Problems Remain Same by Evelyn Pyburn

As we approach the next state legislature, and candidates and organizations proclaim their unabashed support for economic development in Montana, exactly like every other legislative year — one has to wonder why, of the state’s fundamental problems, so very little ever changes.

Since at least the 1970s – the time frame of my political awareness – the list of issues that businesspeople readily identify as barriers to economic growth in Montana, remains exactly the same today.

That reality was underscored a couple of weeks ago, by one businessman who made very clear that other stabs at improving our economy are of little purpose, when the biggest reasons Billings and Montana “lose out” on opportunities, are three basic issues – having the highest workers compensation in the nation, not having a right to work and taxing the means to creating wealth, ie. the business equipment tax.

The list could be longer, but his focus on just those three is enough to make the point.

While there is lots of public discourse about so many other things – unless it is mentioned as a “whiney” side note by some business person during one of those other discourses, there is no loud consistent, campaign about these three issues from anyone else, most especially from those whom one would most expect it – economic developers, business organizations and those legislators (and governors) who otherwise claim to want to improve Montana’s business climate.

They cringe in fear at even having to mention “right to work,” so no one does. So, surprise! We lose out to states who weren’t so intimidated.

And, while incremental changes have been made to lower the business equipment tax, and to the workers compensation law, it’s been a ridiculously long slog, and the basic problem remains in place. Montana still is the only state, so insane, as to tax the means of growth, production, jobs and exports – not to mention the profits from which taxes are paid. Just because we are that ridiculous, doesn’t mean investors have to be insane enough to locate where they are forced to be constantly paying out for the equipment they need to create wealth.

And, while changes to workers compensation has brought some relief, it still remains the highest in the nation. So choosing between Montana and another state in that regard is also a no-brainer.

So, as this businessman was pointing out, if you aren’t serious enough about improving the state’s economy, in these regards, why fool with all these other programs, projects and tinkerings, which at best will just sit on the shelf until the fundamentals are changed?

Of course there are some answers to that question – other efforts make people feel like they are doing something, or at least it fools voters into thinking they are doing something and that they are sincere in their rhetoric. Some of the other efforts generate revenue to special interest professionals or bureaucratic pockets, at broader taxpayer expense.

Some “business improvement” laws which are enacted, and are claimed to be to our economic benefit, are often, quite the opposite; and others are nothing more than protectionism for political cronies. And, sadly, most of them are all passed through compromises which help to entrench the status quo of our fundamental problems.

One young women at the same meeting as the businessman, said she thought not being able to change the fundamental issues in Montana is “political.”

And, then later in the conversation, she said she thought the situation exists because it’s part of Montana’s culture.

Hmm, maybe she’s got something there. But, isn’t coming to that conclusion, the same thing as giving up?

So, who is truly, un-American?

The news is, Burger King for all practical purposes is moving its headquarter out of the country in order to avoid onerous corporate taxes in the US. President Obama has called companies wanting to "domicile" in other countries un-American and unpatriotic, and wants to stop them.

Such an amazing stance from a President who in all other regards has suggested that being patriotic is not a good thing, and that America is not deserving of anybody's patriotism. His sudden flag-waving, makes one kind of think that maybe his definition of patriotism is the forfeiture of one's wealth.

What is un-American is a government that makes the successful operation of business impossible through excessive taxes and regulations.

That other countries should have lower corporate taxes is not only outrageous in a country that has long been a business mecca, whose hallmark has been economic freedom, but it should be viewed with alarm, in a world as competitive as ours.

Read more: So, who is truly, un-American?

What's it all about?

Read history.

Any part. Any time. Any event. If you really want to understand why we celebrate Independence Day, read anything and everything about the Colonial and Revolutionary War era. Or other eras, if you want to know what the lot of the common man has been for most of mankind's existence, because that is what it's all about.

History revisionists cannot rewrite the story of the birth of the United States and hide the fact that the most momentous thing about it was that it was sparked by the grassroots. It would not have happened if it were not supported by a ground swell of average, everyday citizens who quite literally put down their plough shears and picked up their guns. Everyday people who said, "Enough is enough. Now is the time."

Read more: What's it all about?

The Real "Deniers" Emerge

It's been said here before that the issue of climate change has nothing to do with climate and everything to do with political agendas. If ever that was in doubt it was surely made clear last week as demonstrators paraded around New York hoping to persuade the world that the most serious crisis before us is not terrorists but the threat of global warming.

Watchdog reported that "Along the parade route, from Central Park West to West 34th Street, the Big Apple" were signs of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, which declared:

"Climate change is the symptom,

Capitalism is the disease,

Socialism is the cure"

Watchdog further reported, "... President Barack Obama and the climate-change crowd seem only interested in dire predictions when it comes to their environmental agenda. They're not all that into the disastrous consequences extreme environmental regulations on business could have on the U.S. and global economy."

