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Richard Larsen: Paying for Influence – The Kochs & George Soros

April 9th, 2014 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

Judging from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s nearly daily diatribes on the floor of the U.S. Senate, George W. Bush has been retired as the most despised villain, and the cause of all the evils that plague the world. Bush has been replaced by the Koch (a Dutch name, pronounced “Coke”) brothers who are often maligned by the left for their pecuniary influence in politics. Since those on the left are not equally malevolent toward George Soros, who does the same thing, it’s clearly not the money in politics that bothers them — it’s the ideology.

The Washington Post’s Pulitzer Prize winning Fact Check granted a “Four Pinocchio” rating to Reid’s latest round of attacks. The Post says Reid is “setting a high standard for deceptive speech,” and concludes that Reid’s party is “reaching blindly” for someone to cast the blame of their own failures on. The paper, critical of the falsity of Reid’s claim, chides him with, “If you want to join a gun fight, don’t fire blanks.”

charles-and-david-kochDavid and Charles Koch are brothers who run Koch Industries, an oil refinery business that is the second largest private firm in the country. The brothers are tied at number 6 on Forbes top billionaires list with personal net worth of about $41 billion each. They’ve expanded and maintained their fortunes by successfully providing the refined product that keeps America moving – oil.

George Soros is chairman of Soros Fund Management, a hedge fund company. Soros is number 27 on Forbes list with a net worth of $23 billion. He’s made his fortune in large part by selling short against international currencies and collapsing financial institutions. In 1997 he was dubbed “the man who broke the Bank of England,” and he was blamed by the Malaysian Prime Minister for collapsing their currency during the Asian financial crisis. He was also convicted of illegal financial dealings in France. His big bet now is collapsing the U.S. dollar and the free enterprise system.

Economist Paul Krugman has been critical of Soros, and others like him, “who not only move money in anticipation of a currency crisis, but actually do their best to trigger that crisis for fun and profit. These new actors on the scene do not yet have a standard name; my proposed term is ‘Soroi’.”

The Koch brothers and Soros spend lavishly in politics. They support individual candidates, contribute to political party campaign funds, lobby politicians, bankroll political action committees, and have established foundations and think tanks to influence politics.
The Kochs spend by far the most, but the bulk of it goes to lobbying. The Open Society Institute is one of George Soros’ organizations, and they provide part of the funding of OpenSecrets.org, so even realizing that their data may be skewed toward a more pejorative coverage of the Kochs, I’m going to rely on their data. According to Open Secrets, the Koch brothers have spent, or as liberals typically describe it, “invested” over $50 million in lobbying from 1998-2010. During that same time, Soros and his primary Lobbying organization, Open Society Policy Center, spent about $13 million.

george-soros-economic-terrorist-obama-politics-1344236489Donations to federal candidates, parties, and political action committees give a smaller advantage to the Kochs. They invested $2.58 million vs. Soros’ $1.74 million from 1989 to 2010. When extended to include the past four years, the Koch brothers have contributed $18 million in political donations. This sounds like a great number, until we look at the 58 organizations ahead of them, including 18 different unions, according to Open Secrets. Those unions political contributions total over $638 million, almost all of whose funds go to liberal candidates, and is more than 35 times more than the Kochs donate. Among those are the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees $60,667,379, the National Education Association $53,594,488, the United Auto Workers $41,667,858, and the Service Employees International Union $38,395,690
But from here the money for political influence gets a little more shady. From 2001 to 2010, the Koch brothers invested $1.5 million in other political groups, called 527 organizations, compared to Soros’ whopping $32.5 million.

The proliferation and expanded influence of 527s was made possible by the problematic McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform of 2002, so named because of the tax code, Section 527, that they fall under. As described by Benjamin Dangl, the groups “operate as shadow political campaigns working indirectly for or against a particular candidate.” Once contributed funds get to these groups, they can go anywhere, and the audit trail is virtually non-existent. Some are run totally above board and are very straightforward in their objectives. Many others are not. As Dangl says, “Prominent think tanks and campaign finance reform lobbyists say 527s are ‘illegal loopholes’ that enable the privatization of political campaigns.”

