Speaker of the House John Boehner is bringing his controversial highway bill (H.R. 7) to the floor this week. The Speaker has included Rep. Doug Lamborn’s oil shale boondoggle (H.R. 3408) as one of his funding sources.
Since oil shale doesn’t actually generate any money, we thought pointing out the truth behind Boehner’s and Lamborn’s bills was worth a new Checks and Balances Project video.
It’s bad enough that Lamborn’s bill actually creates a new subsidy for oil companies by setting “bargain basement” royalty rates for oil shale. And that it would hand over two million acres of public land to oil companies for the sake of oil shale speculation and mandate commercial leasing on 125,00 acres of public lands even though there is no commercial oil shale industry.
But now the Speaker is saying that we will pay for millions of dollars’ worth of repairs to highways and bridges with revenue from oil shale.
The problem with that plan is that oil shale creates zero revenue. And for that matter, zero energy and zero jobs.
In 100 years, oil shale has never been commercially developed in the United States despite billions in taxpayer-funded research and development handouts to industry.
In fact, Shell Oil, which is recognized as a leader in oil shale research, says the earliest that commercial oil shale technology could be available is next decade, and possibly later.
“A commercial decision would be in the middle of the next decade and possibly later depending on the sequence and outcome of research activities.” – Shell Oil website
Last week, the Congressional Budget Office reported “the legislation would not affect revenues” and projected zero revenue between 2012 and 2022.
Even Lamborn admitted to Allison Sherry at the Denver Post that oil shale “is not a real contributor to the highway transportation needs we have.”
So in addition to our video, I sent a letter to Speaker Boehner and Rep. Lamborn. In the letter I asked a very simple question:
“We respectfully request an explanation to the American taxpayer of this disconnect between fact and rhetoric.”
I’m hoping to hear back from the Speaker or Rep. Lamborn soon, but I’m not holding my breath.
The facts are clear. If America tries to fund highway repairs with oil shale revenues, we’re just looking at an increase in deficit spending. We need to spread the word, so people are educated. Watch our video. Share it with your friends.
And whenever you’re tweeting or facebooking, use the hashtag #oilshalefail. If we work together and make enough noise, maybe we can drown out the spin and rhetoric politicians are putting out there on oil shale.
Pro-zygote, anti-woman bills are being presented all across the nation, in an effort to awaken the evangelical Republican base before the election of 2012. Most of these bills have been written by, or championed via Personhood USA.
In Oklahoma, our not-so-distant neighbor, Senate Bill 1433 states a fetus “at every stage of development (has) all the rights, privileges, and immunities available to other persons, citizens, and residents of this state.” If Senate Bill 1433 becomes a law, all forms of abortion and various forms of contraception could potentially be considered murder, and therefore illegal.
Democratic State Senator Constance Johnson, attempting to make a point, attached
an amendment to the Oklahoma bill that would ban the spilling of semen in any location other than a woman’s vagina. Unfortunately, Senator Johnson then withdrew her amendment, which would have made masturbation illegal.
A like-minded State Senator, Democrat Jim Wilson, also added an amendment to the same bill, requiring the biological father of the child to be financially responsible for the mother’s welfare during the entire pregnancy (put your money where your mouth is, conservatives!), including housing, utilities, food, transportation, and all medical care expenses. As you may have guessed, this amendment also failed.
A similar bill to Oklahoma SB 1433 was defeated at the polls in Mississippi in November, 2011. Clearly, the point still needs to be made, and not just in Oklahoma.
In CO, their strategy is a little different. Personhood USA is once again attempting to amend the Colorado constitution through a statewide initiative, similar to the earlier Amendment 62. Amendment 62, in a nutshell, said a fertilized egg is legally a separate and distinct human being, and aborting one is murder. We know from previous elections in Colorado, this initiative will probably not pass. Voters have resoundingly defeated similar bills twice.
Still, Coloradans are concerned about what is happening all over the country, and it is merely a matter of time before our state legislature will be handed an anti-choice bill here. According to NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado, which released a 2012 study of pending legislation all over the United States:
The report shows that states enacted more than twice as many anti-choice measures in 2011 as the previous year, and the legislative landscape could open the door to even more attacks in 2012.
“The findings in this report should spur every American who values freedom and privacy into action,” Keenan said. “Last year, we predicted that our opponents would ignore the public’s call to focus on the nation’s immediate challenges, such as the economy. Sadly for women, our predictions came true at near-record levels. Lawmakers waged a War on Women, and as a result, women in many states will see more political interference in their personal, private medical decisions. In some cases, women could lose access to reproductive-health services they currently have.”
Keenan said 26 states enacted 69 anti-choice measures in 2011, the second-highest number since the organization started tracking such data in 1995. The record is 70, set in 1999. Since 1995, states have enacted 713 anti-choice measures.
