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Richard Larsen: Economic Optimism

January 17th, 2015 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

As we embark on a new year, positive economic indications are abundant. Having experienced the worst recession in modern financial history six years ago, the U.S. has slowly but surely emerged on more sure footing heading into the New Year. What has precipitated economically over the past six years cannot causally be attributed to any policies or governmental programs. Recovery has occurred in spite of government efforts, and is a testament to the free market capitalistic system our economy is based upon.

In December the Dow Jones Industrial Average broke through the 18,000 level for the first time ever, capping a 7.5% gain for 2014. Due to lower gas prices, we saved approximately $14 billion in energy costs for the year. And our moribund Gross Domestic Product (GDP) finally started to show signs of life with a 5% annualized growth rate in the third quarter. These data have significantly improved consumer sentiment, which is a measure of economic optimism. The latest reading of 92.6 represents a marked upward move from a third quarter reading of 82.

Due primarily to these factors, there’s even been improvement in the job market. Nonfarm payrolls have risen 26 consecutive months through December, averaging about 210,000 per month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Job growth is critical to economic growth since 70% of our economy is consumer driven, and more people with jobs, and especially good-paying jobs, augments growth sustainability.

The employment data still do not indicate a full recovery, however. According to the BLS Table A-15, 11% is closer to the real unemployment rate than the present headline figure of 5.8%. Item U6 indicates that the “Total unemployed, plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force,” is nearly double the headline figure. There are too many still underemployed or only working part-time, who are looking for better jobs.

The Participation Rate is too low at 62.8%, which is near all-time lows for employable adults holding jobs. Pre-recession Participation Rate was over 66%. Currently, there are 6.9 million fewer Americans in the work force, either working or looking for employment, than there were six years ago. Those who have given up on finding a job are no longer counted in the headline household unemployment rate. Consequently, with 6.9 million fewer Americans working or searching for work, a significant percentage of the drop in unemployment since 2009 is largely due to those who have given up on finding a job. According to the BLS, demographic factors explain less than one-quarter of the decreased labor force participation.

When we look for causal factors for this recovery, however tepid, we cannot find any from the government. Nothing done by the Executive or Legislative branches of government have contributed to the recovery. With but a couple of exceptions, everything government has done in the past six years has thwarted economic growth and recovery.

The three major governmental accomplishments over the past six years have restricted and constrained our economic engine. The “Stimulus” of 2008 did not stimulate. According to the Wall Street Journal, over half of the $850 billion ($1.1 trillion, including interest) “stimulus” bill could be more correctly classified as discretionary spending. The Congressional Budget Office “scoring” of the stimulus package indicated that only 12 cents of every dollar would have a stimulative affect on the economy. The scoring process clearly indicated the impotence of the “Stimulus” for creating positive, let alone sustainable, economic growth.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) doesn’t stimulate the economy, for it is laden with new taxes and fees imposed on individuals and employers to be implemented over the next few years. And actually when the full impact of those new taxes hit, the adverse effect on the economy will be considerable. For as Christina Romer, former chair of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors, revealed last year, “Tax changes have very large effects: an exogenous tax increase of 1 percent of GDP lowers real GDP by roughly 2 to 3 percent.”

Likewise, the FinReg, Dodd-Frank financial regulatory reform is a deterrent to growth. It solidifies the crony capitalistic relationship between Wall Street, the major banks, and Washington by assuring further government intervention with institutions deemed “too big to fail.” The costs of implementation at the private sector level have resulted in higher fees, charges, and interest rates for financial institutions to recoup the implementation costs. Anything that takes from producers and savers to pay for regulatory overreach is antithetical to economic stimulus.

Those three governmental “successes” were all passed before 2010 when leadership of the House changed hands. This was perhaps the most effectual event leading to economic recovery. After 2010, with a divided congress, less has been done governmentally to interfere with the economy. Consequently, business owners, CEO’s, and employees have adapted to the new “normal” of higher costs of regulation and are gradually digging themselves out of the morass. The greatest benefit of a divided congress is less governmental intervention.

This should be perhaps the greatest measure of a successful government or regime. Rather than measure productivity based on how much legislation is passed, measure it based on how little they encroach on our liberty and our capitalistic economy.
The great economist and Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman, once said, “Government has three primary functions. It should provide for military defense of the nation. It should enforce contracts between individuals. It should protect citizens from crimes against themselves or their property. When government– in pursuit of good intentions tries to rearrange the economy, legislate morality, or help special interests, the costs come in inefficiency, lack of motivation, and loss of freedom. Government should be a referee, not an active player.”

