The Scott Walker campaign website lacks issues

Scott Walker official portrait.
Scott Walker official portrait.

As I continue to look at the issues on the official campaign website for presidential hopefuls I thought Scott Walker would be worth taking a look at. He has consistently been in the top five for almost all of the polls I’ve watched. Also, as I talk to South Dakota Republicans he is usually included in their short list of who they would like to see as President.

Unfortunately Walker does not include an issues section on his website. He does have an about page, which he calls meet Scott. This sections falls quite short of telling voters how he stands on the issues that voters should care about. Walker does highlight his battle to make Wisconsin a right to work state. That battle more than anything is probably why he is polling so high. He also has some fiscal conservative highlights from his time in Wisconsin.

Yet Walker does not tell the voters what his vision would be as President. It would appear Walker is like other high-profile candidates, he is going to rely upon his name recognition and run as a personality. That may help him in his bid for the Republican nomination, but as a voter I find it troubling that he is unwilling to take stances on key issues.  Oh well, that gives me more time to look at the stances of other candidates that are actually willing to state what they would envision as President.

Interim Joint Appropriations meeting on July 21

SD State Capital. Photo by Ken Santema.
SD State Capital. Photo by Ken Santema.

On Tuesday, July 21, the SD Legislative Interim Joint Appropriations Committee will have a meeting in Pierre. The agenda for the meeting can be found here.

The previous meeting was held on June 10. My pre-meeting post about that meeting can be found here and the minutes from that meeting are posted here. That meeting was focused on Tech School funding.

This meeting on July 21 appears to be much more interesting and may be worth listening in on. Here are some interesting items on the agenda:

FY15 Year-End Report – Comments on FY15 revenues, expenditures, and reversions – Bureau of Finance and Management

This item should be interesting because for the fourth year in a row Governor Daugaard was able to end the fiscal year with a budgetary surplus. Here is part of the Press Release from the Governor’s office:

Revenue growth for the completed 2015 fiscal year exceeded estimates adopted by the Legislature last March by $10 million, or 0.71 percent. In addition, state agencies also demonstrated fiscal restraint, spending $11.5 million less than appropriated, or 0.84 percent. In total, the state’s financial picture improved by $21.5 million from the March fiscal year 2015 estimates.

South Dakota state government ended FY2015 by transferring $21.5 million to the Budget Reserve Fund, as required by law. The state’s Budget Reserve Fund now has a $126,737,303 balance, and the Property Tax Reduction Fund which has transitioned to the General Revenue Replacement Fund has a $44,000,048 balance.

I think the $126 million in the reserve fund is important because I have a feeling it will be used as part of whatever revenue enhancements that the Education Blue Ribbon Task Force will come up with.

The Bureau of Finance and Management (BFM) put some slides online showing the FY15 year-end numbers.

Captive Insurance Update – Bureau of Finance and Management

This would appear to be an update from the BFM on the implementation of HB 1185 (SoDakLiberty Posts), HB 1186 (SoDakLiberty Posts), and HB 1187 (SoDakLiberty Posts) passed during the 2015 legislative session.

Here is what part of what I had to say about these bills after they passed:

This bill appropriates $4,000,000 to “the Bureau of Administration for the purpose of making a grant to a captive insurance company controlled entirely by the state to fund property and casualty loss coverage.” Daugaard has mentioned this before. It makes sense for an entity as big as the state to take such an approach to insure property owned by the state…. But…… Is this really a priority right now? The state has gone 125 years without a captive insurance company. That four million could be better spent on infrastructure or education.

Since the above bills passed the BFM has been working to implement the new captive insurance plan. I find it odd that the state suddenly had to insure buildings that have gone for decades without insurance. HB 1186 adds another $2.5 million to the $4 million mentioned above. I still feel that money could have been better spent in other areas. I guess in the Appropriation meeting we will find out how much progress BFM has made.

Obligation Recovery Center – Update on the Request for Proposals – Representative Partridge and Senator Haverly

This is the part of the meeting I am most interested in. During the 2015 session HB 1228 (SoDakLiberty Posts) a state debt collection agency was created; or as it was named in newspeak it is a Obligation Recovery Center.

I’m once again going to go back and just repost what I’ve said before:

This Obligation Recovery Center was originally called a state debt collection office. But that made it sound bad, so they renamed it……

HB 1228 (SoDakLiberty Posts) is a successful attempt by the Republican SD state legislature to grow the size of government. Apparently the state has been losing money using third parties to collect debt owed to the state. This new debt collection center is supposedly going to do it at a lower cost, and have more powers than a private company would. This is a bad situation all around, and a topic I still plan on blogging deeper about this summer. But my main problems with the new debt collection center revolve around the following items:

  • State government grows in size and power.
  • State government will compete in a private industry.
  • The debt collection legislation and the upcoming program are the brainchild of the same company responsible for the Obamacare website…

Too bad South Dakota couldn’t some day get a conservative majority to stop legislation such as this in the future.

This part of the committee meeting will definitely be worth listening to. I still plan to do more posts on the debt collection center, and hopefully this meeting will give me more info as to what it is shaping into. There are other problems with the debt center I didn’t even mention before. Problems such as:

  • The state will have to start a database to collect data on citizens for the collection center to work.
  • A 20% fee will be added to all debts. This will place even more burden on those that already don’t have the money to pay their debt.
  • Citizens of SD may be denied certain critical state-run services because of unrelated debts owed. Think about that when its time to renew a license plate or drivers license…

Yes, these debts are owed to the state. But does it make sense to grow the strength and power of the state in order to collect debts that people are unlikely able to pay?

