The Center Square

As economic figures cast doubt on a post-COVID economic boom, the latest polling data show Americans lack confidence in the economy under President Joe Biden.

New polling data released by Gallup  shows Americans are not confident in the economy and are largely unhappy with the nation’s current trajectory.

The poll found only 36% of Americans are “satisfied with the way things are going.” Specifically on the economy, Americans also are pessimistic.

“Twenty-seven percent of Americans now rate current economic conditions as excellent or good, while 30% rate them as poor,” Gallup reports. “Meanwhile, 43% say the economy is getting better, and 53% say it is getting worse.”

Gallup’s economic index uses a scale of -100 to +100 to measure Americans’ sentiments around the economy and other issues. The number released Monday found the index at -7, down from +2 in the previous month and well below the +43 that was measured in February 2020, when President Donald Trump was still in office and just before the pandemic began.

The poll comes after recently released economic data disappointed economists. The Bureau of Labor said earlier this month that unemployment spiked to 6.1% in April. The economy added only 266,000 new jobs that month, far short of the one million new jobs predicted by experts. Also, unemployment filings rose sharply during COVID and remain high, despite widespread vaccinations.

The poll also found that Americans increasingly see COVID as less of an issue and the struggling economy as the bigger priority. The poll found 21% of Americans cited an economic issue as the most important problem in the nation, the highest since April of 2017.

“Even during the worst phases of the coronavirus pandemic, Americans’ attention was focused more on the coronavirus and other issues as the most important problem, including times when economic confidence was much lower than today,” Gallup reports. “Before the current survey, the highest percentage mentioning economic matters as the most important problem since the pandemic began was 19% in June.”

A Yahoo News/ YouGov  poll from last week showed many Americans blame the economic woes on ongoing federal unemployment benefits. When asked, a plurality of 44% of Americans blamed the supplement federal unemployment benefits for increased unemployment, saying the benefits “are making it too easy for unemployed Americans to not work.” Meanwhile, 41% of Americans said unemployment had remained high because “the pandemic is making it hard for unemployed Americans to find work.”

Republicans also have pointed to growing inflation as an ominous economic indicator after BLS reported a spike in consumer prices last month.

“In this Biden economy almost everything we need in order to survive is getting more expensive by the month,” Republican National Convention Spokesperson Paris Dennard said.

Both parties will likely use the upcoming jobs and unemployment data to support their attacks on or defense of the economy.

“The May jobs report to be released in early June could go a long way to convince Americans whether the disappointing April report was a temporary aberration in the economic recovery or the start of a more concerning negative trend,” Gallup said.

The Gallup poll was conducted May 3-18 with a random sample of 1,016 adults in all 50 states. There is 4% margin of error.

Montana’s unemployment rate declined from 3.8% in March to 3.7% in April. The unemployment rate for the U.S. was 6.1% for the month.

“Montana’s economic recovery depends on getting Montanans back to work into good-paying jobs, allowing our businesses to fill open jobs and meet their growing customer demand,” Gov. Gianforte said. “By ending the pandemic-related federal unemployment bonus that discourages work and by launching a return-to-work bonus, more Montanans will reenter the workforce, and Montana’s economy will continue to rebound.”

Montana’s unemployment rate for April matches the pre-pandemic rate of 3.7% in February 2020. There are, however, 9,428 fewer Montanans in the labor force than there were in February 2020.

Montana’s total employment, which includes payroll, agricultural, and self-employed workers, grew by 1,799 in April. Employment gains were fueled by workers returning to the labor force, which added 1,437 workers in April as vaccines were made available to more Montanans. After March’s strong growth in payroll employment, Montana saw a small decline of 300 payroll jobs in April.

“The specter of inflation is concerning. It’s time for the federal government to turn off the spigot of spending trillions of dollars that drive up our national debt, a shameful burden our kids and grandkids will inherit,” Gov. Gianforte said. The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased by 0.8% over the month in April for total a 12-month increase of 4.2%, the largest 12-month increase since September 2008. Prices of used cars and trucks rose 10% in April and accounted for a third of the increase. Prices mostly increased across the board. The index for all items less food and energy, referred to as core inflation, increased 0.9% in April.