Keenan said two pro-choice governors, Mark Dayton of Minnesota (D) and Brian Schweitzer of Montana (D), vetoed anti-choice bills and kept 2011 from breaking the record for state-level attacks. NARAL Pro-Choice America dedicated the publication to these gubernatorial champions.
The outcome was quite different in other states. For instance, while former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas (D) vetoed eight anti-choice bills over the course of her tenure, her successor, Gov. Sam Brownback (R), signed five anti-choice bills into law in his first year in office. Kansas tied with Arizona and Florida for enacting the most anti-choice measures this year.
Colorado needs to stand together to defeat the latest incarnation of Amendment 62, and be ready when the next pro-zygote bill is presented at the state legislature, as well. As a concerned citizen, I respectfully offer the following tips to our state legislators, when faced with a piece of anti-choice legislation.
Attach any of these as amendments: 1) The mother is allowed to claim the zygote as a dependent on her taxes, 2) Give the zygote a vote beginning with the next election, as interpreted by the mother (pray for twins ladies — you’ll get three votes), 3) Give the zygote the right to collect Social Security, food stamps, and other “entitlement” resources, 4) Give the zygote residential status beginning at conception, 5) Attach an amendment saying fathers owe child support beginning at conception.
The persistence of the evangelical right to strip women of their personal, private decisions regarding the health of their own bodies is not funny. Personhood USA, and its supporters, are incredibly persistent. As progressives, we need to also be persistent in protecting the rights of women everywhere. Sometimes, it takes a little humor, or a little shock-value, to wake some people up to the serious ramifications of ill-thought out legislation. In this regard, Colorado is at least as clever as her neighbors, is she not?
It seems Lamborn has his own legislation in which he proposes to lease federal land for oil shale development in order to fund transportation projects. But as The Grand Junction Sentinel notes, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that Lamborn’s plan would not produce a single cent in the 5-year time period he proposes, in large part because nobody has any idea how to develop oil shale:
The Congressional Budget Office scoring shows leasing of oil shale would reduce the deficit by $5 million in 2016, but would generate no revenue until then [Pols emphasis]. It would cost $5 million in 2022, the edge of the time frame for the budget office.
To recap, Lamborn won’t support extending wind energy tax credits that have already been proven to create jobs and revenue, but he’s pushing his own energy-related legislation that won’t do a damn thing.
It’s hard work being this useless.
Kelcie Pegher, an intern in Washington DC writing for the Durango Herald, reports today:
Members of the Colorado congressional delegation are calling to extend the wind-energy production tax credit as part of the payroll tax extension.
Eight members of the delegation, including Democratic Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennett, as well as Democratic Reps. Diana DeGette, Ed Perlmutter and Jared Polis signed a letter to the chairmen of the conference committee.
Also included are Republican Reps. Cory Gardner, Scott Tipton and Mike Coffman. Coffman joined the other members of the delegation late Tuesday in their letter. The wind-energy production tax credit gives wind-energy farms a 2.2 cents-per-kilowatt credit on their taxes each year for the first 10 years and will expire at the end of the year.
That’s both Colorado U.S. Senators, all three Democrats in the congressional delegation, and even three conservative Republicans. So who’s missing? Colorado Independent:
U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado, is the lone holdout in the state’s bipartisan push.
Lamborn clarified that he supports wind energy as part of an “all-of-the-above energy plan” but that he is in favor of removing regulatory barriers for the industry as opposed to encouraging its development via tax breaks.
“My preference is to help industry grow by reducing federal regulations and mandates as opposed to carving out special interests in the tax code,” Lamborn wrote in an email to the Colorado Independent on Tuesday.
The thing is, we strongly suspect that if you ask the three Republicans who did support the wind power tax credit, they would tell you their preference is also to “grow the industry” by slashing regulation like Lamborn says. Despite this, Reps. Cory Gardner, Scott Tipton, and even Mike Coffman (though after a bit of polling deliberation) signed on in support of extending the wind power tax credit. After all, the oil and gas industry still gets all of their tax credits. Republicans, especially in Colorado, have no rational basis with which to oppose wind energy tax credits–and many reasons to support them. As in, our economy:
Colorado generates the third highest percentage of power from wind of any state in the nation and is home to several major wind energy developers and wind turbine manufacturing facilities.
Estimates show that wind energy employs upwards of 6,000 workers statewide.
Once again, Rep. Doug Lamborn proves the lengths to which a safe seat can be abused, and occupied by a representative openly hostile to the interests of the state he represents. As you can see, this is now an argument that can be made on an objective, nonpartisan level.
Rep. Randy Baumgardner of Hot Sulphur Springs is bringing his tag fee repeal to a Republican House committee Wednesday. The GOP-controlled House approved the idea last year, but the lower fees were rejected in the Democrat-controlled Senate.
Baumbgardner’s bill would lower late registration fees from $25 a month to a flat fee of $20 total. It would also repeal an exemption from the late fee for a vehicle that has expired temporary registration number plates, tags or certificates.
