Author Archives: Richard Larsen

The Good of the Whole Sacrificed for a Few

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With the stroke of a pen and an utterance from the president, Obamacare’s employer mandate has been postponed yet again, this time until 2016 for some businesses. Headlines across the nation from the mainstream media have praised the delay, declaring it advantageous and good for the nation. If it’s “good for the nation,” why don’t we just delay it indefinitely?

wpwpowopeThe problem with 2,400 pages of legislation is not what politicians promise the legislation will do, but what it does in reality, including the creation of nearly 40,000 pages of regulations affecting our health care. And the reality with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), as we’re witnessing nearly daily in financial media, is devastating for the economy, the middle class, and our healthcare system itself.

The ACA (Obamacare) was sold to us on the basis that there were 40 million Americans without health insurance and that the Act would rectify the apparent inequity. That actually is the first broken promise of Obamacare. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) admits that after 10 years of implementation, Obamacare “will still leave 31 million uninsured.” And we’ll have spent $1.93 trillion failing to achieve the primary objective of the Act! And that new dollar figure from the CBO is still likely an underestimate since they’ve revised the figure upward three times already.

The new requirements imposed on employer sponsored insurance (ESI) plans will make the costs increase significantly for employers. Many employers will discontinue their plans altogether, forcing employees to the state exchanges to buy their insurance for themselves.

nov-2013-obamacare-economy-cartoonLast June, McKinsey & Company released results of a study that found, “Overall, 30 percent of employers will definitely or probably stop offering ESI in the years after 2014. Among employers with a high awareness of reform, this proportion increases to more than 50 percent, and upward of 60 percent will pursue some alternative to traditional ESI.” This contrasts sharply with CBO’s original estimates of 7% of employees losing their current ESI, and the president’s promise that none would.

Those who will be able to retain their current plan will see significant changes. According to the National Business Group on Health, 30% of all companies with ESIs are considering dropping coverage for retirees and over 50% are considering dropping spousal coverage. And it’s not just the private sector, as local governments are looking at the same solutions. The mayor of Chicago, Obama’s former Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, is planning to drop 30,000 city retirees off of the city’s ESI and push them into the exchanges to buy their own. He projects a savings of $108 million per year.

Promoting the passage of his signature legislation, President Obama vowed, “that my plan will reduce the cost of health insurance by $2,500 for average families.”  But according to Investor’s Business Daily, since Obamacare passed, the cost of an average family policy has already increased by $3,000, because of the new regulations and mandates imposed on providers and insurers.

All the new regulatory requirements are causing health insurance premiums to soar even more, especially for younger and healthier individuals. After all, the government subsidies will pay for the added expense of covering preexisting conditions, which was forced by the ACA. Holtz-Eakins’ American Action Forum analyzed insurance premiums in five major cities, and calculated that Obamacare mandates will cause premiums to increase additionally an average of 169%.

obamacare-e1312007944473Confirming the fears of many who actually read the bill, Howard Dean, a doctor and former DNC Chairman, wrote recently in the Wall Street Journal, “One major problem [with Obamacare] is the so-called Independent Payment Advisory Board. The IPAB is essentially a health-care rationing body. By setting doctor reimbursement rates for Medicare and determining which procedures and drugs will be covered and at what price, the IPAB will be able to stop certain treatments its members do not favor by simply setting rates to levels where no doctor or hospital will perform them.” This obviously was what the president was referring to when he said “Give them a pill instead of the surgery.”

As of February 1, 3.3 million Americans have signed up. But how many of those are people like me who lost their insurance because of the new coverage mandates of the ACA? The White House estimated 41 million Americans would lose their coverage. And how many are losing their jobs because of the ACA? The Congressional Budget Office just updated their figure to over 2.5 million. How many are losing work hours and facing reduced income due to the Act? According to financial media, millions.

There are a few success stories that are shared anecdotally to make us “feel” better about the consequences — intended and unintended — of the ACA. But at what point do we say as a nation that the cost to the whole is too great for the benefit of the few? It’s time for government to start using cost-benefit analysis, for the ACA would dramatically fail all such tests. And when the damage is much greater than the benefits, it’s bad legislation, regardless of whose name is on it.

This brings us back to the original question. If delaying the full effect of the ACA is good for the nation, why not delay it indefinitely?

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].

 

With His Pen and Phone, He’s a Dictator

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The Constitution of the United States was drafted and ratified as the foundational legal codex of the country in part because it would prevent tyranny in America. It had a series of checks and balances between the three branches of government that were designed to disallow any one branch, or any one person, from amassing so much power that they could run the country, and us, as a tyrant. We are witnessing firsthand the unraveling of those assurances.

obamapenandphone_v1Over the past several weeks the President of the United States has declared that he has “a pen and a phone” and intends to use them to implement his agenda. He has made it clear that he deems this necessary since he has an uncooperative congress that, unlike his first two years in office, refuses to subserviently rubber stamp everything he wants.

It’s clear from the context of his statements that his intent is to use the power of the presidency to sign Executive Orders and use his phone to force his agenda on the nation. By so doing, he is blatantly circumventing the very precautions embedded in our founding legal codex that were designed to prevent despotic rule in our country.

This perception is one shared by Jonathan Turley, a nationally recognized constitutional law expert, professor at the George Washington University Law School, and a self-avowed liberal.

Turley appeared before the House Judiciary Committee two months ago, where Virginia Congressman Bob Goodlatte asked the following question. “Professor Turley, the constitution, the system of separated powers is not simply about stopping one branch of government from usurping another. It’s about protecting the liberty of Americans from the dangers of concentrated government power. How does the president’s unilateral modification of acts of Congress affect both the balance of power between the political branches and the liberty interests of the American people?”

Professor Turley responded, “The danger is quite severe. The problem with what the president is doing is that he’s not simply posing a danger to the constitutional system. He’s becoming the very danger the Constitution was designed to avoid. That is the concentration of power in a single branch.

At issue in the hearing was whether the president had the authority to unilaterally change the implementation dates of a lawfully passed Act of Congress, the Affordable Care Act. Turley’s response was an undiluted and unqualified, “No.”

Dictator_Frame1This was not the first time the president has exercised unconstitutional powers of the presidency. Three years ago he declared his administration would not enforce the Defense of Marriage Act. Even though congress failed to pass his proposed Cap and Trade bill, he has ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to actively enforce provisions of that bill that were never made law. He unilaterally proscribed expansion of offshore drilling without legislatively authorized power to do so. He has granted loans to other nations to drill for oil, without authorization from congress. He has, without congressional authority, implemented portions of the Dream Act, an illegal immigration bill, which never passed congress. He has ordered the Federal Communications Commission to adopt regulations giving the government control over the internet, and provide him with a “kill switch” to turn it off.

Just to clarify the role of the president, according to our own laws and Constitution. He is to “faithfully execute the laws.” He has no power to create laws or unilaterally change laws. That is the role of congress. Nor can he reverse legally passed laws. If he had those powers, we would no longer be a lawful nation committed to the rule of law, but would be an autocracy, ruled by the capricious and ideological whims of one man. This is precisely what Obama is doing according to Professor Turley.

We clearly have a president who doesn’t respect the Constitution enough to abide by it. He clearly has no respect for the rule of law since he feels it within his power to single-handedly create new code and force it on the nation.

fuhrer-obamaEven the Executive Order (EO) has not the power to legally do what the president is doing. There are three things the EO can be used for: operational management of the executive branch, operational management of the federal agencies or officials, and implementing statutory or constitutional presidential responsibilities. Executive Orders cannot be used to either create new law, or to annul or reverse existing law. After all, his primary function, according to the Constitution and his oath of office, is to “faithfully execute the office” in enforcement and execution of the laws legally passed by the legislative branch.

