Montana ranks seventh in the nation regarding racial equality, according to WalletHub.

In order to determine which states have the most racial equality in terms of employment and wealth, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across eight key metrics. The data compares the difference between white and black Americans in areas such as annual income, unemployment rate and homeownership rate.

Montana came in third regarding median annual income, 13th in labor-force participation rate, 10th regarding the Unemployment Rate, ninth in poverty rate, and first in terms of the homeless rate and also first in terms of the how few of the homeless are unsheltered, and ten in terms of the share of executives.

The Montana Contractors’ Association (MCA) recently awarded $20,500 in scholarships to 14 students, and $8,000 in classroom grants to eight Montana middle and high schools. Recipients of MCA Associates’ Division Presidential Scholarships include: Bradley Irwin, Billings; Morgan Baker, Kalispell; Latasha Fitzgerald, Browning; William Lane, Townsend; Norris Blossom, Helena; Anna Seymanski, Huntley; Madyson Skawinski; Great Falls; Hunter Eichert, St. Ignatius; Kassady Hinman, Butte; Garren Todoroff, Miles City; Sarah Ashley, Helena; Christine Fisher, Missoula; and Cole Arthur, Great Falls. The recipient of the MCA Concrete Division Scholarship is: Mandi Tvedt, Evansville, WY.

The $1,500 MCA Associates’ Division Presidential Scholarships are awarded annually to students whose parents or guardians are employed by MCA member companies. The $1,000 Concrete Division Scholarships are awarded to students whose parents or guardians are employed by member companies in the MCA’s Concrete Division. In addition, the MCA’s Education Foundation announced that eight Montana schools would be receiving MCA Construction Trade Awareness Grants. These $1,000 grants are designed to help area schools fund classroom equipment, provide supplies for class projects, and participate in Construction Week activities. Schools receiving classroom grants include: Belt High School, East Middle School (Great Falls), Fairfield High School, Helena High School, Hellgate High School (Missoula), Highwood High School, North Middle School (Great Falls), and Twin Bridges Schools.

“The MCA is dedicated to helping Montana students achieve their post-secondary goals, whether that includes apprenticeships, certificate programs, four-year degree programs, or whatever their calling may be,” said David Smith, MCA Executive Director. “We are also committed to helping schools encourage a path to careers in construction.”

Rosendale stands for life

It is critical that our lone representative in Congress be a voice for the voiceless and stand up for the most vulnerable in our society—especially the unborn.

Matt Rosendale has a long track record of being unabashedly pro-life. In the Montana legislature, he was a vocal advocate for pro-life legislation, and stood for the rights of the unborn at each and every turn.
Because of his proven record standing for life, this week Matt received endorsements from the two leading pro-life groups in the country, the National Right to Life Committee and Susan B. Anthony List.

The difference between Matt and his Democrat opponent could not be more stark. Kathleen Williams is an abortion extremist. She supports unrestricted access to abortion up until the moment of birth. Her radical agenda of abortion-on-demand is deeply disturbing.

Extreme Kathleen has said that she wants to make Planned Parenthood “a permanent part of our healthcare system”, and in her last campaign even said she was “honored” to receive the support of an organization that advocates for abortion as a means of population control. That is just sick.
Given the clear contrast in records on life, the choice for Congress is clear. I am proud to support the only candidate in the race who stands for life and urge every Montanan who values life to join me in supporting Matt Rosendale for Congress.

Kerry Paulson
Whitefish, MT

By Bethany Blankley, The Center Square

As the nation struggles with record high unemployment, extended job losses, continued statewide shutdowns, and crippling national debt, a new report reveals that congressional leaders will receive an estimated $1 million each in retirement payouts on top of their lifetime pensions, fully funded by taxpayers.

First published by Forbes,’s report, “Why Are Taxpayers Providing Public Pensions To Millionaire Members Of Congress?” compares the financial benefits that both top leaders in Congress receive.