The groups that these men contribute to tell an even more significant tale than the sheer dollar volume they pump into our dysfunctional crony-capitalist, or corporatist political system. Since the Koch brothers are ideological libertarians, they’re driven by the classical-liberal Jeffersonian philosophy that America was founded on. Perhaps nothing defines this self-defined mission for the brothers better than the mission statement on the Cato Institute website, which states, “The mission of the Cato Institute is to originate, disseminate, and increase understanding of public policies based on the principles of individual liberty, limited government, free markets, and peace.”

The Cato Institute, the Koch’s crown jewel, was established 40 years ago with seed money from Charles Koch, and his brother David still serves on the Board of the organization. Cato is recognized as the sixth most influential think tank in the nation, and number 14 internationally, with its scholarly and empirically documented research.

They also have contributed significantly to the Reason Foundation, publisher of Reason Magazine, applying reason and logic to economic and personal liberty issues. Nobel laureate Milton Friedman strongly supported the Foundation. And with a grant of $30 million, the Koch brothers were instrumental in the establishment of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, with similar objectives.

George Soros runs the Open Society Institute and the Soros.org website, and contributes heavily to many organizations that ideologically are aligned with leftist causes, including Moveon.org. He is reviled abroad for his shady efforts to foment revolution and collapse currencies. His “foundations have been accused of shielding spies and breaking currency laws, and he’s invested over $400 million in institutions of higher education to promulgate and teach his extremist ideology.

In short, the Kochs and Soros are heavily invested in politics and are, by all standards, prototypical “one percenters” in income, net worth, and political influence. And it would appear, at least ostensibly, that all three are playing the influence-for-money game according to the rules established by congress. There is near universal contempt for the crony capitalism and corrupt corporatism that has tainted our political institutions, and politicians, and adulterated our free-market system. But congress has created the rules these players play by. Blaming the Kochs and Soros for using their resources to buy influence is like blaming collegiate athletes for the rules established by the NCAA.

obama-puppet-teleprompter-george-soros-junkie-sad-hill-newsSince most of the Koch’s political money goes into lobbying, their funds are well documented, as required by congressional accounting rules. With most of Soros’ political “investments” going into 527s, the funds are less traceable, and has earned Soros the dubious honor of being dubbed the “Godfather to the left.”

The classical-liberal principles of individual freedom and free markets that are so fully embraced and advanced by Charles and David Koch are the very principles the nation was founded upon. They are the principles that made America great. The progressive socialistic agenda advanced by Soros is antithetical to America’s founding precepts, and is heavily invested in the failure of not only the U.S. dollar, but the collapse of the U.S. economic system.

As distasteful as the pay-for-influence system is, the ideological objectives and uses of that influence should be of even greater concern. Should we fear those who support the ideals that made America great, or the one who seeks to destroy and fundamentally transform the country?

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

David Ripley: A VERY Disappointing Legislature

April 3rd, 2014 by Halli

Idaho Chooses Life

The 62nd Idaho Legislature adjourned yesterday, clearly in a rush to return home to begin their campaigns for re-election. The Primary Election is less than ten weeks away.

We are pained to report that this Legislature made absolutely no progress in protecting Idaho’s preborn children from the scourge of abortion. In fact, we probably went backwards over the past two years. There is simply no good spin to put on the matter.

We worked long and hard this session to get legislation enacted that would govern the use of RU-486 in order to protect the health and lives of women and girls using the dangerous pills. At the end of the day, we were unable to get a hearing in the Senate State Affairs Committee for our legislation. Part of that result can fairly be blamed on the pro-Life community itself: We had a very difficult time resolving serious disagreements over the profound question of how Idaho should treat cases of self-abortions. Yet agreement on language was finalized on February 27th, three weeks before the Legislature’s expedited adjournment.

We were then told that there was “insufficient time” to move an abortion bill.

It was a painful and frustrating message. We have seen many times the Legislature move quickly on issues it cares about. In fact, on the last day for a possible committee hearing, the State Affairs Committee took up the pressing matter of raising salaries for constitutional officers. And you can sure that that legislation was moved through the process before they quit.

