Sunday, October 31, 2010

Don't 'Privatize' Social Security, Phase It Out

The following article by Linn and Ari Armstrong originally was published October 29 by Grand Junction Free Press.

If you think that Senate hopeful Ken Buck called Social Security a "horrible policy," then you've been listening to Senator Michael Bennet's lies.

Here's what Buck actually said in March: "It is certainly a horrible policy in what happened in the LBJ Administration back in the 60s when they took the money out of the trust fund to fund general fund programs, and what we ended up with was a system that will be bankrupt anywhere from 10 to 25 years from now."

Obviously what Buck called horrible was funding general programs with Social Security taxes. He was not referring to the program itself.

And that's too bad. Because Social Security is a horrible policy. It punishes work and discourages savings. It subsidizes wealthy millionaires retired to the golf course with the sweat of impoverished workers.

It hurts those who die early, preventing them from leaving their accumulated wealth to their children or recipients of choice. Notably, this especially harms some minorities who, on average, die sooner.

The left, which glorifies progressive taxation, nevertheless loves the regressive Social Security tax, which hurts poor working families most of all. The Social Security tax currently strips a combined 12.4 percent (half paid by employers) of every worker's paycheck. Little could be more destructive to the ability of poor and middle-class working families to get ahead financially.

Contrary to popular mythology, Social Security is not some sort of investment program. It is instead a straight wealth transfer from workers to retirees. It is a major leg of the American welfare state. And, because of changing demographics, it will impose an ever larger burden on working families over the coming decades -- unless the program is seriously reformed.

Does Buck want to "privatize" Social Security? In July, Buck said, "We've got to peg Social Security to [younger] individuals so those individuals have the ability perhaps to invest in various funds that are approved by the government. But those individuals also own that fund." (We drew Buck's comments from PolitiFact.com.)

But apparently that tentative proposal is no longer on Buck's plate. On his web page Buck states that, for current beneficiaries, "government shouldn't change those benefits." We agree, though we wouldn't be opposed to curbing benefits for the wealthiest recipients in order to lighten the load on working families.

Buck continues, "For older workers approaching retirement, we need to ensure that Social Security is solvent." Again we agree.

For younger workers, Buck wants to preserve Social Security "as a safety net" while encouraging them to "save more through tax-preferred accounts." This is a far better option than "privatizing" Social Security.

So why do we, your faithful free market advocates, oppose "privatizing" the program? Because the proposal known as "privatization" is the opposite of real privatization.

Buck tips the hand when he acknowledges that politicians approve (and therefore control) the accounts. Accounts mandated and controlled by politicians are not part of the private, free market economy. (The accounts are still mandatory if workers' only other choice is a welfare program.)

A major problem with mandatory accounts is that they create immediate deficit spending. The basic idea is that a portion of one's payroll taxes are redirected from paying off current beneficiaries into the accounts. What then fills in the gap? More borrowing.

Moreover, the accounts themselves do nothing to actually reform Social Security. To understand why, consider that the money redirected to the account could instead simply be returned to those who earned it, to spend or invest as they see fit. For instance, somebody might want to put that money into his own business, rather than into a politically controlled account.

We're glad that Buck backed off of his suggestion to "privatize" Social Security. His incremental reforms are a far better way to go. We remain a bit nervous, however, about the "tax-preferred accounts," which could unduly restrict how people use their own money and lead to political controls over those accounts.

Let us, then, offer a suggestion for real free-market reform. We should phase out Social Security entirely.

Here's how it could work. The benefits of current recipients would be left untouched. Every year, the payout-age for Social Security (not to be confused with one's chosen age of retirement) would be increased by a few months. So people close to retirement would lose a little bit of their benefits, while those further away would lose more.

So what's in it for younger workers? With a steadily increasing pay-out age, the Social Security burden would slowly diminish. The tax should be reset every year to just cover benefits. Thus, the Social Security tax would shrink over time, eventually to zero, leaving workers with an ever-growing share of their own income to spend or invest as they see fit.

We have a simple name for such a reform: freedom.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Let It End!

This photo shows the political flyers we received in the mail just today!

Photobucket

Thankfully we don't have a television -- though every time I pass a TV in public there's some hyperventilating attack ad playing.

But, just remember this: if stupid ads work, it is only because many voters let them work.

Why Do Marxists Embrace the Islamic Center?

When Bob Glass sent me his photos from the 9/11 rallies in New York, I was surprised to see such a strong Marxist presence at the rally supporting the Islamic center near Ground Zero.

Was it not Marx who called religion the opiate of the masses?

The Marxists also rallied in Washington, D.C. A couple of signs there indicate the nature of the Marxist alliance with Islam. One young man showing off his T-shirt illustrating Marx's face holds a sign stating, "End the wars now!" Another sign from Socialist Worker says, "Stop the racist hate: Muslims are welcome here." So the Marxist left is upset by the wars in the Middle East, and they tar the Tea Parties as racist.

Daniel Hannan points out that the Marxists refuse to believe Tea Partiers act independently. Instead, the Marxists (and indeed the entire left) hold, the Tea Parties must be the result of grand conspiracies by the moneyed few. I think this goes far in explaining why the Marxists embrace the Islamic center: many Tea Partiers oppose it, so it must be a good thing.

Fortunately, because Glass sent me numerous leftist publications he picked up at the 9/11 rally, we don't have to speculate about the socialists' motives. They explain them clearly.

The September 2010 Internationalist alleges, "The hysteria [against the Islamic center] is part of the violent racist campaign targeting Muslims and immigrants for attack ever since 9/11."

The publication smears opponents of the Islamic center as violent racists who oppose immigration and "would no doubt like to get rid of the 13th Amendment... and bring back slavery." (I have criticized the Islamic center while affirming the legal right to build it. I advocate the free movement of non-violent and non-contagious people. The baseless smear about slavery deserves no further retort.)

