’ll close their corner offices along with the Montana bureau? Wonder if they realize they’re destroying the very foundation of democracy by selling out Montana’s Fourth Estate and chipping away at its fair and free press?

Montanans could always count on Dennison and Johnson for thorough, objective and ethical coverage of Capitol politics. These veteran journalists documented history as they wrote about our lives. We will miss them, and our lives will be less without their work.

Rep. Mary Ann Dunwell

Don Dunwell


Last Updated on Thursday, 28 May 2015 22:39

Hits: 515

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