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Posts published in September 2018

Idaho Weekly Briefing – October 1

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for September 24. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at

Campaigns roared ahead last week as candidates from governor on down hit the trail around the state. The climate cooperated, cooling down and tamping down the remaining wildfires from summer.

Senator Mike Crapo, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today voted to refer the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court to the full Senate. The committee voted 11-10 to report the nomination favorably to the full Senate for consideration. Timing on proceeding to the nomination will be determined by the Majority Leader.

A trade mission headed by Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter and put together by the state departments of Commerce and Agriculture was slated to take off for Toronto on October 1.

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality is seeking public comment on a draft hazardous waste storage and treatment partial permit renewal for the Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project on the Idaho National Laboratory.

The city of Idaho Falls City Council passed a resolution on September 27 authorizing Idaho Falls Power to begin a pilot program to examine the costs associated with providing high-speed fiber optic access to Idaho Falls residents.

Representative Mike Simpson voted this week for a series of bills aimed at protecting and expanding the historic wins accomplished by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

The Bureau of Land Management Idaho Falls District and Caribou-Targhee National Forest on September 28 released a draft environmental impact statement analyzing different alternatives for expanding the phosphate mine at Smoky Canyon, east of Soda Springs.

Attorney General Lawrence Wasden has announced that Idaho, 49 other states and the District of Columbia have all reached an agreement with California-based ride-sharing company Uber Technologies, Inc. The settlement addresses the company’s one-year delay in reporting a data breach to affected drivers.

Friends of the Palouse Ranger District on September 25 personally delivered over a thousand signatures to the Boise offices of Senator Jim Risch, Senator Mike Crapo, and the Idaho Lands Department.

IMAGE After a second failed attempt in a year to pass a bond issue, the Idaho Falls School District is again reconsidering ways to upgrade its schools. The school board met Wednesday to discuss possible paths forward and to address why its $99.5 million request to rebuild Idaho Falls High School and remodel Skyline High School failed in August. (photo/IdahoEdNews)

What we learn from history


Just when it seems that our politics can’t possibly produce yet one more head spinning moment we get one.

An amazing thing happened this week. The world laughed at the American president. While he was making a speech. At the United Nations.

Oh, I know, Trump fans will discount the importance of a spontaneous outburst of chuckling from the world’s diplomats. European elites, they will scoff. A reaction coming from African nations that are, well, it rhymes with lit holes.

While it’s tempting to toss off yet another Trump moment as just the latest Trump moment the reaction to the president of the United States boasting about his greatness at the U.N. is really a symptom of a larger, more serious problem for the United States and the world. At the same time the United States has retreated from a position of international leadership we continue to suffer a difficult to correct deterioration of democratic practice at home. Unfortunately we are not alone.

As Edward Luce, a writer for the Financial Times, notes in his brilliant little book The Retreat of Western Liberalism, “Since the turn of the millennium, and particularly over the last decade, no fewer than twenty-five democracies have failed around the world, three of them in Europe (Russia, Turkey and Hungary.)” Luce is, of course, using the term “liberal” in the classic sense: liberal democracies encourage people to vote in free elections, they welcome dissent, they value a free press, they respect differences and find ways to compromise in the cause of an unruly, yet broadly universal understanding of progress.

Yet, the prevailing momentum in the world is not toward greater equality either political or economic. By one recent estimate, a third of the world’s people now live in democracies in decline. All the energy from the British exit from the European Union to new U.S. trade wars is in the direction of isolation, retrenchment and conflict. We see the telltale signs of this new world order playing out in real time. For 70 years the NATO alliance has provided security for Europe, Canada and the United States, yet the current administration, apparently ignorant of that history, picks fights those allies and plays nice with a Russian dictator. Rather than thoughtful engagement with China – Ed Luce calls the emergence of China as world power “the most dramatic event in economic history” – we apply time dishonored methods of tariffs and taxation that will soon enough hurt Idaho potato growers, Montana wheat farmers and Iowa soybean growers. China, meanwhile, consolidates its influence across the Pacific basin, while we tax ourselves thinking we will bring them to heel.

Americans are badly, one hopes not fatally, distracted at the moment. The constant political turmoil, the blind partisanship, the disregard for fundamental political and personal decency is part of a pattern across the globe. As the European scholar Anne Applebaum put it recently, “Polarization is normal. More to the point … skepticism about liberal democracy is also normal. And the appeal of authoritarianism is eternal.”

