Steve Bullock’s Blue-Collar Candidacy

Listen to this episode

S1: This show may contain words that would offend the sensibility of certain habitual ways of monasteries Thursday November 7th 2019 from Slate’s The Gist I’m Mike Pesca. Today Bill Gates in a chat with the New York Times is Andrew Ross Sorkin made the ultimate humble brag.

S2: I’ve paid over 10 billion in taxes I’ve paid more than anyone in taxes.

S1: Are the crowds laughing. But it’s true. And Gates wasn’t playing this for laughs. The disclosure was an answer to Sorkin’s question about Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax. Gates continued.

S3: If I’d had to pay 20 billion that’s fine. But you know when you say I should pay a hundred billion OK then I’m starting to do a little math about what I have left over sorry.

S1: I’m just kidding only kidding only not kidding. Andrew Ross Sorkin by the way is co creator of the TV show billions so he knew what he was getting at the Warren tax could add up to a hundred billion dollars. Though Warren tweeted to Bill Gates later quote I promise it’s not 100 billion. Well how could you make that promise. I mean one way is for the plan to be pretend all along. Maybe she’s just acknowledging the plan won’t actually go into effect. She doesn’t really plan to implement it. She’s figuring Congress won’t pass it. Maybe she figures the courts will find that unconstitutional. But if none of those things are what she’s saying. If you just do the math it seems like could be a hundred billion dollars. Here’s the math. The plan taxes the wealth of billionaires at 6 percent starts off a little lower for the 50 millionaires when you get to a billion it’s 6 percent. Gates has almost one hundred seven billion dollars. I don’t know. From the time I started this sentence to now maybe as over one hundred seven billion dollars. So if you calculate 6 percent depreciation a year which sort of the opposite of compound interest. And if Bill Gates lives to be ninety three which is an age I chose because that is the age of Bill Gates Senior now who’s still kicking around then Bill Gates will have surrendered 88 billion dollars to the federal government. Now when I posted this calculation on Twitter I got a variety of responses everyone’s upset with me. Many said Bill Gates will be fine. Yeah it’s not the issue. The issue is might the Warren wealth tax cost him a hundred billion dollars. Several people noted that I’d made a mistake because I didn’t realize that Bill Gates his wealth accumulates even through passive investments. I didn’t realize that I was just trying to be as fair as possible. In fact you make the most conservative estimate that I could if you even account a little bit for the fact that Bill Gates is wealth will surely grow via investment even as he surrenders some of his money in taxes. It’s almost certain the Bill Gates will wind up paying a hundred billion in taxes if he lives to be the age his father is now unless Warren isn’t serious or is acknowledging that our tax plan won’t be implemented to the degree that she’s campaigning on the most common comment on my calculation of Bill Gates his tax bill is good. Good. Well OK. I’m not weighing in on good or bad. And weighing in on the hundred billion dollar bill for Bill. And yes that could be the bill. If Elizabeth Warren is as serious as she says she is and if the American people are serious about electing her on the show today a spiel about the shortcomings of presidential candidate Pete Buddha George I realize I’ve been turning my sights on the candidate with the fifty trillion dollar tax plan but just because Buddha George says that’s a bit much doesn’t mean that he’s enough. But first in our ongoing series of interviews with presidential candidates we’re joined by Montana Gov. Steve Bullock. We get into Penny’s King copper and the answer is that one might give to a national audience and how they might change when asked the same questions to the people of the great state of Montana. In fact we conduct a pretty airtight experiment on that score as you will hear. And hear Steve Bullock.

S4: Steve Bullock is the 24th governor of Montana. You may have heard he’s also running for president. He’s a very bright based stump speech which is odd given that there is no syllable of his name that has a boot in it and also Montana is not shaped like a boot. That’s Louisiana but it’s about the fact that he wears boots and he represents the people who wear boots and we need to of course boot the current occupant of the Oval Office out Governor Bullock joins me. Thanks for coming on. It’s great to be with you tonight. So I’ll start with ya. I’ll start with a little bit of a softball one that you can handle but watch for the twist at the end. So as we survey the political realities of the moment why do you think you will be the best candidate to beat President Mike Pence.

S5: Well I’m the only one that actually won in what was a trump state. He took Montana by 20 I won before 25 to 30 percent of my voters voted for Donald Trump. I’ve been able to bridge divides with a you know majority Republican legislature to get progressive things done. But really this race comes down to this about math. If we can’t win places like Michigan Wisconsin Pennsylvania we’re not going to win this election. So be it Trump or parents. I think I have something unique to the field.

