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Guest Post: Bannock County Budget Gone Wild

March 18th, 2008 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

When government reaches the point where the apparent function is to perpetuate the interests of the government itself, rather than looking after the people’s interest, something critical is lost in our democratic system. When government leadership reaches the point where it no longer seems answerable to the electorate it is sworn to serve, it’s time for change.

That seems to be symptomatic of what’s happening in Bannock County. The County budget for 2008 represents a pillaging of the citizenry for a $10 million increase that will have to come from taxpayers and fees to cover an out-of-control county budget that increased by 27% this year alone.

This is troubling enough on its own. But coupled with the adamant rejection of a $20 million bond to renovate Holt Arena because of the added property tax burden it would impose, the actions of the county commission represent an egregious breach of trust, horrible judgment, and a severe detachment from the realities of our financial environment.

Of equal consternation is the inexplicable reticence on the part of local media to cover this. It shouldn’t be the job of a lowly columnist to bring these things to light; it should be the duty of an attentive and objective local media.

The principle source of revenue to cover for this budgetary blunder would have to be property taxes. That’s the only source I can imagine for the funds. That being the case, a little background and history may help in understanding how they could get away with this.

The Legislature met in special session in 2006 and passed the Property Tax Relief Bill. The purpose, in part, was to remove maintenance and operations costs for schools from property tax funding. In lieu of that, a 1% sales tax was tacked on for Idaho tax payers to support the maintenance and operations of our schools. The effect of the bill was to reduce property tax levels since they have been rising to the point where those on fixed incomes were unable to keep pace with the increases from year to year.

The effect on property taxes was to be a three-tenths of one percent decrease in the property tax rate at the local level. Too many people get hung up on the property tax levy rate. The levy rate itself just determines how much of the total tax bill is paid by individual property owners. Remember, the county and municipalities set budgets based on what they want, and then assesses the tax collections to support those wants, which is where they arrive at the levy rate. Since they can factor in new construction on top of the maximum 3% increase per year, they can “doctor” the levy rate quite effectively, and make it look like we’re paying less per household while really the tax-payer is being taken to the cleaners.

Well, let’s see what has happened in actuality. In 2005, the Bannock County budget was $38.2 million. In 2006, it rose just slightly to $38.3 million. In 2007, after the Property Tax Relief went into effect, the budget dropped to $37.2 million. But for 2008, the budget will be $47.2 million. That’s nearly a 30% increase from 2007 to 2008!

As I understand it, when Jim Guthrie, Craig Cooper, and Steve Hadley were serving on the County Commission, they did all they could to keep expenses low, and they collected just enough in property taxes to keep the County solvent and in a position to meet it’s obligations and provide the services required.

The current commission, however, voted two to one, Larry Ghan and Lynn Whitworth in the majority, against Steve Hadley in the minority, on the current budget. The vote would have undoubtedly been the same to utilize a look-back feature called a “foregone” amount that allows local entities to recapture any lost property tax revenue they had not collected for prior years. With the fiscal discipline exercised by Guthrie, Cooper, and Hadley, there were a lot of savings for those years they ran the County. It would appear that the current commission has recovered all those savings from previous years, and along with other sources including fees, to pay for a $10 million budget increase.

I’m sure the prevailing commissioners can spin a wonderful tale for why their budgets are skyrocketing as they are. One of our commissioners thinks Bannock County should be on a par with Ada County. Well we can’t afford a mini-Ada County in Eastern Idaho!

It truly seems the perspective of county officials has become distorted. Rather than government serving the people, in a convoluted twist of priorities, the people are now subservient to the county.

I had hoped to delve into the finances of the cities of Pocatello and Chubbuck as well, but just didn’t have the wherewithal to do so. I don’t think the city fathers have been quite so egregious in their abuse of the local taxpayers, but it may make for some interesting reporting for an enterprising and not-easily-hoodwinked investigative reporter.

It’s no wonder Commissioners Ghan and Whitworth don’t want underlings running for their jobs. A county employee would have insights into the machinations of county government that could blow the lid off what’s really going on down there.