Unsurprisingly, The Internationalist calls not merely for free migration but for "full citizenship rights for all immigrants" -- which entail voting rights -- a proposal I would strongly oppose. Citizenship should involve something more substantial than simply walking across a border.

The publication condemns "the war that is slaughtering Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq." Reasonable people can dispute the wisdom of the war in Iraq, but Afghanistan, home of the Taliban?

Unsurprisingly, the socialists have no qualms about Feisal Rauf's comments blaming the U.S. for the 9/11 terrorist attacks; his "statements are undeniable facts," The Internationalist claims.

Here is the heart of the Marxist argument for supporting the Islamic Center:

Politically, we are no friends of Imam Rauf, who is a supporter of U.S. imperialist and Zionist war and occupation which communists seek to defeat. As Marxists and atheists, we are ideologically opposed to all religions... which throughout history have served to justify the rule of exploiting ruling classes and blind the exploited population to a real solution to their misery. ... To finally overcome religion, it is necessary to abolish the oppressive conditions that produce it, through internationalist socialist revolution, and lay the basis for the masses to achieve a scientific [sic] understanding of the world. From Afghanistan and Iraq to Egypt and Algeria, we oppose Islamism as a political movement while fighting to mobilize the working class and the oppressed to defeat the imperialist occupiers and "secular" dictatorships. ...

Thus the fight against the Muslim-bashing hysteria over the New York mosque must be part of a struggle to build a revolutionary workers party that champions the cause of all the oppressed. Communists vigorously defend bourgeois democratic rights including freedom of assembly and the separation of church and state... While expropriating the holdings and breaking the secular power of the church and its control of education... the Russian Bolsheviks under Lenin and Trotsky upheld the freedom of religious belief and worship. As Leninists and Trotskyists, the Internationalist Group defends the building of an Islamic cultural center and place of worship (mosque) near the World Trade Center and anywhere else... [W]e defend democratic rights through mobilizing worker, oppressed minorities and immigrants against the entire ruling class and its racist capitalist system.


Okay, then. Nevermind that it is the Tea Party movement that is the true "working class" movement in America.

However, just because Lenin and Trosky would have supported the Islamic center, doesn't mean forcibly blocking it is a good idea. While the Marxists might think that the enemy of their enemy is their friend (and how long would those idiot Marxists survive in Iran, Saudi Arabia, or Afghanistan), in reality that is very often not the case.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

CO Democrats Misrepresent Stephen Bailey's Views on Entitlements

Somehow, I am not surprised that Colorado Democrats are egregiously misrepresenting Stephen Bailey's views regarding entitlements. Bailey even predicted it would happen. Bailey is the Republican running against Jared Polis in the Second Congressional District.

In attack mailers that alternately suggest Bailey's ideas belong in the garbage or in outer space (subtle!), the Colorado Democratic Party claims, "Bailey called Social Security a 'Ponzi scheme' and supports abolishing it." The Democrats further claim, "Bailey compared Medicare to 'slavery' even though 615,000 seniors in Colorado rely on it."

These attack mailers wrongly imply that Bailey wants to cut off Social Security and Medicare for seniors now receiving benefits from those programs. No, the mailers do not come right out and say that -- because Colorado's Democrats are too dishonest and cowardly to actually have a serious debate about entitlement spending. No, they must resort to smearing their opponents through innuendo.

These deceptive mailers were "authorized by Friends of Jared Polis." (Why ultra-wealthy Polis needs outside groups to fund attack mailers is another question.) While Polis is not responsible for the mailers, if he were serious about furthering honest debate about the entitlement spending that threatens to financially crush the nation's children, he would denounce the mailers and offer a serious plan for reform. [Update: I was wrong; "Friends of Jared Polis" is "Polis' own campaign committee," the Denver Post reported last year. Stephen Bailey points this out in the comments. PolisForCongress.com is "Paid for by Friends of Jared Polis."]

It is true that Bailey compared Social Security to a Ponzi scheme -- a comparison that is warranted. It is also true that Bailey wants to put "the current program on a sounder financial basis to support current retirees" -- yet for some reason the Democrats neglected to quote that line.

Bailey rightly predicted, "While I understand that individuals who seek to score short-term political points by denying the enormity of the social security problem will attack me for pointing out the problems with this entitlement, I am determined to help prevent this coming train wreck."

On the other hand, I have seen no evidence that Polis is prepared to do anything other than continue shoveling coal into the train's burners as it hurtles toward the cliff.

Regarding the "slavery" quote, Bailey was addressing the welfare state in general, not Medicare in particular. Consistent with his statement on Social Security, Bailey, I assume, is looking for long-term transitional programs. Of course we can debate whether the welfare state is akin to slavery, but, to me, Bailey's words are among the boldest and most principled I have ever heard from an aspiring politician:

Spending on the welfare state has skyrocketed from $34.29 billion in 1965 to $395.4 billion in 2009. The promoters of the welfare state wield our virtue as a weapon against us. They know that we do not want to see others suffer, that we will help others in need. They attempt to make us feel guilty so that we back welfare spending.

I oppose welfare statists, like the incumbent, for what they are: immoral thieves who steal our wealth and then demand that we thank them for it because their theft somehow makes us more virtuous. Charity is a virtue. However, morality presumes a choice, the freedom of action. If someone steals from you and gives the proceeds to a charity, did their act of theft make you any more virtuous? No, you had no choice in the matter. Is the thief any less of a thief because he gave the stolen wealth to charity? No, he is still a thief.