Ask yourself a question: How much of what you hear and read about politics today do you really trust? Authoritarians like Putin in Russia or Erdogan in Turkey have mastered manipulation on public opinion, they control the sources of information if they can, intimidate those they can’t and dominate and denigrate the rest. Democracy does not thrive in spaces where leaders label as “fake” or a “hoax” that with which they disagree. But demagogues do get ahead in societies where distracted citizens come to believe that nothing is real, that there are versions of the truth. More and more political leaders, even a candidate for governor in Idaho, seem comfortable with their own versions of Trump’s “fake news” mantra.

It used to be that political leaders, real political leaders, practiced the old political game of addition. How do I add to my support? How do I bring people together? How do we solve problems even if my side can’t prevail completely? How do we strengthen the often-fragile norms that define acceptable behavior? How do we strengthen the rule of law rather that assault it? Those were the days. Now it is all about juicing the base or perhaps even worse, depressing the vote.

The retreat of western liberalism is happening at precisely the moment the United States is fighting to lead the retreat. At a moment that demands American leadership, fresh thinking about old problems and a commitment to pluralistic societies, we are hunkered down building walls and denying climate change. And the world is laughing at words like, "my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country."Â

Ironically, Donald Trump’s moment at the United Nations this week is, like so much of the man’s story, a fulfillment of his own expectations. Trump “has always been obsessed that people are laughing at the president, says Thomas Wright, a European expert at the Brookings Institution. “From the mid-’80s, he’s said: ‘The world is laughing at us. They think we’re fools.’ It’s never been true, but he’s said it about every president. It’s the first time I’m aware of that people actually laughed at a president.”

The laughter is on us, as is the future. It is nowhere ordained that American democracy will forever flourish and carry on. In fact the opposite is true. Modern world history is the story of one democracy after another – Italy, Germany and Spain in the 1920s and 1930s and Poland, Brazil and India today – facing internal turmoil, political polarization, decline or worse. We are not immune.

Friedrich Hegel, the great German philosopher put it succinctly, “We learn from history that we do not learn from history.”

(Marc C. Johnson was press secretary and chief of staff to Idaho Gov. Cecil D. Andrus. His biography of Montana New Deal-era Sen. Burton K. Wheeler will be published early next year by the University of Oklahoma Press. He lives in Manzanita, OR)

What should we talk about?


On Tuesday, the two main candidates for governor - Republican Brad Little and Democrat Paulette Jordan - will meet for their first face-off, at the College of Idaho at Caldwell.

What should they talk about?

Here are a few topics they, and the panel of questioners, might consider.

The cost of housing: The sheer ability to get housing - in the parts of Idaho that are growing - has become something close to a crisis. This is a regional, not just a local, issue. What can and should the state do?

As the housing problem suggests, the parts of Idaho are growing, or slipping, in different ways. How can the growth in some parts of Idaho be harnessed to avoid the troubles of boomtowns, but help and boost the parts of Idaho that are stagnant or in decline?

Should the Medicaid expansion ballot issue pass? (Jordan has endorsed it, Little has declined to state a position.) If it does, what will you do to make it work in a frequently hostile political climate? If it doesn’t, what will you do to help solve the problems that have led to its placement on the ballot?

This year’s Idaho Republican convention called for punishing businesses that employ undocumented workers. What do you think the state should do about that?

Pause for a look at the big picture on taxes: Is Idaho’s tax structure taken as a whole fair? How can it be improved?

How do you plan to communicate with the public? Please explain how that relates to your, or your party’s, relationship with the news media in Idaho.

Tell me something - one specific thing, a law, a rule, a process, a program or whatever - that another state does that Idaho would be wise to emulate; and other specific thing from another state Idaho would do well to avoid.

A one-off for Jordan: You’ve accumulated a long and growing list of campaign missteps, from uncertainty about keeping your legislative seat, to involvement with outside issues, to campaign administration problems, to (this isn’t too strong a description) attacks on news reporting, and beyond. If all this doesn’t suggest a lack of preparation for the top elective administrative job in Idaho, what does it say?

A one-off for Little: How are you and your prospective governorship anything other than the Otter Administration Mark IV? Granting some successes (and a strong Idaho economy, attributable only in part to state government), plenty of Idahoans, including plenty of Republicans, would like to see something else after 12 years. Will there be anything substantial other than new names on the doors? And if so, what is that?

And: What do you think is the biggest piece of unfinished business the Otter Administration is leaving behind, and how would you deal with it? How as a practical political matter would you get it done - and why hasn’t it been done yet?

