We can agree: Yes on Amendments Y&Z

Every 10 years, Colorado must redraw the boundaries of congressional and state legislative district lines to ensure equal population.  And every 10 years, Republicans and Democrats wind up in a costly court battle asking a judge to settle their differences.

Our process for drawing maps is broken.  Amendments Y&Z would replace that broken process with a new 12-member commission that assures equal representation to Democrats, Republicans and independent voters.

I’ve been a part of both processes, and here’s what I know from experience:

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Polis’ health care promises don’t add up

Like so many Bernie Sanders Democrats, governor candidate Jared Polis keeps making promises about health care that aren’t backed up basic math.  Recall that the Boulder congressman wants to put all Coloradans on Medicare, except that wealthy Coloradans (like Polis) can always buy their way into a better, private system.

This is the mantra that today animates the progressive/socialist wing of the Democratic Party.  Never mind that Canada, where government provides “health care for all,” just set a new record for longest delays as sick patients die while waiting for treatment.

How does Polis propose to pay for this new entitlement which would more than double the cost of state government?  Unlike socialist darling Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, Polis knows better than to pretend that he can make the numbers add up because they don’t.

While Ocasio-Cortez pretends that $2 trillion in tax hikes will cover $40 trillion in new spending, Polis relies on platitudes, as if certain incantations will magically produce savings if repeated incessantly.

For example, look at what Polis told Westword on “How He’d Implement Universal Care in Colorado.” (more…)

Polis’ health care hypocrisy

Just two years after Colorado voters overwhelmingly rejected a costly, unworkable universal health care ballot measure, Rep. Jared Polis, the Democrat candidate for governor, is sidling up with the same kooky progressives who brought us the failed ColoradoCare proposal by touting “Medicare for all.”

Coloradans should be skeptical that Polis, the $387 Million Man, really means, “Medicare for you – but not for me.”  After all, he can buy his way out of a lousy government health care system after he wrecks health care for the rest of us.

Amendment 69 was rejected 79% to 21% by Colorado voters who were wary of its enormous cost and outrageous expansion of government.  At $36 billion per year, ColoradoCare would have more than doubled the size of state government but offered no guarantee that health care would be any better.

While Polis publicly opposed Amendment 69 in 2016, he co-sponsored federal Medicare-for-all legislation (HR 676) which is even more costly than ColoradoCare.

In a campaign ad, Polis now parrots Amendment 69 propaganda that “Health care is a human right.”  That sounds noble and makes a nice bumper sticker, but health care is not a right – it’s an entitlement that must be paid for by someone.

If health care is a right, then what about food and housing?  Is everyone entitled to food and housing at taxpayer expense?

Progressive politicians like Polis are mimicking socialist countries where heavy-handed governments magically bestow “rights” on people to appease the masses.  But transforming an economic disparity into a government entitlement doesn’t solve the problem.

ColoradoCare’s cost-control provisions would have limited benefits (rationing), increased co-pays and deductibles (paid by consumers), and reduced payments to doctors and hospitals (resulting in fewer doctors and hospitals).  Everyone would equally share in rationing, higher costs and shortages.  Everyone except the ultra-wealthy, like Jared Polis.

That’s democratic socialism – equal distribution of misery.

Forty years ago, health care and insurance weren’t so costly.  People paid doctors and hospitals for their services and relied on insurance to cover high-cost procedures.  Then do-gooder politicians decided to mandate that insurance companies offer and consumers pay for certain coverages.  Government can mandate all the “goodies” it wants, but they still cost something, so the very consumers who receive these benefits, in turn, pay more for insurance.  Health “insurance” became a coerced system of financing our medical bills.

Economist Thomas Sowell reminds us, “The first law of economics is scarcity: There’s never enough of anything to go around.  The first law of politics is to ignore the first law of economics.”

In the last 10 years under two Democrat governors, the number of Coloradans who receive health care through Medicaid has nearly tripled to 1.4 million (almost one-fourth of us).  During that time, state spending on health care and human services programs has grown five times faster than spending on K-12 education and eight times faster than spending on transportation.

