Why We Need Less Government

“The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”  ~Ronald Reagan

By Alden L. Benton

The freedom to create and innovate is the foundation of a thriving and free economy.  Basic rules to ensure public health and safety are also fundamental.  However, when rules interfere with the functioning of the economy, and worse, when they intrude on how individuals and families live their lives, it is time to say no.

In the last 50 years, the so-called administrative state has grown into an unruly, unaccountable behemoth that is sucking the life out of our country, even attacking the political institutions that spawned it.

While the current uproar in the media is about dark state “leaks” attempting to bring down a duly elected president, for many the rules spewed out almost daily reach out to interfere with the daily life of the average citizen.  Worse, they can also interfere with people and organizations that attempt to solve vexing social issues for which a leviathan government and its administrative state have no clue and no solution.

On May 19, the Daily Signal released a video showing how the administrative state forced a non-profit group in Vista, California, to choose between their drug-free policies and federal funding.

This group, Solutions for Change, proves that private, local groups are effective in solving problems that big government cannot, and at a far lower cost.  Moreover, yes, they are now doing it without taxpayer money.

I have included the video below.  Please watch it and become a vocal advocate of this group and others like them, who suffer under the heel of the boot of the administrative state.

 

 

“When you can’t make them see the light, make them feel the heat.”
~Ronald Reagan


©2017 Alden L. Benton / Independence Creek Enterprises
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The King of All Freeloaders

By Alden L. Benton

I usually begin my posts with a short, pertinent quote on the topic I will cover.  The quote I have chosen today is longer, but it reflects the theme I have attempted to maintain throughout the life of this blog.  The quote is from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

Solzhenitsyn knew the evils of the power of an unrestrained government.  After fighting for the Soviet Union during World War II, Solzhenitsyn wrote letters to a friend that criticized of Joseph Stalin.  He was arrested.  He spent eight years in prison labor camps, and then three more years in exile for daring to write private letters criticizing their dear leader.  Solzhenitsyn’s words bring a chilling warning about the ever-increasing power of government and the real dangers it poses to the individual and illuminate why the Constitution and the Bill of Rights must be protected at all costs.

“Our present system is unique in world history, because over and above its physical and economic constraints, it demands of us total surrender of our souls, continuous and active participation in the general, conscious lie.  To this putrefaction of the soul, this spiritual enslavement, human beings who wish to be human cannot consent.  When Caesar, having exacted what is Caesar’s, demands still more insistently that we render him what is God’s — that is a sacrifice we dare not make!”
~ Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, from Under the Rubble (1974)

This is the ultimate goal of the Left.  Take our power.  Take our money.  Take our freedom.  Take our souls.

Enter stage left, California Governor Jerry “Governor Moonbeam” Brown.

Red State reported yesterday (May 16, 2017) that Governor Brown, responding to outrage over a $52 billion tax increase to fund the failing golden parachute known as CalPERS, and other state programs, called the state’s wage earners “freeloaders.”

The Democratic super majority in the California legislature rammed through legislation that will hurt poor and middle-income wage earners.  The bill (SB1) includes a 12 cent increase in the gas tax (which is already one of the highest in the nation), and an increase in car registration fees averaging from $50 to $180 per car.  Fuel fees will also rise for agriculture equipment, trucks, and off-highway vehicles (OHV) including boats.

These fees are imposed under the guise of user fees.  On the surface, this is true.  However, a major part of this tax/fee hike is not related to the highways it purports will be improved.  Much of the revenue will go to pay off loans from other funds, to bail out failed funds, fund non-transportation related programs, and pork barrel funding ($500 million) for an extension of the high-speed rail fiasco into Merced County and to finish a “parkway” leading into UC Merced to pay off a key Assemblyman.

Back to Governor Moonbeam.

In all of his full-blown, pompous, callous, leftist, arrogance, the governor is calling those who pay the bills in this state, including his inflated salary, freeloaders.

In reality, he is the California King of Freeloaders.

Governor Brown has never had a real job.

Governor Brown attended a seminary, became a lawyer, and won a seat on the Los Angeles City College board of trustees.  Brown has never worked as a lawyer or in any truly meaningful, gainful employment.  When he wasn’t being paid by the state government (Governor twice, state attorney general), he worked as Democratic party hack, even running a failed campaign for president.

That the people of California, the people who struggle every day against the massive state bureaucracy, the people who pay a larger share of their hard-earned money to the dysfunctional state leviathan than any other state, are considered by the ruling-class elite to be freeloaders is obscene beyond words.

According to the Washington Times, there is an initiative proposed for the November 2018 ballot.  This is a step in the right direction as the state’s initiative and referendum process gives the voters of the state the ultimate power of veto.  However, we need to go farther.

It is time for the people of California to rise once more and recall the governor, and every representative from every party who voted for this insanity or who supports the governor’s arrogance and stupidity.

“If people give up their attachment to expansive government, they will feel free to fight the income tax.”
~ Sheldon Richman, Your Money or Your Life: Why We Must Abolish the Income Tax (1999)


©2017 Alden L. Benton / Independence Creek Enterprises
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An Open Letter to Congress Part 2

“Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it.  If it keeps moving, regulate it.  And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”  ~Ronald Reagan

By Alden L. Benton

In my last post, I began an open letter to Congress criticizing their self-serving cowardice and lack of integrity.  I issued a warning that we are watching and we will judge them harshly if they fail to deliver as promised.

Today I lay out a basic plan, an agenda, for Congress to fulfill the mandate delivered in the last election.  In doing this, I am making a leap of faith.  I am assuming that the majority of Congress will grow a spine and have the courage and integrity to look beyond the next election, and beyond the demands of the donor and lobbying class, to solve the festering long-term problems that face the nation.

To all the members of the House of Representatives and the Senate:

When your loyalty returns to the people, and to the nation, the solutions to our problems become amazingly clear and simple.  Here is a simple agenda that this Congress can easily complete and send to the president’s desk.

Repeal Obamacare and its myriad regulations in its entirety.  Do not replace it with another form of big government boondoggle.

If necessary, pass simple clear legislation, under the true meaning of the commerce clause, to ensure individuals are able to participate fully in a free and open market to purchase a health insurance policy from another state.

Make any adjustments, such as protecting individuals with preexisting condition, simply and directly in separately deliberated legislation.

Tax reform is even simpler.

Eliminate the entire labyrinth of the U.S. tax code.

Replace the tax code with a flat tax.  Everyone will pay a truly fair share.  If the rate is 10 per cent, then both the rich and the poor will pay their proportionate share.  No games.  No deductions.  No withholding.  No Internal Revenue Service.

Balancing the budget is not rocket science.

As any responsible head of household would do, cut up the credit cards, stop borrowing, and stop spending more than is earned.

This is a simple, rational concept that even Congress should understand and they could easily apply it to the federal budget process if they can put aside their selfish partisan wrangling and gets down to the business of putting the long-term well-being of country ahead of themselves.

Additionally, if spending and revenue are balanced, there will be no need, except in extreme emergencies, to borrow money.  As the old saying goes, never a borrower or lender be.

By balancing the budget and eliminating borrowing, the national debt will decline over time.  By balancing the budget, and funding only the projects deemed absolutely necessary and within the limitations of the enumerated powers in the Constitution, the need for large, ineffective, and costly federal bureaucracies becomes unnecessary, effectively downsizing the government.  In effect, this drains the swamp.

As spending contracts, the government contracts, and the less the government has to spend creates a smaller pie for the lobbyists and big donors to carve, thereby lessening their influence, and minimizing government interference in our lives.

We must make hard choices in order to achieve these goals.  Attitudes, both inside and outside of our government, must change.

The decades long tax and spend mentality must die.

The “gimme” mentality must die.  There can be no more free rides.

We must restructure the major entitlement programs (Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid) to maintain their continued viability and their ability to continue to serve their recipients.

It all starts with Congress.  Congress must grow a spine.  Congress must muster the courage and integrity to deal with these long-term issues now.  The country cannot wait.

The time to act is now.  We cannot wait until sometime far in the future in a galaxy far, far away, when all the stars and planets are in perfect alignment.

“A government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take everything you have.”  ~Barry Goldwater


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An Open Letter to Congress Part 1

“Where is the politician who has not promised to fight to the death for lower taxes — and who has not proceeded to vote for the very spending projects that make tax cuts impossible?”  ~Barry Goldwater

By Alden L. Benton

To all the members of the House of Representatives and the Senate:

We, the people, spoke last November and swept the majority of into office because of your campaign promises.

You all have made similar promises, promises to repeal Obamacare, restructure the tax code, and balance the budget.

We also want you to take steps to eliminate the national debt, return to the rule of law, and to drain the swamp that is Washington, D.C.

