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Richard Larsen: Economic Benefits of Right-to-Work

March 26th, 2015 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

This week Wisconsin became the 25th state in the union to pass and sign into law so-called “right to work” legislation. Despite the pejorative light oftentimes associated with right to Work (RTW) laws, in reality all they do is proscribe the requirement that a worker join or pay dues to a union as a qualification for employment.

Unions often view laws removing compulsory union membership for work in the private sector as “anti-union,” while advocates of right to work laws maintain it’s a matter of personal liberty and economic freedom. They argue that workers in given trades or industries should have the option to choose whether to join a union or not. Arguably, if a union is doing a good job representing the interests of its members, it should not be threatened by the freedom to choose, as the benefits of union membership would be self-evident.

Even some union leadership supports such a sentiment. Gary Casteel, the Southern region director for the United Auto Workers, explains, “This is something I’ve never understood, that people think right to work hurts unions. To me, it helps them. You don’t have to belong if you don’t want to. So if I go to an organizing drive, I can tell these workers, ‘If you don’t like this arrangement, you don’t have to belong.’ Versus, ‘If we get 50 percent of you, then all of you have to belong, whether you like to or not.’ I don’t even like the way that sounds, because it’s a voluntary system, and if you don’t think the system’s earning its keep, then you don’t have to pay.”

One cannot be a student of history without recognizing the tremendous contributions unions made to the emergence of the middle class in early to mid 20th century America. They significantly improved working conditions, workweek hours, and compensation levels.

In today’s highly competitive economy, their focus seems to have changed, as they seem to be primarily political entities today, with compulsory union dues used mostly for amassing power in the political arena, and spent on candidates and causes that some members may object to. Even Bob Chanin, former top lawyer for the National Education Association, admitted that in his farewell speech a few years ago. “It’s not about the kids…it’s about power,” he said.

According to Department of Labor statistics, only about 7% of America’s private sector workforce is unionized. In post World War II era, it was nearly 40%. The trend is reversed for public employees, where 60 years ago the unionized segment of the public employees workforce was less than 10%, while it currently is nearly 37%. Logic leads one to surmise that maybe all those “evil corporations” have gotten it right, and are providing pay and benefits at a level that employees are satisfied with. While the same logic might lead us to believe that, following those trends, it is “evil government” that is taking advantage of employees and must be represented by collective bargaining.

Average wages do tend to be slightly lower in right to work states, as reported by The Wall Street Journal last year. But the differences may be attributable to other factors. As the Journal explained, “Many economists say when differences in cost of living are taken into account, wages are roughly the same—or even higher—in right-to-work states.” When looking at a map of non-right to work states, geographical and cost of living factors seem to affirm that distinction.

Last year the National Institute for Labor Relations released a detailed study of right to work vs. non-right to work states. The research was based upon data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, United States Census Bureau, United States Patent and Research Office and Bureau of Economic Analysis. Five economic factors were analyzed in right to work and non-right to work states in the Midwest, with the following statistical conclusions:

Job growth is twice as strong in RTW states. The percentage growth of non-farm private sector jobs (1995-2005)?in right to work states was 12.9%?while non-right to work states came in at 6.0%.

Perhaps surprising to some, poverty is actually higher in non-right to work states. Average poverty rate, adjusted for cost of living was 8.5% in RTW states, and 10.1% in non-right to work states. This may likewise have more to do with geography and cost of living factors, however.

New company and new product growth is significantly greater in RTW states. During that same period, annual percentage growth in patents granted was 33% in RTW states, and only 11% in non-right to work states.

Income growth rates are higher in RTW states as well. The percentage growth in real personal income was 26.0%?in RTW states, while non-right to work states grew at 19.0%.

Even health insurance coverage in RTW states fared better. Note that this data was gathered before implementation of Obamacare. The percentage growth in number of people covered by employment based private health insurance was 8.5% for RTW states, and 0.7%?for non-right to work states.

Consequently, based on National Institute for Labor Relations research, right to work states create more private sector jobs, enjoy lower poverty rates, experience more technology development, realize more personal income growth, and increase the number of people covered by employment-based private health insurance. Clearly when looking at the big picture, the economy of a state is more likely to be more robust when the workforce has the freedom to choose.

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Posted in Constitutional Issues, Guest Posts, Idaho Legislature, Pocatello Issues, Property Rights, Taxes | No Comments »

Richard Larsen: Climate Change Objective is Economic, not Environmental

March 10th, 2015 by Halli

by Richard Larsen

The primary objective behind environmental activism related to anthropogenic global warming (AGW), aka “climate change,” is apparently not climatological, but is rather economic. The revelation came not from “global-warming deniers,” but from the United Nation’s own Christiana Figueres, who serves as the Executive Secretary of the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change.