There were heroes in this session: Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, Sen. Steve Vick, Sen. Bart Davis, Rep. Judy Boyle and Rep. Tom Loertscher devoted many hours to studying the issues involved in regulating the use of RU-486 and offering assistance in negotiating the differences between pro-Life groups.

But their leadership and energy was insufficient to overcome this Legislature’s inertia.

This lack of action carries potentially serious consequences. As we will discuss in future postings, the Legislature has yet to respond to several devastating rulings by federal Judge Lynn Winmill – rulings which have cut a huge hole in numerous parts of Idaho’s Abortion Code. Those rulings are now some three years old.

The failure to rise in defense of preborn children this year is particularly upsetting given last year’s defeats. As you will recall, the Legislature was determined to partner up with the President in imposing ObamaCare upon the people of Idaho. They then rejected our call for a Religious Liberty Amendment to that legislation which would serve to protect Christian employers from being forced to purchase insurance plans which cover abortion-causing drugs like Plan B and Ella.

Making matters even worse, the Idaho Senate failed to approve modest legislation last year which would have given the state’s pro-Life pregnancy centers support and encouragement by exempting them from the state sales tax – a measure which might have cost $10,000 a year. Good grief.

Time is short and the pro-Life community in Idaho must rally if we hope to move forward on protecting babies and their mothers in the years ahead. Our opportunity to elect a more compassionate Legislature is just weeks away.

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Posted in Constitutional Issues, Family Matters, Guest Posts, Idaho Legislature, Idaho Pro-Life Issues, Rep. Tom Loertscher, Taxes | No Comments »

Richard Larsen: Some Inconvenient Facts on the Minimum Wage Debate

April 3rd, 2014 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

Western Journalism and Conservative Daily News versions slightly different:

http://www.westernjournalism.com/illusion-deception-now-facts-minimum-wage/

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

Rep. Tom Loertscher: House Highligts – March 17

March 17th, 2014 by Halli

by Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Bone

After arriving home for the weekend, I took a few minutes to wander outside the house and take a look around. There was no wind to speak of and no cloud cover to be seen. There was however a beautiful full moon and it was scarcely necessary to turn the lights on in order to get around. After being in Boise for the week it was a pleasant experience to be able to just observe such a beautiful sight.

I think if you were to ask almost anyone in the House they would tell you that it was an exhausting week. Usually, a couple of weeks before the session ends each year, there is a lull with very few things on the third reading calendar. This year however, our calendar has been full and out of necessity we worked a couple of days into the evening in order to clear the legislation from the board. As a result of that we have in excess of sixty new laws passed in two days.

Probably the most memorable of debates in the House was a bill about lengthening the terms for highway district commissioners. After the discussion started the Majority Leader stood and made an impassioned plea in opposition to the bill. The assistant Minority Leader then spoke about not very often agreeing on matters with the previous gentlemen, and then just said, “Amen.”

All of this “jamming” of legislation through the process reminds me of a quote I heard someplace. “When you hurry you are more apt to make mistakes.” That certainly is the case as we move very rapidly through legislation in the final days of the session. It seems like every year when we act in haste that we pass legislation that may have consequences that we did not anticipate. When that happens we find ourselves in the situation of having to fix things in the future. So when we get in a big hurry around this place I sometimes think we would be better off if we would take just a little bit more time. As a result of jamming things through at the pace we have been over the past few days, it looks like it is possible for us to adjourn by March 21. That of course depends on whether or not we have some sort of wreck along the way.

There have been some sharp disagreements over the rules of the Racing Commission and we now find ourselves deeply scrutinizing those rules and trying to make a decision about what to do with them. It’s awfully late in the session to be doing so, but the House State Affairs Committee wants to make the right decision, especially when it concerns wagering.

Robert Louis Stevenson said, “He who sows hurry reaps indigestion.” In the legislature however, hurry seems to reap inferior law in addition to indigestion. So with Tums in hand, we’ll hustle to the end of the session.

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

Rep. Tom Loertscher: House Highlights, February 24

March 1st, 2014 by Halli

By Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Bone

It is thought that Americans are not much on tradition. On the other hand there are many who think that the legislature operates mostly on tradition. It may seem that way because we have a certain way of doing things. This week however, there were several traditional things that occurred that have become annual events.

