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Richard Larsen: Learning Lessons from California

May 28th, 2012 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

This past week California Governor Jerry Brown announced that his state is facing a “ballooning” budget deficit of more than $16 billion. In an interview on CBS News, Brown said, “We’re not some tired country of Europe. We’re a buoyant, dynamic society that will both discipline itself on a daily basis but it will on the long-term plant the seeds of future growth.”

What is inscrutably lost on the governor is that the policies that have brought California to the edge of a fiscal cliff are mostly the same ones of those “tired countries of Europe,” which have manifest the same degree of financial discipline that California has practiced.

Many trends, fads, and even governmental policies have originated in the Golden State that has even given rise to a widely accepted aphorism, “As California goes, so goes the nation.” It’s the verity of that truism that makes the state’s financial problems a portent of things to come for the rest of the nation if we fail to learn from their experience.

Joel Kotkin, one of the nation’s premier demographers, has identified the most significant contributing factors to California’s problems. He points out that four million more people have left California in the last two decades than have moved there from other states. This is in sharp contrast with the 1980s when 100,000 more Americans were settling in California each year than were leaving. Most of those leaving are young families.

They’re leaving because they can’t afford to live there. Everything from food, energy and taxes to real estate and housing, are beyond the financial reach of young families. Kotkin points to restrictions and massive regulations on development and housing that have artificially limited housing supply. As he explains, California’s so-called “smart growth” plans literally force middle-class families into less expensive, high-density housing, or out of state.

From his analysis, housing is merely one front of what he refers to as the “progressive war on the middle class.” The high cost of energy has had a dramatic impact on everyone, but especially on the middle class. Policies restricting traditional sources of energy, and state financed advantages granted to green energy producers have resulted in skyrocketing energy costs. The price per kilowatt hour of electricity is nearly twice what it is in Idaho, and more than 50% above the national average, according to
Yet state policy makers are doubling down on green energy and on the restriction to traditional producers, which are expected to make the rates rise even more. For California has enthusiastically embraced cap-and-trade, with AB32, “…which will raise the cost of energy and drive out manufacturing jobs without making even a dent in global carbon emissions. Then there are the renewable portfolio standards, which mandate that a third of the state’s energy come from renewable sources like wind and the sun by 2020,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

Most of these costs are borne by the middle class since those below the poverty level get state assistance and the wealthy can afford it. But the high energy costs drive manufacturing and other blue-collar energy users either out of business or out of the state.

And not only are energy costs much higher, but with two decades worth of policy and tax-advantaged investment in green energy, the promised windfall of jobs has not occurred. Only 2% of the job force in California is in green energy, roughly the same as Texas, which maintains a vastly different green energy policy. Rather, in part due to the higher operating costs in California created by onerous regulation, companies, and their jobs, have been exiting the state. California currently has the third highest unemployment rate in the nation at 10.9%.

The Golden State has significant gas and oil resources, yet policy and regulation preclude utilizing them. An estimated 25 billion barrels of oil are sitting untapped in the vast Monterey and Bakersfield shale deposits. Over the past decade, Texas has created 200,000 oil and gas jobs, while California has hardly added any.

The Wall Street Journal pointed out recently, that, “The state’s remaining energy producers have been slowing down as the regulatory environment becomes ever more hostile even as producers elsewhere, including in rustbelt states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, ramp up. The oil and gas jobs the Golden State political class shuns pay around $100,000 a year on average.”

“You see the great tragedy of California is that we have all this oil and gas, we won’t use it,” Mr. Kotkin says. “We have the richest farm land in the world, and we’re trying to strangle it.” The latter point references how water restrictions aimed at protecting the delta smelt fish are endangering Central Valley farmers. Kotkin asserts that is the kind of “anti-human” public policy that is driving agriculture out and is impacting so many of the state’s economic sectors.

Kotkin explains the demographic changes are occurring because of state policy. “Californians are voting much more based on social issues and less on fiscal ones…” Consequently, it’s a much less favorable climate for employers than ever before. “As progressive policies drive out moderate and conservative members of the middle class, California’s politics become even more left-wing. It’s a classic case of natural selection, and increasingly the only ones fit to survive in California are the very rich and those who rely on government spending. In a nutshell, ‘the state is run for the very rich, the very poor, and the public employees,’” Kotkin explained recently to the Wall Street Journal.