Now, progressive Democrats like Polis want to raise taxes for education and transportation, but those tax increases wouldn’t be necessary if previous Democrat governors hadn’t expanded social welfare entitlements in the belief that “health care is a right.”

Ten years ago, K-12 education received 43% of the general fund budget; health care and human services received 30%.  If today’s budget were allocated at the same rate, K-12 education would receive an additional $763 million.  That’s a 15% increase – enough to increase school funding by $803 per student and to entirely wipe out the erstwhile “negative factor” that siphons money away from public schools in order to pay for Medicaid spending.

This year, Colorado voters face a critical choice that will decide whether we take an irreversible step to become Little California by electing an out-of-touch Boulder progressive as governor and passing massive tax increases.

Instead, we should reject the fallacy that “health care is a right,” insist that our public schools be properly funded without raising taxes, and require government to live within its budget – just like we, the taxpayers, must do.

Let’s talk common sense and facts about guns

In the debates that rage after each highly-publicized mass shooting, one side claims that more restrictive gun laws could prevent future such tragedies while the other side counters that the rights of law-abiding gun owners shouldn’t be sacrificed because of the horrendous act of someone who disregarded existing laws.

It’s never been easy to have a rational conversation about guns, but in today’s hyper-charged political culture, voices on each side too often think that being loudest means you are winning.  My friend and former state Sen. Alice Nichol often recalled her father’s maxim: “The louder you are, the ‘wronger’ you are.”

Insulting gun owners polarizes the debate.  Outspoken Florida high school students may motivate those who sincerely wish that laws would prevent mass shootings, but their condescension and incivility also infuriate defenders of gun rights.  The loudest voices usually make the least sense because loudness is no substitute for logic or reason.

Survivors are sympathetic figures, but they have no special insight into preventing the next shooting.  Why does the media, in this circumstance, confuse proximity with expertise?  Nobody considered survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing to be instant experts on terrorism.

Gun owners reasonably ask for evidence that new burdens on their rights will produce the promised results.  The evidence is thin. (more…)

The True Meaning of Independence

As we observe the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence this Fourth of July, we should consider the unique form of government for which our Founding Fathers chose to risk “their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor” against the militarily-superior British.

The definitive passage in the Declaration reads:  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

In these 57 words, the Founders established that:

  • Our rights — better understood as “freedoms” — are given to us by a power higher than government. No matter what you believe about creation or evolution, you must acknowledge that government did not give us life.
  • Government’s legitimate purpose is to protect the rights of the people. Just as government did not give us life, it did not give us our rights.
  • Government’s legitimate powers are limited to only those given to it by the people.

“The whole point was to show how government might arise legitimately, not to assume its existence,” writes constitutional scholar Roger Pilon in The Purpose and Limits of Government.

These insights are particularly useful because, as a libertarian, Pilon does not advance a religious conservative agenda.  Yet he acknowledges that the Founders’ common view of “the laws of Nature and Nature’s God” provide the cornerstone for all that follows:

We hold these truths to be self-evident….

The signers of the Declaration didn’t negotiate and compromise to define truth.  They agreed that certain fundamental truths were obvious.  For example:

…That all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…

In that each of us exists because of the same creative process, our individual are necessarily equal.  Such rights are best understood as freedom from interference, whether by government or by other people which, of course, implies that others are entitled to be free from our interference.

Freedom encompasses not simply the opportunity to make choices but the responsibility for those choices.  Freedom does not mean that, because my choice seems superior, I can bend others to my will through the power of government, nor does it mean that when I make an irresponsible choice I am immune from consequences.

…That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Once the Founders established a broad universe of rights, they discussed government, its sole purpose to protect those rights.  Again it is imperative to understand “rights” as freedoms — not as an entitlement taken at the expense of someone else.

When government legitimately protects our freedom, it simply does that which we have a right to do ourselves.  By contrast, government does not act legitimately if it secures my rights by taking the life, liberty or property of someone else.

