Tell us which bits you don’t like

Please, Mr. Rehberg, could you be more specific about what part of the Obama stimulus program you don’t like. Simply being critical of the federal spending, in general and on principle, isn’t good enough.

As Pogie (over at Intelligent Discontent) capably points out, Rehberg boasts all about the federal pork money he brings to Montana.

Perhaps Rehberg could tell us which of the following federally funded projects he doesn’t like. After all, he voted against the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Here’s some of things he didn’t want to fund:

* Fixing Rye Creek Road, on the Bitterroot National Forest, was one of four water enhancement projects funded by the first allocation of federal stimulus moneys in Montana.

* Statewide, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will deliver $31.4 million in roadwork on national forests.

* $3.4 million has been allocated for energy efficient upgrades for Montana schools, including projects as lighting, boilers and heating-and-ventilation system upgrades.

* $77 million in federal stimulus funds will go to reconstruction or renovation of five of Montana’s border stations.

More examples and details of how the federal stimulus dollars are being spent in Montana can be found here. The State of Montana estimates that 11,000 jobs will be created or saved here, although they’ll never be able to prove those numbers.

Surely, Mr Rehberg isn’t against fixing up the old roads, school facilities, and border crossings? If so, perhaps he could clearly explain why government live up to its responsibility to be good stewards of these necessary facilities. Does he want rural residents to continue to drive on sub-standard roads? Does he want school kids freezing from poorly maintained classrooms, or does he want school districts to be frittering away their limited budgets on huge energy bills? Or does he want those of us who must cross the border on a regular basis (and that is mainly Montanans and Albertans) to have to wait while the border patrol works around an antiquated, cramped, and inefficient border crossing?

Perhaps Mr Rehberg would also like to explain why he doesn’t want us to spend money on hunting and fishing supplies. You see, in a similar vein, the Fed and the Treasury Department provided nearly $400 million to the Cabela’s credit-card operations through the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility, or TALF. That’s right – without the federal bailout moneys, Cabela’s, that well known outdoor retailer, would have canceled much of its credit card program. Surely Mr. Rehberg wants to explain what’s wrong with helping us buy all those guns, bullets, cases, rods, jackets and fishing flies?


Whose faceless bureaucracy is that?

Denny Rehberg continues to get my goat up. His latest schtick seems to be the “faceless bureaucracy in Washington, D.C.” Like some high school snitch, our proud representative now wants us to turn in public servant who is wasting our stimulus funds.

All well and good, I suppose. Accountability, transparency and all that.

Problem is that Denny seems to think that the faceless bureaucracy is the problem of all our ills. It was the reason why he supported the Montana Fire Arms Act. It is part of how he supports the Hardin jail being used for Guantanamo Bay prisoners. He calls the NCAA as bureaucratic as any federal government department for insisting that there not be gambling on the outcomes of college football playoffs. And, yes, it was part of why he opposes the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act.

And the big kicker is on health care, where Denny’s main point seems to be the evils of putting Washington in charge. This is where we find him out. As Mike Dennison reports:

Rehberg … attended a May 6 briefing in Washington, D.C., by political consultant Frank Luntz, who wrote a 28-page memo instructing Republicans how to defeat Democratic health reform proposals.

The memo, among other things, advised Republicans to characterize Democratic plans as a “Washington takeover” of health care that would put “politicians” or “bureaucrats” in charge of deciding care.

I know this is great soundbite politics. But, stop and think about health care in this country for a moment. Today you face an endless avalanche of paperwork should you ever need help. On top of billing from your doctor, you will receive Statements of Benefits from your health insurer (should be lucky enough to have one), summary of charges from the hospital, letters of limitation from your Health Management Organization (should you be so unlucky as to have one), bills from the x-ray technician, bills from the radiologist (often based in India where he reads your x-rays), bills from the phlebotomist, bills from the pharmacy, and so on.

Tell me again why single-payer systems are such a bad idea? Somehow I think I prefer bulk-billing whereby all those folks charge the government and leave me out of it. I can’t understand all the codes, the hidden levies and surcharges, the co-insurer this and the insurance co-pay that. I’d rather have the federal bureaucrat keeping check of all those charges than leaving it to me (as I am recuperating hopefully) to tackle all the intricacies.

As anyone who has had a long stay in hospital will tell you, we already have bureaucrats “rationing” the health care you receive. They’re called HMO’s and they tell your doctor what treatments are acceptable and what are not. They have a listing of drugs that are covered and what are not. They tell the hospital when you are allowed to stay and recuperate fully, and when you are not. Try getting your doctor to explain their reasoning to you and you will hear a exasperated litany of abuse for “faceless bureaucrats” making medical decisions in some office, far far away.

Still, it sounds like Denny is sticking to his marching orders pretty well. From a political consultant in Washington DC, no less! I guess some bureaucracies are OK, while others are not.

What’s his game?

Our proud representative for the whole of Montana, Denny Rehberg, recently gave testimony opposing the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act. He is quoted as saying that “more than 96% of us who live in these areas oppose this bill.”

Mr. Rehberg, perhaps, needs to get out a little more. Could he even find a single town, city, or pub in which 96% of people know about NREPA, let alone oppose it?

Instead, the harsh reality is, as outfitter-extraordinaire, Smoke Elser and a broad-ranging group of experts recently noted:

It has been 26 years since Montana has permanently protected a single acre of wild country. Since our last wilderness area was added in 1983, the nation has seen 439 new wilderness Areas created, none of them in Montana.

And, although I don’t know exactly where the figures come from, former state senator Paul Richards recently suggested that “78 percent of all Montanans support full protection for our region’s remaining National Forest roadless wildlands.” (I think he may be counting comments from the more than 1.6 million Americans wrote comments on the federal roadless protection policy, which is a dubious gauge of public sentiment. But, still. We would all agree that Montanans like wilderness.)

Then, in another scoop for, and then two days later in the paper of record, Denny Rehberg suggests that he is not opposed to wilderness just because he is opposed to NREPA. Instead, Rehberg says that,

The worst thing we can do for the public land we all cherish so much is put faceless federal agencies in control of something as important as land management.

Nevermind the hard-working folks in the U.S. Forest Service, all the National Park Service rangers, the proud federal firefighters , or the numerous fish & game agents that work at our National Wildlife Refuges. Denny doesn’t call those federal servants names, but he sure doesn’t seem to trust them, either.

What is the alternative? Turn over the public lands to the state government?

Perhaps, then, he might take a look at the what is going on all around the country. That’s right, state governments are struggling these days.

* In California, Governor Schwarzenegger is proposing to padlock and close nearly 80 percent of California’s state parks.

* Arizona is going to close 8 state parks.

* Out in Washington, a state park representative suggests up to spokesperson for the parks says they could see the closure of as many as 40 state parks.

* And, in Illinois, former Gov. Blagojevich closed 11 state parks and 13 historic sites.

So, let’s put the two together – first, take the public land away from the government of the American people, and second, give them to state agencies who can’t afford to manage them. The result? Further loss of confidence in government and increased calls to privatize the whole shebang. That’s right – why not let KOA, Backcountry Horsemen or even Disney manage our parks and wilderness? Aha, that’s his game.

And, he thinks that’s a workable solution that truly reflects Montana? I’m shocked, just shocked. Just when Montanans need their forests, parks, and wilderness more than ever, Rehberg simply wants to take them away from us!