Havre Daily News
New economic thinking for coronavirus pandemic

When the Great Recession happened in 2008-09, resulting in double-digit unemployment and the destruction of trillions of dollars of wealth, few economists, including Nobel Prize-winning laureates, had seen it coming. And, those who had, like the University of Chicago’s Raghuram Rajan, had been widely mocked by their fellow economists for being alarmist.

Of course, just as a good doctor can’t always predict her or his patient’s deep illness and a good mechanic can’t always anticipate a spun rod bearing in a car engine, a world-class economist won’t always be ahead of the next economic downturn.

That said, few would characterize economists’ performances during the Great Recession, as well as now, during the coronavirus pandemic, as confidence-inspiring. We need new, bolder thinking.

Thus, where is the cogent plan for nations to weather a prolonged loss of global economic demand, an extended shutdown of our economy? (And, for the sake of robustness, let’s plan for a worst-case scenario, while hoping for the best: A multi-year pandemic that halts most all economic activity.)

In the words of Tess Vigeland, one of the hosts of a new podcast, “Pandemic Economics,” “I don’t see any solutions out there. And that’s what scares me.”

In the context of the economy, there has essentially been only one camp for helping everyday Americans and their small businesses: Compensate, by either re-opening the economy, issuing subsidies, issuing bridge loans, or some combination of the aforementioned, their lost revenue.

However, in focusing on compensating for lost revenue, we risk a mismatch between one’s expenses and the revenue needed to satisfy them. While people await their government checks, they also know that that assistance will probably be inadequate to paying the bills. In other words, bankruptcy, in many cases, will be delayed, not prevented.

Focusing, instead, on waiving expenses — while still providing government subsidies for various essential items — gets to the root worry on most people’s mind: paying their bills.

This starts with the banks, which were generously bailed out by the federal government during the Great Recession. Payments for car loans, home mortgages, credit cards, student loans (which should be, at least in part, forgiven), and consumer loans should be halted, without interest and missed payment accrual. The situation should be frozen, to be restarted once the pandemic has passed. On the other side, the payments banks must pay to others can likewise be forgiven until society is truly ready to be re-opened.

It extends to rent payments, as well, which should be halted until the pandemic has passed (and, of course, evictions must be disallowed). And, regarding essential goods and services like health care, utilities and food — where Cost of Goods Sold is incurred, workers are being paid, and a complex (even multinational) supply chain may need protecting — the federal government should commit to paying for those goods and services in full. (During emergent, disinflationary conditions, large deficits are required.)

The fundamental tenet here is that your revenue is my expenses, and my revenue is your expenses. When we remove the expense variable from the relationship, there is no existential need for revenue — for persons or businesses. In other words, lost revenue — lost wages, salaries, investment income — becomes inconsequential in the pursuit of financial solvency.

The key advantage in removing expenses from the picture is that the government need not have to guess or customize what the revenue needs of millions of people and businesses are — a task for which, on shortest notice, it is poorly suited. In addition, this approach is sustainable, no matter how long the pandemic should last.

As I heard a worker once say who was stuck in a minimum wage job, “I’d be willing to work for free if they’d just pay my bills.”

That’s where things stand today: The bills of the American people and their businesses need to be addressed and the federal government should take the lead on that. It starts with congressional legislation waiving our expenses — for all Americans and small businesses.

Otherwise, if the pandemic persists and compensatory revenue schemes, however well-intentioned, predictably undershoot expenses, we could actually lose our country.

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Montana Standard
Out of coronavirus should come universal health care

What will America’s health care system look like after the coronavirus pandemic?

Indeed, we’re in the middle of the battle and shouldn’t be distracted from our mission of flattening the curve, mobilizing our nation to supply needed ventilators, masks, and gloves, building out hospital bed capacity, creating a vaccine, and assisting individuals and businesses impacted by the economy’s shutdown.

But if we don’t accept the challenge of simultaneously fighting the virus and laying down a foundation for a better America, then the virus will have won – even after it has run its course.

The virus has exposed what no politician’s rhetoric could: America is in dire need of a universal health care system that ensures every person in our country is comprehensively and affordably covered.

The Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010, was a step in the right direction. But, it was inadequate. Tens of millions remained uninsured or underinsured. Co-payments, premiums, and deductibles have continued their inexorable rise.

With the coronavirus, our nation is discovering a fundamental truth: affordable, quality health care is not only a human right but essential to our national security and economy. As it turns out, our mobility, prosperity, and lives depend on the health of our neighbors and even strangers.

Scientists have been predicting an outbreak of a highly transmissible novel virus for decades, for which there is no vaccine or immunity, and the current coronavirus – SARS CoV-2 – is, statistically speaking, probably not the only such virus in the world. Combined with climate change’s contribution to disease proliferation, globalization, and an ever-expanding human population reducing standoff distance to such deadly, locked-away viruses, we should assume that another pandemic in our lifetime is possible.

Moreover, the mounting, unserved health care needs of our communities – independent of the virus – are undermining the nation. Essential procedures are being skipped by too many in our country who simply cannot afford the medical visits or the related opportunity costs, including the risk of losing one’s job. Preventative care is too seldom pursued, enabling illnesses to get an unfair head start.

That is not only immoral, it’s anti-business. After all, how many potential entrepreneurs with the next big thing in mind – the next Steve Jobs, perhaps – will forgo materializing their dreams into business reality – and the thousands of associated livable-wage American jobs – because of the likelihood of losing employer-dominated health care coverage for their families and themselves? How many companies’ productivity – and profits – would increase if their workers and the country’s labor pool were healthier? How could other nations possibly compete with an America that properly, finally, invests in the health of its people?

As a nation, we’ve lost thousands of our fellow citizens to this pandemic, with a full-blown war’s worth of casualties likely to come. Congress owes it to them and their families that they did not lose their lives in vain, that their fate helped transform America into a more just, secure, and prosperous nation.

Congress should pass emergent legislation this year that establishes Medicare for All or a public option of full Medicare benefits to every person in our country, in perpetuity. And the president should sign it into law.

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Flathead Beacon
Stark Reality of U.S.-Russian Relations

In 2004, I represented COMSUBGRU EIGHT, a U.S. overseas flag command, at the BALTOPS exercise planning conference in Norfolk, Virginia, home of our country’s largest naval base. Among the audience was a cadre of Russian Federation officers, as Russia would be a participant in the exercise. What I presented caused somewhat of a stir: I suggested exploring the feasibility of a joint U.S.-Russian nuclear submarine exercise within the larger BALTOPS exercise framework.

Though U.S. and Russian ground forces had conducted joint exercises before, bringing together our nations’ strategic-level military assets had never happened. After all, each nation’s nuclear submarine force had been a fundamental leg of the “nuclear triad” that had helped keep the Cold War between the Soviet Union and America “cold,” averting war. The idea of such assets intermingling in an exercise in the Baltic Sea was a bold step with, potentially, deep impact.

Though a critic of today’s Russian Federation, I once believed in true rapprochement with Russia and contributed to that end. As a U.S. Naval Academy midshipman, I studied Russian literature – from Dostoevsky to Akhmatova – and the language. In the business sector, I was an engineer based in eastern Russia working on the largest foreign direct investment project in Russia. At the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), I was a post-command exercise manager, with Russia being a member of NATO’s Partnership for Peace program. I’ve traveled to Russia many times, from St. Petersburg to Moscow to Sakhalin Island – though never to meet with Russia’s foreign minister for inexplicable reasons on July 4, after Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. elections, as U.S. Senator Daines.

Unlike Daines, I would approach U.S. relations with Russia in a way that is clear-eyed about the threat that Russia presents to America and the world. I would support our intelligence agencies, with whom I’ve worked, and rebuke efforts to politicize their conclusions.

America’s security in the 21st century depends on being honest about what the Russian Federation has become under Vladimir Putin: an authoritarian oligarchic petro-state that murders journalists, dissidents, and business competitors, invades sovereign nations, interferes in elections, and threatens Western nations with conflict, including nuclear strike.

