Two contrasting editorials about what is at stake in the November election

The Las Vegas Sun has an editorial that is nothing more than lengthy excerpts from a recent Obama speech under the headline: “Don’t sit on the sidelines for the most consequential election of your life.”

Obama is quoted as saying:

This November’s election is more important than any I can remember in my lifetime. And I know politicians say that all the time, but this time it really is different. This time the stakes are higher. …

Politicians try to keep us angry, keep us cynical, and they appeal to our tribal instincts and appeal to fear. They try to pit one group against another. And they tell us order and security will be restored if it weren’t for those people who don’t look like us or sound like us or pray like we do. …

On Nov. 6, we have a chance to restore some sanity to our politics. We can tip the balance of power back to the American people. Because you are the only check on bad policy, you’re the only real check on abuses of power. It’s you and your vote.

Hollow and pompous rhetoric without any specifics.

On the other hand, The Wall Street Journal has an editorial under the headline, “The Election Tax Divide,” that says precisely what is at stake in November.

Republicans are pushing a bill that would make the tax cuts for individuals and families permanent. Currently, obscure rules about deficit scoring force the expiration of individual tax cuts at the end of 2025.

Democrats want to repeal the tax cuts outright. They especially are foaming at the mouth about the $10,000 cap on the state and local tax deduction that means fewer IRS deductions for rich Democrats in high-tax states like California and New York.

Come Election Day, WSJ implores: “If nothing else, the House proposal makes clear that Republicans want to cut taxes while Democrats want to raise them. Voters who want to continue the economy’s robust growth should keep that in mind.”

 

 

Happy Constitution Day

Today marks the anniversary of one of the most propitious days in the history of this country. On this day in 1787, the representatives at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia signed the Constitution. It was ratified by the states and went into effect on March 4, 1789.

You remember the Constitution don’t you?

That’s the document that says the president “shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed …” Not waive, delay or ignore parts of laws the president doesn’t like, such as immigration laws, which the Constitution says: “The Congress shall have Power To … establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization …”

The Constitution also says, “All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives …”

But when it came to ObamaCare, which is replete with a panoply of revenue generating taxes to offset its expenses, the Senate grabbed an unrelated bill that had passed the House, cut the existing language and substituted the ObamaCare verbiage. The bill number was the only thing that originated in the House.

Yes, it’s those four-handwritten pages that give Congress the power “To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States …” Not to force people to engage in commerce by buying health insurance or pay a fine or a tax for not doing so.

That Commerce Clause also has been stretched to prohibit a farmer from growing grain to feed his own cattle because that affected demand for grain on the interstate market. The same rationale allows Congress to set minimum wages for jobs that have nothing to do with interstate commerce.

It also gave Congress the power to “declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water.” Some wars get declared, while others are just military exercises.

The instrument also says the “President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.” Not decide for himself when the Senate is in session. At least the judiciary slapped Obama’s wrist on that one.

During ratification the Founders added the Bill of Rights, including the First Amendment that says Congress “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …” That probably means Congress can’t order a religion to pay for contraceptions, abortifacients and sterilization against its beliefs.

We’re pretty sure the document did not envision a president’s administration creating by regulation laws the Congress refused to pass — think immigration enforcement and rules promulgated by the EPA, FEC, HHS, HUD or USDA without the consent of Congress.

Another clause gives Congress the power “to make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States …” though the foregoing powers and powers vested by the Constitution part is largely ignored.

The Constitution also gave Congress the power “To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever … to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings …” And just when did Congress purchase and the state Legislature consent to turning over 85 percent of Nevada’s land mass to the federal government?

As James Madison said, “I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations …”

Happy Constitution Day, while it lasts.

A version of this first appeared in 2014.

Editorial: Democrats pushing for socialized health care

In a speech in Illinois this past week former President Obama called “Medicare for all” a “good new idea.”

He said, “It’s harder for young people to save for a rainy day, let alone retirement. So Democrats aren’t just running on good old ideas like a higher minimum wage, they’re running on good new ideas like Medicare for all, giving workers seats on corporate boards, reversing the most egregious corporate tax cuts to make sure college students graduate debt-free.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders actually has such a bill pending that would nationalize and socialize the U.S. health care system and claims he has 16 Democratic senators supporting it. Sanders has argued that the United States spends almost three times as much on health care per capita as the British, who have a socialized system.