Each year on the Monday we celebrate Presidents’ Day, it has been customary for 4-H young people to come to town for what is known as the Know Your Government Conference. On the Monday morning of their stay, before they return home, the tradition is to have breakfast with government officials from all three branches. We had a large number of young people from our district attend the event this week.

Another tradition we observe, is to have a memorial service for former legislators that passed away during the last year. We honor these people for their achievements during their time in office and the impact they have had on their families and on the state. We honored ten former members of the House last week.

Another event that takes place each year in Boise is the girls and boys basketball tournaments. This last week a team of girls from Teton County stopped by and I was able to spend a few minutes with them in the governor’s office and have a mini tour of the capitol. We were able to spend a few moments on the House floor and they asked several questions about how we do business in the House.

This was the beginning week for another tradition that we see each year. The Lincoln Day celebrations got underway and it was good to be able to get home and attend a couple of them over the weekend. It’s always a pleasure to visit and talk about legislative matters and life in general.

It may not be a matter of tradition, but it seems that around this time of session the pace picks up quite a bit. Our daily agendas are full and we are spending more time debating legislation on the floor of the House. One item was a little Fish and Game bill that would discount leftover big game tags. It must be traditional to debate Fish and Game issues vigorously because we took much time on the bill.

As the movie Fiddler on the Roof begins there is a long discussion by the main character Tevia about tradition. He said that tradition defines who we are and what is expected of us. Around this place it isn’t much different with some things. We are required to operate under a set of rules for our actions to be valid. If that is tradition, it is a good one.

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

Richard Larsen: America’s Beleaguered Middle Class

February 28th, 2014 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

The middle class in America is shrinking; numerically in terms of the percentage of the total population, as well as qualitatively in terms of the quality of life. Most of us consider ourselves to be members of the middle class, and we’re being squeezed by declining real income and rising expenses, as we increasingly shoulder the inflationary costs of corporate America, and the burdensome costs of government operations.

Consider the following middle class statistics as researched by Bill Moyers and PBS. Middle class is roughly defined as those households ranging in income from $25,500 to $76,500. At $51,017 the real median household income in 2012 is even less than it was at the end of the ’80s, and it’s down 9 percent from its high in 1999, with the biggest portion of that decline, 8.3%, in just the past five years.

The median net worth of a family in 2010 was $77,300, compared to $126,400 just three years earlier. In 46 of our 50 states, the poverty rates have increased over the past five years, and the national poverty rate is over 15% for the fourth year running. The last time that happened was in 1965. More and more families are dropping from the ranks of the middle class into poverty.

One of the greatest factors adversely affecting median household income is the loss of jobs and extended unemployment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) the Participation Rate, which is represented as a ratio or a percentage of the total population, is at the lowest levels in 50 years, with about 62.8% of the population working. According to the BLS U-6 data, 13% of the population is still unemployed or underemployed, and marginally attached to the labor market.

On the cost of goods and services the picture isn’t much better. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is the most relied on figure for calculating the year over year inflation rate. According to Forbes, the BLS has changed the way it calculates the CPI 20 times over the past 30 years, including new formulas and indices that have separated the volatile food and energy components and created a separate “Core” inflation rate. By some economist’s calculations, these changes have resulted in a significant dissociation between what the government reports as the inflation rate, and what we see in reality for the prices of goods and services that we buy.

Earlier this month Forbes declared, that “The CPI is not a measurement of rising prices, rather it tracks consumer spending patterns that change as prices change. The CPI doesn’t even touch the falling value of money. If it did the CPI would look much different.”

According to the BLS the CPI was up 1.6% last year, and has hovered between 1-4% over the past five years. But if the inflation rate were calculated now the same as it was in 1980, inflation over the past five years would’ve been between 5-12% per year. For example, average out-of-pocket healthcare costs have nearly doubled in just the last seven years, from $2,035 to $3,600.

Domestic energy prices have likewise increased dramatically. Over the past 10 years, energy prices have more than doubled as government energy policy has become increasingly ideological and counterintuitive. Increasing energy costs adversely affect the middle class disproportionately.

