Montana Issues: We need to begin with Montana realities.
Traditional decent-paying Treasure State jobs in mining, minerals processing, logging, construction, forest products, farming, ranching… based on natural resources are being lost. New jobs to replace them either aren’t forthcoming or are of a different kind, low wage seasonal and service jobs which cater to tourists, retirees, the government…. and the unemployed are encouraged to leave. Construction is boom and bust- and as soon as gets good a lot of out of state competition arrives, which leaves when it busts.
In Western Montana, where I live, government- US, State, and local- is a big employer. The USFS, the BLM, the Border Patrol, the National Parks, Cities and Towns, provide a lot of services and paychecks. Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, WIC, ADC, are all important to many of Montana’s people. On the East Side, priorities are different. There’s less public land to manage and fewer people own more of it.
People who are established want to reduce competition, grab all they can for themselves and make Montana unattractive to new business and working people. Low taxes for the wealthy, and restricted State jobs, education and benefits are the Republican formula for political success. At the same time, it means few jobs are available for their kids, who must leave. Democrats think unions and bigger government are the answer. Somehow if everything costs more, it will create jobs. Their following is loyal, too. The problem is that neither party really gets the big picture- nor has any new solutions to offer.
I think Montana is the Last Best Place, inspiring mountains, pristine waters, the wildlife, the Big Sky- and that will determine our future. Internet business can prosper here, as well as high-tech manufacturing and can be attracted here with our high quality of life- if we have the right labor force. More low-skill “extraction” jobs today, at the expense of our environment and forgoing forward-thinking educational choices to keep taxes low for the rich is shortsighted thinking, in my opinion.
But what I think isn’t what’s important. What does Montana think our priorities should be?