Nevada Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto said in August she supports an eventual move to a “Medicare-for-All” but that it is not immediately plausible.

“I applaud the concept, I understand what they’re trying to do at the end of the day, which is get us to the day where we have health care that everybody has and they can afford,” she said in an interview with the online news site The Nevada Independent. “And what it looks like, you can call it whatever you want, but we’ve got to take incremental steps along the way and bring everybody along.”

Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller meanwhile is said to be leaning toward supporting a move by Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, who would take money spent under the Affordable Care Act and give it to states in the form of block grants.

As for Medicare for all, a recent George Mason University’s Mercatus Center study found Sanders’ plan would add $32.6 trillion to federal spending in its first 10 years and costs would steadily rise from there. Doubling corporate and individual income taxes wouldn’t cover the costs.

The proposal also would amount to a roughly 40 percent cut across the board in payments to doctors and hospitals, a devastating blow to the economy. With rural hospitals already going out of business, image how many more would have to close and how many doctors would retire or change professions.

As if the costs were not enough, that aforementioned British socialized health system earlier this year was forced to cancel 50,000 non-emergency surgeries due to hospital overcrowding. Emergency room waits were said to be as long as 12 hours.

You don’t have to pay as much for something you don’t get.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

Obama calls for Medicare for all. (Getty Images pix)

 

Newspaper column: Too many willing to forgo First Amendment rights

Here is proof positive that ignorance is hazardous to freedom.

The Freedom Forum’s 2018 First Amendment survey, conducted in May and June, asked 1,009 Americans to name the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment. Only one person could name all five. One out of more than 1,000.

But perhaps the most telling aspect of the survey was when knowledge of the First Amendment was compared to a willingness to have the government censor social media online. Fully 63 percent of those who could name not a single First Amendment right agreed the government should censor speech, while 87 percent of those who could name four freedoms disagreed.

The more rights one could name, the more those people balked at government censorship. The curve of ignorance runs counter to the curve of freedom.

Knowledge is power and ignorance is hazardous.

Even more scary is the fact that ignorance is rampant. Fully 76 percent of those surveyed could name none or only one First Amendment right — meaning that if such a censorship scheme were put to a vote it just might win.

As for political party affiliation, 54 percent of Democrats agreed with government censorship compared with 47 percent of Republicans.

For the record, the First Amendment states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

We’ve been writing about this annual survey with considerable angst for two decades and things have gone downhill since. In 1997, the first year of the survey, 2 percent of those questioned could name all five rights.

Somewhat ironically, considering the considerable willingness to renege on it, the one First Amendment right a simple majority, 56 percent, could name was freedom of speech. Only 15 percent could recall freedom of religion. A mere 13 percent could think of freedom of the press, while right of assembly garnered only 12 percent and right of petition a paltry 2 percent. Fully 9 percent thought the Second Amendment right to bear arms was in the First.

Another disturbing finding in the survey is the willingness of Americans to silence someone merely because someone might be offended. When asked whether public universities should be able to retract invitations to controversial speakers if their remarks would offend some groups or even individuals, 42 percent agreed. If the appearance might provoke protests, 51 percent would withdraw the invitation. And if it might incite violence, 70 would cancel — the hooligan’s veto.

“It’s a little disquieting that 4 in 10 believe that public universities should be able to cancel a speaker if he or she might offend ‘individuals.’ In these polarized times, it’s difficult to conceive of anyone speaking on any topic without offending someone,” commented Ken Paulson, president of the Freedom Forum Institute’s First Amendment Center and dean of the College of Media and Entertainment at Middle Tennessee State University.

“That finding — along with majority support for cancelling speakers if a protest is likely — suggests there is significant public support for keeping controversial ideas off college campuses,” Paulson continues. “This begs the question: If a public institution dedicated to the sharing of knowledge and ideas is the wrong place for controversial thoughts, what is the appropriate venue?”

On a more positive note, 74 percent of survey respondents agreed that it is important that the news media act as a watchdog on the government, up from only 68 percent in 2017.

David L. Hudson, Jr. — author, co-author or co-editor of more than 40 books, including “First Amendment: Freedom of Speech” — noted that politicians have long extolled and excoriated the role of the press.

