Op-Eds

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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Billings Gazette
Senator Daines Promotes Corporate Socialism

The greatest irony of Sen. Steve Daines’ latest howls against “socialism” — including his PR stunt on the U.S. Senate floor condemning socialism — is that Daines’ policies are leading to exactly that: Multinational corporate socialism. How so?

There is not simply one form of capitalism. There is a capitalism that is dynamic, fair and sustainable – the kind that built America’s middle class after World War II. As well, there is a capitalism that undermines the country as a whole by giving corporations and billionaires dominion over public policy. The latter option is Daines’ notion of capitalism — a system by, and for multinational corporations, special interests, and his major donors – not one for hard-working Montana families, individuals, and small- and medium-sized businesses.

Today, America faces some of the most daunting challenges in its history:

  • Economic inequality has never been greater in the United States, eroding our democracy.
  • Climate change, hardly a controversial topic in other nations, has been politicized in America.
  • Multinational corporations and America’s wealthiest families, compared to teachers, truck drivers and small business owners, pay a much lower tax rate if they pay at all.
  • Drug addiction and suicide rates are on the rise, indicative of a growing national hopelessness.
  • The federal debt ($22 trillion) is now greater than our own gross domestic product ($20 trillion).
  • Our nation’s infrastructure is not only far behind that in other modern nations, undermining our global competitiveness, it is collapsing.
  • Our students are performing near the bottom of industrialized countries, hurting our global competitiveness.
  • Our seniors increasingly need to choose between their prescription medications or food but can’t afford both.

These are solvable problems, but not by Senator Daines.

Daines just does not get it. Despite unprecedented economic inequality, Daines voted to give America’s wealthiest corporations and families massive tax breaks. He voted to add trillions of dollars to the national debt, without anything to show for it. Then, Daines voted to slash Medicare and Social Security, though our seniors are already struggling. Throughout his career in politics, Daines votes to take away health care from countless Montanans and Americans, in order to satiate his wealthy corporate political action committee donors who have already donated more than $535,000 to his re-election campaign.

He is just as bad on national security issues. Daines voted to support the installation of corporate lobbyists with extreme political views and conflicts of interest into governmental agencies. He supported America’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accords and the Iranian Nuclear Deal, effectively doing the bidding of Saudi Arabia, which encouraged each. He supports a trade war without any end game and having frayed international alliances critical to effectively standing up to China, hurting Montana’s farmers and ranchers.

Daines’ record is that of one who does not favor a dynamic, fair, and sustainable capitalism, but rather an unsustainable socialism for the ultra-wealthy that quickly stuffs the pockets of the few while weakening our nation as a whole. After the middle class has — after consecutive decades of economic stress, uncertainty, and marginalization — finally succumbed to this perverse notion of capitalism, what would result?

Certainly not freedom.

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The Missoulian
Daines comments damage Montana

An open letter to U.S. Sen. Steve Daines:

Recently, Senator Daines, you called four young newly elected congresswomen of color — Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib — on Twitter, “Anti-American” and “Anti-Semite”. Rather than retract your statement, you then went onto Fox News, doubled down, and even threw around the word “terrorist.”

A U.S. senator’s words can have real meaning. Given your position, a number of people follow and trust you. In your epithets against these women — on Twitter and Fox News — you have effectively called for action, even violence, against them. After all, according to you, they are “Anti-American,” “Anti-Semite” and somehow connected with terrorism.

Yet, these women have done absolutely nothing wrong. Their perspectives on public policy are different than yours because of the diversity and inequities of the communities that they represent. But they are each as American as you or me, and they love their country every bit as much as we do. I would know, as I served as an Annapolis-commissioned naval officer alongside brave Americans from a multitude of backgrounds, whose diversity improved our teams’ effectiveness. In contrast, you have put these young women in harm’s way.

This is not an outlying example, senator. You have turned a blind eye towards neo-Nazis and neo-fascists marching in Charlottesville, though countless American World War II soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen perished vanquishing the Third Reich, and though a young woman was murdered at the march by one of the neo-Nazis; the president’s borrowing of a phrase used by the Soviet Union’s Stalin to characterize the media as the “enemy of the people,” thus chilling free speech and placing journalists in our country and around the world in grave danger; the murder of an American-based journalist by Saudi Arabia, an oppressive regime which was then rewarded by retrograde policies you support; U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte’s body-slamming of a journalist for simply asking why he, as you, supports taking away affordable healthcare coverage from countless Montanans and other Americans; the president’s siding with Vladimir Putin, a former Soviet-era KGB officer, over our own intelligence agencies, with which I’ve worked; and, the 20-plus credible women whom have accused the president of sexual harassment or worse.

One’s voting and policy advocacy record is also a window into one’s character.