We have a lawless president who is not doing what he’s required by law to do, and is exceeding his authority by assuming legislative power to create law. What more evidence do we need to impeach and remove from office, a president that is making himself an American dictator? And where is congress’ spine to reclaim their power that he has misappropriated from them?

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].

 

MLK On Freedom and our Founding Principles

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There have been too many relatively young men and women who have struggled for causes greater than themselves and whose lives have been cut short, leaving us, and their causes, prematurely. Oftentimes their contributions and lives are embellished nigh unto sainthood by adulating adherents. Such is the case with Martin Luther King, Jr. But it shouldn’t be, for his example and teachings are of such grandeur and durability that they stand as monuments to his memory, requiring no inflation beyond the reality.

Perhaps the greatest lesson to be learned from MLK is validation of the principle behind Thomas Jefferson’s immortal citation, “One man with courage is a majority.” One person can make a difference, especially if truth and justice are on their side. When so principally armed, one person can affect an entire nation for good.

The nation that was divided by racial issues in MLK’s era, is now polarized ideologically. Yet the precepts he espoused, and the doctrine he taught, can apply with as much pertinence and relevance to the ideological chasm that seems to be schismatically separating the right from the left today.

143190_600How ironic it is, therefore, that the principles he most ardently proclaimed are so demeaned by the left and the mainstream media in the context of today’s ideological divide. If MLK is to be extolled and praised for his principles, we must embrace all of those teachings which are at once indelibly impressed on our minds as self-evident truths.

Of those, his most oft stated, were the appeals for morality and freedom. “If we are to go forward, we must go back and rediscover those precious values – that all reality hinges on moral foundations and that all reality has spiritual control…When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Values, life, and liberty are perhaps the most repeated catchwords of the contemporary Tea Party movement. If those principles are self-evident truths, and accepted as such by MLK in the context of a civil rights movement, they are no less viable in the context of the current ideological movement, attempting to throw off the yoke of slavery of an omnipotent and omnipresent government.

MLK’s teachings were framed in a culture of racism and racial discord, but they apply universally to all Americans in the quest for individual liberty. As he said, “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” Certainly those are wise words of encouragement to those of us who object to the usurpation of individual freedom by a government seeking to micromanage its citizens.

He continued, “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom.” Individual and universal freedom was fundamental to him. Not just freedom from racism, but freedom, period. Subservience to any form of societal or governmental despotism is anathema to a nation founded on individual liberty.

He reaffirmed this basic tenet when he declared, “I say to you that our goal is freedom, and I believe we are going to get there because however much she strays away from it, the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be as a people, our destiny is tied up in the destiny of America.”

These founding principles should be applied universally, not selectively or discriminately. But to do so, it is requisite that we collectively rise above the politics of self-interest. For as he said, “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” And as if to underscore this notion, “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”

Sounding very much like Edmund Burke, MLK declared, “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”

Yes, one person can make a difference, when armed with the truths of freedom, life, and morality. MLK made such a difference, and every American can likewise stand for, and uphold, those eternal verities.

It’s rather disruptive to conventional ideological classifications when we realize such advocacy for individual freedom and liberty are met with as much animus and bigotry today as it was 50 years ago. Considering that our nation was founded on these precepts, they should be unifying, rather than divisive principles.

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].

 

Media Bias On Display with Chris Christie Coverage

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The duplicity and hypocrisy of the mainstream media coverage of politicians, based on party affiliation, could not have been more in evidence than it was this past week. New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie’s scandal was trumpeted across the headlines this week as if it were a five alarm fire, while much more serious scandals with national implications, are often hardly reported at all.

It was revealed this week that members of Christie’s staff had intentionally closed four lanes of George Washington Bridge, connecting Manhattan to Fort Lee, New Jersey. Christie’s staff closed the lanes for four days to create a traffic quagmire to punish Fort Lee’s mayor, Mark Sokolich, for not endorsing Christie in his bid for reelection as New Jersey’s governor.

In a two hour, nationally televised press conference, Christie admitted he was “blind sided” by the revelation, and had no prior knowledge of the scheme. Ensuring that someone was held accountable, Christie fired his two aids complicit in the plan.

There are two aspects of this narrative that are immensely disturbing. The first is the media reaction to the story. According to Media Research Center, “In less than 24 hours, the three networks have devoted 17 times more coverage to a traffic scandal involving Chris Christie than they allowed on Barack Obama’s Internal Revenue Service controversy.” MRC documented 34 minutes and 28 seconds of coverage by ABC, CBS, and NBC dedicated to the Christie scandal, versus a scant, “two minutes and eight seconds for the IRS targeting of Tea Party groups,” over the past six months.

To a reasonable person, the story of potential political bullying by a governor, closing lanes on a bridge, can in nowise be 17 times more significant than a president that uses the most onerous agency of the federal government to do his bullying against his political enemies. To a reasonable and rational electorate, the obvious bias in reporting would cause a mass exodus from the mainstream media until they started reporting accurately and with equitability, without regard for party affiliation.

XH9j5Z0The media have been raising the question whether Christie can be believed when he claims he knew nothing about it. Yet they are unsurprisingly reticent when it comes to Obama’s inexorable “I didn’t know about it until I read it in the paper,” soliloquies he employs to excuse his and his administration’s irresponsibility.

In fact the mainstream media have been AWOL in reporting just the few foibles and lies listed here: “I will have the most transparent administration in history;” “The stimulus will fund shovel-ready jobs;” “I am focused like a laser on creating jobs;” “The IRS is not targeting anyone;” “It was a spontaneous riot about a movie;” “The public will have five days to look at every bill that lands on my desk;” “It’s the previous president’s fault;” “Whistle blowers will be protected in my administration;” “I am not spying on American citizens;” “It’s just like shopping at Amazon;” “I knew nothing about ‘Fast and Furious’”; “I knew nothing about what happened in Benghazi;” and perhaps the best of all, “I will restore trust in government.” If any of these claims had been uttered by our previous president, the press would still be harping on them.

After the copious media coverage of this event, the second most disturbing element is the public reaction. A resident of Fort Lee and one of Christie’s constituents, Robert Tessaro, raised a valid point. He said, “I hope this continues to haunt him. No matter what he knew and didn’t know, these were his people and the culture he created in the state, and it’s not right.”

If that principle applies to Christie, a state executive, shouldn’t it apply even more aptly with the executive leader of our nation? Why are so few of Obama’s constituents raising the same question? Why is Obama exempted from culpability in the creation of a culture of corruption and incompetence in the executive branch?

It was refreshing to actually see someone held accountable for something in government, as Christie dismissed those involved with what is now being dubbed “Bridgegate.” We have witnessed so many faux pas, blunders, mistakes, incompetence, and outright lies over the past five years at the national level, and there has been little accountability. When people are hired, especially for the public good, and they, by their actions, tarnish the people’s trust in their integrity and competence, they should be held accountable.

dc-septic-cartoonHere are just a few of those who have contributed to the culture of corruption at the national level, by deceit and obfuscation, and have not been held accountable: Eric Holder, Timothy Geithner, Van Jones, Susan Rise, Lois Lerner, Hillary Clinton, and Kathleen Sibelius. In fact, books have been written, documenting the culture of corruption in the White House. If Christie is to be responsible for the culture in his administration, shouldn’t Obama be held accountable for his, especially considering the gravity, breadth, and impact of the latter?