The objectivist philosopher, Ayn Rand, echoes this sentiment. She wrote, “America’s abundance was created not by public sacrifices to the common good, but by the productive genius of free men who pursued their own personal interests and the making of their own private fortunes. They did not starve the people to pay for America’s industrialization. They gave the people better jobs, higher wages, and cheaper goods with every new machine they invented, with every scientific discovery or technological advance — and thus the whole country was moving forward and profiting, not suffering, every step of the way.”

It appears at least ostensibly that the intent of the 114th Congress will be to roll back some of the onerous regulatory burdens conceived by their predecessors. If they are successful in doing so, the growth potential of our economic engine could be unleashed for significant expansion. After all, look at how far we’ve come in spite of their predecessor’s efforts to stifle free enterprise in our capitalistic system.

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

David Ripley: Some Good News in DC Budget Battle

December 23rd, 2014 by Halli

Idaho Chooses Life

Many conservatives across the nation are angry that the GOP leadership seems to have no plan for responding to Obama’s immigration reform stunt. Some have been hoping that the House would use its budgetary authority to block the president’s unconstitutional amendment of federal statute. Information released by the Washington Post yesterday suggests that we will be frustrated.

However, the same analysis found some encouragement for pro-Life advocates.

Buried in the leadership’s spending bill are various pro-Life provisions. Republicans will once again block the use of federal funds to pay for most abortions, including the District of Columbia. This restriction will now apply to federal prison inmates.

This last is very important because of trends in various county jails where apparently taxpayers are being billed for abortions on a regular basis. This is a potential scandal which requires our future attention.

In addition, the GOP spending plan puts now requirements on the Department of Health & Human Services to make it clear to citizens shopping for health care insurance on various ObamaCare websites whether the plans they are considering cover elective abortion services.

And, lastly, the proposed spending bill cuts enforcement funding for the IRS, and includes a ban on the agency using its police powers to target tax-exempt groups for harassment based upon the group’s political beliefs.

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Posted in Guest Posts, Idaho Pro-Life Issues, National Sovereignty, Politics in General, Presidential Politics, Taxes | No Comments »

Richard Larsen: No Longer a Nation of Law

November 29th, 2014 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

“Congress will not act, so I will,” warned President Obama over the past few weeks as he projected the possibility of acting unilaterally on the issue of illegal immigration. And act, he did.

rickmckeeIn an announcement Thursday evening, the President granted amnesty to millions of those who have entered the country illegally. Those granted amnesty, are those who have been in the country for at least five years, have children who are citizens or legal residents, who pass a criminal background check, and are willing to pay taxes and register with the government. The impact could include as many as 6 million people.

The elements of his plan have merit, but to be legal, the proposal must be enacted legislatively, which he could have done easily when his party controlled both chambers of congress during his first term. What he proposes to do is to rewrite U.S. immigration law without the Constitutional or statutory authority to do so.
His actions stand in stark contrast to what he has been saying over the past six years. On March 28, 2011 in a Univision appearance, he declared, “For me to simply through executive order ignore those congressional mandates, would not conform to my appropriate role as president.”

On July 25, 2011, he stated, “I know some people want me to bypass congress and change the laws on my own. But that’s not the way our system works.”

On November 25, 2013, he declared, “If in fact I could solve all these problems without passing laws in congress, then I would do so. But we’re also a nation of laws.”

On March 6, 2014, he clarified, “I cannot ignore those laws anymore than I can ignore any of the other laws on the books. What I said in the past remains true. Until congress passes a new law, then I am constrained in terms of what I am able to do.”
On February 14, 2013, he said, “The problem is that, I’m the president of the United States. I’m not the emperor of the United States. My job is to execute the laws that are passed.”

Then, in reference to his 2012 Executive Order where elements of the stalled Senate Dream Act were implemented, he said, “What we have tried to do is administratively reduce the burdens and hardships on families being separated. And what we’ve done is, obviously, pass the deferred action which made sure that the DREAMers, young people who were brought here and think of themselves as Americans, are American except for their papers, that they’re not deported.
“Having said all that, we’ve kind of stretched our administrative flexibility as much as we can. And that’s why making sure we get comprehensive immigration reform done is so important.”
And on January 30, 2013, he told Univision, “Well, I think it is important to remind everybody that, as I said I think previously, and I’m not a king. I am the head of the executive branch of government. I’m required to follow the law.”
In fact, there are at least 25 times the president has expressed those convictions, and are captured on video. His comments focus on three key areas: 1) we are a nation of laws; 2) as president, he hasn’t the authority to make law, for that’s the role of the legislative branch; and 3) he is not a king or an emperor, i.e. a despot. Clearly, from his speech on Thursday, those convictions have changed. He either feels he is above the law, can now make law, subordinating congress to irrelevancy, or he feels he is now king or emperor.