The fundamental principle in politics is: Non-initiation of the use of force. Adherence to this principle is the only way to guarantee the rights of everyone. You are the only one who can determine how your property and your life is to be used and disposed. If you are moved to perform a charitable act, you decide how much money, time or property you will give. You decide who is deserving of your charity.

Our welfare state programs are called entitlements. The damage to our values and civility created by entitlement programs cannot be overstated. When people believe they are entitled to something, then they will demand that they get it. They will behave in an angry and belligerent manner as long as they perceive that their entitlement is being withheld. Instead of gratitude, the deliverers of entitlements are treated, at best, with indifference and, at worse, contempt. Entitlements make people dependent. As the opposite of independence, dependence is a form of slavery. The welfare state pits one group of citizens against another. One group is entitled. The other group is obligated. If you are a parent, did you bring your children into the world with the understanding that they will be either dependent on entitlements or enslaved to provide the entitlement?

Charity is a virtue only when it is offered voluntarily. Government enforced charity is an oxymoron that destroys freedom.


When has Polis ever come close to offering such an eloquent, fundamental discussion about anything?

But Colorado's Democrats are not content to distort Bailey's views on entitlements; they also invoke dishonest protectionist rhetoric to smear Bailey over a "Taxpayer Protection" pledge.

Here's what the deceptive Democratic mailer claims: "Bailey signed a PLEDGE to protect special tax breaks for companies that send American jobs to countries like China and Mexico."

Here's what the pledge actually states:

I, Stephen Bailey, pledge to the taxpayers of the 2nd district of the state of Colorado, and to the American people that I will: ONE, oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses; and TWO, oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.


Colorado Democrats should be ashamed of themselves for funding such deceptive nonsense.

In 2008, I could not support Polis's opponent. This year, for the first time in my life, I will vote proudly and with full respect for a Congressional candidate. I will vote for Stephen Bailey.

ObamaCare Might Fund Viagra for Sex Offenders

Most of the attack ads I've seen this political season take something out of context. These ads, while technically correct, omit relevant context and thus lie by omission. However, a recent attack ad against Congressman Ed Perlmutter is technically incorrect, because it uses the word "can" rather than "might."

A group called American Action Network ran the ad, which stated: "Apparently, convicted rapists can get Viagra paid for by the new health care bill... with my tax dollars... and Congressman Perlmutter voted for it."

Adam Schrager of 9News explains:

The new health law treats sex offenders who are not incarcerated the same way the old law did. They can buy any health plan they choose. Some might cover drugs like Viagra, some might not. The new law doesn't say anything about these types of drugs. As for the new health care law, the exchanges the government will be setting up as a low-cost alternative have not yet been set up, so no one knows what medications they will cover.


Schrager cites a document from FactCheck.org, an outfit run by the Annenberg Public Policy Center -- a group that clearly favors the Democratic health bill despite the group's self-proclaimed "nonpartisan" status.

The FactCheck.org document specifically attacks Nevada Republican Sharron Angle, who ran an ad against her opponent similar to the ad against Perlmutter. Yet FactCheck.org frankly admits:

There's nothing in the legislation that supports, requires or even mentions such prescriptions. It also is true that the Congressional Research Service said that nothing in the health care law would mandate that health plans "limit the type of benefits that can be offered based on the plan beneficiary's prior criminal convictions." The new law will be just like the old: Convicts who are not in prison, including those convicted of sex offenses, will be able to buy any health plan they choose, some of which may cover drugs that treat erectile dysfunction. And former prisoners will be able to buy plans from the state-administered health exchanges with tax subsidies, if they qualify. The health exchanges aren't set up yet, so it’s not clear whether Viagra (and similar drugs) will be one of the medications exchange plans cover.


In other words, the Democratic health bill may very well use tax funds to pay for Viagra for sex offenders -- we simply don't know yet. (For more on the report from the Congressional Research Service, see this news article from Fox.)

As Lynn Bartels reports, 9News yanked the ad against Perlmutter -- apparently preferring to make money only off of more subtle forms of deceit.

But most people are missing the important issues here. Allow me to review them.

1. The fact that we don't even know whether ObamaCare will fund Viagra for sex offenders points to a major, catastrophic problem with the bill: it is an open-ended, bureaucrat-empowering, arbitrary, and capricious political takeover of health care. We already see the capricious nature of the bill with the recent waivers granted to various politically-connected companies.

2. Politicized health care turns many issues into political footballs. What benefits will the government fund, and what benefits won't it fund? Viagra for sex offenders? Viagra for anybody? Drug and alcohol recovery? Psychotherapy? Chiropractic care? Massage? Aroma therapy? Long before the passage of the Democratic health bill, special interests lined the halls of Congress and state capitols, lobbying to mandate their own favored benefits by force of law. ObamaCare will only make this problem much, much worse.

3. Over time, ObamaCare will increasingly drive (nominally) "private" health insurance off the market, so more and more people will be forced to buy their insurance through the political "exchange."

4. The mere fact that any health insurance funds Viagra (for anybody) points to the political manipulation of health care over the past few decades. Because of the the distortions arising from the tax code, most Americans treat health insurance predominantly as pre-paid health care, not as real insurance. Thus, much of the optional, low-cost, routine, and expected care that would otherwise be paid out of pocket is instead paid through higher insurance premiums, which dramatically reduces the incentive to economize on such care.

So, while Colorado's major media outlets obsess over a trivial detail -- whether ObamaCare "can" or merely "might" subsidize Viagra for sex offenders -- they are missing the bigger picture and the real problems with Perlmutter's vote for the health bill.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bush First Provoked Tea Party Backlash

Many on the left pretend that the Tea Parties are just about supporting Republicans and attacking Democrats. This probably has something to do with the fact that the left views everything through the lens of interest groups tribalism. Of course many Republicans are only too happy to agree about the basic purpose of the Tea Parties.