There is really no doubt that climate changes, but there is also no doubt that the nature of dictators and statist government never changes. Countries under the kind of regimes for which the New York protestors advocate give almost no consideration to their environment. ... no more so than they do to the poverty level of their populations.

For all their denouncement of the US as a capitalist country, capitalism has generated the wealth and wherewithal needed to truly address environmental issues. The environment of the US is far better, and protected more, than any other country, and that is made possible because of the wealth generated by capitalistic endeavors. The fact is, the environment is an issue of wealthy people. When people are starving and worried about getting beheaded they tend not to care too much about the ring-tailed wampus, and much less about the weather fifty years from now.

As the demonstrators clearly announced they are using global warming as leverage to advance an agenda that most people would not embrace unless they are reacting to extreme peril or a crisis that leaves the issue of freedom, irrelevant. Most "deniers" are well aware of this manipulation, and are not "denying" that climate changes but are denying that they need to be saved from it by the chains of centralized planners and the indifference of some futuristic dictatorship. They are rejecting not the science but the politics. We want our freedom, no matter what.

The fact is there is far less peril in global warming than there is in statist government.

Truth? Not a smidgen.

Northern Plains Resource Council put out a press release last week in which they claimed that most Montanans are opposed to mining coal for export to Asia.

Consider closely the question they say was posed in their poll: "Coal companies are interested in mining coal in Montana and then shipping it by railroad to export to China, saying this will have economic benefits to Montana. Critics say it will primarily benefit companies outside Montana and in China, while Montana communities will carry costs of coal dust, water pollution and lost wildlife habitat. Having heard this, would you support or oppose proposals to mine coal in Montana for shipping to China?"

In a courtroom this is called a leading question and not allowed.

Read more: Truth? Not a smidgen.

The Real Reason

National Small Business Week is a time that we celebrate the many thousands of small businesses across our nation. It is a celebration of entrepreneurship and individual achievement, of free markets and Capitalism. It is a profound bow to those who create and manage small businesses, and with very good reason. But too often the real reason – the real purpose — of these businesses, gets lost, as we herald all the ancillary benefits that they generate.

Every day small businesses are heralded as powerful creators of jobs. Every day there is intense focus on small businesses for the taxes they pay which support governments. Every day small businesses are turned to as the primary supporters of communities and to help fulfill societal needs. Every day small businesses generate profits for their owners and create new capital for future investment. But all of these very real and very wonderful benefits of having strong and vibrant businesses in our midst are incidental to their real purpose. The real reason a business exists – the only means for all the other benefits – is to provide the very best products and services at the lowest possible price.

And, who does that benefit?

Millions upon millions of consumers.

Because every business owner in America strives every day to achieve that goal, all of us in the US, and elsewhere, have the highest standard of living the world and history has ever known. From this environment emerges the most amazing and valuable goods, products and services, at prices so ridiculously low that they can often be paid for out of pocket change. Such affordability is a benefit of immeasurable proportions for raising the standard of living, for even the very poorest among us. The most disenfranchised of citizens are benefited to a degree that overwhelmingly outstrips every government entitlement program or non-profit charity that has ever struggled to do likewise.

That is the highest and greatest achievement for which we profoundly thank the hundreds of thousands of small businesses across the land.

This on-going achievement underlies the claim that the true — and apparently secret— beneficiaries of Capitalism are consumers.

All these wonderful and dedicated business owners are citizens whose skills, ambitions, hard-work and creativity are allowed the freedom they need, under Capitalism, to make choices and pursue actions which provide untold benefits to our economies, to our communities, to our societies and for our governments.

They demonstrate, every day, what the human spirit is capable of achieving, if but allowed the opportunity to do so. And, for that we most sincerely thank them and wish them all the best for the future.

Who is John Galt?

If you don’t know the answer to that question, you have probably never read Atlas Shrugged.

I recently received an announcement that the third sequel to the movie is to be launched this month. While I appreciate the efforts that have gone into making the movie – and making it true to the book – it just doesn’t do justice to the intellectual challenge that is inherent in the book.

You know that the book must be an incredible challenge to the status quo, because few colleges include the book in either its philosophy courses or literature courses, and it deserves a place in both, as well as political science classes. It deserves far more attention than what it gets in American classrooms, because whether anyone— left or right — wants to admit it —and most don’t – Ayn Rand, the author, has had a long-term and profound impact on American politics, and probably on the lives of many people.

For all that impact, it’s probably the least recognized or discussed factor in all of American society or politics.

