by Rob Roper

Democrat lawmakers staged a sit in on the floor of the House Chamber in contrived outrage over the failure of certain gun control measures to pass in Congress. Specifically, they were pushing so called “No Fly, No Buy” legislation that would have prohibited anybody on the federal No Fly or terrorist watch list from buying a firearm. They accuse Republicans of protecting terrorists.

No. What those who opposed this measure are protecting are citizens’ Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms, our Fourth Amendment rights to be secure in our effects and free from unreasonable searches and seizures, and our Fifth Amendment right to not be stripped of life, liberty or property without due process of law.

These are true “civil rights”, enshrined the Bill of Rights of our Constitution. The legislators who left the House singing the civil rights anthem “We Shall Overcome” (our own Peter Welch among them) after trying to strip the bedrock civil rights of U.S. citizens are engaged in a brazen example of Orwellian Newspeak – “War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength.”

Think about this, folks. Do we really want to live in a country where an anonymous bureaucrat in a backroom office somewhere can add your name to a list and, in doing so, strip you of your God-given civil rights? Because that’s the policy these politicians are trying to implement. That they’re doing it while wrapping themselves in a smokescreen of self-righteousness is nauseating.

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute

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by Rob Roper

In a recent interview with WCAX, David Zuckerman, running as a Democrat for the office of Lieutenant Governor, indicated he was open to banning semi-automatic firearms in the wake of the Orlando mass shooting by an ISIS loyalist in a gay nightclub. Clearly, gun control and the right to bear arms will be a big issue in the upcoming policy debate.

Here’s what the Vermont Constitution says about the right to bear arms: “Article 16. That the people have a right to bear arms for the defense of themselves and the State…” And, here’s what Vermont candidates for higher office have to say on the subject:

“It seems like [semi-automatic firearms] are not really necessary to the world of hunting and self defense. If you’re using a pistol or rifle for self defense, that should do. But, I just think it’s not necessary to have semi-automatic weapons for the most part. (WCAX, 6/22/16) – David Zuckerman, Democrat candidate for Lt. Governor.

“I support criminal background checks for all gun sales and a ban on assault weapons,” Sue Minter, Democrat candidate for Vermont Governor

“As Gov. I’ll ban military style assault weapons.” Peter Galbraith, Democrat candidate for Vermont Governor

“We absolutely must implement universal background checks. Second, we must ban people on the terrorist watch list, domestic abusers and the dangerously mentally ill from buying guns, and we must crack down on straw purchases.” Matt Dunn, Democrat candidate for Vermont Governor

“I don’t believe that we need more gun restrictions in Vermont at this time. I think we should enforce the ones we have…. I don’t believe we need to change our gun laws in Vermont … [A background check requirement on private gun sales] is not something I would support.” (VPR) – Phil Scott, Republican candidate for Vermont Governor

“I believe Vermont’s gun laws are good and do not need to be changed. Vermont has among the lowest violent crimes rate per capita involving gun use among any state.” (VT Digger) Bruce Lisman, Republican candidate for governor.

“I called on my Senate colleagues to come together and pass commonsense gun laws to keep Americans safe, including requiring universal background checks and banning assault weapons” – Patrick Leahy, Democrat candidate for US Senate

“There is a very broad consensus in this country… that we have got to do everything that we can to prevent guns from falling into the hands of people who should not have them. That means expanding the instant background check, it means doing away with the gun show loophole, it means addressing the straw man provision.” (NY Daily News) Bernie Sanders, Democrat candidate for US president.

What do you think?

- Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute

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by John McClaughryJohn McClaughry

The mere existence on our planet of the billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch drives Sen. Bernie Sanders to torrents of outrage. They, according to Sanders’ imagination, are the secret owners of the Republican Party, the Tea Party (is that still around?), and a long list of organizations opposed to the Sanders agenda, such as the political action group Americans for Prosperity.