But Americans were angry before the Tea Party title became widespread. This is a point that Republican candidate Stephen Bailey makes in a recent interview and that FreedomWorks's Matt Kibbe made in a September talk in Colorado.

Bailey told Joshua Lipana:

I’ve always been interested in politics as an armchair observer and commentator. However, the decision to run began in late 2008 when the TARP bailout legislation was first brought to a vote. I was on a business trip in Europe and celebrated when the bill was defeated. When Congress and President Bush signed the TARP bailout two weeks later, against the wishes of the American public, it initiated the chain of events that led to the creation of the Tea Party movement and my resolve to not allow my country, my freedom and my families freedom to be destroyed. The resolve accelerated over the next year as President Obama and the Democrats rammed one tyrannical bill after another down our throats, engorging themselves and their political cronies in an orgy of spending that is bankrupting America.


This echoes Kibbe's views (and Bailey attended the event where Kibbe spoke). A transcript follows the video.



My organization was watching this grass-roots anger that we believe grew out of the frustration with Republican spending. The boiling point was when George W. Bush said we are scrapping the free market to save it, and we're going to bail out Wall Street with TARP.

And people forget this now. But inside the beltway, there were very few willing to oppose that, and it was considered a fait accompli that this was going to happen.

And all of a sudden this wave of grass roots shut down the capitol. The first House vote failed dramatically. We believe that that was the founding day of what we now call the Tea Party. And it was frustration with Republicans.

And what did Obama run on? He ran on fiscal responsibility and transparency. He didn't mean it, it turns out. But people with hope in their hearts for this country said we've got to try something, because clearly John McCain is not up to the task of a freedom movement.

And what's the first thing [Obama] did? He tried to jam through a trillion dollar hidden, murky, I'm-not-going-to-let-you-read-it, "stimulus" bill. And we all got up out of our couches, we stopped yelling at the TV, and we started protesting.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Liberty On the Rocks: Teresi Talks with Free Colorado News

Finally I'm posting my interview with Amanda Teresi, founder of Liberty On the Rocks.



Note that Teresi and I together run Liberty In the Books, a project for which I've earned some funds from private donors. See "Ari Armtrong's Disclosures Unjustly Compelled by the FTC," an agency that should be abolished.

If you enjoyed this video, check out my latest video report on Colorado politics.

Would Perlmutter Also Lambast Soviet Bread Line Critics?

According to the logic of Congressman Ed Perlmutter, somebody standing in a Soviet bread line has no right to criticize Soviet bread lines, because he is after all waiting his turn for the bread.

Veteran political reporter Lynn Bartels seems to buy into Perlmutter's "gotcha" nonsense when she writes, "The real news out of the 9News debate Saturday was that Frazier continually blasts the stimulus bill on the campaign trail, but the charter school he co-founded and helps oversee accepted stimulus funds."

ColoradoPols carries Perlmutter's own release, which claims that "Ed Perlmutter revealed Frazier's hypocrisy about Frazier's position on the stimulus bill."

By this logic, in a totally socialized economy, in which the tax rate is 100 percent (meaning that politicians dole out every last cent of meager wealth and every resident is entirely a beggar), absolutely no one has any right to criticize any government program whatsoever, because everyone is completely dependent on political programs for every aspect of their life.

In less extreme forms, this argument often takes the following forms. "If you drive on tax-funded roads, you have no right to criticize tax-funded roads." "If you send your children to tax-funded schools, you have no right to criticize tax-funded schools." "If you accept Social Security benefits (or tax-subsidized student loans or whatever), then you have no right to criticize Social Security (or whatever other program)."

Perlmutter's basic injustice is to forcibly transfer wealth away from citizens, and then claim those citizens whom he robbed cannot enjoy any of the benefits of their own stolen property, unless they are perfectly servile and sycophantic subjects.

Well, screw you, Ed. I sincerely hope that Ryan Frazier returns your prissy slap with a knockout political blow.

Ayn Rand explained the issue perfectly in her 1966 essay, "The Question of Scholarships:"

Since there is no such thing as the right of some men to vote away the rights of others, and no such thing as the right of the government to seize the property of some men for the unearned benefit of others -- the advocates and supporters of the welfare state [including the corporate welfare state] are morally guilty of robbing their opponents, and the fact that the robbery is legalized makes it morally worse, not better. The victims do not have to add self-inflicted martyrdom to the injury done to them by others; they do not have to let the looters profit doubly, by letting them distribute the money exclusively to the parasites who clamored for it. Whenever the welfare-state laws offer them some small restitution, the victims should take it...

Election Update: Free Colorado News



In this edition of Free Colorado News, I discuss some reasons why Ken Buck is having trouble maintaining his lead. For one thing, he is continually attacked for his terrible views on abortion, which he opposes even in cases of rape and incest. I also review Buck's recent comments on homosexuality. Update: Buck clarified his position by saying he wasn't likening homosexuality to alcoholism, except that both are influenced by genetic factors (which is true, as it's true for heterosexuality).

I briefly summarize the Colorado effort to contribute to the Ayn Rand Institute's Books for Teachers program, which places Rand's novels in schools. So far the Colorado effort, led by Anders Ingemarsen, has raised over $18,000, with a goal of $20,000.

Finally, I review the support for the so-called "stimulus" package expressed by Senator Michael Bennet and Representatives Betsy Markey and John Salazar. I suggest they read Henry Hazlitt's Economics In One Lesson.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Shrill Hysterics Distract from Debate over Spending Cuts

The following article by Linn and Ari Armstrong originally was published October 15 by Grand Junction Free Press.

