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Richard Larsen: A Rip in Reagan’s Big Tent – Rifts in the GOP

April 14th, 2014 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

In a two-party system, as the U.S. gratefully is, there must be a difference between the two major parties. The distinction seems to have eroded over the years as both parties have moved to the left. To those of us who ardently hold to the principles that this nation was founded upon, there is only one major party that at least has the temerity to articulate those ideals, whether it in fact practices them or not, and that is the Republican Party. Those of us who lament the downward slide of the country into statism, and toward eventual financial collapse, must decide whether we want to be part of the solution within the GOP, or continue to be part of the problem. Many who consider themselves to be “patriots” are part of the problem.

republican-tentMany long-time Republicans are resistant to the efforts of the neophytes, or Tea Party idealists. They stand egocentrically on the ground that the Republican Party is “my” party,” and refuse to let the neophyte conservatives have a place at the table. They roll out by-law and rule changes that seek to centralize the “power” and authority of the party in the hands of a few, rather than expanding and democratizing it, and increasing participation. They attempt to demonize and denigrate the newcomers who, in my estimation, are the very embodiment of the same revolutionary spirit and convictions that founded our republic.

On the other hand, many of the newcomers attack the “old guard” with the same ferocity and animus they hold for those who are ideologically engaged in the process of fundamentally transforming the nation. Some of these Tea Partiers exacerbate the divide created by the egoism of the old guard and take this internal struggle to a level that, if taken to extremes, will fractiously render the GOP impotent, which would serve no one’s interest, except the other Party and the real enemies of freedom. They engage in strident in-your-face confrontational coercion of “ideological purity,” that only fans the flames of discord and apprehension of the establishment Republicans.

There is near universal acceptance within the GOP of the main tenets of the Tea Party movement which are: eliminate excessive taxes, eliminate the national debt, eliminate deficit spending, protect free markets, abide by the Constitution of the United States, promote civic responsibility, and reduce the overall size of government.

The only difference, other than tactical, I can find between the two factions is an understanding of compromise. The old guard has been around long enough to know that everything in politics and government is incremental, and that compromise is critical. They just need to learn to compromise in a way that takes us in the right direction, not the other way. The newcomers have the luxury of standing strictly on principle, and, having never governed, have not had the educational experience to realize that it’s impossible in governance to have things exactly how you want them all of the time. It is possible to compromise on specific legislation or statute without compromising on your principles. Ignorance of this fact will cripple the neo-conservatives unless they learn to adapt.

What is clear, is that the tactics of both factions are churlish, immature, and divisive. Both use labels to demonize and alienate the other, and engage in tactics that are characteristic of Saul Alinsky devotees, not members of the Party of Lincoln. To both sides I would reiterate the counsel of Paul, “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

Ronald Reagan’s goal was for the Republican Party to be a big tent; the bigger the better. I believe ardently that all who are at the eye of this intra-party storm are conservatives, believing in limited government, individual freedom, protection of life and private property, less government spending and less governmental intrusion and centralization of power. So why should it matter if we’re constitutional conservatives, Tea Party conservatives, libertarian conservatives, or old guard conservatives? As Reagan said, “He who agrees with me 80% of the time is not my enemy.”

housedividedIf the GOP is to succeed electorally, all factions and persons involved in the party schism must learn to work together. Only by working together can we begin to slow the abominable slide into leftist oblivion. The “old guard” and the Tea Partiers must realize that all brands of conservatives are essential spokes in the same wheel.

If the statists who’re fundamentally transforming the nation are to be defeated, then it will only come as a result of a “united we stand, but divided we fall” conviction. And if we’re not part of the solution to create such cohesiveness, we’re part of the problem of divisiveness and failure. Clearly, both factions are at fault, and both are diluting and dividing the positive electoral influence the GOP could be enjoying if they’d work together against the real enemies of the state, rather than those perceived internally to be.