S6: If we’re actually going to bring back these Obama Trump voters that we need to get you have said in this interview and before that you’ve shown an ability to win in a state the only candidate who’s won in a state that actually voted for Trump. You know you win by 4 percent as he wins by 5 percent. So this means something.

S7: He won by 20. Oh yeah that’s right. That’s right. Excuse me. Correction. But I wonder if one of the reasons that you could win in a red state a state that Trump won is because you pursue policies that the Democratic electorate the Democratic voters by and large don’t like for instance this is a reality of being the governor of Montana. And I acknowledge that. But you know if you look at the statistics Montana has the sixth most CO2 emissions per capita. Montana has a. And you have endorsed a different environmental agenda than maybe is. Then I would say definitely is the mainstream of the Democratic Party. So how much is your success because you do some things that a mainstream Democrat might not like.

S5: Well now look. Because we’ve also doubled the amount of wind just in the last six years we quadrupled the amount of solar we’re part of the overall state Climate Alliance and we we’re outdoors folks like we see what needs to get done. We have that CO2 emissions in part because we have the second largest coal fired generating plant west of the Mississippi half of which is going to end up closing by the end of this year. I think that if if if at the core of that we’re progressive is actually making progress in people’s lives what we’ve been able to do with education what we’ve been able to do with health care what we’ve been able to do with kicking dark money out of our elections. I’d take that against anybody in this field because I think in times watching issues become this place where you give a good speech and you say oh wasn’t that a big victory. Well it doesn’t impact people’s lives.

S8: So I think that in part certainly I’ve tried to connect with folks not just saying those who went to college.

S5: When you have two thirds people in this country that have no college degree I’ve tried to actually go out and you know I go have to go both in running for office and in campaigning to places where it doesn’t seem like there’s a Democrat in sight but a show up I listen and I respect perspectives that are different than mine and I don’t know that we’re always doing that as a party.

S4: So the power plant you mentioned I think that’s the talent energy plant is that right. Yeah Colstrip right Colstrip. OK. This is the sixth largest source of greenhouse emissions in the United States. Half of it units three and four I believe will remain in operation is wanted to close. What was your stance on that were you sad to see it go because of the jobs picture.

S8: Well I think one of the things in this ought to be a lesson for all of us is that when this happens you can’t leave communities behind. So we’ve been working both. Know you’ve got folks who’ve spent their whole life powering this country like we have to address climate change. First of all I recognize in the West fire seasons are 78 days longer than they were about 40 years ago and we’re outdoors. We see it every single day. But we’ve also worked to try to figure out as that community transitions how can we create opportunity there and that’s everything from hiring people with skills to do the cleanup and making sure that they’re paid a decent wage to bringing in federal dollars and others to look at what community transition looks like. And I think we have to do that not just in state like Montana but all across this country.

S4: So Colstrip which guy guess how they got their name and what their job is. I want you to think about a 10 year old in Colstrip who sits at the dinner table and hears mom and pop and says the future is not looking too good. And he looks you in the eye and says Does he have a future in Colstrip. What do you say to him.

S8: Well in that community because it’s a beautiful community and it still has both the potential for and beautiful community with good schools good hardworking people everything from manufacturing to what’s going to be used on that line afterwords that big transmission line along the way that absolutely. And that’s we can’t you know one of the things you look at it over the last decade about two thirds of the counties in this country lost businesses and folks saying Do I really need to leave my community or my place of worship just to make a decent living like if we’re forgetting about rural areas if we’re not actually saying how can we try to have viability there.

S5: Well the disconnect in this country forget about the politics disconnect. This country’s only going to get that much greater.

S7: So are you would you be reassuring to the 10 year old because he does want to reassure a 10 year old faithful. But would your reassurance be based on the fact that there are other better different cleaner or more future oriented industries or would your reinsurance be in part by telling him that long term you know that coal and fossil fuels will be part of the future.

S9: Well I think now look science has to drive this at this point. You know IPCC says we’ve got to be net zero emissions by 2050. I said the U.S. could do it by 2040 maybe even before. Now the scientists even say that you’ll have some carbon use by then but we also have to explore things like carbon capture along the way. There’s been more technological changes probably in these microphones that we’re talking in to in the last five or six years and how we’ve generated energy from fossil fuels probably will especially coal and probably last 40. So I certainly wouldn’t tell that 10 year old count on it like count on coal being part of this but I would say that there is going to be great opportunity in your communities because we need to make sure and do everything we can that we’re not leaving communities behind.