Each year since the 2009 passage of the FASTER vehicle registration fee increases to pay for repair and replacement of decaying and obsolete bridges around the state, Republicans have splashily introduced legislation to repeal all or part of the program. Rep. Randy Baumgardner’s new proposal to reduce late fees may be a little more restrained than other wholesale repeals attempted before, but it still won’t fix the bridges that FASTER is paying to fix. The bill’s fiscal note estimates it will reduce available revenue for these repair projects by $12 million per year.
As of this month according to the Colorado Department of Transportation, of the approximately 120 bridges in Colorado rated structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, and rated ‘poor,’ meaning they qualify for funds under FASTER, 18 projects are now completed–with 16 under construction, 13 with completed designs, and 44 in design right now. Here’s an updated list from CDOT of FASTER projects by county with anticipated completion dates.
We were thinking maybe Rep. Baumgardner will tell you which ones shouldn’t be completed.
Among the 135 bills introduced into the legislature on Wedesnday is HB12-1064, sponsored solely by Majority Leader Amy Stephens. Addressing the critical issue of firearms confiscation.
Because as you know, firearms confiscation in Colorado is right around the corner:
The bill prohibits the state or any political subdivision of the state (state), during a declared state of emergency, from prohibiting or restricting the otherwise lawful possession, use, carrying, transfer, transportation, storage, or display of a firearm or ammunition; seizing or confiscating a lawfully possessed firearm, except in specific, described circumstances; or requiring registration of a firearm or ammunition for which registration is not otherwise required by law. An exception is made for the commercial sale of firearms if an authorized authority has ordered an evacuation or a general closure of business.
In short, this bill would prohibit the state or local governments from restricting firearms during a declared state of emergency. It’s an outgrowth of a national campaign to whip up hysteria over something called the UN Small Arms Treaty, and other legislators like Sen. Greg Brophy have introduced similar totally superfluous bills addressing various aspects this “problem” in the past–usually by creating a conflict with federal law. And for those of you who didn’t know, the state of Colorado has never attempted to confiscate firearms during a state of emergency.
Perhaps the only thing notable about this bill, sure to die unceremoniously, is that Stephens is carrying it. We see how it might be useful in her “Tea Party” primary against Rep. Marsha Looper, who is making a big splash today with her bill to repeal “AmyCare.”
Well forget “AmyCare,” says Amy Stephens. Obama Hickenlooper wants to take your guns!
“We think it’s a great day for the children of Colorado,” said a jubilant Kathleen Gebhardt, one of the plaintiff’s attorneys, who was giving a presentation on the lawsuit at the Colorado Association of School Boards convention when she got the news. “We’re calling on the legislature to step up immediately and fix the problem.”
Mike Saccone, spokesman for Attorney General John Suthers, said, “We are going to consult with the governor in the coming days on this decision. However, if you read the opinion, the judge clearly invited an appeal and, at this point, an appeal is likely. The attorney general is disappointed in the ruling but not surprised. It was clearly very tempting for the judge to wade into what is a public policy debate.”
The lawsuit did not include a dollar figure or ask Denver District Judge Sheila Rappaport to order the state to pay up or provide a specific amount. Instead, it asked the court to decide whether the state school finance system fails to meet constitutional requirements and if the legislature should be ordered to come up with a new one…
Studies done for the plaintiffs estimate that “full funding” of Colorado schools could cost $2 to $4 billion more a year than the state spends now. Such increases would wreck the state budget and decimate other programs say Gov. John Hickenlooper, a defendant, and Suthers, who oversaw the state’s defense.
UPDATE #2: A meaty but by no means comprehensive excerpt from Judge Sheila Rappaport’s massive tome of a ruling follows–read the whole decision here, and get comfortable because it’s going to take awhile. Please liberally post excerpts of your own (it’s public domain after all) from any part of the decision you find noteworthy. And the bottom line on page 182:
The Court finds that the Colorado public school finance system is unconstitutional. Evidence establishes that the finance system must be revised to assure that funding is rationally related to the actual costs of providing a thorough and uniform system of public education. It is also apparent that increased funding will be required. [Pols emphasis] These are appropriately legislative and executive functions in the first instance. Thus, the Supreme Court has directed that this Court shall “provide the legislature with an appropriate period of time to change the funding system so as to bring the system in compliance with the Colorado Constitution.”
In a landmark case over education funding, a judge has sided with a group of parents and school districts and ruled that the state of Colorado is underfunding its schools, possibly by billions of dollars…
The decision will likely be appealed by the state, which said before the trial began that a ruling for the plaintiffs would force Colorado to direct roughly $4 billion in additional funding toward schools, leaving little money in the general fund to adequately fund other needs like transportation, corrections and health care.
The state already spends close to half its general fund on education, although per pupil funding has been in steady decline over the last decade with Colorado now spending $2,000 less per student than the national average.