This is amusing, inasmuch as the Koch brothers, being libertarians, couldn’t possible own the Republican Party that seems to have selected the eminent crony capitalist Donald Trump as its presidential nominee.

But in any case, the Kochs – particularly Charles, the CEO of Koch Industries (David is mainly a philanthropist) – have become exhibit #1 in Sanders’ gallery of horrors. He directs his followers’ wrath onto them as despicable examples of the greedy “one percent” at the top of the income ladder. They are, in Bernie lore, evil geniuses pocketing the rightful earnings of the oppressed working class, and using their wealth to roll back the socialism that America has accumulated over the past century.

So now comes a new book by Charles Koch that describes how his vast business empire uses Market Based Management to achieve its objectives. It’s titled Good Profit, a label that will undoubtedly send Sanders, who despises profit altogether, right up the wall. Incidentally, there is no political commentary at all in the book.

By “good profit”, Koch doesn’t mean “high margins, or high return on capital, or lots of profit by just any means.” He means “creating superior value for our customers while consuming fewer resources and always acting lawfully and with integrity.”

One insight is particularly compelling .Charles’ early partner was a man named Sterling Varner. He was born in Ranger, Texas, grew up driving mules hauling wagons of goods to oilfields, and rose to be president of Koch Industries.

At a high level meeting it was found that the company would make a higher than expected profit from some deal. Some of the men around the table started laughing about how they had outsmarted the customer.

Varner was livid. “You boys are way out of line… Our customers are our friends. They are the ones who keep us in business. We don’t make fun of our friends. If we continue doing it we won’t have any friends and we won’t have any business… we have to build trust by treating them with respect.” Adds Charles, “good profit is attained not through exploitation but through delivering value to others.”

Unlike the greedy and amoral Wall Street stock jobbers portrayed in the movie of that name, eight of the nine Koch business groups actually make and transport stuff – fuels, minerals, petrochemicals, metals, energy equipment, nylon, toilet paper, electronic equipment , and much more. Koch Industries was valued at $21 million in 1967, when Charles took it over from his chemical engineer father. Today, according to Forbes, it’s valued at around $100 billion. It employs over a hundred thousand employees in some sixty countries.

Among Koch’s products is ethanol. Koch got into ethanol back in 1990, when it was more an industrial feedstock than a motor fuel additive. But out of principle, Koch opposes the present government mandate to blend ethanol into gasoline as a political scheme that produces “bad profit.” “We profit short term from these market distortions. But rules like these that don’t lead to good profit, leave virtually everyone worse off long term, including us.”

Good Profit has an interesting history of the growth of Koch Industries, including some painful recollections of mistakes along the way. Unlike many business leaders, Koch sees creative destruction – the recurring disruption of industries by innovation and entrepreneurship – as essential to progress and human wellbeing. That disruption is based on human freedom to develop new and better ideas and products; hence Koch’s commitment to preserving freedom from monopolies, government-rigged deals, and high government barriers to entry by innovators.

Good Profit contains a wealth of practical experience and valuable insights into how to build and manage large and diverse business enterprises. Koch has succeeded where many others have failed by focusing on the well-defined principles that he calls Market Based Management. Its five components are Vision, Virtue and Talents, Knowledge Processes, Decision Rights, and Incentives.

Koch sums it up thus: “Allowing the people the freedom to pursue their own interests (within the limit of just conduct) is the best and only sustainable way to achieve societal progress. For individuals to develop and have a chance at happiness, they must be free to make their own choices and mistakes, rather than be forced to accept choices made for them by others.”

None of this could Bernie Sanders possibly understand, alas.

- John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute (www.ethanallen.org).

 

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by Rob Roper

Vermont Gubernatorial candidate Peter Galbraith outlined his plan on Common Sense Radio (EAI’s radio program on WDEV, 11-noon weekdays) for a $15 minimum wage. His argument is one we’ve heard before: that anybody who works 40 hours a week year long should earn enough money to live on. Period. Regardless of how much value that person’s labor produces. It’s an appealing sentiment at first blush, but not after some common sense analysis.

