Author Archives: Richard Larsen

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].

A Rip In Reagan’s Big Tent – Rifts in the GOP

In a two-party system, as the U.S. gratefully is, there must be a difference between the two major parties. The distinction seems to have eroded over the years as both parties have moved to the left. To those of us who ardently hold to the principles that this nation was founded upon, there is only one major party that at least has the temerity to articulate those ideals, whether it in fact practices them or not, and that is the Republican Party. Those of us who lament the downward slide of the country into statism, and toward eventual financial collapse, must decide whether we want to be part of the solution within the GOP, or continue to be part of the problem. Many who consider themselves to be “patriots” are part of the problem.

Many long-time Republicans are resistant to the efforts of the neophytes, or Tea Party idealists. They stand egocentrically on the ground that the Republican Party is “my” party,” and refuse to let the neophyte conservatives have a place at the table. They roll out by-law and rule changes that seek to centralize the “power” and authority of the party in the hands of a few, rather than expanding and democratizing it, and increasing participation. They attempt to demonize and denigrate the newcomers who, in my estimation, are the very embodiment of the same revolutionary spirit and convictions that founded our republic.

republican-tentOn the other hand, many of the newcomers attack the “old guard” with the same ferocity and animus they hold for those who are ideologically engaged in the process of fundamentally transforming the nation. Some of these Tea Partiers exacerbate the divide created by the egoism of the old guard and take this internal struggle to a level that, if taken to extremes, will fractiously render the GOP impotent, which would serve no one’s interest, except the other Party and the real enemies of freedom. They engage in strident in-your-face confrontational coercion of “ideological purity,” that only fans the flames of discord and apprehension of the establishment Republicans.

There is near universal acceptance within the GOP of the main tenets of the Tea Party movement which are: eliminate excessive taxes, eliminate the national debt, eliminate deficit spending, protect free markets, abide by the Constitution of the United States, promote civic responsibility, and reduce the overall size of government.

The only difference, other than tactical, I can find between the two factions is an understanding of compromise. The old guard has been around long enough to know that everything in politics and government is incremental, and that compromise is critical. They just need to learn to compromise in a way that takes us in the right direction, not the other way. The newcomers have the luxury of standing strictly on principle, and, having never governed, have not had the educational experience to realize that it’s impossible in governance to have things exactly how you want them all of the time. It is possible to compromise on specific legislation or statute without compromising on your principles. Ignorance of this fact will cripple the neo-conservatives unless they learn to adapt.

What is clear, is that the tactics of both factions are churlish, immature, and divisive. Both use labels to demonize and alienate the other, and engage in tactics that are characteristic of Saul Alinsky devotees, not members of the Party of Lincoln. To both sides I would reiterate the counsel of Paul, “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

Ronald Reagan’s goal was for the Republican Party to be a big tent; the bigger the better. I believe ardently that all who are at the eye of this intra-party storm are conservatives, believing in limited government, individual freedom, protection of life and private property, less government spending and less governmental intrusion and centralization of power. So why should it matter if we’re constitutional conservatives, Tea Party conservatives, libertarian conservatives, or old guard conservatives? As Reagan said, “He who agrees with me 80% of the time is not my enemy.”

Bennett editorial cartoonIf the GOP is to succeed electorally, all factions and persons involved in the party schism must learn to work together. Only by working together can we begin to slow the abominable slide into leftist oblivion. The “old guard” and the Tea Partiers must realize that all brands of conservatives are essential spokes in the same wheel.

If the statists who’re fundamentally transforming the nation are to be defeated, then it will only come as a result of a “united we stand, but divided we fall” conviction. And if we’re not part of the solution to create such cohesiveness, we’re part of the problem of divisiveness and failure. Clearly, both factions are at fault, and both are diluting and dividing the positive electoral influence the GOP could be enjoying if they’d work together against the real enemies of the state, rather than those perceived internally to be.

