Government Shutdowns – an Eastern Montana Perspective

Bureau of Land Management Photo

It’s time to destroy the various myths surrounding government shutdowns that try to paint them as “no big deal” for citizens. Steve Daines voting again to shut down the government should come as no surprise to Montanans, yet we seem to have a short memory for his anti-Montana moments. Harken back to his days as a Frosh Rep in the House in 2013 when he eagerly signed onto the “suicide caucus” to shut down the government — an economic loss to Montana to the tune of over $20 million (check out this assessment of the 2013 damage). Come the next election, we forgot about his fiscally disastrous “caucus” choice and elected him to the Senate.

Southeastern Montana voted for Steve Daines in that last election — a concerning development, as his habit of voting FOR government shutdowns almost disproportionately harms the voters in this region. Steve seems to forget how integral the Federal Government and its dollars are to the Montana economy. Every time he votes for or encourages a shutdown, he betrays the largest group of employed adults in this region (and in the state as a whole).

The Federal Government is the number one full-time employer in the State of Montana. Southeastern economic hubs such as Miles City, Glendive, and Sidney have multiple federal offices staffed with full-time employees: Bureau of Land Management; Ft. Keogh Livestock Research Station; Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks; USDA; and more. These jobs employ degreed professionals providing excellent benefits. Good jobs attract families to these smaller Eastern Montana hubs. Good jobs encourage folks to invest in homes and property. Good jobs directly support strong, local economic activity. When that economic activity is stalled, communities suffer. When employees are not secure, they don’t invest in buying a home/property. When paychecks are delayed (especially around the holiday season), those spending dollars are denied to local businesses, banks, institutions, and the annual generosity toward non-profits that many organizations rely on during December/end of the year.

Steve Daines fails to remember that the backbone of the local tax base is property taxes. And a solid chunk of those homeowners is federal employees. Every time he votes for a shutdown, he votes to stall our local economies and hurt city and county tax bases.

Montana and Alaska have the most Veterans per capita at 1 in 10 citizens, and many of those Veterans transition into Federal jobs post-service. Daines likes to talk a big game about his support for veterans and the military, but his actions demonstrate that he’s perfectly OK with Veterans going without some benefits and without pay in their jobs post-active duty. We are fortunate to have so many servicewomen and servicemen choose to return, or move to Montana, post-service and contribute to our communities — I wish Steve Daines respected them enough to ensure their stable employment and ability to provide for their families.

Daines and his shutdown colleagues need a reminder of the financial reality of most citizens: 40% of Americans do not have $400 for an emergency expense. Half of Montanans live paycheck-to-paycheck. Montana has the second highest percentage of children on CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Plan) in the nation (another government program affected by funding).

In an assessment in early 2018 by WalletHub, Montana is the seventh most negatively affected state during a government shutdown.

This particular shutdown during the holiday season drastically affected local Mom & Pop/Main Street businesses. Struggling small businesses in Eastern Montana definitely notice when holiday spending is reduced. Even if the back-pay comes to fruition once the government is funded, those holiday dollars won’t magically be spent in local businesses at Christmastime levels.

There’s also the expiring of the Violence Against Women Act, the loss of paid time off/vacation time/sick time for Federal employees, the delay for small businesses that rely on government regulations/paperwork to operate (approvals, regulatory steps, permits, etc), the delay within the justice system, the loss of wages to government contracted employees (a demographic that rarely sees any back-pay from shutdowns and may not ever have their jobs restored), furloughed employees on Montana’s reservations, and many many more examples.

All-in-all, there isn’t a single benefit to Montanans during a Federal shutdown. Yet time and again Steve Daines trips over himself to sign on to a shutdown: he is either oblivious or does not care about the reality that the majority of Montanans live with.

Southeastern Montana suffered during the 2013 shutdown fiasco, and we’re hurting again. Take the time to educate your fellow Montanans, east to west, about how Steve Daines treats Montanans. It’s time to dispel the rumors about shutdowns and shine the light on Steve Daines’ anti-Montana stance. Talk to your friends and neighbors today.

Correction: the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks claim of Federal employees housed in their facilities (some regulatory employees) is unsubstantiated. I regret the error. 

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About the author

Plains Feminist

Montana and national politics from a Southeastern Montana perspective, focusing on regional activism, womxn’s issues, LGBTQ equality, education, and growth of the Democratic Party. Plains Feminist tries (sometimes fruitfully, sometimes not so much) to connect with the hard-working folks who *eek* out a living on the “not mountains” side of the state. Plains Feminist enjoys intellectual banter over coffee or beer preferably after dark. You can reach her at or on Twitter @PlainsFeminist.


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  • Does Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (a state agency), really have federal employees? Anyway, the rest of the article is well taken. Hostage taking to win political advantage should be against the law.

    • Jack – my claim of FWP was based on lunch counter talk claims about some Federal regulatory employees that were housed with the Miles City FWP. So I cannot provide a verification of that – it could be total horsepucky. I heartily accept your correction and will reflect it in my article. Thank you!

  • Common sense agrees with the author. And if a Senator is smeared then it’s his record that does it.

    Federal employment is a fact of the Republic — has been since the foundation. The Bible even proclaims “the servant is worthy of his hire”. Resentment towards those servants is unfounded and borderline criminal. Not to mention stupid. Montana home builders, car dealerships and recreation businesses gain from the proceeds from the labor of these (our) Federal employees. Daines’ slogan of More Joba Less Government is fundamentally destructive to Montana. Those Federal dollars come from California and New York — as they should.

    For too long we Montanans have failed to resist the temptation toward resentment and distrust. Salesmen like Daines have exploited that temptation for their personal gain. The results of that evil will be clearly evident as economic certainty of missing Federal paychecks infects Montana.

  • Still waiting for Daines to provide an explanation of why he so blatantly lied to his constituents by useing his Instagram account to create an alibi pretending to be the in DC when when in reality he was in Moscow on the 4th of July. Senators travel to foreign countries all the time, so why the elaborate lie? Only some one up to no good goes to such effort to create and aliby, and then gets caught.

  • Remember Shutdown Steve was teabagger favorite for his insane support for 2013 shutdown, and yes it devastates small, rural communities, and I know folks in Lewiston NRCS furloughed, another in Cascade County FSA furloughed and my niece’s husband, an AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER with a new baby and just moved from from another state to new duty in NC and lots of bills to pay, may the Lord deal with Trumputin and cowardly McConnell and SHUTDOWN Steve!

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