The Executive Order (EO) does not grant the president the authority to do what he said he’d do this week. 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.

Many have cited executive order precedence of prior presidents. Those situations were far different. President Ronald Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act in 1986, which granted limited amnesty to some qualified illegal immigrants. He subsequently issued an executive order that included minor children of those specifically covered under the Act.

In 1990, President George Herbert Walker Bush issued an Executive Order related to that Act that broadened the scope to include spouses and children of those granted amnesty under the Simpson-Mazzoli Act. The EO was a logical inclusion not specifically delineated in the Act. Both Reagan’s and Bush’s Executive Orders were supported by the legislative intent of Simpson-Mazzoli, were legal declarations of how Simpson-Mazzoli would be implemented, and were supported by Congress.

What the President did this week establishes a dangerous precedent and arguably creates a constitutional crisis over the separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches and the rule of law. As disturbing as it is to have a president so willfully and intentionally exceed his constitutional authority, is the fact that his party leadership is entirely supportive of his illegal actions.

In a few years there will be a Republican president who may, using his “pen and his phone,” rescind the Affordable Care Act, or outlaw abortions altogether, or initiate tax cuts just by Executive Order. Those who have no problem with what the President did this week will have no legal leg to stand on in their denunciation of such future executive actions.
Regardless of which party he hails from, and regardless of the viability of his proposal, President Obama this week declared that we are no longer a nation of laws, and that he is our emperor.

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Richard Larsen: Ignorance and Racism in Gaza Conflict Coverage

August 15th, 2014 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

There are only two possible explanations for the anti-Semitic statements, tweets, demonstrations, and promulgations of the past few weeks after Israel began defending herself from the onslaught of missiles from the Hamas-held Gaza Strip; sheer ignorance or blatant racism. In some cases it could perhaps be a combination of both. Much of the culpability for the biased representation of the conflict in Gaza rests directly on the shoulders of the mainstream media who should know better.

The rationalized justification for the latest attacks on Israel traces back to an incident in June when three Israeli teenaged seminary students (one of whom was an American) were kidnapped, and subsequently killed, while hitchhiking in the West Bank. They disappeared on June 12 and their bodies were discovered hamas_terror_academyeighteen days later in a field near Hebron. Hamas was blamed for the abductions and murders, and the night the bodies were discovered, the terrorist group began launching missiles into the heart of Israel. Nearly 1,000 missiles have been launched by Hamas against Israel since that fateful night, and Israel has responded by destroying the tunnels used by Hamas to infiltrate Israel, and by targeting the group’s missile and munitions storage sites, which are often strategically placed in schools, hospitals, mosques, and residential areas.

Clearly, Israel is fighting for her very existence, and fighting back against those who attack her. Self-defense is a natural human right, and the first responsibility of a nation to protect its citizenry. Yet in spite of these verities, Israelis are vilified for fighting back and refusing to turn the other cheek.

Mia Farrow has been posting pro-Palestinian comments over the past several days on Twitter, including, “What is Israel’s long-term plan for Gaza? They can’t kill everyone.” Madonna posted a photo with the comment, “These flowers are like the innocent children of GAZA! Who has a right to destroy them? No One!!!! CEASE FIRE!” Dozens of celebrities have been vocal in their anti-Israeli denunciations. There have been a few notable exceptions.

Across the pond it has been even more strident, as typified by a letter from Spanish actor Javier Bardem that was published in a Barcelona paper last week. Bardem wrote, “This is a war of occupation and extermination against a whole people without means, confined to a miniscule territory without water and where hospitals, ambulances, and children are targeted and presumed to be terrorists.” A hundred Spanish celebrities, including Academy Award winners Penelope Cruz and Pedro Almodovar, endorsed the letter.

European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor responded to Bardem’s letter, by stating, “The assertion that Israel is perpetrating genocide is not only patently false and detached from reality, but also inflammatory and outrageous at a time when demonization against Israel is fueling unprecedented levels of anti-Semitic violence in Europe…I would be interested in reading the opinion of the same Spanish celebrities after 2,500 rockets explode on Madrid or Barcelona.”