“We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – Congress is an exclusive club where members vote for their own benefits,” Adam Andrzejewski, CEO and founder of the nonprofit watchdog organization, says.

By law, all 535 members of Congress receive a public pension plan and a taxpayer-funded, five-percent of salary 401(k)-style savings plan, in addition to salaries of $174,000 and higher. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s net worth is reportedly between $50 million and $72 million; Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s net worth is reportedly roughly $22 million. Their current salaries are $223,500 and $193,400, respectively.
Pelosi has received $5.7 million in total salary for the 34 years she has been in office. McConnell has received $5.5 million for the 36 years he’s been in office.

Both the Speaker and the Majority Leader voted for several spending packages this year, including the CARES Act and the Families First relief bill, which will increase the national debt by $1.76 trillion, and $192 billion, respectively, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). The small business relief act added $480 billion to the total.
Spending increases and tax cuts in coronavirus legislation may increase debt initially by roughly $2.4 trillion.
Chris Edwards, an economist at the Cato Institute, estimates that the effect of the recession will reduce federal revenues a further $2.2 trillion over the next few years. With higher spending and lower revenues, federal borrowing costs are expected to be approximately $1.2 trillion higher over the next decade.

The basic CBO estimates exclude these costs, Edwards notes. All told, these decisions will add an estimated $5.8 trillion to the national debt.
And both leaders are expected to vote on another stimulus bill, which will add to this total.

Part of the spending problem contributing to this debt, notes, is the taxpayer-funded lifetime pension and taxpayer-matched savings plans members of Congress receive.

“Critics question the necessity of such a system,” Andrzejewski writes. “Why are U.S. taxpayers providing public pensions to millionaire members of Congress on top of a 401(k)-style plan? (The median net worth for a member recently exceeded $1.1 million.)”

Auditors at evaluated the financial benefits Pelosi and McConnell receive from taxpayers.

When Pelosi retires, she will receive $153,967 a year in public pension and Social Security benefits, in addition to an estimated $1 million lump sum through her federal saving account, OpenTheBooks auditors found. They explain this “is just the portion of the account that was taxpayer-funded.”
Taxpayers also paid $282,965 into Pelosi’s federal Thrift Savings Plans, which OpenTheBooks estimates grew to $1.03 million if invested in an S&P 500 index fund, as of Dec. 31, 2019.

Similar to Pelosi, taxpayers invested $273,700 into McConnell’s federal Thrift Savings Plans, which OpenTheBooks auditors estimates grew to $1.1 million if invested in an S&P 500 index fund as of Dec. 31, 2019. They add, this “is just the portion of the account that was taxpayer-funded.”
Researchers at the National Taxpayers Union estimate that McConnell’s pension and annuity package will be $142,902 annually if he retires after the 2020 November election.

U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, R-Indiana, has proposed a bill to change the law, arguing that members of Congress have the “option to forego the generous retirement plans offered to representatives and senators and opt instead for a more conservative, savings-based plan like those of the Americans they represent.”

The bill, S.439, passed the U.S. Senate on Dec. 19, 2019, and sits in the House.
Braun notes that the median minimum net worth of members of the 115th Congress was $511,000, while the median net worth of a U.S. household in 2016 was $97,300.

The collective wealth of members of the 115th Congress was at least $2.43 billion, with 43 members who were millionaires, he said.
Even factoring in federal employees, only 23 percent of all U.S. workers contribute to a traditional pension, Braun adds, down from 38 percent in 1980, as traditional pensions continue to be phased out by private sector companies in favor of 401ks and other savings plans.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has released an initial report about the beef packing industry.

It’s been a year since Ag Secretary, Sonny Perdue, launched an investigation into the meat packing industry amid concerns that there might be illegal manipulations or collusions going on regarding the pricing of meat products.

The initial report does not address those concerns, but evaluates the market conditions and makes recommendations for changes that might improve the industry’s vitality. USDA states that their investigation regarding the possibility of illegal market manipulations will be on-going.