S7: So I think that’s a good answer. And I agree with it but it’s not the answer you gave when you were asked that exact question in the 2016 debate for governor you did say long term we know that coal and fossil fuels will be part of the future for the purpose of this question.

S10: I want you to view me as a 10 year old from Colstrip who sits at the dinner table and hears mom and pop talking about futures not looking so good. So the 10 year old looks you in the eye and says under your leadership do I have a future in Colstrip.

S11: Let’s say that 10 year old. Yeah. You do have a future in Montana and in Colstrip. I’d say that 28 percent of our country’s coal reserves are right here in Montana.

S5: I’d say to him that long term we know that coal and other fossil fuels will be part of our energy future.

S7: Which to me gets at the idea that you one in Montana in part because you said things that appeal to the people of Montana now that you’re running nationally you are.

S1: I’m not saying contradicting yourself but you’re at least emphasizing different parts of the answer and shouldn’t voters take that into account.

S8: Look and even.

S5: And long before I got into this. Yeah I’ve worked with other states we led carbon capture the initiative for the country to say what might happen going forward recognizing that technology changes and I think that you’ve seen more coal plant closures and more coal companies gone bankrupt in the last two and a half years under Trump than it was under Obama. In part that’s market forces. In part that’s natural gas. In part it’s if we actually look at this and say we can’t wait another 30 years to address climate change but let’s not just talked about this climate crisis. Let’s talk about as a climate opportunity to create jobs to not leave communities behind. Then I think that we’re going to come closer to actually doing something about it not just talking about it.

S4: So you mentioned money in politics and how Montana has addressed that. You glanced over it. I think it’s a gigantic accomplishment. We had the director and one of the main journalists behind the 1918 documentary Dark Money on and it really is a huge achievement. I don’t know how much listeners know but if I was talking to you a hundred years ago I could just assume that you as governor of Montana would essentially be on the payroll of King copper and now you you have passed your state has passed some of the most aggressive progressive laws against dark money. Tell me why that’s scalable to the national level especially since the Supreme Court has a ruling right now called Citizens United.

S5: Yeah I was actually Attorney General and Citizens United came up took you know states Democrats and Republicans and wrote the brief on behalf of the states and took the first case up to the U.S. Supreme Court after Citizens United and lost on a 5 4 decision. But what we did do is at least undisclosed money dark money. We’ve kicked it out of our elections say 90 days out from the election. If you’re going to spend in elections you have to disclose where that money comes from. I think it is scalable on a national level. First to step back. Look this isn’t a fringe issue. We’re just talking about climate change. The first George Bush talked about the need to address the greenhouse effect from the White House effect. Newt Gingrich when he was speaker talked about needing to address climate change. I think it’s money in politics it’s made it so the Republican Party is the only major political party in the world that doesn’t acknowledge climate change is real. And you can talk about gun violence you can talk about health care you can talk about income inequality for so many of those issues it is a corrupting influence of money in the system. I think how you change that we also buy by executive order I signed executive order that said I can’t tell you corporations you can’t spend our elections but if you want a bit on a state contract you just have to disclose every single way that you’re spending or contribute and didn’t pack those elections. Think about if you did that at the federal level. They contract or dang near every company in this country in this world. And at least you’re going to add sunshine and transparency as you’re taking other steps to curb the influence of money in the system.

S1: Now I need to ask you as a governor of a state where copper was king and still a big industry I ask every candidate this as President will you do away with pennies.

S8: You know not just because the parochial interests of copper mining. I’ve got a sentimental feeling for families I’m not going to get rid of fannies really.

S1: They cost more than a penny to produce. And what do they really do.

S8: Well I hope as you’re walking down the streets of the city if you see a penny on the ground you pick it up. I do it each and every time and it’s there may be that sentimental attraction to the penny that I’m just not quite ready to say I’m going to get rid of it if you do get the nomination.

S6: The first executive action that you’ll carry out is to pick a running mate. Now if we look at your track record as governor your first lieutenant governor was John Walsh who ran for Senate and was revealed that he had he had plagiarized portions of a research paper at the Army War College and that led to the revocation of his master’s degree. Then you had another replacement Angela McLain. Your relationship soured their emails attesting to that should voters be worried about your ability to effectively carry out that responsibility.

S5: No not at all and I’d look for somebody that brings different experiences than I that could step in on day one if something happened and doesn’t have my background like Mike Cooney my current lieutenant governor who’s now running for governor. I think you know he’s demonstrated he’s been a great partner in governing along the way. And I think that at the end of the day folks will look at both what I’ve been able do how I’ve been able to bring people together and we’re going to have a good abundance of good people that could serve as running mates if you win if any Democrat wins what do you worry about in terms of the wreckage that the Trump administration will have left behind.