This same mentality that now dominates in Bannock County has nearly ruined New Jersey and Michigan; the age-old concept of taxing until it either becomes too painful or the citizenry rises up in revolt to declare that enough is enough, and “we’re not going to take it any more!” They never seem to know how to cut spending, just increase it, and then tax commensurately. I submit that we’ve reached the point where we shouldn’t take it any more. The national clarion call in politics is for change. It should be obvious that it’s time for change in Bannock County. We can’t afford any more years like this one.

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Posted in Guest Posts, Pocatello Issues, Politics in General | No Comments »

House Highlights – March 12

March 13th, 2008 by Halli

By Representative Tom Loertscher

Because of our somewhat crowded conditions at the Legislature this year I had anticipated a mood meltdown to occur in the house much earlier. What happened this week was not necessarily as severe as a meltdown but it did signal a change of attitudes.

The Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee (JFAC) pretty much concluded its work by having set all of the agency budgets. Two of the big ones passed the House this week, Corrections and State Police. Both of these budgets are bare bones budgets this year with increases for salaries at three percent and the big one for the State Police is the increase in fuel costs.

A draft piece of legislation that came before State Affairs was one to place strong sanctions on employers if they hire employees that are not in this country legally. I happened to catch a local Boise radio talk show that was blasting the committee for not printing the proposal. There was reluctance by the committee to proceed because of some apparent conflicts it had with federal law. If the problems are fixed we may see that one again this year.

An emissions testing bill passed the House as well and the debate between Ada and Canyon County legislators was very intense. In Boise you see these little red emissions testing vans scattered all over place checking vehicle exhaust gasses, and the potential is to have these all over the state. The bill was brought forward as a compromise and exempts farm and industrial equipment, but any vehicle over five years old would be subject to removal from the road if it could not comply with standards set by DEQ. How old is the car you drive?

The Revenue and Taxation Committee has been working long this week with several bills coming to the floor for debate. The one of most interest to the folks at home was the increase in the grocery tax credit that moves to $50 per person for taxable incomes of $1000 or less and $30 per person for the rest. Then the credit goes up by $10 per year until it reaches $100. It passed the full House easily. The debate is still alive to remove the food sales tax altogether but does not have the support of the Governor to move forward this year.

As quickly as the Governor had proposed vehicle registration fees be increased to $150, by mid week he had withdrawn the idea. He went on to blame the Legislature for its failure but as one of my colleagues remarked it was likely that he was getting the same phone calls we were. Others are still working on some increases so stay tuned and hold on to your wallets.

JFAC having set the budgets signals about another two weeks to go, but that only if all goes well. Still there are a number of things yet to be resolved among them, aquifer recharge, personal property tax, secure mental health facility, and election reform just to name a few. And if there should be some vetoes long the way, it could be more than the outside temperature that will go up.

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Posted in Constitutional Issues, Education, Family Matters, Guest Posts, Idaho Legislature, Politics in General, Rep. Tom Loertscher, Taxes | No Comments »

Guest Post: Idaho Legislators Threatened Yet Again

March 12th, 2008 by Halli

From David Ripley, Idaho Chooses Life

Idaho Legislators were given yet another ultimatum by the Abortion Lobby on Tuesday: Defeat HB 464 or we will sue and extract hundreds of thousands of dollars to further fund our agenda! The letter from the Northwest Women’s Law Center, based in Seattle, was at least the third such threat leveled at lawmakers around the anti-Coercion bill now pending in the House.
Oddly enough, all of these threats were made in the name of “protecting women”.

The dysfunction of our federal judicial system, particularly in Idaho and the 9th Circuit, has now enabled the Abortion Lobby to set public policy via extortion.

The two year effort to provide protections for women wanting to give their babies life has been frustrating – but it is not without fruit. We have confirmed many of our worst fears about the Abortion Industry and their allies (the ACLU, Women’s Network and outfits like the Northwest Women’s Law Center). The public has gained an opportunity to see the true agenda of the Abortion Lobby, which has almost nothing to do with women – but everything to do with protecting the bottom line of abortion providers.