8. Report on June Storm Damage to the Capitol Grounds and Buildings – Bureau of Administration

The last item I will mention is the storm damage suffered by the Capital building in June. I only mention this because it will likely be used a way to say “I told you so” to those of us who opposed the state starting a captive insurance policy at this time.

The Capital Journal had this to report in June:

Monday morning’s storm ripped 25 percent of the copper flashing on the Capitol Building annex’s roof, officials say.

About 1,500 square feet of copper was peeled back and thrown to the Capitol’s lawn, said Leah Svendsen who oversees maintenance on the Capitol grounds.

Perhaps the Bureau of Administration will know the true cost of repairing the damage to the Capital building and grounds.

The Donald Trump campaign website unsuprisingly lacks issues

Donald Trump photo from his official campaign website.
Donald Trump photo from his official campaign website.

As I continue looking at the issues listed on campaign websites of the presidential hopefuls in the 2016 election I figured it was time to take a look at Donald Trump’s website. Personally I would have rather moved on, but I’m trying to make sure I do at least one post on every candidate that people in SD will have to choose from.

As I expected, the Donald Trump campaign website has no issues, vision, or platform section. Trump is running as a personality. It almost appears his candidacy is nothing but an extension of his hit reality TV show The Apprentice. My wife and I used to love the show, and we still love the idea of the show. Yet we stopped watching it because of Trump. In the boardroom he often would make random decisions that were obviously wrong. He would make strange proclamations that at times seemed to have little or no basis in reality. His presidential campaign seems to be using the same methodology.

I find it odd that so many people currently love Trump. He has made a LOT of statements on the campaign trail that are factually wrong (and I’m not talking opinions, but actual facts). Trump has gone out of his way to make sure he outdoes each previous outrageous statement just so he can keep gaining headlines.

From a politico standpoint I would find Trumps behavior to be pretty entertaining. Yet its entertainment value has been lost in a deluge of outright false statements. Anyone supporting a candidate should care about the truth. But right now so many people appear to be supporting him just because he is against the establishment. Being against the establishment is great!… If it is done honestly and without reality show gimmicks.

Current polling shows Trump will likely be in the first Republican debate this August. His inclusion in the debate will likely give it record viewership. Of course it will probably also hurt the Republican brand more than it already has. I guess that is one side benefit of Trump being in the Presidential race, maybe it will push more voters to register Independent or third-party!

SD Ag Summit 2015 Part 4: Sawmill tour pictures

Part of the SD Governor’s Agricultural Summit 2015 was a series of tours on July 9th. The second of these tours was of a sawmill in Spearfish, which utilizes forest products from the region. For the tour posts of the Ag Summit I will mostly be posting some pictures and a few interesting tidbits. I won’t really do any reporting on the tours.

This part of the tour focused on the lumber part of the ag industry. I have another upcoming post in this series that will focus on where the lumber comes from, or doesn’t in some cases…

The first part of the sawmill tour actually took us to Heartland Wood Pellets.

Heartland Wood Pellets was part of the SD Ag Summit tour. Photo by Ken Santema 07/09/15
Heartland Wood Pellets was part of the SD Ag Summit tour. Photo by Ken Santema 07/09/15

The reason the wood pellet location was chosen as part of the sawmill tour is because the byproducts of sawdust and wood chips from the saw mill are used in the wood pellet production. This shows how the industry has learned to use byproducts. In these past these would have seen as waste products.

Heartland Wood Pellets tour. Photo by Ken Santema 07/09/15
Heartland Wood Pellets tour. Photo by Ken Santema 07/09/15

The end product may be small, but the machinery used to make the wood pellets is quite large.

Heartland Wood Pellets tour. Photo by Ken Santema 07/09/15
Heartland Wood Pellets tour. Photo by Ken Santema 07/09/15

Even though machinery does all the work, there is still an operator to ensure proper quality and safety variables are maintained.

Heartland Wood Pellets tour as part of the SD Ag Summit. Photo by Ken Santema 07/09/15
Heartland Wood Pellets tour as part of the SD Ag Summit. Photo by Ken Santema 07/09/15

It is actually pretty amazing watching the machinery package up the pellets.

Heartland Wood Pellets tour as part of the SD Ag Summit. Photo by Ken Santema 07/09/15
Heartland Wood Pellets tour as part of the SD Ag Summit. Photo by Ken Santema 07/09/15

Then it was off to the actual sawmill. The Spearfish Forest Products sawmill was huge!

As the logs come in they are automatically measured and the computer is able to determine the best value of boards to cut out of each log.

Spearfish Forest Products sawmill tour as part of the SD Ag Summit. Photo by Ken Santema 07/09/15
Spearfish Forest Products sawmill tour as part of the SD Ag Summit. Photo by Ken Santema 07/09/15

Did I say this place is huge? Here is one small portion of the mill. Even though the mill is fully automated it still requires people throughout the mill to deal with automation and quality issues.

Spearfish Forest Products sawmill tour as part of the SD Ag Summit. Photo by Ken Santema 07/09/15
Spearfish Forest Products sawmill tour as part of the SD Ag Summit. Photo by Ken Santema 07/09/15

Now those are some huge bandsaw blades!

Spearfish Forest Products sawmill tour as part of the SD Ag Summit. Photo by Ken Santema 07/09/15
Spearfish Forest Products sawmill tour as part of the SD Ag Summit. Photo by Ken Santema 07/09/15

It is pretty impressive watching the machinery handle all the boards and sort it after it gets milled.

