EPA's proposed carbon rule hits most vulnerable hardest

epa-logo_edited-1The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed carbon rule is the latest in a series of regulations that will increase the cost of electricity and natural gas at a time when wages are stagnant and a lot of people are struggling to get by.

According to a recently released study, if this new carbon rule is imposed, the average Utah family’s electric bill will go up by $124 and their gas bill will increase by $266 annually, for a total of $32.50 per month. If you don’t think that’s a meaningful amount, then you’re out of touch with a lot of Utah families that are living paycheck to paycheck and are all too often faced with a choice between heating their houses or buying groceries for their children.

These regulations are a backdoor tax plain and simple, and the most regressive and punishing kind possible. It may not hurt you or me to pay an extra few bucks a month to satisfy an environmental feel-good agenda, the results of which will have absolutely no measurable impact on the global climate. But it does hurt the most vulnerable among us. It forces them to pay a larger percentage of their paycheck for everyday needs like heat and electricity, cutting into what disposable income they may have and harming not just their quality of life but also their ability to live. It’s despicable and the height of hypocrisy for ivory tower do-gooders to inflict real pain and suffering on others so that they can enjoy a clear global warming conscience in the comfort of their beautiful homes and SUVs. Read more

When the West is pushed, it turns right

Morgan_Farm_2Most people have heard by now that the locals out West are getting a little restless, as they have every other generation or so since the mid-19th century.

What’s less clear is whether this restlessness reflects a new conservative political tilt, or if it’s just the latest flare-up in a turf war over resources and real estate that’s been waged for over a century.

Are we looking at an ideological movement determined to turn this region to the right, or simply a periodic episode of sound and fury, signifying nothing?

Defining Western political forces has always been tricky because these forces so much depend on the current state of relations between the locals and their Washington, D.C., landlords. The federal government’s hand is especially heavy in a region where bureaucrats half a continent away control 50 percent of all lands and heavily regulate the state and private lands that remain.

Increasingly, though, Westerners’ political leanings can be pretty accurately guessed by how far their trade or their traditions lie from that heavy hand.

As in the blind men and the elephant parable, what an observer might “see” depends a lot on which part of the elephant he or she is sampling. A nurse in Seattle or a software engineer in Denver will perceive a much different Western political culture than will a rancher in Montana’s Missouri Breaks, or a roughneck in Utah’s Uinta Basin. They will also have significantly different public policy inclinations: not so much because their interests or goals vary so much they don’t. Their policy preferences diverge because of the angle and proximity of their viewpoint.

One perspective witnesses and experiences the rural production economy up close as a livelihood and a lifestyle, while the other has real memories or implanted images of an unspoiled and imperiled natural legacy.

This isn’t a left/right or Republican/Democrat divide, although that’s how it is manifested in the voting booth. It’s an urban/rural difference of perceptions more than of aims, and it is too often exacerbated by cooked-up controversies and outside agendas insisting that urban and rural values must be competing rather than complementary. But those perspectives are different, and they do make a difference. Read more

Watch live stream: Sutherland’s Carl Graham to speak at Heritage on Western states

Sutherland-Coalition-Self-Govt-Logo-200Watch live on Tuesday (June 10) as Carl Graham, director of Sutherland’s Coalition for Self-Government in the West, speaks in Washington, D.C., as part of a Heritage Foundation event. “States of Dependence: Reducing Washington’s Control of the Western U.S.” begins at 9 a.m. MST and can be streamed online.

Here’s more about the topic, from Heritage:

Values and priorities imposed by Washington are disenfranchising rural economies and communities. Nowhere is this more true than in Western states, where large amounts of public lands are managed with top-down Washington policy prescriptions funded by federal dollars. Shifting control of some of these lands to Western states will require charting a course whereby states can responsibly manage these lands and insure benefits to their citizens including the responsible stewardship of natural resources and bringing policy decision closer to home.


2 cheers for the federalist left

colorado coinLet’s all take a moment to welcome our progressive left friends to the self-government movement. They’re a little late to the party, generally favoring judges and bureaucrats over actually persuading people they’re right. But it’s good to see they have at least a taste for local decision-making when it suits their needs.

This Kumbaya moment comes to me after perusing an article from Colorado describing local efforts there to give communities the power to ban fracking, even though it’s already (for now, at least) regulated at the state rather than federal level.

Still, the cynic in me wants to call their efforts at bringing policy decisions closer to home rank opportunism, but even that dark cloud has a silver lining. There’s at least an inkling of understanding behind the effort that maybe, just maybe letting local people have a say in what’s good or bad for them might be useful and fair and proper, even if the folks are sometimes wrong. So two cheers for opportunism masquerading as principle.

Only two cheers because federalism, you see, isn’t really the favorite tool in their policy toolbox. They don’t normally want to leave deciding what is best for the great unwashed to, well, the great unwashed because all too often the great unwashed don’t know what’s good for them.

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Supreme court DOMA and Prop 8 marriage cases: a preliminary analysis

Wedding rings

The U.S. Supreme Court has now issued its decisions in the two marriage cases, both on 5-4 votes.

In the Proposition 8 case, the majority said that since the group that had brought the measure to the voters had not experienced any personal injury from the original federal court decision (i.e. they were not required to do or not do something) holding Proposition 8 unconstitutional, they could not appeal that decision. They only needed to appeal because the government officials with the responsibility of doing so refused in order to sabotage the law. That ruse seems to have worked now and the bizarre opinion by Judge Walker saying Proposition 8 was unconstitutional because he found it irrational is still valid. There will have to be some further developments to sort out the implications of this decision (for instance, does it only apply to the parties in the original lawsuit so that a county clerk could refuse to comply?).

