Author Archives: Richard Larsen

About Richard Larsen

AP award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho, and is a graduate of Idaho State University with a BA in Political Science and History and former member of the Idaho State Journal Editorial Board. He can be reached at [email protected]

Paying Taxes Is Not “Patriotic,” Nor is it “Voluntary”

Six years ago Vice President Joe Biden said that paying taxes is patriotic. Citing the need for the wealthy to pay more of their “share” of taxes, he said it was, “time to be patriotic,” even though the top 20% of wage-earners pay 93% of federal income taxes. The latest iteration of the “paying taxes is patriotic” meme came last month when Treasury Secretary Jack Lew sent a letter to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden calling for a “new sense of economic patriotism.” The payment of taxes by a citizenry in a free society is not inherently patriotic, but such statements are not unexpected from those who conflate emotion with logic.

jack-lew-611x442The context of Secretary Lew’s letter is important, however. Dozens of American companies have made acquisitions or merged with other companies based in the United Kingdom, or more advantageously, Ireland, in order to circumvent the U.S. confiscatory 35% corporate tax rate, which is currently the highest in the world. By basing operations in Ireland, these newly migrated companies pay a relatively paltry flat 12.5% tax on profits. Nine of the top ten global pharmaceutical companies now have operations in Ireland, and some of the largest technology companies, including Google, Twitter, and Facebook, do as well.

The process is called inversion, and here’s how it works economically. A company acquires or merges with a company in Ireland (or Britain, Switzerland, or the Netherlands) and re-domiciles there for the cash savings from U.S. tax rates. The company then lends cash back to the U.S. creating tax-deductible interest payments to benefit American operations. And in the more elaborate variation, interest costs and royalty payments made to Dutch subsidiaries reduce the tax bill in Ireland to 6%. Royalties and interest payments are then funneled to Bermuda, which then cuts the tax in Ireland to zero since Ireland views it as a “Bermuda resident.” This creates a veritable “cash mountain,” as the UK’s Financial Times refers to it, allowing the newly reorganized Irish company to pay nothing in taxes. The Financial Times estimates the “cash mountain” built up through such inversions to be as high as $1 trillion.

The absurdity of our 35% nominal corporate tax rate is magnified when we realize that the $1 trillion sitting overseas is worth a paltry $16 billion in tax revenue to the treasury, as Secretary Lew said on CNBC last month. In other words, to save $16 billion in federal corporate taxes, formerly U.S. based companies have relocated $1 trillion in cash, and all of the economic activity, including jobs and manufacturing, that a trillion dollars of cash (M1) velocity can generate. Our inordinately high tax rates have exceeded the point of diminishing return.

corporate-tax-rate-600The reason the tax revenue can be so low as Lew’s estimate is because the average corporate effective rate is about 12% after deductions. Our tax code has become so porous through crony-capitalism that a company the size of General Electric with sales of over $120 billion, and net profit of $14 billion, could file a 57,000-page tax return for 2010 and pay no corporate income taxes. Our sieve-like tax code hemorrhages tax receipts to the U.S. Treasury.

It’s nothing short of duplicity for the administration to call for “patriotism” from entities they have been arguing are not people, and should not be afforded freedom of speech or freedom of religion rights. They have bemoaned the Citizen’s United case in which the Supreme Court ruled corporations have free speech rights, and the Hobby Lobby ruling affirming corporate freedom of religion, yet they claim such companies can have patriotism, which is an emotion and a trait that can’t be felt or manifest by inanimate objects or organizations. For logical consistency, they can’t have it both ways.

Even though Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid claimed a few years ago that paying taxes is “voluntary,” our taxes are collected from us based on principles of coercion. We pay our taxes under legal threat of fines and penalties, which could include jail time. Companies withhold a percentage of our income as a payroll deduction under threat of fines and penalties. This is also why paying taxes to “share the wealth” is not an act of magnanimity either, for coercion can never be mistaken for giving freely of our substance.

BstMy4OIEAAiQ_m.png-largeThe claim that paying taxes is patriotic is prima facie specious, even if some of the benefits from paying taxes are beneficial to us personally, for tax collection is facilitated by the threat of penalty, which is coercive. As such, it much more closely resembles extortion than patriotism. In a legal context, extortion refers to how the funds are expropriated, not in how they are appropriated. Extortion is forced, while patriotism is clearly voluntary. And since patriotism is attitudinal, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with harboring such sentiments whilst paying.

Taxes are an essential component to facilitate the operations of prudent and constitutional governance. As Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “Taxes are what we pay for civilized society.” However, when tax code incentivizes the relocation of America’s engines of economic growth, its effect is deleterious to the nation. And taxation for reallocation is clearly immoral for our founders formed our system of governance to preclude the possibility of our government doing what would be illegal for an individual citizen to do.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Senator Ron Wyden is correct to not take the band aid approach to closing the inversion loophole. His preference is to overhaul the corporate tax structure which currently incentivizes U.S. corporations to relocate headquarters and manufacturing elsewhere in the global marketplace.

The most efficacious means of repatriating that $1 trillion sitting in overseas banks would be to shred the entire corporate tax code and go to a flat corporate tax rate. That additional trillion dollars in monetary velocity could make a significant contribution to GDP expansion, as well as augmenting U.S. tax receipts.

Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration. He can be reached at [email protected].

 

We Must Always Stand With Our Ally, Israel

The state of Israel this past year celebrated its 66th birthday, one that it would not have been able to observe had it not been for the leadership and tenacity of one brave and principled American president. President Harry Truman, going against nearly the entire Washington establishment, made the United States the first nation to grant official recognition of the State of Israel a scant 11 minutes after they declared their state official.

Israel Gap Year Destinations MapIsrael is the only free country in a region that is dominated by monarchies, theocracies, and dictatorships that repress freedom, oppress women, limit educational opportunities, outlaw religious and racial tolerance, and sponsor terrorism against freedom-loving people. As such, the approximately 8 million citizens of Israel, living in an area about the size of West Virginia (our 10th smallest state) including Jews and Arabs who live within the Armistice Lines of the 1948 War of Independence, enjoy freedoms not available to the hundreds of millions living in neighboring Muslim dominated countries. They can express their opinions, criticize their government, worship according the dictates of their conscience, publish opposition newspapers, and hold free un-coerced elections. They are by far the most free people in the Middle East. In spite of criticism to the contrary, Israel provides more freedom to Muslim citizens than neighboring Muslim countries grant themselves. Both Hebrew and Arabic are the official languages of Israel and Israeli Arabs enjoy the same rights as their Jewish neighbors, have representatives elected to the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) and have positions as associate justices on the Israeli Supreme Court

IsraelRally-6535On May 14, 1948, the day the British Mandate over Palestine expired, the Jewish People’s Council gathered to declare their independence. In that document, they declared that the Land of Israel “was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained to statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance.”

“After being forcibly exiled from their land, the people kept faith with it throughout their Dispersion and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and for the restoration in it of their political freedom.

“Impelled by this historic and traditional attachment, Jews strove in every successive generation to re-establish themselves in their ancient homeland. In recent decades they returned in their masses. Pioneers, and defenders, they made deserts bloom, revived the Hebrew language, built villages and towns, and created a thriving community controlling its own economy and culture, loving peace but knowing how to defend itself, bringing the blessings of progress to all the country’s inhabitants, and aspiring towards independent nationhood.”

OBAMA CARTOONS, THROW ISRAEL UNDER THE BUSThis right to gather in Israel “was recognized in the Balfour Declaration (1917), and reaffirmed in the Mandate of the League of Nations which, in particular, gave international sanction to the historic connection between the Jewish people and Israel and to the right of the Jewish people to rebuild its National Home.” This right was reaffirmed in 1948 by the United Nations.

The declaration then states the principles upon which the new nation of Israel would be established. “THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”

UnknownSince that time, Israel has struggled for its very existence, having fought military onslaughts in at least eight wars of self-defense against 22 hostile dictatorships and three major state-sponsored terrorist organizations – the PLO, Hezbollah and Hamas, and faced a determined terror-led attack that makes those against America pale in comparison. In the 18 month period following 9/11/01 alone, Israel suffered 12,480 terrorist attacks that killed more than 400; a per-capita death toll more than six times that of America’s 9/11 attacks.

It is with this historical backdrop that President George W. Bush addressed the world at Israel’s celebration of independence six years ago, where he declared, “You’ve lived too long with fear and funerals, having to avoid markets and public transportation, and forced to put armed guards in kindergarten classrooms. The Palestinian Authority has rejected your offer at hand, and trafficked with terrorists. You have a right to a normal life; you have a right to security.”