Words are cheap.

We are closely watching what you do, and so far, you have failed.

We have a warning for all of you from any political party: Do what we ask.  Period.  As my father would say, we want no ifs ands or buts.

It is called integrity.

If you fail us, if you break our trust, the only way you will ever see Washington, D.C., again will be through the windows of a tour bus.

Since most of you are career politicians who spend your days wheeling and dealing, peddling lies, corruption, influence, while pursuing obstructive self-interest and party political gain, it is clear that none of you have a clue what integrity means.

Integrity is defined as an adherence to moral and ethical principles; having a soundness of moral character; honesty, the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished.

Your constituents demand integrity, the alignment of your words and your deeds.

To act without integrity makes you undependable, corrupt, a liar, and unfit to clean the toilets in your respective legislative chambers, let alone the privilege of representing the people of your respective states.

We are weary of your ineffectiveness, your sloth, your blatant, self-serving submission to the lobbying class, and your cowardice.

In fear, you retreat from your responsibilities to us.  You refuse to effectively and boldly, face the issues that plague our nation out of fear you will lose the next election, or fear that you may offend a big donor, whether they are the likes of George Soros or the Koch brothers.

You serve us.  You have sworn to uphold the Constitution.  To do less is malfeasance of office and blatant cowardice.

The nation is in trouble.  We can no longer kick the proverbial can down the road.  The time is NOW.

I am the son of a working man and a stay-at-home mom.  My father and my brother served our nation with honor through military service.

It is your sacred duty to all veterans, living and dead, and to every citizen of the United States of America, to save this great country from its pending destruction, both financial and social.

“The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”  ~Ronald Reagan


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Close Encounter with a Snowflake

“The trouble with our Liberal friends is not that they’re ignorant; it’s just that they know so much that isn’t so.”  ~ Ronald Reagan

By Alden L. Benton

I live in the deepest of blue la-la land called California.  However, even in the cesspool of sanctuary cities, Governor Moonbeam, and Hollywood, there are enclaves of conservatism.

I live in a small city in eastern Los Angeles County that is generally conservative.  I go to a conservative, faith-based church, and most of my friends are conservative, and the rest lean slightly left but are not the foaming-at-the-mouth wacko’s we see on the news in Berkeley and elsewhere.

That being said, in my daily life I rarely have the “pleasure” of meeting any of the safe space-seeking, hypersensitive, pseudo-educated members of the eternally offended class, called snowflakes.

To be clear, this is not a racial reference.  This is a conservative label attached, primarily, to a specific subset of leftist: the deranged, undisciplined, self-centered campus cowards who demand censorship and safe spaces where they can color and hide from real life.

Pathetic.

It finally happened.  I had my first close encounter of the ugly kind with a snowflake.

Believe me; it was indeed like dealing with an alien from another planet.  Then again, that is insulting to any intelligent life form that may be out there somewhere in the expanse of the cosmos.

I offended my not-so-friendly local snowflake by not acknowledging her royal highn-ass by saying hello.  This prompted a self-righteous, patronizing lecture on my manners punctuated by foul epithets.

A snowflake and a hypocrite.  So much for extending the respect and manners demanded in her little politically correct bubble world to anyone else.

As a Christian, I try to follow the rules of life Jesus gave us.  One of those was to love your enemy.  This is perhaps one of his most challenging dictates.  I have great difficulty loving self-involved fools.

Jesus, suffering the torture of the crucifixion, forgave those who were murdering him by asking, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”  (Luke 23:34 KJV)  If Jesus could forgive his killers, I think I need try  much, much harder to forgive my enemies.

In trying to obey his teachings, I have come to realize from where our problems come. 

For at least the last 65 years our institutions, the media, the courts, Congress (with some brief relief), and the tax-funded school system have been controlled by the secular (read Godless) progressives otherwise known as Democrats and RINOs (Republicans in Name Only).

The Godless progressives have systematically removed God, and the principles he gives us, from a large part of America.  You see this every day with their disrespect for others, their disregard for the sanctity of human life, the foul epithets, their lascivious libertine lifestyles, and economic tyranny.

The best hope for the future of America is through a new awakening, a nation-wide awakening of the Christian faith.  The principles that once made us great sprang from the principles, teachings, and morality of Jesus.

I applaud churches that send missionaries abroad.  However, it is time to send missionaries among us here in the United States.  As Christians, we need to control the narrative.  We need to get our own house in order; now.

“If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”  ~ George Washington

“Without freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as wisdom — and no such thing as public liberty without freedom of speech.”  ~ Benjamin Franklin


©2017 Alden L. Benton/Independence Creek Enterprises
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Time to Bring a Gun to the Fight

“You wanna know how to get Capone?  They pull a knife, you pull a gun.  He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue.  That’s the Chicago way!  And that’s how you get Capone.  Now do you want to do that?  Are you ready to do that?”
~Officer Jim Malone to Eliot Ness in The Untouchables (1987)

By Alden L. Benton

Dennis Prager once said, “There are two parties: The dangerous party and the stupid party.  I belong to the stupid party.”  So do I.  Of course, he was referring to the Republican Party. 

However, now is not the time to remain stupid.  Now is the time to get smart.  As conservatives, we work with logic supported by facts and a firm belief in the rule of law and the law of the land (the Constitution).

Our adversaries of the secular-progressive left do not share these principles.  They do not argue with logic and reason.  They do not respect the rule of law.  All of these things are nothing to them but obstacles to their agenda, an agenda of total servitude for the rest of us.  They argue with invective, trite clichés, and a litany of pre-rehearsed Pablum.  They are totally devoid of reason, and worse, of common sense.

It is time we stop trying to reason with the secular-progressive left.  It is futile.  It is time to fight them and destroy their warped, enslaving ideology.

For at least the next four years, we have the power: control of all three branches of the federal government.  It is time we use that power to marginalize the left and relegate them, and their putrid Godless dehumanizing ideology, to the ash can of history.

Karl Marx and Frederick Engels first introduced the fantasies the left holds dear in the mid-1800’s and ever since then those ideas have failed time after time.  The utopian fantasies of a perfect world fail in practice — every time. 

To see the truth of the abject failure of socialism/communism, an inconvenient truth the Left desperately wants to hide, one needs to look no further than North Korea or Venezuela.

If you don’t want to be a slave on the Left’s plantation, now is the time to act.

We are engaged in a war, a war we cannot afford to lose.  It is not a war of violence, at least not yet, rather it is a war over who controls the destiny of our nation and of our society.  In this war, we cannot be pacifists ­­­— we must fight.

We must refuse to play their childish game.  Refuse to be silent.  Refuse to be shouted down.  Refuse to cave to their tantrums and overt threats of violence.

Refuse to adhere to the tyranny of political correctness.  Adhere to verifiable, indisputable facts.  Speak the truth and say what needs to be said.  The insanity of the so-called principles of the left pale and collapse in the face of the truth.  Debunk their claims and refuse their relativism and see them cower and hide like the churlish children they are.

Enough! 

Right turn only.

“Government is not a solution to our problem, government is the problem.  Government does not solve problems; it subsidizes them.  Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it.  If it keeps moving, regulate it.  If it stops moving, subsidize it.  The problem is not that people are taxed too little, the problem is that government spends too much.”

~Ronald Reagan


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The Republic is Under Attack

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
~ Tenth Amendment, 1791

By Alden L. Benton

The foundation of our Republic is under attack.  It is not from an external power, or even a terrorist state.  The Republic is under attack from a nefarious group of termites knowing its structure: The unelected, privileged class of the shadow government, or dark state, of entrenched bureaucrats.

These individuals, many who are holdovers from the Obama administration, are engaging in agenda-driven activities to undermine the new president, his policies, and his staff.

It could be argued that their discontent with President Trump is legitimate and, even as a public employee who serves at the pleasure of the president, they have a protected right to speak out against him.  Their discontent is not at issue rather it is their actions that I question.

The case of General Flynn, the president’s former national security advisor, clearly illustrates the danger of an extra-constitutional, unaccountable arm of the dark state populated by partisan bureaucrats who think that they, and their opinions, are superior to those of the people and our duly elected officials.

In the Flynn case, credible reports have surfaced that individuals in the so-called “intelligence” community have used the resources designed to protect the nation to bring down a political opponent with half-truths and unsubstantiated innuendo.

In addition, ever since the election, the dark state of intelligence gatherers has been “leaking” sensitive national security information to the media in attempts to embarrass the president and derail his foreign policy.

This disruption and breach of security is unprecedented.  At best, it is espionage; at worst, it is treason.

The president must step up efforts to investigate and ferret out the individuals responsible.  At a minimum, he must remove those responsible from their positions, ban them from government whether as a direct employee or contractor, and pursue criminal prosecution.