For that last question, at least, there are more than a few reasonable answers. Maybe allow an extra minute on that one.



We all know generalizations are wrong, but we keep doing them, don’t we? I’m just going to address one today.

I keep hearing the refrain that bleeding-heart liberals always expect the government to do things for them. Let me tell you this story.

Over twenty years ago an aging married couple wondered how their son, afflicted with schizophrenia was going to fit into his community. They knew they wouldn’t be around forever to supervise his care. They hit upon a plan.

With some help from some others in our small town, they purchased an older home and made it suitable for six residents and a supervisor. The vision declared they would provide housing and minimal supervision for citizens with mental illness to live in the community. They formed a nonprofit entity with a board to oversee the home. The business model was that the rents paid by the residents would cover the maintenance costs, and the supervisor could live there rent free. The residents would be screened and their cooperative behavior was an expectation of continued residence.

Honestly, I don’t know if this founding family was Republican, Democrat, Socialist or pagan; they just sound pretty common sense to me.

I learned about this in my fifth year of my six years in the Idaho Senate. The board president sent me an email, asking for a meeting. I assumed they wanted me to support some sort of state funding, since I was on the Senate Health and Welfare Committee and the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee. Everybody always wants government money, don’t they? But they didn’t. They just wanted me to know about their institution. They were indeed bleeding-heart liberals. But they didn’t want a dime from the taxpayers.

To be honest, the only way some of their residents could afford the rent had to do with their disability. They did get taxpayer money to support their living. Some had disability payments. Most had Medicaid or Medicare to fund their medical services. Some indeed had regular employment, though often part time and low wage. But work can be important to keep one in community.

It is just six citizens with mental illness this foundation serves, and our community probably has hundreds more eking by. But it truly is a noble vision; and an accomplishment to be proud of.

I have driven by this house many times in my small town. I did not know its purpose or function. I greatly appreciated them sharing their story with me. I worry that elected representatives who won’t meet with either bleeding-heart liberals or flaming conservatives won’t know the stories of their communities.

There is one cliff hanger to this tale. The bleeding-heart liberal board members I met with were all much older than me. And they were having a hard time finding community citizens of a younger age who would take on this role of governance. It is a small job. Let’s hope somebody will step up.

Next time you think you know what’s in the heart of your bleeding-heart liberal neighbor or your flaming conservative boss, take a step back and have the courage to have a conversation. We all need it.

Deep state


On January 2, 2018, Virginia Senator Mark Warner released a tweet saying, “Slandering the Department of Justice’s career law enforcement and intel professionals as the 'deep state' — whatever that actually means — is dangerous and unpresidential.”

It was only one of the more recent uses of the phrase, but one of the first to include the cautionary comment “whatever that actually means.”

As with "The Swamp", Warner’s implicit question here is sound and almost impossible to answer.

Warner’s tweet came a few hours after President Donald Trump, in one of his many tweets, referred to the “Deep State Justice Dept”. His former presidential campaign opponent Evan McMullin prompted tweeted that “Saying nothing of the fact that the 'Deep State Justice Department' is run by Trump’s own appointees, his effort to use its power to punish his political rivals and protect him from law enforcement is an abuse of power.”

So again, what is the Deep State?

The Deep State Twitter handle defines it as “typically influential members of government agencies or the military to be involved in the secret manipulation or control of government policy.” Meaning … the Trump Administration?
Radio talker Rush Limbaugh has called it “embeds in the deep state at the Pentagon, State Department, various intelligence agencies.” (That has an ominous ring, no doubt intentionally: These people are embeds reporting back and responsible to, who exactly? That’s left unsaid.)

Writing in Politico, Michael Crowley argued that “The Deep State is real,” noted that “Political scientists and foreign policy experts have used the term deep state for years to describe individuals and institutions who exercise power independent of—and sometimes over—civilian political leaders.” For decades the concept, if not the exact phrase, was more commonplace on the left than on the right.

In fact, he said, “Tufts University international law professor Michael J. Glennon’s 2014 book, National Security and Double Government. Glennon observed that Obama had campaigned against Bush-era surveillance and security policies in 2008 but acquiesced to many of them as president—suggesting a national-security apparatus that holds sway even over the elected leaders notionally in charge of it.”