American and Israeli Flags over the U.S. Capitol - RTXL7AW.jpgThe President went on to say, “Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along.” Does anyone truly believe the bellicose leaders of Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, The Muslim Brotherhood, and Islamic Jihad, who all call for the eradication and annihilation of Israel, can be persuaded to change their minds?

The Middle East is home to the primary front lines of battle in the war against terrorism. Recognizing this, and the fact that Israel is a free democratic country, and an ally in combating the evil of terrorism, we must always maintain a resolute determination to stand by them and assure their defense, and not believe naively that Israel’s enemies can be appeased into pacifism. After all, they have sworn to wipe Israel off the map, and the rest of the world’s “infidels,” including us, are next on their list.

Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration. He can be reached at [email protected].

 

Racism and Ignorance Abound in Gaza Conflict Coverage

knell-report-15-7-pic-missiles-being-fired There are only two possible explanations for the anti-Semitic statements, tweets, demonstrations, and promulgations of the past few weeks after Israel began defending herself from the onslaught of missiles from the Hamas-held Gaza Strip; sheer ignorance or blatant racism. In some cases it could perhaps be a combination of both. Much of the culpability for the biased representation of the conflict in Gaza rests directly on the shoulders of the mainstream media who should know better.

The rationalized justification for the latest attacks on Israel traces back to an incident in June when three Israeli teenaged seminary students (one of whom was an American) were kidnapped, and subsequently killed, while hitchhiking in the West Bank. They disappeared on June 12 and their bodies were discovered eighteen days later in a field near Hebron. Hamas was blamed for the abductions and murders, and the night the bodies were discovered, the terrorist group began launching missiles into the heart of Israel. Nearly 1,000 missiles have been launched by Hamas against Israel since that fateful night, and Israel has responded by destroying the tunnels used by Hamas to infiltrate Israel, and by targeting the group’s missile and munitions storage sites, which are often strategically placed in schools, hospitals, mosques, and residential areas.

pc0264Clearly, Israel is fighting for her very existence, and fighting back against those who attack her. Self-defense is a natural human right, and the first responsibility of a nation to protect its citizenry. Yet in spite of these verities, Israelis are vilified for fighting back and refusing to turn the other cheek.

Mia Farrow has been posting pro-Palestinian comments over the past several days on Twitter, including, “What is Israel’s long-term plan for Gaza? They can’t kill everyone.” Madonna posted a photo with the comment, “These flowers are like the innocent children of GAZA! Who has a right to destroy them? No One!!!! CEASE FIRE!” Dozens of celebrities have been vocal in their anti-Israeli denunciations. There have been a few notable exceptions.

hamas_children_1594729iAcross the pond it has been even more strident, as typified by a letter from Spanish actor Javier Bardem that was published in a Barcelona paper last week. Bardem wrote, “This is a war of occupation and extermination against a whole people without means, confined to a miniscule territory without water and where hospitals, ambulances, and children are targeted and presumed to be terrorists.” A hundred Spanish celebrities, including Academy Award winners Penelope Cruz and Pedro Almodovar, endorsed the letter.

European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor responded to Bardem’s letter, by stating, “The assertion that Israel is perpetrating genocide is not only patently false and detached from reality, but also inflammatory and outrageous at a time when demonization against Israel is fueling unprecedented levels of anti-Semitic violence in Europe…I would be interested in reading the opinion of the same Spanish celebrities after 2,500 rockets explode on Madrid or Barcelona.”

Palestinian Girls taught to fire rocketsAnti-Semitic demonstrations have dominated European news, coinciding with the anti-Israel public posturing of so many from the high-profile glitz and glamour crowd.

As if to not be outdone, American media have been denouncing Israel for “targeting civilians” with their retaliatory attacks, as MSNBC has been doing with regularity. NBC’s David Gregory on “Meet the Press” castigated Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for such targeting, which brought a sharp rebuke from the PM. He said, “Hamas is responsible for the death of civilians. We’re not targeting a single civilian. We’re responding to Hamas action and we’re telling the civilians to leave. Hamas is telling them to stay. Why is it telling them to stay? Because it wants to pile up their own dead bodies. They not only want to kill our people, they want to sacrifice their own people.”

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????One major newspaper has printed over twenty articles on the current iteration of the Gaza conflict. But in all of their stories, not one mention has been made of the documented immoral placement of Hamas missile launchers and munitions in residential areas, schools, mosques and hospitals. Sometimes media bias is more blatantly evidenced by omission, than by commission.

Last year the Anti-Defamation League conducted its largest-ever worldwide survey of anti-Semitic attitudes. They polled 53,000 people in 102 countries, representing nearly 87% of the world’s population, and found 26% of the world is anti-Semitic. It’s difficult to come to grips with such blatant racism in this day and age when it is so pervasively denounced. Particularly inscrutable is the racism of the effete celebrity crowd and self-professed politically correct media personalities.

hamas_terror_academyHouse Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, made perhaps the most ludicrous comment this week in support of Hamas, also known as the Muslim Brotherhood of Palestine. She referred to them as a “humanitarian group.” The Hamas Charter states, “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it,” and it will be obliterated by “Jihad.” To most sentient people, that wouldn’t appear very “humanitarian.”

It is only by flagrant vacuity that some attempt to create a moral equivalency between a democratic nation defending itself and a terrorist organization that uses human shields to protect their weaponry. As Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of Sheikh Hassan Yousef, one of the founders of Hamas, said last week on CNN, “Hamas doesn’t care about the lives of Palestinians…And, by the way, Israel – the destruction of the state of Israel is not Hamas’ final destination. Hamas’ final destination is building the Islamic Caliphate, which means an Islamic state on the rubble of every other civilization. These are the ultimate goals of the movement.”

IsraelRally-6535Yet to Pelosi, Hamas is “humanitarian,” and for many in the media and of the celebrity elite, the terrorist group has been perched on moral high ground as victims, rather than denounced as the perpetrators of terrorism that they are. Such a perverted sense of misplaced indignation can only be attributable to abject ignorance of the relative facts, an intense racist bigotry against the Jewish state, or a combination of the two.

Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration.  He can be reached at [email protected].

 

How Smartphones are Dumbing Down Our Society

Business colleagues reading an SMS while in a lineHow many times every day do you find yourself visiting with a friend or a family member and you feel like their phone or other electronic device is more important to them than you are? How often do you find yourself in a one-on-one or a group setting and the other person or individuals immediately pick up their phone with every chirp, beep, or ring-tone they emit? We have a society that is increasingly less humanly social, and have in some distorted way, become less connected sociologically and emotionally, and more isolated, precisely because of the electronic connectivity that has come to dominate our culture.

The smartphone is well on its way to creating a socially dumb society. According to eMarketer from a study completed last year, Americans now spend more time on their smartphones and other electronic devices than they do with anything else. The average American now spends over five hours every day tinkering, playing with, responding to, and interacting with their digital devices. Such over-reliance on electronic gadgets has now eclipsed watching TV as the single-most over-indulged time hog of the average American’s daily schedule.

Liam-Walsh-Cartoon-New-YorkerA CNN story last year calculated that by the time teens reach middle school, they text nearly 3,500 times a month, and spend more time with electronic media than they do with their parents or teachers. The report stated, “The impact of heavy media and technology use on kids’ social, emotional and cognitive development is only beginning to be studied, and the emergent results are serious. While the research is still in its early stages, it suggests that the Internet may actually be changing how our brains work. Too much hypertext and multimedia content has been linked in some kids to limited attention span, lower comprehension, poor focus, greater risk for depression and diminished long-term memory.

texting“Our new world of digital immersion and multitasking has affected virtually everything from our thought processes and work habits to our capacity for linear thinking and how we feel about ourselves, our friends and even strangers. And it has all happened virtually overnight.”

And that barely scratches the surface in terms of the social ineptitude fostered by such overt dependency on electronic devices. It’s virtually impossible to sit in a family, business, or even mealtime setting without someone being glued to their phones rather than visiting, interacting with, or communicating with the others who are present. The clear signal, via body language, is that the device, and whoever is texting or messaging on the other end of the digital conversation, is much more important than the living, breathing, cognitive beings in the room with them!

hfmbookRachel Macy Stafford was a young wife and mother who had an epiphany of sorts. She realized that her children, and other important people in her life, were being short-changed by the attention and devotion she paid to her smartphone. She started maintaining a blog of her observations and “confessions” of her own overuse of digital media.