Holding a position of public trust requires responsibility and accountability. Not only has very little been shouldered by this administration, but also the media have done little to hold them accountable. It shouldn’t be too much to ask for the media to be equitable and fair in their coverage of elected officials, irrespective of party affiliation. And we, the people, should demand it of them!

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 Culture, and Language, Are Degenerating

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Regrettably, our language seems to be devolving much like our social mores have been. In our increasingly morally relativistic culture, our language is morphing, adapting, and redefining each day, with fewer and fewer absolutes, and increasing laxity and less and less conviction.

WordsThis is not a surprising development, for in many ways, our language and speech not only mirror, but also magnify what is occurring culturally. Psycholinguists argue inexorably about whether language reflects our perception of reality or helps create it. It appears empirically that they’re concomitant.

American linguist Arika Okrent, has said, “The job of the linguist, like that of the biologist or the botanist, is not to tell us how nature should behave, or what its creations should look like, but to describe those creations in all their messy glory and try to figure out what they can teach us about life, the world, and, especially in the case of linguistics, the workings of the human mind.” If that is correct, contemporary language reveals a vacuous, illogical and slovenly collective human mind in this twenty-first century.

I have marveled for years at the unintelligible gibberish that passes for communication today. Kids who use “like” every third word as if it means something, while in reality, it seems to represent little more than a mental vacuity that exists in the mind of the speaker who can muster nothing more substantive to fill their sentences and paragraphs with. The same seems to apply to the use of “you know,” as employed ad nauseam by people of seemingly equal mental acumen.

I used to tease my children’s friends when they’d say, “It’s, like, cold outside.” I’d respond with, “Good thing it’s just ‘like’ cold, instead of just plain cold, otherwise you may need a coat, or, like, something.”

I’ve not heard anyone on the contemporary cultural stage capture this concept quite as concisely as comedian Taylor Mali, who has a laconic monologue dedicated to the principle. Says Mali, “In case you haven’t realized, it’s become uncool to sound like you know what you’re talking about. Or that you believe in what you’re, like, saying. Invisible question marks, and parenthetical ‘you knows’ and ‘you know what I’m saying,’ have been attaching themselves to the ends of our sentences, even when those sentences aren’t, like, questions.

PowerWordsHe continues, “Declarative sentences, so called because they used to, like, declare things to be true, as opposed to other things that are so totally, you know, not. They’ve been infected by this tragically cool and totally hip interrogative tone, as if I’m saying, ‘Don’t think I’m a nerd just because I’ve like noticed this, okay. I have nothing invested in my own personal opinions, I’m just inviting you to join me on the bandwagon of my own uncertainty.’

Mali takes the concept to the next level applying the linguistic vacuity to our relativistic society. He says, “What has happened to our conviction. Where are the limbs upon which we once walked. Have they been chopped down, like the rest of the rainforest, you know? Or do we have, like, nothing to say? Has society just become so filled with these conflicting feelings of nya nya, that we’ve just gotten to the point where we’re the most aggressively inarticulate generation to come along since, a long time ago?”

He concludes with a plea, “So I implore, you. I entreat you, and I challenge you, to speak with conviction. To say what you believe in a manner that bespeaks the determination with which you believe it. Because, contrary to the wisdom of the bumper sticker, it is not enough these days to simply question authority. You’ve got to speak with it, too.”

This is perhaps not just symptomatic of American English and culture, for Terry Crowley in his book on historical linguistics observed, “It seems that in almost all societies, the attitudes that people have to language change is basically the same. People everywhere tend to say that the older form of a language is ‘better’ than the form that is being used today.”

wordle-preambleWords are the communicative devices utilized by mankind to render meaning and common understanding to the mundane as well as the esoteric. Many of the words we use represent absolute concepts and principles, and cannot merely be redefined or altered in practical application without changing the absolute truths upon which they’re based. Words like truth, marriage, and liberty cannot simply be redefined by popular acclaim without vitiating the social conventions, legal institutions, and verities they represent. Otherwise, they become unintelligible gibberish, like the “you knows” and “likes” that are the bane of our contemporary communicative culture; meaningless, trifling, and relativistic.

Perhaps no truer words were uttered by Gore Vidal than, “As societies grow decadent, the language grows decadent, too.” As with societal decadence, perhaps the only recourse for language purists is the heuristic “clinging” to absolutism; standing on linguistic and ethical solid ground while the rest of the world devolves to nihilistic relativism.

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]

Greatest Threat to the Nation – Our Own Government

Regulatory Red Tape Entangling the Nation

Our economy, and personal liberty, are under assault in America, The threat to the country is much more stealthy and incremental than that faced by our nation’s founders two centuries ago. According to a Gallup poll this past week, 72% of Americans see the burgeoning power of the federal government as our greatest threat. This should serve as a wakeup call to the statists in Washington who are continuously expanding the role of government in micromanaging our lives.

Regulatory Red Tape Entangling the Nation

Regulatory Red Tape Entangling the Nation

Much of this expanded control comes in the form of regulation. Since 1993, over 1.43 million pages have been added to the Federal Register that includes all new regulations, regulatory revisions, and presidential documents. The passage and implementation of the “Affordable Care Act” alone has added 10,516 pages to the Federal Register; that’s more than eight times the length of the Bible.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute’s (CEI) 20th edition of “Ten Thousand Commandments,” which explicates the impact of the mountainous stacks of regulation on the country, estimates the cost burden of all this regulation at $1.8 trillion per year. To put that figure in perspective, that’s more than half the size of the federal budget, and nearly 12% of the entire U.S. economy.

The cost to the government in enforcing regulation is not that great, a relatively paltry $55.4 billion in 2010, according to the CEI. That allocation of the federal budget covers most of the cost of federal agencies and regulatory enforcement. By far, the greater cost is to the economy, and in abrogated liberty, whittling incrementally away at our individual freedom.

cartoonCritics of “big business” should take note that total business profits last year were just over $1.5 trillion, yet the $1.8 trillion in costs for regulatory compliance eclipses that figure. The cost of that regulation is not paid by “big business.” Technically, corporations don’t pay taxes, they just collect revenue from consumers and turn it over to the government. We pay those taxes to the corporations voluntarily in the form of higher prices for goods and services. Consequently, we, as consumers, paid $1.8 trillion more for our goods and services last year to companies just to cover the cost of federal regulation!

According to the House Committee on Small Business, the impact on small business is staggering, and the impact on the economy is perhaps incalculable. Small businesses don’t enjoy the luxury of simply passing on the cost of regulation to their customers, like big business does, but bear a disproportionate share of the costs themselves.

The SBA Office of Advocacy defines small business as independent firms that have fewer than 500 employees, of which there are an estimated 29.6 million in the country. These firms create seven of every ten new jobs, and they employ just over half of the nation’s private sector workforce. The Office of Advocacy calculates that small businesses create more than half of the nonfarm private gross domestic product, and have created over 64% of net new jobs over the past 15 years.

aa-government-im-from-govt-im-here-to-help-cartoonAccording to the SBA, small firms shoulder a regulatory cost of $10,585 per employee. This is 36% higher than the cost of regulatory compliance for large businesses. And since 89% of firms in the country employ fewer than 20 employees, the smallest businesses are bearing a disproportionate share of the regulatory burden.

The cost of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulatory compliance affects small businesses four times more than larger firms, according to the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Research Foundation. They also indicate that the complexity of the tax code, and concomitant costs, disproportionately harms small businesses four times more than large firms.

At a House Small Business Committee hearing, National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson said, “Tax code complexity has a direct impact on small business viability and job growth. The more time and resources a small business spends on tax compliance, the less time it will have to grow and hire employees.”

