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Posts published in June 2019

Ray Rigby


He came close to becoming governor of Idaho.

Ray Rigby was for a time a candidate for governor of Idaho, as a Democrat, in 1970. But only for a while; he didn’t file, and wasn’t on the ballot, and didn’t get very close to the office that year. But in the process he and the eventual nominee and governor, Cecil Andrus, became good friends, and four years later he was Andrus’ top choice for lieutenant governor.

In 1974 the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor had some value, both evident and as yet unseen. It was a good year for Idaho Democrats - one of the two best in the last half-century - and the nomination drew four serious candidates. Rigby had strong support but came in second, outdone by fellow state senator John Evans, who had pulled in most of the still-strong labor backing. But that four-way race was highly competitive.

And that was appropriate, because two years later Andrus was tapped for interior secretary, and Evans became governor. It could have been Rigby.

If there was some significance to that, Ray Rigby, who died last week at his lifetime home in Rexburg, never seemed to dwell on it. He had a busy life in his profession and his church as well as in politics. His political adventures back in the 60s and 70s, when he was one of the leading figures in the Idaho Legislature and a serious prospect for higher offices, hardly even figure now in many of the recollections of him.

The biographical article about Rigby in the Idaho Falls Post Register, for example, focused more on water.

And that’s not a mistake. Ray Rigby was a water lawyer and one of the leaders in shaping Idaho state water regulation - his son Jerry, has followed in those footsteps too - and he was one of the people who helped create Idaho’s water regime when it was in formative stages half a century ago, turning into something like what the state has now. Rigby was a practicing lawyer who represented clients, which included many of the larger water operations around eastern Idaho, and he had clear points of view about how things should be. But he was willing to compromise, willing to work with a wide range of people, and willing to experiment.

In the oral history book Through the Waters (disclosure: I published and helped edit it), which tracks the story and history of the Snake River Basin Adjudication, Rigby emerges as a major figure in setting up the state’s water structure after Swan Falls Dam court decision in 1982. (In comments after his death, two of the other major figures in that work, then-Attorney General Jim Jones and his resources division chief, Clive Strong, reaffirmed that.) He was the practical source of the idea of trust waters - a key concept in putting the Snake River water rights agreements in place - and also important because he was so widely trusted, across party lines and across a range of interest groups.

Idaho has one of the best water management systems in the country. The most important ingredient allowing that to happen has been trust, a willingness for people with varying interests to work in good faith with each other. Ray Rigby epitomized that, and he helped make that happen.

He could set a good example for policy makers and political people in Idaho today.

Equitable assessment


This week in Boise there will be an interim committee meeting on Monday. By the time you read this they will be back home, not done with their work, but maybe started. The title of the committee is the “Equitable Assessment of Costs Related to Medicaid Expansion”.

I applaud the legislature for looking carefully at costs incurred to the taxpayer for the laws they (or in this case, the voters through initiative) pass.

May I make some further suggestions?

How about the legislature study the costs of funding facilities for charter schools? The legislature passed a law in 2014 to send cash from income and sales tax revenue to charter schools for their facility costs. Public schools have to get a local bond passed to build a school; charter schools get an automatic cut from everybody’s sales taxes or income taxes. Sixty-six + percent must approve a local bond, then it comes off the property tax of local district residents. Charter schools just get a check out of the general fund. That charter school facility fund has come to $40M over the past seven years. And its dollars straight out of the budget for teachers and schools, which is what our property tax levies pay make up for, since the state can’t seem to find the money in the general fund. Seem equitable to you?

How about the legislature study the property tax exemptions county commissioners are handing out? How is that affecting home owners’ rates? Canyon County commissioners just handed out millions in exemptions to businesses who expanded or opened new facilities. A couple years back Nez Perce County commissioners did the same for Clearwater Paper. This was right before they laid off a few dozen workers in the Lewiston plant. Does it seem equitable that businesses don’t have to pay for the roads and services their trucks and employees use? Does it seem equitable that the local property owners foot that bill?

