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Richard Larsen: The State of the Union and “American Values”

January 31st, 2012 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

The president, in his State of the Union address declared, “The problems we’re overcoming are not the heritage of one person, party, or even one generation. It’s just the tendency of government to grow. And there’s always that well-intentioned chorus of voices saying, ‘With a little more power and a little more money, we could do so much for the people.’ For a time we forgot the American dream isn’t one of making government bigger; it’s keeping faith with the mighty spirit of free people under God.”

If you don’t recall that opening line, it’s understandable, for it wasn’t in the latest State of the Union, and it wasn’t this president. The president was Ronald Reagan, and the year was 1984. Whether one agreed with him or not, there was remarkable consistency in what he said, and his message didn’t vary based on the venue, his audience, or the grandness of the stage. Even more remarkable was his policies and recommendations to congress and the American people were consistent, at least incrementally, with what he said. This is an increasingly rare commodity, especially in politics, as we observed firsthand this week.

In this week’s State of the Union we heard, “What’s at stake are not Democratic values or Republican values, but American values. We have to reclaim them.” I couldn’t agree more! But what does he think those values are? The historical version of those “American values” and Obama’s are not synonymous. For the rest of the speech the only words uttered with greater frequency than “fair” and “fairness” were “I,” “me,” and “my.”

From what Obama said Tuesday night, his notion of our “American values” is not based on freedom, liberty, pursuit of happiness, or any of the ancillary principles or traits that have made America great. His overarching theme was “fairness,” which is simply a euphemism for class envy, based on increased taxation of the most financially successful Americans, to pay for more regulation, agencies, and programs. This concept of “values” is very un-American. They are distinctly antithetical to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” that encompassed the nation’s political value system for two centuries.

This contrast is observed even more starkly with the 1986 State of the Union address when President Reagan put the role of fairness in proper perspective. “Private values must be at the heart of public policies.” He elaborated, “Americans have always valued faith, character, hard work, personal responsibility, self-reliance, discipline, competition, charity, fairness, and achievement. Values originate from what people believe, especially what they believe about God.” Clearly, from Obama’s speech, those are not his idea of “American values.”

Editors at The Washington Post observed this as well, when they said of Obama’s speech, “None of the proposals constitutes a single bold stroke to revive the economy, but the heart of Obama’s message was that America’s wealthiest citizens must do more to cement the economic recovery and pull the country from its dire fiscal condition.”

We should, with every major speech like the State of the Union, assess the consistency in speech and actions. If one tells us one thing but does another, that’s not just duplicity, it’s hypocrisy and prevarication. Here’s a perfect example from Obama’s speech the other night, “But I believe what Republican Abraham Lincoln believed: That government should do for people only what they cannot do better by themselves, and no more.” He obviously doesn’t really believe that, since government now is expanding and encroaching into our lives more than ever before and he proposed even more government “solutions” in his speech.

In describing the period leading up to Reagan’s 1984 address, Reagan said, “There was a feeling government had grown beyond the consent of the governed. Families felt helpless in the face of mounting inflation and the indignity of taxes that reduced reward for hard work, thrift, and risk-taking. All this was overlaid by an ever-growing web of rules and regulations.” Sound familiar?

Every solution for Obama is another government program or more spending. This is clearly not an American value. But this one is, “I think the best possible social program is a job.” That, too, was Ronald Reagan. He also correctly assessed the relationship between expansion of government and individual liberty, when he declared factually, “As government expands, liberty contracts.”

For those of us who lived through the Reagan years, the contrast between our president from thirty years ago and our current incarnation could not be more stark. They are diametrically opposed in the role of government in our lives, the American values that define us culturally and economically, and in the inherent trust of people, versus a trust of the government.

History and our founding documents provide a documented transcript of what our “American values” are, and that transcript provides a narrative much different from what our current president portrays.

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Posted in Constitutional Issues, Guest Posts, Politics in General, Presidential Politics, Taxes | No Comments »

David Ripley: ICL Opposes Insurance Exchange

January 30th, 2012 by Halli

Idaho Chooses Life

The Board of Idaho Chooses Life has voted to oppose the creation of a state insurance exchange because of the myriad dangers it poses to Idahoans. Implementing ObamaCare, even as we challenge it before the U.S. Supreme Court, just doesn’t make sense. The pending lawsuit provides with a great exit ramp.

But the nation’s best hope is a rejection of Barack Obama at the polls this fall.

We have distributed a “Policy Statement” on the idea of a state exchange to key members of the Legislature and are now meeting to reinforce our message. Rather than voluntarily submit to the edicts of Obama and Secretary Sebelius, Idaho must offer national leadership by choosing a private-sector path to better, cheaper health care.