The secular progressives in their deranged opposition to President Trump will characterize the spies spying on the president as whistleblowers.

Mule fritters!

They are rogue bureaucrats who are willing to sacrifice individuals, national security, and the rule of law, on the godless altar of their own self-centered ideology.  In their utopian fantasy world, the only rule is the ends justify the means, no matter who gets hurt or what damage is caused.

More than 62 million people voted for Donald Trump.  He received 304 electoral votes.  We all have the right to disagree and to protest what the president does or does not do.  However, he is the president and he must govern as he sees fit within the constraints of the constitution and the rule of law. 

Opposition to his policies must also conform to the same principles.  Ordered liberty and our constitutional republic depend on the rule of law to which we all must conform, even the secular progressive subversives in the privileged elite of the dark state.

“The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”  ~ James Madison, Federalist 47, 1788


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Cut Up the Credit Card and Downsize

“A government that is big enough to give you all you want is big enough to take it all away.”  ~Barry Goldwater

By Alden L. Benton

There are many reasons to reduce the size of government.  The freedom to work, live, and create, are the foundations of ordered liberty.  The continuation, indeed, the enhancement, of liberty demands reining in the power of government at all levels of society from the national behemoth down to the tyranny of homeowner’s associations.

Another issue associated with the size and scope of government is the cost of government.  We have a government that is running on credit with an ever-increasing burden of debt.  The cradle-to-grave social policies of the secular progressives threaten the nation with bankruptcy.

The secular progressive answer to this issue is always the same: tax the rich.  They forget the wise words of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who said, “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.”

The secular progressive argument is fallacious and delusional.  The scope of government and its cost continues to grow.  Contrary to the secular progressive mantra, the government cannot, and should not, solve all the issues that plague society. 

We have fought a “War on Poverty” for more than 5o years at cost of more than $22 trillion, and that does not include Medicare and Social Security (The War on Poverty After 50 Years: Heritage Foundation 2014).  The result of this “war” is absolute failure for as a result we now have an entrenched underclass of “gimme” people living off our money.

Another fallacy perpetrated by the secular progressives is that the money one earns by their own labor is not one’s own, but the government’s.  A vast majority of individuals, families, and business know how to budget their resources and don’t need the government to “help.”  Again, ordered liberty is in fundamental opposition to the secular progressive command and control scheme

The secular progressives also insist that there is never enough money, thus their constant demands for higher taxes.  According to CNS News, “The U.S. Treasury hauled in a record of approximately $1,084,840,000,000 in tax revenues in the first four months of fiscal 2017 (Oct. 1, 2016 through Jan. 31, 2017),” according to the Monthly Treasury Statement .

Despite this record-breaking tax take, in the same four months the federal government spent $1.2 trillion, $156.9 billion more than it collected. 

There are only two ways to sustain this type of runaway spending: raise taxes or borrow.  The secular progressives want both. The problem is our government, unlike the average American taxpayer, has no credit limit.  As the size and scope of our government grows, the amount of debt also grows.

Currently, the national debt of the United States stands at $20 trillion and growing.  To put this in perspective, according to the U.S. Debt Clock every man, woman, and child owes $61,550.  More pertinent, each taxpayer owes $166,766.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) measures the health of a nation’s economy.  GDP is the total of goods and services produced.  Debt, as a percentage of GDP, reflects the tax and spending policies of a nation.  The United States owes approximately $3 trillion dollars more than the entire value of its GDP.  (Current GDP $16.9 trillion)

Public debt determines, in part, the amount of liberty we enjoy as public debt directly reflects the size and scope of government.

We have a new president who brings to the table the idea of a more streamlined, efficient, and more limited government.  However, Congress approved his nomination of a new Secretary of Education.  If the president truly seeks to minimize government’s impact on its citizens, he must begin the process of downsizing the government.

President Trump has missed an opportunity to strike a blow against the government leviathan.  Instead of nominating a new secretary of Education, the president needs to eliminate the more than $270 billion boondoggle that does not educate one single child: the Department of Education.

Education is a local concern.  The only role of government in education is to set minimum curriculum requirements and teacher credentialing guidelines.  At a minimum, governing schools is the responsibility of the individual states; at best, it is the purview of local school boards.

It is time to slay the leviathan and reclaim our God-given liberty before the leviathan, and the swamp rats that operate it, enslaves us, and the generations that follow.  Dismantling the Department of Education is a good place to start.

“I have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size.  I do not undertake to promote welfare, for I propose to extend freedom.  My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them.  It is not to inaugurate new programs, but to cancel old ones that do violence to the Constitution … or have failed their purpose … or that impose on the people an unwarranted financial burden.  I will not attempt to discover whether legislation is ‘needed’ before I have first determined whether it is constitutionally permissible.  And if I should be attacked for neglecting my constituents’ ‘interests,’ I shall reply that I was informed that their main interest is liberty, and in that cause I am doing the very best I can.”  ~Barry Goldwater


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Just the Facts

“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”  ~John Adams

By Alden L. Benton

In the 1950’s television police drama Dragnet, when interviewing witnesses the stoic Sergeant Joe Friday tersely advised, “Just the facts ma’am, just the facts.”  It is because of this admonition that I call myself a Joe Friday journalist.

I believe, unlike my contemporaries, that facts matter.  No one can make a rational, reasoned decision about anything without valid, verifiable facts, aka, the truth.  Truth is not a moveable object.  Truth is not personal or relative.  It is immutable.  It simply is what it is.

Since taking office on January 20, President Trump has issued 22 proclamations, executive orders, and presidential memoranda.  While his supporters cheer, his opponents are apoplectic.  There is, however, a common denominator among Trump’s supporters, opponents, and many in the so-called mainstream media: Ignorance.

John Adams once said, “Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people.”  I am not implying anyone is stupid.  Ignorance is the lack of knowledge and knowledge is obtainable.  Stupid, on the other hand, is the lack of knowledge combined with the inability, or unwillingness, to seek or understand.

In the United States, there is an alarming degree of ignorance and misinformation regarding the founding documents and the operations of government.  The roots of this ignorance are myriad, but whatever its source the public needs honest, truthful information to guide its decisions.

The president’s supporters are confused and his enemies are enraged, while the public scratches their collective heads.  The real questions that the media outlets either refuse to answer, or choose to obfuscate, are what did the president’s order actually say and on what Constitutional and legal foundation are they based?

I understand that the average person in this country does not have the time or resources to find and read every executive action.  We rely on third parties, in most cases media outlets like television, radio, and cable news programming.

This system no longer disperses, “. . . a general knowledge among the people.”  Rather, for the bulk of the media outlets on both sides of the political spectrum, the information imparted is often naive and simplistic, or tainted and manipulated by personal or organizational political beliefs to produce agenda-driven propaganda.

The problem is not the lack of facts and truth.  The problem is the dearth of moral and ethical standards that compel one to tell the truth in any situation.

These principles come from the shared values of Judeo-Christian principles.  Christianity and Judaism teach us principles for living life and respecting others.  These principles are broader, and extend beyond the theological canons of organized religions.  Without these principles, our society will not function as our legal system supports the idea that the law is the minimum acceptable level of ethical and moral behavior.

The abyss of moral and ethical relativism in which we are suffering, is a result of more than a century of tacit acquiescence to the anti-principles of the secular progressives, individuals collectively bent on demonizing and marginalizing anyone of principle who dares to adhere to Judeo-Christian principles.

Many of my fellow citizens are ignorant of government, its structure, and operation.  As an individual, I cannot solve the underlying causes of that ignorance.  However, through this blog and the power of the internet, I can bring knowledge by presenting the facts in clear and concise language without bias or undisclosed agenda.

To fulfill this self-imposed mandate, I will attempt to analyze executive actions, and as many other issues as I can, in order to raise the level of understanding of those who read this blog.  After all, knowledge is power.

“Give light and the people will find their own way.”  ~Scripps Newspapers motto


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Dear Mr. President

“If we want to give government back to the people, we must first take it away from the corrupt media.”
~Steve Berman

By Alden L. Benton

Dear Mr. President:

This is my first blog post of 2017 and my first post of your administration. 

For those who do not know me, I am a Christian and a conservative.  I design my blogs to be informative and understandable.  I believe that some things are always right, and that some things are always wrong.  My reasoning comes from my faith and my understanding of the U.S. Constitution.

Please take heed.  I am not politically correct.  I am often blunt or abrasive, and always say what needs saying not what people want to hear.  If that offends you, I suggest you read the fantasies published in the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, or the Washington Post.

 In the more than 5 years I have published this blog, I have struggled with what to call those whom I consider the enemies of God, freedom, liberty, and of America and its traditional values. 

