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Richard Larsen: Do We Really Want to Model the U.S. after Denmark?

October 31st, 2015 by Halli

by Richard Larsen

At the Democrat presidential debate two weeks ago, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders said we “should look to countries like Denmark…and learn from what they have accomplished for their working people.” The good senator should either rephrase his statement, or look more closely at the data. Democratic-socialism may work in some places in Europe, but was never intended, nor can it work, in the United States of America.

Another of Sanders’ erroneous statements regarding Denmark was when he claimed that Denmark’s economic model “provides extraordinary security and opportunity.” It does provide security, but little opportunity, economic or otherwise.

Democratic socialism is a political ideology which juxtaposes a democratic political system, (popular elections), with a socialist economic system. As such, it involves a combination of political democracy (usually multi-party democracy) with “social ownership of the means of production.”
Consequently, it can be somewhat characterized as a less tyrannical and totalitarian form of socialism, since the masses are voting for the cadre that will separate them from the fruits of their labors. And while it may not abolish private property ownership, as its more draconian sibling, communism does, it taxes income, and inflates prices sufficiently, that private property ownership is severely limited.

The sheer economies of scale make a comparison between the Scandinavian country and the U.S. impracticable. Denmark, with a landmass of 16,562 square miles, is roughly the size of Maryland, and with a population of 5.6 million, has about 1.5% of the U.S. population. Compound that with America’s propensity toward a kakistocracy, as evidenced by the last two presidential election cycles, and democratic-socialism would likely destroy the economy, and the republic.

Danish author, Mikkel Clair Nissen, has published his own response to Americans who think Denmark’s democratic-socialism is so appealing. “I am a school teacher from Denmark making about $61,000 a year. We get free education. You don’t have to pay for the doctor, the hospital, and students even get paid to study. It all sounds so great…right? However, I forgot to mention that nothing is ever free. The lowest personal income tax in Denmark is minimum 40 percent. Also, we pay a sales tax of 25 percent, and on top of sales tax the government applies further (generally hidden) duties and fees, applied to almost everything, making it really hard for lower class people to get by, causing them to be deeply dependent on government handouts,” she says.

When Senator Sanders refers to “working people,” he likely is referring to the middle class, since that’s the most productive and economically viable demographic. Just as most of the fiscal initiatives of the past seven years have most adversely affected the American middle class, European democratic-socialism virtually plunders theirs. The middle-class in Denmark is taxed at a 60% rate, and that’s just the income tax rate. Yet to pay that rate, all one has to make is $55,000 per year. That means those who, by American standards, are earning a respectable middle-class income of $55k per year, only keep $22,000 of their earnings. That’s a relatively paltry $1,833 per month.

Nissen continues, “A gallon of gas is about 10 dollars. Tax on a car is 180 percent, which brings a car valued a bit over $20,000 dollars in the United States (e.g. Honda Accord) up to an astounding $50,000 dollars in Denmark.” No wonder 65% of the travel in the country is by mass transit and bicycle. And not surprisingly, cost of energy is extremely expensive, as most electricity is produced by “green” sources. The cost per kilowatt-hour of electricity is $.42, compared with an average of $.12 in the United States.

Nissen further explains, because of “excessive taxation, Danes also have the highest private debt in the world. Only few will ever own a car or a house here; banks generally do – hypocritically, the very same banks that the collectivists despise. Anyone who makes over $80,000 annually pays a personal tax of 68 percent. This means that almost all people with higher earnings have either found ways to evade taxes, or have left the country, often bringing their companies with them, making employment scarcely low.”

According to Eurostat, the European Union’s official data reporting service, real unemployment is double what the official figures indicate. By their calculations, Denmark’s real unemployment rate is 14%.

And Nissen provides more insights. “Denmark’s suicide rate has averaged 20.8 per 100,000 during the last five decades, with its highest level of 32. The American suicide rate averaged only 11.1 during the last five decades, and has never exceeded 12.7. Danes are deeply deprived, driven by severe narcissism, and so more than 11 percent of adult Danes – the supposed happiest people in the world – are on antidepressants. Well, of course, Danes are happy; they are medicated to be!”