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

David Ripley: Obama Pays Homage to Roe v. Wade

January 24th, 2012 by Halli

Idaho Chooses Life

President Obama issued a public statement this past Sunday honoring the Supreme Court for its heinous act 39 years ago this week:

“We must remember that [Roe v. Wade] not only protects a woman’s health and reproductive freedom, but also affirms a broader principle: that government should not intrude on private family matters.”

That is special. As the present leader of a movement to strip Americans of privacy and their right to pursue happiness and retain the fruits of their labor – the one area Obama would acknowledge “privacy” is in the matter of destroying an innocent life. In his view, the destruction of a defenseless human being should remain a “personal” matter between a mother and her abortionist.

How truly sad it is that the “leader” of the free world has nothing more to offer than legitimizing moral chaos in the name of “freedom”.

We ask that you join us in praying to the Lord Almighty that He would raise up a righteous man to help restore America’s moral grounding by tearing down the high altars of libertinism.

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

Richard Larsen: Unemployment Headlines Belie the Seriousness of Job Situation

January 24th, 2012 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

It’s too bad that we can’t rely on the headline numbers that our own government gives us. The headline numbers the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) releases each month obfuscate the real unemployment malaise across the country. Yet ironically, it’s in the BLS releases that we find a more complete unemployment picture, we just have to dig deeper for it.

When the BLS reported that the unemployment rate dropped to 8.5% with December’s year-end data, media pounced on the headline figure but almost none delved deeper into the official report. What they report is the demographic composition of the workforce as calculated in Table A-1 of their monthly report. Since 1994, these are the primary data for headline purposes. They also “tweak” the figures for “seasonal adjustment.”

For a more complete picture, however, look at the BLS monthly employment report, table A-15. U-6 on that table indicates as a percentage of the total civilian workforce, the number of unemployed (those included in Table A-1), those who have given up looking for jobs, plus those who are working marginal part-time jobs who need fulltime positions. In the latest report, that percentage is 15.2%. This is a much more accurate indication of the state of the economy relative to unemployment and job creation.

It’s easy to understand why those figures wouldn’t be reported in the headlines. They don’t look good. But to understand how current economic policies have failed so dramatically in job creation, it’s imperative that we look at the full picture.

Based solely on BLS data, for example, we learn the following. Over the past year alone, the civilian workforce population rose by 1,726,000. That means we need to add an average 166,000 jobs per month just to keep up with the demand of those who are entering the job market. Yet over the past year the number of people actually working fell by 67,000.

In November alone, when the headlines across the nation reported that unemployment dropped from 9.1% to 8.6%, job creation was not what caused the decline. The cause of the drop, which should’ve been the real headline, was that 487,000 fellow Americans stopped looking for work.

In the 30 months since the recession ended officially, according to BLS data, nearly one million previously employed workers have dropped out of the labor force. That means that not only are they not working, but they’ve become discouraged and given up finding a job, and aren’t even looking for a job anymore.

Investor’s Business Daily (IBD) reports that this anemic job growth is atypical in post-recession recoveries. Their research indicates that in the past nine recession recoveries the labor force “had climbed an average 3.5 million by this point.” After the recession in 2002-2003, job growth exploded with over 4 million jobs created, culminating in an official unemployment rate of 4.4% by this point in the recovery.

Instead, we have a net job loss over the past few years. The participation rate, which is the percentage of the number of people either working or looking for work compared to the civilian working-age population, is now 64%, which is down nearly two points from when the recession officially ended in June 2009. The only time that figure was lower, according to BLS, was several decades ago when women began entering the workforce en mass. And total payrolls are still a whopping 6.1 million lower than when they peaked in 2008.

The nonprofit Employment Policy Institute tracks this data closely. They take the number of jobs lost since the recession began and add in the growth of the working age population. The resulting figure they report as a “jobs deficit,” and they calculate we have a current deficit of 10.8 million jobs, even factoring in the 1.4 million jobs added since the recession ended,

The anemic job situation has a pejorative impact even on those who are fortunate enough to still have one. According to Sentier Research, real median annual household income has declined 5.1% since the recession ended 30 months ago. That represents even more of a drop than what happened during the recession itself, which declined 3.2%.

Corporate profits have continued to improve over the past two years, but companies are still reluctant to start hiring again. Most small business owners and corporate officers cite the uncertain regulatory environment, high corporate tax rates, and new regulation implementation costs as obstacles.