Details coming: a few minutes ago, Denver District Court Judge Sheila Rappaport ruled in favor of plaintiffs in the landmark Lobato vs. Colorado lawsuit filed by rural school districts–which charged that public education funding in the state of Colorado is not meeting the “thorough and uniform” test prescribed in the state constitution. Though subject to appeal, this is a major development that could well result in sweeping changes to Colorado fiscal policy.
We’ll update shortly with coverage and statements.
Page 158: The State introduced testimony from several members of the State Board of Education and other witnesses for its case-in-chief. However, the Court notes that much of the State’s testimony actually bolstered Plaintiffs’ arguments in this case, and certain other contrary testimony lacked factual support…
Page 176: The Court has found that in 1993 the General Assembly adopted HB 93-1313 that committed the State to develop and implement standards-based education as the anchor to the educational accountability system. HB 93-1313 was the foundation for the transformation of public education in Colorado. In 1994, the General Assembly adopted the Public School Finance Act of 1994 (the PSFA), the centerpiece of the school finance system. The PSFA established the basic funding mechanism for school district general fund (operating) revenues that has been in place since then. From this contemporaneous starting point, the two systems, which were not aligned to begin with, have radically diverged.
The following findings are essentially undisputed: When the PSFA was enacted, the General Assembly set the statewide base funding amount by working backwards from the total funding that it intended to appropriate and carrying forward preexisting school district expenditure levels. There was no effort to analyze the relationship to the actual costs to provide an education of any particular quality. The failure to do any cost analysis and to provide for funding based on such an analysis demonstrates the irrationality of the existing school finance system. Montoy v. State of Kansas, 102 P.3d 1160, 1164 (KS 2005).
In the past two years, the General Assembly, through the implementation of a negative factor, has actually decreased public school funding by what now totals nearly one billion dollars. The amount of the budget cuts and the method by which they were implemented are completely unrelated to the costs of providing the mandated standards-based education system. The budget cuts have aggravated the irrationality of the finance system by arbitrarily reducing funding with no educational rationale whatsoever…
Recent amendments to the standards-based education system have substantially increased the costs of public education. In 2008 the General Assembly adopted CAP4K, that mandated a complete revision of state content standards, programs of instruction, and assessments all aligned to accomplish universal student proficiency and postsecondary and workforce readiness. This was followed in 2009 by the Education Accountability Act that established accreditation standards for school districts based upon meeting the goals of CAP4K and imposed sanctions up to and including district closure for failure to meet those goals within fixed time frames. Most recently, the 2010 effective teachers amendments (SB 10-191) imposed new teacher and principal evaluation systems founded in student growth as measured by achievement on CSAP and other standardized tests…
The evidence also establishes that funding for categorical programs and for capital construction are completely unrelated to the actual costs of providing the services and facilities necessary to meet the mandate of the Education Clause. Capital construction funding in particular is now and has always been totally dependent on highly unequal local property tax wealth. For many school districts, particularly those in rural, poverty areas this method of funding capital needs has proved to be fundamentally inadequate, inequitable, and irrational. The recently adopted BEST program provides limited assistance, but is not sufficient to overcome generations of statutory underfunding. The deplorable conditions of numerous rural schools bears witness to this proposition.
The Court therefore concludes that the entire system of public school finance, including the PSFA, categorical programs, and capital construction funding, is not rationally related to the mandate of the Education Clause.
Page 177: The public school finance system falls short of providing sufficient funding to meet the mandate of the Education Clause and standards-based education.
Defendants contend that it is not possible to analyze the costs of meeting the mandates of the Education Clause. If that argument were accepted, the Education Clause and the directives of the Supreme Court would be meaningless. To the contrary, the standards-based education system provides a comprehensively detailed model of education standards, programs, assessments, and achievement goals. The costs of meeting those mandates can be rationally estimated.
Page 178: Due to lack of access to adequate financial resources, the Plaintiff School Districts and the school districts where Individual Plaintiffs reside (collectively, the “School Districts”) are unable to provide the educational programs, services, instructional materials, equipment, technology, and capital facilities necessary to assure all children an education that meets the mandates of the Education Clause and standards-based education.
The Court finds that due to the irrational funding system and significant underfunding, rural and urban poverty School Districts are unable to hire, compensate, and retain effective, highly qualified teachers and administrators; to provide the curriculum, technology, textbooks, and other instructional materials necessary to meet student performance expectations; and to construct, maintain, renovate school buildings and facilities. Many of these School Districts are relegated to obsolete textbooks and materials, lack of necessary computers and internet connectivity, and dilapidated and unsafe classroom and other facilities. These School Districts have been for many years and are today unable to respond effectively to the changing demands of standards-based education.
Page 182: The Court finds that the Colorado public school finance system is unconstitutional. Evidence establishes that the finance system must be revised to assure that funding is rationally related to the actual costs of providing a thorough and uniform system of public education. It is also apparent that increased funding will be required. These are appropriately legislative and executive functions in the first instance. Thus, the Supreme Court has directed that this Court shall “provide the legislature with an appropriate period of time to change the funding system so as to bring the system in compliance with the Colorado Constitution.”