Anti-Semitic demonstrations have dominated European news, coinciding with the anti-Israel public posturing of so many from the high-profile glitz and glamour crowd.

As if to not be outdone, American media have been denouncing Israel for “targeting civilians” with their retaliatory attacks, as MSNBC has been doing with regularity. NBC’s David Gregory on “Meet the Press” castigated Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for such targeting, which brought a sharp rebuke from the PM. He said, “Hamas is responsible for the death of civilians. We’re not targeting a single civilian. We’re responding to Hamas action and we’re telling the civilians to leave. Hamas is telling them to stay. Why is it telling them to stay? Because it wants to pile up their own dead bodies. They not only want to kill our people, they want to sacrifice their own people.”

One major newspaper has printed over twenty articles on the current iteration of the Gaza conflict. But in all of their stories, not one mention has been made of the documented immoral placement of Hamas missile launchers and munitions in residential areas, schools, mosques and hospitals. Sometimes media bias is more blatantly evidenced by omission, than by commission.

Last year the Anti-Defamation League conducted its largest-ever worldwide survey of anti-Semitic attitudes. They polled 53,000 people in 102 countries, representing nearly 87% of the world’s population, and found 26% of the world is anti-Semitic. It’s difficult to come to grips with such blatant racism in this day and age when it is so pervasively denounced. Particularly inscrutable is the racism of the effete celebrity crowd and self-professed politically correct media personalities.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, made perhaps the most ludicrous comment this week in support of Hamas, also known as the Muslim Brotherhood of Palestine. She referred to them as a “humanitarian group.” The Hamas Charter states, “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it,” and it will be obliterated by “Jihad.” To most sentient people, that wouldn’t appear very “humanitarian.”

It is only by flagrant vacuity that some attempt to create a moral equivalency between a democratic nation defending itself and a terrorist organization that uses human shields to protect their weaponry. As Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of Sheikh Hassan Yousef, one of the founders of Hamas, said last week on CNN, “Hamas doesn’t care about the lives of Palestinians…And, by the way, Israel – the destruction of the state of Israel is not Hamas’ final destination. Hamas’ final destination is building the Islamic Caliphate, which means an Islamic state on the rubble of every other civilization. These are the ultimate goals of the movement.”

Yet to Pelosi, Hamas is “humanitarian,” and for many in the media and of the celebrity elite, the terrorist group has been perched on moral high ground as victims, rather than denounced as the perpetrators of terrorism that they are. Such a perverted sense of misplaced indignation can only be attributable to abject ignorance of the relative facts, an intense racist bigotry against the Jewish state, or a combination of the two.

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Richard Larsen: Operation Choke Point – Another Presidential Abuse of Power

July 5th, 2014 by Halli

by Richard Larsen

In a free-market capitalistic system, the economy grows as companies compete freely for consumer dollars by producing superior products and services, adding jobs while their bottom-line grows. In such a system the government plays a role as referee by protecting consumers and ensuring all corporate players compete legally, and fairly. But in a crony-capitalistic system, the government does more than referee — it intervenes, attempting to assure success of some sectors and companies, while thwarting and even penalizing those that are out of favor with the prevailing ideology. Over the past six years our economic system has become increasingly controlled through governmental cronyism, and it just got much worse, and it’s based purely on ideology.

1. Obama_Constitution_ObstructionEarly last year the Department of Justice (DOJ) initiated a new probe into questionable mercantile ventures facilitated by commercial banks. Initially, “Operation Choke Point” targeted banks that service payday lenders, especially online, and other services that they thought to be dubious. DOJ pressured banks doing business with such firms to “choke” or restrict access of such firms to banking services, even to the point of closing the accounts of such firms.

This policy is not traceable to the passage of Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, commonly referred to as FinReg. That Act created consumer protection regulations, as well as other measures such as “too big to fail,” which were designed to prevent a collapse of the financial services industry as we saw in 2008. Those regulations are enforced through the Department of the Treasury.

2. Lose-some-Weight-ALG-600Operation Choke Point, however, is being run through the DOJ as an extension of the president’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF). The Task Force was created in November 2009 for the express purpose of holding accountable the individuals and institutions that created the last financial crisis. This task force, headed by the DOJ, includes the FBI, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Secret Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The evidence for potential abuses is generated by banks through their reporting of Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs), making banking institutions partners with law enforcement agencies in identifying and flagging questionable financial activity.