These data paint a distressing picture of the current status of the American middle class. And prospects for improvement are virtually nonexistent since the basis for the middle class demise is causally connected with the policies emanating from, and firmly entrenched, in the nation’s capital.

As best-selling authors and Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporters Donald Barlett and James Steele explain in their latest book, The Betrayal of the American Dream, “What is happening to America’s middle class is not inevitable. It’s the direct result of government policy, and it can be changed by government action.”

The solution to this malaise should be relatively simple, and recognized by everyone from the chairman of the Federal Reserve to the AFL-CIO. In fact, the labor organization perhaps worded it most succinctly in a piece titled, “How do we fix the U.S. economy?” They declared the first step must be “to put America back to work because high unemployment keeps wages down. Our goal should be ‘full employment, meaning everybody who wants to work should be able to find a decent job.”

What’s stifling job growth is the expansive overreach of government regulation. Last July, a U.S. Chamber of Commerce survey showed 74% of small businesses are positioning themselves to slash hours, lay off workers, or both because of increase regulation, primarily because of the Affordable Care Act. Investors Business Daily has a running list of nearly 300 large companies that are reducing hours for employees to get below the 32 hour threshold mandated by the Act. And that’s all from just one piece of legislation.

The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform published research two years ago that illuminates the role government has played in suppressing job growth. The committee reported, “Many regulations and legislation – both existing and proposed – exacerbate the uncertainty created by today’s volatile economic environment. Virtually every new regulation has an impact on recovery, competitiveness, and job creation.” The president’s own Economic Advisory Panel came to the same conclusion, and reported, “regulations are harming businesses and job creation.” This panel went on to suggest several measures that could be implemented in order to quell the expansion of such job-destroying regulation.

Periods of rising middle class income coincide directly to periods of economic expansion and growth. And not coincidently, those are also the periods when diminution of government regulatory control over the engines of the economy occurred, the most significant of which led to the declaration by then-president Bill Clinton, “The era of big government is over.”

The best way for people to increase their station in life is with a good job. Ronald Reagan once called jobs the “best welfare program.” And the best way for good jobs to be created is with a healthy economy that is vibrant, growing, adapting, and adjusting to global and domestic market vicissitudes. And the best way for that to be facilitated is to get government out of the way of trying to micromanage nearly every component of the economy. If the private sector didn’t have to work around overreaching regulation and interference, market efficiencies in the private sector could unleash the creation of jobs, market synergies, and economic growth.

The job situation will not improve appreciably until the cost of doing business starts dropping. Last year the Small Business Administration reported that regulation costs American business $1.75 trillion per year, and costs small businesses as much as $10,585 per employee. Just the costs of Obamacare, Financial Regulatory Reform, and new EPA regulations, are projected to increase that cost per employee as much as 30%, according to Investor’s Business Daily.

””In 2012, the President said, “This country doesn’t succeed when we only see the rich getting richer. We succeed when the middle class gets bigger. We grow our economy not from the top down, but from the middle out.” He was correct. But it’s time that our policies begin reflecting that stated priority.

The history of mankind is littered with fallen nations and governments that overreached by centralized planning, stagnated their economies, and collapsed under the massive weight of their inefficiencies. Hopefully Bartlett and Steele are correct, that the utter collapse of the middle class is not inevitable. But for it not to be, a reversal of our current trend is critical, and the sooner the better.
Succinctly stated, we have shrinking income, inflation in energy and food “skyrocketing,” as was predicted five years ago, a weaker dollar, a ballooning debt, and a national security-risking deficit. The costs of all these challenges are landing squarely on the back of the middle class. A strong middle class equals a strong America. We can’t have one without the other. And our current policies are killing both.

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

Richard Larsen: The Good of the Whole Sacrificed for a Few

February 20th, 2014 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

With the stroke of a pen and an utterance from the president, Obamacare’s employer mandate has been postponed yet again, this time until 2016 for some businesses. Headlines across the nation from the mainstream media have praised the delay, declaring it advantageous and good for the nation. If it’s “good for the nation,” why don’t we just delay it indefinitely?

The problem with 2,400 pages of legislation is not what politicians promise the legislation will do, but what it does in reality, including the creation of nearly 40,000 pages of regulations affecting our health care. And the reality with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), as we’re witnessing nearly daily in financial media, is devastating for the economy, the middle class, and our healthcare system itself.