When conservatives don’t get their way with the candidates of their choice, and choose to stay at home on election day, they get precisely what they despise the most: more centralized planning, more reckless spending, and more expansive intrusion of government in their private lives by handing the election to the opposition. In short, everything that is contrary to their convictions. It’s illogical, and frankly, just plain stupid to alienate and marginalize those who agree with you 90% of the time by treating them the same way as those who disagree 100% of the time. The best thing to do is vote in every election for the most conservative candidate. You are not “violating” your principles by so doing.

housedividedIt matters less what kind of conservative labels we wear in our personal ideology, than that all parties resolve to work together in defeating those whose beliefs are antithetical to our founding principles. If the newcomers are to inch the country back closer to our founding tenets, it’s going to come by nudging the Republican Party back to its conservative roots, not by a hostile takeover, or by splintering into separate, impotent parties. And if the establishment Republicans want to win elections, they’ve got to work with, not against, the Tea Party conservatives and begin harnessing their convictions and enthusiasm, and begin practicing better what they preach. And developing a backbone to stand up against the statists would go a long way toward developing some trust with the more conservative members.

A great starting point for all is adoption of Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment, “Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican,” and a determination to discontinue the divisive and deleterious speech, inferences, and actions. And for heaven’s sake, start talking with one another, rather than about one another!

One other thing is for certain: the other major Party is celebrating proportional to the GOP’s divisiveness. The victories they can’t win on their own will be handed to them by a bifurcated Republican Party.

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].

 

Buying Political Influence – Who Should Scare Us More, The Koch Brothers or George Soros?

Judging from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s nearly daily diatribes on the floor of the U.S. Senate, George W. Bush has been retired as the most despised villain, and the cause of all the evils that plague the world. Bush has been replaced by the Koch (a Dutch name, pronounced “Coke”) brothers who are often maligned by the left for their pecuniary influence in politics. Since those on the left are not equally malevolent toward George Soros, who does the same thing, it’s clearly not the money in politics that bothers them — it’s the ideology.

The Washington Post’s Pulitzer Prize winning Fact Check granted a “Four Pinocchio” rating to Reid’s latest round of attacks. The Post says Reid is “setting a high standard for deceptive speech,” and concludes that Reid’s party is “reaching blindly” for someone to cast the blame of their own failures on. The paper, critical of the falsity of Reid’s claim, chides him with, “If you want to join a gun fight, don’t fire blanks.”

charles-and-david-kochDavid and Charles Koch are brothers who run Koch Industries, an oil refinery business that is the second largest private firm in the country. The brothers are tied at number 6 on Forbes top billionaires list with personal net worth of about $41 billion each. They’ve expanded and maintained their fortunes by successfully providing the refined product that keeps America moving – oil.

George Soros is chairman of Soros Fund Management, a hedge fund company. Soros is number 27 on Forbes list with a net worth of $23 billion. He’s made his fortune in large part by selling short against international currencies and collapsing financial institutions. In 1997 he was dubbed “the man who broke the Bank of England,” and he was blamed by the Malaysian Prime Minister for collapsing their currency during the Asian financial crisis. He was also convicted of illegal financial dealings in France. His big bet now is collapsing the U.S. dollar and the free enterprise system.

Economist Paul Krugman has been critical of Soros, and others like him, “who not only move money in anticipation of a currency crisis, but actually do their best to trigger that crisis for fun and profit. These new actors on the scene do not yet have a standard name; my proposed term is ‘Soroi’.”

The Koch brothers and Soros spend lavishly in politics. They support individual candidates, contribute to political party campaign funds, lobby politicians, bankroll political action committees, and have established foundations and think tanks to influence politics.

george-soros-economic-terrorist-obama-politics-1344236489The Kochs spend by far the most, but the bulk of it goes to lobbying. The Open Society Institute is one of George Soros’ organizations, and they provide part of the funding of OpenSecrets.org, so even realizing that their data may be skewed toward a more pejorative coverage of the Kochs, I’m going to rely on their data. According to Open Secrets, the Koch brothers have spent, or as liberals typically describe it, “invested” over $50 million in lobbying from 1998-2010. During that same time, Soros and his primary Lobbying organization, Open Society Policy Center, spent about $13 million.