While a number of epithets come to mind, I will not play their twisted game of name-calling.  As the title of my blog suggests, I choose rather to argue with truth (verifiable facts) and reason.  I will relentlessly attack their ideas, but I will not attack the individuals who hold the ideas except to say that they are wrong, misguided, or misinformed.

I have chosen to call my enemies secular humanists or SH for short.  To understand why I chose this phrase, rather than their self-chosen fraudulent title of progressive, please watch this 5½-minute video from Prager University which asks the question: Are Humans More Valuable Than Animals?

Now that I have introduced myself, stated my values, and identified my enemies, I have some questions for our new president based on events and information from the previous three days.

  • Mr. President: Free the traitor Bradley Manning immediately so the taxpayers will not be paying for his sex change operation.
  • Mr. President: If we have 17 intelligence agencies, why can’t they stop the Russians, Chinese or anyone else from hacking our computers?
  • Mr. President: Do we really need 17 intelligence agencies?
  • Mr. President: The U.S. Postal Service cannot continue to lose more than $5 billion each year.  You must reform and restructure it as soon as possible.
  • Mr. President: Why didn’t you release all of the six executive orders you issued on Election Day to the public at large?  Why are only two (as of January 23 at 2:30 pm Pacific Standard Time) of those executive orders available on whitehouse.gov?  Are transparency and your promise to return our government to us the first failure of your presidency?

UPDATE as of 5:45 pm PST on January 24, President Trump has posted 5 of his executive orders in The Briefing Room on whitehouse.gov.

To close this post, I want to share 10 political cartoons that illustrate the hysteria and mental breakdown of the secular humanists over the election and inauguration of President Donald J. Trump. To  view a larger image of the cartoons, click on the image.

“I don’t believe in a government that protects us from ourselves.”
~Ronald Reagan


© 2017 Alden L. Benton
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Christmas Stories from Other Voices

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  ~John 1:14 (NIV)

By Alden L. Benton

Part of my personal Christmas ritual is to sit back and enjoy the spiritual and emotional warmth this day brings.  Beyond the gifts, the food, and family, I also use the day to catch up on my backlog of unread email.  In my quest to eliminate more than 1,000 emails from my inbox, I unearthed two columns about Christmas I want to share with my readers.

The first is from Ryan Bomberger who posted The Pro-Life Christmas Story: Stronger Than Our Circumstances on Town Hall.com.  The second column, also from Town Hall, by Rich Galen is titled Christmas 2016 — Six Words.

I hope these two columns lead you, as they did me, to contemplate the power of the Holy Spirit in guiding our lives and our society.  These articles also led me to contemplate the true character, the spirit, of America exemplified by the young men and women serve in our armed forces.

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I hope these Christmas messages from other voices bring a deeper meaning to your Christmas day.


“At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures.  We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.  But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.  He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”
 ~Titus 3:3-7 (NIV)


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Merry Christmas

To all my friends and readers around the world I wish you the joys and blessings of Christmas. May the spirit of God and His son Jesus be with you throughout the year.

christmas-animated-pictures
I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we chan live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.
1 Timothy 2:1-2a (NASB)

Get Over It!

“Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.”
~Abraham Lincoln

By Alden L. Benton

I am tired. 

I am tired of the mule muffins littering the landscape.  So today, I am going to channel my inner Drill Instructor and willfully become blatantly politically incorrect.

The left will call me a bully, if, indeed, they are that polite, but I do not care.  Some things need saying and I am not afraid to say them.

George Orwell once said, “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”  Political correctness is the antithesis of liberty and I choose liberty and freedom over the tyranny of political correctness.

To make myself clear, mule muffins are the worthless globs of waste left behind by jackasses, in this case, the political left.

To the jackasses of the left: You lost.  Get over it.

The system worked as designed.  Get over it.

You fielded a flawed candidate who lost.  Get over it.

Your candidate ran an ineffective campaign and lost.  Get over it.

The statist agenda of the left has failed.  Get over it. 

The wisdom of Ronald Reagan illuminates the adverse effects of statism.  Statism is a system where human rights are derived from the government not, as the Declaration of Independence states, from the laws of nature and nature’s God. 

Ronald Reagan said, “I hope we once again have reminded people that man is not free unless government is limited.  There’s a clear cause and effect here that is as neat and predictable as a law of physics: as government expands, liberty contracts.”

In contrast, H.L. Mencken, best illustrates the underlying principles of statism when he said, “The urge to save humanity is almost always a false face for the urge to rule it.”

To the sensitive little snowflakes hiding in their university safe spaces: Man up and get over it.  You are in more danger from the Boogeyman than you are from the president-elect.

To the nattering nabobs of negativity, the prevaricating reprobates otherwise known as the mainstream media: You failed.  Get over it. 

Instead of doubling down with lies, hyperbole, and hysteria, perhaps it is time for some serious introspection by the media as to why their credibility is in the toilet ready to be flushed into irrelevance.

To all who voted red in November: Thank you.

It is time to celebrate as America took a giant step back from the abyss of social statism.  However, once the inaugural balls are over, the hard work begins.

Once the new president takes his seat in the oval office, we must continue to exert pressure to ensure he starts the nation firmly down the path that leads to liberty and justice for all and in this quest, we must not fall victim to the siren call of the false prophet of bipartisanism.  Bipartisanism is the code word of the Republican Party establishment for “we like things that protect our cozy little powerbase.”

To the party establishment: we won — get over it.

To the new president and Congress: We won. 

We have an opportunity to repair our nation by restoring the rule of law and the founding principles set forth in the Declaration of Independence and Constitution.  We have the opportunity to limit the size and scope of our government and thereby to increase the blessings of ordered liberty.

However, as citizens we must hold Congress and the new president accountable.  We must hold the president-elect to his promises to “Make America Great Again,” for if we fail, we all lose, and we will not have the opportunity to get over it.


“When the people fear the government there is tyranny, when the government fears the people there is liberty.”
~John Basil Barnhill

“When plunder has become a way of life for a group of people living together in society, they create for themselves in the course of time a legal system that authorizes it, and a moral code that glorifies it.”
~Frédéric Bastiat


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Ignorance and Anarchy

“The clearest way to show what the rule of law means to us in everyday life is to recall what has happened when there is no rule of law.”
~Dwight D. Eisenhower

By Alden Benton

Recent events distress and anger me.

The demonstrations, disruptions, and riots around the country protesting the election of Donald Trump are not about Trump, rather they are spontaneous, organized, and deliberate actions designed to create chaos.

In a word, that chaos is anarchy.

Those who incite this madness are the same people who rioted in Seattle in 1999 while allegedly protesting the meeting of the World Trade Organization.

The same people disrupted Seattle twice in 2014 protesting the events in Ferguson, Missouri, and again rioting on May Day.

Again, the same people are inciting violence and disorder in Seattle with the shooting of five people after a day of “protests” against President-elect Trump.

These anarchists have the support of the political left as they continue to seek the destruction of both the United States as a nation and its culture.

This unadulterated donkey poop is a direct result of first, the defeat of an avowed socialist for the Democrat nomination for president, and second, the defeat of a seriously flawed candidate in the general election.

Those on the political left are like small children.  If a small child does not get their way, they cry, scream, and have a violent temper tantrum.  My father used to call that pitching a fit.

Fortunately, most of us grow up and leave these antics behind.  However, that is not the case for the forever-adolescents of the far left.

The power of the far-left anarchy movement comes from deliberate ignorance.  The ideologues that orchestrate these acts of chaos prey on the institutionalized ignorance of the young and bolster their control with whatever lies and misinformation are convenient to further their cause.

Institutional ignorance is the result of the dumbing down of the American educational system, a system that no longer teaches how to think, but rather tells students what to think or be demonized as being one of the hyphenated phobic de jour of political correctness.

After hearing about the antics of the anarchists in Los Angeles, I can make the case that the majority of the “protestors” did not vote for any candidate and that they have no clue, or interest, in the electoral process. 

After listening to reasonably normal people that I know, and their responses to Trump’s election, I am aghast at the astounding and profound ignorance they exhibit of both facts and process.  Additionally, I am dismayed as they blindly follow the ideologues of the left who lead them to mindlessly spew endless bile and vitriol and encourage them to engage in endless and unfounded ad hominem attacks against any who dare stand against them.

The election is over.  It is time to step back from the heat of a vicious, divisive campaign and take a deep breath.

There is a great divide between the political left and the rest of the nation.  We cannot narrow this divide until we marginalize the political fringes of both the left and right.  It is only then that meaningful discussion between opposing factions can take place. 

As long as we remain fragmented, and swayed by the radicals from either side of the political spectrum, we will be incapable of solving the problems that face us as a nation.