The Montana Farm Bureau is applauding Governor Gianforte for signing HB 554 which states that before the federal government can establish a national heritage area, the Montana Legislature must approve it. This bill gives farmers and ranchers a layer of assurance that there will be local input on designations that might impact their ability to use certain practices.

When Chouteau County Farm Bureau learned about the push for the Big Sky Country National Heritage Area (BSCNHA) covering 2 million acres in Cascade and part of Chouteau counties, they raised the alarm.  They introduced policy at the 2020 Montana Farm Bureau Delegates Session for local control on property rights issues, then Rep. Josh Kassmier (R) HD 27, introduced HB 554, and on Friday, May 14, Montana Governor Greg Gianforte signed the bill into law.

Chouteau County President Jess Bandel, who testified on the bill, said, “We want to thank Representative Kassmier and the other legislators who supported HB 554, and Governor Gianforte for signing it. Passage of this bill returns decisions on private property rights to the people and the state, as opposed to giving the power to the federal government. That’s how our country was founded; power with the people. With state control, the people’s choice can be heard. This bill should at least put pressure on federal agencies making these decisions to contact the state and have a conversation about creating heritage areas.”

Bandel cautioned that although HB 554 will help protect property rights by having more local approval, it’s still essential to oppose the privately-managed BSCNHA by contacting the National Park Service as well as the Montana Congressional delegation.

“The proposed BSCNHA would infringe on private property rights, have a self-appointed board and misuse taxpayer funds,” said Bandel.

Dig it Days has some really big news for this year’s event, after having to cancel last year because of COVID restrictions.

The second annual Dig it Days will be a two-day special event at  Montana Fair, on Thursday and Friday, August 19 and 20 – and it will feature a monster, monster truck sponsored by Westmoreland Coal Company.

The first Dig it Days was held in 2019 in Lockwood.

Of course there will be lots and lots of other trucks and construction equipment, and emergency service vehicles, for kids to check out, inspect and “test drive.” There will also be the very popular Sand Mountain and other fun displays. Kids (big ones as well as younger ones) will also be able to operate a back hoe, for real!

Yellowstone Dig It Days is a fun, educational, and wholesome family entertainment event, the production of Yellowstone Family, a tax-exempt non-profit organization. It is made possible by a host of sponsors who not only help fund it but also provide the equipment, operators, and additional displays.

More so than ever before, Dig It Days will focus on education and educational opportunities as the sponsors emphasize the potential for careers in the constructing and contractor industry. Part of the funds raised will finance scholarships for students interested in pursuing such careers, as well as to support other youth organizations. So besides the return of some of the same local companies that were involved before, The Montana Contractors Association, Montana Equipment Dealers Association and Build Montana campaign are eager to participate in Dig It Days, as a means of introducing young people to their industry.

Entry to Dig it Days is included in the Montana Fair entry, and many free tickets will be available through sponsors so stay tuned for details. Free t-shirts will be distributed to kids until they are gone.


Ziegler, Jack R & Michelle L/North Coast Electric Company, 1760 Monad Rd, Com Remodel,  $90,000

Executive Property Services/Trailhead Home Improvement, LLC, 1350 Avenue C, Com Remodel, $70,000

Deaconess Medical Center Of Billings/Bauer Construction, 2800 10th Ave N, Com Remodel, $509,643

Simon & Sherri Harper Living Trust, 1632 Grand Ave, Com Remodel, $47,082 

CHP Billings Mt Owner LLC/Master Protection Corporation, 4001 Bell Ave, Com Remodel, $5,611

Dennis & Jessie Benson/Moon Construction, 1414 4th Ave N, Com Remodel, $50,000

Kialy Iverson/Old School Contracting Inc, 5411 24th St W, Com Remodel, $4,000

Yellowstone County/Sprague Construction Roofing Division, 3319 King Ave E, Com Fence/Roof/Siding, $44,800

Debtor Co Trust/Perfect 10 Roofing, 3407 1st Ave N, Com Fence/Roof/Siding, $29,000

City Of Billings, Terry Park/T.W. Clark Construction Llc, 6th St W, Com Fence/Roof/Siding, $114,000 Western Sky Billings LLC/Beartooth Holding & Construction, 4610 Crescent St, Com New Office/Bank, $249,650