Donations to federal candidates, parties, and political action committees give a smaller advantage to the Kochs. They invested $2.58 million vs. Soros’ $1.74 million from 1989 to 2010. When extended to include the past four years, the Koch brothers have contributed $18 million in political donations. This sounds like a great number, until we look at the 58 organizations ahead of them, including 18 different unions, according to Open Secrets. Those unions political contributions total over $638 million, almost all of whose funds go to liberal candidates, and is more than 35 times more than the Kochs donate. Among those are the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees $60,667,379, the National Education Association $53,594,488, the United Auto Workers $41,667,858, and the Service Employees International Union $38,395,690

But from here the money for political influence gets a little more shady. From 2001 to 2010, the Koch brothers invested $1.5 million in other political groups, called 527 organizations, compared to Soros’ whopping $32.5 million.

The proliferation and expanded influence of 527s was made possible by the problematic McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform of 2002, so named because of the tax code, Section 527, that they fall under. As described by Benjamin Dangl, the groups “operate as shadow political campaigns working indirectly for or against a particular candidate.” Once contributed funds get to these groups, they can go anywhere, and the audit trail is virtually non-existent. Some are run totally above board and are very straightforward in their objectives. Many others are not. As Dangl says, “Prominent think tanks and campaign finance reform lobbyists say 527s are ‘illegal loopholes’ that enable the privatization of political campaigns.”

The groups that these men contribute to tell an even more significant tale than the sheer dollar volume they pump into our dysfunctional crony-capitalist, or corporatist political system. Since the Koch brothers are ideological libertarians, they’re driven by the classical-liberal Jeffersonian philosophy that America was founded on. Perhaps nothing defines this self-defined mission for the brothers better than the mission statement on the Cato Institute website, which states, “The mission of the Cato Institute is to originate, disseminate, and increase understanding of public policies based on the principles of individual liberty, limited government, free markets, and peace.”

The Cato Institute, the Koch’s crown jewel, was established 40 years ago with seed money from Charles Koch, and his brother David still serves on the Board of the organization. Cato is recognized as the sixth most influential think tank in the nation, and number 14 internationally, with its scholarly and empirically documented research.

They also have contributed significantly to the Reason Foundation, publisher of Reason Magazine, applying reason and logic to economic and personal liberty issues. Nobel laureate Milton Friedman strongly supported the Foundation. And with a grant of $30 million, the Koch brothers were instrumental in the establishment of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, with similar objectives.

obama-puppet-teleprompter-george-soros-junkie-sad-hill-newsGeorge Soros runs the Open Society Institute and the Soros.org website, and contributes heavily to many organizations that ideologically are aligned with leftist causes, including Moveon.org. He is reviled abroad for his shady efforts to foment revolution and collapse currencies. His “foundations have been accused of shielding spies and breaking currency laws, and he’s invested over $400 million in institutions of higher education to promulgate and teach his extremist ideology.

In short, the Kochs and Soros are heavily invested in politics and are, by all standards, prototypical “one percenters” in income, net worth, and political influence. And it would appear, at least ostensibly, that all three are playing the influence-for-money game according to the rules established by congress. There is near universal contempt for the crony capitalism and corrupt corporatism that has tainted our political institutions, and politicians, and adulterated our free-market system. But congress has created the rules these players play by. Blaming the Kochs and Soros for using their resources to buy influence is like blaming collegiate athletes for the rules established by the NCAA.

Since most of the Koch’s political money goes into lobbying, their funds are well documented, as required by congressional accounting rules. With most of Soros’ political “investments” going into 527s, the funds are less traceable, and has earned Soros the dubious honor of being dubbed the “Godfather to the left.”

The classical-liberal principles of individual freedom and free markets that are so fully embraced and advanced by Charles and David Koch are the very principles the nation was founded upon. They are the principles that made America great. The progressive socialistic agenda advanced by Soros is antithetical to America’s founding precepts, and is heavily invested in the failure of not only the U.S. dollar, but the collapse of the U.S. economic system.

As distasteful as the pay-for-influence system is, the ideological objectives and uses of that influence should be of even greater concern. Should we fear those who support the ideals that made America great, or the one who seeks to destroy and fundamentally transform the country?