Until then, we must follow the advice of Paul in his letter to Timothy, “I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.”  1 Timothy 2:1-2 NASB


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Moving Forward

“The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government.”  ~Thomas Jefferson

By Alden Benton

It is over.

Donald J. Trump is the president-elect of the United States of America.  The sky did not fall and life on earth did not end.

It was a good night for Republicans.  Trump won handily, winning 279 Electoral College votes to Clinton’s 228.  Republicans kept control of the United States Senate with 51 seats and the House of Representatives with 239 seats.

This election represents more than a win for Trump.

The defeat of Hillary Clinton is a referendum on the failure of liberal policies of the past eight years and on political liberalism in general. 

Trump’s victory is also a defeat for the political elite in Washington, especially the establishment elite of the Republican Party.

The mainstream media went all-in for Hillary.  Despite their efforts to push her into the White House, the voters smacked them down hard.  Throughout the campaign, their collective lips were firmly attached to Hillary’s derriere.  The voting public saw through their hyperbole, lies, and fabrications and permanently, if not fatally, destroyed what was left of their credibility and influence.

As President-elect Trump prepares to take office at noon on January 20, 2017, we all need to take a deep breath, and eliminate the rancor and divisiveness left over from a long and bloody campaign.

The election is over.  It was a good fight and a fair election.  The system works.  However, we must move forward with the governance of the nation.

I am not suggesting we should not question our president and the actions he takes.  Quite the contrary, for dissent and opposition fuel the discussions that lead to solutions to the problems we face. 

My hope is that those who oppose his policies act in a civil manner and work to bring forth the policies they prefer through the Constitutional system.

The voters have spoken and they are the true winners of this election.

For better or worse, it is time to move forward.


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We the People — A Final Word

“Let each citizen remember at the moment he is offering his vote that he is not making a present or a compliment to please an individual—or at least that he ought not so to do; but that he is executing one of the most solemn trusts in human society for which he is accountable to God and his country.”  ~Samuel Adams

By Alden Benton

It is decision time — Election Day.

It has been a very long political season filled with lies, indignant denials, and wild hyperbole. 

Through all the malarkey and minefields of road apples and horse hockey America has grown  weary and annoyed with business as usual in Washington and the clowns shoved down our throats by millions of low-information voters.

I have attempted to make my readers high-information voters.  Ignorance has no place in the polling place.

As we move through this day, remember that your vote does count.  A number of previous elections were so close that if one person in every precinct had voted differently the opposing candidate would have won.

Today we have a chance to choose the direction our country will go. 

Vote wisely and intelligently.

“Should things go wrong at any time the people will set them to rights by the peaceable exercise of their elective rights.”
~Thomas Jefferson

“The people alone have an incontestable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to institute government and to reform, alter, or totally change the same when their protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness require it.”
~Samuel Adams

“Impress upon children the truth that the exercise of the elective franchise is a social duty of as solemn a nature as man can be called to perform; that a man may not innocently trifle with his vote; that every elector is a trustee as well for others as himself and that every measure he supports has an important bearing on the interests of others as well as on his own.”
~Daniel Webster

“The right of citizens to inquire, to hear, to speak, and to use information to reach consensus is a precondition to enlightened self-government and a necessary means to protect it.  The First Amendment “‘has its fullest and most urgent application’ to speech uttered during a campaign for political office.’”
~Justice Anthony Kennedy


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We the People — Part 18

“The most important political office is that of the private citizen.” ~Louis Brandeis

By Alden Benton

California retailers provide more than 15 billion single-use paper and plastic carry out bags to their customers each year.  Many cities ban these bags or require charging at least 10 cents per bag.

In 2014, the legislature passed a statewide carryout bag law that prohibits most grocery stores, convenience stores, large pharmacies, and liquor stores in the state from providing single-use plastic carryout bags.  This provision does not apply in specified circumstances such as bags used for unwrapped produce or prescription medications. 

Current law also requires a store to charge customers at least 10 cents for any carryout bag that it provides at checkout.  The retailers retain the revenue generated by the 10-cent bag change to defray compliance costs and provide education on the use of reusable bags.

Proposition 67 retains the provisions of the current law and adds additional requirements.

This measure creates new standards for the material and durability of reusable plastic carryout bags and requires the California Department of Resources Recovery and Recycling (CalRecycle) ensure bag manufacturers comply.

Proposition 67 may be affected by another measure on the ballot — Proposition 65. 

If both Proposition 65 and 67 pass, the effect depends upon which measure receives more yes votes.  If Proposition 65 receives more yes votes then the revenue goes to a new Environmental Protection and Enhancement Fund.  If Proposition 67 receives more yes votes then the retailers keep the funds.

If both measures fail, there will be no statewide carryout bag law.

If Proposition 65 passes and Proposition 67 fails, there will be no statewide bag law but funds from any future bag law would go to environmental funds.

If Proposition 65 fails, and Proposition 67 passes, the statewide carry out bag law remains in effect and the stores keep the revenue.


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We the People — Part 16

“Congress is so strange.  A man gets up to speak and says nothing.  Nobody listens — and then everybody disagrees.”
~Boris Marshalov

By Alden Benton

Proposition 65 seeks to redistribute the money received through sale of retail carry out bags to a fund administered by the Wildlife Conservation Board.

According to the California Legislative Analyst, retailers provide more than 15 billion single-use paper and plastic carry out bags to their customers each year.  Many cities ban these bags or require charging at least 10 cents per bag. 

However, in 2014 the legislature passed a statewide carryout bag law that prohibits most grocery stores, convenience stores, large pharmacies, and liquor stores in the state from providing single-use plastic carryout bags.  It also requires a store to charge customers at least 10 cents for any carryout bag that it provides at checkout. Under this law, stores would retain the revenue from the sale of the bags.

Proposition 65 requires that the revenue from the bag sale surcharge be deposited in a new Environmental Protection and Enhancement Fund (EPHF).  Retailers no longer keep the bag surcharge.

The EPHF will support grants for programs and projects related to:

  • Drought mitigation,
  • Recycling,
  • Clean drinking water supplies,
  • State, regional, and local parks,
  • Beach cleanup,
  • Litter removal, and
  • Wildlife habitat restoration.

Proposition 65 may be affected by another measure on the ballot — Proposition 67. 

According to the legislative analyst, if both Proposition 65 and 67 pass, the effect depends upon which measure receives more yes votes.  If Proposition 65 receives more yes votes then the revenue goes to the EPHF.  If Proposition 67 receives more yes votes then the retailers keep the funds.

If both measures fail, there will be no statewide carryout bag law. 

If Proposition 65 passes and Proposition 67 fails, there will be no statewide bag law but funds from any future bag law would go to environmental funds.

If Proposition 65 fails, and Proposition 67 passes, the statewide carry out bag law remains in effect and the stores keep the revenue.


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We the People — Part 15

“Christmas is the time when kids tell Santa what they want and adults pay for it.  Deficits are when adults tell government what they want and their kids pay for it.”  ~Richard Lamm

By Alden Benton

Proposition 64 seeks to legalize and tax the cultivation and sale of marijuana in California.

Under current California law, it is illegal to grow, possess, or use marijuana.  However, in 1996, voters passed a ballot measure allowing anyone, with a recommendation of a doctor, to use marijuana for medical purposes.  In 2003, the state legislature legalized medical marijuana collectives.  The collectives are unlicensed nonprofit organizations that may grow and sell marijuana for medical purposes.

News laws require regulations to control medical marijuana including standards for labeling, testing, and packaging of medical marijuana products and a system to track the products from production through sale.  These laws replace medical marijuana collectives with state licensed businesses.  Six state agencies are responsible enforcing these new regulations.

California currently collects sales tax on the sale of medical marijuana, as do some cities.

Proposition 64 changes state law to:

  • Legalize adult nonmedical use of marijuana,
  • Create a system for regulating non-medical marijuana businesses,
  • Impose taxes on marijuana, and
  • Change penalties for marijuana-related crimes.

Under Proposition 64, adults over 21 may use marijuana for non-medical reasons.  This measure, however, prohibits certain activities.  This proposal prohibits

  • Smoking marijuana while driving,
  • Smoking marijuana in a public place other than a business licensed for on-site consumption, or
  • Smoking marijuana anywhere that smoking tobacco is prohibited.

Proposition 64 also prohibits possession of marijuana on the grounds of a school, day care center, or youth center where children are present.  In addition, this measure prohibits growing marijuana in an unlocked area or in an area visible from a public place.  It also prohibits providing marijuana to minor under 21 for non-medical use.