Spearfish Forest Products sawmill tour as part of the SD Ag Summit. Photo by Ken Santema 07/09/15
Spearfish Forest Products sawmill tour as part of the SD Ag Summit. Photo by Ken Santema 07/09/15

The woodworking hobbyist part of me loved this tour!

SD Ag Summit 2015 Part 3: Political, Scientific & Social Challenges in Ag

Session 1 of the 2015 SD Governor’s Ag Summit in Dead focused on political, scientific and social challenges in agriculture today. This session included two panelists. First was Alex Bjork, who is a member of the World Wildlife Fund‘s (WWF) Sustainable Food Program. The other panelist was Brian Klippenstein, Executive Director of Protect the Harvest. Both panelists were given time to give a presentation. At the end there was a short Q&A from audience members.

The presentation can be viewed in the following YouTube video. Session 1 begins at 37:00 and ends at 1:43:00.

In this post I will report on some areas I found interesting. Then I might add my opinions here and there.

Alex Bjork of the WWF speaking at the SD Ag Summit in Deadwood. Photo by Ken Santema 07/10/15
Alex Bjork of the WWF speaking at the SD Ag Summit in Deadwood. Photo by Ken Santema 07/10/15

Alex Bjork’s presentation

Bjork mentioned that a big part of what the WWF is focused on is answering the question of how to feed the entire population of the world while still taking care of the resources that people care about. That led up to why Bjork was in attendance as a representative for WWF. He says the WWF has found that by working with the private sector they are best able to “drive changes through market forces” for better conservation outcomes.

I actually found that to be a refreshing approach from a conservation organization. Too often it seems conservation groups are fighting directly against the ag industry.

Bjork said the WWF is looking at how to produce more with less. He noted there is not a lot of land available overall for the resource constraints faced on a global level.

For a bit of his presentation Bjork went into deforestation as a problem. But then he moved into a problem much closer to home for SD: grassland conversion. He noted that grassland conversion is an equal problem to that of deforestation. Around the world he noted that grasslands on the whole have gone greatly unprotected. The northern great plains is an area the WWF is particularly interested in working with partners to protect.

When looking at sustainability, Bjork made the case that supply chain innovation is critical. He believes there needs to be common ground or incentives between the various links of the supply chain that would promote food sustainability. To meet this end he says the WWF has been trying to get the various stakeholders together from various industries and parts of the supply chain.

For the northern plains grasslands the WWF has been looking for partners to work on sustainability and protecting the grasslands. In this area most of the land owners are private, so the WWF realized they really need to work with the ranching community. Bjork admits the ranching community and conservation community have not always seen eye to eye, but he believes a partnership between the two would be mutually beneficial. To build that relationship the WWF has spent the last five years listening to the ranchers and hearing what they have to say.

To actually move forward with sustainability in this region Bjork mentions the Field to Market program. In this program the WWF has been finding local partners to find ways to move forward with sustainability issues. The slide below shows the stakeholder types that are being brought together and the benchmarks they are using:

Field to Market slide from Bjork's presentation.
Field to Market slide from Bjork’s presentation.

Overall I thought Bjork’s presentation was well received. I will admit I was skeptical about the WWF being on the agenda, but I’m glad they had a speaker at this event. At times it felt like a commercial touting the WWF. But that is understandable because I think Bjork is trying hard to show that the WWF is willing to work with the ag industry, instead of against it. And I do feel that most farmers and ranchers are worried about conservation and sustainability, so a group such as the WWF coming in and willing to work with them might benefit everyone.

Now… having said that. There are things that have come from the WWF in the past that have been anti-population and may still be parts of the organization that are that way. In this case I will give Bjork and the WWF the benefit of the doubt in this Field to Market program. But going forward this program will have to be watched to ensure it is not a trojan horse.

Brian Klippenstein of Protect the Harvest speaking at the SD Ag Summit. Photo by Ken Santema 07/10/15
Brian Klippenstein of Protect the Harvest speaking at the SD Ag Summit. Photo by Ken Santema 07/10/15

Brian Klippenstein’s presentation

Klippenstein spent some time talking about Protect the Harvest. He said founder of this organization, Forest Lucas of Lucas Oil, had an observation that moves him: “that successful civilizations around the world are not so unless they rest on a foundation of food security”. That observation appears to be what drives the Protect the Harvest organization.

Klippenstein had the three following observations he had to share with the crowd:

  1. “In my view ag has never been better”.
  2. “Ag has never been more maligned”.
  3. “The challenges to ag over the years ahead have never been greater”.

Klippenstein then went through a series of statistics showing how much more can be produced with less. He then said something I think is worth passing on:

Farmers are almost obsessed with sustainability.

I would agree with Klippenstein. He spoke about economic sustainability, but then went on to explain how farmers are always looking for more sustainable methods. Going on, he noted that farmers are not trying to use more pesticides, insecticides or other inputs. Farmers try to reduce the amount of inputs and increase the outputs.

Klippenstein noted that technology matters. It is what allows more to be created with less. As an example he noted that some people believe sustainability means farming without technology. But all that has sustained is misery, poverty and hunger with farming that method in Africa for hundreds of years.

In the US Klippenstein noted that affordable food options are abundant. There are even options for the “digestive elite” that want a variety of the special organic options. But instead of celebrating this success, he noted that many groups have attacked the ag industry for offering such a great amount of choices. He believes those groups are actually trying to control how farmers do their job and what ends up in the refrigerator of consumers. Going on, he said many of these groups are not truly against how farmers operate, they really object to what farmers and ranchers do.