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].

Argument Against Voter ID Laws Is Itself Racist

Attorney General Eric Holder has been attempting to quell the rising tide of states opting for voter identification laws. Not even delving deeply into the issue raises the immediate question of why the top law enforcement officer in the country would be opposing efforts to maintain integrity in our election system. A government that is dependent on the electoral process should have a vested interest in ensuring electoral integrity. Contrary to the administration’s rhetoric, voter ID laws have nothing to do with racism even though their prima facie argument is entirely based on it.

voter-id-too-hardThis past week U.S. District Court Judge Eric Melgren ruled that Arizona and Kansas can, and have every legal right to, establish and enforce their new voter ID laws. Both states had enacted new requirements for voters to provide proof of citizenship with some form of government recognized identification. Holder’s Department of Injustice prevented the Election Assistance Commission from issuing amended federal forms in those states to reflect the change. The states sued the federal government, and have won, at least for now. After the ruling, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach exclaimed, “This is a huge victory … for the whole cause of states’ rights.”

In their court arguments, Holder’s DOJ claimed that voter ID laws suppress voter turnout and that there is “no such thing as voter fraud.” Such a statement is nothing short of hyperbolic coming from an administration with deep roots in Chicago, which owes much of its infamy to historic voter fraud and election tampering. Holder himself hails from New York, which has its own blemished record of election tampering, as any student of Tammany Hall could attest.

voter id'sHolder argues that being required to display a photo ID at a voting booth is “racist,” since it’s discriminatory to poor people who may not have one, or be intimidated at the polling station if they have to present one. From a logical perspective, at best this can be deemed fraudulent and specious. Those who Holder et al claim to be the victims of voter ID laws must have valid government identification to receive Medicaid, be issued welfare checks, to have a bank account to cash welfare checks, board planes, register at hotels, drive vehicles, and just about every point of transaction where identity must be validated. If requiring a valid form of identification is an affront to our civil rights as citizens, why are all of those institutions and establishments not charged with civil rights violation? The answer is obvious: we must be able to verify that we are who we claim to be, and it is no violation of our civil rights to be so required.

Since it’s logical to validate identity at the polling booth, which increases electoral integrity, we can only wonder at the real intent behind the opposition to voter ID legislation.

Baloo Toon Gravestone I VOTEDThe rhetorical tool they employ to demean and minimize voter ID laws is brilliant. When logic can be suspended, allege racism. It seems to work so well with the uninformed voter and the servile mainstream media. Pathetically, though, their very argument is fundamentally based on racism itself. For their argument infers that blacks and Hispanics are not intelligent enough, or somehow incapable of procuring government-recognized photo ID! It’s not a matter of poverty, as they claim, since such valid ID is required for receipt of government services. So inherently their argument is race-based, and by definition, racist.

And let’s not be so naïve to believe that this was all accidental. Going back to LBJ’s “Great Society” programs and the “War on Poverty,” the doling of governmental “freebies” and goodies was intended to buy fealty from the impoverished voter base. This was validated by LBJ’s own words when he said, “I’ll have those n****** voting Democratic for the next 200 years.”

Even the resistance efforts against voter ID laws is corrupt. Just this past week, according to the Associated Press, “Pennsylvania Democrats were caught on surveillance tape reportedly accepting cash bribes in return for opposing voter ID in the Pennsylvania legislature. Gifts of Tiffany’s jewelry were also given to Democrat legislators from Philadelphia, reportedly in exchange for “NO” votes on a Pennsylvania voter ID bill that passed in 2012. Despite this evidence, Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane has not charged any officials. Kane is a Democrat.”

Deader-Vote-5903With as much damage as Obamacare is wreaking across the country, it’s hard to imagine anything in it being more nefarious than we’ve already observed. But believe it or not, a few months ago a more sinister aspect of the “health care” law came to light. As reported by the Washington Examiner, “Gregg Phillips of Voters Trust and Catherine Engelbrecht of True the Vote discovered that an organization called Demos, which is funded by leftwing billionaire George Soros, has published a document detailing how the Obamacare law is written in such a way as to help Democrats get elected by using the healthcare law to register multimillions of low income citizens to vote. This led Phillips to declare, ‘I think it is the biggest voter registration fraud scheme in the history of the world.’”

