The Billings Gazette publishes letters from readers in the Opinion section. Here are this week's letters.
To submit a letter to the editor, go here.
Stick to policy issues, not name calling
Why do we have to listen to political advertisements on billionaires moving to Montana and running for office? Some do and some do not. If they have lived here for 5, 10, plus years, why are they advertised as outsiders? If they have been doing great things for their communities, working on committees and, yes, maybe being elected to a city, county or state office.
Why don’t people ever stick to the issues? Why do we allow outside organizations to distort the truth by giving only a partial sentence that is spoken and not all the facts. Is this an issue for libel?
Let’s have the November elections be an issue election instead of false information and calling names.
Montana Land Board must do its job
Montanans are paying close attention to decisions made by our elected leaders before we head to the polls this fall.
One such decision front of mind for the Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is the Horse Creek Conservation Easement. This easement would open 20,000 acres for hunting and recreating where it’s needed most — in eastern Montana. The proposal, funded with sportsmen’s dollars — not taxes — has not only garnered unanimous endorsements from the Montana FWP Commission and Gov. Steve Bullock, it enjoys widespread support from sportsmen and women, conservation groups and Montana voters. It's also the wishes of the landowner and within their rights as property owners.
Unfortunately, Matt Rosendale, along with Corey Stapleton and Elise Arntzen, voted to indefinitely table consideration of this unique opportunity. Rosendale stated: “During my service on Montana’s land board, I’ve shown that I will work to expand access to public lands for hunters, anglers and others who simply want to enjoy Montana’s great outdoors…” Well, Mr. Rosendale, which is it? Montanans don’t like double-speak. You can’t tell us you support conservation, public lands and expanding access for Montanans while voting against even considering one of the great conservation and public land opportunities in a generation.
Rosendale and the rest of the land board have a golden opportunity to prove to Montanans that they really do have our best interests in mind by first adding this to the agenda and then voting in favor of the Horse Creek Conservation Easement. Further delay is an affront to Montana’s sportsmen and women and the legacy of public access that Rosendale has publicly stated his commitment to.
The next land board meeting is June 18. Email the board now at firstname.lastname@example.org
John Sullivan, chair
Backcountry Hunters & Anglers
Grateful for support in Senate campaign
Grateful. That is the best word to describe my run for the U.S. Senate. Grateful for the thousands of Montanans who donated to my campaign. Grateful for the people who hosted me in their homes, put up yard signs, volunteered and have encouraged me since coming up short in the race.
I am disappointed in the results, but do not regret running. The generous and gracious nature of Montanans was the highlight of my race.
This wonderful state and country are worth fighting for. We are headed in the wrong direction in so many ways, starting with our national debt, but our people are the best.
Thanks especially to Yellowstone County and surrounding voters for your generous support.
I am grateful.
Thanks and God Bless,
Obamacare helps young Montanans
I was about a half-mile from my friend’s dorm when I got in a bike accident, so I bowed my head as I walked so that anyone who would walk past me couldn’t see me crying or the blood running down my face. I didn’t know what I looked like, and I didn’t want to try to talk to anyone, it just hurt like crazy to move or breathe.
After a short ER wait, I was brought into a private room, where the nurse evaluated me. I received pain medication promptly, I was ushered in a wheelchair to get X-rays of my neck and leg, and I received stitches on my face that left me with a scar. The facial surgeon attending me told me that if I hadn’t worn my helmet, I likely would have suffered from lasting brain damage or died.
I was a college student working a part-time, minimum wage job, and my parents couldn’t afford to financially support or assist me in any way. But thanks to the Affordable Care Act, I was able to afford purchasing my own health insurance through exchange. Thanks to that coverage, I had low co-pays and minimal out-of-pocket fees.
Tax cuts shift costs to average Montanans
For the 115th US Congress, wealth care is a lot more important than is health care. Therefore it's OK to pay for the tax cut by taking money from health care. OK to borrow more money when you pay for increasing the federal deficit by 25 percent to a trillion dollars in 2019.
OK for you to have losses, costs and problems caused by already warmed oceans and an already warmed climate.