We need to stop being naïve regarding Russia, before it’s too late. That means, however contrary to the Trump Administration:

• Demand cessation of Russian aggression, including its withdrawal from the sovereign territories it has invaded: eastern Ukraine (Donetsk), southern Ukraine (Crimea), northwestern Georgia (Abkhazia), and north central Georgia (South Ossetia).

• Improve our resiliency against Russian nuclear blackmail. Reestablish the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, from which the Trump Administration withdrew, fortify missile defense systems, and work to reduce nuclear weapons, globally.

• Firm up America’s commitment to NATO’s Article V, which states that an attack on any NATO member is an attack on NATO itself.

• Fortify America’s electoral processes and critical facilities from cyber attacks.

• Request withdrawal of Russian forces from the former U.S. base in northern Syria, leading to the establishment of a safe zone for our (abandoned) Kurdish allies.

• Defend the Magnitsky Act and apply it towards Russian human rights abuses, including assassinations.

Perhaps these items seem too ambitious to achieve, as several would require Russia’s cooperation. Yet, Russia is fragile, as its economy is overwhelmingly dependent on oil and gas sales.

If America, with its massive energy demand, leads on clean, renewable energy, thereby placing real pressure on the Russian economy, Putin would have no choice but to come to the negotiating table on the widest range of issues.

America ought to have transitioned to clean energy the day after 9/11, as an answer to oil-funded terrorism. Given brazen Russian petro-state aggression, the continuance of oil-funded terrorism, and climate change, the case for it today could not be stronger.

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The Montana Post
Do Not Take the Bait, America: Avoid War with Iran

America’s 21st century Middle East wars have cost our country thousands of American lives, hundreds of thousands of injured soldiers, the burden of having contributed to nearly a million Afghan and Iraqi deaths, and, per the latest estimate, $6 trillion, over a quarter of the entire U.S. federal debt.

If that money had been wisely spent, it could have modernized America’s infrastructure, including for clean energy, creating millions of good-paying jobs. Instead, we are left with Middle East destabilization, with no benefit to our nation. Most lamentably, countless sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, would be in the thick of our communities, rather than buried or maimed.

Given the strikes against Iranian assets and people, including General Suleimani, with American blood on his hands, we ought to recall the strategic mistake of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), to which I contributed as an active-duty naval officer stationed abroad.

Alongside others readying their respective units for war, my colleagues and I coordinated the largest nuclear submarine task force in history as part of the “shock and awe” phase of OIF – a war premised on stopping Saddam Hussein’s nuclear weapons program, which turned out not to exist. Moreover, as one who worked with the CIA and SOCOM on weapons of mass destruction (WMD) nonproliferation, American resources were being diverted from monitoring other illicit nuclear sites in order to find the non-existent WMD in Iraq. Perhaps this is why Iran’s nuclear program, among other cases, was able to flourish as American servicepersons fought and died next door in Iraq.

Though I was disappointed that former President Obama had allowed, however inadvertently, ISIS to establish a large caliphate in Iraq and Syria, I was highly supportive of the Iran Nuclear Deal that he forged to avoid the third gulf war since 1991 (an imperfect deal but essential for the times). Similarly, I was appalled when President Trump withdrew America from the Iran Nuclear Deal (as well as abandoning our Kurdish allies in northern Syria and embracing tyrants around the world).

While the Trump Administration’s “maximum pressure” approach to Iran may work, it probably will not. Iran may counterstrike in a way that could kill Americans and lead to all-out war, or it could reconstitute and accelerate its nuclear weapons program, as it just implied by ending its own commitment to the Iran Nuclear Deal.

We as Americans need to ask ourselves: do we want another gulf war (perhaps with tactical nuclear bombs being used, designed for Iran), or do we want to stabilize the situation and focus on value-add projects, like rebuilding our country? If our answer is the latter, then we need to – once emotions have receded from the boiling point – renew Iran’s and our commitment to the Iran Nuclear Deal and get back to things that improve our nations, like job creation.