If anything, it’s a testament to the resiliency of our private sector that we’ve had any jobs created in this hostile environment that Washington has created. What jobs have been added is in spite of, not because of what the administration has been doing to the private sector.

The only real hope for revitalizing America’s job market lies in policies emanating from Washington that are conducive to job creation, rather than punitive. Let’s hope November elections facilitate that most critical change.

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

David Ripley: Idaho Ranks 19th

January 23rd, 2012 by Halli

Idaho Chooses Life

Americans United for Life has released its pro-Life rankings of the states for 2012. They rank Idaho as the 19th “safest” place for preborn children in the country – at least in terms of the legal protections afforded our preborn brothers and sisters. That is an improvement of four spots from the year before, reflecting our strong 2011 legislative session. In 2009, AUL ranked us at 26 among the states.
Leading the list for the past several years has been Louisiana, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania.

A deeper look at the rankings shows that, generally speaking, the states governed by the ultra-liberal 9th
Circuit are the deadliest. California and Washington have been fighting over dead-last for several years. The average ranking for states in the 9th Circuit – without Idaho and Arizona – is an appalling 45th. Part of that phenomenon reflects the Abortion Lobby’s death grip on the political culture in states like Montana, Washington, Oregon and California. But one cannot discount the deleterious impact of 9th Circuit judges on the pro-Life movements operating within their political orbit.

The rankings from AUL are by no means the last word on the subject, as the organization does come at the question with certain biases. However, it does give us a feel for state of the nation and the great disparity between the states.

It also reminds us of the work we have left to do.

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

Representative Tom Loertscher: House Highlights, January 22

January 22nd, 2012 by Halli

By Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Bone

Sometimes in life timing is everything and it seems like the stars line up. Other times not so much. I have been working for quite some time on a piece of legislation to change the date of the primary election from May to August. The Primary election was held in August before Idaho decided to join in a presidential primary. And now that the political parties will be caucusing to choose their nominees, there is no longer a need for the presidential candidates to appear on the primary ballot, it seemed like a good idea to move the election back to August.

Little did I know that the Supreme Court was about to dispense with the redistricting plan that was adopted by the Redistricting Commission. You can call it foresight, or just plain luck or even coincidence but the agenda for introducing the legislation was in place before I had any idea the court was about to rule. With the commission having to come up with a plan that will pass constitutional muster, the counties will have a tough time complying with the May primary date and to get everything in place for the election. At this moment, legislative candidates don’t know what district they might be in and the filing date is about a month away. Needless to say the bill, House Bill 392 has already stirred things up and everyone has an opinion.

We don’t seem to lack for controversy, even this early in the session. A bill introduced in State affairs twice this week, is scheduled for a hearing to make it unlawful to camp on the Capital Mall or around any other state owned building. There is a group that has tents around the old Ada County Courthouse that is across the street from the capital. We took some testimony from some “occupiers or 99 per centers” as they call themselves. One of the committee members asked a BSU student who spoke before the committee, what event would cause them to be satisfied so they would disband on their own. The fellow stammered a bunch but was unable to come up with an answer. Is it good idea to pass a bill that in effect would evict them from the property? From a PR perspective, probably not. One thing for sure is that there will be no shortage of press coverage on this one and some of us are feeling like this is not a winner no matter how we vote.

Joint Finance is still hearing from agencies and their wish lists, that are in competition for the state’s resources. Committees are dealing with the rules that have come forward since last session. Two years ago we put a resolution in place in an attempt to better define what would constitute a reason for new rules and to try to curb the explosive growth in rules from the agencies. For the last two years we have seen fewer rules instead of more. That’s a good thing and we continue to be optimistic that we will see the cost of this process reduced. I think we can count that as a success. Again, maybe that is due to the stars lining up, or good luck or even coincidence. I’d rather call it success because of the efforts of a citizen of this state, who brought the idea to us.

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

David Ripley: March for Life Saturday

January 17th, 2012 by Halli

Idaho Chooses Life

Pro-Lifers will gather once again on Saturday, January 21st to mark the 39th year of our national suffering under the Supreme Court edict legalizing abortion.

In Boise, folks will meet at the Julia Davis band shell at 1 pm. A rally on the steps of the Idaho Statehouse to defend preborn children will follow the march down Capitol Blvd.

Our best estimate is that over 54 million children have lost their lives under the Roe regime. May the Maker of Heaven and Earth reach down and save us from our great national sin.

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

Representative Tom Loertscher: House Highlights, January 15

January 17th, 2012 by Halli

By Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Bone

After being in session for two days this year one of my colleagues told me it felt like we had been in session for two weeks already. I’m not sure what that says about how things went this week, but I would say that that the interim seemed to me like it went by rapidly.

