After the longest federal government shutdown in American history, agencies will re-open this week after the president succumbed to political pressure and took a deal initially offered by the Democrats. The shutdown cost the nation $6 billion, which coincidently is nearly the same price tag of the border wall President Donald Trump used to hold the government hostage. National parks filled with uncollected trash and nearly 13,000 of Montanans worked either for free or not at all because Trump wanted his wall and Republican senators put fealty over duty.
Early on, Montana Senator Steve Daines made an empty gesture to have his pay withheld. This was laughable because the legislative branch is exempt from an executive agency shutdown and Daines, who became a millionaire selling out his company, doesn’t exactly need his senatorial paycheck to make ends meet. Then Daines, like his president, continued to encourage the shutdown due to Democrats’ unwillingness to fund a border wall. Daines put this idiotic scheme to fuel xenophobia with a manufactured “national emergency” over the welfare of Montana workers and public lands.
During the shutdown, Trump tweeted that he personally gave out contract offers to build the wall. This is insane for many reasons but mostly because the President of the United States should be looking at policy and national security documents not bids. But then, we have this current president so we get the Mafia Don In-Chief.
So that begged a question: Do Daines and Gianforte have any financial interest in building said wall? The answer is “of course!”
Enter the Bozeman firm Barnard Construction.The company has been in Bozeman since 1975 and owned by Timothy Barnard. It works on projects around the country but most recently has received two wall projects: one in New Mexico worth $73 million and another in Arizona worth $324 million. One would imagine if the border wall gets $6 billion in funding then Barnard would make a lot more than these replacement and repair projects intended to get his firm in the door.
The company also has gotten in the door by donating, generously, to both Daines and Gianforte. Barnard ranks as Daines’ #10 contributor the past several years and is just one spot below Goldman Sachs, the same firm that crashed the American economy. Daines really has a soft spot for companies that want to slow down the American economy for their own gain. Gianforte, also a Bozeman resident, received $26,800 in 2018 from Barnard.
So the machine continues to work perfectly for a connected few. Just as the Founders intended, our democracy now functions like the mafia: a don heads the enterprise and his lieutenants run around the country squeezing people for money then using that access to help out their biggest sponsors. The rest of us, the ones who want to work for the government or enjoy the national parks we paid for, are just the expendable people outside of the criminal organization. Our lives and happiness do not mean anything to everyone tapped into the scheme. We are expendable for the whims of the few.
Right now the wall is the lever but it will lead to the next steps: privatization of the VA, wholesale liquidation of our national parks, and a militarized security force to enforce the don’s orders. Daines and Gianforte are in on the scheme but we are not. It is up to us to ensure they do not succeed.