The ACA (Obamacare) was sold to us on the basis that there were 40 million Americans without health insurance and that the Act would rectify the apparent inequity. That actually is the first broken promise of Obamacare. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) admits that after 10 years of implementation, Obamacare “will still leave 31 million uninsured.” And we’ll have spent $1.93 trillion failing to achieve the primary objective of the Act! And that new dollar figure from the CBO is still likely an underestimate since they’ve revised the figure upward three times already.

The new requirements imposed on employer sponsored insurance (ESI) plans will make the costs increase significantly for employers. Many employers will discontinue their plans altogether, forcing employees to the state exchanges to buy their insurance for themselves.

Last June, McKinsey & Company released results of a study that found, “Overall, 30 percent of employers will definitely or probably stop offering ESI in the years after 2014. Among employers with a high awareness of reform, this proportion increases to more than 50 percent, and upward of 60 percent will pursue some alternative to traditional ESI.” This contrasts sharply with CBO’s original estimates of 7% of employees losing their current ESI, and the president’s promise that none would.

Those who will be able to retain their current plan will see significant changes. According to the National Business Group on Health, 30% of all companies with ESIs are considering dropping coverage for retirees and over 50% are considering dropping spousal coverage. And it’s not just the private sector, as local governments are looking at the same solutions. The mayor of Chicago, Obama’s former Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, is planning to drop 30,000 city retirees off of the city’s ESI and push them into the exchanges to buy their own. He projects a savings of $108 million per year.

Promoting the passage of his signature legislation, President Obama vowed, “that my plan will reduce the cost of health insurance by $2,500 for average families.” But according to Investor’s Business Daily, since Obamacare passed, the cost of an average family policy has already increased by $3,000, because of the new regulations and mandates imposed on providers and insurers.

All the new regulatory requirements are causing health insurance premiums to soar even more, especially for younger and healthier individuals. After all, the government subsidies will pay for the added expense of covering preexisting conditions, which was forced by the ACA. Holtz-Eakins’ American Action Forum analyzed insurance premiums in five major cities, and calculated that Obamacare mandates will cause premiums to increase additionally an average of 169%.

Confirming the fears of many who actually read the bill, Howard Dean, a doctor and former DNC Chairman, wrote recently in the Wall Street Journal, “One major problem [with Obamacare] is the so-called Independent Payment Advisory Board. The IPAB is essentially a health-care rationing body. By setting doctor reimbursement rates for Medicare and determining which procedures and drugs will be covered and at what price, the IPAB will be able to stop certain treatments its members do not favor by simply setting rates to levels where no doctor or hospital will perform them.” This obviously was what the president was referring to when he said “Give them a pill instead of the surgery.”

As of February 1, 3.3 million Americans have signed up. But how many of those are people like me who lost their insurance because of the new coverage mandates of the ACA? The White House estimated 41 million Americans would lose their coverage. And how many are losing their jobs because of the ACA? The Congressional Budget Office just updated their figure to over 2.5 million. How many are losing work hours and facing reduced income due to the Act? According to financial media, millions.

There are a few success stories that are shared anecdotally to make us “feel” better about the consequences — intended and unintended — of the ACA. But at what point do we say as a nation that the cost to the whole is too great for the benefit of the few? It’s time for government to start using cost-benefit analysis, for the ACA would dramatically fail all such tests. And when the damage is much greater than the benefits, it’s bad legislation, regardless of whose name is on it.

This brings us back to the original question. If delaying the full effect of the ACA is good for the nation, why not delay it indefinitely?

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Posted in Constitutional Issues, Guest Posts, Idaho Legislature, Idaho Pro-Life Issues, Presidential Politics, Taxes | No Comments »

Richard Larsen: With a Pen He is Now a Dictator

February 20th, 2014 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

The Constitution of the United States was drafted and ratified as the foundational legal codex of the country in part because it would prevent tyranny in America. It had a series of checks and balances between the three branches of government that were designed to disallow any one branch, or any one person, from amassing so much power that they could run the country, and us, as a tyrant. We are witnessing firsthand the unraveling of those assurances.