One reader of her blog sent an email to her that was seismic in its impact. The reader said, “I can recall a time when you were out with your children you were really with them. You engaged in a back and forth dialog even if they were pre-verbal. You said, ‘Look at the bus, see the doggie, etc.’ Now I see you on the phone, pushing your kids on the swings while distracted by your devices. You think you are spending time with them but you are not present really. When I see you pick up your kids at day care while you’re on the phone, it breaks my heart. They hear your adult conversations. What do they overhear? What is the message they receive? I am not important; I am not important.”

On her blog, Handsfreemama.com, (and in her book by the same name) she has listed a series of introspective statements on “How to Miss a Childhood.” For those who have children at home, this is a real eye-opener. But to all of us, regardless of age or familial composition, the messaging is poignant with regard to our most treasured relationships.

She says that if you want to miss your children’s childhood, “Keep your phone turned on at all times of the day. Allow the rings, beeps, and buzzes to interrupt your child midsentence; always let the caller take priority.”

“Carry your phone around so much that when you happen to leave it in one room your child will come running with it proudly in hand—treating it more like a much needed breathing apparatus than a communication device.”

“Decide the app you’re playing is more important than throwing the ball in the yard with your kids. Even better, yell at them to leave you alone while you play your game.”

“While you wait for the server to bring your food or the movie to start, get out your phone and stare at it despite the fact your child sits inches away longing for you talk to him.”

gg58805038“Neglect daily rituals like tucking your child into bed or nightly dinner conversation because you are too busy with your online activity.

After listing many more such examples, the author concludes: “Follow this recipe and you will have: missed opportunities for human connection, fewer chances to create beautiful memories, lack of connection to the people most precious to you, inability to really know your children and them unable to know you, and overwhelming regret.”

If we are to avoid becoming a socially inept and illiterate society, we must learn to use our electronic devices not as proxy relationships, but as tools to broaden and enlarge our human experience, and with a sense of temporal balance, rather than as our veritable raison d’être or center of our existence. Perhaps it’s time to reintroduce social etiquette into our school’s curricula, before our anti-social behavior unravels our last few remaining threads of humanity.

Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration. He can be reached at [email protected].

 

Obama’s Man-Made Disaster – Our Southern Border Invasion

It’s impossible to avoid the coverage of the “immigration crisis” on our southern border. The media’s pervasive use of disinformation terminology and appeals to morality of a sentient populace is employed to shape public perception on the humanitarian tragedy unfolding daily in the news. The problems are manifold, but the creation of the crisis is causally singular. And the solution, at least to the cause, could be equally simple.

dt.common.streams.StreamServer.clsJust since October of last year, there have been nearly 60,000 children taken into custody for entering our country illegally. The majority of them are from Central America and unaccompanied by an adult.

The media report this as an “immigration crisis.” It is not. The government’s own definition of an immigrant is very precise: “persons admitted as legal permanent residents (LPRs) of the United States.” It would be more accurately described as an invasion, which is an “incursion by a large number of people.” As a friend sent me this past week, “Sneaking into a country doesn’t make you an ‘immigrant’ any more than breaking into a house makes you ‘part of the family.’”

Secondarily, the crisis with the children is man-made, and there is one man who is most responsible for it. Starting as early as August 2011, the administration started using “prosecutorial discretion” in applying the law against those who enter the country illegally. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano issued a communiqué stating that removing illegal aliens was not an “enforcement priority” of the Obama administration.

article-2694606-1FB0BDB600000578-269_634x415Almost immediately after that initial statement, DHS memos evidence an even less subtle approach; a broader “administrative amnesty,” would be applied especially for young people who would have benefited from the DREAM Act, which was never passed by congress. One such DHS memo to the director of United States Citizen and Immigration Services, indicated, “In the absence of Comprehensive Immigration Reform, CIS can extend benefits and/or protections to many individuals and groups by issuing new guidance and regulations.”

Internal memos clearly identify the motive behind such moves to be political. One such internal memo, uncovered by Pro Publica, stated, “The Secretary would face criticism that she is abdicating her charge to enforce the immigration laws,” but expressed hope she would “be viewed as breaking through the Washington gridlock in an effort to solve tough problems at a time when providing Latino voters with something they can support will be a win-win for us all.”

Then for the icing on the cake, just five months before the 2012 presidential election, “Obama announced that he would stop deportations for a half a million people who were brought to the United States as children. For this, he was rewarded with more than 70 percent of the Hispanic vote,” as reported by Nationalinterest.org.

BsmLwovIEAAa0ioEach of these official and unofficial announcements have yielded the administration’s apparently desired effect of escalating the invasion of our southern border. News regarding the relaxation of U.S. restrictions against illegal entry into the country travels like wildfire especially through the “coyote” grapevine, those who transport people across the border illegally.

This relaxation of deportation and border security laws is borne out by the data. According to the Los Angeles Times, “the number of immigrants younger than 18 who were deported or turned away from ports of entry declined from 8,143 in 2008 to 1,669 last year. There were 95 minors deported from the entire interior of the country last year. At the same time, the number of unaccompanied alien children arriving from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras exploded from less than 4,000 several years ago to over 40,000 since last October.”

Last weekend Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX), along with several other congressmen, met with President of Honduras Juan Orlando Hernandez and President of Guatemala Otto Pérez Molina and their wives. According to Granger, the leaders “want their children back.”

“We found out that the president and the first ladies of Guatemala and Honduras want their children back and they’re willing to cooperate with us to send their children back as quickly as possible,” she said.

Flood-Gates-590-LAIn spite of claims the children are fleeing violence in their home countries, a new report indicates they’re coming primarily for amnesty. Two weeks ago the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC), which is led by the DEA with cooperation from Homeland Security, reported, “Of the 230 migrants interviewed, 219 cited the primary reason for migrating to the United States was the perception of U.S. immigration laws granting free passes or permisos to UAC (unaccompanied children) and adult females OTMs (other than Mexicans) traveling with minors,” the report said.

Clearly the administration has created this humanitarian crisis by its own policies. If they wanted to stop the illegal migration, it wouldn’t take much effort. Rep. Granger indicated that the Central American presidents she met with said it would be “very helpful” if the president would reverse his stance. They said a great start would be for the president to simply state, “Don’t send your children to the United States illegally because we will send them back, they will not complete their journey.”

The president had a perfect opportunity to send such a message when he was visiting Texas discussing the issue with Governor Rick Perry. He created the crisis with administration policies, and he could end it, if he wanted to.

Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration. He can be reached at [email protected].

 

The Failure of Obamanomics

net-worth-chart-2009-11The strongest component of the Federal Reserve’s Leading Economic Indicators currently is stock market performance. Such equity strength is more a case of artificial stimulation by the Federal Reserve through Quantitative Easing and the cozy relationship between Washington and Wall Street than it is a sign of a healthy economy or White House policies that have been conducive to growth. After nearly six years of President Obama’s economic policies, there is unmistakable evidence that White House policies have severely hampered economic viability.

The middle class real median household income in 2012 was less than it was at the end of the ’80s, and it’s down 9 percent from its high in 1999. The biggest portion of that decline, 8.3%, came in just the past five years.

6a00e54ecbb69a8833019104b3ec19970c-800wiThe 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 six 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 and net worth 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.

The job situation is directly effected by administration policies, and 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.

37242E8628A0435CBA8B05A16E7BCE50In 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 none of his policies have done what he gives such great lip service to.

In spite of the president’s consternation over income inequality, the income gap has increased exponentially under Obamanomics. As MSN Money declares, “The top one percent of Americans — those earning above $366,623 a year — have taken 81 percent of the fruits of the recovery. And the top 0.01 percent — earning about $8 million a year — took an astonishing 39 percent of the growth.”

Worst Post-Recession Recovery

Worst Post-Recession Recovery

Let’s look at the economy in general. The National Bureau of Economic Research officially scored the recession as ending in June, 2009, just five months after Obama’s inauguration. Historically, the nation has rebounded with significant growth coming out of a deep recession, but this has been the most tepid recovery in the last 100 years according to Forbes. They point out, “Under President Obama the American people have now suffered the worst 5 years since the Great Depression.”

Steve McCann of the American Thinker earlier this year wrote, “Instead what America got by year five was fewer jobs than before. Even though the employment age population has increased by nearly 12 million since January, 2008, there are now 3 million fewer Americans working, with employment declining from 146.3 million in January, 2008 to 143.3 million in December, 2012. If America enjoyed the same labor force participation rate as in 2008, the unemployment rate in December, 2012 would have been 11.4%, compared to 4.9% in December, 2007.”

