Overspending will kill your Christmas cheer


“Christmas is the season when you buy this year’s gifts with next year’s money.”


With the holidays nearly upon us, I was thinking about all the good memories I have about Christmas and the good feelings associated with the holidays. As a child, seeing all the gifts under the tree created such a powerful anticipation for the day we would open them. As I grew older, I started to understand how expensive the holidays were for my parents and how burdensome it was for them to pay for our gifts for months and years afterward. It was difficult to see the tension it caused in their marriage, which spilled over to us kids. Read more

The gift of self-reliance, stitch by stitch

My 10-year-old daughter just presented my husband and me with a Christmas wish list in the form of a letter:

Dear Mom and/or Dad,

Please, please, please get me a sewing kit for Christmas. I dearly want a junior one and I really want to learn how to sew like you, mom. Or get me something electronic. Like I’ve told you, most people (like, literally 8/9) have cell phones.  … Really those are the two most parent-acceptable things that I want.

Oh, no offense, but I secretly am getting tired of getting so many books for birthdays or Christmas! Just get me one or two! I do like to read, but I have plenty of books. I SAID no offense! …

Your Hopefully Humorously persuasive Daughter Read more

Don’t chop tax breaks for charitable contributions


Should government continue to give people tax breaks for donating to charities? Elder Dallin H. Oaks, member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, thinks so.

In response to more than a dozen proposals in Congress to reduce or eliminate charitable deductions, Elder Oaks testified yesterday before the U.S. Senate Finance Committee that “[t]he charitable deduction is vital to the private sector that is unique to America.” After making strong arguments to support this statement, Elder Oaks concluded with the following: Read more

A herd of timid and industrious animals


Nearly two centuries ago, French historian and political philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville described a potential future state that is a strikingly accurate description of our current era:

I would like to imagine with what new traits despotism could be produced in the world. I see an innumerable multitude of men, alike and equal, who turn about without repose in order to procure for themselves petty and vulgar pleasures with which they fill their souls. … Read more

Costs of Dependency


Like the poor, the debate over what to do about poverty we will always have with us. Recently, unsustainable federal budget deficits have reawakened the controversy because it now seems clear that (since payments to individuals make up two-thirds of the federal budget) entitlement reform has to be considered.

The caricature of those who insist that cuts in entitlement programs must be made is that they are cold and unfeeling, looking out only for their own interests and not the least concerned by the less fortunate living around them. Perhaps there are some who fit this profile, but very likely not many. Read more

Back to basics: making government effective in Mali, Africa


Sutherland recently interviewed Yeah Samake, mayor of Ouelessebougou, Mali, to discover which principles have helped him effectively lead a city in the second-poorest country in the world. Watch the video report below to hear what he said:


Here’s the script for the video:

VOICE-OVER: What can a mayor from Mali, Africa, the second-poorest country in the world teach Utahns about principles of sound government? Yeah Samake overcame many obstacles en route to becoming the mayor of Ouelessebougou, a small city in Mali, and, at the same time, earned a master’s degree from BYU. On the way, Samake learned and applied essential principles of effective government.

YEAH SAMAKE: “Having learned some principles and leadership skills from BYU, as I did a masters of public policy – so having enjoyed certain type of principles like respect of property right of others, I decided I would like to get involved, so before running for mayor, I went to several villages and told them I would like to be mayor, and if they will trust me. But this means we will work together.”

VOICE-OVER: After graduation, Samake soon became the executive director of the Mali Rising Foundation. Its mission is to build schools in Mali. In 2009, based in part on the success of the foundation, Samake was elected mayor of Ouelessebougou. Prior to being elected, Samake knew that due to lack of confidence in the government, few were paying taxes. There was only a 20 percent collection of taxes in the whole country of Mali. Samake explains how he overcame this barrier.

SAMAKE: “First of all I asked for the trust of the people. I said if you trust me with your tax money. I will not use one dollar on myself without justification. So you will know exactly where the money will go, which I did. So it really was both bringing the trust, but also showing to the people exactly what the money needs to be used for. The most enticing thing to them I said, the tax money is used to pay teachers, the tax money is used to build schools, pay hospitals, pay doctors, if you don’t pay taxes your teachers will not get paid, if you don’t pay taxes you won’t get a school building in your village. So that is where the money comes from.”

VOICE-OVER: By applying these principles, Oulessebougou’s tax collection rate increased to 70 percent. Mayor Samake fought hard to combat corruption. He was able to do so by giving power back to the people and localizing government. Samake says another key to ensuring the proper role of government is instilling a culture of transparency.

SAMAKE: “If we only come into office with the intent of serving the people, sure enough we will display the characteristics like trust and integrity. And efficiency of using the money in the right way, as we do that, the people will become more involved, and they trust us more, and they take interest in the local government.”