S6: How easy will it be to dig out of maybe in ways we’re not even considering. Like I don’t know. Morale at the State Department or the fact that the Energy Department has gone unanswered daft and understaffed for however many years.

S5: No I think that it’s going to be significant issues. I mean just our country’s standing in the world both at post-World War Two order where allies sought our word meant something. It’s going to take significant rebuilding to do now took some rebuilding to do and Barack Obama came in. But it’s going to be that much more. What’s happened to government along the way. Where. Yeah I did my first State of the state and I start out and I said My name’s Steve. I worked for the state just like thousands of others I get up each day and do service. And this administration has had a war against all federal employees along the way. And I think also just the deep divides in this country going to exist to make people actually believe this 243 year experiment called represent democracy when we have divisions forget about Twitter forget about cable news think about how politics is dividing Thanksgiving dinners or time at a bar or a coffee shop. I think there’s going to be great incredible work that needs to be done. But you know on my difficult days on the campaign I say well it’s only the future of representative democracy at stake. So if I have something to contribute to it I sure as heck better be.

S12: STEVE BULLOCK governor of Montana running for president to appear in the gist. He did not have to raise one dollar. Thank you so much for your time. Thanks for having me.

S1: And now the spiel as I was getting out there with Governor Bullock as much as there is a frustration to not being given airtime and attention when running for president there is also a benefit. You escaped scrutiny. Now I’ve been scrutinizing the candidates notably Elizabeth Warren and her health care plan slash wealth tax in recent days. William Galston of the Brookings Institution alum of the Clinton White House calls it the longest suicide note in political history. Zing. If you hear the show you know that I have pushed back on some of the unfair criticism of Joe Biden. I say he’s not a racist. I say he is a chronic carrier sniffer. I say that is not a proper disqualification. But I also told you earlier and more frankly the most others that he’s clearly suffering from cognitive decline in fact I played a lot of tape. I broke down the nature of his fractured syntax and his flawed reasoning but what about Pete booted George mostly compliment to Pete booted George. I do think he’s impressive and articulate and his policies seem plausible. Plus when he was on the jest he acquitted himself pretty well though he dodged the penny question. But there is fair criticism to be lodged at the young mayor of the small city and part of it is that he’s the young mayor of a small city. So let’s first talk about city size. This distresses me less than booted judges age for instance at the founding of America New York City had about 100000 residents in 1810. DeWitt Clinton was mayor of New York City. He ran for president he lost to James Madison pretty narrowly. Eighty nine electoral votes to Madison’s hundred twenty eight. That was the election of 1812. He would have made a good president he was a very good politician he was capable and he served the city the size that South Bend is now. So it’s not the number of people. And also think of this. We just heard from Governor Steve Bullock governor of Montana. Oh that’s impressive governor governor of a state real state. Bigger than seven other states. Well you know if you look at the population of Montana and you compare it to the population of California the ratio is about 40 to 1. The ratio of Montana’s population to nine or 10 states is greater than the ratio of South Bend population to Montana. South Bend is small but that alone does not worry me. But South Bend size does say something about Pete booted judges experience in so far as South Bend is a stepping stone for an ambitious and capable politician and Pete boot a judge hasn’t been able to step on it. He hasn’t had the chance. His next logical step is to be a senator or a governor. But he’s going straight for the White House plucking someone from South Bend and sitting that person in the Oval Office is like making the jump from high school to the pros and yeah Kobe Bryant and LeBron James did it but so did Tsonga Diop and James Lang and Corleone young. The big problem with booted George as one of the four leading candidates. The problem that gives me great pause is that 37 years old is just not fully formed. It’s not close. I fear it’s insufficiently formed. Let’s look at some good presidents. Maybe even you would argue great presidents good or great young presidents Theodore Roosevelt our youngest president was 42 when he ascended to the presidency after the assassination of McKinley. That’s five years older than the age Buddha George is now. Roosevelt had experience as a state assemblyman. He spent two years New York City’s police commissioner. He was gaining experience when he was 37. But he had yet to be appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy. He had yet to charge up San Juan Hill. These were experiences in the bureaucracy and in the leadership role in battle that he would come to believe were among his most formative and stripped of those experiences. He wouldn’t be nearly the good president that he was. John F. Kennedy like Roosevelt another scion of political royalty had won a Senate election by his thirty seventh year had just married Jackie Kennedy but he wasn’t a father. He wasn’t an experienced legislator. He was not quote unquote the author of the Pulitzer Prize winning profiles