OG-AB775_GDP061_G_20140625093832The latest revision of 1st quarter GDP growth was adjusted downward to -2.9%. Another quarter of negative growth, or economic contraction, and we’ll be officially in another recession, and it will be primary due to the policies that have restricted job growth, saddled the private sector with an average 91,000 pages of new regulation per year added to the Federal Register, and decimated the middle class.

Every one of these data are adversely affected by policies of the administration over the past six years. There have been precious few initiatives implemented that have facilitated free market principles in an attempt to augment economic expansion, job growth, or reduced fiscal burdens bourn increasingly by the middle class. Instead we’ve had nearly 550,000 pages of new regulation added to the Federal Register, and dozens of Executive Orders that have stymied the engine of capitalism that fuels the country.

The new Dow Jones Industrial Average record reached last week is good for investors, but belies the broad-based weakness in the general economy. With two years left of this administration that is so averse to free markets, a substantive and vibrant economic recovery will likely be elusive for the foreseeable future.

Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration. He can be reached at [email protected].

 

Of Freedom, Patriotism, and American Exceptionalism

flag2“Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave, O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?” Those lines from our National Anthem reflect what has been felt by most Americans over the years; that this country is the land of the free, and precisely because of those who are brave.

There has historically been a sense of pride in the level of freedom and liberty afforded Americans; a time when our National Anthem reflected a grateful people who lived in relative freedom from government coercion and tyranny. And as a people, we were proud of our heritage of liberty. But two new polls reflect a drastic change in how we view our freedom, and our pride in being Americans. There is perhaps no better time, than the celebration of our Independence Day, to reflect on what it means to be an American.

Just eight years ago, when Americans were asked in a Gallup poll how they felt about their individual liberty, 92% were satisfied, and felt they were living the American dream of optimal personal freedom. At the time, that was enough to earn the United States of America the top ranking, globally, in personal freedom. In just a few short years, Americans have responded to the same question in ways that reflects the diminution of liberty that comes from expansive government intrusion and a floundering economy that severely restricts economic freedom. We now rank #36 in the world, according to Gallup this week.

We were not the only nation to experience such a precipitous drop in our sense of freedom. Other countries that experienced comparable declines were Egypt, Greece, Italy, Venezuela, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Romania, Yemen, Pakistan, and Spain.

Certainly a significant contributor to this deterioration is the rise of governmental power and the micromanagement of nearly every aspect of our lives. Governments, and those who wield power within them, are historically the culprits in coercive erosion of freedom. But another component is likely economic, as it’s hard to feel free when jobs are scarce, good-paying jobs are even more scarce, and when the middle-class in America has taken a 9% trimming in real median household income, from $54,489 at the end of 2007, to $50,020 last year.

Patriotism-FlagPerhaps even more disconcerting than the perceived erosion of our liberties, is what was revealed in an extensive typology survey released last week by Pew Research. One of their shocking findings in their 187-page paper researching American attitudes was that a full 44% of us are not proud to be Americans. They separated polling groups by substrata of political self-identification, but in the conglomerate, 60% of “strong liberals” answered “no” to the question of whether they “often feel proud to be American.” The only groups that solidly agreed with the statement were those on the conservative side, from 72-81%.

Patriotism is now quantified as a dying trait of 21st century Americans. There was a time not long ago when in spite of ideological differences, the common glue holding our nation, society, and culture together was a shared love of country, a commitment to leave her better than we inherited her. We recognized that we were all Americans, and that we were a unique nation established upon fundamentally correct principles recognizing the equality of man because of our God-given inalienable rights.

9-11neverforgetReflect on how the nation coalesced for a time after the attack at Pearl Harbor, or even more recently, after the attacks of 9/11. As a nation we were unified with a love of country, a patriotic fervor, and a determination to overcome all obstacles and enemies that stood in the way of our perpetuity as a free and prospering nation. Flags, patriotic bumper stickers, and unifying messages on signs and placards were virtually omnipresent. Such unity is predictable from people filled with the American spirit, when we feel we are at risk and fighting for our survival.

I would submit that we are still fighting for our survival, and the risks are no less onerous or menacing now than they were in 1941 or 2001. But even more than those exogenous threats to our physical existence, the policies of governance today, which are so intuitively antithetical to those upon which the nation was founded, are a fulfillment of Thomas Jefferson’s fear. As he said, “Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.” The greatest threat unraveling America today is domestic, and ideologically driven.

There is nothing erudite or chic to those who harbor antipathy toward America. It may indicate some deep psychological maladies, but it’s certainly not “cool.” Not only is it possible to love America and all she stands for while still being critical of politicians and policy, but I think that’s what is meant by dissent being the ultimate form of patriotism: a devotion to America and a commitment to her perpetuity so great that we speak out in opposition to those policies that we’re convinced challenge the unique position America bears as an ensign of freedom to the world.

960x540There are some incontrovertible facts about America that must be recognized across the entire political spectrum, for they are historical verities. For example, we all should recognize that for the first time in history, a nation, even this nation, was created by people, for people, based on a series of principles and tenets recognized to be God-given, not government bestowed. As James Madison said regarding the patriots who founded this nation, “Happily for America, happily, we trust, for the whole human race, they pursued a new and more noble course. They accomplished a revolution which has no parallel in the annals of human society.”

For the first time in history, a group of agrarian subjects united to throw off the tyranny of their monarch, and establish a new nation founded in the notion that rights are not simply granted by the ruler, but by God. And that since they were granted by God, they were inalienable, meaning that they were unable to be separated, surrendered, or transferred. And that among those rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This is the essence of American exceptionalism.

Even those who engage in national self-loathing, lamenting America as the cause of all the world’s grief, must recognize the power behind a country founded on the principle that for a government of free people to be legitimate, its powers must be derived from the consent of the governed.

Stock Photo of the Consitution of the United States and Feather QuillAmerica’s greatness is not based in an arrogant presumption of supremacy on our part, but on a recognition of our unique origins, national credo, historical evolution, distinctive political and religious institutions, and of America’s qualitative dissimilarity from all other nations. It is not arrogance to claim greatness in this young republic; it is historical and empirical fact. Our Declaration reduced government from master to servant for the first time in history, regardless of the fact that the role has in recent years been reversed.

Our United States of America is not perfect. No temporal entity operated by man can be, yet the principles upon which this country is founded are fundamentally correct, based in freedom and individual liberty, and the resulting government by and for the people, at one time was the best on earth.

patriotismPatriotism is not a matter of waving a flag, but is rather manifest in how we talk of America, and how we treat her and our fellow citizens. Adlai Stevenson admonished us that our patriotism should not be “short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.”

In this context, to be true patriots, we don’t just fly our flag on the 4th of July, but we live lives of dedication to preserving this land, and passing it on to later generations in better condition than we received it from our forbearers. To fail in this most basic task is to fail as Americans.

“Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave, O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?” To which we answer unwaveringly, “Yes!”

Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration. He can be reached at [email protected].

 

Obama Illegally Shutting Down Businesses with Operation Choke Point

1. Obama_Constitution_ObstructionIn a free-market capitalistic system, the economy grows as companies compete freely for consumer dollars by producing superior products and services, adding jobs while their bottom-line grows. In such a system the government plays a role as referee by protecting consumers and ensuring all corporate players compete legally, and fairly. But in a crony-capitalistic system, the government does more than referee — it intervenes, attempting to assure success of some sectors and companies, while thwarting and even penalizing those that are out of favor with the prevailing ideology. Over the past six years our economic system has become increasingly controlled through governmental cronyism, and it just got much worse, and it’s based purely on ideology.

Early last year the Department of Justice (DOJ) initiated a new probe into questionable mercantile ventures facilitated by commercial banks. Initially, “Operation Choke Point” targeted banks that service payday lenders, especially online, and other services that they thought to be dubious. DOJ pressured banks doing business with such firms to “choke” or restrict access of such firms to banking services, even to the point of closing the accounts of such firms.

2. Lose-some-Weight-ALG-600This policy is not traceable to the passage of Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, commonly referred to as FinReg. That Act created consumer protection regulations, as well as other measures such as “too big to fail,” which were designed to prevent a collapse of the financial services industry as we saw in 2008. Those regulations are enforced through the Department of the Treasury.

Operation Choke Point, however, is being run through the DOJ as an extension of the president’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF). The Task Force was created in November 2009 for the express purpose of holding accountable the individuals and institutions that created the last financial crisis. This task force, headed by the DOJ, includes the FBI, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Secret Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The evidence for potential abuses is generated by banks through their reporting of Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs), making banking institutions partners with law enforcement agencies in identifying and flagging questionable financial activity.