The Demos document is titled, “Building a Healthy Democracy: Registering 68 Million People to Vote Through Health Benefit Exchanges,” and has been the topic of extensive discussion on many leftist websites, including Mother Jones, Daily Kos, Talking Points Memo, the League of Women Voters, and Project Vote.

This should be an affront to all Americans, regardless of partisan affiliation, that one major party would be so heavily invested in “gaming” the system. Perhaps we all should ponder the possibilities of why it is not.

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].

 

Political Populism, Not Economics, Behind Minimum Wage Proposal

Sleight of hand and illusion have their role in the entertainment world, but when the same tactics are employed in the real world, the stakes are much greater, and the intent more dubious. David Copperfield has met his match in fabricated magic and illusionary tactics. For as any illusionist knows, in order to avoid letting the spectator see what’s really going on, you distract the spectator’s attention. And none are better at that than those leading the country today.

With the spectacular flop of the Unaffordable Care Act rollout, the moribund economy, disappointing jobs growth, dramatic widening of the income gap, higher poverty rates than the country has seen in 50 years, and an impotence with world leaders on the global scene, the Magician In Chief reached for his magician’s hat. And what did he pull out in an attempt to distract the nation from his colossal failures? A minimum wage increase! Voila! And now on cue, let us all be impressed! On second thought, let’s not be.

Let’s look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) own data on who is affected by the minimum wage. According to the BLS, 3.6 million of our total civilian workforce of 155 million workers are at or below the minimum wage compensation level. That is 2.5% of all workers in the U.S. Comprising that group of minimum wage earners, 31% are teenagers, 55% are 25 years old or younger. That means that just slightly more than 1% of the total workforce over the age of 25 is earning minimum wage.

Even that 1% over the age of 25 earning minimum wage are not typically the primary breadwinner of an American family. According to BLS data, 63% of workers who earn less than $9.50 per hour, (remember, the minimum wage is $7.25) are the second or third earner within their household. And nearly half of those live in households with earnings over $50,000 per year. So not only is the group very small that’s affected by the minimum wage, but the data don’t support the notion that they’re the “working poor.”

Min-Wage-590-LAThis segment of the population has been shrinking over the past thirty years. In 1980, nearly 15% of hourly workers were compensated at the minimum wage level. Considering how moribund the economy has been the past few years, it’s nothing short of remarkable that the total percentage of the workforce now paid at that level is a scant 2.5%.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour will lift approximately 900,000 people out of poverty. And it will take a few years to do it. But according to the BLS, there are 50 million Americans living in poverty, as defined by the government. That’s less than 2% of those living in poverty that will be elevated beyond that classification. The rest of those in poverty are in the custody of the state. Perhaps they just need a good job.

But the CBO also estimates that there will be a loss of half a million jobs by raising the minimum wage. Keep in mind that their estimates are always lower than reality. Current Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen affirmed the economics behind the CBO projections. “I think almost all economists think that the minimum wage has two main effects,” Chair Yellen said. “One is to boost pay for low-wage workers and the second is that there would be negative impact on employment.” Considering the realities of laws of economics, if we wanted to see more job creation, perhaps the minimum wage should be lowered, especially since most of those who work at that level are, according to BLS data, young people, and not primary wage earners for a household.

For those who venerate peer-reviewed research, here’s an economic feast of data. Joseph J. Sabia and Richard V. Burkhauser in a research piece a few years ago stated, “While reducing poverty among the working poor is a laudable policy goal, the evidence suggests that minimum wage increases have thus far provided little more than symbolic support to this population

“Several explanations have been offered for this finding. Card and Krueger (1995) emphasize that minimum wages fail to reduce poverty because many poor Americans do not work. Others have argued that even among the working poor, the relationship between earning a low hourly wage rate and living in poverty is weak and has become weaker over time (Stigler 1946; Burkhauser, Couch, and Glenn 1996; Burkhauser and Sabia 2007).”