Middle-class families are fleeing California in droves. As a result, California is turning into a two-and-a-half-class society. On top are the “entrenched incumbents” who inherited their wealth or came to California early and made their money, and the self-made technology millionaires. Then there’s a shrunken middle class of public employees and, miles below, a permanent welfare class. As it stands today, about 40% of Californians don’t pay any income tax and a quarter are on Medicaid. It’s “a very scary political dynamic,” Kotkin laments.

Meanwhile, taxes are decimating the private sector economy. According to the Tax Foundation, California has the 48th-worst business tax climate. “The wealthy pay a top rate of 10.3%, the third-highest in the country, while middle-class workers—those who earn more than $48,000—pay a top rate of 9.3%, which is higher than what millionaires pay in 47 states. And state leaders want to raise tax rates even more,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

The reason taxes have been increasing to now unsustainable levels, is that Sacramento has been unable to curtail spending. State spending has more than doubled in the past ten years. Costs for state pensions have increased by over 150% in the same time period, as demands from state employee unions have required a greater percentage of the budget. Unable to muster the discipline to reduce spending to match economic realities, the only tool the state seems to know how to use is tax increases.

The lessons from California are many, and this analysis only scratches the surface. The question is, will we as a nation learn them before or after we’re in the same malaise?

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

Richard Larsen: The Administration’s Department of Injustice

May 19th, 2012 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

The unambiguous imagery of blindfolded Lady Justice holding the scales of impartiality aloft, idyllically characterizes our understanding of how American justice is expected to function. We expect it to be dispensed neutrally; blind to race, creed, socio-economic status, and political associations. Yet clearly this administration’s Department of Justice is blind in ways not represented by Lady Justice.

Ever since the near collapse of the crony-capitalistic system created more by Washington than by Wall Street, we’ve consistently heard from the administration that they were going to get “tough” on Wall Street, prosecute the perpetrators of the “fraud and corruption” that they insisted was endemic there, and hold “accountable those who helped bring about the last financial crisis.”

Yet, as stated in a revelatory article in Newsweek, due out this week, the administration and Attorney General Eric Holder have not “criminally charged or prosecuted a single top executive from any of the elite financial institutions thought responsible for the financial crash.” Is this blind justice, or simply being blind to justice?

Holder was explicit in his intent to prosecute those “responsible” for the mortgage market induced meltdown. Said he, “Mortgage, securities, and corporate fraud schemes have eroded the public’s confidence in the nation’s financial markets and have led to a growing sentiment that Wall Street does not play by the same rules as Main Street. Unscrupulous executives, Ponzi scheme operators, and common criminals alike have targeted the pocketbooks and retirement accounts of middle class Americans, and in many cases, devastated entire families’ futures. We will not allow these actions to go unpunished.”

In reality, that’s precisely what they’ve done. With no charges, no “perp walks” (other than Bernie Madoff whose Ponzi scheme collapsed with the mortgage market) and no prosecution of any top Wall Street executives, the administration proves by their actions that they are firmly ensconced in the pockets of the 1%, at the expense of the 99%.

Logically, there are only two possibilities for such recalcitrance in pursuing the instigators of all the “fraud and corruption” on Wall Street. The first is, perhaps all those financial titans were functioning legally under the complex web of crony-capitalistic excess, as allowed by Washington’s bizarre regulatory umbrella. Or those wizards of Wall Street have bought and paid for their financial “indulgences” with massive contributions into the campaign coffers of Holder’s boss. The Newsweek authors conclude it is the latter.

They also raise another aspect of the “hands off” policy of the DOJ. They point to the fact that most of those Wall Street executives, and their companies, are clients of the influential law firms that Holder and his top lieutenants worked at before joining the DOJ in 2009.

Just two months into the new administration, there was a meeting held at the White House with heads of 13 of the top banks and financial institutions. As reported by ABC News, “President Obama put it to the Big Finance executives” and told them in no uncertain terms, “My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks.” Here we are three years later, with no arrests, no prosecution, no criminal charges filed, but lots of campaign dollars flowing to the campaign war chest. It would appear the DOJ opted for not “making hay” of the bankers, but save them for their most useful purpose; to finance the president’s campaign.