3. Cartoon-Obama-the-Crook-600_zpsec017335This puts banks in a tenuous position with law-enforcement and government agencies. As the Wall Street Journal reported last month, “Banks, which need a reliable and safe payments network to survive, have always worked with law enforcement to fight fraud and even terrorism in the financial system. Banks provide tips to law enforcement when a customer’s behavior seems fishy, and they assist in investigations when asked. In the past year alone, banks have filed nearly a million suspicious activity reports with regulators, including suspicions of mortgage fraud, identity theft, counterfeit debit and credit cards, tax evasion and wire-transfer fraud.”

Clearly the intent of the FFETF is appropriate, as it relates to curtailing illegal or dubious financial ventures and transactions, and restricting money-laundering schemes. The problem is, it’s now gone much further than the original intent.

4. ObamaCare_Thomas_Jefferson_Tyranny_1-300x300Two weeks ago, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee reported that, based on internal DOJ documents, the administration is now using Operation Choke Point to target companies and sectors that are completely legal, yet not viewed favorably by the administration. The report stated that the DOJ is using pressure on banks to “shut down” companies that they find “objectionable.” “We have documented that they are going after gun and ammunitions manufacturers, gun sellers and non-deposit lenders. Their own memos show they are well beyond enforcing the law,” said Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer  (R-MO) after the report was made public.

And it doesn’t end there. The documents released by the House Oversight Committee show that the DOJ has included the entire firearms industry and classified them with other “high risk” targeted businesses. The trade association for firearms and ammunition manufacturers, The National Shooting Sports Foundation, has reported that, “several of its members have had banking relationships wrongfully terminated as a result Operation Choke Point.”

We have yet again an example of the administration utilizing the tools of governance to discriminate against activities and companies that are legal, that they don’t approve of. As previously documented, the administration has abused their power with the IRS, DOJ, Environmental Protection Agency, the Labor Department, FBI, ATF, and OSHA. The administration has abused the power of government, based on ideology, to harass, intimidate, and put out of business, companies led by conservative contributors, and conservative non-profit organizations.

5. obama-tyranny-irsThis is the type of political corruption we would expect from a banana republic, or a despotic Middle-Eastern regime, certainly not the United States of America. Columnist Charles Krauthammer believes we’ll be dealing for years with the “toxic residue of this outbreak of authoritative lawlessness.” This is no longer simply a partisan issue of concern. This goes right to the heart of what defines our constitutional system of government, for we have, until now, been a country governed by law, not presidential whims based on ideology.

Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration. He can be reached at [email protected].

Idaho GOP Convention Provides Didactic Insights for Nation

The Idaho Republican Party made national news last week when their state convention ended in contentious chaos, with a third of the delegates not seated, no platform passed, and no election on party leadership. While the story itself may be of greater interest in the Gem State, the lessons that can be learned apply nationally, as other states work through the divisiveness that is prevalent within the GOP today.

With the convention ending in obvious disarray, having conducted no business, the natural tendency is to presume a comparable state of disorganization within the Republican movement. That would be an erroneous assumption. Party principles and tenets are still in place; an existing platform (albeit laboriously and tediously lengthy) is still in place; only the leadership is in question, which will likely be resolved presently. The real question seems to be where the fractious Party goes from here.

122054_600All the cards for the convention seemed to have been held by the Credentials Committee, which was stacked with ideologues, last week as they opted to not seat several county delegations for the convention. Ada County’s delegation was disallowed because of perceived irregularities in the selection of delegates. Power County’s delegates were not seated primarily because of a change in the meeting schedule and timing issues. And Bannock County’s delegation was not seated because one person complained to the Committee about how the delegation was selected (legally) with one motion, rather than individual nominations, and a claim that he was discriminated against.

The result of eliminating over a third of the delegates who had made the long trek to Moscow, was divisive and acerbic from day one. The proceedings, having been tainted from the start, left little hope of deescalating tensions, and getting down to business.

Convention Chairman, 1st District Congressman Raul Labrador, said after the unproductive convention, “This is as low as the party can go. We have hit bottom. I think the party has no choice but to go up from here.” Whether Labrador’s comments prove true or not is up to the individuals and the various factions fighting for supremacy within the Party. If they individually and collectively continue to perceive those who agree with them 80% of the time as their “enemies,” the organization may not have yet hit bottom.

But if the members and various factions realize that the alternative to comity, mutual respect, and cooperation with one another is lost elections, resulting in more of a drift to the left of the political spectrum, the bottom may well have been observed last week. Each person who is active within the Party has a part to play in how this pans out. I would hope that maturity, a sense of shared values, and a desire to do what’s right for the state and its citizens would trump the pettiness and intransigent conduct of those who insist theirs is the only way to do things.

96220_600There are two major organizational components to this internal struggle. Those who have been in the trenches for years advancing the conservative cause, and the relative neophytes who have emerged as part of the tea party movement and the “Ron Paul Revolution.”

There are characteristics of both groups that have contributed to the escalation of tensions that climaxed at last week’s convention. One is the tendency of those who have been around awhile, who have, over the years, grown adept at compromising to the left to the point that the nation only slightly resembles what it was founded as. The neophytes, or newcomers, share essentially the same foundational principles, yet see compromise as a veritable sin. Consequently, they refuse to budge on anything, even slightly. They also are Machiavellian in how they interpret rules to their benefit, while ignoring those that don’t.

The solution is precisely where it typically is with most matters when there are two points at apparent irreconcilable odds: somewhere in the middle. Those who have been around awhile need to realize that some compromise to the right, rather than the left, is a move in the right direction, and be willing to give some ground to hold the GOP to the principled standard that historically has been the Party’s hallmark. And the newcomers need to learn that, in order to prevent complete electoral success of the left, those who are actively transforming the republic, they need to amicably cooperate with those who have attempted to carry the conservative banner for generations, before they came along. It should never be an either/or proposition for the party faithful. It should always be an inclusive, “You and I together can make it happen,” approach.

Regrettably, what we saw transpire at the convention last week was indicative of what happens when the unyielding, rigid, intransigent component of the Party is in control. Chairman Barry Peterson stacked the committees with his unyielding ones, who interpreted rules as they most suited their objectives. And when they were confronted with challenges to their autocratic rulings, rather than yielding to reason, became even more obdurate. It’s now clear which “Republicans” should not be leading the Party.

96033_600Even with the convention ending with such tumult, there is little effect on the grassroots or local Party efforts. New platform planks, especially of the ilk passed two years ago, and uncertainly over who the state chairman is, makes little difference at the local level, where elections are won or lost. The fact remains, if you prefer less government intrusion into your lives, less government debt and spending, more focus on the constitutional ideals that made America great, more individual liberty and free-market principles, the Republican brand is the closest you’ll get in our two-party system.

The direction of the Party apparatus is entirely up to the members. Last week could be the low point from which we pull ourselves up by the bootstraps, and start acting like adults to work together. This requires the realization by each member that we cannot control others, only ourselves. And if we comport our personal actions and words to be constructive and unifying, we can choose to be part of the solution, rather than the problem.

If we fail to do this, and continue the territorial and ideological purity tantrums, we will assure the victories in November go to the tax-and-spend Party of Obamacare, “skyrocketing” energy costs, redefinition of society’s foundational institutions, and leadership vacuum. The latter is not a logical alternative.

Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration. He can be reached at [email protected].

Federal Debt and A Bad Law (FATCA) May Collapse the Dollar

All of us have experienced the merciless effects of the “law of unintended consequences” at one time or another. We do something that we think is good or proactive, only to discover that there are negative effects produced as byproducts of our good intent. The creation of an unanticipated pejorative result from purposeful action is classified as an unintended consequence, and the government is masterful at it. Perhaps the granddaddy of them all is about to be enacted on July 1, 2014.

Growth-Of-United-States-Government-DebtIn March of 2010 the HIRE Act (Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act) was signed into law by the president, having been passed by the House under Speaker Pelosi, and the Senate under Harry Reid. It was designed as a bill that would provide incentives for employers to start creating jobs again. The bill’s efficacy could be debated, but one component of the law could prove debilitating to the dollar as the global reserve currency and the nation’s ability to finance our debt and deficit.