in courage. The issue of civil rights was essentially years away. Eisenhower passed the first Civil Rights Act. It was in 1957 so this was years before that when John F. Kennedy was 37. John F. Kennedy was years from being appointed to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. That was the perch that earned him the status and respect that catapulted him into the White House steering us through the Cold War. Have been so much harder without that experience. Barack Obama at booted judges age was in his first term in the Illinois State Senate. He hadn’t run for the U.S. House of Representatives. He had no experience obviously as a senator. He was two years from paying his own way to the 2000 convention before he got his famous slot as the keynote speaker of the 2004 convention. Obama described why he ran for that state Senate seat this way quote part of it was that the seat opened up. I was living in the district and the state legislature was a part time position it allowed me to get my feet wet in politics and test out whether I could get something done. The test was going well but it was far from complete. He wound up learning about interpersonal relationships and the power of persuasion according to a rival Democrat from Chicago Don Trotter. Obama arrived quote wanting to change things immediately as though he intended quote to straighten out all these folks because they’re crooks. But Mr Trotter credited Obama with later trying to make himself more regular and quote trying to take himself out of his cocoon his comfort zone and not just pontificating through the press. These were all essential lessons to learn. The portrait is of a talented talented young man with a lot of growth in front of him. Without this crucial experience Obama wouldn’t become the president he became. He couldn’t have been able to assume the toughest job in the world especially if he hadn’t failed a little bit in the political process and learn from it when Ulysses S. Grant was 37. He moved his family to Galena Ohio and accepted a position in his father’s leather goods business. He hated it. He was depressed. He needed the Civil War to give him experience. That’s when he was booted George’s age. So are we saying the exception to the importance of experience. Is this person Pete booted George. That for all his impressive resumé and reasonable rhetoric. We have found the guy who doesn’t need the seasoning of the statehouse or the exposure to seemingly intractable problems to be overcome. But George certainly seems brave in war as far as coming out. That of course requires bravery but a judge has virtues but virtues unformed or untested or just raw materials. No one walks into the job of president knowing how to do it but it’s great to have some life experience to draw from an established playbook where you can say look it’s not the same thing but I remember that time in the Senate or that time in the governor’s mansion or I don’t know steering the U.S. fleet or running a Fortune 500 company that gives me an insight perhaps a playbook to draw from as to the challenge of running a country of 330 million people that spends four trillion dollars a year that prints its own money that has 2000 almost 2000 deployed nuclear warheads. And what is that experience. Oh yeah. That time in South Bend where I turned an old factory into a new building. Oh I get to be commander in chief of an army of one point three million with eight hundred thousand reserves Well I did run s Benz Police Department of 160 officers. That’s what one 8000 the size I guess that I’ll scale. Look none of this is a knock on boots charge. It is a knock on 2019 and 2020. Pete booted ridge at a time with the greatest need ever for a Democratic candidate. Pete. A judge is the only candidate is the only centrist pulling to a discernable degree other than doddering old Grandpa Joe three septuagenarians lead the polls. Only two of them have full mental acuity. Putting aside the fact that one of them just had a heart attack. As for Sanders Warren one’s a socialist. One has ambitiously socialist policies and then you have Joe Biden and a 37 year old. No one else is polling outside the margin of error. I would say it’s a little frightening. The alternative Donald Trump is much much much much more frightening. But this is a time in America where in races in states and in cities and throughout the land good Democratic candidates are winning elections left and right. I would say the lesson should not be that any old flawed Democrat can win. I would say the lesson should be that the time is right for the right candidate and the Democrats should worry about the paucity of great choices who might plausibly lead the way.

S13: And that’s it for today’s show that just was produced by Daniel Schrader. He was look that 10 year old from Colstrip in the eye. Then he take a finger in his pocket right in his chest and he would say was that a stain and the kid would look down and he’d flick them in the eye. Because just because there there’s no job doesn’t mean we can’t have fun. Christina Joseph also produces the gist she wonders if Steve Bullock reboots his computer which just keeps it on overnight and hopes that the screen saver kind of cleans it somehow. The jest would look that 10 year old from Colstrip in the eye and say No you won’t be a coal miner son. And then we’d look at his sister and say and you won’t be a coal miner’s daughter and then we’d look at his momma right in the eye and say here’s a couple extra coupons for an asthma inhaler and then we’d look the daddy in the eye and the daddy would say you eyeballing me son and I’d say okay my work is here done and quietly get my rental car and haul ass out of Colstrip.

S1: For desperate to Peru. And thanks for listening.