As occupy movements across the country focus on corporations, activists in Bozeman are also keeping an eye on the government officials they believe might act on behalf of Wall Street interests. Activists in Bozeman, who staged a small protest outside of Wells Fargo Bank this past Saturday, are watching Baucus's and the Congress's so-called supercommittee's next move closely.
Baucus, the Senate Finance Committee chairman, and longtime senator from this state, is one of 12 members of Congress on the supercommittee tasked by Congress with proposing $1.5 trillion in deficit reductions over the next 10 years. The committee's proposal then would face an up or down vote in the Congress. If it fails, $1.2 trillion in across-the-board cuts will be triggered.
Activists at Baucus's office feared that Baucus, a Democrat, might sell out popular social programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, while leaving levels of war spending untouched. They also feared that the rich, particularly those on Wall Street, would not be adequately taxed.
The reasons for concern stem from Baucus's role in pushing through a version of the Affordable Care Act, also known to some as Obamacare, that many argued was actually friendly to the insurance company interests. It left off the table the "public option", which would have given the uninsured the option to take the same health insurance offered to federal employees. In 2001, Baucus also voted for the Bush tax cuts, and in 2008, he voted for permanently repealing the estate tax.
Perhaps, a bigger source of concern comes when looking at his funding sources. According to OpenSecrets.org, Baucus's leading funder is Aetna - an insurance company. Among his leading contributors include Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, and Verizon. He has raised, in just this cycle alone (2007-2012) millions of dollars from the health sector, but he's also raised $750,669 from Securities and Investment Firms, $438,230 from the Real Estate industry, and another $218,100 from other finance industry interests. In 2005, Baucus returned $18,892 in contributions connected to convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, including Baucus's use of a sky box at a Washington, DC sports arena.
Occupy Bozeman activists held signs and received a fair number of approving honks from traffic. A young staffer from Baucus's office came out and took the statements of activists for a computer database that apparently is seen by the senator. It remains to be seen whether the voices of his constituents, or rather the dollars from his funders, will have more influence on his actions. Either way, Baucus has been put on notice that his work on the supercommittee is fair game for Occupy Bozeman.
Occupy Bozeman will be having their general assembly meeting tonight at 7 PM at the Bozeman Yoga Center, 1716 W. Main, Suite 8a1, just east of 19th Ave. All are welcome to attend and participate.