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.