Over the past several weeks the President of the United States has declared that he has “a pen and a phone” and intends to use them to implement his agenda. He has made it clear that he deems this necessary since he has an uncooperative congress that, unlike his first two years in office, refuses to subserviently rubber stamp everything he wants.

It’s clear from the context of his statements that his intent is to use the power of the presidency to sign Executive Orders and use his phone to force his agenda on the nation. By so doing, he is blatantly circumventing the very precautions embedded in our founding legal codex that were designed to prevent despotic rule in our country.

This perception is one shared by Jonathan Turley, a nationally recognized constitutional law expert, professor at the George Washington University Law School, and a self-avowed liberal.

Turley appeared before the House Judiciary Committee two months ago, where Virginia Congressman Bob Goodlatte asked the following question. “Professor Turley, the constitution, the system of separated powers is not simply about stopping one branch of government from usurping another. It’s about protecting the liberty of Americans from the dangers of concentrated government power. How does the president’s unilateral modification of acts of Congress affect both the balance of power between the political branches and the liberty interests of the American people?”

Professor Turley responded, “The danger is quite severe. The problem with what the president is doing is that he’s not simply posing a danger to the constitutional system. He’s becoming the very danger the Constitution was designed to avoid. That is the concentration of power in a single branch.”

At issue in the hearing was whether the president had the authority to unilaterally change the implementation dates of a lawfully passed Act of Congress, the Affordable Care Act. Turley’s response was an undiluted and unqualified, “No.”

This was not the first time the president has exercised unconstitutional powers of the presidency. Three years ago he declared his administration would not enforce the Defense of Marriage Act. Even though congress failed to pass his proposed Cap and Trade bill, he has ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to actively enforce provisions of that bill that were never made law. He unilaterally proscribed expansion of offshore drilling without legislatively authorized power to do so. He has granted loans to other nations to drill for oil, without authorization from congress. He has, without congressional authority, implemented portions of the Dream Act, an illegal immigration bill, which never passed congress. He has ordered the Federal Communications Commission to adopt regulations giving the government control over the internet, and provide him with a “kill switch” to turn it off.

Just to clarify the role of the president, according to our own laws and Constitution. He is to “faithfully execute the laws.” He has no power to create laws or unilaterally change laws. That is the role of congress. Nor can he reverse legally passed laws. If he had those powers, we would no longer be a lawful nation committed to the rule of law, but would be an autocracy, ruled by the capricious and ideological whims of one man. This is precisely what Obama is doing according to Professor Turley.

We clearly have a president who doesn’t respect the Constitution enough to abide by it. He clearly has no respect for the rule of law since he feels it within his power to single-handedly create new code and force it on the nation.

Even the Executive Order (EO) has not the power to legally do what the president is doing. There are three things the EO can be used for: operational management of the executive branch, operational management of the federal agencies or officials, and implementing statutory or constitutional presidential responsibilities. Executive Orders cannot be used to either create new law, or to annul or reverse existing law. After all, his primary function, according to the Constitution and his oath of office, is to “faithfully execute the office” in enforcement and execution of the laws legally passed by the legislative branch.

We have a lawless president who is not doing what he’s required by law to do, and is exceeding his authority by assuming legislative power to create law. What more evidence do we need to impeach and remove from office, a president that is making himself an American dictator? And where is congress’ spine to reclaim their power that he has misappropriated from them?

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

Rep. Tom Loertscher: House Highlights, February 10

February 11th, 2014 by Halli

by Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Bone

Probably the last thing that a legislator would have been thinking about at the beginning of this last week, took place as the week began. All things were on high alert as protesters attempted to blockade the entrance to the Senate. The security personnel in the capitol aided by the State Police stepped up to the plate and contained the situation. There have been protests staged in the capitol in the past, however not of this magnitude.

It was the week for the Farm Bureau to be in town, and in talking with them about their concerns, I’ll bet you can guess what their biggest concern is– – water. Of course that is not all we talked about because there are so many things that can happen during each legislative session that affect agriculture. It’s always good to see people from home and to talk with him about the issues. One piece of legislation that should be particularly of benefit to Idaho agriculture is to gain some flexibility with EPA regulations that are coming down from the feds. It will be a long process for Idaho to take control of these issues through our DEQ, but it is thought at least, that this will be of great help to agriculture in the long run.