If Danes are so happy to be economically socialized, why do they take their own lives at three times the American rate, and their anti-depressant dependency exceed America’s by 40%? Could it be that the cost of freedom is much greater than we assume?

Nissen concludes his missive, “Everyone wants the American dream. In Denmark’s neo-communism, no one will ever own or accomplish anything.”
America was founded on classical-liberal ideals of maximum freedom to facilitate virtually unlimited potential. Benjamin Franklin said, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor safety.” And that’s precisely what socialism, in all its iterations, does. It sacrifices individual freedom at the altar of security and egalitarianism

One of the most critical concepts of liberty upon which America was founded, is economic freedom. Indeed, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton championed economic freedom as the foundation for all other liberties. True liberty mandates that private property, and the ability to reap and freely expend the fruits of our labors, is sacrosanct. Nobel economic laureate Milton Friedman declared that property rights are “the most basic of human rights and an essential foundation for other human rights.” Without economic freedom, all else is severely vitiated.

There might be some things America can learn from the Danish economic model, but only if we deny what America was founded and intended to be — the land of the free, dedicated to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

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Posted in Family Matters, Guest Posts, National Sovereignty, Pocatello Issues, Presidential Politics, Property Rights, Taxes | No Comments »

Rep. Tom Loertscher: House Highlights, April 13

April 19th, 2015 by Halli

By Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Bone

The last two or three days of most legislative sessions are hectic and slow moving at the same time. This year was different and full of “firsts” from beginning to end, at least in my memory.

For the State Affairs Committee it was a year of long hearings on tough issues and hard votes. Most years we see a couple of bills that have some controversy surrounding them. This year there was not a week that went by without major and difficult legislation to consider. Add the words, historical racing, chemical abortion, special liquor licenses, gaming commission, Cananbidiol, agency purchasing, and open meeting law just to name a few. I can’t begin to express how hard the committee worked this year and even though everything didn’t turn out the way I would have liked no one around this place could claim that House State Affairs did not give them a fair and thorough shot.

Whether you agree with what the legislature did or not there were some milestones achieved. Amid continual cries that it was not enough, about $120 million new dollars are going into education. Career ladders for educators with a path forward to fund them are seen as a major step forward. Will these steps improve what our detractors call “Failing Idaho?” Time will tell. By the way and for the record, I for one think that we have schools that are achieving great things. I don’t know about the rest of the state but we have teachers, administrators and parents in District 32 who are innovators and work hard for our kids. The idea of long distance learning and dual credit courses had its real beginning right here at home.

Probably the most visible issue this year was transportation funding. Early on in the session the discussion surrounding transportation was about the same as usual, not enough money to keep the roads in good condition. Also as usual, the level of increase was argued back and forth. What came out of that early talk was an effort that could have provided some sweeping changes in tax policy in Idaho. That effort was summarily dismissed by the Senate. What happened then is what lead to a final week of turmoil on the issue.

This is what came from that process. A 7 cent per gallon increase in gas and diesel tax, a $21 increase in registration fees ($25 for trucks), and the return of the infamous ton mile tax for all trucks over 60,000 pounds which has a delayed implementation date. Most interesting of all is a method of tapping the General fund by sweeping half of any surplus to transportation. It is a little more complicated than that but in general terms that is how it would work. And that brings us to the last two days.

There was very little for most legislators to do except to wait for the results of a conference committee to iron out the differences between the House and the Senate. From the vantage point of the House it looked like the House flinched first. After four redrafts on Friday night, the amendments went to the Senate first and then to the House. The full House did not receive those amendments until about 12:50 AM Saturday morning and then voted on the measure about 1:15 AM. By that time most were willing to vote for anything just to get out of there.

I once asked my dad why he didn’t use the lights on the tractors and tried to quit when the sun went down. His reply has been good advice over the years. He said, “Tom, after dark is when the serious mistakes happen.” That is the feeling I had at the close of this session at 1:30 am on Saturday morning.

