The war on (unborn) women

A girl named Swarna (Sanskrit for "golden").

A baby girl named Swarna (Sanskrit for “golden”).

We’re constantly told by liberal politicians and media claiming to be “progressive” that conservative thinkers and policymakers are waging a “war on women.” As the argument is spun, the right’s “war on women” oppresses women’s quality of life by opposing proposed liberal policies regarding things like abortion and employee pay.

Well, whatever you may think about conservative ideas and women’s quality of life, you must admit the conservative perspective gives all women a chance at life – which newly published research suggests is not true for the “progressive” perspective.

The study, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, looked at India’s male-to-female sex ratio, which has become more male-heavy in recent decades. The researcher – an economist at Northwestern University – reports that “fertility decline can explain roughly half of the increase in the sex ratio that occurred in India over the past thirty years.” The connection between fertility decline and having a larger portion of men in society is that as people desire and have fewer children, many continue to desire to have at least one son.

But simple math points to the fact that having fewer children decreases the likelihood of having a boy, and so this situation leads people to “manipulate the sex composition of their children.” That is a nice way of saying that people use “sex-selective abortion [aborting only girls], infanticide, or neglect” toward girls so they can have a son while having fewer children at the same time.

As a follow up to that finding, she also reports that “more progressive attitudes could counterintuitively cause a more male-skewed sex ratio.” Why? Because such views “reduce desired family size.” In other words, driven by “progressive” ideas and attitudes, more people kill or discard girl babies as a means to their goal of having fewer children.

How is it that the philosophy that claims to protect women on the basis of “equality” could lead people to kill or discard a child for no other reason than she’s a girl?

Which worldview is truly perpetuating a “war on women”: the one that is accused of standing in the way of equal pay for some women, or the system that is actually leading people to kill female babies before they have a chance to live?

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Ignoring old truths to create a new reality

GavelIt’s easy to win an argument when you invent a new reality. In the case of same-sex marriage, plaintiffs simply argue that a definition of marriage that has existed, culturally and legally, for millennia is an old reality.

Proponents of marriage (i.e., the defendants) have a tough argument to make. We have to demonstrate a higher purpose for marriage. We have to show why it’s culturally sacred, why it serves the common good, why it elevates the lives of men, women and children and why law in a free society should lay out a clear definition of it. We have to explain what marriage is.

Plaintiffs have no such burden to demonstrate. They simply argue equality. How difficult is that? There is no sense of the sacred in marriage for plaintiffs. Only equality is sacred. There is no sense of the common good in marriage for plaintiffs. Equality is the only common good. Only equality elevates men, women and children. And law in a free society has one purpose: Equality.

Carrying such a light intellectual load explains why federal judges, anxious to be on the so-called right side of history, can so casually accept this new reality of same-sex marriage. This new reality explains why a federal judge accepts that “the right to marry” applies to everyone – despite the fact that every legal precedent prior to the invention of this new reality viewed marriage as between a man and woman. Pick the marriage precedent cited by plaintiffs, and every precedent, until now, referenced marriage between a man and woman. The Loving case? A man and woman. Prisoners? A man and woman. Sterile couples? A man and woman.

This new reality describes “marriage equality” as anything that consenting adults agree to – and for any arbitrary reason (e.g., psychological or emotional). What an easy argument! For heaven’s sake, the entire campaign of plaintiffs fits neatly on a small bumper sticker – that is how unsubstantive their 14th Amendment argument really is. Continue reading

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There’s so much more to caregiving than government ‘support’ – Mero Moment, 7/8/14

elderlyThis post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations.

Big-government advocates at AARP tell us that Utah ranks dead last in support for family caregivers. To be clear, AARP means that Utah ranks dead last in providing government support for family caregivers. A claim to which most Utahns would respond, “Well, isn’t that the cultural point of family caregiving?” We care for our own loved ones for a variety of reasons, including that most of us feel as if caring for our elderly parents and relatives is our personal responsibility.