Adults must purchase marijuana from state licensed businesses or delivery services.  These businesses cannot be within 600 feet of a school, day care center, or youth center. 

Proposition 64 also prohibits businesses licensed to sell marijuana from selling alcohol or tobacco products and prohibits on-site consumption unless authorized by local governments.  If local government approves on-site consumption, Proposition 64 still prohibits consumption within the sight of minors, or in areas visible from a public place. 

This measure prohibits on-site consumption of alcohol or tobacco products in businesses that allow on-site marijuana use.

Proposition 64 does not change the way marijuana is regulated.  The rules that currently apply to medical marijuana apply to non-medical marijuana.  The only change is the name of the regulatory agency to the Bureau of Marijuana Control.

Under Proposition 64, local governments can further regulate non-medical marijuana use including banning it.  Local governments cannot ban the transportation of marijuana through their jurisdictions.

This measure imposes new state taxes on growing and selling marijuana.  The state growing tax is $9.25 per ounce of dried marijuana flower and $2.75 per ounce of dried leaves.  This measure also imposes a 15 per cent excise tax based upon the retail value of marijuana products sold.

Medical-marijuana is currently subject to state sales tax.  Proposition 64 exempts medical marijuana from sales taxes but imposes the sales tax on non-medical marijuana sales.  Local governments may add additional taxes on all marijuana sales.

Proposition 64 creates the California Marijuana Tax Fund.  Revenue from the state growing and retail excises taxes and some fines go to this fund.  This measure specifies the distribution of these funds as follows:

  • Reimbursement of regulatory agencies for costs greater than licensing revenue,
  • Beginning 2018, allocates funds for annual grants from $10 million to $50 million for communities most affected by past drug policies,
  • Allocates $10 million annually through 2029 to evaluate the effects of this measure,
  • Allocates $3 million annually through 2023 to create and adopt methods to determine if an individual is driving while impaired by marijuana, and
  • Allocates $2 million annually for the study of the risks and benefits of medical marijuana.

Allocation of remaining fund revenues is as follows:

  • 60 per cent for youth programs,
  • 20 per cent to clean up and prevent environmental damage from illegal marijuana growing,
  • 20 per cent for programs to reduce driving under the influence of drugs, marijuana, and alcohol, and a grant program to reduce negative impacts on public health and safety arising from the passage of this measure.

 


© 2016 A. L. Benton/Independence Creek Enterprises
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We the People — Part 14

“Liberty must at all hazards be supported.  We have a right to it, derived from our Maker.  But if we had not, our fathers have earned and bought it for us, at the expense of their ease, their estates, their pleasure, and their blood.”
~ John Adams

By Alden Benton

Proposition 63 asks voters to change some of the regulations governing firearms and ammunition sales, and ownership of large-capacity magazines.

Under current California and federal law, people convicted of felonies, the mentally ill found to be a danger to themselves or others, and anyone with a restraining order against them, cannot own a firearm.  These individuals are prohibited persons.

In California, if you cannot own a gun, you also cannot have ammunition.  California also requires removing firearms from those prohibited from owning them.

Federal and state laws further regulate the sale of firearms.  Firearms dealers are required to do a background check through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) before selling a firearm.

California law also limits the types of firearms that an individual can buy, requires a 10-day waiting period before delivering the firearm to the buyer, as well as specific requirements for recording and reporting firearms sales.

This year, the state legislature enacted legislation to regulate ammunition sales in California.  This legislation includes the following provisions:

  • Beginning January 2018, individuals, and businesses, must obtain a one-year license from the Department of Justice (DOJ) to sell ammunition.
  • To obtain a license, ammunition dealers will need to demonstrate that they are not prohibited persons.
  • Firearms dealers licensed by both the state and federal governments and firearm wholesalers will receive a California license automatically,
  • Requires that most ammunition sales, including out-of-state and internet sales, take place through a licensed ammunition dealer,
  • Beginning July 2019, most Californians cannot bring ammunition into the state without first having it delivered to a licensed ammunition dealer.

California has also passed legislation to limit ownership of large-capacity magazines and created a penalty for filing a false report of a lost or stolen firearm.

Proposition 63 changes the way the state regulates ammunition sales, and creates a new court process to ensure the removal of firearms from prohibited persons.  Prohibited individuals must:

  1. Turn over their firearms to local law enforcement,
  2. Sell the firearms to a licensed firearm dealer, or
  3. Give the firearms to a licensed firearm dealer for storage.

This measure also requires courts to assign probation officers to report on what offenders have done with their firearms.

Proposition 63 requires individuals to obtain a four-year permit from the Department of Justice (DOJ) to buy ammunition.  It requires ammunition dealers to check with DOJ to ensure individuals buying ammunition have a permit.

This proposition also requires the DOJ to revoke permits of individuals prohibited from owning guns/ammunition.  In addition, Proposition 63 allows the DOJ to charge up to $50 for a four-year permit.

Proposition 63 requires ammunition dealers report the loss or theft of ammunition within 48 hours and individuals to report the loss or theft of firearms within 5 days.

Since 2000, California has banned ammunition magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds.  The law allows an exception if the magazine was purchased before 2000.

Beginning in July 2017, current law prohibits owning a large-capacity magazine but does allow limited exemptions.  Proposition 63 eliminates many of these exemptions and increases the penalty for possessing a large-capacity magazine.

The current penalty for theft of a firearm worth less than $950 is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in a county jail.  Proposition 63 makes this crime a felony with a penalty of up to three years in state prison.

Proposition 63 would prohibit individuals previously convicted of misdemeanor firearms theft from owning a firearm for 10 years.  Current law does not contain this provision.

There are a number of fiscal effects of Proposition 63. 

According to the California Legislative Analyst, increased court and law enforcement costs could increase by more than $10 million dollars per year. 

This measure increases state regulatory costs.  However, fees imposed by this measure could offset the regulatory costs.

Finally, Proposition 63 creates a net increase in correctional costs that, according to the California Legislative Analyst would, “likely not exceed the low millions of dollars annually.”


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We the People — Part 13

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
~George Orwell

By Alden Benton

Proposition 62 eliminates the death penalty in California for first-degree murder and replaces it with imprisonment for life without the possibility of parole.  This measure requires current offenders sentenced to death be re-sentenced to life without parole.

Current California law requires inmates to work, including those convicted of murder.  The state withholds a percentage of inmate wages to pay restitution to their victims.  Proposition 62 increases the maximum withholding from 50 per cent to 60 per cent for inmates sentenced or resentenced to life without parole.

The California Legislative Analyst estimates that Proposition 62 would reduce net state and county costs related to murder trials, legal challenges to death sentences, and prisons.  Estimated cost reductions are approximately $150 million per year.

“There are two types of education: One should teach us how to make a living, and the other how to live.”
~John Adams


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We the People — Part 12

“Liberty cannot be preserved without general knowledge among the people.
~John Adams

By Alden Benton

Proposition 61 seeks to reduce the cost of drugs various state agencies purchase.  State drug purchases account for half of all drug purchases in California.

Currently, California spends $3.8 billion per year on eight major programs.  The programs include Medi‑Cal for low income Californians ($1.8 billion) and coverage for public employees, their dependents, and retirees in the Public Employees Retirement System ($1.3 billion).

California agencies negotiate with pharmaceutical companies to obtain prices below the list price.  Many of these prices are not public knowledge due to the protection of confidentiality agreements.

The Veterans Administration (VA) provides comprehensive healthcare to more than 9 million veterans nationwide.  The federal government has programs in place that set limits on the amounts federal agencies pay for drugs, including the VA. 

In addition, like California, the VA also negotiates with pharmaceutical companies further reducing drug prices.  Confidentiality agreements keep many of these negotiated prices from public view.

Proposition 61 prohibits state agencies from paying more for a prescription drug than the lowest price paid by the VA for the same drug after all discounts.  This proposal only applies when the state pays for the prescription whether by direct payment or via reimbursing pharmacies.

Nearly one-third of California’s population receives Medi‑Cal benefits.  Medi‑Cal provides benefits through two different systems, a fee for services program that serves about 25 per cent of its enrollees, and a managed care system that provides benefits to 75 per cent of its beneficiaries. 

Proposition 61 exempts the Medi‑Cal Managed Care system from its provisions.  In addition, this measure requires the Department of Health Care Services verify that state agencies are paying the same or less than the lowest price paid by the VA on a drug-by-drug basis.

This proposition potentially reduces state spending for providing prescription drugs.  However, according to the California Legislative Analyst the fiscal effects are uncertain.

Since confidentiality agreements obscure the cost of many prescription drugs purchased through the VA, the savings to California may be less.

The response of pharmaceutical companies is also a factor in how much the state saves.  Pharmaceutical companies are profit-driven.  To make up for lower revenues and profits, pharmaceutical companies could raise their prices or negotiate smaller discounts.