But I suspect the interim committee will focus their “equitable assessment” on the costs of Medicaid expansion, as the law they themselves passed has directed them to do. If you keep the window narrow there is no big picture to see. I expect my elected representatives to see the big picture.

The charter school facility funding inequity came about because the legislature was afraid to look at the big picture of all schools’ facility funding. This was even though there is an Idaho Supreme Court decision declaring our current system, before the charter school facility funding scheme, unconstitutional. This decision has never merited even one hearing from our busy legislators.

Keeping a narrow focus on the Medicaid costs might bring some comfort to the legislators who opposed Medicaid expansion. While they tally the costs, will they even try to balance the benefits? We all heard their bias before the election, before the citizens over-ruled their six years of inaction. Will they consider the costs of those six years of doing nothing when the Federal Government paid up to 100% of the costs? I doubt it.

There is no doubt the expansion of Medicaid will cost the Idaho taxpayer. And costs are the easiest things to count. But the benefits deserve some tallying too. What do you think one life saved is worth?

Can they tally savings to our prison costs when a felon doesn’t return to prison because they got their drug addiction treated? Can they consider the value to a small community whose critical access hospital climbs out of the red? Is there any way to count the shifted costs of the uninsured onto those paying premiums? Will the decline in county property tax funded indigent costs be part of their calculus?

I’m all for counting costs. But how we spend our money is an expression of our values. And values aren’t just about dollars and cents. Values should reflect the big picture.

On the Trump trade war …


Take this statement: “We are losing billions of dollars through on-going trade deficits and it has to stop.” Is this true or false? It is the mainstay of Trump’s attitude towards foreign trade. It does have a seductive ring to it, and a recent CBS poll says that six in ten of us favor Trump’s efforts. Some recent man-on-the-street interviews give the impression that many of us think showing a little muscle is a good thing. Trump says that trade wars are easy to win. A little short-term pain is all that is happening here and that all will be well soon. After all, isn’t this just part of Making America Great Again?

No, it is not! The facts are that Trump’s entire pitch on foreign trade is total malarkey. Every single word out of Trump’s mouth is wrong. Every word. What he has said demonstrates a stunning failure to grasp even the fundamentals of international trade. He clearly does not understand the consequences of a bilateral trade imbalance and he has not the faintest idea of how tariffs work.

First and most obvious, we are not losing any money as a nation in trade deficits. In a growing economy, an imbalance in trade is merely an indication that there are surplus dollars on one side available for discretionary spending. Since we are by far the largest economy in the world, it is expected that we will have the most in surplus dollars for discretionary spending. The U.S. has operated with a worldwide negative trade balance since 1975 and our economy has grown and continues to grow exponentially. In its simplest form, the outflow of excess U.S. dollars from one year’s imports provides funds to our trading partners for the next year’s increase in exports, and both economies prosper.

Unless political pressures get in the way, or truly illegal or unwarranted government intervention is involved, we do not need to worry about the other country. As long as our own economy is strong and growing, with modest inflation, manageable interest rates, and exchange rates close to par, the market forces alone will keep our interests in a workable position relative to our trading partners.

When one or more of these ratios get out of whack, such as where one side gets unfairly involved in specific markets by way of price fixing, subsidized dumping, or currency manipulation, for example, direct action may be warranted. Adjusting or withholding foreign aid, implementing domestic subsidies, imposing trade embargoes and the use of specific, targeted tariffs are common methods of correcting or countering specific ills in specific trading conditions often found in foreign markets. When needed, these measures are applied deftly, with tweezers and scalpel – not a mean ax or wrecking ball. The objective is to target the precise problem without tipping over the whole table.

One aspect that everyone agrees should not be considered is any notion that trade can be brought into balance by the imposition of general tariffs. One would think that the disastrous consequences of the last attempt to protect the U.S. economy with general tariffs – the Smoot Hawley tariffs of the 1930s – would prevent ever again any serious attempts at trying to force an adjustment to the balance of trade through general tariffs. The Smoot-Hawley tariffs were a disaster; they had no impact on general trade, triggered worldwide retaliation, and worked to worsen and prolong the great depression by years. It took the U.S. decades to rectify the damage done by these tariffs.