Embedded in that piece of legislation under Title V is the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), which was designed to target American taxpayers with assets in foreign banks. It had nothing to do with the intent of the HIRE Act, but that seems to be the modus operandi of the federal government, to hide things in plain sight so as to not arouse suspicion. Forbes calls FATCA “the worst law Americans have never heard about.”

national-debt-per-capitaFATCA is creating a data retrieval system that some have compared with the NSA’s (National Security Administration) meta-data information dragnet. It requires all non-U.S. based financial institutions, including banks, credit unions, insurance companies, investment and pension funds, to provide data on all specified U.S. accounts to the IRS (Internal Revenue Service). From that data, the IRS will attempt to collect taxes on revenue from overseas-based accounts of U.S. citizens.

There could be as much as about $800 million a year that could be collected by the IRS from implementation of FATCA, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation. Based on the nation’s current spending level, that’s enough to run the government for about two hours.

FATCA-IRS-bullyWhile $800 million is still a large sum, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen recently informed Congress that the cost of implementation will zero out any anticipated gain to the treasury. And the IRS’s internal Taxpayer Advocate Service issued a report that came to the same conclusion, indicating, “FATCA-related costs will equal or exceed projected FATCA revenue.”

The questionable enforcement measures implemented in the Act are what could portend ominous consequences for all of us. Beginning July 1, 2014, any foreign institution, including foreign government, failing to fully cooperate in providing the requested information to the IRS, can be classified by Treasury as “recalcitrant.” Such institutions will not be paid the full interest they are due on the U.S. bonds, notes, and bills that they own. The Department of the Treasury will consequently withhold as much as 30% of interest payments to them as an “economic sanction.”

In other words, we will not pay, as we have “guaranteed” in the past, full payment of interest on our debt, at least to those classified as “recalcitrant.” Such a partial payment is classified as a “default.” In this case, it’s a willful default, since the full interest payment will be withheld in favor of a reduced payment.

swiss-fatcaEven the possibility of the U.S. intentionally defaulting on some of its debt interest payments is creating some uncertainly in foreign markets. This is alarming since according to Treasury, over $5.8 trillion of our debt is held abroad. So far only about two dozen countries have signed FATCA agreements, indicating a willingness to cooperate with the IRS. And China, the largest foreign holder of our debt, is not among them.

James George Jatras, a former U.S. diplomat and U.S. Senate staffer, said recently regarding FATCA, “In the end, no one really knows how this will work, which is part of the problem. Foreign purchases of U.S. Treasury securities and the reliability of interest payments are essential to America’s financial stability. Even a slight market change in U.S. borrowing costs could have a disastrous impact on the deficit and our economy. Why play Russian roulette with the U.S. debt absent a big, identifiable, countervailing benefit?”

The likelihood is that foreign institutions and countries will be less inclined to purchase U.S. debt if they may be denied up to 30% of the interest due them. With our massive debt of nearly $18 trillion, we have bonds and notes maturing every month. What happens if previous buyers of our debt quit buying? For one thing, the cost of interest servicing that debt will rise, and it could be significant.

weak-dollarTwo years ago, Erskine Bowles, co-chairman of the president’s bipartisan deficit-reduction commission known as “Simpson-Bowles,” called the nation’s compound interest burden “one of the biggest long-term challenges facing the United States.” He said, “We’ll be spending over $1 trillion a year on interest by 2020. That’s $1 trillion we can’t spend to educate our kids or to replace our badly worn-out infrastructure.” And that was even without factoring in a significant increase in interest rates because of a diminished appetite for U.S. debt due to FATCA.

Our economic stability, and the strength of the dollar as the global reserve currency, is directly dependent on a stable bond market for our debt instruments. With the possibility of pending diminution of appetite for that debt, our economic stability as a country is at risk. Clearly, our massive debt and this poorly conceived and implemented legislation, are posing a national security risk that could potentially affect all of us.

Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration.  He can be reached at [email protected].

 

Freedom of Speech on Democrat’s Chopping Block

First-Amendment-RepealedFreedom of Speech is something we often take for granted. We can express our approval or disapprobation of events, inanimate objects, people, and even politicians. We often feel that there are unwritten political-correctness forces at work attempting to stifle expression regarding certain subjects, but as stated in the First Amendment to the Constitution, “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech…” That is, until now. Forty-three Democrat senators are backing a bill to do just that.

In politics, communication and freedom of expression are not only protected activities under the First Amendment, but they are requisite in order to educate, campaign, and influence voters. The primary means of such communication are through the media and through advertising. And advertising is only possible with money, and lots of it. So when controls are placed on the raising and spending of campaign funds, such controls restrict and constrain political free speech. And that’s precisely what is being attempted.

This week the Senate Judiciary Committee conducted the first round of hearings on the Senate Joint Resolution 19. The bill is sponsored by Senator Tom Udall, (D-NM), and cosponsored by 42 other Democrat senators including Tom Harkin (D-IL), Chuck Shumer (D-NY), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), and Harry Reid (D-NV).

Foden20090816-Beck20090816024309The bill summary, as found on the congressional website, says it is, “A joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to contributions and expenditures intended to affect elections.” Per the bill, “Congress shall have power to regulate the raising and spending of money and in-kind equivalents with respect to Federal elections, including setting limits on (1) the amount of contributions to candidates for nomination for election to, or for election to, Federal office; and(2) the amount of funds that may be spent by, in support of, or in opposition to such candidates.” Then in appropriate plenipotentiary arrogance, they grant to states the same authority at the state level. And all of this is done under the guise of advancing “the fundamental principle of political equality for all, and to protect the integrity of the legislative and electoral processes.”

But then, so as to not reap the displeasure of their friends in the mainstream media, they have the temerity to declare, “Nothing in this article shall be construed to grant Congress the power to abridge the freedom of the press.” This is not surprising since, according to a new study of the media, released last month, and conducted by two Indiana University journalism professors, four times as many journalists self-identify with the Democrats than those who identify themselves as Republicans. It’s obvious that the senators pushing for this new amendment don’t mind losing a little of George Soros’ money, as long as they still have the mainstream media in their pocket. They apparently feel this is the only way to curtail the influence of people like the Koch brothers, whom Harry Reid has made a nearly daily sport of verbal dribbling on the floor of the senate.

free-speech-300In other words, Congress is appropriating to itself (contrary to the Bill of Rights which they’re attempting to amend) the authority to limit political expression, or speech, while conveniently and strategically carving out a pragmatic exemption for the primarily liberal mainstream media.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), says of the resolution, “So The New York Times is protected, but it doesn’t say the same thing about the freedom of speech. It doesn’t say the same thing about religious liberty; what it says it that politicians in Washington have unlimited constitutional authority to muzzle each and every one of you if you’re saying things the government finds inconvenient.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) pointed out the impact of this legislation by saying it “…would enable government to limit funds contributed to candidates and funds spent by or in support of candidates.  That would give the government the ability to limit speech.  The amendment would allow the government to set the limit at zero.  There could be no contributions.  There could be no election spending.  There could be no public debate on who should be elected.  Incumbents would find that outcome to be acceptable.  They would know that no challenger could run an effective campaign against them.  Rationing of speech at low limits would produce similar results.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), told the committee, “Benjamin Franklin noted that ‘whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.’ The First Amendment is the constitutional guarantee of that freedom, and it has never been amended.” He continued, “I understand that no politician likes to be criticized — and some of us are criticized more often than others. But the recourse to being criticized is not to shut up our fellow citizens. It’s to defend your ideas more ably in the political marketplace, to paraphrase Justice Holmes. Or it’s simply to come up with better ideas.”

Free-Speech-ZoneThis is not just a bill, it’s a proposed Constitutional Amendment that would give Congress unlimited control of one important aspect of our freedom of speech. If Senate Democrats have the pompous audacity to presume that they can ration or limit political speech, it’s only logical to conclude that they’ll likewise assume they have the right to ration, limit, and regulate other forms of speech at some point. If they think they can deny even a scintilla of political speech, effectively muzzling their critics, they clearly are predisposed to denying or controlling all speech.

Passage of the bill, and ratification as an Amendment is unlikely. But the trend toward government control of everything in our lives, and the suppression of our constitutionally assured rights is unmistakable. And one salient fact that should not be lost on the electorate is which Party is leading and facilitating that trend.

Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration. He can be reached at [email protected].

 

Conservatism Contrasted with Obama’s Policy Failures

Conservatives have, from the beginning of his candidacy for the presidency seven years ago, been critical of our sitting president. It has nothing to do, contrary to some sophist’s convictions, with the color of his skin. And our criticisms are not ad hominem for they aren’t against him personally, but against his policies and what he’s doing to “fundamentally transform America.” So for political clarity, lets enumerate a few areas where conservative political policies would make such a difference to the country.