The AARP research isn’t news. It’s politics. They admit that 89 percent of adults with disabilities in Utah are satisfied with their quality of life. Nearly every solution AARP has to the genuine needs of elderly Americans involves your tax dollars.

I was 26 years old when I asked to be and was appointed legal guardian for my disabled sister, my only sibling. I remember our small two-bedroom apartment in Provo back then. I was a student at BYU. My sister shared a bedroom with our two young daughters. When our son was born, we put his crib in the living room. We sacrificed to care for her.

Today, my elderly parents and my sister live with us. Mom is at a rehabilitation facility due to a broken hip. Dad has dementia and my sister has developed even more health complications. My wife and I live in our basement because my parents and sister can’t go up and down steps. Caregiving is what we do. We feed them. We shop for them. We handle their finances. We drive them to appointments. We keep them company. We have their health care proxies.

I think I can speak confidently for all family caregivers when I say – we’re exhausted. My wife and I hardly have time for each other. Family caregivers do need support but not like AARP thinks.

Here’s the support we could use. Continue reading

Posted in Family, Limited Government, Self-reliance | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Self-selected sample sinks same-sex study

iStock_000002098320MediumAn Australian study about the well-being of children in families headed by same-sex couples has been seized upon as an indication that the children benefit from an ungendered structure that creates “a more harmonious family unit … therefore feeding on to better health and well-being.”

But wait a minute, and look deeper.

In addition to the problem of comparing children to the general population rather than children raised by married couples, you have the problem of a sample recruited through gay and lesbian media and events, and the problem that results are reported only by the parents.

Here are some other things we noticed looking at the actual study. The mean age of participants is 5.12 and the median age is 4. That doesn’t give us many years to pick up differences. Unfortunately, the study doesn’t report the corresponding demographics for the comparison group.

The number of children in the sample born while the current relationship is ongoing also seems much higher than is generally the case where far higher percentages of children of same-sex couples were conceived in a previous relationship.

The measures used seem to focus on physical health which (especially at the young age of the participants) would not seem to be very responsive to parenting, unless asthma is caused by parents. (The most touted value, “family cohesion,” is not defined.)

In an article for the Witherspoon Institute’s Public Discourse website pointing out the problem with the study’s methodology, social scientist Mark Regnerus writes:

[T]his non-random sample reflects those who actively pursued participating in the study, personal and political motivations included. In such a charged environment, the public—including judges and media—would do well to demand better-quality research designs, not just results they approve of.

Snowball sampling doesn’t cut it. When I want to know who’s most apt to win the next election, I don’t ask my friends whom they support. Nor do I field a survey asking interested people to participate. No, I want a random sample of the sort often conducted by Gallup, NORC, or Knowledge Networks.

Another reason for healthy skepticism is that the [study] participants—parents reporting about their children’s lives — are all well aware of the political import of the study topic, and an unknown number of them certainly signed up for that very reason. As a result, it seems unwise to trust their self-reports, given the high risk of “social desirability bias,” or the tendency to portray oneself (or here, one’s children) as better than they actually are.

So our question is this: Will the left and its academics take the path of integrity (dismissing this study because of its methodology) or the path of hypocrisy (embracing this study, despite its methodology, simply because its conclusions fit their ideological paradigm)?

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Thanks to Utah leaders for careful approach on climate politics

Click the graphic to watch a live stream of the International Conference on Climate Change.

Click the above graphic to watch a live stream of climate scientists and policy experts at the conference.

In “Herbert Catching Heat for Climate Change Stance,” (July 7, 2014, Utah Policy Daily), Bryan Schott shares the observation that “half of the nation’s Republican governors are climate change deniers, including Utah Gov. Gary Herbert.”

To which an appropriate response would be “Thank you, Gov. Herbert” – with similar expressions of gratitude to the majority of Utah legislators that prudently have not embraced group-think-based proposed responses to purported anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming/change/disruption/etc.