And yet, here comes Trump. Against all advice, Trump is using general tariffs to push us into a trade war with China, our second largest trading partner, without cause other than his subjective belief that trading with China is not “fair” and with no defined objective to end his war other than that trade with China has to become “more fair.”

General tariffs are an excise tax upon the U.S. consumer, no matter what Trump and his henchmen try to claim. The objective of a tariff is to artificially increase the price of the item in order to drive the volume of sales or imports down. If the price increases, demand goes down. This is basic economics. The direct impact is on the exporting country because their exports will go down and their revenues will suffer. But the indirect impact is on the consumers in the importing country because their costs are going to go up. Furthermore, general tariffs have the effect of a double whammy because they invariably foster retaliatory tariffs by the other country.

The point is that these tariffs are NOT just being paid by the Chinese exporting companies or the Chinese government. The effects of tariffs are felt by everybody in the market, both sides. After less than three quarters of a year of general tariffs, being since mid-summer 2018, the impact already felt by the U.S. consumer from higher costs and lost jobs is estimated at an average of over $860 per family. This figure will dramatically increase if Trump imposes the next round of tariffs on $300 billion in general trade from China, which he has threatened to do by the end of June.

The imposition of broad tariffs have not produced any results other than to depress markets and cost jobs in both countries and increase the cost of most products involved to consumers in both countries. By the end of May 2019 these tariffs are estimated to have reduced U.S. long-run GDP by 0.2%, reduced wages by 0.13%, and eliminated 156.000 full time equivalent jobs. If Trump imposes the next round of 25% general tariffs on the remaining $300 billion in Chinese imports, which he has threatened to do by the end of June, the hit on our GDP is expected to be at or around -0.45%. (The Tax Foundation, May 31, 2019) In the U.S., each tenth of percentile in reduction of GDP translates to $20 billion, or 79,000 full time equivalent jobs

Trump is ignoring the progress that has been made in trade with China and is making demands that China cannot and will not meet. China is not coming around, we are not well positioned, and no deal with China is imminent. Most experts agree that China is giving every sign of being ready to hunker down and weather out the storm for as long as Trump remains intransigent – or in office. His decision to double down and expands the tariffs broadly across the entire market is about to turn into a complete disaster.

To be sure, is China faring less well than us, with its long-term growth rate slipping from 9% to less than 6%. The turmoil in the market has caused problems with its monetary supply, strengthening the dollar against the yuan (which is going the wrong way if one wants to dampen the volume of imports from China), and wreaking general havoc in its financial markets. But China, culturally and politically, is better positioned to withstand the stress. The Chinese economy is regulated to a degree not possible in the U.S., with targets and objectives broken down into specific five-year strategies. The Chinese are always maneuvering with the long-term effect in mind and the Oriental patience is legendary.

On the other hand, Trump is steadfastly ignoring all the sound economic advice he is being given from all sides – including from well qualified Republicans. Even though the political pressures on Trump from the collapsing export markets and the massive increases in consumer prices throughout the U.S. economy are enormous, and even though China has not flinched or quivered even an eyebrow, Trumps inability to admit error and his penchant for doubling down in the face of impending disaster indicate no relief in sight. Trump seems determined to take the recovering and steadily growing economy he inherited from Barak Obama and, having jerked one of the foundational underpinnings out with an unsupportable trillion-dollar tax cut, he is now determined to wreck international trade. It will only take a few more moves to stall the economy out and turn it all into a nose-dive.

Hang on tight.

Magic wand solutions


Pointy-headed scientists make life in these United States way too complicated. They always want to study a problem to death and, once they have reached a consensus on how to fix it, they want to spend tons of money on a cure. We need to simplify the process with less scientific study and more gut-inspired action.

