The head of the Montana Republican Party, a car salesman, has called Western District congressional candidate Monica Tranel, who has worked in the private sector most of her life, a Socialist. Yet, he has endorsed Ryan Zinke for that same office – that same Zinke who, since he was 22 years old, has mostly cashed checks from the government, both in salaries and pensions.
When some GOP politicians want to insult somebody, they call them names and end with defining them as “Socialist.” Well, what is a “socialist?” Webster Dictionary defines Socialism as “governmental ownership and administration of the means of production.”
Is the GOP suggesting we should root out whoever in Montana might be Socialistic? How about teachers or people who get Medicare benefits? No, those are not “means of production.” How about social workers who help people with disabilities? Nope, not “means of production.” How about people or companies who mine on public land and pay no royalty to the public because of the 1872 Mining Law? Yes, but they are only a little bit Socialist because most of their cost is private. How about car dealers who profit because “public funds” pay for the “means of production” in maintaining highways? Sounds like a “yes” might be in order.
What about us farmers and ranchers. Some farmers receive checks from the government to help pay for the “means of production.” On dry or hailstorm years or years with low prices, those government checks are larger than they are on good crop years with high prices.
How about ranchers who graze cattle on Federal Land (BLM or Forest Service)? They graze privately-owned cattle on public land and only pay 5% of the cost of grazing. So, 95% of that part of their “means of production” is governmental. I guess that would be about 95% Socialist.
Only about one-third of the cattle in Montana get in on this Socialist plan. Most Montana cattle graze where the land is either owned by the rancher or he rents its use at market prices 10 to 20 times more than what the public grazers pay, clearly a “socialist” subsidy for the public grazers. Most of the ranchers who get this huge Socialist benefit also own private land and operate that part of their business as a non-Socialist.
Who would be the largest Socialist in Montana? A large ranch in Southwest Montana, the Matador Ranch, sold this year. It had been owned for decades by the Koch family, a so-called bastion of private sector economic freedom. The Koch brothers are perhaps best known for financing Republican candidates and causes for decades. The Matador Ranch has about 100,000 acres of private land and about 200,000 acres of public land grazing rights. The ranch’s approximately 10,000 cattle are being raised for profit on one-third private land and two-thirds Socialist public land.
But the Koch brothers are no longer the largest Socialists in Montana. They sold the ranch to a true expert in Socialism – Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch is now the new owner of the largest agricultural Socialist enterprise in Montana. You know of Murdoch as he owns both the Wall Street Journal and Fox News. Both of his journalistic enterprises routinely criticize people as “Socialists.” Are they now going to call their owner a Socialist, as he is the largest Socialist in Montana?
Time will tell. But in the meantime, I expect the GOP to continue to haul out the old “socialist” nametag to try to besmirch their opponents. Given the facts, however, it will likely ring hollow and fall flat.
Former Democratic governor of Montana
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