Federal Non-Defense Spending as % of GDP

Federal Non-Defense Spending as % of GDP

First, we would not have more than doubled the national debt from $7.6 trillion, when Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid took over, to over $18 trillion now. As Hillary Clinton said a couple years ago, that’s a national security issue, since it places our entire nation at risk, economically, fiscally, monetarily, and even in terms of our national security. The deficit would not have quintupled from $263 billion when Pelosi/Reid took over, to $1.6 trillion during Obama’s first year, and remained at $1.3 trillion for the past two years. In other words, we would not be borrowing $.41 for every $1.00 that we spend! Contrary to what Pelosi did after she became Speaker, and including the first term of the Obama administration, we would have actually had a budget passed by the congress. Until the concurrent resolution was passed just last year, we had not had a budget passed by congress since 2006. They’ve been simply running up the national credit cards at unprecedented levels with absolutely no budgetary restraint.

Federal Deficit Since 2000

Federal Deficit Since 2000

After creating an all star panel to assess the budgetary and fiscal crises exacerbated by unabated spending, the president’s Simpson-Bowles Commission recommendations to put the nation on a sound fiscal footing would not have been ignored, but implemented as judiciously and expeditiously as possible. There is still no sign of leadership in resolving the unfunded liabilities, and exacerbated budgetary problems, of Social Security and Medicare. It’s as if the critical mass of those concerns will not be reached during his term in office, so it doesn’t matter, so all that’s occurred is a perpetual “kicking the can” down the road for some future leader who has some backbone and leadership abilities to address them. A 2,700 page legislative monstrosity that took over 1/5th of the national economy to put government in charge of health care would never have occurred. And we certainly wouldn’t have stolen $716 billion (now $741 billion according to the CBO) from Medicare to pay for it. Instead of piling on requirements for “qualified” health insurance policies, the over 2,200 covered requirements would have been removed so people could buy exactly the coverage they want, rather than what the government compels them to buy. And policies could be bought across state lines for increased price competition. Realizing that one of the greatest deterrents to small businesses creating new jobs is the high cost of regulation, the current $11,500 regulatory cost to small businesses per employee (per the SBA) should be reduced by getting government out of the business of micromanaging every aspect of the business environment. And certainly the regulatory burden of small business would not be exacerbated by another 30% with the additional regulatory expenses of Obamacare, FinReg, and expanded EPA regulations. Realizing that our economic model is so severely tainted by crony capitalism, the unhealthy marriage between business and government regulation and policy, it’s time to start unwinding that interconnectedness. The federal tax code for corporations needs to be rewritten, by excluding all loopholes that are favorable to select companies and industries, and create instead a fair flat tax for corporations.

Failure of Quantitative Easing

Failure of Quantitative Easing

Over the past six years, the Federal Reserve, in the name of “economic stimulus,” has taken over $4 trillion out of banks hands to purchase debt instruments, through the three iterations of Quantitative Easing. There has been negligible benefit other than giving the stock market an artificial high. It’s time to rein in the Federal Reserve, get the FOMC out of the “stimulus” business, and return them to their primary functions of controlling inflation and maximizing employment. Congress and the American people have a right to demand that the chief executive of the country be held to constitutional and legal restraints of his power. He should not act as if he is above the law by selectively picking and choosing which laws would be enforced, and declare existing laws void because the chief executive disagrees with them. And the use of the Executive Order should be used legally, based in existing federal statute, and not creating new laws and regulations with the stroke of his pen. That’s just a beginning. I could go on and on. Those differences would contribute to a more secure fiscal and economic future for the country; a stronger dollar; greater participation in the job market and lower unemployment; a more robust economy and expanding job market; lower cost health care insurance; less crony-capitalistic corruption from the relationship between government and corporate America; less meddling in the private sector; more individual freedom; and less totalitarianism in the Oval Office. Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration.  He can be reached at [email protected].

“Climate Change” Didn’t Work Out, Let’s Call it “Climate Disruption”

10251974_10203461880575055_5329156322759715275_nThe Obama administration this week released a grim report attempting to link disparate weather patterns to anthropogenic global warming (AGW). “Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present,” the report says. Unable to make the definitive scientific connection to AGW, the report concludes, “there is new and stronger evidence that many of these increases [extreme weather] are related to human activities.”

NASA GIS North American Mean Temperature Since 1995

NASA GIS North American Mean Temperature Since 1995

Predictably, with a noncompliant congress, the president vows to use his pen to expand the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) power to wage a war on everything in our country that expels carbon dioxide. I wonder how the EPA will regulate our respiration, since we humans exhale it.

The president coined a new phrase as well. Gone are the references to “global warming,” since, according to NASA GIS data, we haven’t warmed since 1998. And gone is “climate change,” since we haven’t cooled appreciably since then either. The new catchphrase is “climate disruption,” because that way any extreme or aberrant weather can be blamed on human activity.

Surrounded by weathermen and meteorologists, the president said, “We’ve been sounding this urgency for the last five years.  If we don’t do more, we’re gonna have bigger problems, more risk of economic impact and more risk of extreme weather events that can result in people losing their lives or losing their properties or businesses.  And — and we’ve gotta have the public understand this is an issue that is gonna impact our kids and our grandkids unless we do something about it.”

I wish we had known how omnipotent the EPA was. Since the president is convinced they can control the environment and the climate, all future catastrophic hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, and droughts, will be the fault of the EPA! And just think of all of the weather-related damage that has occurred since the 1970 creation of the EPA, all of which could have been prevented if only they had been given more power!

Historical Non-correlation of CO2 Emissions and Global Mean Temperature

Historical Non-correlation of CO2 Emissions and Global Mean Temperature

Meteorologist Anthony Watts said of the president’s new report, “To me, this looks more like a glossy sales pitch from a company that is pushing a product they know people may not need, but if marketed just right, it would be something they’d buy.” He concludes with the tongue-in-cheek question, “Who wouldn’t want better weather? Just buy our product.”

Dr. Roger Pielke, a Fellow of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, was more academic in his response. “The report effectively implies that there is no climate change other than what is caused by humans, and that extreme weather events are equivalent to climate change…This issue was clearly refuted in National Research Council, 2005: Radiative forcing of climate change.”

The NIPCC, the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change, which is a group of over 50 atmospheric scientists, that does not receive any government or corporate funding, and acts as an independent auditor of its U.N. counterpart, had a report of their own that they rolled out a few months ago. They stated many empirically valid conclusions, including, “Global temperatures stopped rising 15 years ago despite rising levels of carbon dioxide, which the IPCC claims is responsible for Global Warming.”

They also pointed out that, “Temperatures were warmer in many parts of the world approximately 1,000 years ago, during the so-called Medieval Warm Period, a warm period that was, obviously, due entirely to natural causes. (Modern industry, transportation, and energy generation, and the ‘greenhouse gas’ emissions associated with modern technology, did not exist.)”

They stated the obvious, that the AGW scientists are wrong, since their “computer models fail to reproduce the observed reduction in surface warming trend over the last 10-15 years. In other words, previous predictions failed. (The failure or success of predictions is the key to the scientific method. It’s how theories are tested.)”

CO2 Emissions vs. Global Mean Temperature

CO2 Emissions vs. Global Mean Temperature

Even the co-founder of Green Peace, Canadian ecologist Patrick Moore, admits that it’s pseudoscience to claim a causal connection between human activity and climatic or weather change. “There is no scientific proof that human emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) are the dominant cause of the minor warming of the Earth’s atmosphere over the past 100 years. If there were such a proof it would be written down for all to see. No actual proof, as it is understood in science, exists,” he said before a Senate committee just three months ago.

He continued, “There is some correlation, but little evidence, to support a direct causal relationship between CO2 and global temperature through the millennia. The fact that we had both higher temperatures and an ice age at a time when CO2 emissions were 10 times higher than they are today fundamentally contradicts the certainty that human-caused CO2 emissions are the main cause of global warming.”

There is nothing “settled” about the “science” behind the AGW argument. Their models don’t project reality, so they change them, only to have nature fail to comply yet again. Their terminology changes to adjust to the new realities since empirical data fail to match their catchwords. Meanwhile, our AGW Alarmist-In-Chief cites their ever-changing “science” as justification to expand government control over all human activity. Seems to me, everyone with a modicum of cognitive functionality should be an AGW skeptic by now.

Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration.  He can be reached at [email protected].

 

Bizarre Predictions from the First “Earth Day”

The forty-fourth Earth Day was celebrated this week in over 160 nations around the world. The notion that we are stewards of our planet, and must nurture and protect it as we utilize the resources she provides us is both logical and moral, and should be universally embraced. But from its inception, radically political and often disparate causes and sub-movements have tainted the objectives that led to the establishment of the first Earth Day in 1970. This has severely hampered the possibility of greater support for the cause of protecting our planet and the environment.