This puts banks in a tenuous position with law-enforcement and government agencies. As the Wall Street Journal reported last month, “Banks, which need a reliable and safe payments network to survive, have always worked with law enforcement to fight fraud and even terrorism in the financial system. Banks provide tips to law enforcement when a customer’s behavior seems fishy, and they assist in investigations when asked. In the past year alone, banks have filed nearly a million suspicious activity reports with regulators, including suspicions of mortgage fraud, identity theft, counterfeit debit and credit cards, tax evasion and wire-transfer fraud.”
Clearly the intent of the FFETF is appropriate, as it relates to curtailing illegal or dubious financial ventures and transactions, and restricting money-laundering schemes. The problem is, it’s now gone much further than the original intent.

4. ObamaCare_Thomas_Jefferson_Tyranny_1-300×300Two weeks ago, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee reported that, based on internal DOJ documents, the administration is now using Operation Choke Point to target companies and sectors that are completely legal, yet not viewed favorably by the administration. The report stated that the DOJ is using pressure on banks to “shut down” companies that they find “objectionable.”

“We have documented that they are going after gun and ammunitions manufacturers, gun sellers and non-deposit lenders. Their own memos show they are well beyond enforcing the law,” said Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) after the report was made public.
And it doesn’t end there. The documents released by the House Oversight Committee show that the DOJ has included the entire firearms industry and classified them with other “high risk” targeted businesses. The trade association for firearms and ammunition manufacturers, The National Shooting Sports Foundation, has reported that, “several of its members have had banking relationships wrongfully terminated as a result Operation Choke Point.”

5. obama-tyranny-irsWe have yet again an example of the administration utilizing the tools of governance to discriminate against activities and companies that are legal, that they don’t approve of. As previously documented, the administration has abused their power with the IRS, DOJ, Environmental Protection Agency, the Labor Department, FBI, ATF, and OSHA. The administration has abused the power of government, based on ideology, to harass, intimidate, and put out of business, companies led by conservative contributors, and conservative non-profit organizations.

This is the type of political corruption we would expect from a banana republic, or a despotic Middle-Eastern regime, certainly not the United States of America. Columnist Charles Krauthammer believes we’ll be dealing for years with the “toxic residue of this outbreak of authoritative lawlessness.” This is no longer simply a partisan issue of concern. This goes right to the heart of what defines our constitutional system of government, for we have, until now, been a country governed by law, not presidential whims based on ideology.

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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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David Ripley: Star Parker on Marriage, Abortion and the Economy

November 19th, 2013 by Halli

Idaho Chooses Life

Marriage and abortion are economic issues.

Because fewer are working for every retiree, our taxation nowhere near covers what the requirements for Social Security and Medicare will soon be.

Political discussions commonly assume there are two separate sets of issues.

There’s a social agenda — issues like abortion and marriage. And there’s an economic agenda — issues like federal spending, debt, taxes, and government programs like entitlements.

It’s usually assumed that these two agendas don’t have anything to do with each other.

But it’s simply false that we can consider the challenges of our federal budget without thinking about the state of the American family, our birthrates and abortion.

Our massive entitlement programs — Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid — now make up about 45 percent of our current federal budget. These programs are overwhelmingly driven by the demographics of the country, mostly directly, but also indirectly. Their economics are driven both by how long we live but also by how many children we have.

Social Security and Medicare focus on our elderly, to assure they have income and health care. Because the programs are financed through payroll taxes of the working, their viability depends on how many are employed compared to the size of our aged, retired populations.

This picture is changing dramatically, for the worse. And this is the root of our problem. In 1945, there were about 42 working Americans paying payroll taxes for every retiree receiving Social Security benefits. By 1960, the ratio was about 5-to-1. Today it is about 3-to-1. Americans are living longer but having fewer children.

Currently, about 13.3 percent of our population is over 65. Projections from the Department of Health and Human Services are that by 2040 — in a little over 25 years — 21 percent of our population will be over 65.

Meanwhile, birthrates are dropping. According to data compiled by the Pew Research Center, between 1920 and 1970, birth rates varied from a high of about 118 births per 1000 women of childbearing age to a low of about 80. In recent years, this rate has been a little over 60 births per 1000 women.

A report from the chief actuary of the Social Security Administration discusses factors that have led to the drop in birth rates. These include more use and availability of birth control, more women working, postponement of marriage, increased prevalence of divorce, and more women choosing to remain childless.