At a press conference in Brussels earlier this month, the UN climate chief delineated the objectives of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the United Nations. She revealed, “This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time, to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution.”

She continued, “That will not happen overnight and it will not happen at a single conference on climate change, be it COP 15, 21, 40 – you choose the number. It just does not occur like that. It is a process, because of the depth of the transformation.”

Capitalism has been the primary economic model of the west since the industrial revolution.

Therefore, the only logical conclusion, based on her stated objective, is the eradication of capitalism and free market economics, to be replaced with a model based on monetary redistribution. This we know by the redistribution calculations being developed by the UN’s IPCC for developed nations to pay “reparations” and “carbon offsets” to poorer countries based on carbon dioxide emissions.

While Figueres may have unintentionally disclosed the primary objective of the AGW alarmist movement within the UN, others are much less veiled. Naomi Klein, a self-defined “feminist-socialist,” environmental activist and author of the book, “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate,” is explicit in her denunciation of capitalism as the source of global warming. Her interview this week with Germany’s Der Spiegel underscored her denunciation of capitalism as the source of all evil in the world, including global warming. “The economic system that we have created has also created global warming. We can’t change the physical reality, so we must change the political reality.” Such a conclusion is easy to accept if the AGW alarmist premise is embraced blindly, sans scientific validation.

Ottmar Edenhofer, a German economist and co-chair of the IPCC Working Group III, explicitly affirmed the economic objective. He said a few years ago, “Climate policy has almost nothing to do anymore with environmental protection…One must say clearly that we redistribute the world’s wealth by climate policy…The next world climate summit in Cancun is actually an economy summit during which the distribution of the world’s resources will be negotiated.”

A leftist global think-tank alluded to this a few years ago. The Club of Rome proclaimed, “The common enemy of humanity is man. In searching for a new enemy to unite us, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like would fit the bill. All these dangers are caused by human intervention, and it is only through changed attitudes and behavior that they can be overcome. The real enemy then, is humanity itself.”

One of the luxuries of basing a movement’s argument on quasi-science, including heavily doctored reports and “data,” is that bogeymen can be made of almost anything. And in the case of the AGW alarmists, it’s man, and capitalism. Once mankind is identified as the culprit behind climatic changes, his every activity can be justifiably regulated, controlled, and taxed. And once taxed, an omnipotent government that idyllically “cares” for the collective can redistribute it. And as Figueres and Klein evidence, it can provide the irrational justification for changing the global economic system.

Coups, revolutions, and violent upheavals have worked only marginally to eradicate capitalism and replace it with socialistic economic models, all of which have failed, or are in the process of doing so. It would appear that the entrenched prevalent ideology of the UN has found a new way to fundamentally transform the world with the visage of Marx.

Considering the ultimate goal of the UN’s climate panels is to eradicate capitalism, it’s refreshing when a scientist who shares their ideology questions the quasi-scientific premises upon which the plan is based. Fritz Vaherenholt is a socialist, and the founder of Germany’s environmental movement. He was a reviewer of the IPCC reports, and while initially was supportive of them, found a host of scientific errors that proved to him the conclusions were defined before the scientific method was even attempted.

Vaherenholt’s recent book, “The Cold Sun: Why the Climate Disaster Won’t Happen, charges the UN’s IPCC with “gross incompetence and dishonesty… especially regarding fear-mongering exaggeration of human CO2 emission influences.” He expressed how stunned he was by the large number of scientific and computer-modeling errors he was finding in IPCC reports. He voiced his disapprobation in an interview with the German news publication Bild, “… IPCC decision-makers are fighting tooth and nail against accepting the roles of the oceans, sun, and soot. Accordingly, IPCC models are completely out of whack. The facts and data need to be discussed sensibly and scientifically, without first deciding on the results.

But that’s precisely what has happened. The ideological plenipotentiaries in the UN, intent on implementing Marxist ideology, started with an objective, identified a human activity they could foment fear over, draw in like-minded “scientists” as apologists to “validate” their predetermined “consensus,” and fundamentally transform the global economy as an end result. It’s a brilliant strategy that has superbly garnered the support of virtually every left-leaning organization, media outlet, journalist, and academic across the country.

But the key to it all was reclassifying the atmospheric gas that facilitates photosynthesis and makes the world lush and green, and the gas emitted by mammals when we exhale, as a pollutant and a causal force in destroying the world. That’s a simple premise to accept when so much of the populace is either too acquiescent, uninformed, or ideologically aligned with the intended goal, to view it objectively.