I fully agree with what Klippenstein was saying about certain groups. They are not trying to make food safe, or even make happy animals. Simply put, they are trying to put the ag industry out of business. These activist groups are a danger to the ag industry and food consumers (which last time I checked, every person has to consume food).

I won’t post about it here, but Klippenstein detailed how California has tried to push bad regulation for chicken eggs on the whole country. Hopefully that will be stopped in a lawsuit. But the point from that story really hit home. His story made the case that regulations (which in this case were not about safety) add a lot of cost to the production of eggs, and that in the end these regulations become a tax on the poor.

Klippenstein did a good job of highlighting how certain activist groups and regulators are reducing the food security in the US. He had noted that low-income people are not involved in this food debate. Hopefully the many activist groups and politicians that are fighting against technological advances in ag production will take that into mind. To end this part of the post I will leave it with one more quote from Klippenstein:

Technology is not the enemy, hunger is the enemy.

Alex Bjork & Brian Klippenstein answering questions at the SD Ag Summit. Photo by Ken Santema 07/10/15
Alex Bjork & Brian Klippenstein answering questions at the SD Ag Summit. Photo by Ken Santema 07/10/15

Q&A Session

A question was asked about consumer education. When talking about that Klippenstein said the media needs to get back to using science. He said “the world is still searching for the first GMO created stomach ache”.  He said there is almost universal agreement from scientists around the world that GMO’s are safe, and yet the mainstream media stopped reporting that.

I personally find all of the anti-GMO sentiment to be odd. GMO’s are a big part of true food sustainability, and yet it seems they have become vilified by the media and certain politicians with an agenda. And not coincidentally, those groups against GMO’s are not poor or hungry….

Another GMO question came up. In this case it has been a marketing ploy to say something is GMO-free. Klippenstein notes it is disparaging when companies attack GMO for profit reasons. Those in the food business doing so are almost working against their own long-term good. To combat the anti-GMO crowd, Klippenstein said he has gone to hunger groups that are being negatively impacted by anti-GMO activist groups. Those hunger groups have the resources to educate people.

When answering a different question Klippenstein mentioned Monsanto (which is always under attack). He noted it makes no sense for a company such as Monsanto to put their own employees at risk with the goods they provide. In fact, he noted the research facilities for Monsanto are not like a corporate headquarters. He says the research facilities are filled with left-leaning individuals that are hoping to use this technology to solve world problems.

GMO’s definitely were a big topic for the Q&A session. Perhaps next year Secretary Lentsch should focus a whole session on GMO’s. It is a topic that is not going away!

Conclusion

Of all the sessions at the ag summit, this was probably the only one I was in full agreement with what I heard. I was very weary of the session at first because of my preconceived notions of what the WWF and Protect the Harvest would be about. But after opening my mind and listening to both speakers I believe both groups are trying to work within the free market to promote food sustainability and food security. I still have some doubts about the WWF, but the Field to Market program is worth giving a chance and paying attention to.

A look at the issues on the Jim Webb presidential campaign website

Jim Webb official portrait from US Senate.
Jim Webb official portrait from US Senate.

It is time to look at the presidential campaign website for Jim Webb. This Democrat served as a US Senator for Virginia. Like the other posts in this series I will look at the issues listed on his official campaign website and see how they stack up against my own libertarian beliefs.

Webb’s issues page is broken down into the five sections listed below. In each section I’ve included small tidbits about what Jim Webb has to say.

Economic Fairness

Here is a tidbit from this section:

I would agree that we cannot tax ourselves into prosperity. But we do need to reconfigure the tax code so that our taxes fall in a fair way. It is possible to simplify the tax code, including reducing the corporate tax rate in exchange for eliminating numerous loopholes, and to examine shifting our tax policies away from income and more toward consumption. We did not even have a federal income tax in this country until 1913. The loopholes and exceptions that have evolved have made a mockery out of true economic fairness. I would never support raising taxes on ordinary earned income, whether it goes to a school teacher or a nurse or a doctor or a film star. But we need to find a better way.

It is actually refreshing to see a Democrat such as Jim Webb say that the country cannot be taxed into prosperity. Plus he is willing to look at consumption based taxes, instead of income based taxes. He is also talking about simplifying the tax code, reducing the corporate tax rate, eliminating numerous loopholes, and mentions the US didn’t even have an income tax until 1913. Is he really a Democrat candidate?

I’m actually going to leave Webb alone on this issue. Personally I would rather get rid of federal taxes altogether. But if he actually believes his own talking points, Webb should be interesting to watch during any Democrat presidential debates. He is definitely going to be coming from the economic right on this issue.

Foreign Policy

Webb actually has quite a bit to say in this section. Overall I am worried he is just as war-hawkish as the majority of Democrat and Republican candidates. Here is part of what he has to say:

However, there is an important caveat to how our country should fight international terrorism. The violation of this principle has caused us a lot of trouble in the recent past. I can do no better than to quote from an article I wrote on September 12th, 2001, the day after the 9 / 11 attacks. “DO NOT OCCUPY TERRITORY. The terrorist armies make no claim to be members of any nation-state. Similarly, it would be militarily and politically dangerous for our military to operate from permanent or semi-permanent bases, or to declare that we are defending specific pieces of terrain in the regions where the terrorist armies live and train. We already have terrain to defend – the United States and our outposts overseas – and we cannot afford to expand this territory in a manner that would simply give the enemy more targets.”