The K brothers have stealthily influenced Congress. They lobbied for the tax cut giveaway, which reportedly cuts their annual federal taxes by $1 billion.
Four or more of our USA cabinet officials are very close to the Koch brothers.
In my opinion, without Gov. Steve Bullock, the K brothers influence on our Montana legislature would have “brownbacked” Montana.
In 2003 the K brothers and friends influenced our Montana legislators to cut Montana income tax rate for the top 1 percent, also cut capital gains tax rate.
The Montana Legislature cut $100 million from health and human services in 2017, triggering a like amount of federal cuts.
But in 2019, the wealthiest in Montana will get around a $225 million tax break.
The plan is to protect those tax cuts by voting in a Montana sales tax.
Please start carefully observing what the Koch brothers donor network does in Montana.
Please consider lasting benefits of removing the 2003 Montana income tax cuts, also capital gains tax cuts, to the wealthiest 1 percent in Montana.
Democracy is the best response to plutocracy.
Suicide risk high in rural Montana
It’s time we talk about one of the most serious issues in rural America, mental health.
The Centers for Disease Control released a report that shows farmers have a higher suicide rate than any other occupation. Farmers’ stress levels are rising for a multitude of reasons, and we need to take action now to save lives.
Agriculture is Montana’s No. 1 industry, and mental health professional shortages continue to plague the frontier.
For me, this issue is intensely personal. My father, a farmer, was born on the family farm during the Depression. My father died on the same family farm. We lost him to suicide. Shortly after his death, I decided to do whatever I can to help prevent another farm family from experiencing the same tragedy.
One major step I’ve taken to raise awareness was to reach out to Sen. Jon Tester, the Senate’s only working farmer.
I told him that we need better mental health services for farmers, ranchers and other folks in agriculture-related occupations.
Tester sponsored the Farmers First Act to establish a new grant program to provide funding for behavioral health professionals. It’s a bill that will take real steps to give farmers the tools they need to relieve stress and live successful, balanced lives.
I want to thank Sen. Tester and ask my fellow Montanans to help those around them that are struggling. Together we can make a difference and save lives.
Don't support tobacco tax initiative
I would like to strongly urge everyone to research the information before signing petitions. The people outside the courthouse and the library are grossly misrepresenting the petitions and what they are for. Like Initiative 185. They tell you it is to save Medicaid for the poor. Take the time to read the initiative. Also only a small portion of the money is "earmarked" for Medicaid. As you all know "earmarked" just means that is the original intent, but at the whim of the politicians they can pull that money and use it toward any pet project that they may have. Furthermore, I do not believe that any small group should be made to pay a tax that the rest of us do not. Unlike the politician that believes that, "The only fair tax is the one that you pay and I don't." If we need something funded that helps us all then we all should share the tax together.
Rosendale doesn't value public lands at most Montanans do
"It’s official — Matt Rosendale is the Republican candidate running for Senate in Montana. I just have one question: how is it possible that Rosendale was their best candidate, when his entire record consists of voting against Montana values?
Matt Rosendale can try to convince Montanans to forget his Maryland roots all he wants, but it won’t change his voting record. Matt Rosendale showed his true colors when he was in the Montana Legislature and he campaigned on transferring off our public lands —something that is almost universally unpopular with Montanans. I assume Rosendale championed this deeply unpopular position with the perspective of being a real estate developer, not from traveling the state and talking to Montanans.
Rosendale has also repeatedly voted against helping Montana’s veterans, including voting against funding for the much-awaited Butte veterans home. He was one of only a few state senators to vote against a bipartisan bill to crack down on sex trafficking in Montana, and to protect the child victims of such a horrific crime. And as state insurance commissioner, Rosendale’s only notable accomplishment has been to rubber-stamp rate hikes to Montanans’ health insurance.
If Rosendale’s out-of-state biography won’t turn off Montana voters, his repeated stands against Montana values will. Rosendale’s stint in public service was clearly only serving one person: himself.
Would a real estate expert make the mistake Rosendale claims?
Here in Montana, our word is our bond and honesty matters. That’s why I was surprised to learn that Matt Rosendale signed a legal document to pledge that he was a resident of Maryland as recently as three years ago — while he was serving in the Montana state Legislature!