"Armageddon." "Pure anarchy." Really? We think restrictions of political spending deserve serious debate, not hyperventilating hysterics. Yet the same Denver Post editorial that cries "armageddon" over ballot measures 60, 61, and 101 also quotes Attorney General John Suthers calling them anarchistic.

We'd find it easier to take the critics of the measures more seriously if they didn't remind us of Chicken Little, the boy who cried wolf, and the street-corner drunk with the "end of the world" sign all rolled into one.

Plus, we've met some real anarchists, and frankly they'd be insulted to be linked to these measures, which operate squarely within existing legal procedures and in the scope of things alter little.

That said, we're not in love with 60 or 61. They're complicated, and their implications are difficult to predict (especially if passed together), perhaps reason enough to vote against them.

Plus, the organizers of the measures have been anything but transparent about who wrote them and financed them. The measures' shadowy origins have turned off many voters and led to a disorganized, ineffective campaign on their behalf.

Still, the measures should be debated on their own terms, apart from the personalities involved.

Amendment 60 would have a couple of main effects. First, it would "de-de-Bruce," or, as the Blue Book puts it, "repeal the current voter-approved authority of local governments to keep property taxes above their constitutional limits." ("De-Brucing" was named after Douglas Bruce, a major supporter of the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights or TABOR.) This makes sense if you don't think past voters should be able to saddle future property owners with permanently higher taxes.

But Amendment 60 does something else that alarms us. It would reduce property taxes for K-12 government schools, and "state aid shall replace that revenue yearly." As Ben DeGrow points out, "the result would be dramatically greater state funding of, and control of, K-12 education." DeGrow is hardly a tax-and-spend leftist; he works on education issues for the free-market Independence Institute.

Amendment 61 would limit borrowing by state and local governments. We asked Jeff Wright, a long-time TABOR advocate who supports this year's measures, about this proposal. He said, "For most of the history of road construction and maintenance programs they were completed through annual revenue collection and expenditure, not borrowing."

However, the left-wing Bell Policy Center's Rich Jones retorted, "The capital projects currently financed in Colorado have long useful lives, in many instances 30 to 50 years. ... It would be near impossible to build a large scale project such as a bridge one year at a time and pay for it with annual revenues." (See FreeColorado.com for Oct. 4 and 6 for the complete comments of Wright and Jones.)

We don't see the problem with debating the financing mechanisms on a project-by-project basis.

Finally, Proposition 101 is admirably straight-forward: it would cut taxes on vehicles, income, and telecommunications. We like this proposal. Critics argue that the vehicle tax helps finance roads, but we prefer a use tax, such as the gas tax, to pay for roads (so long as they are government owned).

As we said, we think there are good reasons to vote against 60 and 61. But there are also a lot of bad reasons.

All of the dire budget predictions about the measures rest on one basic assumption that, incidentally, is totally false. The assumption is that, if the three measures pass, voters will never again pass spending increases.

If passed, this year's measures would phase in spending cuts over many years. During that time, voters could pass as many countervailing spending hikes as they wanted.

We asked four people involved in the debate over the measures whether voters can in fact support any number of spending hikes, even if the three measures pass.

Wright dodged the question. Dan Hopkins of Coloradans for Responsible Reform, which opposes the measures, never got back to us before our deadline. Jones first said "no," but then conceded, "voters could... approve revenue increases." So, in other words, "yes."

Our friend Ralph Shnelvar, who has publicly supported the measures, offered the clearest answer. We asked, "Even if these measures passed, isn't it possible for voters to approve spending at the same rate as if the measures weren't passed?" Shnelvar answered, "As I understand it, yes."

"Armageddon," indeed.

As for claims that the measures would destroy jobs, we encourage those making such claims to read Henry Hazlitt's "Economics In One Lesson," the single best antidote to such economic illiteracy.

As Hazlitt points out, cutting political spending indeed cuts political jobs. But that money doesn't just evaporate; those who earn it spend it elsewhere, thereby creating jobs that are generally more productive.

We understand if you vote against Amendments 60 and 61. Just do it for the right reasons.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Ben DeGrow Seeks Education Reform

Ben DeGrow, the Independence Institute's top education reformer, discusses opting out of union dues. He also reviews the impact of the three recent documentaries on education, "The Cartel," "The Lottery," and "Waiting for Superman" (which he has seen since granting this interview).

DeGrow said the films are "definitely creating a greater awareness of the problems surrounding education. The problem is whether it will create the political will for policy makers to actually implement real, lasting solutions, things that begin with parental choice, school vouchers, and true market-based accountability... rather than the same old status quo."

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Natelson Reviews Constitutionality of ObamaCare and More

Rob Natelson discusses the constitutionality of ObamaCare, the 17th Amendment, and amending the Constitution. Natelson is a former law professor at the University of Montana and a Senior Fellow with the Independence Institute.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Entitlements Threaten American Prosperity, Economist Poulson Warns

Barry Poulson, an economics professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and a Senior Fellow with the Independence Institute, warned that out-of-control entitlement spending threatens American prosperity.

'Right to Earn a Living' Author Sandefur Explains Work

When Timothy Sandefur visited Colorado last week, I caught up with him for an interview. A lawyer with the Pacific Legal Foundation, Sandefur is the author of the new book, The Right to Earn a Living.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Colorado Ballot: Free Colorado News



In this episode of Free Colorado News, I interview Mike Krause of the Independence Institute about Amendment 63, "Health Care Choice." I discuss how I'm going to vote, and I interview Todd Shepherd and Justin Longo about Complete Colorado.

Here's what Krause had to say:

Amendment 63 does two very basic and important things. First, it amends the Colorado constitution to say that the state of Colorado cannot force its citizens to purchase a public or private health insurance product against their will.