There is something here: Institutions like individual people do tend to fight back when they’re assaulted, and that Trump Administration has seen a good deal of that dynamic. But remember that government, even the federal government and even its institutional agencies, aren’t monochrome, and the people in them might devil George W. Bush in one administration, Barack Obama in another and Donald Trump in a third. It’s part of the normal dynamic, not a matter of “embeds” or conspiracies.

Whether that’s right or wrong can depend on where you sit, ideologically. But there’s nothing “deep” about it.

Another endangered species


Informed Potomac observers report that the population of Republican deficit hawks on Capitol Hill has suffered a catastrophic drop since January of 2017. It is not entirely clear what has caused the sudden decline, although some attribute it to incumbency fever, which can be brought on by dread of losing elective office.

Republicans in the House of Representatives are ballyhooing a pre-election tax cut bill that would contribute about $3.5 trillion to federal deficits over the next two decades. According to the Tax Policy Center, the bill would reduce federal revenues by $631 billion in the next ten years and by around $3.2 trillion in the following decade. Seems like a costly measure to save a few seats in Congress, but I’m sure they are worthy seats.

This proposed tax cut is in addition to the budget-busting tax cut bill passed last December, which will result in a $1.5 trillion revenue shortfall over the next decade. It is not entirely clear why either tax cut was fiscally sound, given the fact that our economy has been continuously expanding since the time my dear old GOP almost wrecked it ten years ago.

Mitt Romney recently said, “With a booming economy, full employment, a soaring stock market, and record asset values, we should be shrinking the deficit, not growing it.” His statement echoes the Republican fiscal values I learned from GOP leaders back in the 1960s and 70s. My boss and mentor, former Senator Len Jordan, told me that Republicans were fiscally responsible, believed in balanced budgets, and knew they should raise sufficient revenue each year to cover federal spending.

I recall hearing lip service to such principles from Republicans in Congress up until the end of 2016, but those voices have largely gone silent since then. Prior to that time the mantra was that there would be no additional spending, even for such necessities as relief for Hurricane Sandy victims, without a commensurate cut in other programs. Now the mantra is cut taxes and increase spending. It is fiscally irresponsible and hypocritical of those who profess to be concerned about debt and deficits to fail or refuse to raise sufficient revenue to cover outlays.

The deficit for the current year is approaching $1 trillion or, in scary fiscal digits, $1,000,000,000,000. Three years ago, it was just $430 billion. Yet, there is hardly any GOP hand-wringing anymore about the travesty of saddling future generations with massive public indebtedness. Perhaps the thought is that unchecked climate change will do us in before the debt bomb can, so why worry.

Federal debt held by the public is currently $16 trillion (the total gross U.S. debt is now over $21 trillion). According to JPMorgan, the federal debt held by the public at the end of 2018 “will exceed all debt that U.S. households have for mortgages, credit cards, cars, student loans and other personal loans for the first time in modern history.” The public debt will top $127,000 per household by the end of this year, while personal household debt averages about $126,000.

Douglas Durst, the son of the billionaire who placed the debt clock near Times Square in New York City, opines that “America has more of a revenue problem than a spending problem.” He suggests that wealthy people like him should pay more in taxes. That might be a better answer to the budget problem than an additional tax cut, which would send the debt clock (which displays the total gross U.S. debt) into hyperdrive.

We need to take drastic action to restore the depleted population of deficit hawks. Voters can help by eliminating their natural enemy—the revenue-loathing turkeys.

Divisions are expensive


There was a posting on Facebook recently that caught my eye. “Remember when you could say the earth was flat and Nazis were bad and be sure everyone around you agreed?”

Yes, I do remember. I remember very well. For nearly all my extended life, you could say those things and not fear anyone disagreeing. No more.

A personal story. We’ve been thinking of selling our home and buying another locally. Commission on just the purchase would be about $12,000 to the Realtor. Plus about the same amount, likely to the same Realtor, on our sale. No small potatoes there.

We called on a place we drove by, connected with an agent, didn’t care for the inside but asked him to keep us apprised of new listings on the market. For several weeks, he did.

Then, a few weeks ago, I sent him a copy of a then current “SECOND THOUGHTS,” thinking he might like to know something about his new clients. Bad idea, it seems.

In a few minutes, he emailed, telling me in no uncertain terms to immediately take him off my list because it was “obvious we didn’t see eye-to-eye.” Of course, I complied. In these following weeks, we’ve heard nothing.

Then, I got to thinking about the some $24,000 that could have just fallen in his lap with a serendipitous phone call for which he did absolutely nothing. And some mildly political comments that caused him to walk away?