Government, and its hoard of agencies and bureaucracies, was not created by divine unction, and are not infallible. They are to serve the people, not rule over us in totalitarian fashion. The tsunami of governmental regulation is debilitating to the economy and job growth, as well as to individual freedom. And much of the regulatory expansion comes not from congressional acts, but by government agencies expanding and rewriting regulation.

government-goliath-cartoonAmericans have just cause to perceive expanding government control as our greatest threat, and we’ve not even touched on the privacy and Fourth Amendment infractions posed by the domestic spying programs.

237 years ago our forebears retaliated against a perceived threat to personal liberty and “taxation without representation” by initiating a revolution against a monarchical power; one that was arguably the greatest power in the world at the time. It’s time for that same American spirit to rise again, this time against a domestic threat, in defense of liberty, and begin scaling back our onerous regulatory burden.

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].

 

There is a War being Waged on Christians, and Christmas

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The First Amendment to the Constitution states that, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” While Congress may not be actively extirpating religious freedom from the public square, small, vocal, and pertinacious groups and individuals are succeeding through social and media pressure to do what congress is forbidden to do, aided and abetted by a sympathetic administration and a collaborative mainstream media. We must ask ourselves why we’re allowing them to do to our American culture what is proscribed for Congress to do. This clearly constitutes an aggressive war on not just any religion, but specifically, a war on Christianity.

RestrictionsIII-graphic-07This observation may be subjective, but it’s supported by objective, quantitative data. In their September 2012 update on the “Rising Tide of Restrictions on Religion,” Pew Research revealed, “The United States was among the 16 countries whose scores on both the Government Restrictions Index and the Social Hostilities Index increased by one point or more in the year ending in mid-2010. This was the first time scores for the U.S. increased on both indexes during the four-year period covered in this study.”

Pew revealed, that the “U.S. score on the Government Restrictions Index rose from 1.6 in the year ending in mid-2009 to 2.7 [a 57% increase] in the year ending in mid-2010, moving the U.S. from the low category of restrictions to the moderate category for the first time in the four years studied.”

The quantitative spike on social restrictions was even more significant. According to Pew’s study, “The U.S. score on the Social Hostilities Index also rose, from 2.0 as of mid-2009 to 3.4 as of mid-2010, moving the U.S. from the lower end of the moderate range of hostilities to the upper end of the moderate range. (Social Hostilities Index scores 3.6 or higher are categorized as high by this study.)”

While some governmental and social restrictions on freedom of religious expression are recorded against other religious groups, by far the most highly targeted are those of Christian faith.

christ-birth-aclu-winter-festival-political-cartoonFor example, just last week the Navy removed nativity scenes from the dining hall at the Guantanamo Bay naval base because of a complaint. Earlier this month Pentagon lawyers forced the removal of a nativity scene at Shaw Air Force Base. A Texas school district made rules for a school “winter party” that proscribed any reference to Christmas, and forbade not only the use of a Christmas tree, but the use of the colors red and green.

The ESPN sports network would not air an advertisement for the Catholic Cardinal Glennon Children’s Foundation because of reference to “God’s healing presence this Christmas,” and “celebrate the birth of Jesus and the season of giving.” And to add insult to injury, the yearly NORAD “tracker” which tells kids where Santa is on Christmas Eve is also under attack.

Let’s put this war on Christianity into an empirically numerical perspective. In America apparently 92% of us celebrate Christmas, while only 6% claim they do not. And only 25% of those, according to the same Rasmussen survey, indicate that they celebrate a holiday other than Christmas at this time of year. When you do the math, that’s 92% that celebrate Christmas, 1.5% who celebrate a different holiday, 4.5% who don’t acknowledge any holiday this time of year, and 2% that don’t seem to know what they’re doing.

Yet in spite of the overwhelming celebration and support of Christmas, there seems to be no shortage of “Grinches” intent on dampening the spirit of the season, a very small sampling of which has just been listed.

Supreme Court case law is overwhelmingly supportive of overt Christmas celebrations, nativity scenes, Christmas programs in public schools, and even singing Christmas Carols, like “Silent Night” and “Oh Come, All Ye Faithful,” in public schools. Supreme Court decisions from Wisconsin v. Yoder and Widmar v. Vincent, to Florey v. Sioux Falls School District and Lamb’s Chapel v. Center Moriches Union Free School District have denounced efforts to force religion out of the public square. And there are literally dozens of cases proscribing such efforts.

tmdsu08121820081219125739The efforts to purge the country of Nativity scenes and Christmas symbolism and celebrations, whether on public property or not, is clearly illegal, based on the predominant interpretation of the “free exercise clause” by the Supreme Court. Such efforts, perpetrated by thin-skinned, bigoted, and selfish people and groups, are also as illogical and misguided as would be the forced removal of Pilgrims from all Thanksgiving festivities, or Old Glory from 4th of July celebrations would be. The icons and symbolism of holidays are fundamental to holiday observance, and are a part of Americana, or our cultural heritage.

To rational people, recognizing a national holiday that happens to have “Christ” in the name, no more constitutes an “establishment of religion” than a public prayer does. Yet efforts to thwart those outward expressions are clearly a violation of the free exercise clause, perhaps not by congress, but by intolerant and misguided malcontents exercising the tyranny of the minority.

As long as the official federal calendar says “Christmas Day,” then Christmas programs, Christmas trees, expressions of Merry Christmas, and the symbolism of the holiday are themselves politically correct, appropriate, and legal.

We can all play a part in preserving our free exercise of religion by resisting the efforts of the intolerant forces in our society and community through information, education, and assertion of our Constitutional rights.

And with that, I defy the tyranny of the vocal minority and anti-Christian crowd, and declare to one and all, Merry Christmas, and “God bless us everyone.”

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 New IRS Regulations to Attack the Tea Party, Again!

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130515-tyranny-obama-irs-cartoon-The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is again being used for political purposes, attempting to suppress freedom of speech, political organization and activism, and thwarting the growth of grassroots groups that are antipathetic to the administration’s objectives. The effects of their previous targeting of conservative, especially Tea Party groups, were significant, according to researchers at Harvard University. The renewed efforts to suppress political activism by controlling and shaping the political landscape are an affront to our core values as a nation.

According to a Treasury Department (which administers and operates the IRS) posting on November 26, several new restrictions are being imposed on political organizations structured as 501(c) nonprofit entities. They include a prohibition to promulgate any information that even mentions political candidates’ names 30 days before a primary election, and 60 days before a general election.

They would also prohibit communications with an audience of over 500 people that so much as mention the name of a particular candidate within that time period.  This provision would include newsletters, columns, blog entries or other publications, whether in print form, broadcast, or online.

The way the regulations are drafted, it appears that the primary goal is not only to cripple any political advocacy group, but to force them into restructuring as 527 groups that are usually issue-based, rather than candidate oriented political organizations. 527s are also non-profit, but have the discomfiting distinction of being required to disclose their donors’ names.

The net result of the proposed regulations would not only severely restrict and stifle political free speech by such groups, but provide public information to enable the systematic targeting of such individuals by an unscrupulous administration using the full force and power of the various government agencies. As we have documented before, and is now a matter of public record, the administration has used the IRS, Department of Justice, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the FBI to selectively harass individuals and organizations who are not supportive of the administration and their agenda.

Constitutional attorney and political analyst Carol Platt Liebau says of the proposed regulations, “Rather than targeting the tea parties at the back end — through ad hoc hassling, unreasonable and intrusive requests for information, and deliberate delay of approval applications — it seems that the IRS is now trying to target the tea parties from the front end, setting up regulations that would make it practically impossible for them (and them alone) to function.”