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Posted in Constitutional Issues, General, Guest Posts, Idaho Legislature, Idaho Pro-Life Issues, Politics in General, Property Rights, Rep. Tom Loertscher, Taxes | No Comments »

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 »

Rep. Tom Loertscher: House Highlights, March 23

March 26th, 2015 by Halli

By Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Bone

I had a chance this last weekend to do a little plowing at the ranch. I couldn’t help but think of a fellow I met years ago that had given up farming in order to get a job in town. I asked him why he did that and he said, “I got tired of going around in circles and getting nowhere.” I’ve never felt that way about farming and in fact I was glad to be able to spend some time on the tractor, getting a little therapy as it were.

The two biggest unresolved issues for this session are education and transportation. While visiting with the Speaker late last week, he assured me that things have progressed to the point that an agreement may soon be reached for education but there is still a wide gap on how to best find new money for transportation. No matter where the Transportation Committee looks, it involves higher gas taxes, higher registration fees, and a minor shift to the general fund. All of these issues seem to have some support but not enough yet to find its way into law.

In State Affairs I presented a Gaming Commission bill for introduction which is now known as House Bill 279. If we have learned anything from this racing bill it has been that there is a definite need for better regulation. It would do away with the Lottery Commission and the Racing Commission and puts in place a regulatory framework that would oversee all gaming in Idaho including Tribal Gaming. Later on in the week we had a hearing on the proposal but the State Affairs Committee decided to not forward the bill for any further discussion. As with most things around this place we had several who testified on both sides. For the most part the horse racing community was very much in favor of the bill and representatives of lottery interests and the tribes were not in favor. The bill was held in committee. The bill to repeal historical racing was voted out of committee and sent to the floor of the House.

I keep thinking that the controversial stuff is going to go away but we still have a couple of issues that we will be deciding in the coming week. There never seems to be a dull moment in the State Affairs Committee. I was visiting with a couple of members of the committee and they told me that it is usual for this committee to be involved with one or two controversial items during the session, but this year has been much different. It seems like we’ve had one or two of those difficult issues each week.

On the lighter side, a resolution was passed by the Senate and sent to the House declaring the week of September 28 through November 4, 2015 to be recognized throughout the state as National Diaper Need Awareness Week. (I am not making this up, and you can read the Senate Concurrent Resolution number 110 online). Let your imagination wander about the puns that were flying around on this one. The members of the State Affairs Committee decided that if there was time to talk about diapers on the House floor, there was time to talk about the state salamander. House Bill 1 was sent to the House floor with a do pass recommendation. The young lady who has been bringing this to the legislature for the past several years was surprised and ecstatic. So at least we made someone’s day. It doesn’t happen often.

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

Richard Larsen: Moral Depravity of Rioting Gang Mentality

September 3rd, 2014 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

There is only one injustice, thus far, that has occurred in Ferguson, Missouri. And it’s not the shooting of a boy, because the jury is still out (actually, it hasn’t even gone to a jury yet) on the events surrounding the shooting of Michael Brown. The injustice is being perpetrated by those who take it upon themselves to be judge, jury, and executioner against the innocent citizens of the town.

Two weeks ago, on August 9, 2014, Michael Brown, a 6’2” 300 pound 18 year-old, was shot and killed in the middle of the road in front of an apartment complex in Ferguson, Missouri. Police officer Darren Wilson, who shot the young man, has been placed on paid administrative leave as the investigation continues. No charges have been filed so far against the policeman.

“Eyewitness” accounts vary greatly about what transpired that hot afternoon on the Ferguson street. But we do know that Brown was stopped for jaywalking, not because he was suspected in a nearby store robbery. It is also clear that the youth was unarmed, since no other weapon was found at the site, and all six shell casings were from officer Wilson’s gun. One casing was found inside the squad car. The final, and apparently lethal shot, was about 35 feet from the car. Dr. Michael Baden, former chief medical examiner for New York City, who conducted an autopsy on behalf of the Brown family, said “This one [the fatal shot] here looks like his head was bent downward. It can be because he’s giving up, or because he’s charging forward at the officer.”