The hypocrisy of the whole situation has outraged even elements of the left. Mike Gecan, an activist with the Industrial Areas Foundation, explained, “I’m from Chicago, I’ve seen this game played my whole life.”

The DOJ and the administration have not only rewarded Wall Street executives by saving them from the pitchforks, but they’ve also been rewarded with the lowest prosecution rates of corporate securities and bank fraud in years.

Department of Justice criminal prosecutions are at 20-year lows for corporate securities and bank fraud, based on data from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a data-gathering organization at Syracuse University. Newsweek reports that financial fraud prosecutions are “down 39 percent since 2003, and are just one third of what they were during the Clinton administration.”

If we are to believe what the administration has been telling us for the past few years, what happened in 2008 was the direct result of excessive greed, avarice, corruption, and fraud. And it led to what’s widely heralded as the most significant financial downturn since the Great Depression. But still, not a single criminal prosecution in sight.

Don’t believe for a second that the administration is looking out for the 99%. All the evidence indicates it is carefully protecting the 1%, in what could be the most heinous “pay to play” political episode ever in American history. Their version of “justice is blind” seems to indicate that they’re blind to the abuses of their contributors. As Newsweek refers to it, it’s “the Chicago Way writ large.”

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

Larry Lyon: The Republican Party I Know

May 14th, 2012 by Halli

By Larry Lyon

Corey Taule’s Sunday May 6th editorial against Don Schanz and the Bonneville County Republican Central Committee (BCRCC) was very misleading and inaccurate. The inaccuracies are too numerous to mention. Suffice it to say that believing the Corey’s assessment of the BCRP is like believing an atheist’s assessment of Christianity.

It should be no surprise that the Democrat-controlled Post Register would criticize the current BCRCC at every opportunity. Under the current leadership the BCRCC has actually stood for Constitutional Principles and the local Democrats have never been weaker.

As the BCRCC makes a principled stand for the Founders’ vision of Liberty, the Post Register smears and attacks; trying to bully the BCRCC into sitting down and shutting up. “Go stand in the corner of political correctness and behave, or we’ll smear you again!” the paper says in so many words.

Under the current leadership of the BCRCC not a single Democratic Candidate has been successful unseating a Republican.
In desperation Democrats have stooped to dressing up in sheep’s clothing and running as Republicans!

Building on the foundation laid by former BCRCC Chairman Damond Watkins, Don Schanz has embraced the committees Damond created that actually give the grassroots of the BCRCC a voice.

Under the leadership of Chairman Don Schanz the party rebounded from the shameful loss of a House seat to Democrat Jerry Shively and made a clean sweep of the next set of statewide and county races.

In a move that exemplified the highest degree of statesmanship, Don Schanz, immediately after he was elected as County Party Chairman, invited the winners of the various precinct races to consider nominating their defeated opponents as assistant precinct committeemen.

In so doing he exemplified the words of Abraham Lincoln from his second inaugural address: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, … let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the [BCRCC’s] wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the [campaign] … to do all which may achieve … peace among ourselves…”

The current BCRCC is solidly committed to the Constitution. This is demonstrated in the classes that are held regularly to educate members of the local Republican Party on the Constitution and America’s first principles.

The role of the BCRCC is to defend the principles of freedom represented by the Constitution. When they see those principles under attack, even when the threat comes cloaked in the disguise of a “non-partisan” issue, the BCRCC has a moral obligation to every veteran who bled out his or her life in defense of freedom to get involved. Thank God that is the kind of leadership currently guiding the BCRCC.

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Posted in Constitutional Issues, Guest Posts, Idaho Falls Issues, Politics in General | No Comments »

David Ripley: Idaho Chooses Life Endorsements in Central and Eastern Idaho

May 10th, 2012 by Halli


State Senate: Dean Cameron

State Senate: Jim Guthrie
House B: Kelley Packer

State Senate: Dean Mortimer
House A: Jeff Thompson
House B: Stan Bell

State Senate: Steven Bair
House A: Mike Duff
House B: Jim Marriott

State Senate: John Tippets
House B: Tom Loertscher

State Senate: Bart Davis
House B: Linden Bateman

House A: Douglas Hancey
House B: Dell Raybould
Dan Roberts

House A: Jo An Wood

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

Richard Larsen: Our Vanishing Property Rights

May 10th, 2012 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

According to Supreme Court precedent, U.S. citizens are presumed to have a “right of privacy.” Whether we concur with how the precedent has been applied or not, it makes sense that in a republic where the rule of law protects citizens, that we not be unduly exposed to prying government or corporate invasions into our privacy. That “right” has all but vanished.