The right answer, though, may not be so apparent in the White House. Domestic and foreign special interests – including Saudi Arabia’s Mohammad Bin Salman who loathes Iran and may have financial ties with President Trump and his family, those seeking a distraction from President Trump’s impeachment, oil companies which need higher prices from a Middle East war to stay financially solvent, certain segments of the military-industrial complex that prefer war to peace, AIPAC and Israel’s Netanyahu (non-representative of all Israel) who needs a distraction from corruption charges, and even Russia and China who may see a third U.S.-led gulf war as the death-knell of America as a superpower – may be pushing, behind the scenes, for war against Iran.

We, as citizens, must not let that happen.

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Billings Gazette
Why I support food security for all Americans

At the U.S. Naval Academy, as a plebe, our squad leader, a future Navy SEAL, asked our table: “Who here believes in the concept of food stamps?”

Of ten plebes, each of us seated on the front two inches of our seats, our backs ramrod straight and our chins and necks conjoined into what is referred to as a “brace”, only an Irish-Catholic New Yorker and I put out our “paws”, signaling that we did.

I was asked how I could defend that position. I replied: “Sir, because without food stamps as a kid growing up in Montana, I probably wouldn’t be here at Annapolis.” Food assistance programs – from food stamps to free school lunches – enabled my talent to become realized, facilitated, as well, by excellent Montana public school teachers.

On Dec. 4, 2019, with Thanksgiving just past and Christmas approaching, the Trump Administration passed a rule via the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), ostensibly supported by U.S. Senator Daines and U.S. Representative Gianforte, that will deepen cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – our food stamp program — worsening hunger and food insecurity in Montana and throughout America. Based on analysis, the cuts – however couched in base-appealing, partisan rhetoric – will impact nearly 50,000 Montanans receiving SNAP and 20% of SNAP recipients nationally.

President Trump, Daines and Gianforte – all of whom grew up wealthy and privileged – have never known the threat of hunger. And that’s OK – in fact, that’s the way we’d like it to be for everyone. Yet, one needn’t personally experience food insecurity to grasp the morality (including longstanding Christian morality) and talent unlocking mechanism of government food assistance. Either out of a sense of decency or a belief that society runs best when talent is not suppressed by hunger, countless Americans – rich and poor alike – support government programs, free of the constant threat of budgetary cuts, that tackle food insecurity.

Why then, during the holiday season, would such a rule be proposed that will devastate the lives of so many?

It’s important to understand that, in 2017, Daines and Gianforte voted for the Trump tax bill that gave massive tax breaks to America’s wealthiest families and powerful multinational corporations. This resulted in a record $1 trillion annual federal deficit and is projected to add trillions more to an already formidable $23 trillion federal debt.

Contrary to widespread belief, the number of jobs created under Trump has lagged that added during the Obama administration (given the same amount of time), many must work multiple jobs just to put food on the table, and economic inequality is soaring. In addition, publicly-traded corporations used most of the tax cut largess to buy back their own stock or increase their dividends, rather than invest in capital projects and hiring, resulting in an artificial boost to the U.S. stock market, mostly benefiting the ultra-wealthy, including foreign investors.

I believe in tax cuts for the middle class and small businesses. But the 2017 tax bill was an unpatriotic act, burdening us and countless future generations with a runaway federal debt without improving our nation.

President Trump, Senator Daines, and Representative Gianforte, among others, convinced Americans that the 2017 tax bill would result in lower federal deficits and big corporate investments in people. Yet, it was merely a once-in-a-lifetime cash grab by America’s wealthiest families and multinational corporations.

Now, they are scrambling to make cuts everywhere, including to SNAP right before Christmas, in order to appease their base and cover their fiscally negligent tracks before election day.

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Helena Independent Record
Montana Communities deserve to keep their minor league teams

As a boy growing up in Helena, I’d often go to Kindrick Legion Field to watch Helena’s minor league baseball team – first, the Phillies, then Gold Sox, then, lastly, Brewers – do battle against other teams, but also, pre-game, to watch my great-uncle, Denny Dunn, get the field ready for play. Uncle Denny, a groundskeeper at Kindrick Legion Field, was committed to ensuring that the field was in impeccable shape for Helena’s teams. Even after he had been diagnosed with emphysema, well into his later years, I recall him sitting in the riding mower, covering every square inch of the outfield.