Take the issue of nuclear waste disposal. The U.S. has struggled for decades trying to clean up high-level radioactive waste. There has been a lot of heartburn about removing high-level waste from the Idaho National Laboratory, as well as from the Hanford Reservation in Washington and Savannah River in South Carolina. The cost of cleaning up the waste is astronomical and finding a place to dispose of it is perplexing.

The U.S. Department of Energy under the stewardship of former Texas Governor Rick Perry has cut through all of the red tape and figured out a simple solution--just change the classification of the waste from high-level to low-level. Why didn’t we think of that long ago? Those of you who poked fun at Perry for not being able to name the Energy Department as one of the three agencies he proposed to eliminate during the 2016 presidential primaries should be eating a little crow, thanks to this stroke of genius.

Lowering the classification of the waste will save $40 billion in cleanup costs and allow the reclassified waste to be disposed of in low-level facilities in Utah or Texas. Problem solved with the stroke of a pen!

And, how about reducing the number of deaths from the fine particulate pollution produced by burning fossil fuels? When the Environmental Protection Agency proposed to eliminate the strict air pollution rule in the Clean Power Plan, its scientific staff estimated the roll-back would result in an added 1,400 premature deaths in the U.S. each year.

Agency leadership has just announced a simple solution to the dilemma--simply change the methodology for calculating the number of deaths that will be caused by the rule change. Now we can have more air pollution and fewer deaths at the same time. Problem solved by a simple calculation change!

Climate scientists are continually warning of the existential danger facing the Earth from climate change. They point to the record-breaking weather disasters occurring around the globe and claim they will intensify if earthlings do not take drastic action to curtail greenhouse gas emissions. They say the danger will increase dramatically in the second half of this century.

The administration has settled upon a simple fix to the problem. Rather than projecting the effects of climate change to the end of the century, as we currently do, just cut the projections off at the year 2040. That provides a less dire picture since the greatest effects of climate change will occur after that time. And it eliminates the need to take effective action now to save the planet from turning into an uninhabitable hothouse for our children and their offspring. Another problem solved by the mere stroke of a pen!

Why spend the time it takes to carefully study a complex problem and develop a scientific consensus as to how to solve it, when most problems can be easily resolved by a simple gut check and change of nomenclature? We don’t need to follow the urgent warnings of 97% of the climate experts about the growing danger of climate change when we can simply step outside on a cold day and announce “problem solved.”

Just weary


I’m feeling something I never thought I would. I’ve got actual symptom of “Trump burnout.”

I’m at the stage of turning off the TV whenever his face or voice are present. I avoid conversations if they turn to his latest lie or his most recent outrageous act. I listen only to satellite music in the car rather than the political stations of former days. I can’t stay in the doctor’s waiting room if his image is on the TV.

All these “symptoms” - all of ‘em - are not good. More than that, they’re dangerous to our health as a nation if we all become numb - as I nearly am - to his latest impeachable offense.

It’s quite possible the basis for wanting to shut his visage out is that he keeps breaking laws, committing illegal acts and it seems he’s getting away with it. All of it. There seems to be no holding him to account for his actions; no punishment. Just more hearings. More court delays. More - nothing.

Though I greatly respect her years of experience and her political acumen, Nancy Pelosi is wrong on the issue of impeachment. A month or two ago, she was probably right. But, not now. Conditions have changed. Greatly. Trump’s ignorance of - and contempt for - the rule of law have risen to new heights.

In fact, he seems to relish trashing legal niceties and law breaking. When told an aide repeatedly broke federal law and had to go, he ignored it. When faced with mostly forced departures of cabinet officials and other key miscreants, he appointed nearly a dozen on an “acting” basis to avoid the legally required confirmation by Congress. When the CIA, NSA and FBI gave him hard intelligence of international wrongdoing, he ignored it and sided with our enemies. When Congress issued a handful of lawful subpoenas for many of his staff and appointees to appear for questioning, he stonewalled. And he lied - lied - LIED about nearly everything.