Though President Obama praised “a tough and vibrant media,” President Trump has called some members of the press “enemies of the people” and purveyors of “fake news.”

“The most encouraging part of the 2018 State of the First Amendment survey is the public’s embrace of the ideal of the media serving as the watchdog of a free society,” Hudson writes. “The American public recognizes the essential importance of a vibrant and free press to serve the interests of the public as a check against government.”

But for how long?

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Sun swallows hook, line and sinker

Who didn’t know the Sun would bite for this two-day-old story from The New York Times?

The piece reports “the economy is following the upward trajectory begun under President Barack Obama” — even though the U.S. GDP shrunk in the third and fourth quarters of 2016, dropping from 0.57 in the second quarter to 0.48 in the third and 0.44 in the fourth.

In fact, Investor’s Business Daily points out the same NY Times predicted in January 2017, after the government reported that GDP growth for all 2016 was a mere 1.6 percent, that “President Trump’s target for economic growth just got a little more distant.”

That story further stated:

But however solid, the recovery under President Barack Obama never reached exuberance. It is the second longest recovery in American history but the first in the postwar era in which growth for a full year did not hit 3 percent. …

Upward trajectory, indeed.
The Times was a wet blanket then, but now finds it can — apparently with a straight face — credit Obama for the economic recovery. And the Sun fell for it like a smitten suitor.

Newspaper column: BLM rule change doesn’t signal wild horse slaughter

Wild horses being affected by drought. (AP pix)

Wild horse advocates are apoplectic over a change in rules for selling off wild horses recently announced by the Trump administration’s Bureau of Land Management, saying it could lead to the animals being sold for slaughter.

In 2013, after learning that Colorado rancher Tom Davis, a friend and neighbor of then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, had over a three-year period sold 1,800 wild horses he had purchased from the BLM for slaughter in Mexico, the BLM instituted a rule that no one could purchase more than four wild horses in a six-month period without approval of the agency’s deputy assistant director of resource and planning.

In May, the BLM issued new guidelines saying up to 25 wild horses could be sold without prior approval up the chain of command.

“The federal government is about to resume selling America’s cherished wild horses and burros by the truckload, sending potentially thousands of mustangs into the slaughter pipeline against the wishes of 80 percent of Americans,” fulminated Suzanne Roy, executive director of the American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) in a press release this past week. “This Administration appears hellbent on destroying America’s iconic wild horse and burro herds, and this is the latest step on that path to destruction.”

Pay no heed to the fact the BLM spends 60 percent of its annual budget for handling wild horses and burros on warehousing 46,000 of them in corrals and private pastures, while there are 83,000 wild horses and burros on a range that can adequately sustain no more than 27,000. Nor to the fact that earlier this year BLM officials desperate to rid themselves of the expense of feeding all those “wild” animals were contemplating offering $1,000 incentives to anyone willing to take some off their hands.

An Interior Department inspector general report in 2015 found that Davis over three years bought truckloads of 35 horses at a time for $10 each and sold them to others who took them to Mexico for slaughter. Davis made up to $3,000 profit per truckload. The case was referred to federal and local prosecutors who declined to prosecute, criminally or civilly.

Davis told inspectors that BLM officials had to know so many horses were going to slaughter.

Congress for years has effectively banned the slaughter of horses for meat in the U.S. by denying funding for health inspectors.

The new BLM guidelines for selling wild horses say untrained animals may be sold for as little as $25 apiece, while horses trained to halter or saddle must fetch $125. Purchasers also must provide adequate feed, care and a facility, such as a corral, barn or stall.

Applicants also must swear that the animals are not intended for “slaughter or bucking stock, or for processing into commercial products …”

Though the limiting of sales to only four horses at a time appears to have not been financially conducive to either buyers or taxpayers, and despite the lessons learned from the Davis probe, AWHC’s Roy forecasts doom and gloom will result from the change in rules.

“When you’re selling horses by the truckload for $25 apiece, it provides a big incentive for slaughter,” Roy was quoted in her press release. “Since riding a horse to his first day of work, Interior Secretary Zinke has galloped down a deadly path for America’s wild horse and burro herds – from asking Congress for permission to slaughter tens of thousands of these cherished animals to promoting the mass surgical sterilization of mustangs and burros on the range. Zinke is pushing the livestock industry agenda to rid our public lands of wild horses and trampling on the wishes of American citizens in the process.”