When the Brewers left in 2018, that was a big blow to Helena, another whittling down of the institutions that glue, empower and inspire our Montana communities.

Now, Major League Baseball (MLB) has proposed eliminating 42 minor league teams across the nation, including the three remaining Pioneer League teams in Montana – the Billings Mustangs, Great Falls Voyagers, and Missoula PaddleHeads. Indelibly, there are reasons for the proposed drawdown. MLB, whose teams are collectively worth more than $50 billion, has estimated that it can save $21 million per year, or less than $1 million per MLB team owner. In addition, higher-order statistical tools – think “Moneyball” – may have identified other methods by which to develop MLB talent.

That said, as the next U.S. Senator from Montana, I will not take the elimination of Montana’s three minor league baseball teams and the 42 teams overall lightly. I approach this not out of political opportunism, but a deep-seated belief that large, influential organizations in the 21st century – whether corporations like Amazon and Facebook, nonprofits like the National Football League, or pass-through businesses like MLB – should make America’s communities stronger.

After all, our small Main Street businesses, frequently under assault by mega-corporations, are meaningfully contributing to our communities. They hire locally and pay taxes. Their workers volunteer in the community. Many such businesses serve as meeting points, bringing people together, breaking down divisions, entertaining and informing.

ssive organizations like MLB should do more. Indeed, some may argue that showcasing a 7-game World Series as good as this year’s and a 162 game-long season is more than enough. I won’t disagree. In fact, MLB, as a legal business entity, has the right to provide society nothing beyond adhering to the rule of law and its core, profitable offerings.

But, likewise, the United States of America, vis-à-vis Congress, has no obligation to extend the anti-trust exemption conferred to MLB, nor to minimize the taxes incurred by pass-through entities like MLB. Should MLB move forward with eliminating Montana’s three minor league teams – indispensable community institutions that also connect MLB to rural America, a key source of its talent – I will join, if elected as U.S. senator, the others in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives whom object to MLB’s plan (already, publicly, more than 100 members) to rescind MLB’s sweetheart tax and monopoly privileges.

Similarly, our country has no duty to protect the special interest-built regulatory framework that enables Amazon to, again, pay no federal taxes, Facebook to algorithmically itemize our citizens into echo chambers, maximizing disinformation and division, or JP Morgan to create and sell the next-generation of economy-cratering financial derivatives, as it did prior to the 2008-09 Great Recession.

Our country’s continued greatness necessitates holding even the most powerful of organizations, however admired, accountable. I expect MLB, a recipient of political largess, to care every bit as much about America’s communities as my great uncle – Greatest Generation, U.S. Navy veteran, and Kindrick Legion Field’s groundskeeper – did.

John Mues is a Democratic U.S. Senate candidate, former naval officer and U.S. Naval Academy graduate, Montana high school teacher, and senior engineer in the business sector with London Business School MBA.

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Billings Gazette
Let’s honor U.S. heroes with action, not just words

I’m no hero, but I’ve been privileged to have served alongside heroes.

One such man is Mike “Groove” McGreevy. We completed the arduous Pre-Mini BUD/S training together at the U.S. Naval Academy, during our Second Class (or, Junior) year as midshipmen. That training took me a full month to recover. McGreevy, conversely, ran the Marine Corps Marathon at a brisk pace soon afterwards. He then, some years later, went on to lay down his life for our nation in Afghanistan as a Navy SEAL officer of a Quick Reaction Force trying to help four fellow SEALS under siege from hundreds of Taliban. Mike is a hero and is immortalized in the memories of his Naval Academy classmates, SEAL team-mates, and in the Naval Academy’s hallowed Memorial Hall and Arlington Cemetery.

Jeff McDonald is another. He and I served together at Submarine Group Eight at the outset of Operation Iraqi Freedom and coordinated the largest nuclear submarine task force in our nation’s history, paving the way for the ground invasion of Iraq. After two and a half years at Group Eight, Jeff and I were sent back to an operational submarine. He was assigned to the USS San Francisco and I was vectored to the USS Asheville, both of which were being deployed overseas. We were both in the Western Pacific Theater, under the operating authority of Task Force 74, when Jeff’s boat ran into, at flank speed, an un-surveyed, newly formed underwater mountaintop. Almost everyone aboard the ship was injured, including Jeff, and one killed. Jeff hobbled his way to the Control Room, as the boat barely resurfaced after an emergency blow of its main ballast tanks, and manned the bridge as Officer of the Deck, safely navigating the ship, with devastated hull.

