Opinionated @ CFE

Sam, It's Time to Get Down to Brass Tacks

Sep
29

I spend a considerable amount of time each election cycle researching candidates to figure out who would best represent me. I can usually find a wealth of information on most candiates, but there are a few who are information black holes. There’s no campaign literature, no website, and no time taken to respond to questions mailed from the major papers. It’s almost like they didn’t really want to run in the first place.

I’m finding that the current lead for US Senate from the Democrats, Sam Granato, has taken frustrating to an entirely brand new level. Despite dozens of YouTube videos and considerable press releases, I couldn’t name even three positions he holds. He hasn’t even bothered to put up a basic website on his domain, having left it parked at GoDaddy for months. The only thing we’re getting is a big pile of empty fluff, meaningless platitudes with no position statements. Worse yet, complaining about the problem only gets a snide remark that you should get behind the horse without knowing what you’re getting into.

C’mon, Sam. Running an “I Like Ike” type of campaign is insulting our intelligence. Take the whole 30 minutes to grab a free copy of WordPress with some cheap hosting and put up some campaign planks. Or nab a free account from Blogger and redirect your domain. Stop acting like you’re entitled to our support because Shurtleff is loony, Bennett is out-of-touch, and nobody else has stepped forward.

Raising Taxes And Fiscal Responsibility

Sep
28

Ever since Reagan, the unending call of conservatism has been to cut taxes and cut ’em deep. The theory is that with massive cuts in revenues, Congress would have no choice but to start cutting back on spending. What we saw through the Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II years is that the plan backfired. Instead of paring back on spending, Congress showed an incredible lack of willpower and whipped out the national credit card to make up the difference. Apparently the “starve the beast” approach didn’t work despite 20 years of White House policy enforcing it, so why are conservatives still marching behind it?

That’s the question that Bruce Bartlett asked last week in Forbes. Since huge deficits don’t make people call their Congresscritters and demand reductions in spending, perhaps raising taxes across the board to cover the increased cost of government largess would do it. Let me say right now with no qualification that we should all be expected to pay the full cost of the government services which we are receiving. If it can’t be paid for with taxes or savings, the money simply is not there to spend.

I know, it sounds like crazy talk, the same kind of crazy talk that President George H. W. Bush was talking in 1990 when he expended a mountain of political capital to institute PAYGO rules. These same rules were likely responsible for large balance-sheet surpluses in the 90’s. True to form, though, Congress used all of it and then some on increased spending leading to an even larger national debt. (Not much of a surplus if you ask me.) If this situation sounds rather recent and familiar, replace the word Congress with California legislature and you get an idea of how this story ends.

So what are we to do? It seems that there is an insatiable demand for increased services and decreased taxes from the citizenry and the federal government has been trying to placate both. I say raise taxes to pay for these services and see what happens. It can’t be any worse than saddling future generations with a debt costing many times what it does now and just maybe a few more people will be willing to give on their demands for government services.

Where I Stand: A Rare Endorsement for Sandy Mayor in 2009

Sep
26

I live in an unincorporated township and do not get the privilege of municipal elections in odd-numbered years. The township I live in (White City), however, is surrounded on all sides by Sandy. My place of employment is in Sandy. The township has been in some grand fights with Sandy. To say that I am affected by Sandy City on a daily basis would be somewhat of an understatement.

I’ve been very unimpressed with the way that the current mayor, Tom Dolan, has been running his city. Hoodwinking Salt Lake City for a soccer stadium and trying to do the same for a off-Broadway theater (with the complicity of our legislature, I might add), neglecting to properly upgrade 9000 S and 10600 S to meet peak traffic demand, and equating quality of life with sales tax revenues lead me to conclude that he has spent far too much time getting comfortable in his office.

Imagine my delight, then, when a candidate I have previously endorsed decided to take on Mayor Dolan. David Perry brings a wealth of experience in local government and small business to the table coupled with a charge to make volunteerism from citizens a backbone of building up the city. I do have some issues with the ultra-conservative tone taken on his campaign website (which has little to do with running a city, I might add), but I do not think this will impact the actual administration of the city.

Citizens of Sandy, give Dolan the opportunity to pursue other opportunities. Vote for Dave Perry for Mayor in 2009.