That means that we can't have a Massachusetts-style RomneyCare here in Colorado, and it also means that the state of Colorado can't help the federal government enforce the federal mandate passed as part of ObamaCare.

The second thing this does is it simply protects your right to pay cash out of pocket for the health care you want, when you want it. ...

So it's a preemptive strike against a single-payer system in Colorado, and even if we eventually end up with one, you'll be able to operate outside of the system if this is in place.

What Amendment 63 doesn't do is it doesn't interfere with the state's ability to regulate or license doctors or regulate health care...
It just guarantees a right to health care choice, and what could be more important than that?


So how am I voting? Obviously I'm voting yes on Amendment 63.

Equally obviously, I'm voting no on Amendment 62, the so-called "personhood" measure.

What about the so-called "Ugly Three" spending-cut measures? I didn't develop a position on these until my dad and I wrote up an article for Grand Junction Free Press, due out this Friday. I'm voting no on Amendment 60, because it would backfill local tax spending on education with state tax spending. I'm voting no on Amendment 61, regarding state and local debt, because I want to debate spending issues directly, and I think the mechanism of spending can be debated on a case-by-case basis.

However, I'm voting yes on Proposition 101, a straight-forward tax cut on income tax, vehicles, and telecommunications. Regarding roads, so long as they're government owned, I think they should be funded through dedicated use taxes, such as the gasoline tax. (Or, even better, they should be funded by tolls wherever feasible.)

I'm voting no on Proposition 102, regarding bail bonds, for reasons explained by the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition.

I'm voting for Ken Buck, because, while he's horrible on abortion, at least he's backed away from Amendment 62, and he's the right candidate to help restore fiscal sanity in Washington, D.C. Plus, as I note in the video, "Senator Michael Bennet is a tax-and-spend tool of the Obama administration."

I'm probably not voting in the governor's race. While I like Tom Tancredo and appreciate his straight talk (not to mention his deep policy knowledge), he's vehemently opposed to immigration, and he actively supports Amendment 62. (Plus, his new party, the American Constitution Party, is absolutely insane.) Anyway, Democrat John Hickenlooper is so far ahead it probably doesn't matter how I vote.

As I say in the video, "For U.S. Congress, I will proudly vote for Stephen Bailey, who truly understands liberty and the concept of individual rights, and I'm convinced will fight to achieve that."

I'll let Todd Shepherd and Justin Longo of Complete Colorado speak for themselves; their interviews begin at minute 3:46 of the video.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Cowards at Denver Post Pull 'Where's Muhammad' Cartoon

Just weeks after violent Islamists sent American cartoonist Molly Norris into hiding in fear of her life, the Denver Post pulled a Non Sequitur cartoon titled, "Where's Muhammad," Michael D. Brown reported.

Because Brown does not offer direct evidence that the Denver Post also pulled the cartoon, I called the main switchboard and asked for somebody who works in the cartoon department. A representative told me, "Yes, we did pull it."

As Brown notes, "Muhammad doesn't even appear in the cartoon."

With this decision, the Denver Post has sanctioned violence and betrayed the First Amendment. I urge the paper to change course.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Bell's Rich Jones Attacks Measures 60, 61, 101

A couple of days ago I asked Jeff Wright why he supports Colorado ballot measures 60, 61, and 101. But I still had some questions about the measures, and I figured I should ask a critic to reply to Wright. Rich Jones of the Bell Policy Center agreed to take my questions. Note that I still haven't formulated a position on the measures; my dad and I will be working up an article about the measures for Grand Junction Free Press.

1. Even if these measures passed, isn't it possible for voters to approve spending at the same rate as if the measures weren't passed? If so, then apparently the thrust of the measures is to make spending increases harder, not impossible.

Jones: No. The measures cut revenues to state and local governments and do not address spending. Because we have balanced budget requirements at the state and local levels in Colorado, revenues drive spending. As revenues are cut state and local governments would not be able to spend at the same rate let alone at increased rates. The trust of the measures is to make increases impossible. If the measures are approved, the only way voters could approve spending at the same or higher rates would be to reverse course and either vote against the revenue reductions contained in them or approve revenue increases.

2. Wright claims that it's totally possible to finance long-term projects through annual revenues, rather than through debt. In other word, according to Wright, 61 doesn't so much restrict the types of projects funded, but alters HOW those projects must be funded. Is his point accurate?

Jones: The capital projects currently financed in Colorado have long useful lives, in many instances 30 to 50 years. In the case of water projects the useful life could be as long as 50 to 100 years. It makes sense to borrow the money to build them now and pay them off over time. We need them now and we can use revenues that we will receive over time to pay them off. In this way the people who will benefit from the projects today pay part of the costs as do those who will benefit from them in the future. Students in college today will benefit from a new classroom building as will the students 20 years from now and both should pay a portion of its costs. Current residents who receive water from a water project benefit from the project as will those who will be getting water 20 to 30 years from now and both should pay for the costs of the project. In this way we are using annual revenues to pay off the bonds used to finance the projects.

It would be near impossible to build a large scale project such as a bridge one year at a time and pay for it with annual revenues. I doubt you would find many contractors willing to take on such a project and I doubt that it would be feasible to construct it in such a way. It would be like trying to build your house a little bit each year. By taking out a mortgage you are able to live in the house while you pay it off thus getting immediate benefits.

Below are links to several web sites that contain information that we prepared on the effects of the three proposals.

www.bellpolicy.org - Our web site

www.lookingforwardcolorado.com - A collaborative between the Bell, Colorado Children's Campaign and the Fiscal Policy Institute.

I hope this information helps.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Mountain States Fights for Federalism, Gun Rights

Jim Manley of the Mountain States Legal Foundation sent me the following review:

Horne v. Flores concerns the concept of federalism—the idea that states and the federal government are independent sovereigns that exist to protect individual rights. Consistent with Mountain States Legal Foundation's amicus brief, the Court ruled that the concept of federalism was violated when federal courts usurped the discretionary power of state governments to determine how to appropriately manage and fund government schools.