Here is an excerpt from the NWLC letter to Idaho Legislators:

“House Bill 464 does nothing to help pregnant abused women and girls, and places an unconstitutional burden on all women – including victims of domestic violence and rape – who decide to seek abortion.”

Let’s see. HB464 would protect a woman’s constitutional right to choose Life. But, according to these “advocates of women”, such protection is actually a burden on her right to choose. Strange. In fact, the only way one can make sense of this bizarre argument is to realize that what they fear is not a burden on women, actual human beings, but a burden upon the abortion providers. In their world, “women’s rights” have become synonymous with “the abortion industry’s right to make money”.
And what if abortionists are actually obligated to ask these women and girls if they are suffering from coercion?

If HB464 works as we hope, the number of women getting abortions will decline because the new law will help discourage coercion. Those women will be spared the horrors of an abortion history and a new and precious life will come into the world.

Great hope remains that Idaho legislators will turn back this sordid extortion campaign and rise to the defense of women and girls vulnerable to coercion. Please pray for these legislators – and take a moment to call them.

In the Boise area, you can leave a message for your legislators by calling 332-1000. Outside the Treasure Valley, use the toll-free number: 1-800-626-0471.

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Posted in Family Matters, Guest Posts, Idaho Legislature, Idaho Pro-Life Issues | 4 Comments »

Guest Post: Common Sense and the Idaho Legislature

March 10th, 2008 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

When my father, Allan Larsen, was first elected to the legislature in 1967, the legislature was constitutionally required to meet for no more than 60 days every two years. He argued that we would be better off if the legislature only met for two days every sixty years. His rationale was simple, that the longer and more frequently they meet, the more time they have to pass laws that infringe on our liberty and the more money they spend that they have to collect from us. He admonished his family and his constituents to be vigilant and watch their wallets and watch their freedoms, for they were both at risk whenever the legislature is in session. The same principle holds true at the Federal level, although Congress is much more proficient at assaulting our liberty and our wallet.

He was of the enlightened opinion that, in spite of the potential for damage inflicted on Idahoans by the legislature being in session, that it was an anomaly when that occurred. He maintained that so many of Idaho’s legislators come from an agrarian background that they’re steeped in common sense, and their education is practical, having had to fight the system and bureaucracy and idiotic laws every day in eking out their subsistence. As the state becomes more urbanized, that tradition is less dominant, which demands increasing vigilance on our part.

Because of that common sense based history, trust is easier to foster for our state legislature than it is for the Federal Government, or even for our local governments as far as that goes. You’d think it would be easy to trust our local entities since they’re much closer to us and affect our daily lives more in so many ways. But it’s hard to have full faith in local entities that set budgets based on what they want, and then assesses the tax collections to support those wants, versus the state process which projects tax receipts, and then establishes a budget based on reasonable expectations for state revenue.

The legislature has engaged in some good common sense based legislation this year, although there are an increasing number of anomalies. Perhaps of little interest to more urban citizens, the passage of H0557 making provision for farmers to burn off crop residue after it had been declared “illegal” by the Berkeley-based ideologues of the Ninth “Circus” Court of Appeals. The effort, led in the Senate by Sen. Steve Bair from Blackfoot, illustrates how common sense can prevail even on environmental issues.

It appears that a similarly logical solution is in the works regarding the wolf management issue. Senate Bill 1374 passed the Senate unanimously allowing for livestock owners, and domestic animal owners to “dispose” of wolves that are threatening or molesting their animals, without fear of being thrown in jail for doing so, or even requiring a permit from Fish and Game. That issue still dredges up considerable angst when I think about how the problem came to be. If wolves were so good for the ecosystem, why didn’t Congress also require their reintroduction into the New England states where they were also indigenous? Of course we must remind ourselves that such an order was made by the same legislative body that illogically prevented hydro-electric production because of a snail and nearly destroyed the logging industry because of an owl. Such legislative idiocy is to be expected when bills are passed because it makes the legislators “feel good” instead of making sense.