I get asked a lot about what to expect this year, and if the first few days are an indication of what is to come, it won’t be dull by any means. Governor Otter didn’t hesitate to declare that we have weathered the storm and predicted almost a six percent increase in revenues but only wants to spend about five percent of that. I have been told that our forecasting committee is not quite so optimistic. The State of the State message was brief this year and he did not give many specifics for his budget requests.

The minority party has wasted no time posturing on several issues but the most drastic is a sales tax bill to increase revenues by a mere 400 million dollars. It would reduce the sales tax rate to five percent but would eliminate a list of exemptions. I haven’t had time to go through the specifics yet but the most glaring is that when you buy a new or used car you would be taxed on the gross sales price with no allowance for your trade in. It doesn’t leave much to the imagination to see what that would do to auto sales.

Then the bill goes after nine categories of services, professional, (attorneys, accountants, etc.) personal, (beauticians, barbers, house cleaning, etc.) business, construction, (building a house, repairing your house, etc.) and repairs of all kinds including getting your car fixed. The list is too long to go through here so I would suggest you take a look at the statement of purpose for House Bill 345 and let your imagination wander. And most amazing of all is that they think they will be taxing a whole new group of folks. But in reality it is you, the consumer, the ones who buy this stuff who would be footing the bill. Our housing industry is still in the tank and there is thought that this would help things by increasing the cost? I guess I don’t quite catch the vision of how this would help the taxpayers.

Another topic that will be debated extensively will be the Health Insurance Exchanges. Every state has been told that if we do not have an exchange in place, the federal government will set it up for us and we will pay the costs. The two schools of thought on this matter are that it would be better to have a state program than a federal one and we would pay the costs, and if federal government sets it up for us, we will be required to do what we are told to do and we will pay the costs. Looks like we get soaked either way. Oh, I almost forgot. If the plan we come up with on our own is not acceptable to the federal government, they will require us to fix it to their liking and we will pay the costs. Confused yet? I’m sure you can see how much debate this will generate.

So it looks to be another busy session with a dab of controversy mixed in. My only hope is the session goes by as quickly as the interim seemed to escape. We’d be done in record time. What a dreamer I am.

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Posted in Idaho Legislature, Politics in General, Property Rights, Rep. Tom Loertscher, Taxes | No Comments »

Richard Larsen: Enduring Wisdom of Martin Luther King, Jr.

January 17th, 2012 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

So many things have changed since Martin Luther King, Jr.’s tragic and premature death. The country that was divided mostly along racial lines that he sought to heal and palliate is now divided more by ideology. His cardinal wisdom and teachings endure, can be universally applied, and appertain as much today as then.

King was a highly principled man, driven by self-evident truths and fundamental values. He referred often to those values. “If we are to go forward, we must go back and rediscover those precious values – that all reality hinges on moral foundations and that all reality has spiritual control.” Some of those values were the very principles upon which the nation was founded, that he found lacking in their application to all Americans equally. “When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

He was an ardent advocate of freedom and individual liberty. While his teachings were framed in a culture of racism and racial discord, they apply universally to all Americans in the quest for individual liberty. As he said, “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” Certainly those are wise words of encouragement to those of us who object to the usurpation of individual freedom by a government seeking to micromanage its citizens.

He continued, “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom.” Individual and universal freedom was fundamental to him, without regard to ethnicity, and he advocated freedom, as opposed to government programs that diminish it.

On another occasion he said, “I say to you that our goal is freedom, and I believe we are going to get there because however much she strays away from it, the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be as a people, our destiny is tied up in the destiny of America.”

He taught, “All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.” He worked hard, understood how hard work develops character, and likely would not be a proponent of our welfare state, which in effect relinquishes personal responsibility and accountability to the state.

He likely would have consternation for those who engage in identity politics that are so pervasive today, where politicians sell out to special interests for votes, rather than doing what’s best for the nation. For as he said, “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” And as if to underscore this notion, “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”

Edmund Burke, considered the father to conservatism, said, “All that is needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” King echoed that sentiment, “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”

I think Martin Luther King would have concurred with Morgan Freeman, who was interviewed a few years ago in a “60 Minutes” segment with Mike Wallace. Wallace started out, “Black History Month, you find…”, Freeman interjected, “Ridiculous.”