I Support Fair Boundaries

Sep
26

It’s no secret that district boundaries for elective office are often drawn in creative ways. Districts are often made to favor a particular political party or candidate with little regard for the identity of the voters in the district. All too often, neighborhoods are divided up or dissimilar neighborhoods lumped together to satisfy one of these needs. It has become particularly egregious in Utah with Tooele County divided up into four chunks for its State Senate district and Salt Lake County split three ways for purposes of creating US House districts. Rural areas get drowned out by being paired up with a significant urban population. This kind of abusive redistricting cannot continue.

We can, however, find problems with proposed solutions to these issues. All too often, the response is drafted by and spearheaded by a minority party in an attempt to grab hold of more electoral power behind a mask of fairness. I took the time today to read through the Fair Boundaries initiative to make sure that it addresses this problem in a logical and truly non-partisan fashion. I’m glad to report that its emphasis on drawing districts by neighborhood and geography with an emphasis on compactness not only makes sense, it appears to be free of any partisan influence.

I support the Fair Boundaries initiative and I hope you will too.

The Societal Cost of Laws

Sep
24

“There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” While we nod our heads in agreement at this idiom, rarely do we consider just how far-reaching it is. It’s very easy to recognize that a good or service offered for free is anything but. Rarely, however, do we evaluate the intangible cost of laws on our society.

As an example, consider the societal cost of raising or lowering the speed limit on a stretch of highway. If it is lowered, we save lives, but at a cost of additional commute times. If it is raised, commute times drop while highway fatalities increase. You can also find a societal cost in legalizing a behavior. A real hot button locally is liberalization of liquor laws. It seems like an easy thing to say yes to. After all, shouldn’t an adult be able to drink whatever they want whenever they want in whatever quantity they want if they don’t affect others? Our eastern neighbor, Nevada, has taken this approach to alcohol to the extreme. Any kind of alcohol is available in venues from liquor stores to grocery stores to gas stations all day, every day. They subsequently have one of the highest rates of DUI in the nation, soaring auto insurance premiums, and severe issues with alcohol abuse. It’s very difficult to ignore those adverse affects.

Many libertarians will often argue that this societal cost is non-existent. In their mind, individual liberty outweighs any potential negative side effect that may occur. Unfortunately, the irresponsible among us who would abuse liberty often ignore responsibility. This irresponsible behavior often leads to loss of life or liberty for another party. Putting an overemphasis on individual rights over collective rights (or the converse) is what leads to this imbalance of liberty and responsibility. It is incumbent upon each of us to consider the far-reaching consequences of the laws and policies we promote and ask if we are truly prepared to pay the real cost of such laws.

So where do we draw the line? That is up for the people as a whole to decide. A great thing about out nation is that we have the freedom to congregate with like-minded people and make the government of our choosing. If you do not like the particular balance between individual and collective rights struck in your locale, vote with your feet. Just don’t forget that everything has its price.

Focused Attacks

Sep
21

There has been somewhat of a furor lately over ACORN amongst Republicans and their far-right allies. They’ve been doing their darnedest to both paint the organization as a corrupt gang of criminals and tie that organization to the Democratic Party. It sounds like crazy and it is, but it is a familiar kind of crazy. For the better part of a decade, Democrats and their far-left allies have been doing the same thing with Fox News.

This has nothing to do with ACORN or Fox News. Either of those players could be replaced with a new boogieman before tonight’s six o’clock news. It has everything to do with two far ends of the political spectrum cherry-picking examples of crazy from their opponents and attempting to portray that crazy as the norm for “the other guys”. While it all makes for great entertainment (crazy guy caged death matches usually are), it is hardly enlightening and only serves to distract from actually evaluating policy proposals. Instead, we are being asked to pick a team based on who’s less crazy. I say it’s past time to give both major players a reality check and start picking from outside their teams.

The GOP's Senate Nomination Hijinks (or, Mark Shurtleff Learned to Speak Crazy)

Sep
18

As Attorney General, I think Mark Shurtleff has done an exemplary job. In fact, the only blunder of his I can see is failing to take action against Free “Capitalist” Rick Koerber based on evidence collected against him by the Department of Commerce. Unfortunately, this experience as a legal eagle hasn’t translated well into running for other elective office. In fact, his actions make him look like a political novice rather than a seasoned vet.