At first the above would appear that Webb wants to draw back on militarism. But in fact it would appear that fighting on foreign soil is not Webb’s issue; rather he has an issue with setting up operations in enemy territory. While looking through all of Webb’s talking points in this section it is quite apparent that Webb is perfectly fine with foreign wars and fighting, he would just change some of the hows. Anyone that isn’t a war-hawk probably won’t see any substantial difference between Jim Webb and the rest of the Democrats and Republicans in power.

National Infrastructure

This is an issue that Jim Webb has really lost me on:

Franklin Roosevelt mobilized a nation whose unemployment rate had reached 25 percent. The Civilian Conservation Corps planted trees and cleared land. We built roads, put people to work, cleaned things up. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s vision brought us the Interstate Highway system – and the jobs it took to build it. There are people who need jobs and there is work to be done. And along the way, I believe it is possible to meld such a program with another one, featuring adult education for those who did lose their way when they were seventeen and now know how important it is, as a worker and as a parent, to get that diploma, earn some money, and be a role model for your kids.

Webb is advocating government going all-in on creating jobs. Unfortunately he doesn’t say how the government is going to pay for all of these jobs. That money has to come from somewhere. I would have preferred Webb continue on his economic conservatism from taxes and look at ways to get government out of the way of new job creation in the private sector.

Criminal Justice Reform

Jim Webb doesn’t really offer any solutions. But he does have this to say:

The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Since I doubt we have the most evil people in the world, many now agree that we’re doing something wrong. Millions of our citizens are either in prison or under the supervision of the criminal justice system.

As the 2016 election approaches I hope this will be one of the biggest issues. It is time to stop putting millions of Americans in jail for ‘crimes’ that have no victims. It should really shame the average person in America that so many of our citizens are in jail.

Good Governance

I actually kinda like what Webb has to say in this section:

Finally, let’s find a way to return to good governance. It will take time, but it is possible to rebalance the relationship between the executive and legislative branches, and to carefully manage the federal government, which is surely the most complex bureaucracy in the world. A lot of people running for President, and a lot of people covering those who are running for President, seem to skip past the realities of governing into the circus of the political debate. The federal bureaucracy is huge and Byzantine. I have seen many people come to public service from highly successful careers in the business world, only to be devoured and humiliated by the demands of moving policy through the bureaucracy and then the Congress.

How many Democrats are actually willing to admit that the Federal government has become a bureaucracy that “is huge and Byzantine”. I do wonder how he plans to reduce the bureaucracy, and grow government at the same time in order to give more people jobs.

Conclusion

Overall I am looking forward to any possible Democrat debate that would include Jim Webb. It should be interesting to see how someone who has economic policies that fall quite far to the right of the other Democrats in the race. In particular it would interesting to see how Webb and Sanders interact with each other.

The Jeb Bush campaign website is vacant of issues

Jeb Bush photo from Florida government website.
Jeb Bush photo from Florida government website.

As I continue to look at the campaign websites for presidential hopefuls I decided to look at establishment Republican Jeb Bush. Bush has officially been in the race for over a month, and yet I cannot find a section of his official campaign website that lists his issues or vision for office.

Instead of offering what he stands for, Bush offers a page to find out who he is as a person. True, in that page there are issues that could be extracted, such as cutting taxes. But as someone trying to find out his priorities as President I was hoping for more.

I will give Bush credit for one thing though. He does have a version of his website offered in Spanish.  Very few other candidates have had that option, and Jeb is the only one I’ve noticed that makes it easy to find. Bush is smart enough to know the Spanish-speaking voting block could very will make the difference in the 2016 election.

Two months ago while doing the post for Hillary Clinton I noted she did not have an issues page. But now that I look back I do see she has added a section called The Four Fights, which lays out her vision as President. I may have to go back and do another post on Clinton and look at her vision. Hopefully Bush will also go back and add something to his page; unless he plans to simply win the Republican nomination based upon his establishment name recognition.

Overall I can’t say I’m sad that Bush doesn’t have an issues page. As an establishment Republican and long-time supporter of Common Core I can’t see there being much, if any, common ground between any vision Bush would have and my own libertarian beliefs.

Jill Stein’s Power to the People plan in her bid for President

Jill Stein portrait from campaign media kit.
Jill Stein portrait from campaign media kit.

While I look at the officially announced hopefuls for the 2016 Presidential election I thought it was time to start looking at candidates outside of the two big parties. For this post I will look at Green Party hopeful Jill Stein. Stein ran for President in 2012 as the Green Party candidate and hopes to do so again in 2016.

Like the other candidates I’ve looked at in this series I will focus on the issues listed on Jill Stein’s official campaign website. In this case she calls it her “Power to the People Plan“.  Here are the eleven key parts to her plan:

A Green New Deal

Create millions of jobs by transitioning to 100% clean renewable energy by 2030, and investing in public transit, sustainable agriculture, and conservation.

As if the first New Deal wasn’t bad enough… My biggest question to Stein would be this: how do you plan to accomplish this green new deal without completely devastating the economy in the United States? All of this money to ‘invest’ in 100 % clean energy, public transit, sustainable ag, and conservation has to come from somewhere. The only way to do that at the federal level is take even more money from Americans via the IRS and use it to promote these favored special interest groups.

Plus, to her last two points. I have been paying pretty close attention to the ag industry in South Dakota and other parts of the Midwest. From what I’ve seen the ag industry is working hard from within to work on sustainable agriculture and conservation. Yes, they are also trying to get some of that public money (tax dollars); I wish that part would stop. But I find it odd that Stein believes farmers and ranchers are against long-term sustainability and conservation.