The perspective underlying Mr. Schott’s July 7 post is similar that of his June 9 “Krugman: Anti-Intellectualism Biggest Hurdle to Addressing Climate Change,” wherein he notes,

Economist Paul Krugman says it’s not vested interests that pose the biggest obstacle to addressing climate change, it’s those who don’t trust scientists. Krugman argues that economic ideology and hostility to science is the biggest problem in the climate debate, because it directly challenges the world view of those who deny climate change.

Quoting Krugman, Schott includes,

And the natural reaction is denial – angry denial. Read or watch any extended debate over climate policy and you’ll be struck by the venom, the sheer rage, of the denialists.

We should be pleased to hear any debate, even a brief one, between anthropogenic global warming (AGW) proponents and those skeptical of that view. Several years ago, while I was collaborating with the governor’s environmental advisor in efforts to plan and organize a public forum/debate that would address the topic of anthropogenic global warming, he and I were frustrated that our efforts came to the disappointing conclusion that no debate would be held. Why? In large measure because, despite earnest and persistent attempts, we could find no AGW advocates of national stature that would be willing to accept our invitation to engage in a public contest of ideas and data on the subject.

*       *       *

Take advantage of the opportunity today and tomorrow (July 8-9) to watch via live streaming as climate scientists and policy experts meet this week to provide updates on current climate research at the Ninth International Conference on Climate Change. Sponsored and hosted by the Heartland Institute, the full conference schedule, including all keynote addresses and 21 break-out panel discussions, can be viewed live and at no cost as the proceedings unfold, and will be available online after the conference. Note that as all times listed are PDT (Pacific Daylight Time), Utah viewers will be watching one hour later than the listed time.

Posted in Environment, Limited Government | Tagged | 3 Comments

On Point video: Utah primaries and hot-topic court rulings, 6/26/14

In this episode of On Point, “Holly on the Hill” blogger Holly Richardson is joined by three lawyers – Michelle Mumford, assistant dean at the BYU Law School; Curt Bentley, Utah political blogger; and Bill Duncan, director of Sutherland’s Center for Family and Society – to discuss the recent primary elections, the 10th Circuit Court ruling on Utah’s marriage amendment, and two recent Supreme Court decisions.

You can watch the half-hour On Point videos here on Sutherland’s YouTube channel.

Use this link to subscribe to the On Point podcast on iTunes.

Or use this link to subscribe to the RSS feed.

 

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Utah beware! A list of ‘extremists’ and potentially ‘very dangerous’ people at the World Congress of Families

Family_playing_a_board_gameYou may have heard a Human Rights Campaign (HRC) spokesman claim on Utah radio that Sutherland Institute will be bringing 3,000 “extremists” and “very dangerous” people to Utah to attend the ninth World Congress of Families (WCF) next year.

That struck us as an odd and rather irrational claim, given who has attended and spoken at WCF: presidents of nations, religious leaders and people of faith from most major religious denominations, widely published scholars and researchers, high-level government officials, and extraordinary people engaged in helping the less fortunate around the world. While this description evidently leads the HRC to see “extremists,” it reminds us of the majority of mainstream Utah.

In any case, we thought it would be useful to provide a brief list of some past WCF attendees, supporters and speakers. Continue reading

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States still need their own religious freedom laws – Mero Moment, 7/1/14

This post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations.

Green River Presbyterian Church in Green River, Utah.

Green River (Utah) Presbyterian Church.

The United States Supreme Court decided an important religious freedom case this week. In a 5-4 decision the court ruled that a privately held corporation is allowed its free exercise of religion. The landmark case, made famous by the mega-craft store Hobby Lobby, held that plaintiffs don’t have to comply with certain parts of Obamacare that offend their religious beliefs. Specifically, Hobby Lobby and two other plaintiffs are not required to pay for an employee’s abortion-related contraception such as the “morning after” pill.

The basis of this precedent-setting decision is a federal law known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA.

RFRA states that the federal government shall not substantially burden a person’s free exercise of religion and the court held that a privately owned family business is a “person” in terms of this law.