Peace activist John McConnell in 1969 floated the proposition that peace and the earth be celebrated together, which led to the first Earth Day celebration on the first day of spring, March 21, 1970. Just a month later, Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson founded another Earth Day, which either intentionally or unintentionally coincided with Vladimir Lenin’s 100th birthday, April 22. The movement went international in 1990 largely due to the efforts of Denis Hayes, who was the national coordinator of the first observance.

the-earth-day-showFrom the very incipient stages, the movement was tied more to radical leftist causes than to actual celebration and preservation of the third rock from the sun. What could have led to a very broad, universal movement became instead a fractious and splintered cacophony of extremist propaganda, often bordering on pantheistic adulation of the earth over the needs of the people who inhabit it.

Radicals are too often afforded massive media exposure when gushing their jeremiads and diatribes advocating their specific cause, but all too seldom are held accountable for their apocalyptic projections and forecasts. In an effort to rectify that lack of accountability, let’s go back to the first two iterations of Earth Day, 1970, to review what the “experts” and the media were saying about mother earth.

Here are some of the predictions regarding the earth and our atmosphere itself.

“We are in an environmental crisis which threatens the survival of this nation, and of the world as a suitable place of human habitation,” said Barry Commoner, a Washington University biologist.

“In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution… by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half,” according to Lifemagazine.

“At the present rate of nitrogen buildup, it’s only a matter of time before light will be filtered out of the atmosphere and none of our land will be usable,” according to ecologist and UC Davis professor Kenneth Watt.

“Air pollution…is certainly going to take hundreds of thousands of lives in the next few years alone,” lamented Paul Ehrlich, author and Stanford University biology professor.

“By the year 2000, if present trends continue, we will be using up crude oil at such a rate… that there won’t be any more crude oil. You’ll drive up to the pump and say, ‘Fill ‘er up, buddy,’ and he’ll say, ‘I am very sorry, there isn’t any,’” warned Kenneth Watt.

“One theory assumes that the earth’s cloud cover will continue to thicken as more dust, fumes, and water vapor are belched into the atmosphere by industrial smokestacks and jet planes. Screened from the sun’s heat, the planet will cool, the water vapor will fall and freeze, and a new Ice Age will be born,” warnedNewsweekmagazine.

Earth-Day-burn-them-at-the-stakeAnd my favorite, in light of the anthropogenic global warming alarmism of today, “The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years. If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age,” warned professor Kenneth Watt.

Some may argue that such cataclysmic projections would have come to fruition had the EPA not been organized later that year and efforts to clean up the environment taken immediately. But listening to their 21st century equivalents, it’s obvious that we have never done enough.

Then there were the population and human life projections, which included, “Civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind,” warned Harvard biologist George Wald.

“Man must stop pollution and conserve his resources, not merely to enhance existence but to save the race from intolerable deterioration and possible extinction,” said aNew York Timeseditorial.

“Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make. The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years,” according to Stanford University biologist Paul Ehrlich.

Ehrlich continued, “Most of the people who are going to die in the greatest cataclysm in the history of man have already been born… [By 1975] some experts feel that food shortages will have escalated the present level of world hunger and starvation into famines of unbelievable proportions. Other experts, more optimistic, think the ultimate food-population collision will not occur until the decade of the 1980s.”

wells“It is already too late to avoid mass starvation,” proclaimed Denis Hayes, Chief organizer for Earth Day.

And finally, “Demographers agree almost unanimously on the following grim timetable: by 1975 widespread famines will begin in India; these will spread by 1990 to include all of India, Pakistan, China and the Near East, Africa. By the year 2000, or conceivably sooner, South and Central America will exist under famine conditions…. By the year 2000, thirty years from now, the entire world, with the exception of Western Europe, North America, and Australia, will be in famine,” said professor Peter Gunter.

If we could shed the cataclysmic alarmism that often accompanies environmental movements, and wouldn’t subordinate mankind in the global hierarchy of needs, the environmental movement could have even more broad support than currently enjoyed. In the meantime, forgive us deliberative types for not gullibly gulping at today’s servings of alarmist hysteria. After all, the movement has a history, and we’re keeping track.

Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration. He can be reached at [email protected].

 

Our Private Religious and Public Political Beliefs – Politics Is Not A Religion

Today millions of Americans will be united in commemoration of the historical event of Jesus Christ’s resurrection. To Christians, this act marks the culmination of the life of one who came as the Lamb of God to fulfill the requirements of the Mosaic Law for the propitiation and expiation of mortal sin. To adherents of Christ and His teachings, such a belief is fundamental, and consequently, inviolable and sacrosanct. But regrettably, there are many who so believe, who project their private personal theology onto their public political beliefs with similarly unyielding intransigence. There must be a distinction between what is private and public, for politics is not a religion.

politicsReligion is personal and private, and between a man and his God, even if one’s “god” is secular humanism. Those who are devout in their religion will not compromise or equivocate in those personal convictions, and frankly, they’d be hypocritical if they did. But what happens when such a personal religious conviction is projected into public politics?

Many of the principles of political ideologies have their roots in theological tenets, yet when they’re applied politically, they constitute a public application. For example, the left of the political spectrum is supportive of wealth redistribution, either as purely secular socialism, or erroneously applying the biblical concept of “having all things in common.”

Similarly, many on the right believe in the classical-liberal precepts established by our founding documents as fundamentally religious in nature, based in life, liberty, and property (pursuit of happiness). We accept these as eternal verities, yet must be careful when it comes to applying them publically in governance.

The tendency is to feel that since these tenets are fundamental, man having being endowed by his Creator with those inalienable rights, that the codified application of those precepts is inviolable and not subject to compromise in application. For example, the absolute notion of individual liberty would preclude the qualifier that protects the rights of others. We have no more right to do everything we want under the guise of individual liberty, than we do to impinge on the rights of others with no accountability.

Likewise, strict application of the principle of “life” would prohibit capital punishment. And even the concept of personal property is not absolute, since acquisition of property can be regulated so as to prevent appropriation by theft. So even though these are correct fundamental principles, their application is clearly negotiable, or up for compromise, as they are applied politically.

Even our country’s founding document that established the system of governance for the new republic based in those classical-liberal ideals, was hammered out through compromise. Representation in the new federal government was compromised in such a way that the states had equal representation in the upper chamber, and the populace equally represented in the House.

The election process itself, for the two legislative chambers as well as the president, was the result of compromise. And without the compromise on slavery, there would have been no constitution, and consequently, no United States of America. The Constitutional Convention itself was a compromise, since many states wanted to merely revamp the Articles of Confederation, rather than draft an entirely new constitution.

Constitutional-ConventionBy all accounts, the Constitutional Convention was contentious and divided, with the disputation often based on deeply held convictions of the delegates. In what will stand as one of the greatest efforts of compromise in history, the new Constitution was ratified by nine of the thirteen colonies at the convention. State conventions at each of the colonies subsequently ratified the Constitution unanimously, even though several states initially rejected the document. By persuasion, reason and education, every state ultimately voted in favor of the new system of governance.

In short, compromise resulted in the founding of America, even though the principles upon which it was founded were considered by many to be sacrosanct. Did the founders rationalize or diminish their convictions by compromising? Some may have felt so, yet the document that created our republic stands as the crown jewel in application of classical-liberal ideals to principles of governance. Clearly, then, principles and beliefs can be absolute, while application can be negotiable and subject to compromise.

ramirez-the-compromiseIn our private religious lives, we may hold fast to precepts we consider to be absolute and eternally true, yet by our actions, we often betray our convictions. Christians may profess ardently that they “love their fellow men,” yet are they not compromising on that private conviction whenever they act with malice, lack of civility, and vindictiveness toward their fellow man?

If we are to be uncompromising, it should be in our personal convictions, which we have control over, so our outward acts do not betray our principled convictions. But in politics, although we may have convictions in absolute tenets, their public application to governance will always be even more imperfect since they apply publically to all, not just on a personal and individual level. For it’s impossible to project our convictions onto the public realm and have them just as we want them. Definitionally, and a posteriori, they are subject to negotiation and compromise.

As we celebrate this Easter morn, may we resolve to be more uncompromising in our private lives by our outward manifestation of our personal religious beliefs, and more compromising, as long as it’s incremental in the right direction, with our public political ideology. After all, politics is not a religion.

Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration.  He can be reached at [email protected].