She continued, “It is unprecedented for any administration (at least in modern memory) so overtly — and shamelessly — to harass law-abiding critics from exercising the liberties the Constitution was intended to secure. And these new regs make it clear that the corruption, politicization and rot at the IRS extend far beyond the little band of officials named in the earlier tea party targeting scandal.”

MacNelly_edtoon_081997House of Representatives Ways & Means Chairman, Dave Camp, agrees. “The committee has reviewed thousands of tax exempt applications. The new regulation so closely mirrors the abused tea-party group applications, it leads me to question if this new proposed regulation is simply another form of targeting.”

For those who don’t believe the administration is behind these efforts to suppress political dissent – the very freedom of speech intended to be guaranteed by the First Amendment – it cannot be mere coincidence that Obama met with IRS union boss Colleen Kelley at the White House the day before the targeting of Tea Party groups by the IRS began, as learned from congressional testimony. This is a continued systematic attempt to provide discretionary support of groups the administration likes, while suppressing and defanging those it doesn’t.

Such targeting of groups not supportive of the administration’s agenda is effective in manipulating voter turnout and election results. Daniel Shoag and David Yanagizawa-Drott of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Andreas Madestam from Stockholm University, and Stan Veuger of the American Enterprise Institute published a peer-reviewed research piece earlier this year that validates the hypothesis.

According to their research, “The data show that had the Tea Party groups continued to grow at the pace seen in 2009 and 2010, and had their effect on the 2012 vote been similar to that seen in 2010, they would have brought the Republican Party as many as 5 – 8.5 million votes compared to Obama’s victory margin of 5 million.” In other words, the administration’s targeting of conservative groups may have altered the outcome of the 2012 presidential election.

The new IRS regulations constitute an additional attack on fundamental liberties of United States citizens, and represent an intentional and nefarious dilution of freedom of speech, association, and political activism by a sitting president for political purposes. If President Bush’s administration attempted to do something this sinister, the mainstream media and the nation would be up in arms. We must ask ourselves, so why not 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]

A Quiet Rage Building Across the Nation…We’re Partly to Blame!

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Earlier this week I posted a graphic on my FaceBook wall that stated, “All across America a quiet rage is building against the assault upon American values. More so than ever in the history of America, the concerns and patience of its people are being tested, tried, and attacked by a group of elitists that are hell-bent on the destruction of this country.” It then ended with the phrase, “Refuse to remain silent!”

1394345_10152129047349703_1580033297_nThe post elicited responses by some who concurred with the sentiment, and some who didn’t. The posting afforded a teaching moment about what the right of the political spectrum feels about the “fundamental transformation of America” that has been occurring for several years, but accelerated dramatically over the past five.

Some were upset that the term “rage” was used, and thought it improper to be enraged toward those who’re dismantling our republic. But in a politico-cultural context, emotions like anger and rage can be a powerful motivator, especially in regard to values, convictions, and ideals that are violated and impinged upon.

Likewise, those of us who treasure America as the land of the free and the home of the brave, see contemporary statists, those who are actively engaged in expanding centralized governmental authority at the expense of personal liberty, as adulterators and enemies of freedom.  They are “fundamentally transforming America” into a fiercely potent centralized government that was never intended for this republic; a fascist police state that, regulates, coerces, bullies, and spies on its citizens. And they have done it surreptitiously, clandestinely, and dishonestly. How any thinking person, who professes love for America, can accede to the destruction of American idealism perpetrated by those who have a stated objective of “fundamentally transforming” the nation is beyond my comprehension!

And for those on the left who are obsessed with race, obsequiously regurgitating racist epithets against we who love what America used to stand for, it makes no difference what color the skin is of the torchbearer leading the destruction of American values. He could be green, white, red, or purple, and we’d still object to the dismantling of the country, as we’ve observed the past few years. Stated more succinctly; you mess with what made America great, and you start simmering a pot of patriotic rage until it reaches a boiling point, and race has absolutely nothing to do with it.

For men and women of principle, who believe that this country was special and intended to be different from the rest of the world, what is happening to America is not just unacceptable, but it’s evil. How else can the destruction of good be characterized?

Edmund Burke stated that, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing.” We can no longer do nothing! The silent majority must find its voice, and a backbone!

When you think about it quantitatively, conservatives are mostly to blame for our current modified state of the union. How many conservatives refuse to vote if their candidate is not in the race, or are disengaged or oblivious to the destruction occurring around us, or do nothing, or say nothing, to preserve and protect our constitutional republic?

Conservatives have allowed this transformation to occur, by acquiescent reticence. I think no one has stated it more perfectly than Albert Einstein who said, “The world is a dangerous place not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.”

Speaking out against this erosion of freedom is good, but it’s simply not enough, and it must be more vociferous and protracted. Too many battle among themselves for ideological purity, fight amongst themselves over the most efficacious political tactics, or just throw verbal stones at those whose destructive policies are morphing the country into something never intended, but then flame out before anything is accomplished. If they don’t bother to vote, don’t get involved in the process, and don’t try to make a difference electorally, and worse yet, are divisive to the conservative ranks, they deserve some of the blame for what is happening. Every conservative must do what he can, and most of all, to vote. If every conservative voted in every election, statists wouldn’t stand a chance.

We who consider ourselves to be patriots, devotees to the principles that made America great, need to be proactive in our resistance to those who are corrupting and transforming our republic. We can no longer sit idly by complaining, and doing little else. The silent majority must find it’s voice, and then act!

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]

Do We Have An Attitude of Gratitude?

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Much of what we read here is dedicated to analyzing, opining, and criticizing elements of the body politic and problems with the world, our nation, and our community. In spite of all that we find that needs fixing around us, one of the most woeful things we could do is to be ungrateful for all that we should be thankful for.

It’s often difficult to think in those terms. We are often overwhelmed at the daunting challenges and vicissitudes of life that we face on a daily basis. Problems with health, the loss of a loved one, financial woes, the loss of a job, problems with a marriage or with children, often consume us emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. Yet somehow we find ways to deal with our personal crucibles, to surmount our challenges, and crest our Everests.

The human spirit, if not doused with hopelessness, can be indomitable. We find ways to deal with, overcome, and survive our ordeals. We find solutions to our woes and answers to life’s tough questions. Often such resolution comes from insights, counsel, and wisdom from a loved one. Other times they come from unseen founts of wisdom and loving arms of solace after earnest and heartfelt pleadings to our Maker.

But as arduous and challenging as life can be for all of us in one way or another, there is always much to be grateful for. And hopefully, the significance of Thanksgiving has not been lost to us.

gratitude5We may be of bad health, but hopefully some things are still working fine. We may be struggling financially, but we’re still together as a family. We may have a child struggling with his or her own inner demons, yet as long as there is love, there is hope. To everything there is a silver lining. It may be obscured by our preoccupation with our trials, but it’s there. Sometimes we just have to look a little harder to find it.

I’m convinced that many of the social and cultural problems we face today are the result of a loss of a collective sense of gratitude. Rather than being grateful for what we have and the blessings that we enjoy, although sparse they may sometimes seem to us, we focus on what we don’t have, or what we think we deserve or we’re entitled to. This lack of gratitude is concomitant with narcissism and self-centeredness, and reveals a deep character flaw; absence of humility.

In my estimation, no one has captured this sentiment better than a former president of the LDS Church. Gordon B. Hinckley said some years ago, “Our society is afflicted by a spirit of thoughtless arrogance unbecoming those who have been so magnificently blessed. How grateful we should be for the bounties we enjoy. Absence of gratitude is the mark of the narrow, uneducated mind. It bespeaks a lack of knowledge and the ignorance of self-sufficiency. It expresses itself in ugly egotism and frequently in wanton mischief….