LivingFromWelfareCheckToWelfareCheck“Moreover, even among affected workers, there is strong evidence that increases in the minimum wage reduce the employment of low-skilled workers (Neumark and Wascher 2008). While an increase in the minimum wage will lift out of poverty the families of some low-skilled workers who remain employed, other low-skilled workers will lose their jobs or have their hours significantly cut, reducing their income and dropping their families into poverty (Neumark and Wascher 2002; Neumark, Schweitzer, and Wascher 2004, 2005; Sabia 2008).”

Unions are fully supportive of an increase in the minimum wage, but it’s not out of solidarity or altruism for the low-income earner. It’s because they benefit directly. The Center for Union Facts indicates that many unions tie their base-line wages to the minimum wage, which means as it goes up, their coffers benefit.

There is another inconvenient truth that the advocates of raising the minimum wage need to address. Our de facto open border policy has depressed wages. Approximately a million low-skilled workers illegally come into the country every year, driving down wages, especially at the lower end of the spectrum. Harvard economist George Borjas has documented how our immigration policies have reduced American wages by $402 billion a year, while increasing profits for employers by $437 billion a year.

Once the actual BLS data are examined, and the laws of economics applied, there is little objective reason to increase the minimum wage. The only reason is political. And in an election year, nothing plays better to the uninformed masses than a populist message, especially when it diverts attention so conveniently away from so many other problems created or exacerbated by the administration’s policies.

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].

 

Separating Emotion from Logic on “Gun Free Zones”

Debate is raging across Idaho as the legislature considers a bill that would allow guns on university grounds. It’s an emotional issue, and perhaps for that very reason, we should strip away the emotion and consider the issue logically.

eliminate-gun-free-zones-battaile-politics-1357772357It seems that a disproportionate share of mass shootings occur in commercial establishments or school grounds clearly marked as “Gun Free” zones. As a sentient people, we are repulsed, angered, saddened, and outraged at such heinous acts. Perhaps the problem is more related to how “Gun Free” zones attract the attention of the delusional and disaffected who are intent on making a name for themselves.

Every shooting in a school is done illegally per federal law (1995 Gun Free School Zones Act). For those intent on inflicting harm, nothing’s quite so appealing as a gun free zone, for they know all the law-abiding citizens are going to be compliant, giving the perpetrator a veritable shooting gallery to work with, unfettered and undeterred from his mayhem by a legally armed citizen. In short, criminals aren’t the least deterred by gun free zones, and if anything, they’re likely to consider any signage indicating a gun free zone as a welcome sign.

The desire to keep guns far away from innocents, especially on school grounds, is instinctive, yet must be approached logically rather than emotionally, based on empirical data. And there is a lot of it available.

Psycho-Pete-5901The city of Chicago currently has the most restrictive gun control laws on the books, and has been declared a “gun free zone” where handguns are banned, yet it is the bloodiest city in the world in terms of gun-related deaths. The city averages 40 deaths per month from guns, nearly 500 every year. Chicago’s murder rate is 19.4 per 100,000, which is by far the highest rate in the nation, at nearly 3 times New York which is at 6, and nearly 2 ½ times Los Angeles’ 7.5.

In fact, Chicago ranks as the number one deadliest Alpha city (significant urban center in the global economic system) on the planet. Since it is no longer possible for citizens to legally own handguns within city limits, the only ones who still have them are criminals. It doesn’t appear gun control works for Chicago. In fact, the city illustrates how correct the aphorism is that if guns are outlawed, only the outlaws have guns. The law-abiding citizens do not.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC), in 2003 thoroughly analyzed fifty-one in-depth studies dealing with gun control. Those studies included everything from the effectiveness of gun bans to laws requiring gunlocks. From their objective analysis, they “found no discernible effect on public safety by any of the measures we commonly think of as ‘gun control.’”

gun-free-zone-cartoonSince gun control doesn’t work, let’s look at increasing the ability of citizens to protect and defend themselves. Simi Valley, California is consistently listed among the safest of American cities. They have all of California’s gun control laws in force, but locals know it as the home to a lot of police officers from neighboring communities. Nothing like trained and armed homeowners to keep a community virtually crime free.

