Montana US Representative Steve Daines, and other Congressional Republicans, need to stop their brinkmanship and extortion tactics—simply get out of the way—and let our economy grow and prosper.
The most recent example of Republicans’ deliberate sabotage and hostage-taking of Americans and our economy occurred with the government shutdown and near cataclysmic default. This was an intentionally self-inflicted wound that was concocted as a political tactic back in July, months before the shutdown, by the minority tea party wing.
The shutdown tactic, recently leaked to the public, and now admitted to by numerous Republican leaders, was hatched to extort defunding of Obamacare. Republican leaders knew it would fail but were emasculated and rolled by tea partiers. It was led by Senator Ted Cruz and enabled in the House by our very own Steve “Shutdown” Daines. Amazingly, Daines signed a letter with 90 other fringe House Republicans, threatening to shut down the government if Obamacare were not defunded. Our Representative squarely put his allegiances and political aspirations with the tea party.
In the end, Republicans got no ransom payoff–nothing. A slim minority of House Republicans voted to re-open the government, including Daines—a vote of political desperation. Too little, too late. The damage was already done.
The shutdown and near default have been extraordinarily damaging to Bitterrooters, our state and national economy, consumer and business confidence, our worldwide credibility and security interests, and to the Republican Party itself.
How damaging was the shutdown to our economy?
1) It cost the US $25 billion in lost economic activity, or about $320 per family of four.
2) Estimates for jobs lost due to shutdown: 120,000.
3) It’ll shave 0.6% off our 4th quarter GDP growth.
4) Small business and farm loans were put on hold.
5) Our nation’s borrowing costs escalated, worsening our deficit
6) Corporations and CEOs report they’ll hire and invest less.
Republicans proudly owned the government shutdown, voting to the end to keep it closed and let us default. They threw Americans under the bus through their reckless behavior, and polls suggest they’re rightfully paying for it:
1) Congressional Republican approval is at an historic low of 17%, with 70% disapproval.
2) An all-time record of 63% of Americans view the Republican Party unfavorably.
3) Americans blame the GOP for the shutdown by 20-24% over Democrats or Obama.
4) Most Americans polled think it’s bad for the country that Republicans control the House of Representatives.
Internationally, our reputation was sullied when tea party Republicans hijacked our democratic process, causing the shutdown. Our enemies were emboldened, our friends disappointed and dismayed as we marched toward catastrophic default that would promptly drive the world into recession. The emerging democratic movement in China was weakened as the Communist regime used the political dysfunction here as a prime example of why China shouldn’t become a capitalistic democracy.
Our free market and Republic are resilient but can be torpedoed by shortsighted Congressmen intent on using weapons of mass financial and political destruction like defaults and shutdowns.
Like the rest of the nation, Bitterroot families were harmed, workers furloughed, small businesses suffered. National Forest projects were halted. Lee Metcalf Refuge was closed, locking out bird hunters. Rocky Mountain Lab stopped critical research into deadly diseases.
Montana has only one House member—Steve Daines. We pride ourselves on normally electing independent-minded, level-headed folks to the US House or Senate—not extremists or fellows who submissively follow party radicals. Regrettably, “Shutdown” Daines has aligned himself with tea partiers. That’ll make some Bitterrooters happy, but I doubt it’s an electable strategy in 2014.
During the 16 day shutdown my wife and I called Daines’ offices and e-mailed him—some dozen times. We spoke to his staffers and Daines himself for 5-10 minutes. What did we learn from the conversations with staffers and Daines himself?
1) Up to the last moment Daines was supportive of the government shutdown as a tactic to defund Obamacare. He has no regrets on any of his “shutdown” votes.
2) After all the obvious harm to us and the economy, Daines has no regrets whatsoever, only “frustration.”
3) He would not speculate on using another shutdown to roll back Obamacare next year.
4) He felt a shutdown “gain” was retaining the damaging sequestration budget cuts.
5) There was no knowledge of any specific damage to the Bitterroot Valley or its residents as a result of the shutdown.
6) Phone calls to Daines were 3:1 in favor of opening government.
Clearly, national Republicans and even Montana’s “Shutdown” Daines are out-of-touch and willing to inflict substantial harm to us and our economy. I believe Daines has made a political error in aligning himself with fly-by-night tea party saboteurs. Montanans won’t forget. When he runs for Senate, fair-minded Montanans will do one thing: We’ll “Shut Down Daines.”
Van P. Keele