When conservatives don’t get their way with the candidates of their choice, and choose to stay at home on election day, they get precisely what they despise the most: more centralized planning, more reckless spending, and more expansive intrusion of government in their private lives by handing the election to the opposition. In short, everything that is contrary to their convictions. It’s illogical, and frankly, just plain stupid to alienate and marginalize those who agree with you 90% of the time by treating them the same way as those who disagree 100% of the time. The best thing to do is vote in every election for the most conservative candidate. You are not “violating” your principles by so doing.

It matters less what kind of conservative labels we wear in our personal ideology, than that all parties resolve to work together in defeating those whose beliefs are antithetical to our founding principles. If the newcomers are to inch the country back closer to our founding tenets, it’s going to come by nudging the Republican Party back to its conservative roots, not by a hostile takeover, or by splintering into separate, impotent parties. And if the establishment Republicans want to win elections, they’ve got to work with, not against, the Tea Party conservatives and begin harnessing their convictions and enthusiasm, and begin practicing better what they preach. And developing a backbone to stand up against the statists would go a long way toward developing some trust with the more conservative members.

A great starting point for all is adoption of Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment, “Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican,” and a determination to discontinue the divisive and deleterious speech, inferences, and actions. And for heaven’s sake, start talking with one another, rather than about one another!

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

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 »

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: 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 »

Richard Larsen: MLK on Freedom and Our Founding Principles

January 21st, 2014 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

There have been too many relatively young men and women who have struggled for causes greater than themselves and whose lives have been cut short, leaving us, and their causes, prematurely. Oftentimes their contributions and lives are embellished nigh unto sainthood by adulating adherents. Such is the case with Martin Luther King, Jr. But it shouldn’t be, for his example and teachings are of such grandeur and durability that they stand as monuments to his memory, requiring no inflation beyond the reality.

Perhaps the greatest lesson to be learned from MLK is validation of the principle behind Thomas Jefferson’s immortal citation, “One man with courage is a majority.” One person can make a difference, especially if truth and justice are on their side. When so principally armed, one person can affect an entire nation for good.

The nation that was divided by racial issues in MLK’s era, is now polarized ideologically. Yet the precepts he espoused, and the doctrine he taught, can apply with as much pertinence and relevance to the ideological chasm that seems to be schismatically separating the right from the left today.

How ironic it is, therefore, that the principles he most ardently proclaimed are so demeaned by the left and the mainstream media in the context of today’s ideological divide. If MLK is to be extolled and praised for his principles, we must embrace all of those teachings which are at once indelibly impressed on our minds as self-evident truths.

Of those, his most oft stated, were the appeals for morality and freedom. “If we are to go forward, we must go back and rediscover those precious values – that all reality hinges on moral foundations and that all reality has spiritual control…When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Values, life, and liberty are perhaps the most repeated catchwords of the contemporary Tea Party movement. If those principles are self-evident truths, and accepted as such by MLK in the context of a civil rights movement, they are no less viable in the context of the current ideological movement, attempting to throw off the yoke of slavery of an omnipotent and omnipresent government.

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

He continued, “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom.” Individual and universal freedom was fundamental to him. Not just freedom from racism, but freedom, period. Subservience to any form of societal or governmental despotism is anathema to a nation founded on individual liberty.

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

These founding principles should be applied universally, not selectively or discriminately. But to do so, it is requisite that we collectively rise above the politics of self-interest. For as he said, “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” And as if to underscore this notion, “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”

Sounding very much like Edmund Burke, MLK declared, “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”

Yes, one person can make a difference, when armed with the truths of freedom, life, and morality. MLK made such a difference, and every American can likewise stand for, and uphold, those eternal verities.

It’s rather disruptive to conventional ideological classifications when we realize such advocacy for individual freedom and liberty are met with as much animus and bigotry today as it was 50 years ago. Considering that our nation was founded on these precepts, they should be unifying, rather than divisive principles.

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Richard Larsen: Our Devolving Language and Culture

January 8th, 2014 by Halli

by Richard Larsen

Regrettably, our language seems to be devolving much like our social mores have been. In our increasingly morally relativistic culture, our language is morphing, adapting, and redefining each day, with fewer and fewer absolutes, and increasing laxity and less and less conviction.