And that is understandable. It’s difficult, for its adversaries, to even make derogatory comments about Atlas Shrugged, without making people, who are unaware of the book, aware of it; and once they know about it, they might read it. And that’s a very scary thing, for anyone who dislikes human beings, individualism, or freedom.

When it comes to understanding politics, Atlas Shrugged has been the most significant, enlightening and relevant thing I have ever read, having first read it about 1970.

It’s an amazing fictional story, with a philosophical foundation, which makes it as relevant today as it was when it was first published over 60 years ago. It is one of the few books – other than the Bible – that can readily be found, today, in any bookstore, without having to special order. If you do have to special order, it will probably because they have sold out –other than the Bible, no book has ever sold as many copies.

What is so profound about Atlas Shrugged is that it does make one rethink every fundamental idea they hold. Even if you don’t like the message – you will at least have a better understanding of why you don’t like it, and why you believe what you do. Be assured that if you are devoted to a philosophy of altruism, you will probably find the book abhorrent.

Why “Atlas Shrugged”?

An exchange between two characters in the book explains the title’s significance. Atlas, as a mythical Greek figure, carries with world upon his shoulders. In the book, Francisco d’Anconia asks Hank Rearden what advice he would give Atlas, upon seeing that “the greater [the titan’s] effort, the heavier the world bore down on his shoulders”. When Rearden has no answer, d’Anconia gives his own. He would tell Atlas “To shrug”.

The theme of Atlas Shrugged is “the role of man’s mind in existence”.

And, so unfolds the story of what happens when the producers, inventors, and creators of society go on strike. What happens when those who constantly attempt to overcome the barriers placed before them, in order to succeed in making things and creating things, generating opportunity and wealth … shrug?

The story undoubtedly rings true more so than ever before, for many people, who still hear ringing in their ears the words: “You didn’t build that.”

Summertime in Billings, Montana! It's a wonderful experience.

Summertime in Billings is an Event

There are events that occur in or near Billings, each summer, which I have yet been able to attend, even though I have long intended to do so. It's just that there are so many, it would take a dedicated effort to attend them all, but there's no doubt the effort would be worthwhile. No one should ever be bored in Billings in the summer.

The schedule of the next month underscores just how significant these events are with the unfolding of Clark Days, Montana Fair, the Magic City Blues Fest, big-name concerts, the PRCA rodeo, Burn the Point Classic Car Parade, Threshing Bee at Huntley, motocross, supercross, hill climbs, drag races, bike rides and runs of all kinds, and that is not to mention the activities of the weeks, just past, starting with the Montana Womens Run, Relay for Life, Laurel fireworks, the Big Sky State Games, May Fair, soccer tournaments, Homesteader Days, Custer Re-enactment, Chief Joseph Ride, concerts in the parks – and then there's weekly events, like Mustang baseball, Farmers' Market, Alive After Five – and the list goes on.

These events and the fact that there are so many is a marvel to behold. But most of all they are a testament to the amazing people in this community who make things happen, because every one of these events is a major endeavor and takes incredible dedication and hard work to put together. And, their impact far exceeds their specific intent whether it's a fundraiser or just for fun. Each one enriches the community in many ways, bringing aspects of culture, art, education, history, food, entertainment, exercise – and most profoundly, an economic impact which keeps the doors open for many businesses.

Many of the events draw visitors to Billings from across the nation and even around the world. Each summer tens of thousands of people come to Billings to participate, observe or experience these unique and wonderful events. Those visitors spend millions of dollars which greatly enhances our community's economic base. The boon to business is especially noteworthy because any one of these events would be economically unfeasible if it were not for the thousands of volunteers who donate their time and skills to make them happen.

But that is not to ignore the important role that businesses themselves, do play. Billings area businesses ante up hundreds of thousands of dollars to financially support the events. And, while some may dismiss their contribution as being an advertising investment, be assured there are usually more effective means of advertising. Most of the time, our local business people are stepping up to the plate with their checks because they know these events make for a vibrant and enjoyable community.

Thank you to everyone involved, whether a sponsor or volunteer, a participant or a spectator – you help make Billings a great place to live and visit.

Montanans Glad to be Here

Montana is one of three states which ranks at the top of places where people want to stay.

When asked in a Gallup survey whether individuals would move away from their states if given the chance, only 23 percent in Montana, Hawaii and Maine said "yes." That's the lowest percentage of all the states. Residents of South Dakota and Wyoming are also relatively content about where they live, with only 26 percent and 27 percent, respectively, would choose to move.

Half the people living in Illinois apparently are anxious to live elsewhere. Other states in which residents would rather not be are Connecticut (49%), Maryland (47%) and Nevada (43%).

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