Apr 8, 2020
“It’s like a response to a lot of crises. That is, it’s big and it’s immediate, but it’s probably full of a lot of loopholes.” So says former Montana Senator Max Baucus, assessing the $2T economic relief package recently passed by U.S. Congress in response to the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. He adds, “We’re probably going to see a lot of inefficiencies, and a lot of people taking advantage of the situation, at the expense of Americans.”
For close to 40 years, Max Baucus represented Montana in Congress, before serving as the U.S. Ambassador to China under President Barack Obama.
Baucus was Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee during the 2008 financial crisis, and was a key figure in the creation of legislative measures, signed by both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama, that ultimately stabilized the U.S. economy in the aftermath of the subprime mortgage meltdown that crippled global markets.
Senator Baucus then witnessed the populist aftermath of that legislation in the rise of the conservative Tea Party, and the birth of the liberal Occupy Wallstreet movement.
He was a chief architect of the Affordable Care Act, which enabled more than 20 million people to access health care, but came at a great political expense to Democrats who faced conservative backlash at the polls in many states.
Now out of politics and living back home in Montana, Baucus is watching a new world unfold as inefficiencies in the U.S. healthcare system are laid bare as the coronavirus pandemic takes its toll on American lives and the global economy.
In February, Baucus endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden’s bid for the Democratic nomination to the Presidency, and he now says he sees a need for bipartisan leadership in Washington, telling Montana Free Press editor-in-chief John S. Adams, “The recent partisanship in Washington has stymied any efficient action” on the pandemic and resultant economic turmoil.” And while some are questioning the White House’s response to the pandemic, Baucus levels a somewhat more measured criticism of the Trump administration: “I’m not blaming Donald Trump personally, but I do think, in our form of government, when there’s a crisis, it’s the Chief Executive that’s got to step up.”