This is not a surprising development, for in many ways, our language and speech not only mirror, but also magnify what is occurring culturally. Psycholinguists argue inexorably about whether language reflects our perception of reality or helps create it. It appears empirically that they’re concomitant.

American linguist Arika Okrent, has said, “The job of the linguist, like that of the biologist or the botanist, is not to tell us how nature should behave, or what its creations should look like, but to describe those creations in all their messy glory and try to figure out what they can teach us about life, the world, and, especially in the case of linguistics, the workings of the human mind.” If that is correct, contemporary language reveals a vacuous, illogical and slovenly collective human mind in this twenty-first century.

I have marveled for years at the unintelligible gibberish that passes for communication today. Kids who use “like” every third word as if it means something, while in reality, it seems to represent little more than a mental vacuity that exists in the mind of the speaker who can muster nothing more substantive to fill their sentences and paragraphs with. The same seems to apply to the use of “you know,” as employed ad nauseam by people of seemingly equal mental acumen.

I used to tease my children’s friends when they’d say, “It’s, like, cold outside.” I’d respond with, “Good thing it’s just ‘like’ cold, instead of just plain cold, otherwise you may need a coat, or, like, something.”

I’ve not heard anyone on the contemporary cultural stage capture this concept quite as concisely as comedian Taylor Mali, who has a laconic monologue dedicated to the principle. Says Mali, “In case you haven’t realized, it’s become uncool to sound like you know what you’re talking about. Or that you believe in what you’re, like, saying. Invisible question marks, and parenthetical ‘you knows’ and ‘you know what I’m saying,’ have been attaching themselves to the ends of our sentences, even when those sentences aren’t, like, questions.

He continues, “Declarative sentences, so called because they used to, like, declare things to be true, as opposed to other things that are so totally, you know, not. They’ve been infected by this tragically cool and totally hip interrogative tone, as if I’m saying, ‘Don’t think I’m a nerd just because I’ve like noticed this, okay. I have nothing invested in my own personal opinions, I’m just inviting you to join me on the bandwagon of my own uncertainty.’

Mali takes the concept to the next level applying the linguistic vacuity to our relativistic society. He says, “What has happened to our conviction. Where are the limbs upon which we once walked. Have they been chopped down, like the rest of the rainforest, you know? Or do we have, like, nothing to say? Has society just become so filled with these conflicting feelings of nya nya, that we’ve just gotten to the point where we’re the most aggressively inarticulate generation to come along since, a long time ago?”

He concludes with a plea, “So I implore, you. I entreat you, and I challenge you, to speak with conviction. To say what you believe in a manner that bespeaks the determination with which you believe it. Because, contrary to the wisdom of the bumper sticker, it is not enough these days to simply question authority. You’ve got to speak with it, too.”

This is perhaps not just symptomatic of American English and culture, for Terry Crowley in his book on historical linguistics observed, “It seems that in almost all societies, the attitudes that people have to language change is basically the same. People everywhere tend to say that the older form of a language is ‘better’ than the form that is being used today.”

Words are the communicative devices utilized by mankind to render meaning and common understanding to the mundane as well as the esoteric. Many of the words we use represent absolute concepts and principles, and cannot merely be redefined or altered in practical application without changing the absolute truths upon which they’re based. Words like truth, marriage, and liberty cannot simply be redefined by popular acclaim without vitiating the social conventions, legal institutions, and verities they represent. Otherwise, they become unintelligible gibberish, like the “you knows” and “likes” that are the bane of our contemporary communicative culture; meaningless, trifling, and relativistic.

Perhaps no truer words were uttered by Gore Vidal than, “As societies grow decadent, the language grows decadent, too.” As with societal decadence, perhaps the only recourse for language purists is the heuristic “clinging” to absolutism; standing on linguistic and ethical solid ground while the rest of the world devolves to nihilistic relativism.

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Richard Larsen: The Greatest Threat to the Nation

January 8th, 2014 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

Our economy, and personal liberty, are under assault in America, The threat to the country is much more stealthy and incremental than that faced by our nation’s founders two centuries ago. According to a Gallup poll this past week, 72% of Americans see the burgeoning power of the federal government as our greatest threat. This should serve as a wakeup call to the statists in Washington who are continuously expanding the role of government in micromanaging our lives.