Common sense prevailed in the defeat of SCR128, the greenhouse gases bill. In essence it called for something as innocuous as a report (which is already in the works anyway according to Toni Hardesty, DEQ Director) to be submitted to the Governor by mid-summer on greenhouse gas emissions as they relate to state energy policy. But the philosophical basis of the bill was so fallaciously founded on mythical assumptions, universally acclaimed yet unproven non-scientific premises, and unwarranted presuppositions regarding man-made global warming as to make the legislation untenable.

The so called “green building” bill, HB422 that calls for all state buildings to be 30% more energy efficient than comparable buildings should be of concern to us as taxpayers. The bill itself claims there is little cost difference in such energy-conscious construction. However, further research reveals that the construction costs to achieve even 25% greater efficiency can increase as much as 40%. That means that a $10 million building could cost as much as $14 million. Granted, energy efficiency would eventually offset much of that increased construction cost, but after how many decades? Gratefully the Senate version seems to recognize the inefficiency and impracticality of the House version, and as amended now states “to the extent it is practical and feasible” that 10-30% efficiency should be sought for state building projects.

For the most part, we get the quality of government we deserve, or vote for. Consequently, the imperative that we be as informed as possible is as applicable at the state and local level, as it is on the Federal level. For as Edward R. Murrow said, “A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves.”

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Posted in Guest Posts | No Comments »

Re-Post: Why On Earth Would I Send a Check to Idaho Public TV?

March 8th, 2008 by Halli

Originally posted March 3, 2007

It’s that special time of year again – Idaho Public TV (IdahoPTV) is inflicting the state with “Festival 2007″ [now "Festival 2008"] and asking you to dig deep to support their unequaled programming.

Let’s see – the federal government supported the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) to the tune of more than $400,000,000 in 2006. That would be $400 million of your tax dollars. (Cuts in future budgets have been proposed, but failed, due to tireless lobbying by PBS-inflamed viewers.)

The State of Idaho also gives hundreds of thousands of dollars to Idaho Public Television, an affiliate of PBS. That would be hundreds of thousands of your tax dollars.

And it’s called “public” television, supposedly free from the commercialism the for-profit stations inundate us with. And yet at the beginning or end (or both) of nearly every program, I am treated to a not-for-profit commercial. That sounds like an oxymoron because it is.

Will I call in a pledge during “Festival 2007″? Not necessary. I’ve already given twice, involuntarily, whether I watch a single minute of IdahoPTV or not. In fact, if I don’t contribute, through non-payment of taxes, I could go to jail.

I think I’ll call my current level of support good enough.

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Posted in Education, Idaho Legislature, Politics in General, Taxes | 3 Comments »

Guest Post: Planned Parenthood’s Racist Roots

March 6th, 2008 by Halli

From Bryan Fischer, Idaho Values Alliance

The racist bigotry recently exposed at Boise’s Planned Parenthood has its roots in the long and unsavory past of this organization.

According to African-American Clenard Childress, founder of BlackGenocide.org, Planned Parenthood, under the aegis of its founder, Margaret Sanger, launched what was called “The Negro Project” in 1939. This project was designed to control the birth of “human weeds,” Sanger’s colorful term for black people.

To assist in promoting abortion, sterilization and birth control among blacks, Margaret Sanger wrote the following to a friend in the eugenics movement:

“We should hire three or four colored ministers, preferably with social-service backgrounds, and with engaging personalities. The most successful educational approach to the Negro is through a religious appeal. We don’t want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.” (emphasis added)

It would be hard to exaggerate the attitude of white supremacy and patronizing condescension found in those words. Yet Planned Parenthood continues to name its highest annual award after this woman.

Said Sen. Barack Obama last July to the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, “Thanks to all of you at Planned Parenthood for all the work that you are doing for women all across the country and for families all across the country – and for men who have enough sense to realize you are helping them.” (How is Planned Parenthood “helping” men? By getting rid of promiscuously fathered children? By helping them conceal sex crimes against underage girls? What?)

Obama is either ignorant of the fact that 79% of Planned Parenthood clinics are located in minority communities, and that almost half of unborn black babies are aborted, or doesn’t care. Blacks today represent a smaller percentage of our population than they did immediately after the Civil War.

