Opinion

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Uncommon Ground

Talk is Cheap

The Trump administration's budget calls for big hits to Montana-based services

No amount of political rhetoric will overcome a shortfall of public funds appropriated for local, state or federal services. Things like public education, national parks, and healthcare just cost money. Everyone knows it.

Sure, there are some holdovers, the political hardheads that ardently believe that as long as the nation obliterates our public debt, it’s fine to take food away from hungry kids.

Ask just about anyone, debt management is about priorities. Solutions are more about where we spend our funds.

Overlooking the $2.3 trillion math error that the Congressional Budget Office says plagues the administration’s first budget, President Donald Trump plans for big hits to Montana-based services. It slashes $3.6 trillion from Medicaid health care, food stamps and Social Security disability insurance.

The budget epitomizes the politics of hurting the sick and elderly, the hungry kids and mothers, and the disabled among us. There are kinder ways.

Undoubtedly some politicians will push the purest political message of local control, as if somehow local taxpayers should pay the cost of federal obligations in Montana.

During the latest health care fiasco in Congress, the foiled plan would have shifted hundreds of billions of dollars in costs from federal obligations to state and local taxing jurisdictions.

That’s one big local tax increase. It’s a similar shift to when local homeowners pay property tax increases while state legislators fail to properly fund public education with state resources.

With 1 million visitors to Glacier National Park in July, it’s time Congress increase funding to manage the tourism that is converging on one wild place in one month. The president is proposing a massive double-digit percentage funding cut, as the Department of Interior wants to shed 4,000 staffers nationwide.

It’s not hard to imagine that the tens of thousands of people per day who enjoy Glacier will rapidly increase in upcoming peak seasons. Everyone wants to see the glaciers before they melt away.

Everyone except the Department of Interior, which now bars its local staff of climate experts from meeting with certain park visitors. Their boss, the president, even bars federal departments from using certain climate words about global warming.

It’s weird, I know. But in politics, like governing, follow that money.

Glacier was full last month. The parking lots were overcrowded, the roads were gated early, and the park’s infrastructure and management needs were overwhelmed. Clearly Congress needs to do better and properly fund our national parks with more federal resources.

Food stamps flow into Montana through the Department of Agriculture and are funded via the federal Farm Bill. About 122,000 hungry Montanans receive $1.30 per meal per day to buy groceries.

The 2018 Farm Bill discussion in Congress has begun, and funding for crop insurance and anti-hunger programs will again be targeted. The administration is requesting more than $200 billion in cuts from agriculture – we’ll see what Congress does.

But, really, Congress, give us a break. If you want American farmers to grow food in chaotic climates, then crop insurance and season protection is a must to keep operations growing in ever-increasing big weather years.

Federal taxpayers pay for two-thirds of crop insurance. It’s why crop insurance is combined in a Farm Bill with food programs that ease hunger. Both urban and rural members of Congress would do better to work together and write a new Farm Bill for our nation.

Many members of Congress are willing to cut trillions of dollars from public services like health care, food and farming programs, and the maintenance of our national parks or public lands.

Congress should fund the priorities its members from our state routinely espouse are in keeping with Montana values. Talk is the cheap part of governing; the budget shows your true values.

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