I’ve seen the guy. I’ve seen how he dresses and the age of the car he drives. He could use the money. But, I’ve also heard from him of his Evangelical church of “25,000" attendees and listened to a bit of his own political talk. Now, he’s decided my general political writings are not acceptable.

Here’s another case. I’ve a very talented friend who’s very close. He’s different from me in about any subject you choose. Nearly nothing in common. And his political views are very close to those of Vlad, the Impaler.

Yet, we talk regularly, chat about any subject that comes from our very different thinking, have disagreements, but have never come close to a social rupture. We’re good friends. With him, “the earth is round and Nazis are bad.” That’s enough to agree on. I’d hate to ever lose his friendship.

I remember eight decades of my life when those with differing views expressed them without fear of alienating me or anyone else. As I watched my parents interact with acquaintances and, later, I with my own, I found many of the “differences” in beliefs - social, material, political - were binding, not divisive. We were open. Accepting. Learning.

Too often now, that’s not the case. To our shame. To our loss. The current “with-me-or-against-me” tribalism has ruptured many friendships. And even families. It’s torn the social fabric that traditionally made us a strong country. And it’s playing pure Hell in our national governance.

Of our national media, our President says “Don’t believe what you see and don’t believe what you hear.” He’s attempting to drive a political and societal wedge to further separate us - one from the other. His relentless lying is yet a further attempt to cloud reality by sowing confusion and hatred.

Attorneys have a saying: “When the client is innocent, try the case. When the client is guilty, try the evidence.” We’re living in just such a situation. The client - Trump - is guilty. So, he’s trying the evidence, using deceit, fraud, smoke, disinformation, lying and any other known delaying tactic to confuse.

Our erstwhile Realtor is a victim of that confusion, I think, as are many others. A minority, to be sure, but many. Only in his case, it’s costing him about $24,000 cash as well.

Idaho Weekly Briefing – September 24

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for September 24. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at

The Paulette Jordan gubernatorial campaign because the subject of discussion and controversy after several members departed, while both major ballot issues picked up support and opposition.

Idaho’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate declined slightly to 2.8 percent in August, continuing at or below 3 percent for the 12th consecutive month. The state’s labor force – the total number of people 16 years of age and older working or looking for work – was virtually unchanged at 852,878 people, breaking a streak of month-to-month increases.

The Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians (ATNI) formally declared their opposition to Proposition 1, which would effectively allow the unlimited expansion of gambling machines – called “historical horse racing” terminals – throughout Idaho.

In his State of the City address, Boise Mayor David Bieter said the electricity that powers the City of Boise’s own facilities and operations will be 100 percent renewable by the year 2030.

State regulators have approved a new procedural schedule for processing the proposed merger of Avista and Hydro One. The schedule approved by the Idaho Public Utilities Commission calls for a settlement conference on Oct. 16 and a technical hearing to begin on Nov. 26.

On September 21, the Federal Trade Commission announced that a provision in Senator Mike Crapo’s Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act (S. 2155) will go into effect, providing consumers who are concerned about identity theft or data breaches the option to freeze their credit and place one-year fraud alerts for free.

The Idaho Public Utilities Commission has determined that approximately $44 million spent by Idaho Power Company on efficiency programs in 2017 was prudently incurred.

The Idaho State Board of Education has hired a consulting firm to look for ways to consolidate services and create potential efficiencies at Idaho’s four-year institutions.

The Bureau of Reclamation is seeking public comment on a draft Environmental Assessment to evaluate the impacts of a proposed increase in wastewater flows from the Sorrento Lactalis dairy products facility in Nampa, Idaho.

IMAGE Democratic candidate Cindy Wilson on September 17 said she would accept the general election endorsement of the Idaho Education Association--of which she is a lifetime member--in her campaign to be Idaho’s next Superintendent of Public Instruction. Throughout her career, and as an association member, she has advocated for students, teachers, and schools across the state. The IEA’s mission is to advocate for education professionals across Idaho and unite its members and the state in fulfilling the promise of public education to prepare every student to succeed. Its history spans 120 years, and is Idaho’s largest professional employee organization. Wilson has also been endorsed by the Idaho AFL-CIO, which is one of nearly 500 state and local labor councils of the AFL-CIO. (photo/Wilson campaign)

Come for cuts, stay for hypocrisy


Few issues so clearly define the extent of the Trump takeover of the Republican Party as the GOP’s wholesale abandonment of concern about deficits and debt. Once the principle talking point of nearly every Republican “fiscal responsibility” is now as quaint as a president who isn’t an unindicted co-conspirator.