Under RFRA, for the federal government to violate a person’s religious beliefs it has to demonstrate a “compelling government interest” and it then has to pursue a solution to enforce that interest in “the least restrictive means” possible. In other words, to force Hobby Lobby to pay for its employees’ abortion pills, the federal government would have to prove why abortion pills for employees are more important than the religious beliefs of employers and, even if that were possible to prove, the federal government would have to enforce its mandates in the least restrictive means possible. The court properly acknowledged that requiring Hobby Lobby to pay daily fines of $1.3 million, or nearly a half-billion dollars a year, in noncompliance is a clear burden to its free exercise of religion.

Of course, the progressive left is going crazy implying (and sometimes outright lying about) what this decision really means. Continue reading

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How Supreme Court ruling supports integrity, tolerance

Hobby Lobby in Stow, Ohio. (Photo: DangApricot via Wikimedia Commons)

Hobby Lobby in Stow, Ohio.

“Americans need to understand that religious liberty is good for the nation; it’s not just a form of right-wing special pleading,” writes Rachel Lu today in The Federalist. Her article gives the reader “3 ways of promoting religious freedom to your liberally inclined friends and relatives.”

It’s a great explanation of the principles behind the Supreme Court decision that can also help clarify in your own mind just why “[t]he Hobby Lobby decision is a win for personal integrity, cultural diversity, and tolerance”:

Sometimes deep and serious commitments run up against each other, as, for example, when one person’s family commitments conflict with another’s religious beliefs. Those are the hard cases, and we have to sort them out as well as we can. But it’s very hard to argue that anyone’s personal integrity is deeply threatened by an employer’s refusal to pay for their contraceptives. …

[M]odesty gives us an additional reason to be wary of curtailing religious practice. Wise people recognize it’s bad to fool around with things you don’t understand.

Great religious faiths offer their followers a complex and comprehensive metaphysical and moral outlook. It’s extremely difficult to judge from the outside how a given belief or practice fits into that wider perspective. The best policy, therefore, is to respect religious groups’ claims of conscience so far as circumstances allow.

Click here to read the rest of this piece at The Federalist.

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Sutherland applauds Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision

800px-United_states_supreme_court_buildingSutherland Institute issued the following statement today, June 30, 2014, in reaction to the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case:

The Supreme Court has done the right thing.

No one should have to choose between acting on their religious beliefs or paying crippling fines to the government, including business owners. The court has recognized the importance of the free exercise of religion, protected in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which is good news for the principles of religious liberty and limited government.

However, supporters of religious freedom can’t let down their guard. Four justices would have allowed the government to force private companies to act against their beliefs. Today’s decision is a welcome reprieve but no reason to relax our vigilance in protecting religious liberty. Utah can help by passing comprehensive state religious liberty protections as soon as possible.

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Podcast: the states vs. the feds on public lands

Sutherland-Coalition-Self-Govt-Logo-200Listen to Carl Graham, director of Sutherland’s Coalition for Self-Government in the West, in a podcast about control and use of public lands. Utah state Rep. Ken Ivory, Donald J. Kochan of Chapman University School of Law, and David Garbett of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance also participated in the teleforum, sponsored by The Federalist Society, earlier this week.

Here’s a description of what they tackled during the teleforum:

The state of Utah now has statutory authority to sue the federal government for return of its lands in January, 2015. How sound is the legal case, and what are the economic implications for the Western states – as well as the country in general? What are the environmental policy issues and is state stewardship of these lands best?

Click here for the podcast at The Federalist Society website.

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Analysis of 10th Circuit’s radical ruling on marriage amendment

Wedding ringsEditor’s note: Utah is now at the heart of the debate over same-sex marriage. The state’s Amendment 3, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman, was challenged in court as unconstitutional and was subsequently struck down by a federal judge in 2013. Utah appealed that verdict. On Wednesday the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit ruled against Utah, 2-1. If this case is appealed to the Supreme Court, which appears likely, the court’s decision may decide the future of marriage for decades – for the entire country.