Much of this expanded control comes in the form of regulation. Since 1993, over 1.43 million pages have been added to the Federal Register that includes all new regulations, regulatory revisions, and presidential documents. The passage and implementation of the “Affordable Care Act” alone has added 10,516 pages to the Federal Register; that’s more than eight times the length of the Bible.
The Competitive Enterprise Institute’s (CEI) 20th edition of “Ten Thousand Commandments,” which explicates the impact of the mountainous stacks of regulation on the country, estimates the cost burden of all this regulation at $1.8 trillion per year. To put that figure in perspective, that’s more than half the size of the federal budget, and nearly 12% of the entire U.S. economy.

The cost to the government in enforcing regulation is not that great, a relatively paltry $55.4 billion in 2010, according to the CEI. That allocation of the federal budget covers most of the cost of federal agencies and regulatory enforcement. By far, the greater cost is to the economy, and in abrogated liberty, whittling incrementally away at our individual freedom.

Critics of “big business” should take note that total business profits last year were just over $1.5 trillion, yet the $1.8 trillion in costs for regulatory compliance eclipses that figure. The cost of that regulation is not paid by “big business.” Technically, corporations don’t pay taxes, they just collect revenue from consumers and turn it over to the government. We pay those taxes to the corporations voluntarily in the form of higher prices for goods and services. Consequently, we, as consumers, paid $1.8 trillion more for our goods and services last year to companies just to cover the cost of federal regulation!

According to the House Committee on Small Business, the impact on small business is staggering, and the impact on the economy is perhaps incalculable. Small businesses don’t enjoy the luxury of simply passing on the cost of regulation to their customers, like big business does, but bear a disproportionate share of the costs themselves.

The SBA Office of Advocacy defines small business as independent firms that have fewer than 500 employees, of which there are an estimated 29.6 million in the country. These firms create seven of every ten new jobs, and they employ just over half of the nation’s private sector workforce. The Office of Advocacy calculates that small businesses create more than half of the nonfarm private gross domestic product, and have created over 64% of net new jobs over the past 15 years.

According to the SBA, small firms shoulder a regulatory cost of $10,585 per employee. This is 36% higher than the cost of regulatory compliance for large businesses. And since 89% of firms in the country employ fewer than 20 employees, the smallest businesses are bearing a disproportionate share of the regulatory burden.

The cost of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulatory compliance affects small businesses four times more than larger firms, according to the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Research Foundation. They also indicate that the complexity of the tax code, and concomitant costs, disproportionately harms small businesses four times more than large firms.

At a House Small Business Committee hearing, National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson said, “Tax code complexity has a direct impact on small business viability and job growth. The more time and resources a small business spends on tax compliance, the less time it will have to grow and hire employees.”

Government, and its hoard of agencies and bureaucracies, was not created by divine unction, and are not infallible. They are to serve the people, not rule over us in totalitarian fashion. The tsunami of governmental regulation is debilitating to the economy and job growth, as well as to individual freedom. And much of the regulatory expansion comes not from congressional acts, but by government agencies expanding and rewriting regulation.

Americans have just cause to perceive expanding government control as our greatest threat, and we’ve not even touched on the privacy and Fourth Amendment infractions posed by the domestic spying programs.

237 years ago our forebears retaliated against a perceived threat to personal liberty and “taxation without representation” by initiating a revolution against a monarchical power; one that was arguably the greatest power in the world at the time. It’s time for that same American spirit to rise again, this time against a domestic threat, in defense of liberty, and begin scaling back our onerous regulatory burden.

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Richard Larsen: Quiet Rage Building Across the Nation…Conservatives Largely to Blame

December 22nd, 2013 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

Earlier this week I posted a graphic on my FaceBook wall that stated, “All across America a quiet rage is building against the assault upon American values. More so than ever in the history of America, the concerns and patience of its people are being tested, tried, and attacked by a group of elitists that are hell-bent on the destruction of this country.” It then ended with the phrase, “Refuse to remain silent!”