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

Richard Larsen: “No Scandal” Obama Administration

March 10th, 2015 by Halli

by Richard Larsen

David Axelrod, former top advisor to President Obama, made a revelatory comment on his book tour this week. In an appearance at the University of Chicago, touting his political autobiography, Axelrod said, “I’m proud of the fact that basically you’ve had an administration that has been in place for six years in which there hasn’t been a major scandal. I think that says a lot about the ethical strictures of this administration.”

Perhaps most surprising, Axelrod made the statement with a straight face. The only logical explanation for such a statement is that either he’s oblivious to what the administration has done over the past six years, or he’s completely detached from reality. At the very least, he clearly could have a promising future as an actor.

Equally alarming is the context within which Axelrod made the remark. He was responding to a question from an audience member on why Obama broke his promised ban on lobbyists in the White House. Axelrod replied that he didn’t “think that’s true.”

Lobbying scholar, Conor McGrath, has documented how inaccurate Axelrod’s perception is. In the latest issue of the Journal of Public Affairs, McGrath said, “President Obama’s public rhetoric on contact with lobbyists does not always accord with his private actions.” You’ll recall that on his first day in office Obama ostentatiously signed an Executive Order banning former lobbyists from working in his administration. That makes it even more difficult to disavow the reality that they hired 119 former lobbyists, including 60 in senior administration posts, according to McGrath.

Since Mr. Axelrod seems to be oblivious to the administration’s failure in regard to hiring lobbyists, he’s certainly left the door open to erroneous perceptions with regard to administration scandals, as well. So let’s take a look at some of the scandals that have not taken place over the past six years, per the former adviser.

Things like the IRS being used as a political enforcement arm of the administration in targeting opposition groups and taxpayers. And how about the three-fer of refusing to provide adequate protection of our ambassador to Libya, blaming his murder on a video that no one in Libya had seen before then, and then covering up everything from the State Department to the Pentagon and the White House to prevent the truth from being revealed.

Clearly Axelrod doesn’t think Obamacare’s a scandal, but there are a great number of Americans who believe differently. What else can it be called when a president promises our health insurance would drop by $2,400 and we could all keep the policies that we like, but then prices rise by an average of 78% in four years, and tens of millions of Americans lost that insurance they were promised they could keep? In a normal person’s lexicon, that would be considered scandalous, especially since it was all obviously based on a lie.

And let’s not forget Axelrod’s “non-scandal” of dozens of our veterans losing their lives, and tens of thousands of them being deprived requisite healthcare because of internal politics within the Veteran’s Administration. When policies lead to one unnecessary and innocent death, isn’t that scandalous? So why is it not when it leads to over 40 deaths?

In banana republics, politicians giving money to their political cronies, and vice versa, is considered graft and corruption. This administration has proven one of two things: either the U.S. is now a banana republic, or such graft and corruption is now acceptable in the most powerful republic in the world. How else can we classify the billions of “stimulus” dollars that went to administration friends at Solyndra, NextEra, Ener1, Solar Trust, and dozens of other well-connected companies, which all subsequently went bankrupt?

Typically, when a government illegally (according to its own laws) operates a gun-running operation, putting guns purposefully into the hands of drug cartels and their goons, leading to the deaths of government law enforcement agents, it would be considered a scandal. Perhaps Mr. Axelrod just thinks that the DOJ’s “Fast and Furious” operation was just business as usual.

We could go on and on, including the EPA’s collusion with the green lobby, the 25 documented unconstitutional actions of the administration after taking an oath to uphold it, the massive debt and deficit spending that threatens our economic stability, and the Bowe Bergdahl fiasco of trading five of the most hardened jihadists for an army deserter. And then, in the case of the latter, having the temerity to claim the “Taliban is an armed insurgency; ISIL is a terrorist group. So we don’t make concessions to terrorist groups.”

I’m sure that a major component to Axelrod’s ignorance of administration scandals is the fact that the mainstream media has virtually ignored all of them. To a media that has ignored the myriad of administration scandals, failures, lies, and incompetency, if they don’t report them, the scandals apparently never occurred. Kind of like the old philosophical question of a tree falling in a forest; if there’s no one to hear it, does it make any noise? To the media, if they don’t report it, it didn’t happen, and the administration affirms the nonevent.

Then again, perhaps it’s just a characteristic of sycophancy. If Axelrod denies the scandals occurred, they didn’t. For perception rarely approximates reality in a sycophant’s mind. Such detachment from reality may be laudable in Hollywood, but certainly not in the top echelons of government.