Rosendale has been a real-estate developer for some 40-odd years. He proudly touts this in speeches, debates and on his website. Yet when Rosendale sold some of his own Maryland property in 2015, he claimed that he didn’t understand the real-estate paperwork and “accidentally” signed two documents to secure a tax exemption exclusively for residents of Maryland.
I may not be a real estate expert, but I’ve seen the documents where Rosendale signed under penalty of perjury that he was a Maryland resident. They were short and easy to understand. Rosendale signed twice on the dotted line that Maryland was his home state of residence.
It seems to me that Rosendale either lied about where he lived to get a tax break, or he lied to Montanans that he lived in Big Sky Country so he could run a political campaign here.
Either way, the situation raises many questions about Rosendale’s honesty, integrity, and ethics. Montanans take pride in our state, and we also take pride in our character, and Rosendale has shown with his actions that he’s just not one of us.
Keep your religion in your house, not mine
In regard to the June 6 letter by Cynthia Marble, "Christian view of marriage debased," referring to Darrell Ehrlick, Gazette editor:
My opinion is the Christian view has been crammed down all Americans' throats, excessively, for the past 38 years, starting with Ronald Reagan. The so-called Christian view got into all things "political" and has ever since.
I, for one, want the Christian view minimalized, and if you wish to continue your cramming, we all must allow all religious views. America is a melting pot of all religions; therefore, all religions must be present at all times. I would appreciate it, myself, if each religion would worship in their own houses and leave my house alone. I am a believer, exactly what that is, is faith that there is a Higher Power than man.
Please stay out of my house/bedroom, my health care and my personal space — and that includes street-corner yelling, saying rude things on my Facebook pages, or abusing me in the public forum, such as anything I do not personally subscribe to!
Don't be fooled by Medicaid 'work' policy
The Trump administration not only has a penchant for bending the truth, but to grossly misinform Americans in a way that harms those most in need of help. In January 2018, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced that states could implement work requirements as a condition of receiving Medicaid coverage. It mentioned “productive work and community engagement” as social determinants of health that would improve health outcomes.
CMS administrator Azar announced his approval of Medicaid work requirements for Indiana at a February press conference: If low-income Medicaid beneficiaries don’t meet work requirements, the policy locks them out of Medicaid coverage. The factors that really contribute to unemployment of middle- and lower-class workers are: need for training and education, available transportation, local access to jobs, and poor health itself.
CMS wants to punish people for not having a job. This policy exacerbates undesired health conditions and makes it more difficult to find employment. The action creates another barrier to health, which one could argue is the purpose of most Trump Administration actions so far in “cleaning up the swamp.” Making it harder to make healthy choices in health behavior will actually worsen health outcomes, increase disparities and divert investments from good policy interventions that improve health.
We must not be fooled by misleading language about what are true social determinants of health, and what needs to be done about them. The Trump administration doesn’t care about your health or protecting your well-being. People must be alert to undisclosed and usually harmful purposes in this administration’s policy making.
Richard A. Damon, MD
Payday lenders influence Mulvaney
Mick Mulvaney, unlawfully appointed acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, strikes again. The CFPB wants to extend the compliance date of payday lending rule another 445 days from August 2019. If granted, this motion would not only push back compliance deadlines, causing more people to be tricked into financial harm, but would manufacture a delay so Mulvaney can kill the rule entirely.
The bureau’s payday and car-title lending rule creates protections for families against payday lending schemes. Payday loans constantly have 300 percent APR or higher, and have been regulated to 36 percent in Montana.
The payday rule protects families from falling into financial ruin. It contains a common-sense ability-to-repay principal based on borrower’s income and expenses, requiring lenders to determine whether loans are affordable before making them. Affordable loans are ones a borrower can reasonably pay back without re-borrowing or going without basic necessities, like food or rent.
Mulvaney seems to want to kill this common-sense regulation. It once again shows the payday lender influence over Mulvaney, who received campaign contributions while in Congress.
The evidence is overwhelming predatory 300 percent APR loans trap borrowers in unaffordable cycles of debt, causing severe financial harm including bank penalty fees, delinquency on other bills, or bankruptcy. There’s no reason to postpone the rule, doing so shows disdain for consumer protection and low-income communities targeted by debt trap loans.