Yours has done damage to Montana and the United States. For instance, in this age of unprecedented economic inequality, you voted for a tax bill that widens that gap between the absolute wealthiest in America and the vast majority of us, straining our democracy. You voted to blow a multi-trillion-dollar hole through the nation’s pocketbook in order to give your major donors permanent tax cuts. You voted to transfer money from Montanan and American taxpayers into the pockets of wealthy foreign investors. You voted to cut Medicare and Social Security, though our seniors in Montana and throughout our country are already struggling. You supported President Trump’s withdrawal from both the Paris climate accords and the Iranian nuclear deal, seemingly doing the bidding of Saudi Arabia, which encouraged both actions. You voted for “short-term plans,” essentially fake insurance plans, in order to sabotage what little health care Montanans and Americans already have. You support President Trump’s trade war without having any end game and having trashed the international alliances we need to effectively stand up to China, hurting our farmers and ranchers.

I look forward to debating our competing visions in the coming months. Until then, I ask that you consider this open letter and be a better representative of Montana through your term.

Thank you,

John Mues

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The Mountain Standard
Op-Ed: Anaconda, MT Job Corps

While stationed overseas as a naval officer, I became close friends with a local family. They loved America, loved what it represented in terms of opportunity and justice for all, and, in turn, they loved Americans. Because I was their neighbor, because, perhaps, I diligently (though not entirely successfully) tried to learn their language and communicate with them — except for their son, no one in the family spoke English — and, frankly, because I was an American, they loved me. Fifteen years later, we remain close.

As a fourth-generation Montanan who was raised in a single-parent household in Deer Lodge, among other Montana towns, just down the road from Anaconda, the fate of the Anaconda Job Corps was of deep concern to me. And, as a former high school math and English teacher in an underserved community in Montana, I understood how critical the Job Corps is to providing real training and economic opportunity to people and communities in need.

If anything, the Job Corps footprint and other vetted programs that help struggling communities should be strengthened and expanded. After all, we are in an age of unprecedented economic inequality, in an age where — based on the data — the American Dream and socioeconomic mobility are now less vibrant and alive in our own country than they are in other modern nations. It doesn’t have to be that way, and the way out starts with extending and strengthening vehicles of opportunity for all folks.

Let’s take a step back here, and return to that family overseas during my days in the military to whom I had become close. Their English-speaking son, one day, had had his wallet stolen by several large bullies. The next day, they came up to him and handed back his wallet, which had been, of course, emptied. Then one of the bullies said to the boy, “What do you say?” The boy was confused. “What do you say to someone who returns your lost wallet to you?” “Thank you?” the boy said. “That’s right,” the bully replied, smirking. “Thank you.”

I couldn’t help thinking of this story when media reported that Senator Daines had saved the Anaconda Job Corps vis-à-vis a personal discussion with President Trump.

Senator Daines, in nearly a decade in Washington, D.C., has voted countless times to take affordable health care away from countless Montanans and Americans, in hopes of ever so slightly lowering the tax rate of his major donors. He has voted to destroy what little health care we have by inserting “short-term plans” into the Affordable Care Act’s marketplace, the equivalent of rolling a grenade with pinned pulled into a crowd; in each case, lives will be lost. He has voted to blow a multi-trillion-dollar hole through the nation’s pocketbook — not during a time of deep economic recession but rather late in the business cycle when it makes the least macroeconomic sense — therefore burdening generations of Montanan and American taxpayers. He has voted to exacerbate economic inequality, already at unprecedented, democracy-testing levels, by extending large tax breaks to cash-laden billionaires and multinational corporations — again, his donors.

He has voted to transfer money from U.S. taxpayers to the pockets of foreign investors. He has stood by, weakly and complicitly, as an erratic president sides with murderous dictators over the U.S. intelligence community – with which I once worked to target illicit global WMD programs and terrorist cells – and provokes trade wars impacting Montana’s agricultural community and small businesses with no real end game and having broken the international alliances America needs to effectively stand up to China. He has voted to place individuals with deep conflicts of interest — those who have been historically hostile towards public education, affordable health care, quality senior citizen and veteran care, and renewable, clean energy — into critical governmental roles.

But, thank you, Senator Daines, for your efforts in saving the Anaconda Job Corps.

John Mues

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Montana Standard
Guest view: Some perspective on ‘saving’ Job Corps

While stationed overseas as a naval officer, I became close friends with a local family. They loved America, loved what it represented in terms of opportunity and justice for all, and, in turn, they loved Americans. Because I was their neighbor, because, perhaps, I diligently (though not entirely successfully) tried to learn their language and communicate with them — except for their son, no one in the family spoke English — and, frankly, because I was an American, they loved me. Fifteen years later, we remain close.

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