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

Richard Larsen: Net Neutrality – Another Government Take-over

February 23rd, 2015 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

Like a cancerous growth spreading throughout an otherwise healthy body, government overreach, regulation, and control of every aspect of our free-market system continues to expand, infesting and damaging economic activity one organ, or industry, at a time. The Internet, that bastion of freedom and entrepreneurship, is about to become the government’s newest victim.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman, Tom Wheeler, an Obama appointee, is presenting the president’s “net neutrality” plan for the commission’s vote in two weeks. As promoted publicly by the administration, even on the White House website, the concept sounds meritoriously egalitarian, preventing internet providers from doling out more bandwidth to some paying customers, like Netflix, than others. But it’s clearly designed to facilitate much more.

fcc-chief-on-net-neutrality-trust-meThe administration’s plan calls for reclassification of the Internet, in toto, as a Title II telecommunications service. Such a designation would allow the government to regulate the Internet based on the Communications Act of 1934, just like the telephone industry.

The 332 page proposal has not yet been made public, though the recommendations are widely known. The “net neutrality” proposal wording was enough for one FCC commissioner to conduct a news conference this week to warn the public of the “secret plan to regulate the Internet.” FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai said the plan was even “worse than I imagined,” and will invariably lead to “rate regulation and taxes.”

The full report and recommendation will not be released to the public until after the FCC approves it at their Feb. 26th meeting. FCC Chairman Wheeler must subscribe to the Nancy Pelosi regulatory and legislative mantra, that it has to be passed so we can know what’s in it. Yet another administration slap in the face of “transparency.”

FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai holding the new FCC rules granting government regulatory control over the internet.
FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai holding the new FCC rules granting government regulatory control over the internet.

As reported in National Journal, commissioner Pai acknowledged that the actual regulations take up just eight pages of the document. Another 79 pages are citations of the Communications Act, which will also dictate the practices of broadband providers. The rest of the document is a summary of public feedback and reasoning for the FCC’s decision, which Pai said is “sprinkled” with unofficial rules.

According to Pai, about the worst part of the proposal is exercising FCC dominion based on Title II. By implementing “net neutrality” under Title II, regardless of the prima facie reason for the new order, the FCC is “giving itself the authority to determine whether a variety of practices—including prices—are ‘just and reasonable.’” In other words, it’s the camel nose in the tent door metaphor. Pretty soon the camel (government regulators) occupies the tent and the providers are out on their ears.

The evidence seems to be on Pai’s side. He explains specifically, “The plan repeatedly states that the FCC will apply sections 201 and 202 of the Communications Act, including their rate regulation provisions, to determine whether prices charged by broadband providers are ‘unjust or unreasonable.’”

Commissioner Pai cautioned that not only does the proposal “open the door to billions of dollars in new taxes on broadband,” but that with the Title II reclassification, technically the government could exercise control over content, as well.

87293_600Current broadband consumption illustrates how ludicrous the proposal is. According to Sandvine data, “in home data consumption is approximately 150 to 200 times greater than mobile consumption. Google (including YouTube) and Netflix account for 45% of fixed broadband traffic. iTunes, Facebook, Amazon and Hulu account for 6% in aggregate. Google and Facebook account for 42% of mobile data. Netflix, Pandora and iTunes take an additional 14%.”

According to the new rules, broadband usage must be shared equally, without allowing providers the ability to adjust for consumption and demand, and other factors. So if you think you’re sick of seeing the spinning “buffering” wheel when watching video online, you “ain’t seen nothin’ yet!” Welcome to the world of net neutrality, a euphemism for broadband socialism – everyone gets their “fair share.”

These are the reasons John Chambers, CEO of Cisco Systems, said, “To go back to a 1950s voice mentality with Title II and net neutrality would be a tremendous mistake for our country… this is a very bad decision. I think the whole country has to rally [against it]. This will cost the country jobs and economic leadership.”

net-neutrality-comic-3The first step of governmental encroachment into an area of the private sector is always the most crucial. For once the proverbial foot is in the door, they just keep pushing and shoving until the door is clear off the hinges, and they control the industry. We’ve seen it time and time again, from banking, telephony, energy, manufacturing, and most recently, health care insurance. The promises are always minimalist, yet the eventuality always exceeds even extreme expectations. Consequently control increases, costs of production and services increase, and those costs are passed from companies in the private sector down to consumers. And the process always seems most costly and punitive to the middle and lower classes.

Ronald Reagan explained this governmental cycle years ago. “If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.” Except in the case of “net neutrality,” they’re regulating it first, and then will come the taxation, the fees, and perhaps even control over accessibility and content.