This morning, I spent a couple minutes on David Sirota’s morning show weighing in on the topic of texting and driving. As many of you know, I was hospitalized by a distracted driver a couple of weeks ago, so I was more than eager to participate in the discussion.
I mentioned that texting and driving is illegal in Colorado as of the summer of 2010. But, as I have said consistently since, I doubt that the ban on texting and driving will make much real impact on the number of accidents caused by distracted drivers. Because just like the “left lane is for passing only” law, the general public is either ignorant of its existence or willfully ignores it.
More after the jump…
And the issue extends far beyond texting. On my way to work today, for instance, I saw a woman using the mirror to apply makeup on the highway at 65mph. At that speed, you travel the length of a football field every three seconds, so your eyes should never leave the road. Yet, at any given moment, drivers on every road are eating, or texting, or doing any number of other activities that take their attention away from the road in front of them, often resulting in collisions.
So my question to you all is: Do you think there is a public policy solution to this problem, or does it have to be a cultural shift, similar to Denver’s water conservation efforts? (“This is how much you use… This is how much you need”)
In other words, is there anything the government can (or should) do about the problem of distracted driving?
The latest installment in the amusing story of conservative economist Dr. Eric Fruits, who has watched kind of haplessly as a study he authored on the economic impact of Colorado’s Proposition 103 is subjected to enthusiastic misinterpretation by local conservatives. Bloombergreported this weekend:
Proposition 103 would increase the income-tax rate to 5 percent from 4.63 percent and the sales and use levy to 3 percent from 2.9 percent for five years, according to the Legislative Council, a nonpartisan research arm of the Colorado General Assembly. Supporters of the measure gathered 142,000 signatures to place it on the ballot…
About $200 million in cuts in the 2012 fiscal year forced some of the state’s 178 school districts to fire teachers, suspend textbook purchases, institute transportation fees, freeze salaries, lower graduation requirements and reduce the school week.
In Jefferson County, the state’s largest district with about 86,000 students across 780 square miles, administrators trimmed almost $40 million from this year’s budget. About 206 teachers, support staff and administrators lost their jobs as a result. The district also reduced funding for capital projects by $3 million, closed two elementary schools and increased class sizes.
“If Proposition 103 doesn’t pass, we will be looking at another $35 million in cuts,” said Cindy Stevenson, the district’s superintendent, in a telephone interview. “We’re beyond the bone.”
…Raising taxes over five years would slow Colorado’s economy and lead to 27,000 fewer people working by 2016, according to a study by Eric Fruits, president of Economics International Corp. in Portland, Oregon. [Pols emphasis] He was hired by the Colorado-based Common Sense Policy Roundtable, a research organization with several business leaders on its board.
“Raising taxes is always going to be like throwing an anchor behind you,” Fruits said. “It will always create a drag on the economy.”
Now the first thing you should notice is Dr. Fruits’ bottom line–to be distinguished from the absurd figure of “over 119,000 jobs lost” persistently bandied about by the GOP Senate Minority and various right-wing pundits, all allegedly quoting the same study. As we’ve patiently explained over and over and now Dr. Fruits confirms in this story by citing the “correct” figure, the wild prediction of over a hundred thousand “jobs lost” came about by way of a boneheaded arithmetic error–locals erroneously compounding numbers from Dr. Fruits’ charts.
We realize that once you deal with this math error, you’re still left with the claim from Dr. Fruits that restoring 1999 sales and income tax rates in Colorado–from 2.9% to 3.0% and 4.63% to 5% respectively–would result in “27,000 fewer jobs,” or for that matter a single “lost job.” It’s not our intention to take issue with Dr. Fruits’ dense formulas for determining the number of “jobs lost” if these tax rates are restored, since it’s generally a mistake to get into the formulaic weeds with conservative economists. It’s where they trap and eat their skeptics.
We’d simply ask you this: is Colorado better off now than when these taxes were cut in 1999?
The economy is stuck in neutral. But even worse, the economy has fundamentally changed and everyone is focused on trying to return to a world that no longer exists. We liberals castigate conservatives for wanting to return to the 1950′s with white picket fences. But many of us liberals are trying to return to a world with plenty of well-paid factory jobs. That world is also long gone.
It’s not just that factory jobs have been moved to China, it’s that many of those jobs have been eliminated via automation. And as 3-D printing moves into the factory line, we’re going to see the elimination of most of those jobs in China too.
When this country was founded 60% of the employment was on the farm. Now it’s 2%. We get more food but have done so while reducing the labor needed by 30,000%. The number of factory jobs needed have been on the same trajectory and even without outsourcing, most of these jobs have been going away.
We also have to embrace the fact that the world is flat. We are now competing worldwide. Some of us in industries where there is no advantage to any physical location (like mine), some where some advantage remains. But every one of us is now competing for work with people in Shanghai & Mumbai. And to compete successfully we have to embrace the advantages of that larger playing field, not bemoan the disadvantages of additional competition.