When the rights of two people may conflict and neither can fully exercise freedom without adversely affecting the other, the Founders reasoned that in these circumstances, the boundaries between competing rights ought to be drawn by the people whom government serves.  However, “consent of the governed” does not empower majority rule to deny freedom to the minority.

This concept of a vast ocean freedoms and tiny islands of government power bears little resemblance to our federal government today, which is why it is so vitally important that we understand the foundation of our government before electing someone to lead it.

As Ronald Reagan warned, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.  We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”

Hard to blame Trump for fighting back vs. media

Donald Trump’s congenital belligerence may not wear well with the public over the next four years, but it’s been certainly central to a persona that has regularly defied “normal” expectations and won an ardent corps of loyalists.

Trump’s irreverence for political correctness, the media, and the “establishment” resonates with a large swath of the public that’s sick and tired of being told what to think by people who consider themselves better, smarter and more sophisticated than the rest of us.

Trump’s shut down of CNN reporter Jim Acosta (“Don’t be rude. No, I’m not going to give you a question. You are fake news.”), during an inaugural week press conference, was a satisfying display of Trump’s punch-back style. He was particularly incensed that CNN had promoted a dubious Buzzfeed posting of an unsubstantiated “intelligence memo” that claimed Russia had compromising information about him.

Most politicians “play nice” to seek favorable – or, at least, fair –treatment from the dominant liberal media. For Democrats, that’s easy because the overwhelming share of reporters supports the Democrat agenda.

Trump’s approach is more confrontational. If the press is out to get him (which, by and large, it is), then why not drop the pretense of mutual respect? (more…)

Embracing ObamaCare caused Colorado budget crunch

The newest dubious justification for weakening Colorado’s limits on government spending is “our aging population.”

The spending lobby seeks to frighten senior citizens by telling them that the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR) in our state constitution “hampers the ability to fund key programs.”

Parents are told that public schools are in a squeeze because state government needs more money.  But ask why social welfare spending is growing three times as fast as spending on education, and you’re told it’s because Medicaid has enrolled more children and senior citizens – as if that happened merely by chance.

Those explanations ignore some inconvenient facts. (more…)

Colorado’s budget problem is spending on entitlements

So much chatter at the State Capitol is that Colorado’s government doesn’t have enough money to spend on programs that politicians, bureaucrats and lobbyists want to pay for with our tax dollars.

Any discussion of government spending should begin with the basics:

• Government’s job is to work for us – not vice versa.

• Colorado is a collection of working families and business owners who comprise an economy.  We happen to have a government, which we elect. Colorado is not a government that happens to have an economy and five million citizens.

• We expect those we elect to make tough decisions with limited resources – just like we do everyday.

The problem with Colorado’s state budget is not that taxpayers are paying too little or that the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR) is too restrictive.  The problem is that, over the last 10 years, the ruling Democrats have over-promised social welfare entitlements which are now devouring everything else. (more…)

Prosecution, Persecution & Government Intimidation

“I love my country, but I fear my government” once struck me as a bit paranoid.  However, recent accounts of citizens who’ve fallen into bureaucrats’ crosshairs is a reminder that “just because I’m paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not after me.”

Consider these examples of government run amok:

Oregan ranchers Steven and Dwight Hammond face five years in a federal prison after two controlled burns drifted past their property boundary and onto federal property.  Judges ruled that one fire might have caused $100 in damage to federal land while another “burned about an acre.”

Still, the Hammonds who, even prosecutors admit, “have done wonderful things in their community,” were prosecuted under a federal anti-terorrism law that mandates a five-year minimum sentence. (more…)

The sad state of freedom in America

Some 30 years ago, a common retort by my classmates when told that we could not do something was, “It’s a free country, isn’t it?”

I don’t hear that rhetorical question much these days.  Maybe that’s because the answer is changing before our very eyes.

One of my favorite restaurants posts a sign that was once common: “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.”

Well, if they refuse service to someone who isn’t an able-bodied heterosexual white male, they’d better have a good lawyer and deep pockets defend themselves. (more…)