This puts Obama far from the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr., who in his famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail referred to the historic reality that “the early church put an end to such evils as infanticide.” What Rev. King refers to as an evil, Sen. Obama refers to as a constitutional right.

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Posted in Education, Family Matters, Guest Posts, Idaho Legislature, Idaho Pro-Life Issues | 1 Comment »

Animal Cruelty Outrage

March 5th, 2008 by Halli

THE HUMANE SOCIETY OF THE UPPER VALLEY
PO BOX 51021
IDAHO FALLS, IDAHO 83425

1 March 2008

On January 29, the Bannock County Sheriff’s Dept, investigated the worse case of animal cruelty in ten years…according to local TV news. They were calling for donations of feed and money in order to feed close to 100 starving animals. Many were dead and the carcasses were scattered all over the place…horses, cows, goats, etc.

It has now been a month that the public has been feeding Shane Haggard’s livestock with five tons being delivered on 28 Jan. The remaining animals, many of which were close to starvation, according to the veterinarian’s report, are still in his custody.

March 4th is his pretrial conference. To date, he is pleading “not guilty” and threatening to sue everyone remotely related to the case for releasing his name. He has been charged with two misdemeanors. Dozens of animals have been starved to death (according to the vet report) and only two charges!

The county prosecutor and Haggard’s attorney are trying to make a deal so that Haggard won’t be charged with any more counts of cruelty. Mysteriously, the two sets of pictures taken at the crime scene have disappeared. And some of the remaining starved horses have now also “disappeared”.

The public doesn’t know just how horrific this case is AND that as soon as the “public donations” and attention are diverted to more current news, there is nothing to keep him from resuming the neglect towards these animals.

The Humane Society of the Upper Valley has made an official request for copies of the crime investigation and the pictures. We have already procured a copy of the vet’s report. Our people have donated towards the care of these animals.

Now it is time for the county prosecutor, Cleve Colson, to step up to the plate and charge this guy with charges that are commensurate with the heinousness of this crime. Can anyone imagine how horribly these animals suffered as they literally starved and froze to death!

We need assistance from the media and public.

Andi Elliott

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Posted in Family Matters, Guest Posts, Pocatello Issues, Politics in General | 1 Comment »

House Highlights – March 5

March 5th, 2008 by Halli

From Representative Tom Loertscher

An ancient Chinese proverb says, “The longest journey begins with the
first step.” Although true, a modern version might be, “The longest
journey begins at the gas pump.” These days as I travel it is
interesting to hear the comments of other drivers as I fill my pickup
with fuel and observe the dollars roll by at the rate of one per
second.

One fellow who was driving for a delivery company was agonizing over
the cost of fuel and it wasn’t even coming out of his pocket. He told
me that every cent of increase costs his company a million dollars per
year. And in the legislature we are at what some are saying is a
crossroads for transportation. With what the Department of
Transportation is calling a two hundred million dollar shortfall in
funding, ideas for solutions are as numerous and varied as you can
imagine.

The Governor came up with one of increasing license fees for vehicles
to one hundred fifty dollars each. That was received about as well as a
cow in the living room. One of my colleagues asked me what I thought
would be an acceptable increase. I told him zero. We still have not done
any efficiency review of the department. And on that matter several of
are proposing a complete audit of the Department of Transportation.

After another long day of hearings concluding about twelve hours of
testimony and discussion, the midwifery bill has proceeded to the
Committee of the Whole House for amendment. The amendments that are
being proposed don’t pacify physicians but they do incorporate some of
their concerns. One Doctor testified that it was the responsibility of
the Legislature to guarantee that all babies are born without problems.
Oh, if only we could do that.

Tamarak, a resort in Valley County, has brought legislation to increase
the number of special liquor licenses to twelve, up from three. They are
having financial difficulties at present and desire to be able have
licenses for several more “high-end” hotels and restaurants. It came
out of committee on a close vote. I voted no. Selling more alcohol as a
means of economic development bothers me on several levels.