So what to do?
The future belongs to those who dominate in the key components of the global economy. In the last century America dominated because we had the largest and most advanced manufacturing base in the world. And we had a transportation infrastructure to match. That provided the basis for our economic and military domination of the planet.
Going forward the key component is education. The future belongs to the country, the corporations, the people who have the best education. And best is not just advanced degrees, it is degrees combined with creativity and a willingness to try the unknown. The future belongs to the Thomas Edisons, not the Henry Fords.
For the State of Colorado to be one of the leaders in the future, and not just a giant ski resort serving vacationers from other countries who better embraced the future, I think we need to focus on a primary goal. And I think we can get the leaders of both parties to agree to this goal. And that is:
The Primary Goal of the State of Colorado is for 50% of the adults age 25 – 55 to have a college degree.
Yes we have other serious problems that need to be addressed. But with an educated populace addressing the other problems becomes a lot easier. And without it, addressing the other problems is a lot harder. In some cases impossible. Because that educational level directly relates to higher tax revenue and lower unemployment.
We also have to face the fact that other countries explicitly have similar goals. China and India are very focused on getting everyone they can through college. They’ll be at this level in another generation or two. And some European countries are approaching this goal today.
If we get serious about education determines the future of this state. At present we’re headed for 2nd world status because we’re in neutral while other countries are full speed ahead.
As Politico’sReid Epsteinreports, popular Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado sees his own hurdles to a run for President in 2016–and frankly, we see them too:
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who founded a brewpub and was twice elected Denver’s mayor, cruised to victory in 2010 in a three-way race against a fractured state Republican Party. He registered a 54 percent approval rating in a Public Policy Polling survey earlier this month, a whopping 30 percentage points higher than his 24 percent disapproval…
“You never say never, but it’s hard to imagine,” Hickenlooper told POLITICO in an interview in his state Capitol office here. “What we’re trying to do here necessarily, I think, is going to irritate and I think in some ways divide some of the strongest constituencies that are going to be making those decisions.”
Hickenlooper’s best path to national office in 2016 would come in a Democratic Party looking for a centrist leader in the mold of President Bill Clinton, said University of Wisconsin political science professor Charles Franklin.
“Under many circumstances, Hickenlooper would represent a Democrat with crossover appeal who can win in swing states,” Franklin said.
There’s no question that Gov. Hickenlooper’s broad popularity and moderate appeal place him on a hypothetical–very hypothetical over five years out–short list of viable Democratic candidates for President in the 2016 elections. But Hickenlooper makes perfectly clear in this interview that positions he holds on hot-button issues like “fracking” in oil and gas production could spell real trouble for himself in a Democratic primary. Hickenlooper talks about Colorado as a “model” in education, health care, and transportation; but most would agree that this is expressing, to put it charitably, an aspirational goal less than a year into his term.
Bottom line: Hickenlooper has the potential to be a great candidate for President, and his centrist liabilities in a Democratic primary could easily become powerful general election assets. It’s true that the recent trend towards more strident ideology on both sides of the aisle represents a challenge for moderates like Hickenlooper. But we’re inclined to accept the argument that, as of now, Democratic primary candidates are subject to less rigid ideological litmus tests in general than Republican candidates.
Perhaps the bigger obstacle to a Hickenlooper candidacy is that another well-known Coloradan is likely to at least kick the tires on a Presidential run in 2016 — and they can’t both become serious candidates. It’s a quiet, but open secret that Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar wants a shot at the Presidency himself in 2016, and he and Hickenlooper — who are friends, by most accounts — would probably have to decide quietly which one of them will take the stage and which one will stay behind. If Hispanic voting trends continue to rise, Salazar may have the better argument by then.
A lot can change in the next 4-5 years. Let’s revisit this in 2015 — by then it will either be a serious discussion, or not.
(Gardner’s adventures in AM radio continue – promoted by Colorado Pols)
“The Amy Oliver Show made national news,” Amy Oliver told her KFKA listeners Aug. 11, reading the headline from The Hill, a Washington-DC blog, “GOP lawmaker OK with dismantling DOT.”
“That’s not exactly what he said,” Oliver explained to her radio audience, apparently forgetting that Gardner was talking with Oliver when he said it’s a “great” idea to “basically turn the Department of Transportation back to the states.” (See transcript here.)
I emailed Oliver to find out why she thought Gardner didn’t say what he said in plain English (and then did not retract).
“Interpret the dialogue as you wish,” she wrote back. “The only story I see here is that a freshman Congressman is thinking outside the box for solutions to our current budget situation.”
I appreciated Oliver getting back to me, but I wish she’d have answered my question about why she let Gardner off the hook, overlooking sounds and words that she got first hand.
You’d have to assume that Oliver herself supports dismantling the Department of Transportation, given that Oliver works for Caldara’s Independence Institute and all.