Josh Rollinger/Jones Construction, Inc, 3345 Conrad Rd, Com New Warehouse/Storage, $669,396

McDonald’s Real Estate Company, 1046 Grand Ave, Com Remodel, $19,260

Swenson, Randall D (1/2 Int), 1547 41st St W, Com Remodel, $75,000

N Schaff, Allen K Trustee, 2115 2nd Ave, Com Remodel, $175,000

Deaconess Medical Center Of Billings/Bauer Construction, 2800 10th Ave N, Com Remodel, $10,000

East Billings Investors/Blake Construction, 926 Main St, Com Remodel – Change In Use, $2,000

Jen & Jason Marble/Titan Excavation & Services, 2517 Montana Ave, Com Remodel – Change Of Use, $9,500


Frideres, Chris, 4433 Frances Ave, Res New Accessory Structure, $45,000

Ryan Mershon/Sundance Tile & Carpentry, 2019 9th Ave N, Res New Accessory Structure, $20,000

HG Design/HG Designs, 1912 W Thunder Mountain Rd, Res New Single Family, $400,000

J&S Development Co/HG Designs, 5211 Grass Mountain Rd, Res New Single Family, $400,000

Ridgewood Development LLP/Kings Mountain Builders Inc, 3395 Castle Pines Dr, Res New Single Family, $300,000

Jake Pierce, 645 Claremont Rd, Res New Single Family, $248,556

Big Sky Endeavors LLC/Emmons Building & Design Llc, 510 Omalley Dr, Res New Single Family, $332,672

L & L Construction, LLC/Lorenz Construction, 3376 Tahoe Dr, Res New Single Family, $256,894

McCall Development Inc, 1702 Annas Garden Ln, Res New Accessory Structure, $156,776

Wagenhals Enterprises Inc, 5501 First Light Cir,  Res New Single Family, $335,000

Upfront Development/ Aaron Higginbotham, 2224 Entrada Rd, Res New Single Family, $235,199

Emineth Custom Homes/Emineth Custom Homes, 3903 Pine Cove Rd, Res New Single Family, $410,000

Infinity Home/Infinity Home Llc, 1016 Beringer Way, Res New Single Family, $268,046

Infinity Home/Infinity Home Llc, 1023 Matador Ave, Res New Single Family, $201,672

High Sierra Ii Inc/Infinity Home Llc, 1019 Matador Ave, Res New Single Family, $202,845

High Sierra Ii Inc/Infinity Home Llc, 2124 Entrada Rd, Res New Single Family, $386,992

Steve Gountanis Homes Inc/Steve Gountanis Homes Inc, 5425 Burlington Ave, Res New Single Family, $320,669

McCall Development Inc/McCall Development, 1702 Annas Garden Ln, Res New Two Family, $257,568

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Labor (DOL) have published a joint temporary final rule  making available an additional 22,000 H-2B temporary nonagricultural guest worker visas for fiscal year (FY) 2021 to employers who are likely to suffer irreparable harm without these additional workers. Of the supplemental visas, 6,000 are reserved for nationals of the Northern Triangle countries of Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.

DHS first announced the planned supplemental increase of 22,000 visas for the H-2B Temporary Non-Agricultural Worker program on April 20, 2021. The supplemental H-2B visa allocation consists of 16,000 visas available only to returning H-2B workers from one of the last three fiscal years (FY 2018, 2019, or 2020), and 6,000 visas for Northern Triangle nationals, which are exempt from the returning worker requirement.

“Today’s joint rule helps American businesses and addresses the need for robust worker protections,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas. “For the first time, we are setting aside supplemental visas for noncitizens from Northern Triangle countries, in furtherance of President Biden’s and Vice President Harris’ direction to expand legal pathways for protection and opportunity for individuals from those countries.”  