The Lincoln day celebrations are nearing an end for the year. It is
always good to get home and visit with the people of District 31. It is
what I call a thousand mile weekend, Boise to Bone to Montpelier to Soda
Springs to Bone and Back to Boise, just a little over nine hundred
miles. When I drifted off to sleep Saturday night I dreamt about a long
black snake with a dotted white stripe down its back. But it was worth
every minute of the long journey.

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Posted in Family Matters, Guest Posts, Idaho Legislature, Rep. Tom Loertscher | No Comments »

Guest Post: Idaho Statesman Covers for Planned Parenthood

March 5th, 2008 by Halli

From Bryan Fischer, Idaho Values Alliance

Wow, that was quick!

On Wednesday, the IVA exposed the blatant racism at Planned Parenthood of Idaho, as revealed through a seven-state investigation conducted by The Advocate, a student newspaper at UCLA. The Statesman covered the story yesterday in a page one story above the fold. The reporter who interviewed me for that story was clearly stunned by the KKK-like racism at Planned Parenthood.

Today, however, the Statesman devoted no less than three separate columns or stories to what appears to be frantic effort to do damage control on behalf of Planned Parenthood. The Statesman’s editors devoted their editorial to shifting blame to the whistleblower, a tactic they would despise if someone used it on an individual exposing government corruption. [Experts: Train Staffers to Handle Tricky Calls, Our View: Stick to Your Values Even When Money is On the Line, Rebecca Poedy: Handling of racist call was wrong, but so are extremist smear tactics)

The Statesman’s editors are in high dudgeon today over what they call the “deceptive tactics” used to “smear” the pro-abortion organization.

But, as I pointed out yesterday, dangling bait in front of a fish only works if the fish is ready, willing and eager to bite.

Then, while most guest opinion contributors must wait their turn for editorials to appear in print, the paper gave PP’s president a full “Reader’s View” space today to argue that the organization’s evident willingness to accept “racist donations” is nothing more than an “erroneous impression.”

Lastly, the paper devotes a page 2 “news” story to the topic of what a poor, beleaguered organization is to do when someone calls in with “deceptive or unseemly motives.”

We haven’t seen this much effort devoted to spin control since the Nixon White House.

And so the Statesman, which oddly devoted an excessive amount of ink to outing Sen. Larry Craig, almost appearing homophobic in the process, is now in full scramble mode to provide cover for its ally on the left, and explain away Planned Parenthood’s flagrant bigotry as the fault of one hapless and poorly-trained employee.

One can almost feel sorry for this employee Autumn Kersey, now being blamed, scapegoated and hung out to dry in the national media by Planned Parenthood as a renegade bigot.

But this is patently unfair to Ms. Kersey, who was representing the heart and soul of the organization when she readily agreed to accept a racially tinged donation. All seven Planned Parenthood affiliates called by The Advocate willingly and readily accepted the offer of donations despite the caller’s plain message that the donations were to be earmarked to kill black babies.

Unvarnished racism at Planned Parenthood is clearly systemic, and can be traced all the way back to its founder, Margaret Sanger, one of the founders of the “eugenics” movement in America. The goal of the eugenics movement was “more children from the fit, less from the unfit.”

To Sanger, “the fit” were white Europeans, the “unfit” were everybody else, meaning people of color.

The local Fox affiliate contacted the president of the Black Student Alliance at Boise State, who said, “Taking it (the donation) when it’s going towards aborting a black baby because of the color of their skin, that’s horrible.”

A very good pro-life bill, which will prevent Idaho’s women from being coerced into abortions they do not want, passed the House Health & Welfare Committee yesterday on a 9-3 voice vote, with every Republican voicing support and the three Democrats voicing opposition.

Planned Parenthood testified against this bill.

When the sponsor of the bill alluded to the Statesman’s front page story, the story that exposed Planned Parenthood’s racism, and suggested that it brought the credibility of the organization into question, the Democrats on the Committee immediately lapsed into a fit of panic and launched an aggressive counterattack to keep any of the content of the article from even receiving a mention in the Committee hearing.

What was clear is that every legislator in the room had read the Statesman’s article and new that it was a loaded grenade.

