The Dishonest Mr. Daines

There must be something in Washington, D.C.’s water that makes politicians think they can do one thing and get away with telling their constituents something else. Certainly the current occupant of the Oval Office will live in infamy for never being able to tell the truth. But now Montana’s junior senator and Donald Trump sycophant, Steve Daines, has taken up the bad habits of his supreme leader — and just got caught and called out for it nationally.

A Huffpost article titled “Republicans are bragging about an unemployment boost they voted against” opens with quotes from Daines telling a Montana TV station about the $2.2 trillion bailout bill, saying: “This package that we passed will provide $600 a week on top of the Montana benefit if you’re unemployed. That’s very significant. It more than doubles what the state of Montana pays. That’s taking care of those Montanans who’ve lost their jobs.”

While it’s good news for Montanans who suddenly find themselves unemployed as the economy shuts down under the pressures of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s nothing but dishonest that Daines didn’t tell his constituents or the press that he actually voted against providing that additional $600 for unemployed Montanans.

The truth, that ever-more-rare commodity coming out of the nation’s capital, is that Nebraska’s Republican Sen. Ben Sasse offered an amendment to restrict the additional funds if they paid more than the wages of the lost jobs. Sasse actually claimed helping out the unemployed with extra funding during the pandemic crisis “creates a perverse incentive for men and women who are sidelined to then not leave the sidelines to come back to work.”

Who, except Daines and his demented Republican senatorial cohorts, would think that if people got extra financial assistance from the government to survive the coronavirus pandemic that they would never want to go back to their jobs? But then remember, these are the same Republican senators who think aerospace giant Boeing deserves a $50 billion bailout, much of which could come in the form of grants and “loans” that don’t require repayment.

Now put it in context with the latest unemployment figures, in which 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment last week, doubling the more than 3 million that filed the previous week. That means 10 million people suddenly find themselves without jobs and the paychecks those jobs provided.

Even worse, toss in the fact that many of those suddenly unemployed didn’t just lose their income, they also lost their employer-provided health insurance as businesses struggle to avoid bankruptcy due to government-mandated shutdowns. Since Daines, like all members of Congress, receives excellent insurance and benefits paid for by taxpayers, he may not fully understand the average monthly cost for insurance on the market. If he did, he would certainly understand that extra $600 would disappear quickly into the insurance industry’s bottomless pockets.

While Daines was busy trying unsuccessfully to chop benefits for Montanans, his pal Trump was busy holding meetings with the moguls of the oil and gas industry who are so dismayed over the collapse of the oil market due to oversupply and severely reduced demand. When prices soar at the pump they loudly laud the “free market” — but now demand taxpayer bailouts in the market’s downturn.

The tidal wave of lies coming out of the White House is overwhelming. But Montanans have long held truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth as the best way for government to communicate with the citizenry. It’s time Senator Daines remembered that since Montanans won’t forget his dishonesty come November.

George Ochenski is a columnist for the Missoulian, where this essay originally appeared.