The post elicited responses by some who concurred with the sentiment, and some who didn’t. The posting afforded a teaching moment about what the right of the political spectrum feels about the “fundamental transformation of America” that has been occurring for several years, but accelerated dramatically over the past five.

Some were upset that the term “rage” was used, and thought it improper to be enraged toward those who’re dismantling our republic. But in a politico-cultural context, emotions like anger and rage can be a powerful motivator, especially in regard to values, convictions, and ideals that are violated and impinged upon.

Likewise, those of us who treasure America as the land of the free and the home of the brave, see contemporary statists, those who are actively engaged in expanding centralized governmental authority at the expense of personal liberty, as adulterators and enemies of freedom. They are “fundamentally transforming America” into a fiercely potent centralized government that was never intended for this republic; a fascist police state that, regulates, coerces, bullies, and spies on its citizens. And they have done it surreptitiously, clandestinely, and dishonestly. How any thinking person, who professes love for America, can accede to the destruction of American idealism perpetrated by those who have a stated objective of “fundamentally transforming” the nation is beyond my comprehension!

And for those on the left who are obsessed with race, obsequiously regurgitating racist epithets against we who love what America used to stand for, it makes no difference what color the skin is of the torchbearer leading the destruction of American values. He could be green, white, red, or purple, and we’d still object to the dismantling of the country, as we’ve observed the past few years. Stated more succinctly; you mess with what made America great, and you start simmering a pot of patriotic rage until it reaches a boiling point, and race has absolutely nothing to do with it.

For men and women of principle, who believe that this country was special and intended to be different from the rest of the world, what is happening to America is not just unacceptable, but it’s evil. How else can the destruction of good be characterized?
Edmund Burke stated that, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing.” We can no longer do nothing! The silent majority must find its voice, and a backbone!

When you think about it quantitatively, conservatives are mostly to blame for our current modified state of the union. How many conservatives refuse to vote if their candidate is not in the race, or are disengaged or oblivious to the destruction occurring around us, or do nothing, or say nothing, to preserve and protect our constitutional republic?

Conservatives have allowed this transformation to occur, by acquiescent reticence. I think no one has stated it more perfectly than Albert Einstein who said, “The world is a dangerous place not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.”

Speaking out against this erosion of freedom is good, but it’s simply not enough, and it must be more vociferous and protracted. Too many battle among themselves for ideological purity, fight amongst themselves over the most efficacious political tactics, or just throw verbal stones at those whose destructive policies are morphing the country into something never intended, but then flame out before anything is accomplished. If they don’t bother to vote, don’t get involved in the process, and don’t try to make a difference electorally, and worse yet, are divisive to the conservative ranks, they deserve some of the blame for what is happening. Every conservative must do what he can, and most of all, to vote. If every conservative voted in every election, statists wouldn’t stand a chance.

We who consider ourselves to be patriots, devotees to the principles that made America great, need to be proactive in our resistance to those who are corrupting and transforming our republic. We can no longer sit idly by complaining, and doing little else. The silent majority must find it’s voice, and then act!

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Richard Larsen: Obama’s Broken Oath of Office

November 22nd, 2013 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

Our country was founded as a constitutional republic; a federation of autonomous states tied together by a Constitution that stated explicitly what the powers of the federal government were. We have now been unofficially, yet fundamentally transformed into an autocratic “ineptocracy.” And we needn’t look any further for evidence than this week’s presidential attempts to “fix” the increasingly unaffordable Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Having been caught in his perpetual lie, “if you like your insurance you can keep it,” the president this week promised to “fix” it, by allowing people to keep their insurance plans for another year, if they wanted. Not only is that genie out of the bottle and operationally impossible to put back in, but more significantly, it represented another evidence that this president feels his power is not constrained or limited by the Constitution, or by the rule of law.

Article II, Sec. 3 of the Constitution commands the president to faithfully execute the law. The president, and even more broadly, the executive branch, does not make law. That’s the role of the legislative branch, or congress. Once laws are on the books, the president cannot change them; they are to be executed, enacted, and implemented by the president and the executive branch.