We’ve seen just recently how governmental control over private sector services changes an industry dramatically, a la Obamacare. It appears we’re about to see “Obamacare” for the Internet, if the FCC rules go into effect. But don’t worry, they promise us that everything will be just fine. If you like your broadband, you can keep it. That sounds eerily familiar.

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

Richard Larsen: Labrador’s Vote for Speaker Elicits Negativeand Illogical Response

January 27th, 2015 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

CompromiseThe recent reelection of John Boehner as Speaker of the House brought to light a disturbing trait among some who self-identify as “conservatives.” Boehner has been perceived as a thorn in the side of conservative interests since his first election four years ago, as he has continually acquiesced, or as some say it, “caved” to the left in his chamber, and to the president. The sentiment is captured in a landmark political cartoon showing an elephant reaching across a dangerous precipice toward an indifferent president, titled merely, “The Compromise.”

The sentiment is understandable, and shared by nearly all of us on the right of the political spectrum. But what was disturbing was the reaction of some toward their own congressmen who supported Boehner.

Congressman Raul Labrador, (R-ID)
Congressman Raul Labrador, (R-ID)

Raul Labrador (R-ID) won reelection from Idaho’s 1st Congressional District in November and is as steeped in his conservative ideals, and the classical liberal precepts the country was founded upon, as any conservative in Congress. There can be no question that his loyalties lie with the Constitution, the enumerated powers of the federal government, and the rights ostensibly assured thereby.

But after it became known publicly that Labrador had voted for the Speaker, an outpouring of obstreperous denunciations ensued. Comments on Labrador’s Facebook wall accused him of being a traitor, a turncoat, of betraying his conservative values, and betraying all conservatives who voted for him. Many declared they would never support him again, while others called for his recall.

Anyone with a modicum of political savvy, knows, or at least should know, that our chosen candidates, and elected officials, are not always going to vote the way we want them to, or the way we would if we were there. But the very notion of removing, or refusing to vote again for, the congressman because of one vote, even though he may a Freedomworks conservative rating of 90, on a 0-100 scale, is nothing short of idiocy.

Working Together to Build Bridges
Working Together to Build Bridges

This is a dangerous mentality that seems to be common at extremes of any ideology. “Unless you agree completely with me, or refuse to vote precisely the way I would have you vote, I’m not going to support you.” The only way to assure that your representative votes precisely as you want them to is to hold that position yourself. No one sees issues and solutions precisely the same way, except perhaps pure ideologues.

The derision heaped upon Labrador for his Speaker vote is a perfect example of how illogically and ideologically rigid some can be. Labrador’s conservatism is indisputable, and yet because of one vote, he’s called every pejorative epithet in the book, and many who share his ideological orientation throw him under the bus. This is where the ignorance of governance is so blatantly manifest. A viable educational tool might be to consider what other forms of extremism employ the same tactic that ostracizes and divides based on ideological “purity.”

A critical component to our efforts in working together in this democratic experiment is the didactic process of refining tactics based on efficacy. That includes identifying the destructive tactics that preclude the very notion of compromise, (which is essential in a constitutional republic), and contribute to the increased polarization of the body politic. This is clearly one of the most detrimental tactics; when we are so rigid in our ideological convictions that we destroy the relationship shared with others who think mostly as we do. It’s destructive to the political process, and its nascence and impetus, is based in ideological rigidity.

saul-alinsky-obama-luciferIt’s also a tactic of some on the left, as superbly promulgated by Saul Alinsky. “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Conservatives should realize that the consequences of implementing the tactic on themselves vitiates the advantages of a conservative voting block by dividing and parsing tranches based on perceived fealty to our founding principles. The result basically culls the “nonbelievers” from the “believers,” by lashing out, maligning, and condemning those who are perceived to not agree entirely, essentially ostracizing those who should be our allies.

It should be disturbing to conservatives when they learn that they employ the same tactic as other extremists, but many seem to revel in it, as if it’s a badge of honor of how “conservative” they are. That’s not a measure of political ideological integrity – it’s a measure of political ignorance of how the system works and how we have to work together in this republic of ours.

We should express our disapprobation to our elected officials when we disagree. But it’s totally illogical, and self-destructive, when we marginalize and alienate those with whom we share values, but may differ occasionally on specific votes. There aren’t many affirming or positive adjectives that can be used to describe someone who can only be supportive of, or civil to, someone with whom they agree 100% of the time.

If conservatives continue these tactics, they will succeed only in splintering and dividing themselves, granting the left victory after victory at the polls. It’s so often quoted that I hesitate to say it again, but apparently some need the continual reminder. As Ronald Reagan once said, “He who agrees with me 80% of the time is not my enemy.” Or his variation on that theme, “My eighty-percent friend is not my twenty-percent enemy.”

