Blog Archives

Illegal immigration is extremely costly — see how much your state is paying for it this year

Illegal immigration is extremely costly for U.S. taxpayers each year. Now, we know exactly how much. What are the numbers? According to data from the…

Posted in Conservative thoughts, States

Image of the Day: More Freedom, More Growth

We’ve often highlighted the direct statistical relationship between economic freedom and prosperity, but typically the comparison is between countries.  Courtesy of Adam Millsap of George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, however, we can visualize the same freedom/prosperity relationship among individual U.S. states.
To paraphrase Dr. John Lott, more freedom, more growth.

Posted in Conservative thoughts, States, taxes

ACLU launches ‘Let People Vote’ campaign

Between the fraudulent national voter suppression commission run by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and a plethora of state-level voter suppression and voter ID laws, many U.S. citizens are encountering roadblocks on their way to the voting booth.

The American Civil Liberties Union aims to change all that.

Coming less than a week after #NationalVoterRegistrationDay (not that we should limit that to a day, a week, a month, or a year), the ACLU is launching its own nationwide events to promote and expand voting rights and increase voting participation. The events are being started in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, since voting rules are established at the state level.

Oct. 1 marks the start of the ACLU “Let People Vote” campaign. Ground Zero is in Lawrence, Kansas, right in Kobach’s backyard, since he’s been one of the driving forces of voter suppression.

It’s no surprise that Donald Trump picked Kobach to rev up the conservative base against the nonexistent problem of voter fraud. Trump and Kobach are trying to cast doubt on the fact that Trump received nearly 3 million fewer votes than Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, claiming that those votes must have been illegal.

Voter suppression—in multiple forms—has long been Kobach’s specialty.

Posted in Liberal Thoughts, States

Environmentalists on plan to shrink national monuments: See you in court

The leaked report from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke about shrinking or altering 10 national monuments and opening them to mining, drilling, increased grazing, logging, and other development spells trouble for the country’s open land.

But many environmental groups are threatening legal challenges to these moves. According to a story in USA Today:

Ben Schreiber, a political strategist at the environmental group Friends of the Earth, called Zinke’s statement that he would shrink a “handful” of monuments “another in a long line of blatant handouts to the oil and gas industry.” Several monuments under review … overlap with possible coal, oil or natural gas reserves, according to an analysis of federal data by Greenpeace, an environmental group.

“If Secretary Zinke recommends shrinking Bears Ears National Monument it will be another slap in the face to Native American tribes who lobbied for years to get it designated as a National Monument,” Schreiber said in a statement. “Zinke’s action is illegal and he can rest assured that his latest giveaway to corporate polluters will be litigated in the courts.”

Zinke spent nearly four months on a “review” of 27 national monuments to see if past presidents had “overreached” in setting aside large swaths of land for protection. Donald Trump issued an executive order (at the request of oil and coal companies) seeking the review in April, and Zinke delivered his report to Trump in August. But it was kept under wraps until it was leaked to The Washington Post. The Grand Canyon Trust is referring to the draft report as “ZinkeLeaks.”

Utah state officials have been pressing for a change in boundaries—if not the complete reversal of designation—for two national monuments: Bears Ears (designated by President Barack Obama in 2016) and Grand Staircase-Escalante (designated by President Bill Clinton in 1996), and delivered their wishes to Zinke as part of his study. The Utah proposal on Bears Ears would reduce the land by 90 percent—from 1.3 million acres down to 120,000 acres.

Other national monuments on the shrinking and chopping block are Nevada’s Gold Butte and Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou, as well as two Pacific Ocean marine monuments—the Pacific Remote Islands and Rose Atoll. The “recommendation” for all of these and four other monuments is to allow outside commercial use, which Zinke referred to in the report as “traditional use” of such lands. Other monuments that would be affected by the “traditional use” Zinke wants to impose are the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in Maine (logging), the Organ Mountain-Desert Peaks National Monument in New Mexico (grazing and—get this—border security, because of the possibility of “drug smuggling”), the Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument in New Mexico (grazing), and the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Marine Monument off the coast of New England (commercial fishing).

Under the 1906 Antiquities Act, presidents have the authorization to designate land, historic places, or culturally significant areas as national monuments. While other presidents have made small alterations in national monuments, “No president has ever stripped protections from monuments in the way Zinke is proposing,” says a story in the Los Angeles Times. “At stake are millions of acres of unique geological formations, rare archaeological artifacts, and pristine landscapes and seascapes.”

Posted in Liberal Thoughts, States

The heat is on: How climate change is making Western wildfires worse

Let’s look at the other set of natural disasters that is being exacerbated by climate change.

Major wildfires are burning in British Columbia in western Canada and in at least nine states throughout the American West: California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. California, Montana, and Oregon are bearing the worst of it. So far in 2017, more than 8 million acres have burned. More than 26,000 firefighters are working on controlling the roughly 80 major fires still burning. Homes are being evacuated or burned to the ground. It often rains in Seattle; it does not, however, usually rain ash.

The state of Montana is being described as a fiery apocalypse. Wildfires have been burning for months across the western half of the state, over 1 million acres have burned, and two firefighters have died. Gov. Steve Bullock has declared a statewide fire disaster, having already declared state fire emergencies in July and August. Bullock has deployed the Montana National Guard as firefighters. “Montana is in one of the worst fire seasons in modern history and on its way to becoming the most expensive,” he said in his declaration.