Montanans know the harms of these loans, and all Americans should be safe from predatory loans, no matter where they live.
How elite exert power in America
I encourage everyone who wonders why we cannot fund such obvious needs as infrastructure, education and health care to read to read the article by Steven Brill in the May 28 issue of Time Magazine. Here is what he says in an abbreviated form.
First, he explains that he knows of what he writes because he has been part of the whole thing. He compares today with when he started his career in 1975.
In 1975, the CEOs of major corporations were paid an average of 15 times the salary of their average worker. Today that CEO makes a salary of 300 times greater than his or her average worker.
In addition, this CEO is now surrounded by high-paid lawyers and lobbyists (of which there are over 20 for every member of Congress). They are there to protect the company and its CEO from any legislation that might raise taxes or regulations.
Brill's bottom line is this: With the protection afforded by lawyers and lobbyists, very few bills that threaten the elite position of these CEOs and their companies see the light of day. This is one of the reasons why Congress has not passed a comprehensive budget bill on time since 1994.
So, who do we send us to Washington to represent us? Hopefully not one of the protected or a sympathizer or one of their wannabes.
Speak up against the evil separation of refugee kids from parents
"Do unto others as you would have done unto you." Luke 6:31. "Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not for of such is the kingdom of God." Matthew 19:14.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions likes to wear his religion on his sleeve, and Donald Trump pretends to, but neither seems to know what Christianity is about. Their new policy of separating children from parents attempting to enter the U.S., whether legally or illegally, clearly violates Christian and moral principles, not to mention international human rights treaties to which the U.S. is a signatory.
This is being done with people who are legally applying for asylum, have not crossed the border, and have committed no crime.
Such separation does immediate and lifelong harm to young children however they are treated physically; pediatricians call it "separation trauma."
Sessions and Trump lie when they say this is required by a law passed by Democrats. The law they refer to concerns undocumented minors attempting to enter the U.S. without parents. No previous administration has perpetrated such cruelty.
I am disappointed, though not surprised, that none of Montana's congressional delegation has said a word about this evil policy. Congress should immediately end it. And let us all remember that under the Fort Laramie and Hellgate treaties, which have never been rescinded or modified, everyone in Montana who is not Native American is here illegally.
Fagg reaps what he sows
Heartened to see that apparently it wasn't just "hardcore Democrats" that found Russ Fagg's racist TV ad and campaign offensive. You just had to be a human being to be offended.
He quit his judgeship to pursue this Senate seat. What will you do now? You sat with an empty courtroom in the first part of your judgeship because your tough law-and-order campaign stance had attorneys not wanting to try cases in your courtroom. You made many questionable rulings and supported Todd Baugh after he blamed Stacey Rambold's rape victim who had committed suicide.
Hispanics or anyone other than white in this county are probably thrilled that you are no longer a judge (still calling yourself one — how does that work?). Turns out, stealing a page from Trump's race-baiting playbook didn't work out so well for you. You reap what you sow.
Tester works hard for Montana veterans
When Sen. Jon Tester was attacked last month for doing his job as ranking member of the Veteran Affairs Committee demanding strong leadership for the VA, he responded in the way he knows best: staying above the fray and working twice as hard to deliver promises to our veterans. We have lived in Montana all or most of our lives and know that Tester is a man of character and integrity. Throughout his career as Montana senator and then as U.S. senator, he has worked hard in a bipartisan way on issues that affect all of us. His record on providing healthcare for Montanans, banking regulations, immigration reform and his positions on women's health and LGBT rights, environmental and energy, among other issues, show that he is working for his constituents and not just along party lines.
Last week Sen. Tester successfully passed his bill to revamp the VA Community Care Program for all vets, enabling them to get health care from local doctors if unable to get that care from the VA. This is a huge, long-awaited improvement which has often kept veterans waiting months for the care they need. This is an issue that is especially important to our family. My husband John is a Vietnam veteran who served two tours in the 173rd Airborne, earning a Bronze Star, Purple Heart and other commendations. He has struggled since then with multiple health problems, and was often discouraged by long delays and inadequate care which often resulted in poor outcomes. Improvements have been made in recent years, and caregivers and providers work hard within the VA system to make his life and the lives of other vets better.