Yet, just as he did in July when he delayed the ACA employer mandate by a year, this week he, without authority, said he would “allow” people to keep their policies for another year if they liked them. The president has no such authority! Those are laws passed legally – although regrettably – by congress and signed into law. The president has no authority to arbitrarily choose what laws to enforce, which to not, or change laws arbitrarily and illegally by his own discretion. His oath is to faithfully execute them!

It makes no difference that the law he whimsically changed this week has his name on it, as even he refers to it as Obamacare. He still doesn’t have the power or authority to autocratically change aspects or dates of implementation of the law.

He also acted illegally when he declared he would not enforce the Defense of Marriage Act, as well as his fiat that he would implement elements of the so-called Dream Act for immigration reform, on his own, with no congressional action.

An autocrat is one who has absolute power. And that is how our president is acting. The Constitution was written brilliantly with inherent checks and balances on the power of any one of the branches of government. But apparently, when you’re Barack Obama, there’s no perceived limit to your power; you can do as you please, when you please, and when you mess up, claim you never knew about it until you “read it in the press,” like the rest of us. Outside of the fantasy world of the Washington Beltway, such an egocentric and narcissistic attitude would be considered delusional. But that’s what we got when we elected, and then reelected, someone with a messiah complex.

I have long maintained that our republic can only survive if people elected to office honor their oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.” Every time Obama spuriously and capriciously changes a law, chooses which he will execute and not execute, he is definitionally acting outside of the law, and he breaks his oath of office anew.

I mentioned that we have an autocratic ineptocracy, and explained the autocratic component. We have been fundamentally transformed into an ineptocracy which is a “political system of government where the incompetent are elected by the unproductive in return for goods and services redistributed from the competent and productive, until the former so outnumber the latter that the system collapses.”

Several years ago Ayn Rand said, “We are fast approaching the stage of ultimate inversion: the stage where government is free to do as it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission.” It seems obvious that we’ve now achieved that state of ultimate inversion of our founding principles. And the inversion is exacerbated by the fact that it’s the arbitrary actions of an autocrat at the helm of the nation that declares that government can do as it pleases, while we paean citizens have our liberty eroded further with every stroke of his pen, and utterance from his lips.

There’s nothing we can do to rein in the autocratic hubris at the head of the country. We can only hope that in three years we may choose someone who respects the law, follows it, and will fervently keep the oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution.

And we can pray that our fundamental transformation is not irreversible. In the meantime, we can attempt to follow Thomas Jefferson’s counsel to “Educate and inform the whole mass of the people… They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.”

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Richard Larsen: The Biggest Presidential Lie

November 11th, 2013 by Halli

by Richard Larsen

As presidential lies go, this is the biggest, and it’s one that our president has uttered hundreds of times. “If you like your healthcare plan, you can keep it.” We now know, and it’s documented, that the president and his staff have known for years that was not true. They lied to us.

On page 34,552 of the Federal Register for 2010, an entry by the administration says their “mid-range estimate is that 66 percent of small employer plans and 45 percent of large employer plans will relinquish their grandfather status by the end of 2013.” That represents over 51 million people who will lose their health insurance, because of provisions in the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Let’s make sure we understand all of this. Section 1251 of the ACA refers to a “grandfather” provision that allowed people to keep their existing plans if so desired. But subsequent regulations by the administration interpreted that key section so narrowly that it would be virtually impossible to retain plans that were in place in 2010, unless the firm or organization had a waiver from implementation.

One of those subsequent regulatory changes was that if a plan that had been grandfathered per Section 1251 of the ACA were to make any changes after 2010, they would no longer be grandfathered. It’s inconceivable that any health insurance plans could’ve gone through the last three years of massive premium inflation with no changes! And not just in premiums, but changes in coverage, deductibles, or maximum out-of-pocket costs.

Declaring policies in effect in 2010 grandfathered as long as they made no adjustments the past three years would be tantamount to the administration saying that we could use the freeway for our travel needs for as long as we like, as long as we never change our speed or direction!