This was also Association of Counties week at the capitol. There were commissioners from most of our counties and we had a chance to discuss local issues. Those discussions included personal property tax, repeal of the medically indigent law and the catastrophic fund, and interestingly enough our rural counties are very much concerned about the public defender commission that the governor talked about during the state of the state. The counties in District 32 are telling us that they are reluctant to participate in such program because it will cost our local taxpayers so much more than is currently being demanded. The model that seems to work for our rural counties is the one where they contract for public defender services.

Medicaid expansion suffered a blow this last week as the House Health and Welfare Committee declined to introduce (print) a measure to implement what the Department is calling Medicaid Redesign. There have been some small groups of legislators meeting to discuss healthcare issues in the state but they have not been successful in coming up with any type of a workable solution. I don’t think there is anyone here who disagrees with the idea that we have to get something done with this issue. It just doesn’t seem to be this year. I find it even more interesting that not very many in the legislature want to even talk about the Medicaid. It is also interesting that a bill has been introduced to reinstate adult dental services, which was one of the programs that was eliminated during the economic downturn. So I guess in our own way, piece by piece, Medicaid will be expanded anyway.

Prior to a big meeting that the State Affairs Committee was having mid week, that we knew would be well attended with possible security concerns, two Idaho State Police officers stopped by to visit before the meeting. I am very impressed with their professionalism and I know all members of the legislature will attest to that fact. They have our profound gratitude for their service.

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

Rep. Tom Loertscher: House Highlights, February 3

February 3rd, 2014 by Halli

By Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Bone

This was supposed to be the year of non-controversy. In that light the press has had a field day saying that the members of the legislature are trying to play it safe in an election year. I find that not to be the case, and we are tackling the difficult issues that come before us.

We had a little bill come before the full House this week that should have been a very non-controversial piece of legislation. Last year we enacted a bill that prohibited the use of debit and credit cards for automated lottery machines. The new historic horse racing, that was authorized last year is done all by electronic machine. In keeping with what we enacted last year, it was thought that we should make it clear that debit and credit cards could not be used in these machines either. The bill came out of the State Affairs Committee very easily but was defeated on the House floor on Friday. After the bill failed, I was discussing it with a member of the State Affairs Committee who changed their vote and opposed the bill. The comment was that a debit card is the same as cash. What I have noticed however, is that there is something about having cash in your hand that is far different from having a piece of plastic with which to spend money. It isn’t the same at all. Cash in the hand makes a link that travels up the arm to the brain.

This past week we also had a joint House and Senate State Affairs Committee hearing where we asked five different agencies to come before the panel to go over the process of negotiated rulemaking that was recently put in to law. We had the Department of Administration, the Department of Environmental Quality, the State Tax Commission, the Department of Fish and Game, and the Department of Health and Welfare make presentations to us. The Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Health and Welfare are the most experienced at doing negotiated rulemaking while the Tax Commission and the Department of Fish and Game are just beginning the negotiated rulemaking process. It was interesting to hear their responses to questions. I think this was a healthy exercise because it put the agencies on notice that the legislature is very much concerned about how the rules get made.

There is also a piece of legislation coming from the Senate having to do with concealed weapons being carried on campus at our universities. This year’s effort has a much different approach than last year’s bill. For example this year the bill is requiring that an individual be at least 21 years of age and must have an enhanced carry permit, which has training requirements. Another sideboard is that there will be some discretion on the part of the university presidents to restrict concealed carry at events of all types at the universities. At this time it is expected that this bill will pass.

As you can see this probably isn’t the year of non-controversy at all. One of the most interesting experiences I have had in my life, was the very first time that I had to cast a vote in the legislature. It was a strange feeling for me because I all of a sudden realized that I was there to make these kinds of decisions and I absolutely had to vote. It’s not always comfortable but I wouldn’t have it and any other way.

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Posted in Guest Posts, Idaho Legislature, Politics in General, Rep. Tom Loertscher, Second Amendment, Taxes | No Comments »

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