If such a concept became law, employers would have to pay employees at least $15 an hour even if that employee did not generate $15 an hour in value to the enterprise. It’s an unsustainable model. So what, say the advocates. That’s the employer’s problem. Well, what about the self employed? Should they be entitled to the equivalent of $15 an hour, regardless of what their business generates courtesy of, say, the taxpayer?

Here’s an example: I love to paint. What if I decided to go into the art business full time and started Rob’s Studio, Inc. I would work at least 40 hours a week creating paintings, at least one a day. In order to generate enough income to cover overhead for materials, space etc., I’d have to sell a painting a day for about $150 dollars. Problem is, with my skill level at this activity, my paintings (with perhaps a few lucky exceptions) probably aren’t worth that much, and I seriously doubt there is a market big enough for me to sell 365 of them a year. My mom only has so much wall space.

Should the you, the taxpayer, therefore, be forced to guarantee me whatever the difference is between what I can generate in revenue and the $15 an hour I should be entitled to for working hard 40 hours a week? For example, if I only sold one painting a week for $50 – despite working really hard – should I get some sort of taxpayer funded payment for the other $700 per week I’d need to pocket $15 an hour? Would that be fair? According to Mr. Galbraith’s logic, yes it would. Thanks, taxpayer!

But, obviously, this is a stupid waste of money. I’m not getting paid for the value of my labor. It’s a form of welfare.

Politicians who advocate for this plan say raising the minimum wage will take more people off the welfare rolls. No, it will not. It will only shift the cost of welfare from the state treasury and onto the backs of employers, whether they can afford the cost or not. And this is unjust. It is also, like any of these similar government mandates, a move away from transparency.

If I, owner and operator of Rob’s Art, Inc, generating $50 in revenue each week, hired a receptionist in order to help sell more paintings in my studio, I would have to pay that person $15 an hour. With what?

If you don’t think it’s fair that you should be forced to subsidize my painting labor with your tax dollars, then you shouldn’t think it’s fair to force an employer to subsidize any worker beyond the value of what that laborer generates. And society determines what labor is worth based on its willingness to voluntarily pay for that labor.

Lawmakers who think they can change this basic law of economics might just as well pass legislation repealing the law of gravity. Sounds nice. Won’t work. And, in the end, is unjust.

- Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

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by Chris Campion

What happens when you have the power to deny, to say “no”?  Then you are in control.  The person denied has no control, no power, no other option.  The power to say “no” is like being an umpire in a baseball game.  You can complain all you want, yell, kick some dirt (if you’re a former Yankee manager), or throw second base, but 99.9% of the time, you will not get what you want.  You’ll go back to the dugout (and like it), or you’ll get ejected.

Those are your two options.  That’s it.  Neither option satisfies the complaint.

In markets, competition means choices for the buyer, of whatever product or service they’re interested in acquiring.  With competition comes incentives for the business to provide a better service at a lower price, in order to gain more market share.  Choice erases the power to say “no”, because if you don’t like what you’re offered, you can take your business elsewhere.  Now the customer has the power to say “No”.

But what if you’re the only game in town?  A monopoly?  Those are generally illegal, which is why the government spends so much time enforcing antitrust laws.  In fact, they helpfully define them:

Many consumers have never heard of antitrust laws, but enforcement of these laws saves consumers millions and even billions of dollars a year. The Federal Government enforces three major Federal antitrust laws, and most states also have their own. Essentially, these laws prohibit business practices that unreasonably deprive consumers of the benefits of competition, resulting in higher prices for products and services.

But what the DoJ does not do is enforce antitrust laws against the US government, which has the market cornered (so to speak) on cornered markets, especially for health care, in Medicare and Medicaid, and other recipients of federal…care.

In fact, for some on the receiving end of the government’s monopoly on health care for their particular demographic, not being able to shop for better coverage means you’re stuck with whatever the government gives you.