“Where there is appreciation, there is courtesy, there is concern for the rights and property of others. Without appreciation, there is arrogance and evil. Where there is gratitude, there is humility, as opposed to pride.”

In a rather simplistic fashion, we have the proverbial conundrum of whether the glass is half full, or half empty. In our individual lives, it all depends on how we choose to look at things, and whether we choose to focus on the deficiencies in our lives or on the bounties that we enjoy. And that’s all a matter of attitude.

The evangelical author and pastor, Chuck Swindoll, made a statement years ago that has profoundly shaped my perspective about life, and about gratitude itself. He said, “The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes.”

May we all choose an attitude of gratitude, looking for the light at the end of the tunnel, and the silver lining to the dark and ominous clouds in our lives. May we express our gratitude to one another, manifest by acts of courtesy and respect. And perhaps most importantly, may we express daily our immense dependence upon, and gratitude to God. Not just on Thanksgiving, but everyday of our lives.

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].

 

JFK Ideologically More Tea Party Patriot than Democrat

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We’ve been inundated by recounts of the assassination of John F. Kennedy 50 years ago this week. There is nothing productive or of consequence that can come from continued musings over conspiracy theories, or retelling of the mythical Camelot that did not exist during the tragically truncated tenure of the 35th President. The most valuable thing that we can take from his incumbency is his political wisdom, which was copious.

Unlike many of his fellow alumni from Harvard, especially our current president, JFK understood economics. Shortly after he was sworn in, the President said, “Lower rates of taxation will stimulate economic activity and so raise the levels of personal and corporate income as to yield within a few years an increased — not a reduced — flow of revenues to the federal government.” He was the first supply-side president, and understood that the key to economic growth is to free up capital for private investment that creates jobs, makes and sells things, and increases the standard of living for the entire country. After all, he had history on his side, and it had worked for nearly 200 years.

“Our tax system still siphons out of the private economy too large a share of personal and business purchasing power and reduces the incentive for risk, investment and effort — thereby aborting our recoveries and stifling our national growth rate,” he said.

140456_600And on another occasion, “It is a paradoxical truth that tax rates are too high today and tax revenues are too low and the soundest way to raise the revenues in the long run is to cut the rates now… And the reason is that only full employment can balance the budget, and tax reduction can pave the way to that employment. The purpose of cutting taxes now is not to incur a budget deficit, but to achieve the more prosperous, expanding economy, which can bring a budget surplus.”

JFKs tax cuts were passed posthumously in February, 1964. The result of those significant tax cuts, which still didn’t go as far as he wanted them to go, had dramatic effects on the economy. Real GDP grew at 5.8% in 1964, 6.5% in 1965, and 6.6% in 1966, while the unemployment rate declined from 5.2% in 1964 to 3.8% in 1966, falling all the way to 3.5% in 1969. And, as predicted by our first supply-side president, tax revenues increased dramatically, from $94 billion in 1961 to $153 billion in 1968.

He not only understood real-world economics, but he understood the proper role of government in a free society, as America was founded to be. He said to the New York Economic Club in December, the year before he died, “The federal government’s most useful role is not to rush into a program of excessive increases in public expenditures, but to expand the incentives and opportunities for private expenditures.”

In other words, foster a climate that is conducive to economic growth, rather than creating government programs – expenditures, as he referred to them – which siphon the lifeblood out of a free economy. JFK was a Reaganite, economically speaking, before Reaganites even existed.

There are far too few Republicans that believe that today, and I would venture to say, there are no Democrats who believe that today. Too many of today’s politicians are statists, convinced that the government’s role is, rather than foster an environment that is conducive to economic growth, function as parasites or leaches, sucking as much capital and monetary velocity out of the economy as possible to pay for our alphabet soup acronyms of government programs and agencies.

Our nation would be so different today if presidents 36-44 all believed like JFK and Reagan did. We wouldn’t be struggling under an insurmountable $18 trillion in debt, more than half of which came in the last five years. We wouldn’t be witnessing the meltdown of our health insurance and health care delivery, with as many as 93 million Americans (the administration’s own estimate), losing their health care.

We wouldn’t have an omnipresent government that gathers our financial information, health care information, monitors our phone calls, and even spies on our social media activity. We wouldn’t have a government that tries to tax the very gas that we exhale, with the distorted and fabricated justification that it will “save the earth,” as well as regulation on anything and everything that works, moves, or produces anything.

JFK-Today-590-CIJohn Fitzgerald Kennedy was the last Democrat president that properly understood the role of government, and the quality of life assured to all from a free market economy that wasn’t taxed and regulated to death. As a matter of fact, our 35th President was committed to a balanced budget, loved the Constitution, loved his country, was against “big government,” was an NRA member, anti-communist, pro-life, and in spite of his challenged morality, was a deeply religious man. By today’s politico-ideological spectrum standards, JFK would be a Tea Party patriot.

This is manifest even more clearly by one of his Independence Day speeches, where he said, “Conceived in Grecian thought, strengthened by Christian morality, and stamped indelibly into American political philosophy, the right of the individual against the State is the keystone of our Constitution. Each man is free.”

And contrary to the Washington Post’s bizarre claim this week, JFKs assassin was a communist, not someone who would sympathize with the Tea Party of today.

Based on his own words and convictions, I think it’s safe to say that JFK would be appalled by how much our nation has degenerated from what it was intended to be, and his vision of what it should be.

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]

Illegal Actions of our Autocratic President

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Our country was founded as a constitutional republic; a federation of autonomous states tied together by a Constitution that stated explicitly what the powers of the federal government were. We have now been unofficially, yet fundamentally transformed into an autocratic “ineptocracy.” And we needn’t look any further for evidence than this week’s presidential attempts to “fix” the increasingly unaffordable Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Having been caught in his perpetual lie, “if you like your insurance you can keep it,” the president this week promised to “fix” it, by allowing people to keep their insurance plans for another year, if they wanted. Not only is that genie out of the bottle and operationally impossible to put back in, but more significantly, it represented another evidence that this president feels his power is not constrained or limited by the Constitution, or by the rule of law.

bg111513dAPR20131115084526Article II, Sec. 3 of the Constitution commands the president to faithfully execute the law. The president, and even more broadly, the executive branch, does not make law. That’s the role of the legislative branch, or congress. Once laws are on the books, the president cannot change them; they are to be executed, enacted, and implemented by the president and the executive branch.

Yet, just as he did in July when he delayed the ACA employer mandate by a year, this week he, without authority, said he would “allow” people to keep their policies for another year if they liked them. The president has no such authority! Those are laws passed legally – although regrettably – by congress and signed into law. The president has no authority to arbitrarily choose what laws to enforce, which to not, or change laws arbitrarily and illegally by his own discretion. His oath is to faithfully execute them!

It makes no difference that the law he whimsically changed this week has his name on it, as even he refers to it as Obamacare. He still doesn’t have the power or authority to autocratically change aspects or dates of implementation of the law.

He also acted illegally when he declared he would not enforce the Defense of Marriage Act, as well as his fiat that he would implement elements of the so-called Dream Act for immigration reform, on his own, with no congressional action.

An autocrat is one who has absolute power. And that is how our president is acting. The Constitution was written brilliantly with inherent checks and balances on the power of any one of the branches of government. But apparently, when you’re Barack Obama, there’s no perceived limit to your power; you can do as you please, when you please, and when you mess up, claim you never knew about it until you “read it in the press,” like the rest of us. Outside of the fantasy world of the Washington Beltway, such an egocentric and narcissistic attitude would be considered delusional. But that’s what we got when we elected, and then reelected, someone with a messiah complex.

holb_c11359420131115120100I have long maintained that our republic can only survive if people elected to office honor their oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.” Every time Obama spuriously and capriciously changes a law, chooses which he will execute and not execute, he is definitionally acting outside of the law, and he breaks his oath of office anew.