“The temporary final rule is designed to prevent permanent and severe financial loss to U.S. employers by supplementing the congressionally mandated H-2B visa cap, takes into account feedback from American businesses, employer organizations, and labor representatives, and is one piece of the administration’s broader comprehensive framework for managing migration throughout North and Central America,” said USCIS Acting Director Tracy L. Renaud. “This rule incorporates several key provisions to ensure adequate safeguards for U.S. workers and H-2B workers. The rule requires that employers take additional steps to recruit U.S. workers, and provides for “portability,” which allows H-2B workers already in the United States to begin employment with a new H-2B employer or agent once USCIS receives a timely filed, non-frivolous H-2B petition, but before the petition is approved. Portability enables H-2B workers to change employers more quickly if they encounter unsafe or abusive working conditions. DHS and DOL will also conduct a significant number of post-adjudication reviews to ensure compliance with the program’s requirements.”

Starting May 25, eligible employers who have already completed a test of the U.S. labor market to verify that there are no U.S. workers who are willing, qualified, and able to perform the seasonal nonagricultural work can file Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, to seek additional H-2B workers. They must submit an attestation with their petition to demonstrate their business is likely to suffer irreparable harm without a supplemental workforce. Additional details on eligibility and filing requirements are available in the temporary final rule and the Temporary Increase in H-2B Nonimmigrant Visas for FY 2021 webpage.

By Evelyn Pyburn

Many on the Left (Democrats, Progressives, Socialists or whatever term is acceptable) must be quite forlorn nowadays because of how rapidly they are losing ground on multiple fronts— policy and political  strongholds which took them years and decades to establish are being quietly and subtly eroded– with  gun control being at the forefront.

Actually, there are probably some who aren’t forlorn. There are many who are sublimely unaware of what is happening, since it is not readily reported in mainstream media, and with so much censorship of alternative views, the stilted perspective keeps many people in a never-never land.

But, bit by bit. One little report after another, state by state, the losses to the Left mount as state legislatures step up to do what they were always intended to do – protect their citizens from federal overreach.

So it is that 19 states have wiped out almost all gun control measures, returning to a level of citizen ownership and gun possession that hasn’t been seen in a century. The right of citizens to own and carry guns in the US has been strengthened to a point that even the most optimistic gun- right advocates must be astounded.

This and many other liberties are being reclaimed by state legislatures who are exercising their Constitutional powers and authority, as well as reclaiming the rights of their citizens. And they are doing so for a wide range of issues. This is all happening in such a sweeping manner because 38 states are now Red, which in itself has to be seen as a massive repudiation of the progressive agenda.

Their push back has brought forward state laws that have empowered private education, strengthened private property rights, reduced taxes and regulations, unleashed business growth, secured voting processes, fortified law enforcement and challenged legalized abortion. They have also disempowered health departments and local governments, while lifting up the civil liberties of individual citizens to a degree that has surely left many who have noticed, astonished at how quickly and easily it happened once the people and their lawmakers decided to take action.

In just Montana—

— our state legislature has pushed back on federal land seizures through federal monument programs by requiring approval of such efforts by the state legislature, a huge step in protecting private property rights.

—education freedom has been enhanced with increased tax credits for contributions to private school to $200,000.

—the Governor was given more power to appoint judges.

—the power of health officers and unelected bureraucrats was removed.

— the Governor’s power to declare unending emergencies was ended.

—business owners can no longer be subjugated to serve as an extension of law enforcement.

— doctors and dentists may, do business one-on-on with patients, just like a real free market.

—assured that those who vote are eligible to vote.

—and there were also a host of changes in tax law and regulations that unleashed much business and economic activity… the list could go on…

The weight and breadth of the flip flop has to have some Progressives — who were watching in smug satisfaction the orchestrated riots and defunded police, cowed and masked citizens, crumbling economies and generally confident about what they thought they had achieved –  standing in stunned silent. No matter what they thought was their success in seizing power this is most certainly not what they expected.

Of course, the battles are not over, the Left is turning to the only means they have at the moment to fight back – the courts, which remain stacked against the citizens and very pro-government. But, that is not an easy path, even for the Left, because they have to file cases in every state against many aspects of each of hundreds of new laws enacted by the states. 

So while this is no claim to victory it is to hearten anyone who – living in a desert of no honest news reporting – sees only the bad news and haven’t noticed the minimized reports that have pelted us almost daily as state’s have tweaked laws to regain power and restore freedom. This is what we the people can do, but we need to keep it up.