In some cases, that means much more than sub-standard care.  It means catastrophically bad care, which is why only the US government could be the entity providing “care” to veterans, and have them die on their watch.  In the very place that’s been created and funded specifically for their needs.

Who has had the responsibility and oversight for this organization, the Veterans Administration?  Politicians.  More specifically, a politician who sat as the Chair of the Veterans Affairs committee from January 3, 2013, through January 3, 2015, and still sits as a member today?

Bernie Sanders.  The politician that wants to expand the size of government, in order to expand its power – its power to say “no” to the people it’s supposed to represent.  The same politician who failed to oversee his own agency’s power to deny care.

But it’s not just veterans that fall before the power of “No”.  Medicaid and Medicare, both bright, shining examples of your government working for you (sort of), has a long and distinguished history of saying “no” to applicants, to people appealing decisions, and have gotten pretty good at saying “no”.

In fact, let’s take a look at the sweet KPIs HHS is compiling on appeals.  Looks like there might be one or two people out there unhappy with the one, single choice they have for health care, in Medicare (below).  For example, through FY2015, the average processing time for appeals decided (both for or against the person appealing) was 547.1 days.

That's a hot new trend in government service.

Now I’m no rocket surgeon, but a year and a half or so of waiting for the lumbering apparatus of those entrusted with tax dollars to disburse them to those who need them seems like, maybe, just a bit longer than is reasonable?  Especially if death is a more probable outcome if an issue goes untreated, thanks to your friends at HHS?  Especially considering those people on Medicare are typically retirees and the elderly?

So how does HHS measure itself against these appeals to power?  What do the results of these appeals look like – what are the outcomes? From the chart below, more than half are Unfavorable or Dismissed.  The power of “no” in action.

Kind of a "read 'em and weep" chart here.

Even if one does receive a favorable appeal, there is one final, telling stat, the Average Processing Time.  A stat that if it was shown at a high enough leadership level internally in an organization other than one run by the USG, would result in one of the following:

  1. Firings of leadership.
  2. Money thrown at the problem to alleviate the downward trend and mediate loss of market share.
  3. Both #1 and #2.

Even if a favorable outcome is decided, the person appealing might have have outcomes other than favorable already.

As far as trends go, this is Not A Good One.

Bernie Sanders, in order to fix what he thinks is wrong, wants the government to increase spending by 2X the current debt of the United States, or another 18 trillion in entitlements of one kind or another, but specifically in single-payer.  Given the examples above, and the power ceded to a government agency that can then tell you what you can’t have, how can Bernie argue on one hand that this is good for all Americans, while on the other, he’s removing choice from the equation?  How are people empowered when they have no choice?

Were veterans empowered while they sat on secret waiting lists for the care they deserved more than anyone else?  Or were they trapped in a system, one with no options, and left to suffer the consequences?

No.  If you can say no, that’s when you know you’re in charge.  Bernie wanted to be in charge of the biggest government apparatus in history, one with the largest and most expansive power, ever, to say “no”, and he effectively sold this idea to tens of millions of people.  The same politician who decided, on his own, that there are too many types of deodorant for sale, was telling everyone exactly what he thought of their power to choose.

Which begs the question:  Why let anyone make choices for you?

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by Rob Roper

According to a Vermont Watchdog story, Attorney General Bill Sorrell is being sued for withholding public documents requested under the Freedom of Information Act relating to his involvement in a lawsuit targeting Exxon Mobil for, ironically, allegedly withholding information from the public.

Sorrell is part of a cabal of Attorneys General charging that Exxon Mobil somehow violated RICO (The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act ) laws by “denying” climate change. However, as evidence regarding the case comes to light it is becoming more apparent that the AGs are engaged in little more than a shakedown operation with the intent of intimidating and silencing their political critics.