In Guam, while my own boat was getting some maintenance done, Jeff and I spent hours together and deliberately avoided talking about the deadly accident, though, after a pint or two, he’d return to that day and the ubiquitous blood found throughout the submarine from forward to aft. Had it not been for Jeff’s stewardship in the bridge, the USS San Francisco and its 120 crew members may have slipped permanently beneath the Pacific’s waves.

Montana, of course, punches well above its weight in supplying our nation with patriotic young men and women. In fact, Montana, outside of Alaska, has the highest rate of military service in the nation, and our heroes range from the posthumous Medal of Honor-winner Travis Atkins of Bozeman to, though our politics differ, Robert O’Neil of Butte, who helped hunt down Osama Bin Laden, to those like Bud Campbell who survived the Bataan Death March of World War II, the Korean War’s Newton Old Crow Sr., and the Vietnam War’s Bob Jewell.

Veterans Day gives us all a chance to reflect on those who have served our nation in uniform. It has also given me, as a U.S. Senate candidate, the opportunity to develop the policies that will help our veterans: protecting and fortifying the Veterans Administration, destigmatizing and treating war’s hidden injuries, including PTSD and TBI (traumatic brain injury), expanding rural Montana’s access to high quality health care, incentivizing the hiring and training of veterans, solving veteran homelessness, and tackling our state’s suicide epidemic head-on.

In other words, it is important to honor our veterans’ sacrifice through smart, empathetic, and high-return investments, responsive communications, and inter-agency collaboration rather than just symbols and words.

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Montanans Are Paying the Price of the Trade War with China

In traveling throughout Montana as a U.S. Senate candidate, I can attest that our farmers, ranchers, small businesses, and everyday consumers are being hurt by the poorly conceived trade war with China.  Companies have gone bankrupt, grain is being dumped on the ground outside of bins, train cars are sitting idle on railroad tracks, and … Continued

Great Falls Tribune
9/11 – Never Again

We Cannot Forget the Significance of the 9/11 and U.S.S. Cole Attacks

The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 occurred in the middle of my naval service.  They also weren’t the first time that America had been hit by Al Qaida. That initial attack had occurred less than a year before, as I was serving in the Persian Gulf. 

That day, I had just, as our submarine’s SCUBA Diving Officer, finished up a security dive with a swim buddy around and under the hull, ensuring no abnormalities.  The water had been warm, and visibility had been effectively zero. A sheep carcass, perhaps from the passing barges of animals, was floating outside the submarine’s protective berm.  As a result, we swam slowly and methodically in order to cover everything. 

Once topsides, we received flash message traffic to immediately get our submarine underway, a full day earlier than planned.  I shed my SCUBA gear and began calling crew members back to the submarine, many of whom had been ashore exploring Bahrain. Then, we received a follow-up message, ordering us to use a special procedure to further reduce our time to sea. 

I quickly changed into my uniform, gathered our engineering team in the Wardroom, and briefed the team on the directive.  I headed aft to Maneuvering, the supervisory space of the propulsion plant, and led, as Engineering Officer of the Watch, the reactor startup’s execution.  We successfully established propulsion, and, in record time, got safely to sea. 

Before we dove, we learned the reason for our accelerated underway:  the USS Cole that day, in Aden Harbor, Yemen, had been bombed, killing seventeen American sailors.

Upon diving, we assumed position in our operating area, went to Battle Stations, spun up Tomahawk missiles, and stood by for authorization to launch an attack against Al Qaida. 

When 9/11 happened, eleven months later, our submarine was in Pearl Harbor Submarine Base.  As we watched the carnage of the Twin Towers, Pentagon, where an Annapolis classmate of mine was killed, and Flight 93, we agonized with the victims and their families, just as we had with those of the USS Cole.  

