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Any Democratic Candidate Worth Their Salt Should Double Down on This Story

Charles P. Pierce
Photo credit: The Washington Post - Getty Images

From Esquire

(Permanent Musical Accompaniment To This Post)

Being our semi-regular, weekly survey of what's goin' down in the several states where, as we know, the real work of governmentin' gets done and where dogs run free, so why not me?

We begin in Montana, where the farmers are finding out how easy trade wars are to win. From the Great Falls Tribune:

A mile and a half away from his farm, Canadian farmers are benefiting from access to overseas markets through deals that Americans have lost as "collateral damage" in the recent trade wars. "What we've been asking for, what we're trying to safeguard is what we already had," Benjamin said. "We feel abused as other industries are asking for major concessions, and we're collateral damage."

Nearly half of the subsidies meant to offset trade war pains for American farmers and ranchers went to producers in five states. Illinois was the top recipient with $1.1 billion. That's more than 1 of every 8 tariff relief dollars from the federal government. The program's $8.2 billion was spread among 557,633 producers, an average of $14,678. The next top recipient states also were in the Midwest: Iowa ($968 million), Minnesota ($674.5 million), Nebraska ($563 million) and Indiana ($556 million), according to information the Tribune obtained from the U.S. Department of Agriculture through a Freedom of Information Act request. That's because 84 percent of the federal payments - $6.8 billion - went to producers of soybeans.

Montana ranked 29th for tariff relief with producers receiving $28,454,590. The Montana Wheat and Barley committee found that farmers of those two crops have lost $150 million due to current trade policies, The AP reported. The tariff relief program focused on China. China buys a lot of soybeans, but China doesn't buy a lot of wheat and corn. Wheat got 14 cents a bushel in relief. A penny for corn.

In Montana, China is an important market. It's No. 6. However, Japan is No. 1, and Montana is in the process of losing that export destination to Canada and Australia, Benjamin said. "The lack of trade deals are affecting Montana pretty hard," Benjamin said. "We've lost about 18 percent off the price of grain. It's been pretty ugly." The wheat that's grown on the other side of the US-Canadian border is the same, but once it hits the Japanese market it's suddenly a 42 cent a bushel difference because of tariffs.

Any Democratic presidential candidate who doesn't see the obvious opening here should get out of the business. Rural states in the country are being hammered by the policies and incompetence of this administration*. (Do you think the president* actually thought through all the ramifications of his international tantrum? "Hey, guys, Montana, where I got 57 percent of the vote in 2016, is really going to suffer because Canada's going to kill their wheat exports to Japan." Please.) I can't say whether the voters will buy what those candidates are selling but, if they don't, I wish them luck.

Photo credit: JOHANNES EISELE - Getty Images

We move on to a quick review of how some state legislators are screwing around with the public health. From Politico:

Democrats in six states - Colorado, Arizona, New Jersey, Washington, New York and Maine - have authored or co-sponsored bills to make it harder for parents to avoid vaccinating their school-age children, and mostly faced GOP opposition. Meanwhile in West Virginia and Mississippi, states with some of the nation’s strictest vaccination laws, Republican lawmakers have introduced measures to expand vaccine exemptions, although it’s not yet clear how much traction they have...

...Fed by major epidemics in Israel and in Europe, measles has punctured the U.S. barrier of immunity at multiple points of entry in what’s shaping up to be the worst year for the disease since 1993, with 555 cases through early April. Outbreaks in six states include hundreds of cases in ultra-Orthodox communities in Brooklyn and Rockland County, N.Y. And the numbers are growing. “What if God forbid someone dies?” said Jeff Dinowitz, a Bronx assemblyman whose bill to limit religious exemptions has nine Democratic co-sponsors - but no Republican backers - in the New York Assembly. Andrew Raia, ranking Republican on the New York Assembly’s health committee, said he wouldn't support the bill. While not totally convinced by constituents who link their children’s autism on vaccines, and unaware of any real religious injunction against vaccination, he said, “I’m not a religious leader, and I’m not a scientist either, so it’s my job to weigh both sides.”

I'm not an expert on anything so, fck it, let's get a beer.

In Texas, the Tea Party and related groups created an anti-vax PAC in 2015. It hasn’t yet gotten its chosen candidates elected, but the very existence of a vaccine-oriented political action committee shows the political salience is growing. Influential voices on the right, including Rush Limbaugh, Tucker Carlson and Alex Jones, have all raised suspicions about vaccines.

Epidemic disease now has a PAC. That's what free speech is all about. Meanwhile, idiots, there's a woman in a coma.

Photo credit: Sue Ogrocki - AP

And we conclude, as is not our usual custom, with an unprecedented doubleheader from the Great State of Oklahoma, whence Blog Official Sweatlodge Greeter Friedman of the Plains brings us, first, a tale of even more Bad Science. From the Tulsa World:

Senate Bill 614, by Sen. Julie Daniels, R-Bartlesville, requires abortion providers to inform women who have begun drug-induced pregnancy termination of an “antidote” that supporters say can reverse the abortion drug. Opponents, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynocologists, say there is no scientific proof the reversal protocol works. One doctor has said it is “tantamount to quackery.”

Of course, as is the case in so many episodes in the history of the anti-choice movement, the argument proceeds from science to what my sainted mother would've called, "high-sterics."

The ardently anti-abortion rights majority of the Oklahoma House seemed to agree with Rep. Rande Worthen, R-Lawton, who said preventing even one successful abortion made the law worthwhile. Rep. Justin Humphrey, R-Lane, said it was “unbelievable” that “people would argue the humaneness and the right of a woman to kill her baby ... who would argue the right of a woman to kill her child and call it humane? It blows my mind we would have to have this discussion. It makes me sick. It truly does.” Humphrey said if the bill had any fault, it was that it didn’t go far enough.

And, as always, this ultimately will lead to great public policy.

A bill similar to SB 614 cost Arizona $600,000 in legal fees to the prevailing parties and wound up being repealed to avoid further penalties, but other states have enacted the law successfully.

But, while it was largely occupied with squandering taxpayer funds on bad science, bad laws, and bad court cases, the Oklahoma lege also found some time for some good-natured hijinx. TheLostogle.com has the details.

One morning back in February, Paul Scott tippy-toed into the Senate before session and unscrewed a roller on Carri Hicks’s chair. He also hid her microphone. There’s no word on if he put tape under her mouse, or encased her stapler in Jell-O . Later that morning, when Hicks arrived for work and attempted to take her seat, the chair gave way, causing Carri to fall to the floor. Startled, confused and hoping she didn’t just flash the world in her dress, she left the Senate chambers to compose herself like a Bachelor contestant who learned she didn’t receive a rose. Usually, after playing a stupid prank like that, the culprit will come forward, help the victim laugh it off, and then everyone will go play on the big toy at recess. As least that’s how things worked when I was in elementary school. Paul Scott, on the other hand, does things a little differently. As opposed to admitting that he committed the prank, or even (gasp!) apologizing, he went silent and didn’t fess up. Classy, huh?

Encasing things in Jell-O must be an Oklahoma thing.

This is your democracy, America. Cherish it.

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