As Kimberly Strassel wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “The goal of the Exxon probe isn’t to protect consumers or help the environment. It’s a message: Oppose us, and we will marshal our terrifying government powers to intimidate and threaten you, to force you to spend millions defending yourself, to eat up the time you’d otherwise use speaking out.”

If further evidence bears this out — oh the sweet justice! — it would be Sorrell who is running afoul of RICO. “Aren’t you part of a legal conspiracy to harm the constitutional rights of others, making you subject to RICO?” asked David Schnare, general counsel for Energy and Environment Legal Institute, posing a question for Sorrell.

Documents released by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey reveal that the Exxon Mobil suit is just a cover for going after conservative organizations such as Americans for Prosperity, ALEC, and The Beacon Hill Institute. After seeing the upshot from Healey’s situation, Sorrell has decided to go on information lock down – in violation of the law!

As attorney Schnare put it, these AGs are now “facing pressure to not follow their own laws in order to keep secret public documents the public has a right to see.”

- Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute

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by John McClaughry

Last week Microsoft announced it would buy Linked In for $26 billion. According to the Wall Street Journal, Microsoft paying $196 a share for the social-media firm, a 50% premium over the previous day’s  closing price. Microsoft is shelling out roughly seven times LinkedIn’s annual revenues for a business that isn’t profitable and has seen slowing growth despite its 433 million users.

The Journal wrote  “government policies are shaping the financing of the LinkedIn deal. Microsoft’s balance sheet holds more than $105 billion in cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments. You would think it would pay cash for LinkedIn”.

“But the U.S. has the industrialized world’s highest corporate income tax rate and insists on taxing foreign profits when they return to the U.S. So according to Microsoft…, nearly $103 billion of the cash was held “by our foreign subsidiaries and would be subject to material repatriation tax effects.” With the Fed still holding interest rates near zero, Microsoft plans to borrow most or all the cash to complete the purchase.”

Let’s get this straight. Microsoft has $105 billion in cash, but $103 billion of it is held in offshore locations because it would cost Microsoft $36 Billion in tax to bring their own cash home and invest it in America. So they make a $26 Billion acquisition and finance it with debt – because the Federal Reserve is keeping interest rates low.

This makes sense for Microsoft, but it’s crazy for America.

- John McClaughry is the founder and vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute. 

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Are Your Representatives Representing YOU?
See How They Voted on Key Issues.

 

INTRODUCTION

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The following  collection of Legislator Roll Call Vote Profiles is brought to you as an educational service by the Ethan Allen Institute (EAI).

In any given year the House and Senate will cast scores of roll call votes, some on major issues and some minor.  The roll call votes used in these profiles were chosen because they cover issues of the greatest public interest, have significant potential impact on the lives of Vermonters, and appeal to EAI’s focus on individual liberty, limited government and the founding principles of our great nation.

In reading this report it should be kept in mind that no selected subset of votes is a complete representation of performance of any legislator. As a nonpartisan educational organization, the EAI does not “rank” voting records or attempt to influence political campaigns. These profiles are intended to create a picture of how each legislator is representing his or her constituency.  The legislation voted upon in these cases may or may not have eventually become law.


Roll Call Profiles

House of Representatives 
(Alphabetical)

Senate
(Alphabetical)

House & Senate
(By County)

 


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WHAT YOU WILL FIND IN EACH ROLL CALL PROFILE

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by Rob Roper

So, legislative leadership has some excuses to defend the Kabuki Theater surrounding the veto of S.230, the renewable energy siting bill, and its replacement (S.260), introduced and passed by both chambers in about ten hours during an extra special day of activity.

They say all this last minute activity was necessary because, primarily, some language in S.230 was “unclear”. The Public Service Board looked at the bill and indicated that they might not interpret it as the legislature intended. Better pull out all the stops to create a fix before anything unintended happens! Okay.

