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…)

School funding suffers from ObamaCare

Coloradans’ eyes understandably pass over reports about legislators working on the annual state budget.  After all, the “long bill” – so named because it spans nearly 500 pages – is a necessary but mind-numbing legislative drudgery, salted with indiscernible acronyms, and largely incomprehensible to anyone outside the State Capitol.

To most inside the State Capitol, the budget is a Very Big Deal – a $26 billion big deal.  That’s nearly $5,000 for every Colorado resident.  And that’s not table scraps!

While normal Coloradans go about living their lives, the spending lobby at the State Capitol is paying very close attention to the state budget.  Incidentally, “spending lobby” need not be taken as a pejorative; it simply describes those paid to lobby lawmakers on behalf of agencies, organizations and individuals whose programs are funded with our tax dollars.

Consider some illuminating numbers that chart key developments in Colorado over the past eight years:

• State population has grown by 12 percent.  Personal income is up 22 percent.

• Enrollment in K-12 public schools has increased by 10 percent, and general fund money spent on those public schools is also up 10 percent.

• The total state budget has grown by 45 percent, and general fund (which consists primarily of state income and sales tax receipts) spending is up 55 percent.

So, why isn’t school funding generally keeping pace with overall budget growth?  Here’s the answer:

In those same eight years, spending on Medicaid and the Department of Health Care Policy and Finance is up 148 percent.  Enrollment in Medicaid is up 196 percent. (more…)

Easy access to entitlements undermines Americans’ work ethic

“Our greatest primary task is to put people to work.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1933.

Although sometimes considered the father of the American entitlement state, FDR understood that our sense of achievement and self-sufficiency comes from our work.

Forty years later, another Democrat, Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan likewise grasped the degrading affect of welfare on those it supposedly benefits:  “It cannot too often be stated that the issue of welfare is not what it costs those who provide it, but what it costs those who receive it.”

In the past 50 years, our federal government has made it increasingly easy to collect a check for doing nothing.  We are now witnessing the rotting fruits of those policies falling from the tree of good intentions and spoiling our society from within. (more…)

Don’t punish taxpayers for economic growth

Colorado’s economy has shown remarkable resiliency in the wake of the Great Recession.

Unemployment has steadily fallen from a high of 9.6% in 2010 to an estimated 4.1% in November 2014.

Income indicators roared past pre-recession levels and now both wages and salary and per capita income are significantly higher.

In the past five years, taxes and fees paid by Coloradans to their state government have grown by 43% from $8.5 billion to an estimated $12.3 billion in the current year.

And next year, state revenue could surpass the state’s spending limit for the first time in 15 years, triggering a modest rebate to taxpayers of $116 million or 0.4% of next year’s state budget.

But those in the Government Always Needs More Money Choir just can’t stand this prosperity.  They are howling that that this modest refund – and perhaps future refunds, if the economy continues to grow – are somehow strangling our state government. (more…)

Public grows skeptical about cost of ‘Affordable Care’

Nobody likes the unknown, so it’s easy to understand why Americans are growing increasingly wary as the implementation of ObamaCare or, as it is formally known, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, draws near.

Although the law passed in 2010, many of the key components take affect within the next 15 months:

• Health insurance exchanges open on Oct. 1 and are supposed to help people compare competing plans and discover whether they qualify for a taxpayer-funded subsidy.

• Beginning in 2014, all Americans are required to be covered by health insurance which is approved by the federal government. (Many popular high deductible plans, which are less expensive, are not government-approved.)  Those who choose not to be covered will be required to pay a tax penalty to the IRS.  That penalty begins at $95 but grows to $695 or 2.5% of your income by 2016.

• Businesses with more than 50 fulltime employees are mandated to provide health insurance coverage to all employees who work 30 hours a week or more.  The law says that mandate begins in 2014, but President Obama issued an executive order stating that his administration would not enforce that provision until 2015.

Still, the public grows skeptical.  A USA Today/Gallup poll found that Americans disapprove of the health care law 53%-42%, with 41% describing themselves as “strongly opposed.”  Another poll found that 77% want the individual mandate delayed or repealed, including 49% who want the mandate killed outright. (more…)

Freedom flickers in recall of senators

After the stunning recall of two Democrat state senators who led the legislature’s lurch to the loony left, maybe there’s still hope for freedom in Colorado after all – but only if more Coloradans become fierce defenders of their freedoms.