This is what Sen. Tester has always done — put vets first, ahead of partisan politics. This bill, which Trump said he would sign, is a win for Montana. We are fortunate to have Sen. Tester fighting for us in Washington, D.C. We do not need partisan smear campaigns, especially from outsiders with their ridiculous, disgraceful ads.
Learn more, and vote for Sen. Jon Tester.
Don't sell Tester short on the VA
Recent letters to The Gazette concerning Sen. Jon Tester and the VA have been very misleading.
First, there has been a federal hiring freeze in place.
Second, Tester, a Democrat, must co-sponsor a bill together with Sen. Isakson, a Republican; that bill must then be approved by the Senate and the House of Representatives. And third, that bill must be signed by the president and sent to a budget committee for funding. It is a labor-intensive process which takes time.
Sen. Tester has, by far, done more for veterans than anyone in the past. When he took office, we had to travel to Ft. Harrison in Helena. There, we had to travel at 11 cents per mile, pay our own lodging, hope to see a doctor, and then return home. That has all changed now, thanks to Sen. Tester, so don't sell him short on an under-performing VA system. He is doing a very good job with what he has to work with.
Morris W. Hall
Guns valued more than children
Every day I drive by an American flag on Grand Avenue. Most of the time it is at half-mast. I'm wondering if it should be placed permanently at half-mast, with a small plaque underneath it that reads, "This flag is at half-mast because of the senseless deaths of hundreds of American school children. We value guns over kids. So let them die."
Tester mars veterans ceremonies
Every time Sen. Tester attends a ceremony, he just cannot resist turning it into something political. The senator spits in the eye of every man and woman who gave their lives in service to our country when he turns a solemn day like Memorial Day into his personal campaign opportunity. If he truly cared about veterans and our military, he would take the time to learn about these special days and he would have an understanding of what the day is all about. The fact that he continues to annually mar solemn occasions, that veterans hold so dear, with politics shows that he truly doesn’t understand the significance of the day or he just doesn’t care. If he is smart enough to be a senator, surely, he is smart enough to know that these days are not about him and not appropriate places to stump for office. The fact of the matter is, the only thing he cares about is getting re-elected and if he has to walk all over our veterans both living and deceased and our most sacred traditions to do it, he will. Senator, Memorial Day is not about the VA, not about you, not about your campaign, not about your most recent bill or something you accomplished 11 years ago. Memorial Day is about those in the armed forces who gave their lives in service to our country and nothing else. Senator, you owe everyone an apology.
Oil exports keep increasing
How can we achieve energy independence when we're exporting oil? The oil executives’ pitch for independence seems to be at odds with the figures from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economics and Statistics Administration, (census.gov/foreign-trade/press-release), Exhibit 7, that shows we exported $8.4 billion worth of crude oil just this year. And in fact the figure grew by $0.4 billion already this year.
Graduation security went too far
I came from South Dakota to watch a graduation. I was so upset about all the security at the Metra, really. I have a bad back, and we had to stand in line, really, then they told me I could not bring in a camera, because it looked professional — it was a Cool Pix. You people are going crazy over too much security. It was a graduation. I cannot believe it, Billings, scanned us, my purse is not bigger than 12-by-12 inches. I am a diabetic, I carry an insulin meter and food in case my sugar goes low. Give me a reason for all this, please!
Spencer, South Dakota
Tester is wrong about the VA
On the Memorial Day weekend, I am naturally mindful of my father’s service during World War II. He was with the 71st Infantry Division (part of Patton’s Third Army) as a staff sergeant in command of a small mortar company. They were on the front lines for 59 days before the war ended in Europe on May 8, 1945. They liberated a number of concentration camps in Austria.
My dad had a botched surgery at the VA hospital. He had to be resuscitated on the operating table and almost died. Later, he had corrective surgery at St. Vincent.
By his own admission, Sen. Jon Tester believes the VA health system needs to be improved. However, instead of throwing good money at a failed system, I think Tester should be advocating for a better health-care system for all Americans.