Amicus Brief

McDonald v. Chicago held that the Second Amendment's protection of the right to keep and bear arms applies against the states. This ruling has opened the floodgates to new litigation over the constitutionality of state and local gun control. One of the first post-McDonald victories is Baker v. Drozdoff, which resulted in the State of Nevada agreeing to lift its ban on functional firearms in state parks.

The amicus brief that Mountain States Legal Foundation filed on behalf of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and National Association for Gun Rights argued that the right to keep and bear arms is an essential component of citizenship. The brief took a detailed look at the law and culture of the American West. Special emphasis was given to the strict protection of the right to possess firearms and the broad protection of an individual’s right to use self-defense in the West. Ultimately, the brief argued that the law and culture of the West reflects the views of the Second Amendment held by the drafters of the Constitution and the drafters of the Fourteenth Amendment: That the right to keep and bear arms is both an individual and fundamental right, the exercise of which makes self-defense possible and protects against tyranny.

The Court cited the amicus brief in its opinion. McDonald v. City of Chicago, 130 S.Ct. 3020, 3042 n.27 (2010).

Amicus Brief

Free Colorado News 10/5/10

In this episode of Free Colorado News, I review the latest polls for the Colorado races for governor and U.S. Senate; criticize Rep. Debbie Benefield's energy policies; review ballot measures 60, 61, and 101; praise Aurora Health One, and show a few clips from the Denver zoo and aquarium.



Update: A new Rasmussen poll out today shows Buck leading 50 to 45 percent. Meanwhile, the Rasmussen governor's poll shows John Hickenlooper leading Tom Tancredo by 43 to 35 percent. (I misstated Hickenlooper's figure as 42 percent in the video.)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Jeff Wright Promotes Measures 60, 61, and 101

With the Denver Post decrying Colorado ballot measures 60, 61, and 101 as "Armageddon," Republican Attorney General John Suthers saying they would cause "pure anarchy," and former Republican Governor Bill Owens calling them "damaging" and "fiscal recklessness," I thought this was a good time to solicit the views of a supporter. So I contacted Jeff Wright. For now, I'll publish his replies without additional commentary from me.

1. For those who don't know who you are, briefly explain your background with TABOR and your work in promoting this year's ballot measures (60, 61, and 101).

Wright: I was an original petitioner on TABOR in 1991 to place it on the ballot for 1992. I was one of five folks around the state who devoted much of 1992 coordinating the campaign for its passage. Since that time I have been involved with co-authoring multiple follow-on initiatives, being party to several lawsuits involved with protecting TABOR, and testifying against Bills in the legislature trying to water-down or circumvent TABOR or the initiative process.

2. Why are two of the measures "Amendments" (constitutional changes) while the third is a "Proposition" (a statutory change)?

Wright: The initiative process is the People's management process on the other branches of government. When they fail in their fiduciary responsiblities to the People of the state and the Constitution, the FIRST power protected by the state Constitution in Article V is the initiative. The overall and highest level of management is to Amend the Constitution to correct errors, improve processes and manage the other branch's transgressions on the People. Statutory initiative changes are made to affect those things that do not rise to level necessary for Amendments but only statutory law. That is the difference between Amendments 60, 61 and Proposition 101.

3. What is the Big Picture? What is the long-term purpose of these measures?

Wright: Since TABOR passed in 1992, and due to circumventions, abuse, dilutions and outright defiance by the other branches of government at aqll levels, TABOR's effectiveness has been compromised. Total state and local spending has risen from $15.1 billion in 1992 to $47 billion in 2010; a 320% increase! State debt has tripled in just the last 10 years and debt service on that debt has doubled. Meanwhile state GDP is rising at half the rate of spending and debt. Those conditions define the term "unsustainable." The overall effect of the three initiatives is to restore TABOR, reduce spending and debt to be in line with GDP growth and offer a chance for the People to keep some of the money going forward that elected boards, judges and government officials have been illegally taking away all these years through those circumventions.

4. Regarding Amendment 60, while I dislike property taxes, I don't see the point of cutting property taxes for school funding and replacing that money with state funding. What's the idea there?

Wright: The idea is to stop all of the permanent "de-TABORings" the courts have corruptly allowed to continue by political subdivisions all over the state. TABOR allowed for a four-year exemption from its requirements through a vote on a regular basis where elected officials had to repeatedly justify their need to be exempt. The permanent de-TABORINGs were violations of the Constitution and completely unfair to subsequent generations of voters who had no chance to review the need to de-TABOR. The schools will not have to seek state replacement of revenue if they re-justify the need for additional revenue and convince the voters to re-implement a local de-TABORing for four more years. The difference is now they'll have to justify it every four years thereafter. That's what they hate.

5. Regarding Amendment 61, which limits state and local borrowing, how can these governments complete long-term projects like road construction without borrowing?

Wright: By the same method before they moved to employ all the exotic debt instruments so much in vogue today. By the same method employed by families and business for generations: through the establishment of actual reserves and capital accrual programs, paygo and applying today's taxes to today's projects and not diverting the money away to new or other programs. The end cycle of excessive debt should be obvious in the fact that 72% more interest cost is accrued in a 30-year loan than a 10-year loan. It is a misnomer that road projects require borrowing to complete. For most of the history of road construction and maintenance programs they were completed through annual revenue collection and expenditure, not borrowing. Borrowing for such programs is a much more recent phenomena of the poor management of state and local government officials and the mis-allocation of priorities away from the essentials of government to the wants of politically-connected constituencies. It is also likely coming to an end as the municipal bond markets across other state begins a default cycle lasting for any years. Amendment 61 will put us ahead of the curve in dealing with the debt overhang and default problem already looming beginning in 2011 and 2012.

