Content warning: This post is long; channeling a righteous level of anger and fear that thousands of Montanans are feeling right now. There will be cussing, possibly name-calling, and I won’t apologize for it. But if this situation doesn’t have you angry already, maybe you need to get to this level.
GOP plans for a stimulus package to alleviate the beginning of a severe economic downturn (read: Americans are on the precipice of starvation, homelessness, illness with little-to-no safety net) have been unveiled. And I want to punch things. But I really need this computer because I’m one of the lucky Montanans who is currently able to work from home with no loss of wages or benefits, and I am privileged as hell to be able to type that sentence.
But let’s set the stage for why their plan sucks and why Montanans are going to starve…
- 69% of Americans do not have $1000 in savings (in 2018 it was only 58%, and 45% have zero in savings).
- Average rent in Montana is $775 per month (for multiple bedrooms; i.e., if you have a family)
Next, take a look at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics regarding wages and jobs in Montana. Pay particular attention to the number of Montanans who work in the following sectors: waiters/waitresses, food service, food preparation, retail clerks/self stockers/cashiers, bartenders and servers, cleaning and sanitation. These hundreds of thousands of Montanans make between $10 and $15 per hour. After a base level of Montana and Federal taxation is removed:
It doesn’t take an economist to start seeing the problem for over one hundred thousand workers in Montana. And what will happen when these workers miss even a SINGLE paycheck. Internet/social media chatter has talked about some small stimulus checks that will be mailed to Americans: $1000, maybe an add-on for each child. Again, it doesn’t take a math wizard to see how small a stimulus like this will only forestall the inevitable; Montanans will get to kick that can down the road for maybe one month before the accumulated bills come due.
Governor Bullock’s unemployment benefits streamlining is a step in the right direction, but it does NOT do enough. Unemployment benefits are a fraction per week of your regular paycheck. Do me a favor, visit the MT Unemployment Benefits Calculator and put in your salary and see what your benefits would be. I’ll wait…….. now pick your jaw up off the floor and run those numbers for our fellow Montanans who make $10 or $15 per hour.
Currently, the most you can receive each week is $487 per week; the minimum amount you can receive is $139 per week
Some commodity providers (power, water/sewer, internet, etc) have made pledges to put off monthly payments during this crisis or pledges not to shut people off. That sure looks good in a press release and in one of the dozens of emails I get a day from various companies I do business with letting me know what weak-ass steps they’re taking during this crisis. So what if power company delays bill collection for the month of April – power usage during April isn’t gifted; it won’t be FREE – so come May, you’ll still be expected to pay for what you used. Again, all these offers do is kick the can a few weeks or a month down the road.
Is one month enough time for this to be corrected? No. Expert after expert is expecting this to go on much longer. Montana’s $10 and $15 per hour workers cannot afford food, shelter, power; they cannot afford LIFE. And the time table for this complete and utter breakdown (factoring in low/no savings, low wages, minimal benefits, etc) is freakishly short. It’s for a few weeks. The Fed is predicting an unemployment rate of 30% and a 50% drop in GDP.
I’ve laid out how ugly this is, and how hundreds of thousands of Montanans are on the edge of starvation, eviction, bankruptcy. Now that you know how ugly this is, let’s circle back to the beginning: Why the GOP Stimulus Response is so shitty. The Intelligencer breaks it down so even the most basic voter can “get it”. I recommend reading the whole article, but this quote from paragraph 1 hits home:
The bad news is that they haven’t abandoned their long-standing belief in screwing over poor people just for the sake of it.
The GOP Stimulus contains the standard corporate bailouts and gifts we’ve come to expect from the GOP who delight in privatizing gains and socializing risk. Any illusions we Americans might have had about corporations using their profits and bailouts to assist wage workers should have been obliterated X-many corporate and tax giveaways ago, yet we cling hard to them and continually vote in the GOP grifters who slovenly reward corporations over people. If this crisis has taught us anything, it is that workers (especially low-paid service workers) are nothing but cannon fodder. Purchased for minimal wages in exchange for their time and labor until they can no longer do the labor or the company no longer needs them — and then they are tossed. There are no parachutes for the $10 and $15 wage workers in Montana.
And this column hasn’t even addressed what will happen if low-wage workers (or someone in their family) gets ill. Our medical and health infrastructure was already over-priced and sending Montanans into bankruptcy before a global pandemic. And if you think the wealthy assholes haven’t already begun pushing their financial privilege, you haven’t been paying attention. Yes, poor people will be disproportionally hurt by this pandemic and more of them will die.
And here’s where we’re going to get mad and stand up for the most vulnerable Montanans…
There is no room in Montanan’s lives for shitty GOP Stimulus bills. Every continued moment of silence and inaction by Federal leadership is another second on this clock. People need to be supported and empowered to do the right thing. Federal powers, our tax dollars, and the best minds in their respective fields are what we should be demanding of our leadership.
Greg Gianforte and Steve Daines haven’t met a wealthy tax cut or corporate bailout they didn’t love. They haven’t met a wealthy donor they didn’t cave to. It literally is all about money over people for them. And their concern and bloviating about “life” constantly is now being revealed to be utter bullshit. They only care about life when it’s in a uterus. They don’t care about the lives of hundreds of thousands of Montanans clinging to existence as workplaces close down, paychecks stop, and the pantry begins to empty. They don’t care about the wage workers continuing to stock grocery store shelves, the doctors/nurses/CNAs on the front lines without PPE because the Federal government will not enact the Defense Production Act (seriously, why the fuck hasn’t this happened yet?), or the custodial and janitorial services cleaning up deadly pathogens.
They care about unborn life, wealthy life, life they can politicize to win elections.
Demand that they care about YOUR LIVES, MONTANANS!
Demand that they use your hard-earned tax dollars to keep YOU ALIVE during a global pandemic.
Demand that any stimulus package they even consider will help protect and save the Montana economy: from the lowest wage worker missing out on wages and tips to the business owners with shuttered doors. We pay into the American coffers — the federal reaction is a necessary support system.
Anything else is not only a dereliction of duty but is tantamount to murder. COVID-19 has exposed our society and its failings — how we act now will define this generation. Maybe our federal representatives won’t start taking us seriously until Montanans begin to die. I want to know what that death and bankruptcy threshold is for our supposed leaders in Washington, D.C. to give a shit. How many lives are they willing to lay on the altar of “let states handle it”, “here’s more corporate dollar giveaways”, “Rand Paul thinks this is a hoax” before it gets real for them and they begin to do their job? With the exponential spread rate and death percentage of COVID-19, we may find out that number sooner vs later.
Contact Senator Steve Daines (Ph: 202-224-2651) Email Steve Daines here.
Contact Senator Jon Tester (Ph: 202-224-2644) Email Jon Tester here.
Contact Representative Greg Gianforte (Ph: 202-225-3211) Email Greg Gianforte here.
Contact Governor Steve Bullock (Ph: 406-444-3111) Email Steve Bullock here.
Take this action. Talk to our representatives. These are unprecedented times and your involvement is necessary. Lives of Montanans depend on it.