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The Montana Senate

The Montana Senate holds a floor session on Jan. 27 during the 2019 Montana Legislature.

I see it’s time for the monthly installment of “socialism is bad” by Montana Republican Party Chairman Don “K” Kaltschmidt (Missoulian, Oct. 24).

While it would be easy to pick apart each of Kaltschmidt’s examples of the “left’s lurch towards socialism,” let’s stay positive and point out some of the Democratic Party’s “socialist” accomplishments, at least here in Montana.

Although in the minority at the state legislature, Democrats, with the help of some moderate Republicans, passed Medicaid expansion. This increased health care access to nearly 100,000 low- and middle-income Montanans with a projected net savings to the state in 2019 of $34.9 million. It also dramatically increased the viability of rural Montana hospitals, some of whom were on the brink of closing.

Democrats, again with the help of moderate Republicans, passed an $80 million infrastructure bill to fund much needed maintenance on state buildings, roads and water systems.

At the urging of Montana Democrats, increases in public K-12 education spending and a college tuition freeze for Montana residents also made it through the legislative session.

These are just a few of the examples of “socialism” Democrats advanced in 2019. And the Republican hypocrisy is rampant. Subsidies for the oil and gas industry, and industrial agriculture, are OK but not for health care, infrastructure or education.

Is it possible that by repeating “socialism” over and over, Kaltschmidt is attempting to distract Montanans from the horror show taking place in our nation’s capitol? The evidence that the president extorted a foreign leader to investigate a political rival by withholding military aid continues to mount every day. Yet Kaltschmidt misdirects by saying “Montana is benefiting by this administration.” How so? By giving tax breaks to the rich, by denying climate change, by starting a trade war?

(If you want to see socialism in action, subsidizing farmers and ranchers for their losses during the trade war would be a good example, although it’s the top 1% of agricultural producers who are receiving the lion’s share of the subsidies. As for family farms, according to a New York Times story, “I don’t think this is going to be enough to compensate them,” said Eric Belasco, an economist at Montana State University and a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. “It seems like there’s not really an end in sight.”)

Kaltschmidt closes, saying, “By continuing to elect representatives from the center-right, Montanans will ensure the people who represent us, share our Montana values and will work together to deliver for Montana.”

Unfortunately, the current Montana Republican Party is doing its best to purge the party of its center-right members; the ones who might do bipartisan work in the Montana Legislature and in Congress. Kaltschmidt happens to be the biggest cheerleader for far-right candidates for governor, the U.S. House and Senate and, of course, the president — obstructionists of the highest order.

After the word “socialism,” Kaltschmidt’s second favorite phrase is “Montana values.” But Montana values are hardly those of Kaltschmidt, or more specifically, Trump. Throwing red-baiting labels around, bribing foreign governments for political gain, cashing in on the Office of the Presidency, cozying up to tyrants while abandoning our allies, or playing fast and loose with the facts, are not Montana values.

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Pete Talbot of Missoula is chairman of the Montana Progressive Democrats.

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