Saturday, February 3, 2007

Gazette should admit that Burns loss was bad for Billings -- Part II

Back in December, Montana Headlines vented on the subject of what the Conrad Burns loss meant for Eastern Montana in general and the city of Billings in particular, and on the role that the Gazette played in that loss. There is no point in a full repetition -- the link is there.

Today's Gazette has a pair of articles with a common theme: Tom Howard's piece City, county projects cut from federal budget and Jim Gransbery's article containing Denny Rehberg's comments about the events surrounding the loss of $19 million of money that had been earmarked for Yellowstone County, roughly $7.5 million of which were going to come to the economically important Billings medical corridor. These are in part a matter of a general freeze on earmarks, which on the face of it isn't a bad thing (although Rehberg points out the reason that earmarks arose -- placing spending in the hands of elected Congressmen rather than unelected bureaucrats.) Anyone who thinks, though, that high-ranking members of the Senate Appropriations Committee aren't still going to get money spent where they want it is naive.

In its editorial endorsing Jon Tester, the Gazette mentioned that "Conrad Burns has done a lot of good for Montana, chiefly in wrangling earmarked appropriations for Montana projects, an effort that is the centerpiece of his re-election campaign." The editors went on to say: "But Rep. Denny Rehberg and Sen. Max Baucus have also hauled home a lot of bacon" but don't have some of the negatives surrounding Burns.

Fair enough. But there still wasn't enough truth in advertising, since neither of the above were high-ranking members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Max Baucus neither has Billings as his home town nor Eastern Montana as his core base of support.

An honest endorsement would have said something to the effect of "Yes, losing Conrad Burns in the Senate means that Yellowstone County and Eastern Montana are probably going to lose tens of millions of dollars in federal money -- but it will be worth it, for all of the reasons noted above in our case for voting for Jon Tester."

There's nothing wrong with rejecting a home-town boy. Jon Tester's neighbors didn't think highly enough of him for him to win his home county, and Schweitzer apparently lost every Montana county he's ever lived in.

And there's nothing wrong with voting against one's pocketbook on principle. Montana Headlines will get the early jump and say the same about Max Baucus. His defeat will mean that Montana will lose a lot of federal money, but it will be worth it. Just ask the sage pundits at
The Onion.

Montana Headlines is sure that most Democrats will agree, given that Baucus committed two of the same major crimes that Burns did: he took money from Jack Abramoff, and he's been in Washington way, way too long.

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