The response to the shooting has been understandably disturbing to many, and has resulted in two weeks of demonstrations, riots, as well as destruction and looting of local stores in and around the small Missouri town of 21,000 residents. What is not understandable, or condonable, is the violence that has dominated the news cycle 24/7 since August 9.

I would be willing to wager that nearly everyone in the nation wants to see justice served. The problem is, at this point we don’t know what justice will look like. If Brown was shot while charging and threatening the officer, justice will look quite different than if Wilson shot the youth while surrendering with his hands in the air.

Neither judicial outcome justifies the idiocy of violence and destruction perpetrated against the town and its residents. The fact that charges have not been filed against Wilson heretofore is due to the judicial process being played out behind the scenes and gathering evidence for grand jury consideration, not because of prejudice or racism. Emotionally charged racial considerations should have no bearing on the expediency of due process, especially with the eyes of the nation so focused on the rulings made in the case.

While the cogs of justice are meshing forward, demonstrations are perfectly acceptable. In America, any demonstration, however fervent, should be the unabated right of any citizen. The impetus behind the demonstrations is inconsequential since it is a constitutionally assured right, whether protesting a cop shooting, or demonstrating against war or excessive government taxation. As an aside, the word “cop” is not a pejorative, which may come as a revelation to some, as it’s an acronym for “constable on patrol.”

But when demonstrations lead to riots, violence, and property destruction, law enforcement is justified in utilizing whatever force is necessary in quelling the mayhem, and restoring law and order. To deny them that function is to deny the most fundamental requirement of our constabulary.

Those closest to the victim have called for sanity and peace, while denouncing the perpetrators of violence and destruction. The father of the deceased said a few days ago, “We don’t want no violence. Michael would have wanted no violence. We need justice for our son.” His cousin likewise called for order to return, saying, “I just want everyone to know and understand that the stealing and breaking in stores is not what Mike would want, it is very upsetting to me and my family. Our family didn’t ask for this but for justice and peace…. Please let my family grieve in Peace (and) stop the violence in the street tonight, we don’t want this happening when we protest for justice for my cousin Mike Brown, please get this message out to the people that the Mike Brown family do not want this.”

The violence has nothing to do with justice being served, but everything to do with a level of moral depravity in the country that seeks to rationalize illegal and violent behavior as a proxy for real justice. In what sort of twisted sense of judicial propriety can violence be condoned or encouraged as a rational response to a perceived wrong having been perpetrated? In what bankrupt belief system is the destruction of property and attacks on others justifiable for a wrongful death? It would appear we as a society have learned nothing in the 22 years since the Rodney King Los Angeles riots. This is despicable behavior regardless of the age, orientation, or skin color of the perpetrators.

The days of leaping to irrational and unwarranted conclusions, based on the age or color of the victim, before justice has completed the investigative process, should be far behind us. Assumptions of guilt and innocence of all involved might justify demonstrations, but never riots and provocations to violence. For they are, after all, assumptions made without all of the facts on the table. The calm voices calling for peace and justice should always prevail over those whose lawlessness is an excuse for moral degeneracy.

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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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Rep. Tom Loertscher: House Highlights, February 10

February 11th, 2014 by Halli

by Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Bone

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andi Elliott: Shocking Lack of Animal Cruelty Laws in Idaho

February 6th, 2014 by Halli

By Andi Elliott

Our animal cruelty laws in Idaho are a sham and too many law enforcement agencies turn a blind eye to those we have. Our legislators in conjunction with the Idaho Department of Agriculture have designed the system so that production animals may even be treated more horrendously than companion animals. We certainly wouldn’t want our farmer/rancher legislators being held accountable for cruel practices.

Now the Idaho Dairy Industry headed by Idaho’s largest dairy, Bettencourt, is today introducing an “Ag Gag” bill designed to keep people from filming acts of animal cruelty on farms. It even goes so far as to make it a first time felony by merely filling out an application for employment for the purposes of doing such. But animal cruelty itself requires three convictions before it becomes a felony.