In the case challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act, the majority was willing to address the substantive issues but the reader will wish they had not. The majority (Justice Anthony Kennedy was the author) decided DOMA was unconstitutional. Why? Well, the court begins talking about federalism concerns as if it is going to conclude that Congress could not define terms in federal law contrary to the way states use the terms in state law. Perhaps because of the extreme novelty of this rule, the majority backs away from it and says it doesn’t have to decide the question.

Rather, Justice Kennedy says that DOMA is a violation of the constitution (it’s not clear which provision as Justice Scalia points out in dissent) because its purpose and effect is to interfere with “the equal dignity of same-sex marriages” and because it treats same-sex marriages “as second-class marriages for purposes of federal law.” Read more

Selling our national soul for 30 pieces of silver

moneybagThe United States Senate recently voted overwhelmingly to proceed with debate on the so-called Marketplace Fairness Act, and scheduled a final vote for May 6. This law, if passed, would authorize states to require Internet-based companies without a physical presence in the state to collect and remit sales taxes to state and local governments, forcing Internet retailers to know and apply thousands of different sales tax laws – potentially one for every state, county and city in America that collects a sales tax.

The problem with this law is that it is a violation of the principle of balanced federalism, and of the spirit of the American Constitution. In order for a state to collect Internet sales taxes, the law would require states to adopt “minimum simplification standards,” because evidently the federal government cannot let sovereign states do anything without also forcing states – I’m sorry, “encouraging” states – to adopt federal standards.

By introducing “minimum simplification standards” for Internet sales taxes, the federal government would be explicitly pushing the idea that it is proper for Washington, D.C. to explicitly influence state and local sales and use tax policies. This idea violates the foundational idea of our federalist system, wherein the federal government focuses on its constitutionally delegated areas of law and public policy (e.g., federal income and excise taxes) and leaves the states, as sovereign entities, to address their areas of law and policy free of federal interference or intrusion (e.g., state and local sales taxes). The federal government has no right to impose “minimum standards” on state and local sales taxes, all twisting of the language of the federal Constitution by legal sophists aside.

Some advocates, including some in Utah, would like to see state and local sales taxes standardized nationwide, and that is their right. However, sacrificing the founding principles of America’s freedom on the Altar of Business in the name of Almighty Commerce would be to sell our nation’s soul for 30 pieces of silver.

Budget deal: Utah still addicted to the federal trough


A year and a half ago I wrote an article for the Standard-Examiner about how Utah is addicted to federal dollars. Since then, nothing has changed. The federal budget deal has again brought this issue to our attention.

A Deseret News article yesterday highlighted how Utah Transit Authority officials, “advocates for Utah’s poor and disabled,” leaders of the Utah Public Employees Association, Hill Air Force Base officials, and State Superintendent Larry Shumway are concerned that the newly signed budget deal could decrease federal funds available for the programs they support. In a related article, Mayor Ralph Becker expressed concerns that the budget stalemate could jeopardize $26 million promised for Salt Lake City’s two-mile streetcar extension. Read more

Relief from federal education mandates may be in sight


We have some good news out of Washington. Utah’s own Rep. Rob Bishop, an educator in Utah’s public schools for 28 years, has introduced a bill in Congress that could exempt Utah and other states from burdensome federal education programs.

The Academic Partnerships Lead Us to Success Act (A-PLUS) would allow states to continue to receive federal education funding as block grants while not being subject to onerous federal regulations like those in No Child Left Behind (NCLB) – a program that Utah teachers do not like. States would be able to use this funding to address the unique needs and priorities of their students in the best way they see fit. Read more

Run away from ‘Race to the Top’

President Barack Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan are offering states $500 million more in the third round of its “Race to the Top” competition. This round, called the “Early Learning Challenge,” aims to standardize early childhood education nationwide.

Photo credit Anissa Thompson

According to Duncan, “Our goal is to transform from a patchwork of disconnected programs often of uneven quality and uneven access into a coordinated one that truly and consistently prepares our nation’s young people for success in school and life.”

What Duncan means is that the federal government, whose presence in K-12 education increases every year and is leading to a one-size-fits-all public education system, now wants to standardize education for children from birth through kindergarten. Read more

Guest commentary: the next steps for immigration reform

At the same time President Obama was giving his speech about immigration in El Paso, Texas, I was sitting in the courtroom of U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups while he issued a temporary restraining order on the controversial Utah law HB 497, the Utah Illegal Immigration Enforcement Act, written by Representative Stephen Sandstrom. I am filled with mixed feelings about what transpired yesterday on both fronts. I realize that when talking about immigration reform there are no easy answers, so I don’t envy anyone.

Ellis Island

After spending almost every waking moment of the past year working on creating a strategy both politically and legally to force Congress into working positively on comprehensive immigration reform, I think I can reasonably say I understand what the costs of both winning and losing this battle means.

To frame my concerns, I would like to preface it with my beliefs. First off, this is not an “us versus them” issue. Most Americans simply fail to realize that “we” are “them.” Illegal immigration is not about criminality – it is about economics, sometimes compassion, it is about America being responsible for our own actions and our ruinous trade policies, it is about a nation of immigrants, and it is about not just patching failed immigration policy but actually fixing it. We can build the biggest wall in the world, but what does it mean if our economy collapses in the meantime? People have watched their jobs go to China, wages have remained stagnant for decades, and in a down-turned economy they want someone to blame. It isn’t the immigrant’s fault any more than it is your own fault. This problem lives and breathes solely in Washington D.C Read more