In 2001 when the Patriot Act was passed, the FBI was allowed to expand its use of National Security Letters to search telephone, e-mail, and financial records without a court order. It expanded access of law enforcement agencies to business records, including library and financial records. The underlying theory was to provide law enforcement access to data allowing them to “connect the dots” on future attempted terrorist attacks. The American Civil Liberties Union and hosts of citizens groups protested vehemently.

The Act was renewed in 2005 and again last year for another four years. Not much was changed, other than expanded use of “roving wire taps.”
Although media and civil liberties groups were extremely vocal in their denunciation of the original Act, and the 2005 renewal, hardly a thing has been said regarding last year’s renewal, with its concomitant expansion of authority to impinge on our privacy.

Much more has happened in the past three years to further erode any semblance of privacy. In March, the New York Times reported that, “For more than two years, a handful of senators on the Senate intelligence committee have warned that the government is secretly interpreting its surveillance powers under the Patriot Act in a way that would be alarming if the public knew about it.” The senators averred, “Americans would be ‘stunned’ to know what the government thought the Patriot Act allowed it to do“ through “a top-secret intelligence operation that is based on secret legal theory.”

Also in March, The Huffington Post reported, “The U.S. intelligence community will now be able to store information about Americans with no ties to terrorism for up to five years under new Obama administration guidelines. Until now, the National Counterterrorism Center had to immediately destroy information about Americans that was already stored in other government databases when there were no clear ties to terrorism.”

Last year the New York Times reported, “The government is increasingly monitoring Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites for [law breakers and] political protesters.” They continued, “Wired magazine reported last month that In-Q-Tel, an investment arm of the Central Intelligence Agency, has put money into Visible Technologies, a software company that crawls across blogs, online forums, and open networks like Twitter and YouTube to monitor what is being said.”

More alarming is the explosion of government requests for information from the search engines. From Google alone, according to their latest online Transparency Report, the government is actively censoring the web, requesting removal of 757 online items. They’ve also issued requests for “disclosure of user data from Google accounts or services” 5,950 times, which Google complied with 93% of the time. They’ve also requested personal user and account information from Google 11,057 times. All of these requests were over just a six-month period.

Last November, The UK Guardian reported on a conference held in D.C. “The annual Intelligence Support Systems (ISS) World Americas conference is a mecca for representatives from intelligence agencies.” In characterizing the technology presented at the conference, which is strictly off limits to the general public or the media, “Gone are the days when mere telephone wiretaps satisfied authorities’ intelligence needs. Behind the cloak of secrecy at the ISS World conference, tips are shared about the latest advanced ‘lawful interception’ methods used to spy on citizens – computer hacking, covert bugging and GPS tracking. Smartphones, email, instant message services and free chat services such as Skype have revolutionized communication. This has been matched by the development of increasingly sophisticated surveillance technology.”

After the attacks of 9/11/01, increased surveillance capacity made sense. But clearly, we have far exceeded the original intent of the Patriot Act. What possible reason can there be for gathering, storing, and sharing data on average citizens with no possible ties to terrorism? What possible reason can there be for gathering such data on “political protestors?” And is a “political protestor” someone who disagrees with what Washington is doing? The possibilities are chilling.
Financial organizations are required to abide by strict privacy laws, and state their policy periodically. Maybe it’s time we hold government to the same standard.

It would appear that we have no more right to privacy at all, as far as government is concerned. Clearly, the fox is loose in the chicken coop, and we’re the chickens. All of us, and our electronic communications, are fair game to a government intent on spying on us, and doing Lord knows what, with the data they gather.

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Posted in Constitutional Issues, Guest Posts, National Sovereignty, Pocatello Issues | No Comments »

David Ripley: Historic Primary Around the Corner

May 3rd, 2012 by Halli

Idaho Chooses Life

Idaho’s pro-Life movement is facing an historic primary election. Not only will the elections on May 15 set the stage for the next legislative session, they will help establish what kind of legislature we’ll be dealing with over the next decade.