In general, the agency addresses some of the problems they found and makes recommends for additional regulations and for tweaking existing regulations, which were put into place to create and sustain a concentrated market, dominated by a few large companies. A concentrated market means a market that is mostly monopolistic with only a few established companies in operation, protected by restrictions which curb potential competition and inhibits self-correcting market forces.

The USDA analysis found that a fire at Tyson Packing Plant in Holcomb, Kansas, in August 2019, which took 5 to 6 percent of the nation’s beef processing capacity off line for five months, largely contributed to earlier disparities in pricing. The fire, unfortunately, coincided with a peak demand for beef that occurs around Labor Day every year. Because the shortage pushed up the price of boxed beef, market forces kicked in and other plants were encouraged to increase production which compensated for the capacity lost at the Holcomb plant.

Even before the coronavirus, there was concerning disparities between the price of Choice boxed beef and the prices that ranchers received for fat cattle. Prior to the onset of the virus, the spread between the two price points was $67.17 per hundred pounds of meat. The gap became even wider with the impacts of the coronavirus

When many employees of packing plants began contracting COVID-19, prompting the closing of facilities, processing capacity dropped by 40 percent by the end of April. At that point, the difference in what packing companies received for boxed beef and what they paid the livestock producers for the beef was $279 per hundred pounds of beef – a whopping 300 percent above the record, set just months earlier.

As restaurants reopened and public activity returned to more normal conditions, in May the gap between the two price points began to narrow and it continues to do so.

Changes in the beef market were already in play in March due to the way consumers changed their buying habits. Stay- at –home mandates across the country prompted more people to prepare food at home which increased demand at grocery stores. As in keeping with the natural law of “supply and demand”, the increased demand pushed up those retail prices. At the same time the forced closure of restaurants, brought about a dramatic drop in demand for beef for food service companies, which are a different distribution system than that which serves grocery stores. Regulations prohibited the redirecting of the surplus beef in the service supply line, to areas of greater demand such as grocery stores, which would be expected to happen in an unrestricted market.

The USDA recommends improving transparency in pricing by imposing a regulation that would require packers to negotiate at least half of their weekly cattle needs on “the negotiated cash market” for product that is to be delivered within 14 days. The report said that when the events that led to reduced packing capacity happened “cash trade plummeted, making it difficult for industry participants to know prevailing prices.

The USDA also suggests that cattle producers do not know how to manage market risks and need government directed “risk management training.” They also point out that the Risk Management Agency’s Livestock Gross Margin and Livestock Risk Protection program can be improved to help producers manage risk.

When consumers found empty shelves in their grocery stores during the COVID panic, they turned to local small processors or tried to purchase meat directly from the farmer or rancher. The demand quickly overwhelmed the small producers, a problem the USDA suggests could be helped by offering grants to assist small meat processors to expand their businesses, which would increase competition in the overall packing industry.

The document states, “USDA further recognizes there are many discussions about reducing the burden for smaller meat processors, asserting that the high cost of compliance with Federal requirements are barriers to entry and/or survival.”

It goes on to recognize, “The current pandemic has also created a resurgence in demand for services provided by these small and very small processors, and for consumers who are interested in buying their meat more directly from the farm and ranch where it was raised… USDA is committed to working with stakeholders to balance food safety with these growing consumer preferences and growing e-commerce platforms.”
Pointing out that small producers and cooperatives often struggle to cover the mandated costs of operation, the agency reminds that there is USDA Rural Cooperative Development Grant funds to provide assistance in organizing and forming co-ops.

Also, the agency sees a need to update the Packers and Stockyards Act, which regulates the industry. The report states, “Beyond rulemaking, small and medium-sized producers could also benefit from updates to the P&S Act designed to offset the impacts of operating in a concentrated industry, where the market power resides with large meatpackers. Smaller producers often find themselves to be price takers in the market for fed cattle and lack the volume of larger producers to negotiate unique and advantageous marketing agreements with large meatpackers.”