Solutions Get Lost in the Blame Game.


by Lisa Schmidt


My husband Steve read a joke with a punch line of “try to make things go right, but if things go wrong, a husband can always blame his wife.” My retort was that those of us who took the secret class, Wife 101, know the opposite is true: a wife can always blame her husband.

The humor in that joke highlights the sad truth that seems to have overcome many aspects of our society, including interest groups, organizations and governing bodies regardless of whether a leader is elected or appointed.

Solutions – or trying to make things go right – get lost in the blame game.

One local example involves our Montana Department of Livestock.

Unlike other state agencies that are administered by Gov. Steve Bullock, the DOL answers to the Board of Livestock. That board consists of livestock producers who volunteer their time and expertise to guide the state agency in the best interests of Montana’s livestock industry. They are appointed by the governor and given free rein to make all policy decisions.

Within the past year, it came to the public’s attention that the DOL has been spending more money than it receives, relying on a “savings account” to fill the gap.

This is an untenable situation that needs to change now.

As board members and livestock organizations within our state dig for answers to where the money went, no indication of criminal or malicious activity has surfaced.

Yet politics and the blame game dictate heads will roll.

An alliance of five livestock organizations — Montana Farm Bureau Federation, Montana Farmers Union, Montana Stockgrowers Association, Montana Wool Growers Association and the Montana Livestock Marketing Association – has demonstrated continued interest in the DOL’s budget crisis. Members have attended meetings, offered written suggestions for management changes and asked the uncomfortable questions that need to be asked. Some in this alliance are looking forward toward solutions, but their vision is being blocked by a curtain of dark eyes that face backward, looking into history for someone at fault.

The frustration is palatable at cafes, auction yards and annual meetings throughout Montana. It also is palatable in the voices of the board volunteers.

All of the board members were appointed by former Gov. Brian Schweitzer, a Democrat. The board members I spoke to said nobody in the governor’s office asked for their political affiliation, yet the divisiveness that has shuttered national cooperation has become a strategy within the livestock industry for solving funding issues at an agency that works for the industry’s benefit.

If that isn’t cutting off your nose to spite your face, I’m not sure what is.

The pigeonhole myths of the wasteful Democrats versus the greedy Republicans stand in the way of planning for a future of more expensive services provided by the Department of Livestock. Sound-bite stereotypes do not shape solutions.

Those stereotypes and myths must be ignored so that individuals can begin to listen to one another, brainstorm together and finesse the best solution.

Instead of an endless pit of frustrating blame, all of the individuals who are working so hard on Montana’s Department of Livestock fiscal woes can be a beacon for cooperative solutions, an example for other administrators, organizations, interest groups and even spouses.

Maybe, some day in the distant future, nobody will understand the joke Steve read. Maybe we won’t even need Wife 101 anymore.

This article first appeared in the Great Falls Tribune.  Lisa Schmidt and her husband, Steve Hutton, raise grassfed beef and lamb at the Graham Ranch near Conrad.  She can be reached at 

Source:  Lisa Schmidt

Reposted with permission by Jami Howell

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