The ouster of Senate President John Morse (D-Colorado Springs) and Sen. Angela Giron (D-Pueblo) was remarkable on many fronts. Never before has a sitting Colorado legislator been recalled. Even more impressive were overwhelming odds that recall proponents faced.

With very little outside help and ample skepticism from observers, two motivated groups of local citizens – Basic Freedom Defense Fund in Colorado Springs and Pueblo Freedom and Rights – worked their tails off on a shoestring budget to collect enough signatures to force two incumbents to justify why they should remain in office.

Those citizens later received substantial support from gun rights groups and others but were outspent 7-to-1 by backers of Morse and Giron. The incumbents’ machine unleashed a torrent of frivolous lawsuits to try to derail the election and raked in more than $3 million, including a personal check of $350,000 from gun-grabbing New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Dethroning the senate president is satisfying mostly due to Morse’s unbounded arrogance, but the Pueblo result was refreshing because it re-affirms that Democrats in some locales still value core freedoms – unlike the Denver-Boulder variety who so often behave as if the only freedoms worth fighting for involve sex and drugs. (more…)

Democrats keep sticking it to rural Colorado

Now that they have regained total control of the State Capitol, Democrat leaders in the legislature just cannot resist kicking rural Colorado every time they get a chance.

It was necessary, they told us, for rural Coloradans – and gun owners everywhere – to compromise our lifestyle and our freedom as part of their irrational quest to make us safer by passing laws that will continue to be ignored by cold-blooded killers like James Holmes, Adam Lanza and the Boston bombers.

Now, Democrats are feeding their green-energy fetish by imposing drastically higher energy costs – 15 to 20 percent higher – on rural families, schools and the farms and ranches that put food on their dining room tables.

This is the price, they have determined, that we must pay to “save the planet” from global warming. (more…)

Students, teachers short changed by PERA bailout

As Colorado lawmakers consider an overhaul of the way the state funds K-12 education, more people are noticing that schools are increasingly forced to pay for the past rather than to invest in the future.

Our public schools must take money out of the classroom in order to pay for investment losses and unaffordable promises that have created a $25 billion shortfall in the Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA).

In August 2012, Adams 12 School District teachers protested a 2 percent salary reduction enacted explicitly to offset the rising cost of PERA’s bailout plan.  For 2012-13, Adams 12 will pay $190 million in salaries, plus $36 million for PERA and Medicaid.

In 2010-11, Colorado Springs School District 11 paid $21 million to PERA, according to the Colorado Springs Independent.  Those payments, combined with funding reductions by the state legislature, led the district to close schools and make cuts that affected everything from textbooks to class size to suspending pay increases.

District 11 CFO Glenn Gustafson told the Independent: “To improve student achievement, it’s more important than ever to attract qualified and talented teachers. But we’re shifting a disproportionate amount of compensation to retirement benefits and health care.”

For 2011-12, my hometown Burlington School District RE-6J, with just 738 pupils, faced a $300,000 budget deficit – half of that amount caused by the cost of PERA’s bailout.  For 2012-13, the district decreased salaries by $54,399 but the mandatory PERA contribution increased by $38,594. (more…)

Obama on business: ignorance or arrogance

What’s more frustrating about President Obama – his ignorance of how difficult it is to make a profit in business or his arrogance that there’s so little he doesn’t know?

Here’s a man with less business experience than a third-grader with a lemonade stand and who has said that during his one, brief private-sector job he felt “like a spy behind enemy lines.”

You need not connect many dots to conclude that his attitude toward America’s businessmen and women is “dismissive, even derisive,” to quote from Obama’s 2009 Apologizing for America Tour.

Obama treats America’s job creators like inconsequential punching bags. His recent comment that government is more responsible for a business’ success than hard work, ingenuity or intelligence smacks of someone who – unlike, say, Henry Ford or Steve Jobs – achieved his success not because he’s especially talented or works harder than anyone else but because he’s a smooth talker and knows the right people. (more…)