And the result of much of this arrogance? Court challenges. Challenges that will likely take more time to settle than he has in his current presidential term. And interminable hearings.

In other words, nothing!

And that’s why Pelosi must change her mind and begin impeachment proceedings, regardless of whether the Senate will or won’t follow with the required trial.

Much of the American public looks at House Democrat inaction as weakness or fear of Trump. There’s even an open division in the caucus between those wanting to move forward and those who want to wait. More hearings. More testimony. More extended court cases.

Trump is trashing not only the institutions of our government but also doing extreme damage to our international obligations and relationships. The President of the United States of America is not even welcome in several countries. He’s abrogated treaties of trade and security. He’s forced previously friendly trading partners to look to Russia and China for their needs. He’s crippled whole sections of our economy with tariffs and has undercut much of our agricultural system. Now, he’s flirting with getting this nation into yet another Mideast war.

These - and many other - actions have literally gone unchallenged and unchecked. As a result, when coupled with congressional inaction to hold him accountable, many of us are wondering what it will take to get our elected representatives - one third of the foundation of our government - to say “ENOUGH!”

And that’s where my Trump weariness comes in.

Our Constitution is the bedrock for our system of checks and balances - executive, legislative and judicial. Each branch is literally required to keep tabs on the other two. When the system gets out-of-balance, either or both of the other entities have not only the right but an obligation to take action to restore that balance.

I completely understand the Speaker’s reluctance to begin proceedings and can appreciate her political instincts. But, if corrective action to restore constitutional balance doesn’t begin soon, this nation will suffer serious and long-lasting damage.

The worst thing - the most dangerous thing - we citizens can do, at the moment, is become numb to Trump - become tired of his dictatorial presidency - become unwilling to stay informed of what’s going on.

I fear, if Congress doesn’t begin proceedings now, and if we simply have more and more hearings while waiting for courts to take action, conditions in the White House will worsen. The Trump-sponsored damage will continue to mount.

So, excuse me. I’ve got to keep up.



How much is a college education worth?

How much is it worth to have attended, or obtained a degree from, the “right” college?

Rounding out the trio of questions: How much should it be worth?
We can get at such questions through the doorway of credentialism, a term almost begging for widespread use on either the political left or right, or maybe both.

Let’s put this into context first. As human society has developed, more information, and more specialized skills and understanding, has been needed to cope and prosper. A person in the 1600s had to understand far more than a counterpart in the 1100s. Someone living in 1800 simply did not need to know as much, to function effectively, as someone living in 2000. Education has helped create the progress, and it also makes itself more necessary as progress continues. More education helps; higher quality education helps more. Of course, let us not forget this, either: Education can come from many sources (a person educated as a fine college who never picks up another book after graduation likely will be far less well educated than a high school grad who continues to learn). And let us not for get that reputation does not necessarily equal actual quality or performance.

Which is to say, most of the academics I’ve met over the years have struck me as highly intelligent people, but I’ve met a few Ph.D.s I wouldn’t trust to park my car.

Next stop, credentialism: “a concept coined by social scientists in the 1970s, is the reduction of qualifications to status conferring pieces of paper. It’s an ideology which puts formal educational credentials above other ways of understanding human potential and ability.”

In the 1960s, amid the rethinking of many social institutions, an approach (fostered by critics such as Ivan Ilich) “proceeded from the assumption that most if not all of the skills needed to competently perform the work tasks carried out by many professionals could be acquired through practical experience and with much less in the way of formal schooling than is usually needed to obtain the “required” credentials. From this perspective, the disguised purpose of much formal schooling (its ‘hidden curriculum’) is to impart a particular disciplinary paradigm, ideological orientation, or set of values to those seeking formal credentials to work in prestigious or ‘high-status’ fields such as medicine, law, and education. Furthermore, the credential systems developed in a number of occupational areas are part of the ‘collective mobility projects’ of practitioners to achieve a ‘professional status’ that brings with it greater material and symbolic rewards. Thus credentialism is closely associated with strategies of ‘social closure’ (to use Max Weber’s expression) that permit social groups to maximize rewards ‘by restricting access to resources and opportunities to a limited circle of eligibles.”