So you’d think she would embrace Gardner’s dismantlement position, not deny it. It’s not every day that a Congressman jumps on board with dismantlement of a major federal agency.
I mean, in the same Aug. 5 interview with Gardner, before she asked him about the Department of Transportation, Oliver told Gardner that the Environmental Protection Agency is “one agency that I think should be completely dismantled.”
In fact, she asked Gardner point blank, “When are we going to de-fund the EPA.” Gardner answered that the EPA had taken a “significant funding decrease,” and he said he hoped more was on the way.
Later, Oliver told Gadner: “You can’t de-fund the EPA until you get the Senate on board.”
To which Gardner responded, “Right.”
Oliver didn’t get Gardner to agree with her that EPA should be abolished.
But if she had, you wonder if she’d have denied what he said to her, once it was reported in the news media.
“When you listen to whole interview it is clear that Rep. Gardner is simply saying there is a discrepancy in transportation funding and Colorado is a net loser when it comes to the money we get back,” Gardner spokesman Rachel Boxer said in a statement provided to The Hill. ”He believes in letting Colorado keep more of the gas tax it collects therefore cutting some of the bureaucracy between the states and Washington.”
Gardner’s office has yet to return my call, so I’m hoping a journalist, or even Oliver, will ask Gardner for details on this, to fill in the journalistic gap here.
First of all, the statement doesn’t actually say anything about whether Gardner believes that the Department of Transportation should be dismantled. So if Gardner’s office is trying to backpedal, he hasn’t done it.
So, the question remains hanging, “Does Gardner think, as he told Oliver, that it’s a great idea to basically turn the Department of Transportation over to the states?” If so, how would he do it? If not, why not?
And Boxer’s statement to the Hill raises a number of other questions, such as: How much of the gasoline tax does he think should be returned to Colorado and other states? How would he cut the Department of Transportation budget to make up for lost funds? How would he determine how much tax money individual states should keep? Does he support the other functions of the Department of Transportation, as described here? Does he believe the Department of Transportation serves the national interest?
That’s what Oliver, the talk show host was saying.
But Gardner got all excited and one upped Oliver. He told her about great ideas to “basically turn the Department of Transportation back to the states.”
Sorry to write that back-to-the-states phrase again, but even after writing it six times, it still sounds like the entire Transportation-Department banana to me. Or basically the entire banana. Maybe leave a bite or the skin in Washington DC?
Was this a misstatement on Gardner’s part, rather than a misreading of his interview on the part of The Hill, me, and anyone else in their right mind who heard him on Amy Oliver’s show Friday?
Egged on by radio-host Amy Oliver, Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO) revealed Friday that he favors plans that “would basically turn the Department of Transportation back to the states.”
Oliver, who hosts the “Amy Oliver Show” on KFKA 1310-AM in Greeley, told Gardner that Colorado should keep most of its federal gasoline tax, so “we don’t have to beg or anything like that.”
The sentiment apparently struck a nerve in Gardner, who ran with Oliver’s suggestion:
“Well, I think there are some great ideas that would basically turn the Department of Transportation back to the states, because why do we have this system that says, hey, we’re going to just have you collect money, and we’re going to scrape some off the top. I mean, it makes no sense to have this middleman treated the way it is.”
You’d expect Oliver, who works at the right-leaning Independence Institute, to favor dismantling the Department of Transportation.
But when a U.S. Congressman like Gardner jumps on board, you’d think even Oliver would recognize that she owes it to you, me, and her audience to extract more details from him. Instead, she went, as planned, to a commercial break, Gardner disappeared, and the topic was dropped.
So, what would turning over the Department of Transportation to the states mean?
I asked former Secretary of Transportation Federico Pena for a reaction to Gardner’s notion.
“At first blush it may seem to be an attractive idea to let the states control their own funding, but the reality is that there is a real need to have a national highway system that supports our economy and contributes to our national security,” Pena said, adding that a national entity is needed to provide oversight so that transportation systems from coast to coast run smoothly and support economic development.
DIA was not built just to benefit Colorado, Pena said, but to help the nation’s airports run more smoothly. Backups at Denver’s old airport, Stapleton, were causing inefficiencies and backups at airports nationwide, Pena pointed out, and it was clear DIA would remedy these problems.
“There was a national need to build DIA,” Pena told me.
The Department of Transportation has played this role, identifying and addressing national transportation needs, including those of less populated regions, since its inception, Pena argued. This role extends beyond airports and highways to ensuring that pipelines and other transportation systems are efficient and meet national safety standards. (Here’s a summary of the Department of Transportation’s responsibilities.)
“I don’t think he’s [Rep. Gardner] done his homework or analyzed his position very closely, because it [dismantling DOT] would have terrible consequences for national security and for our economy,” said Pena, who also served as Secretary of Energy.