Shortly after, I received orders to COMSUBGRU EIGHT/CTF 69 directing me to supervise a task force of deployed submarines, including those with Navy SEAL capabilities.  Initially, from that overseas joint operating center in a deep underground bunker, war seemed distant, as Afghanistan was beyond our theater. Yet, over the next 2 ½ years, our own theater became transformed.  I coordinated one of the largest nuclear submarine task forces in history for Operation Iraqi Freedom, collaborated with CIA and SOCOM on weapons of mass destruction issues, built multinational naval exercises, and planned Global War on Terrorism missions requiring the President’s direct approval.

Many issues are critical in the 2020 U.S. Senate race, from healthcare to our agricultural markets.  National security is also critical. In particular, I will fight, as Montana’s next U.S. Senator, to keep partisanship out of, and data-driven decision making in, our governmental agencies, from CIA to Homeland Security.  I will also work to restore our alliances around the world, especially with countries whose troops have fought in our wars and whose intelligence services have helped us prevent another major terrorist attack on U.S. soil.  In addition, I will never forget that national security is a selfless, intergenerational, non-partisan effort – just as it was over the multi-decadal Cold War, won by the U.S. – for which there should be no reward other than the safety, happiness, and prosperity of one’s fellow Americans. 

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Billings Gazette
Our Country’s Working Men and Women Built America

Labor Day is one of our most important holidays. Yet, not everyone wants us to recall that Labor Day is about working men and women who built America.

They built our dams, interstate highway system, electrical grid, shipping ports, airports, military bases, power plants. They serve in our government and teach our children, teenagers and college and university students. They provide high-quality healthcare and senior care services.

Most Montanans’ lives are rooted in labor.  For example, my grandfather climbed up an endless ladder to work on the convex face of the unfinished Canyon Ferry Dam.  My father, a union letter carrier, delivered the mail in Deer Lodge in sub-zero temperatures for decades, and my mother helped families in need as a social worker in Wolf Point. Hard rock miners in Butte rode makeshift elevators into the belly of the richest hill on earth.  My childhood friend, a standout baseball pitcher, worked the lumber mill in Deer Lodge and lost his arm in a tragic workplace accident.

Our laborers have sacrificed a great deal in order to advance our country, state and employers.  We must recognize that Labor Day is about honoring American working men and women and the tremendous, unheralded value that they add to our nation.

Without such recognition, we as a nation may find it easier to go along with the outsourcing of millions of blue collar jobs to China and other low-wage, permissive countries, as happened over the last several decades.  We may tolerate the fact that CEOs make 300x the salary of the average worker, when that metric used to be 40x.  We may ignore that the American worker has not gotten a pay raise, when normalized for inflation, in over thirty years, though the stock market and executive pay have soared.  We may rationalize the unprecedented economic inequality in our nation and its impact on democracy.  We may allow multinational corporations to control the debate over, and communicate only the benefits of, Artificial Intelligence (A/I), without noting the tens of millions of American working men and women whom it may displace.  We may condone the destruction of our unions and collective bargaining, and accept that the investor-class, through capital gains, pays a far lower tax rate than that of working families.  We may, as well, decide to vote for those to whom the American worker is an afterthought.

To be upfront, the continuance of globalization and automation, especially A/I, has the potential of placing even greater stress on America’s working families.  That’s why Labor Day should take on even greater meaning as the new century progresses.

It should remind us, every late summer, that working men and women of both traditional and new industries must be given a seat – literally – at the corporate board of directors table.  They must be granted a livable wage.  They must be allowed to unionize and benefit from collective bargaining.  They must be supported by a government that ceases to coddle multinational corporations, private equity managers, management consultants, and foreign lobbyists.  They must be granted access to affordable health care, even in times of unemployment, and equal pay regardless of gender or any other historically discriminatory characteristic.  Their children must be able to access, not only college, but quality trade and vocational schooling.

Labor Day is about picnics and barbecue at the lake or in the backyard, as it ought to be.  It also represents the very best of America, to which we owe a debt of gratitude:  Working Americans.

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