The most recent assessment of the federal budget deficit by the independent Congressional Budget Office (CBO), as the Washington Post notes, drew a collective shrug on Capitol Hill. Consider the CBO’s language about the issue.

“The federal budget deficit was $895 billion for the first 11 months of fiscal year 2018 … $222 billion more than the shortfall recorded during the same period last year. Revenues were 1 percent higher than in the same period in fiscal year 2017, but outlays rose by about 7 percent.”

CBO confirmed what everyone from eastern Washington to the White House knows that the deficit increase “was almost entirely due to the new Republican tax law and Congress' routine decision to increase spending.”

And, oh, the deficit is on pace to top a cool trillion dollars by the end of the current fiscal year. The total debt is north of $21 trillion. So much for fiscal responsibility or the abandonment thereof.

It’s difficult to find a better example of where GOP legislators have gone from deficit hawks to missing in action than Idaho. Senator Mike Crapo still has a debt counter feature on his official website, but you need to go way back to the Obama Administration to find an even remotely recent hint that he is as hawkish on debt as he once was. In January of 2016, after blasting Obama for pursing “more unrestrained spending,” Crapo lamented that we “continue to ignore our debt and simply try to spend our way into prosperity with borrowed money."

That was then, this is now and with a Republican in the White House Crapo has clammed up. You can search high and low on his website, in public statements and interviews and not find a word of criticism for “Trump’s exploding deficit” or the “growing national fiscal crisis.”

Senator Jim Risch never takes on the Trump Administration, of course, but a year ago he condemned a “pattern of reckless, uncontrolled spending [that] threatens the future of our country and ensures our children and grandchildren have a bleak financial future. Congress must cut spending and recognize that we do not have a no-limit credit card to fund everything everyone wants.”

That is simply a hollow, cynical and hypocritical assessment. Republicans control both houses of Congress and the executive branch. They largely determine spending priorities and they alone passed the further enrich-the-rich Trump tax cut that has, but I repeat myself, exploded the deficit. Crapo and Risch were, of course, enthusiastic supporters of the tax cuts – each claiming the tax cuts would pay for themselves; they don’t – and in order to maintain deniability in the shell game that passes for fiscal policy in Washington, D.C. each routinely votes against spending bills. Such an approach is the political equivalent of eating your chocolate cake, while ignoring the peas. The deficit hawks have flown the coop.

Democrats certainly don’t have clean hands on spending issues, but to his credit Obama did convene a bi-partisan effort to address the steadily worsening problem. Crapo served on that commission – the Simpson-Bowles Commission – and actually endorsed a reasonable approach of spending cuts and tax increases. On his website he says “working with both Republicans and Democrats, the Commission examined all aspects of our nation’s budget and tax code and proposed recommendations to Congress and to then-President Obama for consideration.” Crapo neglects to note that then-Republican Speaker John Boehner bailed on a deal with Obama when he couldn’t deliver GOP votes in the House.

Today Simpson-Bowles seems like ancient history and given the GOP hegemony in Washington, and the reluctance of people like Crapo and Risch to take on their own party on taxes, any deficit-debt progress seems like a pipe dream. The reality is that the GOP has, at least since Dwight Eisenhower, valued tax cutting more than it has valued a balanced approach to fiscal policy. In fact, the Trump-era GOP has essentially declared “deficits be damned,” with House Republicans wanting to cut taxes even more before the current Congress ends.

Perhaps, given the political climate of our day, only people no longer in Congress can speak truth about taxes and spending and debt. “History will show you there’s no country in history that’s been strong and free and bankrupt,” John Tanner (D-Tenn.), a co-founder of the Blue Dog Coalition who retired in 2010, recently told the Washington Post. Or as Utah senate candidate Mitt Romney recently reminded his fellow Republicans, “We called for an amendment to balance the budget. Just a few years ago, the Tea Party movement brought new energy to the issue. But now that Republicans are in charge in Washington, we appear to have become silent about deficits and debt.”

Don’t forget to remind your grand kids who bequeathed such a mess.

Marc C. Johnson was press secretary and chief of staff to Idaho Gov. Cecil D. Andrus. His biography of Montana New Deal-era Sen. Burton K. Wheeler will be published early next year by the University of Oklahoma Press. He lives in Manzanita, OR.