There are so many open seats, so many inevitable changes coming that we must be diligent and engaged to ensure that solid pro-Life candidates win this crucial contest.

Turn-out is likely to be a problem. That makes it even more critical that pro-Lifers engage. It is not too early to begin talking with friends and fellows at church, your workplace, who share our commitment to protecting the sanctity of human life.

As we come into the closing days, we ask for your prayers and financial support. We are spread far and wide across this beautiful state.

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

Richard Larsen: Time for Conservative Unity

May 3rd, 2012 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

The recent suspension of campaigns by erstwhile presidential candidates, characterizes two distinct ways of thinking by voters in this country. One, when he can’t have it his way, gathers up his marbles and goes home. The other, acknowledging reality, accedes to voters’ preferences, and supports the victor.

Three weeks ago former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum suspended his campaign. In his remarks on April 10 Santorum made no inference that he would do anything to assist or support the presumed Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, and made no reference to him.

Earlier this week former House Speaker Newt Gingrich announced he was suspending his campaign as well. But unlike Santorum, Newt declared, “I am committed to defeating Obama. We’ll do everything we can to help stop an Obama second term and win congressional majorities.”

Primary elections function as a process of elimination. With nine candidates running at the outset, voters of all parties who were disenchanted with the present administration could register and vote their conscience for the candidate that came closest to their way of thinking. With each successive state primary or caucus, the field shrank a little further.
Some voters choose to be like Gingrich; pragmatic and practical, realizing that to defeat the incumbent, unity is not a luxury, but a requisite. Consequently, even though their preferred candidate may no longer be in the race or viable, they realize in order to prevent another four years of the current regime, it’s imperative to support the one remaining candidate that can end it.
Other voters, however, take the Santorum approach. They gather up their marbles, mournfully exit the stage and go home, attacking the remaining candidate as they go. They can’t have it the way they want it so they “cash in” with pious pomposity, vowing no support to a candidate their “conscience” won’t allow them to vote for. Included in this group are those who imperiously proclaim, “I will not vote for the lesser of two evils,” or “A Romney administration will be just the same,” or any number of other self-validating acclamations.

Four years ago Mitt Romney bowed out of the race in appropriate fashion. He stated the need to unify behind the presumed nominee, endorsed the front-runner and encouraged his delegates to support McCain at the convention. Especially in light of the spirited sparring that occurred between the two, it was the appropriate and logical thing to do.

The moral imperative for anyone who feels the present administration is taking the country down the wrong path is to unite behind the one who can terminate it. For the moral imperative is derived by logic and reason, per Immanuel Kant, and survival of the republic should take supremacy over personal preference. There can be no other morally, or logically, acceptable action than to support the only remaining viable challenger.

Voltaire’s aphorism, “The perfect is the enemy of the good,” applies consummately to politics. If the “perfect” candidate is a “10” on a desirability scale, and the practical choice is between a good “5” and a least desirable “1,” it is both illogical and immoral to not sustain the good five.

Politics is incremental in nature, and based in reality. Even slight movements in the right direction, based on reality, are always preferable to movements in the wrong direction facilitated by misplaced focus on ideality. Consequently, voting for an impossible “10,” which facilitates the election of a “1,” is, in fact, a wasted vote.

If voters, regardless of party affiliation, fervently believe that the present occupant of the White House represents an ideology that is antithetical to the founding principles of our country, the moral imperative is to unify behind the candidate that can remove him from office. It would be unconscionable to do anything else.
Those who, as a misguided matter of “conscience,” vote for a third party candidate, dividing the conservative vote, or worse yet, choose to not vote, waiting for the perfect candidate, are only improving the likelihood of another four years of the status quo. And that would be a violation of the moral imperative.

The real clincher for the holdouts to supporting Romney should be concern over the composition of the Supreme Court. If you believe in constructionist judicial review, a la John Roberts, versus a “living” constitutional judiciary, a la Elena Kagan, dividing the vote or staying home are indefensible choices.

The moral imperative requires that we put national interests ahead of our own. We unite and end this inexorable march to the economic abyss, the proliferation of the nanny state, and the annulment of our constitutional values. For as Edmund Burke said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Or, worse, that they do the wrong thing.

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Posted in Constitutional Issues, Guest Posts, National Sovereignty, Pocatello Issues, Property Rights, Taxes | No Comments »

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