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Buckle up, Montanans, Republicans are out on the campaign trail and boy are they making promises about how great it’s all going to be if only we elect them. They’re going to listen to us, they’re going to cut wasteful spending, they’re going to bring jobs, jobs, jobs. And they’re going to do it all by some great magic that will miraculously transform the dysfunction of President Trump’s administration and the Republican-dominated Congress into a government with nothing but the best interests of the populace in mind. Sound familiar? It should — we’ve heard it all before.

The four Republicans running to challenge Democrat U.S. Sen. Jon Tester laid out their “plans” to enact the ideology of their party. Just in case one may have forgotten in the tidal wave of lies and slush slopping out of the halls of Congress in Washington, D.C., a major pillar of that ideology is fiscal conservatism — particularly when it comes to government spending.

All the Republican candidates loved the tax bill and disparaged the monster $1.3 trillion budget bill. They also brag about their business acumen and how government should be run like a business. As Troy Downing put it: “You cannot spend money that you don’t have. If you’ve already maxed out all your credit cards, you can’t expect the credit cards to start giving you more.”

And what comes first in Downing’s crystal ball as a top priority for spending? The military-industrial complex Republican President Dwight Eisenhower presciently warned about in 1961 as both dangerous and unsustainable. Perhaps he failed to notice that in the monstrous spending bill just passed the military-industrial complex took home $700 billion — billions more than dedicated to domestic spending priorities that actually serve the very real needs of the nation’s 325 million citizens.

Then there’s the old saw “if only we cut more regulations we’ll grow the economy.” Candidate Russ Fagg leaps out with the great idea to “modernize” the Endangered Species Act via a “cost-benefit analysis.” I guess that means if grizzly bears, lynx or any other plant or animal teetering on the brink of extinction can’t produce revenue there’s no benefit to saving them. And this is from a guy with two kids who just might want to have native species around for their kids. Then again, Fagg’s proposal to slash spending on the Department of Education might ensure future generations won’t miss what they never knew existed.

Speaking of slashing budgets, candidate Al Olszewski’s great idea is to gut the social safety net by taking his surgeon’s scalpel to welfare, food stamps and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. This from a doctor who is supposed to ethically adhere to the Hippocratic Oath to “first do no harm.”

Candidate Matt Rosendale touts his reductions in the state auditor’s office and declares the way to a better future is to “flatten tax brackets.” Perhaps he didn’t notice the massive “flattening” — especially for the already wealthy — that just took place in the Republican tax bill. Hilariously, he says he’ll “make it so special exemptions have gone away.” But what really “went away” thanks to his fellow Republicans is the revenue to balance their out-of-control spending bill.

See a single new idea in this campaign hogwash? Nope, not one. Nor would even one Republican candidate suggest reducing military spending as they wrap themselves in the flag. We’ve heard it all before. But actions speak louder than words. And when it comes to Republican promises, the chasm between words and actions with this Republican president and Congress is unfortunately self-evident.

George Ochenski writes from Helena. His column appears each Monday on the Missoulian's Opinion page. He can be reached by email at oped@missoulian.com.

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