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Posted in Family Matters, Guest Posts, Idaho Legislature, Idaho Pro-Life Issues, Taxes | No Comments »

Guest Post: The Real “Hope” Afforded by the Obama Candidacy

March 5th, 2008 by Halli

From Richard Larsen

Michelle Obama, wife of Democratic Presidential hopeful Barack Obama, said at a rally in Milwaukee last week, “For the first time in my adult lifetime, I’m really proud of my country.” The comment was made in the context of the “hope” generated by her husbands’ campaign for the presidency.

At first blush such a comment is inscrutable. How could any American at 44 years of age, not feel pride in anything about our country? After all, this is still the most free country in the world in spite of Congressional efforts to limit our opportunities with increased taxation, and their efforts to limit our individual liberty in the name of global warming, gun control, political correctness, and the “nanny state” mentality afflicting the majority in Congress. The good that has been accomplished by this country in medicine, human rights, technological advancement, space exploration, global magnanimity in times of crisis, and the freedoms afforded to millions in other lands by our military are innumerable. The accomplishments that might foster pride in our country are literally limitless.

The Obama campaign attempted to mitigate the damage by spinning the statement with numerous clarifications and explanations, all of which rang hollow and belied a typical left-leaning animus of America on the part of the candidate’s wife.

This has provided justification for some to question her patriotism, akin to when her husband quit wearing his flag lapel pin last year. That hardly seems proper, as everyone has their own way of showing their love of country. Those on the left think they show their patriotism best when they criticize and demean America and its leaders when they’re of the opposition party. In a perverse sort of way, maybe she was expressing her patriotism.

However, my perception was altered significantly when I heard a gentleman explain it from his perspective. He was in his mid 40’s and his explication put the comment in a completely different light. He said, “I can understand that [what Mrs. Obama said]. Not up until 9/11 did I consider myself a patriot. I just felt like, what was so great about America? I never felt like I was taking part in the American dream, and capitalism, and all that. The opportunities have just never been there for me.”

He continued, “I’m black, and I feel like that’s the reason I’ve never really completely felt like an American. I’ve just never felt like the opportunity was really there. I’m a conservative, and believe in free markets and less government, and less taxes so I can support my family. And I realize I have more freedoms here than I would have had anywhere else. Under President Reagan, I tried to apply his principle of ‘pull yourselves up by the bootstraps’ and I feel like I started to see my opportunities for what they were; that there really was no limitation beyond my own vision for myself. But still, the doors weren’t open for me; I had to kick them open.”

He then explained how he understood where Michelle Obama was coming from. “I don’t think she was trying to say America is not a great country. It’s just that, the frustration as an African-American, you just don’t feel like you’re part of this country. Like we’re not just Americans, we’re African-Americans. We’re qualified with a hyphen. We’re patronized and pandered to all the time like we’re inferior somehow. We even have black leaders. What other racial group has a leader? I don’t see a ‘white’ or ‘Hispanic’ leader out there. But we as blacks have ‘black leaders,’ like Jackson and Sharpton, and I don’t agree with them. But now, to see a black man running for the President of the United States and has a real chance to win, is just liberating to think that’s possible. I have no intention of voting for him, I disagree with what he stands for on almost all the issues, but he has broken through the limitations that I feel society has placed on us. His success to this point has changed my feelings about America and what we stand for. Even if he loses now to John McCain, he has changed how I feel about America. For the first time, I really feel like I’m an American.”

The fact that he was a conservative lent even greater credence to his argument. I can see how the call for hope rings true for many people who feel marginalized by being hyphenated Americans, or for some other reason feel like they’re not part of the America that the rest of us love and cherish. This man’s perceived social limitations trumped his ideology as it related to his sense of belonging.

This seems to be the legitimate hope afforded by the Obama candidacy. His hope is not founded in his policy positions, for they’re right out of a socialist playbook. But by having a legitimate shot at the presidency, he seems to some at least to have shattered racial barriers, whether real or perceived, that have allowed so many to feel alienated in their own country. If this is the case, then the greatest good that can come from the Obama “hope” has already been accomplished.

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