Not surprisingly, the SSA report ignores the impact of legal abortion. But this is a critical factor. You can look at any chart showing historical fertility rates in the United States and see it bottom out after the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 and staying around those levels.

Because fewer and fewer are working for every retiree, our current level of taxation nowhere near covers what the requirements for Social Security and Medicare will soon be. Meanwhile, although Medicaid is usually thought of as health care for the poor, it’s the source of funding for most long-term care for the elderly. Today, about 60 percent of Americans in nursing homes and long-term care institutions are being covered through Medicaid.

Just think what this financial burden will look like as our aged become an increasingly large portion of our population.

It’s why projections for the shortfalls in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid combined have been as high as $126 trillion.

A central premise of Obamacare is forcing healthy young Americans to buy health insurance to subsidize overall premium costs for older and less healthy parts of the population. What happens as the percentage of youth in our population continues to shrink? It should be clear that it is impossible to separate marriage, children and abortion from our overall economic picture. These factors are at the root of the economic picture. A renaissance in American family life — restoration of marriage and children as central to our culture — and purge of the scourge of abortion — can restore a healthy future that today looks so ominous.

NOTE: Ms. Star Parker will be our Special Guest Speaker on Friday, December 6th, in Boise. If you’d like to attend our Christmas Dinner & Auction, please call 344-8709 to make reservations!

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

Richard Larsen: Nation’s Spending is Unsustainable

November 8th, 2013 by Halli

by Richard Larsen

There was a time when it was thought to be prudent to not spend beyond one’s means; a time when frugality was a desirable trait, and when such discipline and restraint constituted a man or woman of wisdom in financial affairs. Judging from the predictable reaction to the storyline fed by the mainstream media regarding fiscal policy in our nation’s capital, such fiscal discipline no longer is perceived as wise, but as extremist and radical.

And apparently there’s an ancillary postulate that accompanies that conclusion; that those who desire to not inflict harm on the nation due to bad government regulation fall under the same broad definitional brush of extremism and radicalism.

Just since 2006, the last year the U.S. government had a budget passed by both congressional chambers and signed by a president, government debt has shot from $6.7 trillion, to over $17 trillion. The largest segment of that spending occurred over the past five years with four consecutive years of $1 trillion deficits. Our government has been spending 60% more than it’s been collecting in tax receipts.

Those figures do not even begin to address our long-term debt due to non-discretionary entitlement programs. According to the General Accounting Office’s (GAO) 2012 annual report, their most recent which was issued nearly one year ago, unfunded debt including Social Security and Medicare was $70.7 trillion, an increase of 8% over 2011 levels. Our national debt increases by an estimated $8.2 million per minute, and about $350 billion per month.

The GAO was explicit in its warning to the policy makers about our spending. They said in the very first paragraph, “GAO’s simulations continue to show escalating levels of debt that illustrate that the long-term fiscal outlook remains unsustainable.”

For those who may have difficulty grasping the gravity of the word “unsustainable,” let’s clarify the term. That means it is “not able to be maintained at the current rate or level.” That it is “not able to be upheld or defended.”

Former Comptroller General of the United States, David M. Walker, has been sounding the clarion call of economic disaster for the nation if spending is not reined in, and politicians refuse to deal with fiscal realities of unabated spending. He describes America as a “sinking ship” in a sea of our own debt. He points out that, “The US ranks near the bottom of developed global economies in terms of financial stability and will stay there unless it addresses its burgeoning debt problems,” based on the Sovereign Fiscal Responsibility Index.

“We think it is important for the American people to understand where the United States is as compared to other countries with regard to fiscal responsibility and sustainability,” Walker said in a CNBC interview recently. He predicts that the country is rapidly heading towards a debt crisis that could come within the next few years if we continue on our present course.

Those are the facts, at least a small glimpse at our dismal fiscal reality. And yet, when facing another massively expensive entitlement, and a debt limit, and a government “shutdown” over spending issues, the press and their chorus of ideologically-compliant sycophants across the land excoriate the one group of politicians that sees the threat of our current reality!

The fiscal terrorists are not those in the House, who out of conscience and their commitment to their voters refuse to budge on spending without fiscal reform. The biggest terrorist threat to the nation are those who vote perfunctorily to increase our debt, continue to spend beyond our means, and refuse to say no to new spending programs that threaten to expedite the collapse of the nation from debt implosion! They are destroying the nation minute by minute, and debt limit increase by debt limit increase, by continuing our unsustainable spending trajectory with no attempt at addressing it.