The concept has been pushed much further since then – as well as the pushback against it.

So, for example, we get employers who hire only from Ivy League schools (this including many parts of the federal government in Washington), no matter the demonstrated knowledge, background, skills and other assets that other applicants might bring. The dynamic reaches out on the other end to parent frantic to get their kids into top-rank schools (leading to the corruption of such events as the 2019 college admissions scandal), and the exploding cost of higher education.

As a character on the TV show The Sopranos said, back around 2000 (on the subject of college admissions), “It’s not about grades any more. It’s all, who you know and how many buildings you give.”

Young adults will find they need more education than did their predecessors, but turning the process into a game of extreme musical chairs will lead to social disaster – not least because many students do not go on to college, do not finish or do not attend prestige schools; and there aren’t nearly enough spaces for everyone if they chose to do so. Better answers are needed.

Joseph Fuller, a Harvard University academic, is among those giving the matter some thought, and serving as a critic (ironically maybe, given his professional perch) of over-credentialism in the job market. In a study called “Dismissed by Degrees,” he and co-author Manjari Raman reported that “Degree inflation – the rising demand for a four-year college degree for jobs that previously did not require one – is a substantive and widespread phenomenon that is making the U.S. labor market more inefficient. Postings for many jobs traditionally viewed as middle-skills jobs (those that require employees with more than a high school diploma but less than a college degree) in the United States now stipulate a college degree as a minimum education requirement, while only a third of the adult population possesses this credential.”

As a matter of politics, this tendency leads to anger at the educated elites (mainly on the right) and a a socially-restrictive movement toward income inequality (on the left), among other results.
Credentialism is a term and an issue in land mine status.

Imposing order in Democratic chaos


“I am not a member of any organized political party,” the cowboy comic Will Rogers famously said. “I am a Democrat.”

Democrats fight among themselves, argue about the future of their party and display a genuine affinity for forming a circular firing squadron whenever an election looms. Joe Biden is being attacked for saying he actually believes in bipartisanship. Bernie Sanders is too old and too socialist, but even he struggles to explain what his brand of socialism really looks like. Kamala Harris was a tough-on-crime prosecutor and that is somehow a liability. I could go on, but you get the drift.

The 23 angry Democrats now running for president is all the proof required that the Democrats are no “organized political party.”

So, since no one is asking, I offer a Democratic Manifesto for both national and Idaho Democrats to impose some order on the chaos.

First, the basics: Every election is about the future. Donald Trump made the 2016 election a referendum on his version of the future, which ironically — or cynically, or manipulatively — was actually about recreating a vision of the country that never existed. “Make America Great Again” was his slogan. It’s time for Democrats to make him eat those words.

Ronald Reagan made Jimmy Carter squirm in 1980 by asking a question Democrats should be asking: “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” Trump partisans will point to a strong economy, but the micro answer to Reagan’s question is clearly: No.

Karl Rove, the politically smart but ethically challenged brain behind George W. Bush, always had a formula: Attack your opponent at his point of greatest strength. John Kerry was a decorated Vietnam veteran, while Bush arguably dodged the draft, so in Rove World the correct response was to “swift boat” Kerry with attacks on his military record and patriotism. Trump is oh so vulnerable to the same approach and, best of all, a Democrat need not distort the record as Rove had to in order to pin his ears back.

Imagine a Democrat with this line of logic: Let’s talk about that Mexican-funded wall. Is immigration better than four years ago? Trump will soon have been in office for three years. He had both houses of Congress for half his term — what’s he really done?

Well, he tweets a lot. He thinks he’s tough on immigration, but he hasn’t fixed a thing and, if anything, it’s all much worse than when he started. Trump is a failure at the border.

Trump was going to end our endless wars, but how is that going? He’s incompetent and hasn’t fixed a thing. He hasn’t Made America Great; he’s made the presidency all about himself.