Does the right of self-determination extend to voters’ decisions to protect children’s entitlement to be reared by a married mother and father? We learned this week that two judges on the 10th Circuit Court think the answer is no. One of their colleagues, however, wrote a strong dissenting opinion highlighting just how radical that answer is.

The majority opinion is something of a departure from previous cases. The judges admit that Utah voters cannot be accused of hatred or animus just because they wanted to retain the child-centered understanding of marriage.

The crux of their opinion is the novel claim that the Constitution has, since 1868, contained an unwritten “fundamental right” to same-sex marriage. They try to disguise the radicalness of that claim by saying that they are only applying the right to marry that has been previously recognized by the Supreme Court. That’s an implausible claim given that no state had redefined marriage to include same-sex couples until 2004, long after the court’s latest right-to-marry case.

To reach the result the 10th Circuit judges did in this case requires first redefining marriage to mean something it has never meant before — the right to choose one’s life partner of either sex. Only after marriage is understood in that way (in contrast to the virtually universal understanding of marriage as the union of husband and wife that prevailed just over a decade ago) can it make any sense to say that there is a right to marriage that includes same-sex relationships.

A major problem with that approach is that the U.S. Supreme Court has said that if a new right is to be recognized by the federal courts, it must be identified as precisely as possible and must be implicit in the history and tradition of the nation. The “right” the 10th Circuit majority has announced, precisely identified, is a right to same-sex marriage. Why? Because when the Supreme Court recognized a right to marry, the only kind of legal marriage in the United States was the union of husband and wife. To recognize the new right to same-sex marriage, the judge needed to show that this “right” is part of the nation’s history and traditions. That is an insurmountable obstacle for an innovation introduced a mere decade ago by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

The court also rejects the state’s reasonable concerns about what will happen if the state is forced to abandon the ideal that children should be raised by their own married mother and father whenever possible, or another married mother and father when that’s not possible. It does so only by relying on its own unsupported assumptions that an official government message that men and women, mothers and fathers, are interchangeable and that neither is essential to child well-being will have no effect. Our experience with nearly 40 years of government endorsement of the idea that marriage is binding only until one party is dissatisfied should cause us to be very suspicious of that claim.

The dissenting opinion in the case is very important. Judge Paul Kelly notes: “The starting point for a claim that same-gender marriage is required by the Constitution must be the Constitution.” He points out what should be obvious to the most casual observer, “The Constitution is silent on the regulation of marriage; accordingly, that power is reserved to the States, albeit consistent with federal constitutional guarantees.” Since all right-to-marry cases have involved opposite-sex couples, what the majority is arguing for is a new, judicially created, right.

This is problematic for a number of reasons. “If the States are the laboratories of democracy, requiring every state to recognize same-gender unions — contrary to the views of its electorate and representatives — turns the notion of a limited national government on its head.” Judge Kelly warns: “[W]e should be reluctant to announce a fundamental right by implication. Not only is that beyond our power, it is completely arbitrary and impractical; as in this case, a state should be allowed to adopt change if desired and implement it.” He concludes: “We should resist the temptation to become philosopher-kings, imposing our views under the guise of constitutional interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment.”

What does this decision mean for the future? A media talking point has been that same-sex marriage is on a roll, having received the support of a couple dozen federal judges in the last year. Thus, the argument goes, a national mandate for redefinition is inevitable. The problem with that line of reasoning is that all of the court decisions to this point rest on an interpretation of implications of last year’s Supreme Court’s decision on the Defense of Marriage Act (the decision itself said nothing about whether states had to redefine marriage). If the judges took the wrong cues from the Supreme Court’s silence, every one of the decisions mandating marriage will be meaningless.

There is a definite bright side in the timing of the 10th Circuit opinion. This is the first federal appeals court decision striking down a state marriage law. The only other circuit opinion on the issue, from the 8th Circuit in 2006, held that states were free to retain the understanding of marriage as the union of a husband and wife. This case creates a conflict among the federal courts on the matter, so the Supreme Court should feel obligated to resolve that conflict and correct the misinterpretation of its June 2013 decision.