I mentioned that we have an autocratic ineptocracy, and explained the autocratic component. We have been fundamentally transformed into an ineptocracy which is a “political system of government where the incompetent are elected by the unproductive in return for goods and services redistributed from the competent and productive, until the former so outnumber the latter that the system collapses.”

Several years ago Ayn Rand said, “We are fast approaching the stage of ultimate inversion: the stage where government is free to do as it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission.” It seems obvious that we’ve now achieved that state of ultimate inversion of our founding principles. And the inversion is exacerbated by the fact that it’s the arbitrary actions of an autocrat at the helm of the nation that declares that government can do as it pleases, while we paean citizens have our liberty eroded further with every stroke of his pen, and utterance from his lips.

There’s nothing we can do to rein in the autocratic hubris at the head of the country. We can only hope that in three years we may choose someone who respects the law, follows it, and will fervently keep the oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution. And we can pray that our fundamental transformation is not irreversible. In the meantime, we can attempt to follow Thomas Jefferson’s counsel to “Educate and inform the whole mass of the people… They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.”

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 Biggest Presidential Lie of All

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As presidential lies go, this is the biggest, and it’s one that our president has uttered hundreds of times. “If you like your healthcare plan, you can keep it.” We now know, and it’s documented, that the president and his staff have known for years that was not true. They lied to us.

On page 34,552 of the Federal Register for 2010, an entry by the administration says their “mid-range estimate is that 66 percent of small employer plans and 45 percent of large employer plans will relinquish their grandfather status by the end of 2013.” That represents over 51 million people who will lose their health insurance, because of provisions in the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Let’s make sure we understand all of this. Section 1251 of the ACA refers to a “grandfather” provision that allowed people to keep their existing plans if so desired.  But subsequent regulations by the administration interpreted that key section so narrowly that it would be virtually impossible to retain plans that were in place in 2010, unless the firm or organization had a waiver from implementation.

One of those subsequent regulatory changes was that if a plan that had been grandfathered per Section 1251 of the ACA were to make any changes after 2010, they would no longer be grandfathered. It’s inconceivable that any health insurance plans could’ve gone through the last three years of massive premium inflation with no changes! And not just in premiums, but changes in coverage, deductibles, or maximum out-of-pocket costs.

Screwed-2013Declaring policies in effect in 2010 grandfathered as long as they made no adjustments the past three years would be tantamount to the administration saying that we could use the freeway for our travel needs for as long as we like, as long as we never change our speed or direction!

The Congressional Budget Office indicates that 156 million of us are covered under employer-sponsored plans. There are also another 25 million who, again according to the CBO, have “non-group and other” insurance coverage, in other words, most of those buy their own insurance. Again, it’s totally inconceivable that there are any plans that, based on the administration’s narrow interpretation of the grandfather clause, have not had any changes since 2010. In short, that means there are no grandfathered insurance plans! Yet the president has the temerity to claim we’re losing our insurance because of our carriers!

That’s not to say that everyone will lose their current coverage. Many of those plans have likely adjusted to accommodate the new requirements of mandated coverage as defined in the ACA. Mandated coverage now includes maternity care, gestational diabetes screening for pregnant women, FDA-approved contraceptive methods, contraceptive education and counseling, breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling, sexually transmitted infections counseling for sexually-active women, and HIV screening and counseling for sexually-active women.

Isn’t it wonderful that all of us over age 40, and single men, get to pay for all of those services that we’ll never use? The freedom and flexibility of the ACA just never ceases to amaze me! I guess that explains in part why there were so many (6, officially) Americans who signed up on the first day!

liesHere are some other lies told by the President, and his Democrat allies in congress about the ACA. We’ve been promised that, if we like our doctor, we can keep him. In all likelihood, we can’t, since that doctor may be out of the network for our new plan that we were forced to buy.

He said our premiums would go down, that the ACA “will bend the cost curve down.” “The average family will pay $2,500 less for their insurance premiums.” Instead, they’ve gone up, $2,581 higher, according to Kaiser Health.

He said it would reduce the amount of healthcare spending in the country, that’s obviously not true. He said it would not add a dime to the deficit, yet it borrows $600 billion from Medicare, which is going broke, and at the current enrollment rate, the entire cost will add to the deficit.

He said he would not raise taxes a dime on anyone making under $250K, yet the bill is partially funded by taxes on insurance companies, drug companies, medical device companies, and health care providers. All those costs are going to be passed on to the patients, most of whom make far below $250K per year.

The further into the implementation of the ACA we get, the more convinced I am that deception, distortion, extortion, and outright lies are the very foundation of it. Even the notion that it was going to provide insurance coverage for everyone is a lie, since according to the Congressional Budget Office, even after 10 years of implementation, there will still be 31 million Americans without coverage. So we’ll have spent $1.93 trillion failing to achieve the primary objective of the Act, and literally destroying the coverage that the rest of us get.

We received our insurance cancellation letter from my wife’s employer the first of October. We were already paying an exorbitant premium that had increased over 25%, for a high $2,500 deductible. As we study our options on the Idaho ACA website, the policies within our capability to pay have deductibles of $8,000. And to make matters worse, we will still be paying up to 50% of our health care expenses after the deductible is met. I guess it’s meant to assuage our concerns that our maximum out-of-pocket expenses per year are capped at $12,700. We will be paying more for a new policy that will exact from us five times as much in out-of-pocket costs. This is not affordable care; this is highway robbery!

And the real kicker is that the administration knew all along what would happen to us all, as evidenced by their own words in the Federal Register. What’s different about this lie, though, is the mainstream media didn’t ignore it like they have all the others. NBC actually had the audacity to run with the story. For those of us who’ve been wondering where the media has been for the past five years, this actually provides a little glimmer of hope. Perhaps they’ll actually start doing their job now.

Their-Lips-600-NRD-wLogoThese lies, continuously uttered by our president, are much more significant than some of the others that have landed presidents in hot water. Certainly more significant than, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman,” and “I am not a crook,” and “No new taxes.” These lies adversely affect all of us.

It’s no wonder that even though the ACA passed in 2009, they made no attempt to start collecting the taxes or implementing the mandates until after the 2012 election. If this had been implemented within two years after passage, in a logical world, there would be no Democrats left in congress today, for they were the only ones who voted for it.

This entire package was sold to us based on lies. And as destructive as the ACA is to the nation, to jobs, to the economy, to health insurance, and to family budgets, no one who supported and pushed for its passage should ever hold elected office again. It’s time to start holding politicians accountable, not for their intentions, but for their actions!

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 Spenders in Washington are the “Terrorists,” Not the Conservatives!

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There was a time when it was thought to be prudent to not spend beyond one’s means; a time when frugality was a desirable trait, and when such discipline and restraint constituted a man or woman of wisdom in financial affairs. Judging from the predictable reaction to the storyline fed by the mainstream media regarding fiscal policy in our nation’s capital, such fiscal discipline no longer is perceived as wise, but as extremist and radical.

And apparently there’s an ancillary postulate that accompanies that conclusion; that those who desire to not inflict harm on the nation due to bad government regulation fall under the same broad definitional brush of extremism and radicalism.