The vets certainly deserve the best care we can provide. However, so do teachers, civil servants, labor workers, the indigent and all Americans.
More men and women died and served during WWII than all the other United States conflicts since, combined. Soon, they will be gone. The remaining vets should be assimilated into a thriving, innovative private system. They should be given a voucher to shop for the best care for them. We must keep our promise to them. They deserve the best, not a botched third-rate care system Tester tries to patch up.
This is just another example of the wrongheaded thinking of Tester. We can do better.
Douglas M. Osborne
Daines can't spin his way out of this bill
Sen. Steve Daines’ cleverly titled “Protect Public Use for Public Lands” Act is the most disingenuous insult to all Montanans in the history of our state. Daines wants to make Montanans think he’s for public access, but facts are inconvenient things with this senator who listens to a few chosen motorized users while completely ignoring thousands of hunters, fishermen and hikers.
Daines’ bill would open up to motorized use, mining, logging and road-building on 449,000 acres of the best elk and deer habitat in the state. And despite his claim, anybody can go into these areas to hunt for big game, or just to enjoy wildlife and wild country. These areas are the holding ground for our big game herds, and they are good for all hunters because elk and mule deer come from these areas to other public land.
What Daines left out of his talking points on this disaster of a bill is the fact that he’s really against public access. We haven’t forgotten that Daines joined a Texas congressman to attack a U.S. Forest Service ranger in Livingston who was working to open up public trails into the Crazy Mountains. Daines sided with a handful of landowners and outfitters to keep the Crazies locked up for them, while the public is locked out.
Daines can spin his bill, but we know the truth about who he listens to and how much he votes against Montana hunters.
Gianforte won't quit supporting Trump
Rep. Greg Gianforte was recently quoted as saying, "The people of Montana sent me here to Washington to drain the swamp." Since the swamp has turned into a cesspool under Donald J. Trump, it appears that Gianforte has failed miserably. The Trump administration has Scott Pruitt, Ryan Zinke, Steve Mnuchin and Ben Carson recklessly spending taxpayers’ money on boondoggle trips, outrageously expensive and unnecessary security while traveling, a soundproof phone booth, and extremely expensive office furniture to name a few. As long as these Trump minions are loyal to him, it seems that it's totally permissible to screw the taxpayers.
Trump is undermining our democracy with his constant attacks on the FBI, the media, and the DOJ. This is the behavior of a dictator and Trump has repeatedly expressed praise and admiration for dictators. Our country has lost the respect of our allies and lost our status as a world leader. Trump continues to embarrass us on the world stage with his erratic and demeaning behavior and his inability to be truthful and keep the commitments that our country has made.
Many Republicans are just standing by while Trump normalizes lying. Fact-checking shows that Trump has lied or made misleading statements more than 3,000 times since taking office.
If Gianforte wants to drain the swamp, he should start with Trump and the clowns that work in the Trump circus.
Christians entitled to their beliefs
Right on, Cynthia Marble of Red Lodge and Ed Halland of Bridger, I too believe that Gazette editor Darrell Ehrlick has made a point to pick on Christians for their basic beliefs. The ones I know don't hate anybody, but we are entitled to accept biblical statements as what we believe in. If Ehrlick doesn't agree that we are entitled to our own beliefs, then he should find a different subject to editorialize about. I am not for or against LGBT people. They don't have to believe in my cause and I surely don't have to believe in theirs.
ACA covers young Montanans' health care
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 has provided necessary health care coverage for thousands of Americans and has become the most significant change in our health-care system since the introduction of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965.
Thanks to the ACA, as a 22-year-old student, I am permitted to remain on my parent’s health insurance until I’m 26, regardless of my address, educational, marital, or tax independence status. Roughly 7,000 young Montanans like me are benefiting from being able to stay on our parents’ health insurance, saving us and our families the high price of a new policy.
The assistance and support that the ACA provides is vital to young Montanans like me, as with it I am a more secure in the knowledge that I can worry about student loans, finding my dream job, and living my life to the fullest under the Big Sky, without fearing that a health scare could put my or my parent’s financial security at risk.