Evelyn Pyburn, Editor
Our governor made a comment recently in regard to the announced closure of Colstrip Units 1 & 2 that deserves to be scrutinized.
Gov. Steve Bullock said, “Markets and consumer preferences continue to move away from coal, yet this news comes quicker than anticipated. Today our priority is taking care of workers and their families who will be impacted by these closures.”
It’s a very typical political statement. Kind of shallow and hollow. But in examining it closely, it isn’t as benign as the Governor probably hoped it would sound – for two reasons. One, it continues to propagate a myth that the Left loves and has down pat; and two, it is an insult to every working person who wants to earn their way in this world.
To hear our Governor even mention “markets” is a first, and that alone should raise an eyebrow. But his official comment is a slight of hand — or of words – aimed at diverting attention to what has really happened and the role he has played. Now that the destruction of their manipulations are strewn before us, he wants to change the subject.
It’s a strategy that the Left and other statists have used to some success in the past. Every time an industry or business fails because of political policies and regulations and legal attacks — once the piling-on of those obstacles succeeds in bringing it down, the ant1s-business politicians, environmentalists and statists suddenly discover “markets,” and claim that it’s nothing more than the free market at work — and we are all supposed to be dumb enough to believe it.
Are we to forget President Obama’s “war on coal?” Are we to forget the many years in which they have done everything they could to circumvent the market? Are we to forget witnessing consumer choice being displaced by political gangs swinging the biggest clubs possible to change the direction of markets?
We heard the same claim when they finally brought the Corette plant in Billings to its knees. Immediately the pundits started declaring, its closure had nothing to do with the regulations that were piled upon it! It was “market forces”, said its tormentors, as we watched dozens of people leave their jobs for the last time, and company owners dismantle what had once been a thriving, taxpaying business in Billings.
The first time, I became aware of this propaganda tactic was back when political forces destroyed Montana’s timber industry in the name of the Spotted Owl. The attacks on timber were loud, vociferous and at times violent, for several years; but as soon as timber mills began to close, the mantra became “it is nothing more than the market at work” – even as timber imports from Canada were booming.
One has to really wonder why the Governor and so many others who worked so hard to impose their will, are so reluctant to claim victory. Why aren’t they celebrating and shouting about their success, rather than muttering and mumbling about “markets” and shuffling on to their next target?
In a sense, their claim about markets is correct. The market is looking at the political policies being imposed and declaring “this is stupid!” What that looks like in “the market” is investors fleeing the field and finding less risky places to put their money. That is indeed the market speaking, but that isn’t to say there has been a free market at play. This is exactly the dynamics of controlled markets. It is exactly how markets are destroyed in socialist regimes.
The insult that comes from the Governor is the idea that all those losing their jobs and livelihoods, will now be taken care of by government. Even this lament is not original. Hillary Clinton made the same condescending offer to the coal miners of West Virginia, when she told them not to worry there were government programs that would take care of them.
A few years ago, a Crow tribal leader voiced his indignation during an energy summit in Billings, about having been told the same thing when he went to Washington DC to beg the politicians to back off the “War on Coal,” because of what it would do to his tribe’s coal business and their jobs. Government welfare programs, he said, is not what they wanted – and he, too, was insulted at their words.