So how is this different from the school choice language in Act 46? Many if not most legislators agreed to Act 46 because specific language in the law was intended to protect school traditional choice towns if they chose to merge with district that operate with public schools. Section 4 says the law, “shall not require the district to limit the options available to students if it ceases to exist as a discrete entity and realigns into a supervisory district or union school district.”

The State Board of Education, however, interpreted the law differently than the legislature intended, saying, no, operating and choice districts may not merge unless school choice districts give up choice or the operating district closes its public school. That’s a big problem. So, did the legislature pull out all the stops to fix this Act 46 mess?

Nope. Wouldn’t lift a finger.

Even though this mess they knew about months before the legislative session began, and had the entire legislative session to fix (not just one hurried extra day), they did nothing to keep their promises to protect school choice.

They did act with lighting speed to raise the spending thresholds put in place control school spending and, therefore, property taxes – a “fix” that actually undermined the intent of the original Act 46 legislation, but this… nothing.

The only consistency displayed in this series of events is that the majority does what its political cronies want it to. The renewable energy donors wanted the siting bill “fixed”. It was fixed. The public school monopoly wanted the caps in Act 46 “fixed.” They were fixed. The public school monopoly did not what the school choice protections clarified in Act 46, so they were left to “play out.”

For those who think the system is rigged, you’re correct. And this is how.

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute

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By John McClaughry

In a letter published May 22 (“Opinion: Carbon tax no pie-in-the-sky”), Steve Sobel presented the argument for a “carefully planned tax on carbon pollution without increasing the overall tax burden.” This is somewhat less than candid.

The VPIRG-promoted carbon tax will fall on everybody who uses gasoline, diesel, home heating fuel, propane and natural gas. When fully implemented in 2028, the tax would rake in around $500 million a year.

“Without increasing the overall tax burden” is another VPIRG fiction. Why? Because the special favorites of the VPIRG Energy Independence Coalition will pocket 10 percent of the proceeds off the top, in the form of wind, solar and weatherization subsidies. So much for “revenue neutral.”

The bill says the remainder will be redistributed by lowering the sales tax rate by about penny, and other targeted rebates and reductions to “address social inequities” (Sobel). But that’s assuming that the chronically cash strapped Legislature will actually approve any tax reductions, once they have the exciting prospect of all that new money to spend.

In its opening letter to legislators, the EIV cleverly observed that “based on legislative priorities, carbon tax revenue could of course be used for other purposes.” In plain English, vote for hundreds of millions in new carbon tax revenues, promise certain people offsetting tax reductions, and when you get your hands on all that money you can conveniently forget about those promises and spend the loot on your favorite programs, or new ones.”

This is an imaginative scam – but no, thanks.

- John McClaughry is the founder and vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute

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About Us

The Ethan Allen Institute is Vermont’s free-market public policy research and education organization. Founded in 1993, we are one of fifty-plus similar but independent state-level, public policy organizations around the country which exchange ideas and information through the State Policy Network.
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Latest News

6-24-16 – We Shall Overcome… The Constitution

by Rob Roper Democrat lawmakers staged a sit in on the floor of the House Chamber in contrived outrage over the failure of certain gun control measures to...

6-23-16 – Vermont Candidate Open to Ban on Semi-Automatic Firearms

by Rob Roper In a recent interview with WCAX, David Zuckerman, running as a Democrat for the office of Lieutenant Governor, indicated he was open to banning semi-automatic...

6-22-16 – Why a $15 Minimum Wage Is Unjust

by Rob Roper Vermont Gubernatorial candidate Peter Galbraith outlined his plan on Common Sense Radio (EAI’s radio program on WDEV, 11-noon weekdays) for a $15 minimum wage. His argument...

6-21-16 – The Power of No

by Chris Campion What happens when you have the power to deny, to say “no”?  Then you are in control.  The person denied has no control, no power,...

6-17-16 – What Is AG Sorrell Hiding?

by Rob Roper According to a Vermont Watchdog story, Attorney General Bill Sorrell is being sued for withholding public documents requested under the Freedom of Information Act relating...

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