RAMclrFNL-022212-worst-IBD.jpg.cms_Just since 2006, the last year the U.S. government had a budget passed by both congressional chambers and signed by a president, government debt has shot from $6.7 trillion, to over $17 trillion. The largest segment of that spending occurred over the past five years with four consecutive years of $1 trillion deficits. Our government has been spending 60% more than it’s been collecting in tax receipts.

Those figures do not even begin to address our long-term debt due to non-discretionary entitlement programs. According to the General Accounting Office’s (GAO) 2012 annual report, their most recent which was issued nearly one year ago, unfunded debt including Social Security and Medicare was $70.7 trillion, an increase of 8% over 2011 levels. Our national debt increases by an estimated $8.2 million per minute, and about $350 billion per month.

The GAO was explicit in its warning to the policy makers about our spending. They said in the very first paragraph, “GAO’s simulations continue to show escalating levels of debt that illustrate that the long-term fiscal outlook remains unsustainable.”

For those who may have difficulty grasping the gravity of the word “unsustainable,” let’s clarify the term. That means it is “not able to be maintained at the current rate or level.” That it is “not able to be upheld or defended.”

Former Comptroller General of the United States, David M. Walker, has been sounding the clarion call of economic disaster for the nation if spending is not reined in, and politicians refuse to deal with fiscal realities of unabated spending. He describes America as a “sinking ship” in a sea of our own debt. He points out that, “The US ranks near the bottom of developed global economies in terms of financial stability and will stay there unless it addresses its burgeoning debt problems,” based on the Sovereign Fiscal Responsibility Index.

“We think it is important for the American people to understand where the United States is as compared to other countries with regard to fiscal responsibility and sustainability,” Walker said in a CNBC interview recently. He predicts that the country is rapidly heading towards a debt crisis that could come within the next few years if we continue on our present course.

Those are the facts, at least a small glimpse at our dismal fiscal reality. And yet, when facing another massively expensive entitlement, and a debt limit, and a government “shutdown” over spending issues, the press and their chorus of ideologically-compliant sycophants across the land excoriate the one group of politicians that sees the threat of our current reality!

The fiscal terrorists are not those in the House, who out of conscience and their commitment to their voters refuse to budge on spending without fiscal reform. The biggest terrorist threat to the nation are those who vote perfunctorily to increase our debt, continue to spend beyond our means, and refuse to say no to new spending programs that threaten to expedite the collapse of the nation from debt implosion! They are destroying the nation minute by minute, and debt limit increase by debt limit increase, by continuing our unsustainable spending trajectory with no attempt at addressing it.

How idiotic it is when the mainstream media rejoices when a debt limit, regardless of how temporary, is increased. When the government resumes full operations without any substantive assessment of our unsustainable mountain of debt, as identified by the General Accounting Office! And how idiotic it is when a majority of the American public applauds the resumption of our unsustainable course of debt accrual, with no apparent concern for the perpetuity of the republic!

The president is claiming credit for a slight deficit reduction this past year. That’s sublimely ironic considering it happened because of an idea he floated, and then denounced, and become enacted as a 5% reduction in spending known as the sequester.

The sequester has made a slight difference in the trajectory of our mountain of debt, but not nearly enough. If the nation is to survive financially, a change of course and reassessment of our spending priorities is critical. Our role is to be an informed electorate, and if we love America, support candidates with a commitment to saving the nation from the spendthrift politicians in control now.

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 degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration.  He can be reached at [email protected].

 

This Week’s Crisis: Obama Wins, Nation Loses

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Brinkmanship only works in politics if the crises the parties are facing, and their consequences, are unsatisfactory to both parties. If the consequences of a manufactured crisis are only totally unacceptable to one party, or person, in a conflict resolution scenario, you know who’s going to win the showdown at the very outset. That’s precisely what we saw this past week with the high drama in Washington.

Brinksmanship is generically defined as “the practice of pushing dangerous events to the verge of, or to the brink of, disaster in order to achieve the most advantageous outcome.” The government slim-down of the past couple weeks, and the approach this week of the hyped “default” on our debt presented a case study in brinkmanship by parties which, if we studied their motives and priorities, we could have, and did, presciently predict the outcome.

{4a4b2129-c6cd-4ba3-84b5-1a2bac3ac409}.gifBut to understand why the House “blinked” and the president didn’t, we need to understand the motivations for both positions. The president and his team like crises, because they are opportunities for them. The president’s former Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel infamously declared, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste,” and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said, “Never waste a good crisis.”

This perspective reflects the most common transliteration of the Chinese character for crisis, where the two components represent “danger” and “opportunity.” The administration made it clear five years ago that crises represented opportunity to them, as Emanuel completed his thought, “And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.”

Coupled with the “crisis is opportunity” theorem, the presidential hubris and narcissism guarantees that he will get his way, regardless of the consequences. Dr. Sam Vaknin, an Israeli psychologist and globally recognized expert on narcissism has stated of Obama, “should he be subjected to psychological testing, for instance, to the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, which is a classical tool for diagnosing narcissism, or to the MMPI (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory), I have no doubt in my mind that he will be diagnosed as a classical, malignant, psychopathic narcissist.”

One of those tests includes what he calls “pronoun density,” which refers to how many times one says “me,” “my,” “I,” and “myself,” in a single sentence unnecessarily, especially in places where you could have substituted other, more appropriate pronouns. Vaknin, describing a piece that he wrote in July 2008, said, “Obama’s pronoun density is three times the average pronoun density of a psychopathic narcissist. I mean, that’s how bad it was. That is a major clinical sign.” Predictably, one of the characteristics of narcissists is that, filled with their own sense of inflated self-importance and self-admiration, they don’t capitulate. They’re going to get their way, regardless of the cost.

On the other side of the negotiations (which really never occurred since Obama ostentatiously refused to do so), was the House of Representatives, comprised of a politically and ideologically diverse group of 435 individuals, 232 of which are Republicans, most “in name only.” However, there is a group of 46 within the House that are driven by a set of principles, rather than a personality or a plenary rule for crisis management. Their convictions, which got them elected from their respective districts, are reduction of the national debt and federal budget deficit by reducing government spending and taxes.

Ironically, the mainstream media, and left-leaning politicians, refer often to the caucus of 46 within the House as extremists or radicals. I often wonder if those applying such appellations think of themselves, or their frugal spouses, as radicals or extremists, if they’re penurious in their own lives. Or is economic illiteracy so rampant among the political elite and the mainstream media that unconstrained spending, without regard for paying for accumulated debt, is somehow unreasonable; hence, “radical” or “extreme?”

Other than their conviction toward prudent and measured fiscal matters, their penultimate shared value is patriotism. If there was a Hippocratic Oath equivalent for politicians, they would be the first to take it, vowing to “do no harm.” The republic, after all, is perpetuated more logically by disciplined fiscal policy than by profligate, unrestrained and irresponsible spending. The latter hastens the day of impending financial collapse of the dollar and the entire economy, as the nation races toward an implosion under the weight of a national debt that today exceeds $17 trillion, or 110% of the national GDP, which is now higher than financially troubled Spain’s debt to GDP ratio.

Although default was discretionary to the president and the secretary of the treasury, the House acquiesced to the president’s demands rather than allow for that possibility. And prudently so, for through the sequestration spending cuts, and the recent government “shutdown,” the president has applied spending restrictions as punitively and painfully as possible. It’s disconcerting when the leader of the free world has a temper tantrum over not getting his way, and makes everyone suffer, as he applies the restrictions in a way to make them “as painful as possible.”

In light of these factors, the winners and losers of this past week’s brinkmanship were highly predictable. The winner is the president, and the loser is the nation.

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 degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration.  He can be reached at [email protected].

 

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