Biden may be making a major mistake, as he demonstrated this week, in questioning Trump’s intelligence and morals. That cake is baked. Only Trump’s diehard 40 percent think he’s anything approaching intelligent and as for morals, well just ask Sen. Mike Crapo who said he couldn’t support Trump after the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape and then supported him. There is little margin in emphasizing something everyone knows: Trump isn’t all that bright. Everyone knows he’s sleazy and he lies all the time.

I’m not sure the young mayor of South Bend, Ind., Pete Buttigieg, will be or should be the Democratic nominee. But he certainly has demonstrated an understanding that elections are about the future. “We face not just another presidential election, but a transition between one era and another,” Buttigieg said this week in a meaty speech on foreign policy. “I believe that the next three or four years will determine the next 30 or 40 for our country and our world.”

Second, appeal to reason and understand that politics is a game of addition, not subtraction. There is not a person in the country today who voted for Hillary Clinton who is going to vote for a second Trump term. The president is defying a law of political gravity, a very simple law: Expand your base, attract new supporters and keep what you have. Trump has turned those ideas upside down. He’s hoping to win a second term by purposefully not expanding his base of support.

The only way this strategy works is if Democrats fail to reach out to the few independent voters who remain or if Trump succeeds in depressing the large and, I would argue, growing anti-Trump vote.

One way to appeal to these folks is to respond to Trump with a bumper sticker slogan, some variation on: “Time for an adult in the White House.” Even many of his supporters cringe at Trump’s rants, incoherent insults and nonstop lies.

Third, understand that the modern Democratic Party is defined by its broad coalition, while what passes for the Republican Party is an older, white ideological movement that at the moment stands only for Trump. The Democratic future in this election and the next is the demographic reality that younger Americans, people of color and women will increasingly decide American elections.

This would be the place where I throw down the gauntlet to Idaho Democrats, a beleaguered, largely leaderless group that has been operating without a strategy for more than 20 years.

Here’s the bumper sticker: Youth, Women and Hispanic Americans. Idaho Democrats don’t just need a strategy; they need a long-game strategy, one that strives for real political relevance in 10 years. Younger Idahoans, people in high school and college today, should be the core of that strategy.

Then organize, organize, organize. And aggressively bring many more young people into the political process. It would not only be the right thing to do, but it offers a path out of the wilderness.

It’s an old fashioned notion, I know, but I still believe most elections come down to a question of fear versus hope.

Trump won, as every Republican since Reagan has, by emphasizing division, despair and decline. Against a flat-footed, yesterday candidate such as Hillary Clinton it worked. In the moment of reckoning coming soon we’ll see if it works again.

(photo/Biden in Alabama)

A phantom campaign


The United States north of Nevada and west of Colorado might as well not exist for presidential campaigns, in the general elections at least.

But an odd news story suggested that just maybe there’ll be a little possibility the region won’t be completely ignored this time around.

Or will it?

It’s not that the northwest region is without swing voters; in all, they’re here, in significant numbers. But presidential general elections are won in the electoral college, where states vote in clumps, and those are the same whether the candidate who won that state prevailed by 51 percent or 81 percent. And somewhere in that range, the electoral votes for Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Oregon, California, Washington and Alaska (and we could throw Hawaii in here too) all seem to be more or less locked in as either red or blue. Around the country there still exist some “purple” states, but not in this region.

At least that’s been the prevailing wisdom.

That’s why some interest developed when on Tuesday CNN, which had developed a lengthy report on the Donald Trump re-election campaign, said it had “obtained a memo to the Trump campaign from pollster Tony Fabrizio about ideas for ‘expanding the map’ to give the President more options for getting the 270 electoral votes needed to win the re-election, where he mentions looking at Oregon.”

What does this mean?