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

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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Richard Larsen: Ideological “Weeds” Thrive Across the Land

January 12th, 2015 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

While recently rereading a classical literary piece from a century ago, I realized anew how each person is a microcosm of the demographic group or society to which he or she belongs. Truly, no man is an island, and we all bring to our society characteristics, traits, and attributes which contribute to the whole. When we analyze some of the notable events from the past year, we can’t help but realize how our individual contributions either ameliorate, or vitiate, the cumulative character of our society.

The book, As a Man Thinketh, by the English moralist James Allen, abounds in insightful truisms and verities. The following is but one of many such gems. “A man’s mind may be likened to a garden, which may be intelligently cultivated or allowed to run wild; but whether cultivated or neglected, it must, and will, bring forth. If no useful seeds are put into it, then an abundance of useless weed seeds will fall therein, and will continue to produce their kind.”

As much idiocy as we observed playing out on the public stage this past year, it’s obvious that there are too many minds not being planted or cultivated with ennobling or productive seeds. And, according to Allen, the evidence is manifest behaviorally. Not unlike the timeless wisdom of Forrest Gump, “Stupid is as stupid does.”

Case in point, the “Hands up, don’t shoot,” social phenomenon that was spawned, and perpetuated, based on fictitious accounts of the tragic shooting of a young man in Ferguson, MO. The fact that such a fallacious mantra would gain such traction among the race-baiters, celebrities, misinformed, and even professional athletes, does not portend well for our culture. But why bother with facts and evidence, when a fabricated story can be so superbly spun for the sake of advancing an ideological narrative, or inciting riots and precipitating violence? This provides evidentiary validation of Allen’s thesis, that “an abundance of useless weed seeds” can bear sway in the absence of “useful,” and I might add, informed and fact-based “seeds.”

On a par with that evidentiary validation, but much more consequential in its long-term implications, is the request by law students at Columbia, Harvard, and other law schools, to postpone their final exams. They felt they had been “traumatized” due to their protests of the Ferguson and New York grand jury decisions to not charge policemen for perceived wrongful deaths. Would anyone even consider hiring an attorney who felt “traumatized” because they protested too strenuously, and felt themselves to be incapable of taking tests as a result? Aphorisms aplenty seem to apply in such an instance, primary of which is simply to “grow up.”

As we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Great Society “war on poverty,” the nation’s redistribution of over $22 trillion is one of those governmental policies that evokes great emotion yet, as inefficacious as it has been, clearly is bourn of ideological “weeds.” Our poverty rate is about the same today as it was fifty years ago, which means our wealth redistribution has accomplished nothing, and has not addressed the underlying societal issues which are causal to poverty.

Another example is regrettably provided by our president, who, after claiming that all of his policies were on the midterm electoral ballot, was thoroughly trounced as voters rejected his legislative and ideological pawns who supported his policies. Yet, in the aftermath of such a drubbing, became increasingly pertinacious, clinging to his rejected ideology, and claimed to hear what those who didn’t vote had to say. The mainstream media should have had a heyday with such vapidity, yet, as has been their wont over the past six years, gave the president a pass on his vacuity.

Equally vacuous was the president’s reference to the Biblical story of Mary and Joseph in an amnesty speech delivered last month. He may want to break down and actually read the Bible, if he’s going to “quote” from it. Mary and Joseph were not illegal aliens, and, contrary to his other “quote” from the Bible in the same speech, the Good Book says nothing about “people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.” It’s bad enough when our fellow countrymen fill their ignorant voids with uninformed “weeds,” but when our president does it, and he gets away with it, it does not bode well for our media or our society.

That such ignorance, bourn of ideological “weeds,” can flourish in our “enlightened” culture is indeed discomfiting. It’s enough to make one wonder if “The Walking Dead” TV series is more reflective of our collective consciousness, rather than simply apocalyptic TV fiction.

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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: Most Americans Self-Identify as Conservative

September 13th, 2014 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

It is always entertaining to witness the unsolicited counsel pontificated from the left, telling the Republican Party what’s wrong with it. Since many liberals don’t view Republicans as simply different-minded Americans, but as enemies to be vanquished, isn’t that a bit like the U.S. being counseled by Russia? Republicans should be listening rather to the groundswell of grassroots conservatives who see where the country is headed and fear for our future.

125120_600Unlike the querulous ones barking from the left’s sidelines who cheer the current transformation of America, grassroots conservatives are calling for a return to the classical-liberal precepts upon which the nation was built; life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Not only is the country being fundamentally transformed into something it was never intended to be, but the economic and fiscal tipping points of debt and government intrusion are hastily approaching.