In 2012 Bettencourt employees were charged with the most egregious animal cruelty. The video is sickening. Needless and wanton acts of animal cruelty on cows that were confined in milking stalls. One employee spent 102 days in jail; others fled, I’m told. Bettencourt Dairy owner says, “I love my animals and I’ve been in the dairy business since I was a kid. Animal care is a number one issue in our facilities.” Really, then why support an Ag Gag Law? What do you have to hide?

Bettencourt is a supplier of milk for Kraft which makes cheese for Wendy’s, MacDonald’s, etc. Call you reps and the companies and tell them “No institutionalized animal cruelty in Idaho!”

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Posted in General, Guest Posts, Idaho Legislature, Property Rights | No Comments »

Andi Elliott: Utility Company Mailing List

December 13th, 2013 by Halli

by Andi Elliott

OK, I have to ask…how many of us would use Rigby’s utility bill mailing list to send out a personal letter even if it were available to us?

And is it even ethical to do so? Please tell me that City Attorney Rob Dunn footed the bill for this mailing. Is there proof that he did so or is this something else that taxpayers unwittingly paid for? The City of Rigby has slightly over 4000 residents and 994 families as of the last census. That’s a lot of families and a whopping postal bill.

I bet the Jefferson Star or the Post Register would have printed his letter at no charge with much greater exposure too…but then most of their audience couldn’t vote in the Rigby elections. Or, wonder why Dunn didn’t send out his public plea in the regular utility bill mailings and save postage. Oh, that’s right. He couldn’t wait that long. The city elections were right around the corner and if Sites and team had won, they promised to investigate city shenanigans. It’s becoming clear now.

You know if Dunn conducted business above board and in full public view he wouldn’t have felt as if he had to personally contact each utility customer saying “Don’t make me an issue in the election”. It’s a good thing he isn’t City Attorney in Idaho Falls…then he’d have to have contacted nearly 21,000 households. Now there’s a whopping postal bill!

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Posted in Guest Posts, Politics in General, Property Rights, Taxes | No Comments »

Andi Elliott: Baloney

July 21st, 2013 by Halli

By Andi Elliott

Like many of you, I consider the George Zimmerman trial a witch hunt and an absolute sham…a judicial and political travesty of justice. The failure of the prosecutor to look at the evidence objectively is unconscionable. It is their duty to see that justice is done. Period. Not to manipulate, distort, promulgate lies, withhold evidence, and twist the case into something it never was. Their sworn duty is to see that justice is carried out…not to prove only guilt but also to prove innocence.

And these are the very reasons that I can identify with Zimmerman having just experienced many of the same tactics at the hands of the Jefferson County Sheriff and the Prosecutor albeit on a much less serious level. And five days after having been notified of my acquittal, the prosecutor tells me that this is the way the justice system is suppose to work.

Hogwash! How disingenuous after two years of repeated lies, waiting months for Discovery that proved they had the wrong person, unethical behavior by the Sheriff’s department, obfuscation, objections, and deliberately drawing out the process as long as possible. However, the delay proved to be very useful for my defense as it became difficult to remember lies told so long ago.

Jefferson County taxpayers…you have just spent two years of taxpayer money on a misdemeanor trespassing case that was nothing short of a trumped up vendetta. The files are available for your inspection should you have doubts about my complaints. Five full days of trial strung out over 17 months. Murder cases are tried in less time than that.

And is it too much to ask that the evidence be examined BEFORE charges are filed so a whole court day is not wasted covering up your malfeasance? I’m guessing that the plan was for me to cry “uncle” but instead I say “baloney”…unadulterated “baloney”. This was a textbook case of abuse of power if there ever was one and follows in the same vein as the “Barbie” fiasco. Do we really not have serious crimes here in Jefferson County to attend to?

But in retrospect, I should thank you for proving my innocence. The state’s witnesses were some of my best “defense”…as they were in the Zimmerman case.

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

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