Because of these uncertainties, the California Legislative Analyst says the fiscal effects of Proposition 61 are uncertain.


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We the People — Part 11

“Premised on mistrust of governmental power, the First Amendment stands against attempts to disfavor certain subjects or viewpoints.”
~Justice Anthony Kennedy

By Alden Benton

Proposition 60 asks voters to increase regulations on the adult film industry.

This proposal requires adult film producers to provide condoms and condom-safe lubricants.  Additionally, Proposition 60 requires that the costs of certain vaccinations, testing, and medical monitoring relative to HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections be paid by adult film producers. 

This measure also grants adult film performers a right of to sue to recover civil damages for economic or personal injury caused by adult film producers’ failure to comply with health and safety requirements.

Proposition 60 requires regulations be adopted to enforce its provisons by January 1, 2018.

Under the provisions of this measure, within 10 days of the beginning of filming, adult film producers must, disclose the following:

  1. The addresses of the filming,
  2. Dates of the filming, and
  3. The name and contact information of both the producer and the mandated custodian of records.

This proposal mandates adult film producers to appoint a custodian who will maintain copies of required paperwork and evidence of compliance with this measure.

This measure also requires disclosure of the name and contact information of any talent agencies that provide performers to the producer.

The adult film producer must also certify:

  1. When filming certain sexual acts condoms are used,
  2. STD testing, vaccinations, and medical exams were offered, and
  3. The producer paid the costs of the medical testing.

Every time producers submit the required paperwork, they must pay a $100 licensing fee to cover administrative cost required by this measure.  Fines for noncompliance range from $1,000 to $7,000 for each violation and repeat violations receive fines from $7,000 to $15,000.

A producer faces fines of up to $70,000 if the producer knowingly falsifies information required by this measure.

Proposition 60 requires a 2/3 vote of the legislature to amend its provisions.


© 2016 A. L. Benton/Independence Creek Enterprises
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We the People — Part 10

“First Amendment freedoms need breathing space to survive.”  
~ Chief Justice John Roberts

By Alden Benton

Proposition 59 is a Legislative Advisory question.  In effect, this proposition is a statewide opinion poll asking California voters whether the legislature should use its powers to propose and ratify an amendment to the United States Constitution that would overturn the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision.

While Proposition 59 is a straightforward measure, to make an informed decision voters need to understand the process of amending the U.S. Constitution.  Additionally, voters need to understand the implications of the Citizens United case.

There are two ways to amend the United States Constitution.  First, both the House of Representatives and the Senate must pass an amendment proposed by Congress by a two‑thirds vote of each house.  Congress then submits the amendment to the state legislatures.  If 38 state legislatures approve the amendment, it becomes part of the Constitution.

Alternatively, a constitutional convention called by two‑thirds of the state legislatures may propose and ratify amendments.  Of the 27 amendments to the Constitution, none came from a constitutional convention.

Citizens United is a case brought before the United States Supreme Court decided in 2010.

Citizens United is a non-profit corporation whose budget comes primarily from individual donors with a smaller amount coming from donations by for-profit corporations. 

During the 2008 presidential primaries, Citizens United released the film Hillary: The Movie.  This movie is a documentary about then-Senator and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

A cable company offered to run Hillary: The Movie on-demand at no cost to viewers.  Citizen United would pay a fee of $1.2 million to make the movie available.  The Federal Election Commission (FEC) stopped this arrangement saying it violated campaign-funding laws.  (See Citizens United 558 U.S. 310 (2010)

At the time, Campaign-funding laws prohibited corporations and unions from using general treasury funds to make direct contributions to candidates or to advocate the election or defeat of a candidate.

In addition, corporations could not use corporate or union funds for advocacy or electioneering communications, but could form a separate “segregated” fund for these purposes.  These “segregated” funds are Political Action Committees (PACs).  Contributions to PACs may only come from employees, members, or stockholders.

Citizens United sued the FEC, claiming these provisions were unconstitutional.  The U.S. District Court denied the Citizens United request for an injunction and stated the regulation in question was constitutional.  Citizens United appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

In the court’s decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy, wrote that the actions of the FEC are an,

“. . .  ongoing chill upon speech that is beyond all doubt protected [and] makes it necessary in this case to invoke the earlier precedents that a statute which chills speech can and must be invalidated where its facial invalidity has been demonstrated.”

The court ruled that the section of the law challenged in the Citizens United case “is an outright ban, backed by criminal sanctions.”  The court further stated that the PAC alternative still does not allow a corporation to speak and imposes burdensome and expensive regulations.

In the Citizens United decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy further states,

“The FEC has created a regime that allows it to select what political speech is safe for public consumption by applying ambiguous tests. . . .This is an unprecedented governmental intervention into the realm of speech.”

In Citizens United,

“The Court has thus rejected the argument that political speech of corporations or other associations should be treated differently under the First Amendment simply because such associations are not ‘natural persons.’”

The Supreme Court reversed the District Court’s opinion, thus declaring the restrictions on corporate speech in 2 USC §441b unconstitutional.

 

“Speech is an essential mechanism of democracy, for it is the means to hold officials accountable to the people.”  ~Justice Anthony Kennedy


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We the People — Part 9

“A government that is big enough to give you all you want is big enough to take it all away.” ~Barry Goldwater

By Alden Benton

Approximately 2.7 million California students in grades K-12 speak a language other than English at home.  About 1.4 million of these students (51.8%) are not fluent in English.  California classifies these students are as English learners.

English learners comprise 22 per cent of the more than 6 million public school students in California.  More than 80 per cent of the English learners, more than 1.1 million students, have Spanish as their native language.

In 1998, Californians approved Proposition 227, the current law regarding the teaching of English learners.  That law required English learners be taught in English only, restricted the use of bilingual programs, and requires one year of intensive English instruction before placing English learners in English-only classes.

Current law requires an administrative process before parents can enroll an English learner student in a bilingual program by seeking approval of a waiver.  

For waiver approval, the student must have attended an English-only classroom for at least 30 days and the teachers, principal and district superintendent must all agree that the student would learn better in a bilingual program.  If the English learner student did not meet that requirement, the student is still eligible for approval if the student is at least 10 years old or, is already fluent in English. 

However, even if a student meets these requirements and gets their waiver approved, 20 or more students (in any grade) must receive waivers before their school must offer a bilingual program or allow students to transfer to a school that has a bilingual program. 

In 1997, about 30 per cent of English learners were in bilingual programs.  California enacted the current law in 1998 and, by 2007, only 5 per cent of English learners were in bilingual programs.

Proposition 58 asks voters to repeal the requirement that English learners be taught in English-only programs. 

Parents may request placing their children in English-only programs.  This measure eliminates the waiver requirement for parents to enroll their child in a bilingual program. 

If enough parents request any type of English learner program not offered, Proposition 58 forces school districts to offer it.  However, this measure requires that 20 or more parents of children in a single grade, or 30 or more parents overall, request a program before the school must offer that program.

Proposition 58 requires schools and school districts communicate with parents regarding English learner programs in their annual planning process.


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We the People — Part 8

“No man is good enough to govern another man without that other man’s consent.
~Abraham Lincoln

By Alden Benton

California prisons are under siege from overcrowding and a federal court order to reduce that overcrowding.  The federal court said medical and psychiatric care was substandard and deemed it as cruel and unusual punishment under Amendment 8 of the United States Constitution.  The court also said that overcrowding is the direct cause of substandard care.

Proposition 57 makes changes to the parole and sentencing system for adults in order to reduce prison overcrowding.  This proposal also makes changes on deciding whether to try a juvenile in juvenile or adult court.

If approved, this measure makes those convicted of non-violent felonies eligible for parole.  Individuals are eligible for parole only after they have served the full term of their primary offense.  A primary offense usually is the crime with the longest sentence in the case of multiple convictions. 

In California law, there is no definition of non-violent felonies and there is no definition of them in Proposition 57.

According to the California Legislative Analyst,

“As of September 2015, there were about 30,000 individuals in state prison who would be affected by the parole consideration provisions of the measure.  In addition, about 7,500 of the individuals admitted to state prison each year would be eligible for parole consideration under the measure.”

Currently, individuals affected by Proposition 57 serve an average of two years in prison.  This proposal would reduce that average to an estimated 1.5 years.

California law now allows the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to award credits to inmates to reduce their sentences.  These credits are for good behavior, participating in work, training, education programs, or approved rehabilitative achievements.  Proposition 57 continues the credit program.

Currently, credits are limited to reducing sentences by 15%.  This measure gives the CDCR the authority to establish rules that may increase the amount of credits earned, further reducing the sentences of non-violent offenders.