VOICE-OVER: Because these principles are universal, Samake argues that they can be applied in any community.

SAMAKE: “The principles are simple – first of all it’s integrity; leaders have to exhibit the principles of integrity, but also the respect of the public property or property rate. Citizen participation is key to the success of any local government. So those are the fundamental things that I do believe that in any community it will be able to have leaders that we can consider to have integrity; strong integrity that they are principle centered, and they care about the property that has been confided to them, and the citizens are participating. I think together they will really lift any community a little higher than they stand.”

VOICE-OVER: These same principles can and should guide Utah and National officials entrusted to wisely govern. Yeah Samake is running in the 2012 race to become the president of Mali, and, if he continues to apply these principles, he will be an effective leader for his fellow Malians. For Sutherland Institute, I’m Alexis Young.

‘Free’ lunch for all Utah children this summer – at your expense


This summer, many government schools (and parks and rec centers) in Utah are offering free meals to anyone under age 18 who shows up, regardless of their need, using federal tax dollars. Check out this video report to learn about the program:


More and more, government is using schools as welfare centers rather than education centers. Schools offer children and their families meals, medical care, day care, transportation, counseling and more.

What’s next?

Here’s the script of the video:

VOICE-OVER: The Utah State Office of Education supports a Summer Lunch Program that offers free meals to anyone under the age of 18. The catch? Well, there isn’t one. Charlene Allert, the assistant director for the child nutrition programs in the state of Utah, explains this program.

CHARLENE ALLERT: “The summer program is a program for kids; it’s to offer them healthy meals during times when school is not in session. And it’s only offered in neighborhoods where at least 50 percent of the kids qualify for free or reduced-price meals. In that community all kids can attend that program.”

VOICE-OVER: The summer food service program is federally funded and administered at the state level. This year there are 30 sponsors throughout the state and 224 sites that provide breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner, depending on the type of service offered at each site. Even though the program is only offered in low-income areas, children under 18 from anywhere can get a free lunch, no questions asked. In fact, school districts like Davis County advertise and invite anyone under 18 to attend, regardless of income.

ALLERT: “Parents decide whether or not they want to send their children to the sites; that’s an individual decision that they make. The school is area qualified; in other words, all children that come qualify for any meals at that site and we don’t make a differentiation between ‘that kid doesn’t look like they should qualify for this program’ and ‘that one does.’ All children that come to the sites qualify.”

VOICE-OVER: But do parents even know this program is intended for individuals who cannot afford food for their children? The majority of partakers at Washington Elementary in Bountiful said they heard about this FREE lunch from their friends and neighbors. When asked why she came to the lunch, one mom said:

MOM AT SCHOOL LUNCH PROGRAM: “Well, for one, it’s free; that’s great the kids can eat free, and I have four kids and so it’s nice just to come and not to have to worry about making them lunch every day and the cleanup afterwards.”

VOICE-OVER: This summer lunch program impacts the self-reliance of families and individuals. Bill Duncan, director of Sutherland Institute’s Center for Family and Society, explains how residents of Utah can become more and more dependent upon government.

BILL DUNCAN: “The creation of dependence in people who take these kinds of programs – it’s much easier to say, ‘Well, I’d like a free lunch,’ or something like that, rather than figure out ways of how you’re going to support your family. Even for people who might potentially be on the borderline there’s a risk that those people are going to say, ‘Well, we need the government to give us what we have,’ rather than figuring out ways to build their own self-reliance.”

BILL DUNCAN: “These kinds of programs are kind of inherently flawed because the challenge is you’re not going to have the parents come to the door and say, ‘Can you show us an income statement?’ – that would be pretty intrusive. But on the other hand, the government is sort of holding out this carrot: ‘Please come in and depend on us for your meals.’ That kind of judgment call is sometimes hard for people to make.”

VOICE-OVER: This “free lunch” attitude was even promoted as a way to “save money” in a post written by a local resident on a coupon clipping website.

BILL DUNCAN: “One problem we have already seen that you’ll see online is people talking about ‘hey, look this is a great way to save money, be a little more frugal.’ Frugality is great, but not necessarily with the expense of your neighbors who are taxpayers.”

VOICE-OVER: As the saying goes, there really is no “free lunch.” The growing acceptance of government handouts in our Utah communities is alarming. Should Utah participate in a taxpayer-funded lunch program, even if it is making Utahns more dependent on government? Do Utahns realize their “free lunch” is at their neighbors’ expense? Our freedom is reduced when government, by force of tax, takes from some of its citizens and gives to others. For Sutherland Institute, I’m Alexis Young, reminding you that policy, good or bad, changes lives!