No, I don’t think a New Deal is needed. Instead it is time to get government out of the market, and let people deal with each other as they prefer in the free market.

Jobs as a Right

Create living-wage jobs for every American who needs work, replacing unemployment offices with employment offices. Advance workers rights to form unions, achieve workplace democracy, and keep a fair share of the wealth they create.

First, I believe it is NOT the job of the federal government to create jobs. And renaming an unemployment office to employment office is not going to change anything. The Green Party is a socialist party, and after reading this it makes be believe Stein would do away with the market altogether and have the government provide jobs for everyone. Apparently Stein is also looking at some communist aspects in her bid for the socialist Green Party ticket.

As far as forming unions? Unions that work with their members to promote their rights are just as strong now as they ever have been. The unions that have lost power are those that feel the needs of the union bosses go above those of the actual workers.

Workplace democracy? That to me sounds like advocating taking away all decision-making from the owners of a business. Entrepreneurs would never risk undertaking a new business venture in such an environment. Unless this goes back to everyone working for the government…..

End Poverty

Guarantee economic human rights, including access to food, water, housing, and utilities, with effective anti-poverty programs to ensure every American a life of dignity.

I think fifty years of the War on Poverty failures has been enough to show that centrally planned poverty reduction interventions do not work. Instead of a War on Poverty it has turned into more of a War on the Poor. It appears Stein would double-down on decades of failed policy.

Health Care as a Right

Establish an improved “Medicare For All” single-payer public health insurance program to provide everyone with quality health care, at huge savings.

During the 2014 US Senate race in South Dakota we had a candidate that promoted his Medicare E for everyone single-payer solution. It didn’t work for him. I don’t see it working for Jill Stein either. Obamacare has shown that more intervention in the payment portion of medical care does not fix problems. Advocating even more government intervention would be a cost this country simply cannot afford.

Education as a Right

Abolish student debt to free a generation of Americans from debt servitude. Guarantee tuition-free, world-class public education from pre-school through university. End high stakes testing and public school privatization.

Ok, I do agree with Jill Stein on ending high stake testing. But other than that she is advocating a complete public take-over of higher education. The costs of higher education have risen dramatically since the federal government started subsidizing it. The more in student aid that is authorized in DC, the more tuition continues to rise. I fail to see how giving these higher learning institutions direct access to taxpayer dollars will slow that trend down.

Yes, too many Americans are in debt due to out of control student loans. But this is a case that appears to be caused by the actions of politicians in DC. Giving those same politicians in DC even more power to destroy higher education funding just doesn’t seem wise.

A Just Economy

Set a $15/hour federal minimum wage. Break up “too-big-to-fail” banks and democratize the Federal Reserve. Reject gentrification as a model of economic development. Support development of worker and community cooperatives and small businesses. Make Wall Street, big corporations, and the rich pay their fair share of taxes. Create democratically run public banks and utilities. Replace corporate trade agreements with fair trade agreements.

There is a hodgepodge of issues here from Jill Stein. If I get the chance to speak with Stein I would like to ask what she means by “democratize the Federal Reserve”. Other left-leaning politicians have been afraid to speak ill of the Federal Reserve since Obama gained the Presidential office. Is she willing to support auditing the Fed and possibly make some changes based upon those audits?

Here again I see Stein promoting government takeover of the private section by creating “democratically run public banks and utilities”. The libertarian in me is screaming from reading that.

As a last point I do agree that corporate trade agreements are bad. The two big ones being negotiated in secret right now, TPP and TTIP, have large special interest groups involved; and no involvement from the American public. I do wonder however how Stein would define “fair trade agreements”.

Protect Mother Earth

Lead on a global treaty to halt climate change. End destructive energy extraction: fracking, tar sands, offshore drilling, oil trains, mountaintop removal, and uranium mines. Protect our public lands, water supplies, biological diversity, parks, and pollinators. Label GMOs, and put a moratorium on GMOs and pesticides until they are proven safe. Protect the rights of future generations.

The only talking point from Stein I will talk about here is GMOs. I know many are against them and want any product with GMOs to be labeled accordingly. I have a different suggestion. Currently any product that is GMO-free has to go through a lot of red-tape to get labeled as GMO-free. Instead of forcing all GMO products to label as such, why not just allow more GMO-free foods the freedom to label appropriately and let the people decide.

The rest of Stein’s talking points in this section fit in with her earlier talking points about having the government take over the economy and erode private property rights. I would prefer a candidate that can see the various ways the free market will actually choose environmentally safe goods and services, provided they are not mandated or subsidized by politicians and bureaucrats.

Freedom and Equality

End police brutality, mass incarceration and institutional racism within our justice system. Expand women’s rights, protect LGBT people from discrimination, defend indigenous rights and lands, and create a welcoming path to citizenship for immigrants. Protect the free Internet, replace drug prohibition with harm reduction, and legalize marijuana/hemp.

As to Stein’s points about the justice system and prohibition: Yes! It is time to stop putting people in jail for victim-less crimes. Even those against the use of mind-altering drugs (including me) need to realize that the War on Drugs has done nothing but put millions of people in prison and made society less safe overall. I support Stein in that talking point.

But… ‘Protect the free Internet’. I have a feeling she means that in order to protect free speech on the Internet it means the government must take it over. Once the Internet is taken over by one source it will no longer be a haven for free speech. At that time regulations will begin, and free speech will suffer.