Proposition 57 requires a hearing before a juvenile court judge to determine whether a youth is tried in adult or juvenile court.

According to the California Legislative Analyst,

“Youths accused of committing certain severe crimes would no longer automatically be tried in adult court and no youth could be tried in adult court based only on the decision of a prosecutor.

In addition, the measure specifies that prosecutors can only seek transfer hearings for youths accused of (1) committing certain significant crimes listed in state law (such as murder, robbery, and certain sex offenses) when they were age 14 or 15 or (2) committing a felony when they were 16 or 17.”

Proposition 57 would save money due to early release of prisoners, but those savings are offset by increased costs of parole supervision.  The counties could face increased costs for probation supervision.

The proposed changes in the juvenile justice system would increase costs for housing juvenile offenders, but save in state court costs.  County costs would increase as the counties pay part of the cost of housing juvenile offenders to the state.  Additionally, probation costs for the counties could increase.  Since juvenile court proceedings are shorter, counties may save costs.


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We the People — Part 7

“Democracy: The state of affairs in which you consent to having your pocket picked, and elect the best man to do it.  ~Benjamin Lichtenberg

By Alden Benton

Tobacco use has a long history.  It has grown wild in the Americas for over 8,000 years.  When Christopher Columbus brought tobacco to Europe, tobacco use grew quickly.  Discussions about the issues surrounding tobacco use have continued for centuries.

Proposition 56 asks voters to increase taxes on tobacco products consumed by the public, including e-cigarettes.

Beginning next year, Proposition 56 increases the tax on cigarettes $2 to $2.87 per pack.  Current law requires the tax on other tobacco products to increase as taxes on cigarettes increase.  Therefore, Proposition 56 also increases taxes on other tobacco products by $2 to $3.37.

This measure also redefines what “other tobacco products” are to include e-cigarettes that contain nicotine or liquid containing nicotine.

This measure will generate between $1.27 billion and $1.61 billion in 2017.  Revenues will decline if tobacco sales decline as anticipated. 

Proposition 56 excludes the revenues it generates from being counted as part of the general fund.  The amount in the general fund is the basis for calculating the minimum level of state school funding.

Of the anticipated revenue, between $200 million and $230 million will to replace sales tax and tobacco fund money lost from decreased tobacco sales.

The California Board of Equalization (BOE) receives up to 5% of Proposition 56 revenue to administer the implementation of this measure.  In 2017, the estimated administrative cost ranges from $50 million to $70 million.

Proposition 56 allocates fixed annual amounts for specific purposes.  In 2017, this measure allocates $48 million for enforcement.  Additionally, the University of California will receive $40 million annually for physician training programs and the California Department of Public Health receives $30 million annually for the state dental program.

At least every other year the state auditor must audit the agencies receiving the funds raised by Proposition 56 to ensure the funds are properly used.  This measure requires posting the results of these audits on the internet.  The state auditor will receive $400,000 to perform these audits.

Proposition 56 creates the Healthcare Treatment Fund (HTC).  Only facilities licensed by the state may receive money from this fund.

After making the required distributions, the remaining funds go into the HTC.  Medi-Cal receives 82 per cent of these funds to increase payments for healthcare services.  The 2017 estimates for Medi-Cal funding are between $710 million and $1 billion.

The California Tobacco Control Program receives 11 per cent of the HTC.  The Tobacco Control Program, operated by the Department of Public Health, is a variety of prevention and control programs aimed at reducing illness and death from tobacco-related diseases.  In 2017, these programs will receive between $100 million and $130 million.

Five per cent of the remaining funds go to the University of California Tobacco-Related Disease Program.  This program conducts medical research on prevention, early detection, treatments, and potential cures of all types of cancers, cardiovascular and lung diseases, and other tobacco-related diseases.  This program will receive an estimated $40 million to $60 million dollars in 2017 from this measure.

The California Department of Education will receive 2 per cent of the remaining funds generated by this measure to fund school programs to prevent and reduce the use of tobacco products by young people.  In 2017, these programs will receive $20 million from Proposition 56 revenue.

*********

“When I was young, I kissed my first woman and smoked my first cigarette on the same day.  Believe me, never since have I wasted any more time on tobacco.”
~Arturo Toscanini


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We the People — Part 6

 “Governments should not possess instruments of coercion and violence denied to their citizens.” ~Edgar A. Suter

By Alden Benton

Long before we devised our current system of taxation, Benjamin Franklin once noted, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”  Today, Mr. Franklin would probably have something to say about the tendency of temporary things to become permanent.

Proposition 55 asks voters to make something that was temporary, virtually permanent.

California voters approved a measure in 2012 that raised the income tax rates on the state’s highest income taxpayers through 2018 and increased the state sales tax by ¼ per cent through 2016.

Proposition 55 will extend the increased income tax rates until 2030.  The sales tax increase will expire at the end of this year. 

However, Proposition 55 imposes two new retroactive taxes.  Retailers will be charged ¼ per cent of their gross receipts for sales between January 1, 2013 and January 1, 2017.  At the same time, consumers will be charged ¼ per cent of the sales price of property bought during the same period.  (California Voter Guide, pages 132-133)

According to the California Legislative Analyst, Proposition 55 will raise between $4 billion and $9 billion per year, half going to K-12 public schools and California community colleges.  K-12 schools receive 89 per cent of this funding.  

Proposition 55 prohibits schools from using these funds for administrative costs. Local districts maintain control of how to use the money from this measure. Decisions regarding the use of Proposition 55 money must occur in open public meetings.

This measure could also result in increased Medi-Cal funding of up to $2 billion per year.  If state revenues exceed the annual constitutional spending minimums, 50 per cent of the excess (up to $2 billion) may go to fund Medi-Cal.

Under Proposition 55, budget reserves and debt payments could increase from $60 million to $1.5 billion per year.  These numbers depend upon both the economy and the performance of the stock market.

Proposition 55 contains provisions to ensure the revenues raised will be spent properly.  “All revenues from this measure are subject to local audit every year, and audit by the independent Controller to ensure that they will be used only for the purposes set forth in this measure.”  (California Voter Guide, page 129)


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We the People — Part 5

“If people behaved like governments, you’d call the cops.”  ~Kelvin Throop

By Alden Benton

Proposition 54, the California Legislature Transparency Act, is the topic of Part 5 of my series on the 2016 California ballot proposals.

This proposition seeks to make most of the proceedings of the California Legislature (Senate and Assembly), and their respective committees, more open to public participation via the internet.

Proposition 54 will change legislative procedure by requiring the Legislature to make audiovisual recordings of its proceedings and post them on the internet within 24 hours of the end of the meeting.  Recordings posted to the internet must remain available for at least 20 years.

Closed sessions, sessions held to discuss personnel issues, legal matters, property purchases, or security, are not included in the recording and posting requirements.

This measure also prohibits the Legislature from passing any bill unless it has been in print and published on the internet for at least 72 hours. 

The Legislature can waive the 72-hour publishing rule in cases of public emergency.  However, the governor must declare a state of emergency before the Legislature can waive the 72-hour publishing requirement.  The emergency waiver is only for bills related to the emergency.

Proposition 54 allows anyone, except in closed sessions, to record legislative proceedings and allows use for any legitimate purpose without paying any fee to the state.

The California Legislative Analyst estimates that Proposition 54 will require a one-time cost of $1-$2 million for cameras and equipment and annual costs of $1 million for staff and internet storage.  These expenses will come from the annual operating costs of the Legislature.


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We the People — Part 4

“Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.”
~P.J. O’Rourke

By Alden Benton

California finances large projects in two ways: general obligation bonds and revenue bonds.

General obligation bonds provide up-front funding for major projects.  Investors buy general obligation bonds and repayment, with interest, is over a long period.

The California general fund backs repayment of general obligation bonds.  California state income tax and sales tax revenues comprise most of the general fund.

To finance projects on a pay-as-you-go basis, California uses revenue bonds to finance projects such a bridges, or toll roads.  The state sells bonds to investors and the revenue from the project repays the bonds and interest.

The California Constitution requires that voters approve general obligation bonds.  Current law does not require voter approval for revenue bonds.

Proposition 53 requires voter approval of state revenue bonds that meet all of the following criteria.

Proposition 53 exempts revenue bonds sold by cities, counties, schools, and special districts from statewide voter approval.

Proposition 53 requires that the bonds sold must be for a project that is funded, owned, or managed by the state.  This measure also prevents separating a single project into multiple projects to avoid voter approval.

This measure applies to revenue bond proposals exceeding $2 billion.  Proposition 53 would increase the $2 billion voter approval threshold amount annually by adjusting for inflation.


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