In a recent interview, Nevada’s senior U.S. Senator Dean Heller said he has spoken with Zinke and a middle ground on this matter is being sought.

“Zinke assured me he’s looking at this issue. They’re looking at a number of different avenues how they can cull these herds without, frankly, having to remove some of these horses from the range, but they do believe they can put together a sterilization program and something that in five to 10 years can reduce the size of these herds,” Heller said. “There is a discussion out there. These discussions are being had — looking for a reasonable, reasonable answers to this, and trying to come up with a program or a process that both sides can agree on.”

When it comes to the taxpayers being on the hook to try to preserve non-native species in perpetuity, all means should be stoically explored.

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Newspaper column: Pardon for Oregon ranchers just the first step

Etched in stone above the entrance of the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington are the words: “Equal justice under law.”

The treatment of father and son Oregon ranchers by the federal judicial system makes a travesty of those words, though President Trump’s pardon this past week is a first step toward rectifying their injustice.

In 2001 Dwight Hammond and his son Steven started a fire on their own Harney County ranch to burn off juniper and sagebrush. The fire accidentally escaped their property and burned 139 acres of Bureau of Land Management land.

In 2006, lightning started several fires and the Hammonds set a backfire to try to prevent the fire from spreading to their crops and buildings. That fire burned a single acre of public land.

Hammonds return home. (AP pix)

The White House statement explaining the presidential pardon noted that the judge who originally sentenced Dwight Hammond to three months and Steven to a year had said that prosecutors’ demands that the pair be sentenced to a minimum mandatory five years under a 1996 anti-terrorism law passed after the Oklahoma City bombing would “shock the conscience” and be “grossly disproportionate to the severity” of their conduct.

“The previous administration, however, filed an overzealous appeal that resulted in the Hammonds being sentenced to five years in prison,” the statement reads. “This was unjust.”

That resentencing is what prompted the 41-day takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in protest, though the Hammonds themselves did not condone the protest and instead quietly returned to prison.

Most of the protesters, including two of Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy’s sons, were later acquitted of federal charges.

The White House statement concluded, “Dwight Hammond is now 76 years old and has served approximately three years in prison. Steven Hammond is 49 and has served approximately four years in prison. They have also paid $400,000 to the United States to settle a related civil suit. The Hammonds are devoted family men, respected contributors to their local community, and have widespread support from their neighbors, local law enforcement, and farmers and ranchers across the West. Justice is overdue for Dwight and Steven Hammond, both of whom are entirely deserving of these Grants of Executive Clemency.”

This is an understatement considering that in the five years after the passage of the 1996 anti-terrorism law at least 16 members of self-styled environmental groups ALF and ELF conspired to damage or destroy private and government property. None was sentenced to more than 36 months.

Then there were the two 2012 fires near the Hammonds’ ranch. Though started by lightning strikes, federal authorities used backfires in an attempt to contain the Long Draw and Miller Homestead fires. Instead, the fires consumed nearly 620,000 acres. No one was charged.

In 2000 the National Park Service decided to use a ‘’prescribed’’ burn to clear debris in the Bandelier National Monument area, but when winds picked up the fire destroyed 400 homes and forced the evacuation of 18,000 people in Los Alamos and shut down the nuclear weapons operations at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The supervisor who ordered the preventive fire, like the 2001 fire set by the Hammonds, was suspended but later retired. No charges.

A 2012 “prescribed” burn by a Colorado state agency southwest of Denver killed three people and destroyed or damaged more than two dozen homes. No charges.

In October 2016 a “prescribed” burn by a state agency in Northern Nevada consumed 2,300 acres, destroyed 23 homes and 17 out buildings and resulted in smoke inhalation injuries to four people. Damages estimated at $4 million. The state agency apologized.

A few weeks ago a “prescribed” burn in the Florida panhandle destroyed 36 homes and burned 800 areas.

Also earlier this summer, a “prescribed” burn in Emery County, Utah, meant to clear off 2,400 acres of dead timber and other fire fuel spread to cover more than 18,000 acres.

Meanwhile, after years in jail and supervised probation and a $400,000 fine, the Hammonds also lost their grazing permit in 2014.

The Hammonds have returned home, but equal justice under law will not be served until their property and livelihoods are restored.

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.