Honestly, Shurtleff’s actions smell a bit too much like pandering. He’s managed to very quickly attach himself to the TEA Party crowd, popping off quotes from Ronald Reagan at every opportunity (the irony being that Reagan greatly increased the national debt, but I digress). He takes every opportunity to slam Sen. Bob Bennett, his incumbent opposition, at every turn even when his slams don’t make a lick of sense. The fervor is not unlike that of a new convert to a cause, but that’s don’t make it any less obnoxious or annoying.

It seems that this is a problem with all of the people vying for the Republican nomination. They’re all talking up how they’re the “real conservative” in the race (whatever that means) and denouncing Bob Bennett for, well, anything he does that isn’t conservative by their incredibly narrow definition. These same people would likely call me a liberal or socialist over a few points of minutiae despite that we likely agree on at least 90% of the issues. That small and loud group seeking to purge heresy from the party is a primary reason why the Republican Party is in as bad a shape as it is.

Thankfully, I’m not the only one wise to how loony this all sounds. I still think Bob Bennett is due for retirement from public office, but we sure can do a lot better than the current crop.

Government Budget Woes Reflect Our Own Poor Habits

Sep
17

Many states are having all kinds of budgeting issues these days, and Utah is no exception. Despite approving $400M worth of cuts that will soon go into effect, Utah is facing a $450M budget shortfall, a figure that far exceeds the $420M rainy day fund. This disconnect between the savings and shortfall reflects our own poor personal budgeting in which we do not truly prepare for the down times.

Part of the problem is that Utah, like so many states, is happy to spend rather generously during good times. The growth in government spending has outstripped the rate of population growth plus inflation for a number of years. (Granted, we can account for some of this via income growth, but that isn’t the entire story.) Unfortunately, these spending habits catch up rather rudely when a recession hits. Lawmakers are then scrambling to undo the new and increased spending that they had approved just a few years prior.

I’d like to say that this is a habit unique to government, but it reflects our own personal inability to properly manage our money. The rate of national savings has been in the low double-digits for decades; we spend during fat times and scrimp during lean times, but we don’t pack away money to even out the inevitable dips. The wise use of money dictates that we spend only what is necessary during good times and save the rest for bad times to even out the dips. If that’s good advice for individuals, isn’t is good advice for government?

I’d like to see Utah start tempering its desire to inflate spending during boom years, instead packing away more money in the rainy day fund to avoid huge cuts in recessions. In addition to this, the state would be earning interest on the savings and have cash on hand to pay for projects outright, thus avoiding the use of bonding and the paying of interest. However, until we improve our own personal money management and cure our addiction to credit, we probably will not be able to expect the same of our government.

The Decaying Tone of the Discussion

Sep
15

This letter from today’s Salt Lake Tribune pretty much nails why conservative thought isn’t being taken seriously anymore. By abdicating control of the discussion to talking heads with little interest in civility or honesty, we’ve pretty much screwed ourselves. With people like Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, and Karl Rove as the self-appointed voices of conservatism, even the looniest position from the opposition can start to sound sane.

I’m not surprised that voters gave Republicans the bum’s rush. After so many years of what they called “capitalism”, socialism had to start sounding pretty good. Every time one of them screams “socialism!” as a debate-ending epithet, it only reinforces that perception. Sadly, it looks like voters may do another “throw the bums out” in 2010, putting these same people back into power before they have been properly repudiated and replaced.

I Want Health Care Reform. Too Bad I'm Not Getting It.

Sep
14

Insanity is, by definition, doing the same thing over and over again expecting entirely different results. Nowhere is this insanity more obvious than in the current health care reform proposals coming before Congress where the proposals look far too much like more of the same. We’re apparently going to be content with treating symptoms instead of coming up with a real cure.

Let me say right off that I fully acknowledge that the current course is not sustainable. Costs have been runaway for years and both the quality and availability of health care is in the pits. Acknowledging that there is a problem is just the first step. We need to understand why health care stinks before we can take any sustainable action.

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