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GUEST COLUMN: Trahant Reports
Monday, August 03 2015
 
Written by Mark Trahant,
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mark trahant.jpgPresidential Debate season begins on Aug. 6

What do you do with sixteen candi­dates? It’s a thorny problem for Republi­cans. Why’s that? Because right now one of those candidates, Donald Trump, is loud enough to drown out all the other “major” candidates.

Wouldn’t it be fun if the nomina­tion contest was more like a basketball tournament? Then top-seeded Donald Trump would battle 16th seed Ohio Gov. John Kasich a battle of ideas. Or how about dropping the bunch in the jungle Naked and Afraid. We could even start voting and eliminate a candidate every week, until it’s just the Republican versus a Democrat.

Enough. Back to the chaos. And Don­ald Trump.

As The Washington Post put it on July 26: “For yet another week, Trump talk dominated the Sunday morning political shows, with several devoting roundtable discussions to his disruption of the GOP presidential primary and at least two of his GOP rivals using their clashes with him in recent days as a means of secur­ing interviews on the shows — during which they continued to clash with him.”

On Aug. 6 in Cleveland the first debate is set, an opportunity to raise serious issues. As if. It’s more likely that it will be Trump versus the other nine candidates tossing one liners back and forth.

Of course American Indian and Alaska Native issues don’t get attention this early anyway. Usually that hap­pens late in the campaigns, during the general election, when a position paper is released that outlines the candidate’s official policy. That’s too bad. It would be good to press candidates from both parties about how they see treaties, the federal-Indian relationship, and the management of federal programs that serve Native Americans.

Then again it’s pretty clear where most stand. The Tea Party wing of the Republicans – Trump, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul – would dramatically cut fed­eral spending. Paul has even called for the elimination of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and drastic cuts at the Indian Health Service. If any of this happened, the Sequester would be the Good Old Days.

Even a self-described serious candi­date, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, suggests its time to reshape government. A few days ago in Tallahassee, he said that as governor he used a hiring freeze to shrink state government. He sug­gested the same approach would work in Washington where only one employee could be hired for every three who retire or leave government service. Bush also said it ought to be easier to fire federal employees. “There are a lot of exemplary employees in the federal government, but they’re treated no better than the bad ones,” he said. “The bad ones are al­most impossible to effectively discipline or remove.”

Candidate Kasich was chairman of the House Budget Committee when President Bill Clinton declared the “era of big government is over.” That suited Kasich then. And now. One proposal at the time was to “reinvent” the Bureau of Indian Affairs with a block grant program. “The reinvented Bureau of In­dian Affairs would provide block grants, rather than engaging in the direct provi­sion of services or the direct supervision of tribal activities,” the House proposal said. This “would reduce the central of­fice operations of the BIA by 50 percent and eliminate funding for the Navajo and western Oklahoma area offices. It would eliminate technical assistance of Indian enterprises, through which tech­nical assistance for economic enterprises is provided by contracts with the private sector or with other Federal agencies.” Congress would have ended direct loans and reduce loan guarantees.

The Republicans running for presi­dent all share contempt for the Afford­able Care Act (and most don’t know that would include the provisions of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act.) All are also supportive of more develop­ment, such as the Keystone XL pipeline, and generally dismissive of any action to limit climate change.

I don’t know. I’m still partial to a Naked and Afraid competition.

Mark Trahant is an independent journal­ist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. For up-to-the-minute posts, download the free Trahant Reports app for your smart phone or tablet.


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