Justice for All

Restore our Constitutional rights, terminate unconstitutional surveillance and unwarranted spying, end persecution of government and media whistleblowers, close Guantanamo, abolish secret kill lists, and repeal indefinite detention without charge or trial.

Jill Stein is perfect in this section! There is nothing I disagree with her on in this section. I do have apprehension when politicians make the above statements though. Most of the talking points Stein uses in this section were promises made by Obama when he campaigned to become President… That didn’t work out so well.

Peace and Human Rights

Establish a foreign policy based on diplomacy, international law, and human rights. End the wars and drone attacks, cut military spending by at least 50% and close the 700+ foreign military bases that are turning our republic into a bankrupt empire. Stop U.S. support and arms sales to human rights abusers, and lead on global nuclear disarmament.

Wow, two sections in a row that I completely agree with Jill Stein on. The wars and drone attacks are refreshing to hear Stein talk about. Back in the Bush years I marched alongside many liberals that were standing up to the many wars. For some reason those marches stopped when Obama stepped into office… because these wars were different? Even though I disagree with Stein on most of her political policies, I would like to see someone like Stein reach office that truly believed it was time to stop foreign wars and drone strikes. I don’t think any politician in the two big parties would ever do so.

Empower the People

Abolish corporate personhood. Protect voters’ rights by establishing a constitutional right to vote. Enact electoral reforms that break the big money stranglehold and create truly representative democracy: public campaign financing, ranked-choice voting, proportional representation, and open debates.

Well, if Jill Stein is willing to stop ending corporate taxes in all forms, then maybe it will be easier to talk about ending corporate personhood.

I still don’t understand how a lot of people on the left believe giving politicians direct access to taxpayer money in the guise of public campaign financing will end corruption. But I do support Jill Stein in her push for open debates. I actually enjoyed covering the third-party debates during the 2012 presidential elections. Stein in particular was quite enjoyable to cover, and not because I agreed with her. Actually I found her to be wrong on almost all issues. But at least she was willing to go outside of the carefully planned cookie-cutter talking points that both big parties utilize. I believe if there were truly open debates in the US we would see a greater variety of candidates actually make it into office. That would be truly empowering to the people!

Conclusion

As a libertarian I find no surprise in the fact that I agree with Jill Stein on very few issues. I find her socialism intermixed with certain communist theories to be a harmful prospect for the US. But I do hope a lot of people in the US are able hear her message, and that of other third-party candidates. At least with candidates such as Stein we are hearing ideas and concepts that the main parties refuse to allow into debates.

A look at Bernie Sanders on the issues

Bernie Sanders portrait from official campaign media kit.
Bernie Sanders portrait from official campaign media kit.

It is time to continue looking at campaign websites Presidential hopefuls that voters in South Dakota will have to decide from in the primaries. For the next contender I thought Bernie Sanders would be interesting to look at. This independent socialist seeking the Democrat presidential nomination actually has an Issues page, which makes it easy to compare my beliefs with his.

Bernie Sanders has his issues broken down into five areas. Here are some small tidbits from each of his issues and how they compare to my libertarian-leaning beliefs:

Creating Decent Paying Jobs

Here is one tidbit from Sanders:

The real unemployment rate is much higher than the “official” figure typically reported in the newspapers. When you include workers who have given up looking for jobs, or those who are working part time when they want to work full time, the real number is much higher than official figures would suggest.

I actually agree with Sanders on this. Most Democrats seem to be hiding this fact, I think mostly because they want to make it look like the current Democrat President is doing better than he actually is. Forbes has a decent explanation of why the actual unemployment rate is much higher.

In his key actions section of this issue he promotes work programs to build the infrastructure. Personally I do not think that is the way to combat unemployment. Such programs do little but put more money in the hands of the very special interests Sanders is campaigning against.

But he does have one action that I agree with:

Opposed NAFTA, CAFTA, permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) with China, the TPP, and other free-trade agreements.

I disagree that such programs take jobs away from the US, as Sanders contends; I think over-regulation and corporate taxes have done more to cause that than any trade agreement. But TPP is bad for the US. Even if Sanders is opposing TPP for a different reason, I hope Sanders will continue to fight against TPP and TTIP. I have been blogging against TPP for some time now, and welcome anyone that also opposes TPP.

Income and Wealth Inequality

Here is part of what Sanders has to say about inequality:

Meanwhile, as the rich become much richer, the level of income and wealth inequality has reached obscene and astronomical levels. In the United States, we have one of the most unequal wealth and income distributions of any major country on earth.

This issue alone is probably why I could never see myself voting for Sanders on anything. It is quite obvious that Sanders believe wealth and income should be “distributed”. He doesn’t actually come up with a solution. But reading between the lines it is easy to see that the self-proclaimed socialist would increase the use of government force to redistribute wealth in the United States.

Too bad, at times in the past I’ve seen him speak about equal opportunity for all; yet in reality he is touting equal outcomes. Equal outcomes are not possible without taking away freedoms and opportunities from segments of the country…

Getting Big Money Out of Politics

Here is the only tidbit I need to share from this section:

That is oligarchy. To restore our one person-one vote democracy, Congress must pass a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and move toward public funding of elections.

Bernie Sanders is advocating using public funding of elections. That means he wants to give taxpayer dollars directly to politicians. And by giving those taxpayer dollars directly to politicians it will somehow make those politicians less corrupt? I just don’t see it.

Corruption and big money existed in politics before Citizens United, and will exist if Sanders somehow gets his way and Citizens United gets overturned. Special interests have always found ways to pay for politicians, even if it is not in direct contributions. Going after free political speech just because he doesn’t like special interest money is about as anti-liberty as there can be in a candidate.