Republicans must disallow the liberals from dictating the premises of public discourse. When they shape public perception based on fallacious premises, the outcome will always to accede to the left. As it is now, rather than questioning whether we should have a deficit at all, it’s, “How much is too much of a deficit?” Rather than all human life is sacred and should be protected, it’s, “How many innocents’ lives are too many to abort?” Instead of government should not be bailing out any businesses, it’s, “How big is too big to fail?” And ultimately, instead of what government should be doing for (or to) us, it should be, “What is the proper role of government in a free republic?”

obama-media-bias-womens-vote-democrats-political-cartoonDemocrats do an excellent job of making promises to niche groups and demographics, and then, more often than not, failing to deliver. But they’re judged by their acolytes not based on results, but on their intent, and their expressed fealty to their objectives.

For example, the “Great Society” has redistributed trillions of dollars over the past five decades, and poverty levels remain, as a percentage of the population, about what they were when the “war on poverty” was declared. Promises to political niches are no more than efforts to buy votes, with someone else’s money. If Republicans want to win elections again, commit to doing what’s best for the country, and all demographic groups, rather than attempting to outbid for their votes, or dissect the electorate based on clichéd parsing of issues or catering to special interest groups. Return to the basic constitutional premise that government is to “promote” the general welfare of the nation, not “provide” it.

In our republic, government was intentionally granted specific, enumerated powers to maintain law and order, ensure our national security, protect life, facilitate interstate commerce, and preserve freedom. Government was never intended to be a panacea or balm for all the ills and travails of society. It was intended to provide a legal structure for the protection of liberty and rights that would allow individuals to get out of life what they were willing to invest personally into it. If Republicans are to succeed as a party, and save the nation from our self-destructive course, they must differentiate from the other side, based on correct constitutional principles, rather than competing to be “Democrat Lite.” Moving to the left will not save the Republican Party or the nation, but moving to the right will.

healthcarebillQuestion D3 on the bipartisan Battleground Poll conducted by George Washington University provides the evidence. It reads, “When thinking about politics and government, do you consider yourself to be… Very conservative, somewhat conservative, moderate, somewhat liberal, very liberal, unsure/refused.” Over the years the poll has been conducted, most Americans self-identify as conservatives. With just a point or two differential over the past ten years, 20% of Americans consider themselves to be very conservative; 40% somewhat conservative; 2% moderate; 27% somewhat liberal, and 9% very liberal; and 3% either didn’t know, or didn’t have a clue what the question even meant. Clearly, 60% of American voters consider themselves to be either very or somewhat conservative. Interestingly, these results were nearly identical in December 2012 after Obama won reelection, validating the obvious, that turnout of voter base is the determinant of electoral outcomes.

cartoon 12-20 lixz dnxon gocomics 12-19 democrats going off the precipice w healthcare. In fact, according to a more recent poll by Harris, self-identified conservatives outnumber liberals in every state in the union, except for Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Republicans would succeed electorally much more if their appeals were based on constitutionally correct principles, and logically sound premises, rather than allowing the left to shape the debate.

Thomas Jefferson, who oxymoronically is heralded as the founder of the Democrat Party, succinctly stated, “A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned – this is the sum of good government.” That is not the message promulgated by the party that claims Jefferson as their founder.

If the constitutional and logical premises of “good government” are well articulated and marketed, there should be no election out of reach for conservative candidates. That’s what the data tell us.

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Richard Larsen: New Face of Global Terror, ISIS, And How We Helped Create Them

September 6th, 2014 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

It is not uncommon to find inconsistencies and even contradictions in U.S. foreign policy. Usually a few years of separation are required to reveal our inconsistency, as in the case of Iran. Rarely do we see such striking contradictions in real time as we do today in the Middle East policies of the Obama administration.

isis-iraq-war-crimes.siISIS occupies the center stage of our current iteration of contradictory policy. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which subsequently changed their name to the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), apparently now wants to be known simply as The Islamic State (IS). This is the militaristic group that has emerged out of Syria, Al-Nusra, and merged with Al Qaeda of Iraq, to take over significant portions of eastern Syria and northern Iraq.

Threatening to violently take over all of Iraq and Syria, establishing an Islamic caliphate that would eventually cover the world, they have mercilessly spread their destruction from city to city. They behead or conduct mass executions against whoever opposes them (including American journalists), kidnap for ransoms to fund their operations, and have vowed to raise the ISIS flag over the White House. They are well funded from bank robberies, selling oil on the black market, and from kidnap ransoms. They are well trained, militant, and are well armed, predominantly with U.S. equipment.