In 1982, Kennesaw, Georgia, witnessing an increase in local crime, did something counterintuitive to the likes of Chicago and New York; they passed an ordinance requiring heads of households, with some exceptions, to own a handgun. Crime dropped precipitously, and has stayed down. So much so, that Family Circle selected the town as one of the 10 best in the nation to raise a family in.

Our problems with violence and mass shootings have much more to do with cultural and societal issues, mental illness, and a lack of ability on the part of law-abiding citizens to defend themselves. Guns are not the root of the problem. Our nation was brought to its knees eleven years ago by 19 fanatics armed with box-cutters. The tool of destruction is not the perpetrator; the person using or misusing it is.

Gun control has proven impotent in curbing the problem, and “gun free zones” are absurd, since they practically advertise themselves to be potential venues of mayhem and violence. More gun control is not a solution, but only serves as a Band-Aid to our emotions so we feel like we’re doing something. The problems are much deeper in our society than Band-Aids can cure.

gun-free-cartoon-3The emotional aspect of the issue that we cannot ignore is how the students feel. They must be able to feel safe while at school, and they likely wouldn’t feel safer knowing that anyone can come on campus toting a weapon. The way the legislation is drafted, it is only licensed and authorized personnel who can carry a weapon, which should allay such concerns.

The allowance of licensed and legally authorized personnel carrying a firearm on university grounds is logical. But let’s change the signage at all of our schools. Let’s remove the signs that are so inviting to malcontents and those intending to wreak havoc, and rather than advertise them as gun-free zones, let’s post “These grounds protected by armed and trained personnel. No other weapons allowed.” It may or may not serve as a deterrent, but at least it’s not a welcome sign like “gun-free zone” is!

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].

 

America’s Middle Class Under Assault

The middle class in America is shrinking; numerically in terms of the percentage of the total population, as well as qualitatively in terms of the quality of life. Most of us consider ourselves to be members of the middle class, and we’re being squeezed by declining real income and rising expenses, as we increasingly shoulder the inflationary costs of corporate America, and the burdensome costs of government operations.

median house income2.pngConsider the following middle class statistics as researched by Bill Moyers and PBS. Middle class is roughly defined as those households ranging in income from $25,500 to $76,500. At $51,017 the real median household income in 2012 is even less than it was at the end of the ’80s, and it’s down 9 percent from its high in 1999, with the biggest portion of that decline, 8.3%, in just the past five years.

The median net worth of a family in 2010 was $77,300, compared to $126,400 just three years earlier. In 46 of our 50 states, the poverty rates have increased over the past five years, and the national poverty rate is over 15% for the fourth year running. The last time that happened was in 1965. More and more families are dropping from the ranks of the middle class into poverty.

BLS Participation Rate

BLS Participation Rate

One of the greatest factors adversely affecting median household income is the loss of jobs and extended unemployment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) the Participation Rate, which is represented as a ratio or a percentage of the total population, is at the lowest levels in 50 years, with about 62.8% of the population working. According to the BLS U-6 data, 13% of the population is still unemployed or underemployed, and marginally attached to the labor market.

On the cost of goods and services the picture isn’t much better. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is the most relied on figure for calculating the year over year inflation rate. According to Forbes, the BLS has changed the way it calculates the CPI 20 times over the past 30 years, including new formulas and indices that have separated the volatile food and energy components and created a separate “Core” inflation rate. By some economist’s calculations, these changes have resulted in a significant dissociation between what the government reports as the inflation rate, and what we see in reality for the prices of goods and services that we buy.

Unofficial CPIEarlier this month Forbes declared, that “The CPI is not a measurement of rising prices, rather it tracks consumer spending patterns that change as prices change. The CPI doesn’t even touch the falling value of money. If it did the CPI would look much different.”

According to the BLS the CPI was up 1.6% last year, and has hovered between 1-4% over the past five years. But if the inflation rate were calculated now the same as it was in 1980, inflation over the past five years would’ve been between 5-12% per year. For example, average out-of-pocket healthcare costs have nearly doubled in just the last seven years, from $2,035 to $3,600.