How idiotic it is when the mainstream media rejoices when a debt limit, regardless of how temporary, is increased. When the government resumes full operations without any substantive assessment of our unsustainable mountain of debt, as identified by the General Accounting Office! And how idiotic it is when a majority of the American public applauds the resumption of our unsustainable course of debt accrual, with no apparent concern for the perpetuity of the republic!

The president is claiming credit for a slight deficit reduction this past year. That’s sublimely ironic considering it happened because of an idea he floated, and then denounced, and become enacted as a 5% reduction in spending known as the sequester.

The sequester has made a slight difference in the trajectory of our mountain of debt, but not nearly enough. If the nation is to survive financially, a change of course and reassessment of our spending priorities is critical. Our role is to be an informed electorate, and if we love America, support candidates with a commitment to saving the nation from the spendthrift politicians in control now.

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

Richard Larsen: Illogic of U.S. Involvement in Syria

September 11th, 2013 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

With growing evidence of state-sponsored use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people, the usual response would be some reprisal to discourage such usage again. That is certainly the hope of the administration. But that is hardly a “slam dunk” proposition when the country is embroiled in a bloody civil war, and our enemies are battling our enemies.

It’s morally unconscionable to back either side in this conflict. On the one hand is the despotic regime of Bashar al-Assad, who is also the Secretary for the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party. The regime is closely aligned with Russia, and shares political and financial support of Hezbollah, the terrorist group, with Iran. Syria’s support of Hezbollah landed the country on the vilified State Sponsors of Terrorism list in 1979. Hezbollah has played a significant role during the civil war battling insurgents alongside the official Syrian military.

On the other hand are the insurgents, those fighting to topple Assad. Early on in the civil war, the largest revolutionary group was the Free Syrian Army, a group of army defectors that was non-sectarian. However, they have lost their leadership role to the Syrian Liberation Front, Hamas, and especially to Jabhat al-Nusra, all of which espouse an Islamist ideology. The latter group is comprised mostly of fighters from Iraq’s post-war insurgency and have pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda in Iraq. Until the political correctness of the Obama administration started redefining Islamic extremist groups, these were all terrorists.

If Assad is deposed, Syria will likely follow the pattern of Libya and Egypt, with Islamic fundamentalists assuming control, which plays directly into the Islamic extremist determination to establish an Islamic Caliphate that encompasses the entire Middle-Eastern region, paving the way for the return of the Twelfth Imam.

The current U.S. players in the Syrian diplomatic minefield have significant baggage with regard to the Assad regime. John Kerry, current Secretary of State, has had several visits with Assad, where he’s referred to him as a “very generous man,” and a “friend.” Nancy Pelosi led a friendly congressional delegation to Syria in 2007 despite, or because of, the opposition expressed by the Bush administration, and then botched her message of peace with Israel. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has heaped praise on Assad for being a “reformer.” These socialistic bedfellows are no longer on cordial terms.

The Obama team has made it clear that they want to encourage Assad to not use chemical weapons again. That’s the intent behind their plan to fire a few tomahawk missiles at non-strategic locations within Syria. Assad is not to be targeted, nor are his chemical stockpiles, or any of his military installations. Obama clarified last week in a PBS interview that he envisioned the strike being a “shot across the bow,” a warning to not use chemical weapons again. In other words, it’s symbolic, and serves no tactical purpose.

The Obama strike would be comparable to when President Clinton ordered 23 tomahawk missiles shot into Iraq in June of 1993 for the attempted assassination of former President George H. W. Bush. Those strikes accomplished little, as alluded to by George W. Bush after the attacks of 911, when he vowed he wouldn’t make that same kind of mistake. Bush reportedly said, “I’m gonna be patient about this thing, and not go firing a 2 million dollar missile at a 10 dollar tent just to hit a camel in the butt.”

Hezbollah has been saber rattling ever since Obama’s announcement to bomb Syria. They have threatened retaliation against American interests overseas, especially in the Middle East, and retaliation against Israel. Israel has been consequently beefing up defense shields preparing for an attack from Iranian and Syrian based Hezbollah forces. And we shouldn’t be so naïve as to suppose Russia or China, close friends to the Assad regime, would sit idly by while their ally is attacked. Our diplomatic relationship with Russia is already the worst it’s been since the cold war. This will make it undeniably worse.