To back up a moment here, “expanding the map” does make sense for the Trump campaign. It only barely prevailed in the key Great Lakes states - Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania - that went Democratic over many previous elections but gave Trump his 2016 win. Without them, and if nothing else changed, Trump would lose next year. And polling has shown the president not doing well in those places, where Democrats have done very well in mid-term and special elections in the last couple of years. Shorter version: It makes sound strategic sense for the Trump campaign to hold those states if it can, but also find other places to make up votes in other places (that went Democratic last time) if it can’t.

So it makes sense to be looking at “blue” states to flip. Some of the states voting for Hillary Clinton in 2016 did so by close margins too: New Hampshire (.4 percent was the Clinton margin there). Minnesota after that (1.5 percent) and then Nevada (2.4 percent) and Maine (2.7 percent). Very likely a lot of research is underway in those places by the Trump forces to figure out how to flip them, and the CNN reporting does indicate they’re doing that.

And in Oregon, too.

Oregon voted for Clinton by 11 percent - not close. It was softer for Clinton than California (29 percent margin) or Washington (16 percent), but it really wasn’t any more on the razor’s edge as a blue state than Idaho was in 2016 as a red. And in that 2016, while Republicans did well around the country, in Oregon Democrats gained ground, and they continued to in 2018.

So is this in the category of a head-fake? Maybe. Political campaigns often engage in some degree of misdirection to keep the opposition off balance.

But if not, western Idaho residents a year from now just might hear some rumblings from over the border, even if the electoral votes there really aren’t much more up for grabs than Idaho’s.

Another view on Boise library


Team Dave and its leader, Mayor Dave Bieter are trying to sell the idea of “saving interest fees” by simply inserting $50 million cash for the proposed mega-library project. This after several years of economic schemes, projections, and sales pitches.

If Boise has $50,000,000 stashed away in a slush fund, we the people have been overtaxed.

We really hesitate to be this harsh, but Team Dave cannot be trusted. They are touting a plan to eliminate confusion over “voting to vote” following the successful petition drive by citizens seeking a voice in their government. The “cash scheme” may save up to $15 million in interest on an $85 million edifice, but it will also ELIMINATE CITIZEN APPROVAL of the project at an election.

Citizens need to be careful of the wording in any ordinance. Sometimes insertion or deletion of a single word tips the authority away from the citizens. Team Dave has repeatedly used public money to manipulate public opinion on street cars, airport tax exemptions, the library, the F-35, and other issues. Trust in a “public dialogue” has evaporated. Bieter is still spending to attract noisy F-35 fighters to Boise.

A GUARDIAN reader offers up this chronology of events regarding the library.

To get to a vote we have seen:

–A price tag that blew up from a $40 million remodel to a $103 million monstrosity.

–Plans to issue bonds through CCDC before the majority of the public saw the architects rendering/model.

–The dismisal of history – The Cabin. But the library minutes (4/4/18) show they will be able to save 2 light fixtures from the existing building. Great trade-off.

–First class airfare and other extravagant charges for the overpriced architect.

–A 40-year lease on the Biomark building site that was originally purchased for library expansion.

–The Civic Center For Education & Culture was scrubbed from the record and renamed “a library project.” A consultant was hired to promote it.

–The price tag has been lowered to $85 million, although most realize this lower price simply means defering some of the components of this project.

–Impacts on the nearby Anne Frank Memorial.

–Consultant fees and branding campaigns paid for with public monies to sell this idea to the audience who paid most of the public monies in the first place.

–Boise leaders signed a contract with an architect not licensed in Idaho who was fined by the state.

–The City has dropped the idea of using CCDC as the lease financing conduit, as a result of citizen outrage leading to HB 217. Now they seek to avert an election by paying cash.

–Now we read that the City has piles of cash stashed away – yet we lag on hiring the police we need, build the fire stations, expand the existing library hours, etc.

–We are now being sold the idea that we will save money by not paying $15 million in financing fees and interest by not using lease financing. This is the hidden cost that has only been recently revealed.

–City economists are projecting a downturn in the economy in the coming months – shown in library meeting minutes and city budget docs/presentations, but the insanity continues.

Meanwhile: City of Boise, please stop this insanity! We are not fooled.