This is the Al Qaeda-linked group of terrorists that Obama referred to as “JV” (junior varsity) just a few months ago. In an interview with New Yorker magazine in January, the president applied a metaphor, saying of ISIS, that putting on a “Laker’s uniform doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant.” That “JV” group of militants, now figured to be 10,000 strong (including some westerners and as many as 300 Americans) is now perceived to be the greatest terrorist threat in the world.

During the 2012 presidential campaign, more than 32 times the president claimed Al Qaeda was “decimated” or “defeated.” To acknowledge their resurgence just two years later would not fit with his narrative as slayer of Osama bin Laden and vanquisher of his terrorist group. Consequently, their emerging threat had to be minimized.

050913_ObamaBenghaziCoverUp_UFSCOLORBut that’s just the tip of the ISIS iceberg for the administration. We have to realize that for the past few years the president has been actively engaged in toppling Middle Eastern regimes; Khadafy in Libya, Mubarak in Egypt, and Assad in Syria. In fact, just over a year ago the president was requesting $500 million to help the “freedom fighters” in Syria topple the Assad regime. The majority of those “freedom fighters” now go by the name ISIS, and the president was poised to fund them.

Even worse, according to CNN last August, CIA sources have revealed that the Benghazi consulate attack of 9/11/12 was directly linked to a clandestine administration operation providing arms to the rebels in Syria. It wasn’t just the consulate compound in Benghazi that was demolished by the marauding jihadists, but the CIA facility two kilometers away, that housed the cash and weapons caches being smuggled into Syria. Jihadists got all of it.

isis-beheads-america-journalist-james-wright-foley-message-to-obama-islamic-stateThis clarifies the need of the administration to fabricate a story about a YouTube video causing the “spontaneous demonstration” leading to the assassination of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others in Benghazi. In light of recent developments with ISIS, clearly the administration was displaying their naiveté, or, worse yet, intentionally downplaying the effects of surging jihadist groups, by willfully arming and funding them in their effort to displace Assad.

Clarifying the nature and ideological alignment of ISIS, last week Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that ISIS and Hamas are “branches of the same tree.” He explained, “Hamas is ISIS, ISIS is Hamas. They’re the enemies of peace. They’re the enemies of Israel. They’re the enemies of all civilized countries.”

This brings us to current events, with the president now authorizing bombing of ISIS targets in Iraq, and leaving the door open to possible raids even into Syria. So now he’s bombing the same militants that he sought to legally fund through congress, was actively arming and funding through clandestine CIA operations in Benghazi, Libya, and that he has characterized as being “JV” terrorists. And let’s not forget that by leaving Iraq so hastily without a Status of Forces agreement, the administration created the vacuum facilitating the successful march of ISIS across northern Iraq.

RAMclr-062514-attack-IBD-COLOR-FINAL.gif.cmsLast week Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said, “I think evidence is pretty clear when we look at what they did to Mr. Foley [the American journalist James Foley, beheaded last week by ISIS], what they threaten to do to all Americans and Europeans, what they are doing now, the — I don’t know any other way to describe it other than barbaric. ??They have no standard of decency, of responsible human behavior. And I think the record is pretty clear on that. So, yes, they are an imminent threat to every interest we have, whether it’s in Iraq or anywhere else.” He concluded, “We’ve never seen anything like it before.”

Those who maintain that the U.S. should embrace a non-interventionist foreign policy would have us believe that this is not a concern to us. In social media and elsewhere they promulgate an attitude of, “let them kill each other off.”

It could already be too late for that. Last week Texas Governor Rick Perry said, “There’s the obvious great concern that because of the condition of the border from the standpoint of it not being secure and us not knowing who is penetrating across, that individuals from ISIS or other terrorist states could be [crossing the border] — and I think there is a very real possibility that they may have already used that.” Our southern border is not secure, and clearly anyone of means or resources could easily breach it.
“We’re in your state. We’re in your cities. We’re on your streets.”

“We’re in your state.
We’re in your cities.
We’re on your streets.”

There are signs that they have already done so. ISIS has posted and tweeted photographs of their flag flying in Washington, D.C. and Chicago, with the message, “We are in your cities.” Just this week, the United Kingdom raised their terrorist threat assessment from “substantial” to “severe” in response to the rising danger ISIS poses globally.

In the 1990’s, Al Qaeda declared war on the U.S. We didn’t take it seriously and dealt with terrorist attacks as incidents for law enforcement. We all remember what that led to. And according to Secretary Hagel, this threat is greater. Attorney General Eric Holder announced this week that the FBI would investigate the beheading of journalist James Foley. Is history repeating itself, due to incompetence and an ideologically driven approach to assessing and addressing our exogenous threats? Regrettably, it appears so.

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