If you get the feeling that a tepid and mostly symbolic bombing of non-strategic targets in Syria can set off a full-scale regional conflict including the Islamic extremist desire to wipe Israel off the map, you’re not alone!

The U.S. has no national security interest in Syria, other than limiting the use of chemical weapons, which a limited bomb-strike will in no way assure. The country is engulfed in a bloody civil war where our enemies are fighting our enemies. Let them have at it. The consequences of our involvement are potentially much, much greater than can possibly justify the illusory intended results of a limited strike.

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

Richard Larsen: Detroit’s Collapse is a Portent for America

August 12th, 2013 by Halli

by Richard Larsen

In his 2012 campaign for re-election, President Obama claimed saving Detroit as one of his success stories from his first term. He said, “We refused to let Detroit go bankrupt. We bet on American workers and American ingenuity, and three years later, that bet is paying off in a big way.” The auto industry was “saved” in skeletal fashion, and is working its way back, but Detroit proper became the largest U.S. city to file for bankruptcy last month. And what should be alarming to all Americans is that the policies and politics that controlled the city for the past 60 years are the same that are leading the nation today.

Let’s just lay out a few facts on where Detroit was six decades ago, and where it is today. In 1960 the city of Detroit boasted the highest per-capita income in America. There were nearly 300,000 manufacturing jobs. The city was the fourth largest in the country with nearly two million residents. In many ways, it was the golden-boy of free-market America.

Today, it’s a broken and dilapidated city with nearly $20 billion in debt and unfunded liabilities, and no way to pay for them. The city has lost 63% of its population, has lost over 90% of its manufacturing jobs, over 48% of them lost in the last decade alone. The city is more reliant on casinos for city revenue, about $11 million per month, than on automaker tax revenue.

About one-third of Detroit’s 140 square miles is vacant or dilapidated, and there are over 78,000 abandoned homes. Two-thirds of the parks were permanently closed over the past five years. Only about a third of the city’s ambulances are functional, and the average response time to a 911 call is 58 minutes.

As disheartening as that is, the human toll is even greater. The murder rate is 11 times higher than New York City’s, and the violent crime rate is five times higher than the national average. Less than half of Detroit’s residents over the age of 16 have jobs, and over 60% of the children live in poverty. An astonishing 47% of Detroit’s citizens are functionally illiterate.

So what happened to this once proud symbol of America’s manufacturing successes? In short, they proved the validity of “Stein’s Law.” Herbert Stein was an economist and Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisor’s under President Nixon. To him is attributed the succinct yet obvious economic truth, “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.” Or, as he later restated, “Trends that can’t continue, won’t.” It’s ironic that Stein, father of author and actor Ben Stein, claimed Detroit as his hometown.

The trends that could not continue for Detroit were: steadily increasing city spending as tax revenue steadily declined, continued expansion in the size and scope of city government, and increasingly unrealistic benefit and wage concessions to municipal unions.
The latter is what syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer referred to as “legal corruption.” He described it this way. “The legal corruption was the cozy symbiosis of Democratic politicians and powerful unions, especially the public-sector unions that gave money to elect the politicians who negotiated their contracts — with wildly unsustainable health and pension benefits. . . .The market ultimately forced the car companies into reform, restructuring, and eventual recovery. The city of Detroit, however, lacking market constraints, just kept overspending — $100 million annually since 2008. The city now has about $19 billion in obligations it has no chance of meeting. So much city revenue has had to be diverted to creditors and pensioners that there is practically nothing left to run the city.”

If something can’t go on forever, it will stop. A family, city, state, or nation, simply cannot continue to spend more than it collects in revenue. It will eventually stop, as it did for Detroit with their Chapter 9 bankruptcy filing last month, and as countless families learn too late when they’re headed to their own bankruptcy court.

Many other municipalities that have made the same egregious spending mistakes will undoubtedly learn the lesson Detroit has; the hard way. But will the nation follow suit?

Presidents cannot continue to propose spending for every idea that sounds good. Congress cannot continue to kick the can down the road for future generations to deal with, by perfunctorily raising the spending limit, and spending beyond our means. And the size and scope of government cannot continue to expand inexorably, providing services and programs that we cannot afford. And the habit of perennial increases in benefits and pensions to public employees must be broken.

Remember, trends that cannot continue, will not. Detroit is now facing their day of reckoning. Will the nation, as well, or will we finally learn to demand fiscal accountability of our elected officials before it’s too late?

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