Energy PricesDomestic energy prices have likewise increased dramatically. Over the past 10 years, energy prices have more than doubled as government energy policy has become increasingly ideological and counterintuitive. Increasing energy costs adversely affect the middle class disproportionately.

These data paint a distressing picture of the current status of the American middle class. And prospects for improvement are virtually nonexistent since the basis for the middle class demise is causally connected with the policies emanating from, and firmly entrenched, in the nation’s capital.

As best-selling authors and Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporters Donald Barlett and James Steele explain in their latest book, The Betrayal of the American Dream, “What is happening to America’s middle class is not inevitable. It’s the direct result of government policy, and it can be changed by government action.”

The solution to this malaise should be relatively simple, and recognized by everyone from the chairman of the Federal Reserve to the AFL-CIO. In fact, the labor organization perhaps worded it most succinctly in a piece titled, “How do we fix the U.S. economy?” They declared the first step must be “to put America back to work because high unemployment keeps wages down. Our goal should be ‘full employment, meaning everybody who wants to work should be able to find a decent job.”

regulatory burdenWhat’s stifling job growth is the expansive overreach of government regulation. Last July, a U.S. Chamber of Commerce survey showed 74% of small businesses are positioning themselves to slash hours, lay off workers, or both because of increase regulation, primarily because of the Affordable Care Act. Investors Business Daily has a running list of nearly 300 large companies that are reducing hours for employees to get below the 32 hour threshold mandated by the Act. And that’s all from just one piece of legislation.

The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform published research two years ago that illuminates the role government has played in suppressing job growth. The committee reported, “Many regulations and legislation – both existing and proposed – exacerbate the uncertainty created by today’s volatile economic environment. Virtually every new regulation has an impact on recovery, competitiveness, and job creation.” The president’s own Economic Advisory Panel came to the same conclusion, and reported, “regulations are harming businesses and job creation.” This panel went on to suggest several measures that could be implemented in order to quell the expansion of such job-destroying regulation.

Periods of rising middle class income coincide directly to periods of economic expansion and growth. And not coincidently, those are also the periods when diminution of government regulatory control over the engines of the economy occurred, the most significant of which led to the declaration by then-president Bill Clinton, “The era of big government is over.”

The best way for people to increase their station in life is with a good job. Ronald Reagan once called jobs the “best welfare program.” And the best way for good jobs to be created is with a healthy economy that is vibrant, growing, adapting, and adjusting to global and domestic market vicissitudes. And the best way for that to be facilitated is to get government out of the way of trying to micromanage nearly every component of the economy. If the private sector didn’t have to work around overreaching regulation and interference, market efficiencies in the private sector could unleash the creation of jobs, market synergies, and economic growth.

The job situation will not improve appreciably until the cost of doing business starts dropping. Last year the Small Business Administration reported that regulation costs American business $1.75 trillion per year, and costs small businesses as much as $10,585 per employee. Just the costs of Obamacare, Financial Regulatory Reform, and new EPA regulations, are projected to increase that cost per employee as much as 30%, according to Investor’s Business Daily.

make-or-break-cartoonIn 2012, the President said, “This country doesn’t succeed when we only see the rich getting richer. We succeed when the middle class gets bigger. We grow our economy not from the top down, but from the middle out.” He was correct. But it’s time that our policies begin reflecting that stated priority.

The history of mankind is littered with fallen nations and governments that overreached by centralized planning, stagnated their economies, and collapsed under the massive weight of their inefficiencies. Hopefully Bartlett and Steele are correct, that the utter collapse of the middle class is not inevitable. But for it not to be, a reversal of our current trend is critical, and the sooner the better.

Succinctly stated, we have shrinking income, inflation in energy and food “skyrocketing,” as was predicted five years ago, a weaker dollar, a ballooning debt, and a national security-risking deficit. The costs of all these challenges are landing squarely on the back of the middle class. A strong middle class equals a strong America. We can’t have one without the other. And our current policies are killing both.

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 Good of the Whole Sacrificed for a Few

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

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

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].

 

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