The Utah case is a good vehicle for doing that. Unlike other states where government officials are refusing to defend marriage, Utah has provided a robust defense of its laws. Utah is also unique among states in that its people are more likely, on average, to live out their commitment to the ideal that children deserve a mother and father.

So, the 10th Circuit decision is disappointing, but not unexpected, and it allows the legal process to move forward to the U.S. Supreme Court. The increased attention to this matter that will come from this next stage will provide more opportunities to stand for the truth about marriage and family. These opportunities are not to be missed.

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A disappointing 10th Circuit ruling; on to Supreme Court

scalesIt’s disappointing to have a few federal judges decide that they can unilaterally override the decision of Utah voters to preserve marriage as society’s way of preserving children’s opportunity to be reared by a mother and father.

We’ve long known that this issue will have to be resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court. We’re grateful that Utah will have the opportunity to make its case to the top court that Utah voters deserve self-determination to decide a matter crucial to the state and its citizens.

Any appeal at the U.S. Supreme Court is the main event and may decide the future of marriage for decades. Defenders of marriage must be prepared and Sutherland Institute has laid the groundwork ensuring that top legal minds have compiled every constructive and effective argument to give our side the best chance of winning.

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John Paulk and the politicization of homosexuality – Mero Moment, 6/24/14

This post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations.

GayBusEarlier this month, the Texas Republican Party adopted as a part of its latest platform a provision in support of what is called “reparative therapy,” whereby individuals struggling with homosexuality can receive professional counseling to help distance themselves from that behavior – if that is what they truly desire.

You might wonder what any of this has to do with politics, and the answer is that homosexual activists and their progressive friends have politicized “gay rights” so much that there’s hardly anything about homosexuality that remains a matter of privacy. The Texas Republican Party included this provision in its platform precisely because homosexual activists insist that homosexuality is immutable – and, if immutable, deserving of all civil rights protections and a matter of law and politics.

Most people don’t want to talk about this stuff. After all, it’s private. Most of us believe in live and let live. But when the Texas Republican Party did its thing, the liberal online report Politico ran a big story about a homosexual man named John Paulk who, for years, had a revolving door on his sexual closet and, in his estimation, finally came to realize that none of this so-called reparative therapy actually works. The fact is we talk about this stuff because these issues are symbolic of huge cultural shifts in the American psyche about right and wrong.

As fate would have it, I first met John Paulk in 1997 at the campus of Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs. Back then, John was a bit of a cause célèbre having renounced his homosexuality, crediting faith-based reparative therapy for helping him overcome his struggle. He was big news. He even made the cover of Time magazine in 1998. But shortly after that, in 2000, his world came apart at the seams. He was photographed at a homosexual bar in Washington, D.C., and not only was his reputation in ruins, the reparative therapy he had championed, even written a book about, was seriously questioned in the media.

Frankly, it all seemed a bit odd to me at the time. Too much in the debate over “gay rights” seemed to be riding on this one guy. Not to mention, I’ve never thought that a person can “pray away” such difficult personal struggles – a person’s faith can be important, but real professional help is needed for matters like addictions and depression-related behaviors. Continue reading

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A reminder of Utah’s lost energy opportunities

UtahTarSandsThis just in! There’s energy in the ground, and there’s money and jobs to be had in energy. OK, maybe that’s old news.

Not that it matters that much in Utah anyway, where the ground is mostly owned by the federal government, and it’s not letting the energy, the jobs or the money out.

North Dakota, which is about 3 percent federally owned, just passed the million-barrel-a-day mark for crude production, making it one of the top producers in the nation. Meanwhile Utah, which is over 60 percent federally owned, produces about a tenth that amount but is sitting on the potential for $7 billion annually in economic value, a billion or so in tax revenues, and over 50,000 jobs, according to an analysis by Sutherland’s Coalition for Self-Government in the West. But, while oil production on private lands has increased by about a million barrels a day since 2009, production on federal lands has been flat. That’s bad news for Western states that are mostly controlled by D.C. bureaucrats.

And it’s a lot of lost opportunity.

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