6. I'm confused by claims that the measures would result in "Armageddon" or "anarchy." Except for projects involving borrowing, would not the measures still allow voters to approve tax hikes for whatever specific purposes they wanted?

Wright: That's one of the many absurd claims made by opponents of 60, 61 and 101. The overall effect of the measures is to slow spending increases to be more in line with the growth of the private sector carrying capacity to supply revenue. Remember, after all three measures pass, state and local government starts with the $47 billion they have in 2010 but goes up more slowly from 2011 forward. There are no actual budget cuts and the legislative bodies are thus directed by the Constitution to do what they've been unable to do for the last 20 years: Prioritize and stop circumventing TABOR.

The only thing these measures do is slow the rate of growth from 2011 forward, while debt at the state level begins to be pared over the remaining terms of those debts and debt at the local level must once again be voter approved and must only be general obligations bonds with 10 years terms. The idea that these measures will create "Armageddon" is as ridiculous today as those same claims made in 1992 when TABOR passed. It's simply fear tactics by opponents. It wasn't true in '92 and it's not true now. Check out "Fibs by Foes" at: http://www.cotaxreforms.com/examples.php

It should be clear that the entire strategy for the opponents is to re-create the Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD) they used during the TABOR campaign again to try to stop the passage of these measures by the People to re-assert their proper management and control over government. The opponents hate the idea that the People have this power, even though it is the FIRST reserved power of the state Constitution. Look at their funding at: http://cotaxreforms.com/opponents.php 99+% of the opposition funding comes from sources who make their living taking taxpayer money via government. Many are from out-of-state and foreign-owned.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Salazar Wants Economic Controls, Personal Liberty

The following article by Linn and Ari Armstrong originally was published October 1 by Grand Junction Free Press.

Mainly we want to talk about Congressman John Salazar. However, one bit of news regarding Ken Buck's campaign for U.S. Senate is so extraordinary that we must briefly address it.

In our last column, we hammered Buck for endorsing Amendment 62, which would, among many other nefarious things, ban the birth control pill. We are pleased to note that, since the publication of that column, Buck has withdrawn his endorsement of the measure. He told the Denver Post that he didn't realize it would ban common forms of birth control.

There are some who disingenuously condemn any politician who changes his mind. While we are the last to endorse shifting one's opinions to conform to public sentiment, we strongly encourage politicians to reevaluate their positions in light of fact-based reasoning. All of us can make mistakes. The right move is to recognize a mistake and correct it, and we respect Buck for doing so in this case.

We've always thought Buck was the right candidate to help restore fiscal sanity in D.C. By distancing himself from the insanity of Amendment 62, Buck signals that he's more interested in reining in out-of-control spending than he is in trying to run our personal lives.

Unfortunately, while Congressman Salazar would leave us free in the personal sphere, he has promoted President Obama's economic controls and big-spending programs.

We asked Salazar some tough questions, and he responded with some thoughtful answers. We appreciate that. Indeed, his answers are so thorough that we can't do them justice here; please see http://tinyurl.com/salazar10 for his complete comments.

We like Salazar's general approach to church-state issues: "I believe one of the greatest threats to our religious freedom is for the State to attempt to favor one faith over another, or impose undue restraints on an individual's freedom to worship."

However, Salazar is simply wrong when he claims that "Church-State issues have been minimal." What about faith-based welfare? Or tax-funded abortion? Or prayer and creationism in tax-funded classrooms?

We're pleased to see that Salazar supports civil unions (though not marriage) for gay couples. He supports stem-cell research. He also replied, "Although I am personally opposed to abortion, I support a woman's right to choose."

We only wish Salazar would show some consistency. He thinks the choice about whether to get an abortion "should not be made by legislators," but by individuals. It's too bad he doesn't trust individuals to make their own economic decisions, too.

True, Salazar voted against the $700 billion bailout under President Bush. However, he voted for the $787 billion stimulus package under Obama. What explains the seeming contradiction?

Salazar said he opposed the "bailout of Wall Street" because he was "concerned about using taxpayer dollars to bailout those who gambled recklessly with investors' money."

Okay, then why did he gamble with people's money with the Obama stimulus? He said, "It was critical that Congress passed a stimulus package early last year to put a floor under an economy that was in a free fall." But that is just balderdash inspired by British charlatan economist John Maynard Keynes.

In reality what Salazar voted for was legalized theft. All his split vote tells us is that he's a man of party, not of principle. His only concern was who was doing the looting.

The principles of a sound economy have always been the same: a free market, full protection of individual rights (including rights to keep the product of one's labor), and a government that otherwise leaves people free to act on their own judgment and associate voluntarily.

Federal politicians are the ones who put the economy in "free fall" in the first place by promoting risky loans and easy money. Salazar's "stimulus" vote merely added new layers of destructive federal controls.

Salazar also voted for ObamaCare, and for that we can never forgive him. As the health bill unfolds over the coming years, it will result in more forced wealth transfers via manipulated health insurance premiums, politically induced demand for more "free" health care leading to skyrocketing costs, and bureaucratic rationing.

Do not let anyone tell you that ObamaCare was necessary to correct the failures of the free market. There has been no free market in health care for many decades. All of the problems involving health care and especially health insurance leading up to ObamaCare can be traced directly to decades of federal controls. (See the essay by Dr. Paul Hsieh and Lin Zinser at WeStandFirm.org.) All Salazar accomplished was to again add more layers of destructive federal controls.

We think it's time to elect members of Congress who understand the need for economic liberty and who will fight to achieve it.