The Congressional Budget Office indicates that 156 million of us are covered under employer-sponsored plans. There are also another 25 million who, again according to the CBO, have “non-group and other” insurance coverage, in other words, most of those buy their own insurance. Again, it’s totally inconceivable that there are any plans that, based on the administration’s narrow interpretation of the grandfather clause, have not had any changes since 2010. In short, that means there are no grandfathered insurance plans! Yet the president has the temerity to claim we’re losing our insurance because of our carriers!

That’s not to say that everyone will lose their current coverage. Many of those plans have likely adjusted to accommodate the new requirements of mandated coverage as defined in the ACA. Mandated coverage now includes maternity care, gestational diabetes screening for pregnant women, FDA-approved contraceptive methods, contraceptive education and counseling, breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling, sexually transmitted infections counseling for sexually-active women, and HIV screening and counseling for sexually-active women.

Isn’t it wonderful that all of us over age 40, and single men, get to pay for all of those services that we’ll never use? The freedom and flexibility of the ACA just never ceases to amaze me! I guess that explains in part why there were so many (6, officially) Americans who signed up on the first day!

Here are some other lies told by the President, and his Democrat allies in congress about the ACA. We’ve been promised that, if we like our doctor, we can keep him. In all likelihood, we can’t, since that doctor may be out of the network for our new plan that we were forced to buy.

He said our premiums would go down, that the ACA “will bend the cost curve down.” “The average family will pay $2,500 less for their insurance premiums.” Instead, they’ve gone up, $2,581 higher, according to Kaiser Health.

He said it would reduce the amount of healthcare spending in the country, that’s obviously not true. He said it would not add a dime to the deficit, yet it borrows $600 billion from Medicare, which is going broke, and at the current enrollment rate, the entire cost will add to the deficit.

He said he would not raise taxes a dime on anyone making under $250K, yet the bill is partially funded by taxes on insurance companies, drug companies, medical device companies, and health care providers. All those costs are going to be passed on to the patients, most of whom make far below $250K per year.

The further into the implementation of the ACA we get, the more convinced I am that deception, distortion, extortion, and outright lies are the very foundation of it. Even the notion that it was going to provide insurance coverage for everyone is a lie, since according to the Congressional Budget Office, even after 10 years of implementation, there will still be 31 million Americans without coverage. So we’ll have spent $1.93 trillion failing to achieve the primary objective of the Act, and literally destroying the coverage that the rest of us get.

We received our insurance cancellation letter from my wife’s employer the first of October. We were already paying an exorbitant premium that had increased over 25%, for a high $2,500 deductible. As we study our options on the Idaho ACA website, the policies within our capability to pay have deductibles of $8,000. And to make matters worse, we will still be paying up to 50% of our health care expenses after the deductible is met. I guess it’s meant to assuage our concerns that our maximum out-of-pocket expenses per year are capped at $12,700. We will be paying more for a new policy that will exact from us five times as much in out-of-pocket costs. This is not affordable care; this is highway robbery!

And the real kicker is that the administration knew all along what would happen to us all, as evidenced by their own words in the Federal Register. What’s different about this lie, though, is the mainstream media didn’t ignore it like they have all the others. NBC actually had the audacity to run with the story. For those of us who’ve been wondering where the media has been for the past five years, this actually provides a little glimmer of hope. Perhaps they’ll actually start doing their job now.

These lies, continuously uttered by our president, are much more significant than some of the others that have landed presidents in hot water. Certainly more significant than, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman,” and “I am not a crook,” and “No new taxes.” These lies adversely affect all of us.

It’s no wonder that even though the ACA passed in 2009, they made no attempt to start collecting the taxes or implementing the mandates until after the 2012 election. If this had been implemented within two years after passage, in a logical world, there would be no Democrats left in congress today, for they were the only ones who voted for it.

This entire package was sold to us based on lies. And as destructive as the ACA is to the nation, to jobs, to the economy, to health insurance, and to family budgets, no one who supported and pushed for its passage should ever hold elected office again. It’s time to start holding politicians accountable, not for their intentions, but for their actions!

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