FREEMAN: You’re going to relegate my history to a month?
WALLACE: Come on.
FREEMAN: What do you do with yours? Which month is White History Month? Come on, tell me.
WALLACE: I’m Jewish.
FREEMAN: OK. Which month is Jewish History Month?
WALLACE: There isn’t one.
FREEMAN: Why not? Do you want one?
WALLACE: No, no.
FREEMAN: I don’t either. I don’t want a Black History Month. Black history is American history.
WALLACE: How are we going to get rid of racism until…?
FREEMAN: Stop talking about it. I’m going to stop calling you a white man. And I’m going to ask you to stop calling me a black man. I know you as Mike Wallace. You know me as Morgan Freeman. You’re not going to say, ‘I know this white guy named Mike Wallace.’ Hear what I’m saying?”

Freeman, in that brief exchange, echoed MLK’s conviction, that his children would “one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” For your enduring wisdom, we honor you, Martin Luther King, and your work. May we embody and perpetuate the truths you taught.

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

Richard Larsen: Our Increasingly Ignored Constitution

January 14th, 2012 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

President Hugo Chavez, over the past several years, has systematically nationalized entire sectors of Venezuela’s economy, created new positions for his cronies to centralize his power, and ignored constitutional limitations. This systematic dismantling of a Latin American constitutional democracy has transformed his democratically elected presidency into a virtual totalitarian dictatorship.

If it is true that that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then our president has an abundance of praise for the Latin American dictator. In spite of their occasional verbal spats, it seems increasingly like both rulers must’ve attended the same Capone School of Political Science in Chicago, majoring in totalitarianism, for they both have proven adept at centralizing their power by trampling their respective constitutions.

Speaking of their verbal posturing, the occasional exchanges between apparent ideological kin have themselves proven interesting. Just two weeks ago, President Obama criticized Chavez for his questionable human rights record and support of Iran. Obviously not appreciating the criticism, especially in light of Obama’s emulation, Chavez responded by calling Obama a “clown,” and astutely remarked further, “take care of your own business, focus on governing your country, which you’ve turned into a disaster. Leave us alone.”

The trampling of the respective constitutions is what is most distressing. The most recent example (and there are many over the past three years) here is nothing short of spectacular. Having been rebuffed by the Democrat controlled senate in an attempt to make several appointments, Obama made “recess” appointments of former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Protection Agency and named three others to the National Labor Relations Board. Recess appointments are frequently used by presidents to seat their desired appointees when they can’t garner the necessary senatorial support for confirmation. Such appointments only last a year.

But the key from a constitutional perspective is that the Senate has to be in recess for such appointments to be made. Recesses of congress occur when both houses agree to adjourn and a session is ended by formal resolution. No such formal resolution was passed by either chamber of congress before the holiday break, which means they are not in recess. Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, has maintained a pro forma session of the Senate which means as far he’s concerned, they’re not in recess either. In fact, at the end of the Bush administration, Reid did the same thing to prevent George W. Bush from making recess appointments.

Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader, declared that Obama’s disregard of the Constitution in making these appointments, “arrogantly circumvented the American people.” He continued, “Breaking from this precedent lands this appointee in uncertain legal territory, threatens the confirmation process and fundamentally endangers the Congress‘ role in providing a check on the excesses of the executive branch.”

Since the Senate, which must confirm many presidential appointments, is not in recess, a “recess appointment” constitutionally cannot be made. But when we have an ideologically motivated president with an insatiable appetite for power, and with such little regard for the Constitution, apparently nothing is beyond the scope of possibility.

And lest we think that the Constitution has no relevance, every president promises that they will “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” That oath of office, that he declares he will “faithfully execute,” as stated in Article Two, Section One, Clause Eight of the Constitution, clearly indicates that it is relevant. What are we to think of a president with such little regard for the oath he takes and the document upon which our laws are based that he vows fealty to and promises to uphold? How can it be conscionable for someone to promise to uphold the Constitution, and then violate it whenever it conflicts with his agenda?

Perhaps therein lies the answer. One has to take the oath seriously, have respect for the Constitution, and have a conscience in faithfully preserving, protecting and defending it for the oath to mean something. None of which seem to apply to Obama.

Such abject disregard for the constitutional limitations leaves those of us who love this republic to wonder what others he will choose to ignore. If he’s following Chavez’s playbook, it might well be changing his own term of office, buying the next election through promises of populist government largesse to voters, or even going so far as suspending the election if he deems it necessary.

Is it a stretch to compare Obama with Hugo Chavez? Undoubtedly. But their modus operandi possess distinct similarities, including their disregard for their respective constitutions.

Our Constitution was brilliantly crafted to prevent excessive power being centralized in any one of the three branches of government. The checks and balances built into the Constitution are there precisely to prevent any one branch from running roughshod over the others. Indeed, they are there to prevent precisely what Obama did so egregiously this week.

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

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