The smoke has gotten so bad that it is causing health problems. In the worst-hit areas, people with respiratory illnesses and heart conditions are being advised not to go outside. Residents are forced to cover their mouths and noses with scarves and masks to avoid breathing in smoke and ash. In Montana, the state’s Dept. of Environmental Quality warned of “unhealthy” and “hazardous” air quality and advised all people in western Montana to avoid prolonged outdoor exposure. Parts of the state are described as having air quality as bad as Beijing’s. Even if you live elsewhere, you can still be affected: The amount of smoke is great enough that it’s drifting across the rest of the country.

There are 23 fires burning in California, throughout the entire state. The huge La Tuna fire in the Los Angeles area is now mostly contained, but it might be rekindled if winds pick up. And high temperatures are making conditions worse: At least 15 cities in the state have had their hottest summers on record. Temperatures climbed to over 100 degrees in San Francisco, where summer usually means wearing a jacket. Up until this year, the average summer temperature in June, July, and August for the entire state was 70.4 degrees. This summer, that average is 73.6.

The National Interagency Fire Center, which coordinates wildfire-fighting, reports that about 500 single-family homes and 32 commercial buildings have been destroyed, and nine firefighters have died overall.

National parks are not immune: Fires have hit Glacier National Park in Montana and are nearing Yosemite National Park in California as well as Mount Rainier National Park in Washington. The fires have burned buildings and are threatening Lake McDonald Lodge in Glacier and a grove of 2,700-year-old sequoia trees near Yosemite (the trees’ thick bark helped them survive). The Multnomah Falls Lodge, threatened by the Eagle Creek Fire in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge, seems to have escaped destruction only because of heroic actions by a group of firefighters.

Welcome to climate change inferno.

Posted in Liberal Thoughts, States

Trump’s ‘voter integrity’ panel is a joke—and a serious threat

No doubt Donald Trump thought he had a winning issue for Republicans when he launched an idea for a bogus voter fraud panel.

After all, Republicans have been pushing false notions about voter fraud for years, using it as an excuse to pass voter ID laws and other forms of voter suppression that disproportionately affect minorities and other voters more inclined to vote for Democrats. And since Trump still can’t bring himself to admit that he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by nearly 3 million votes, all of those extra votes just had to be illegal, right?

Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach are heading what is billed as the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. The commission is asking states for voters’ full names and addresses, political party registration, the last four digits of voters’ Social Security numbers, and voting history back to 2006.

Some officials say the request itself might be illegal, since it didn’t follow federal requirements governing requests for information from states. But there are consequential fears:

  • Such a large database of voter information could be ripe for hacking, with such data attractive both to criminals looking for easier access to identity theft and to foreign governments seeking large amounts of information for counterintelligence.
  • A recent letter from the Department of Justice demanding information about how and when voters are removed from voting rolls, coming on top of the voter panel request, is being interpreted as intimidation.
  • The plan to store the collected voter data on White House computers through Pence’s office, with aims to cross-check voter rolls, is almost guaranteed to reduce the number of voters. What could be a bigger conflict of interest for candidates running for re-election in 2020?
  • The panel itself, especially with incomplete data from states, will cherry-pick its way to developing policies with the aim of suppressing voting even more.

Posted in Liberal Thoughts, States

Republicans punish people who dare to live in cities—even when it means hurting their own state

Earlier this year, voters in St. Louis raised the minimum wage to $10 an hour. It was short of the $15 goal that many areas have set for workers, but it marked a nearly 25 percent increase in wages for many St. Louis workers. Until Republicans gave them a pay cut.

And Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens agrees. Next month, the minimum wage will return to $7.70 an hour — ten bucks an hour was a mistake, he says. …

In St. Louis, the minimum wage was going to increase to $11 an hour in January. Now, that won’t happen. And by one estimate, 38,000 workers could miss out on a raise.

St. Louis and Kansas City, a pair of blue cities at the edges of a red state that seems intent in replicating or surpassing every aspect of the disaster in Kansas, are routinely undercut by actions at the state legislature, where rural Republicans look on the two largest cities in their state as too liberal and way, way too black. But Missouri is certainly not unique. As Republicans capture and hold ever more elaborately gerrymandered districts to dominate state legislatures even in states where they capture a minority of votes, they’re working hard to cripple their own cities.

In the last few years, Republican-controlled state legislatures have intensified the use of what are known as pre-emption laws, to block towns and cities from adopting measures favored by the left. The states aren’t merely overruling local laws; they’ve walled off whole new realms where local governments aren’t allowed to govern at all.

The theory behind why state governments should have control over areas traditionally left to localities is … screw it. There is no theory. It’s because that’s where Republicans have control.

Posted in Liberal Thoughts, States

States require some food stamp recipients to work — and the results don’t lie

The number of food stamp recipients nationwide ballooned under former President Barack Obama, but the number of people relying on government aid for groceries in…

Posted in Conservative thoughts, States

Here’s What North Carolina Republicans Think of Donald Trump Bashing the State’s Bathroom Law

“He is known for the ability to change his position.”

Posted in Conservative thoughts, Politics, States

King of Common Core: 4 Key Things to Know About the New Education Secretary

John King Jr., a leading advocate of the controversial Common Core education standards and student databases, will have a ceremonial swearing in Wednesday by Vice President Joe Biden.

He will likely be serving less than a year in the job, taking ove…

Posted in Conservative thoughts, States