Personally I wish candidates such as Sanders would push for true transparency in government legislation…

Climate Change & Environment

A small tidbit from this section:

The United States must lead the world in tackling climate change to make certain that this planet is habitable for our children and grandchildren. We must transform our energy system away from polluting fossil fuels and towards energy efficiency and sustainability. Millions of homes and buildings need to be weatherized and we need to greatly accelerate technological progress in wind and solar power generation.

I agree partially with Bernie Sanders on this. The US should be taking the lead on moving away from fossil fuels and looking at a green future. The difference though is the how. Government mandates and handouts to green special interest groups is the way Bernie Sanders appears promote. It doesn’t work. All it does it drive up the cost of energy for the poor and give it to rich special interest groups.

Instead of using regulations to favor certain green special interest groups, perhaps it is time to stop the subsidies to ALL forms of energy. That includes the special subsidies and tax breaks that go to oil companies. Let the market push the US towards cleaner and cheaper energy. Given a chance most people would choose cleaner energy and a safe environment. Trying to set national policy due to the bad environmental acts of a few will only continue to restrict true progress. Those few bad actors can be dealt with individually in court as opposed to forcing a one-size-fits-all solution on the whole country.

A Living Wage

A tidbit about Sanders on wages:

Millions of Americans are working for totally inadequate wages. We must ensure that no full-time worker lives in poverty. The current federal minimum wage is starvation pay and must become a living wage. We must increase it to $15 an hour over the next several years.

Sanders has much more to say, but that is more than enough to know he is not candidate that anyone liberty-minded can support. First, to support Sanders it would mean believing that wages can arbitrarily be centrally controlled. It would mean believing that a group of self-serving politicians and bureaucrats in DC  can suddenly decide how much is enough for each person to make. I find that belief most puzzling because few of those politicians or bureaucrats have any true experience with economics, and those which do appear to forget that a market has ever-changing variables that would be impossible to keep up with in any centrally planned policy.

Instead of focusing on wage, I wish politicians would focus on purchasing power. Before they regained power in 2008 the Democrats in the US Senate used to promote auditing every portion the Federal Reserve; as opposed the certain sections of the Fed that are currently audited. I believe if the Fed were truly audited it could be shown that the average American citizen has lost more purchasing power from Federal Reserve monetary policies than has ever been lost by low wages. Additionally each regulation imposed upon the market has direct costs to consumers. Reduce the regulatory state and allow Americans, especially poor Americans, to regain their purchasing power.

The problem from my perspective is not wages; instead the problem is the dollar doesn’t buy what it would in a free market environment.

Conclusion

I don’t think it would surprise anyone to hear me say that as a libertarian I cannot support a self-proclaimed socialist like Bernie Sanders. I do like him in this race though. Of all the Democrat candidates I do find him to be the most honest about what he would do. Personally I would love to see him and Rand Paul go head to head!

Ag Land Assessment Task Force meeting on Monday, July 20

Land in west river SD. Photo by Ken Santema 07/12/15
Land in west river SD. Photo by Ken Santema 07/12/15

On Monday, July 20, the Agricultural Land Assessment Implementation and Oversight Advisory Task Force will have its first meeting in Pierre. The agenda for the meeting can be found here.

Ag Land Assessment has been a huge issue each year in Pierre, and will likely continue to be. In the 2015 session there was an attempt to “Make an appropriation for research concerning the administrative and financial impact of actual use on agricultural land assessments and to declare an emergency”. That was SB 4 (SoDakLiberty Posts), and it was barely defeated on the Senate floor by a vote of 16-18.

Back in March Rep Dennis Feickert (D, Dist 1) spoke about SB4 during the Brown County Democrats meeting. Here is what I reported at that time:

Feickert also felt it was bad that the bill asking for a study on taxing agricultural land by its actual use was not passed (SB 4). He felt the study would have been able to show what the impact would be if a production-based property tax was implemented. Many opponents of the bill said it would negatively impact school funding. Feickert said the study should have been approved so it could be determined if that was true.

Additionally I spoke with a good number of people at the recent Governors Ag Summit in Deadwood. It was quite noticeable to many attendees that the topic of taxing agricultural land was absent. I have a feeling that going into 2016 there may be more pressure on the Department of Ag to include this as a topic of the Ag Summit.

Below is the agenda for this Ag Land Assessment meeting. Notice how there is a review of the School District General Fund Formula included in the agenda.

Room 413 State Capitol Building
Monday, July 20, 2015

10:30 a.m. Call to Order
Determination of Quorum

10:35 a.m. Election of Officers

10:45 a.m. Review of the School District General Fund Formula
Tami Darnall, Chief Financial Officer, Department of Education

11:30 a.m. Report on Professional Range Management Class
Task Force Members who attended

11:35 a.m. Overview of Property Assessment Legislative
Fred Baatz, Principal Research Analyst, Legislative Research Council

11:45 a.m. Lunch

1:00 p.m. Overview of Property Assessment Legislative (cont.)
Fred Baatz, Principal Research Analyst, Legislative Research Council

1:30 p.m. Ag Land Assessment – Report on the 2016 Assessment Information
Michael Houdyshell, Director, Division of Property and Special Taxes,
Department of Revenue

2:30 p.m. Task Force Discussion

3:00 p.m. Public Testimony

3:30 p.m. Staff Directives; Next Meeting Date

3:45 p.m. Adjourn

South Dakota political blogging from a libertarian-leaning individual

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