On the radio, Gardner didn’t seem to care about national concerns:
“But if you look at the broader picture of transportation in general, Colorado gets less than a dollar for every dollar of tax dollars it sends in for the package of highway systems. So we are a net loser when it comes to sending a dollar in and getting less than a dollar back.”
Neither Gardner’s Office nor Amy Oliver returned calls for comment.
Oliver: I want to ask you about this. It really gets to the philosophy of what the proper function of government should be. Why on Earth should someone from Mississippi, why should federal tax money from any other state, Mississippi, Main, Missouri, Ohio, anybody, have to pay for a runway here in northern Colorado?
Gardner: Well, it really goes to the heart of what’s happening now in the bigger discussion on whether or not we should be trying to do all things for all people. I mean, certain people in the aviation industry do pay user fees to land. They do pay av tax on their aviation fuel. And that comes back to the airport and helps fund projects like the runway extension. But if you look at the broader picture of transportation in general, Colorado gets less than a dollar for every dollar of tax dollars it sends in for the package of highway systems. So we are a net loser when it comes to sending a dollar in and getting less than a dollar back.
Oliver: Well, we actually get less than that because they have their overhead that they have to do.
Gardner: You’re right. The middleman. They just kind cut it off. There’s states like Wyoming that get more money. Alaska gets more money. So the question is, how does this continue and how can we continue it when people are struggling to make ends meat as it is, and we have a government that’s far beyond its means.
Oliver: Let me ask you something, and this might be getting back a little bit to your state capital days. Couldn’t we do something with our federal gasoline tax and just say, hey listen, you guys, what is the federal gasoline tax, I think it’s 18 cents a gallon, we’ll give you two cents. Let us just keep the rest. That way we don’t have to beg or anything like that. We just keep it here in Colorado.
Gardner: Well, I think there are some great ideas that would basically turn the Department of Transportation back to the states, because why do we have this system that says, hey, we’re going to just have you collect money, and we’re going to scrape some off the top. I mean, it makes no sense to have this middleman treated the way it is.
The unpaid internship is a rite of passage for young professionals today–or, rather, for the young professionals who can afford to perform weeks or months of work without financial compensation. Says Ross Perlin, the 28-year-old author of Intern Nation:
Those who can’t access internships, those who can’t pay to play, who can’t afford to work unpaid for significant amounts of time … those people are being left behind, and they’re unable to enter a lot of key professions in the white-collar workforce. Professions like politics, media, film, and entertainment. There is a social justice issue here.
As a twenty-something young professional myself–and one who had to leave unpaid internships behind after high school, as I was self-supporting with no debt by age 18–this quote rang true to me. How many of my talented young friends would have the resources to take the internship of a lifetime if it came without even a small stipend? I can think of few.
Upon digging deeper, I discovered additional troubling statistics indicating a potentially worsening class divide among the young.
Overall, the study found, less than 10 percent of the U.S. population is participating in most online production activities, and having a college degree is a greater predictor of who will generate publicly available online content than being young and white.
The results suggest that the digital divide for social media users is wider between the haves and have-nots than it is between young and old, and underscore growing concerns that the poor and working classes lack the resources to participate fully in civic life, much of which is now online. That chasm is unlikely to break down until everyone has a host of digital production tools at both home and work, Schradie said.
What does this have to do with unpaid internships? Bear with me for a moment, and let’s look at something lower-income students depend upon heavily: Libraries. In 2010, Library Journalreported that social networking sites are segregated by income and social class. Myspace attracts residents of blue-collar neighborhoods, with only 16% of users making over $100,000 annually. By comparison, more than one-third of LinkedIn users earn six figures. According to the same article, young people using the Internet at public libraries tend to be loyal MySpace users.
In a 2009 presentation at the International Communications Association Conference, danah boyd documented a migration from MySpace to Facebook as a population of students graduated from high school and moved on to college. She suggested that it’s not a matter of choosing one over the other as much as an exodus fueled by the perception of MySpace as an unsafe ghetto.
Back to those internships once more. As Perlin points out, it takes significant resources to work for free. Even living on a shoestring budget and student loans, you’ll likely need, at the very least, friends willing to house you in the area of the internship for nothing or almost nothing; enough cash on hand to pay for transportation; contacts or credit to acquire professional apparel; and the list could easily go on.
But if you secure one of those high-profile political internships, presto! You’re exposed to white collar social networking. You’re part of that top 10% creating the bulk of publicly available Web content. Why? Because, in internship situations, young people are typically called upon to handle social networking, which is perceived as their strength–even though, according to the Berkley study, a young intern’s social class is more predictive of her online content production habits than is her age.
No one keeps official count of how many paid and unpaid internships there are, but Lance Choy, director of the Career Development Center at Stanford University, sees definitive evidence that the number of unpaid internships is mushrooming – fueled by employers’ desire to hold down costs and students’ eagerness to gain experience for their résumés. Employers posted 643 unpaid internships on Stanford’s job board this academic year (author’s note: this refers to 2010), more than triple the 174 posted two years ago.
And where are the most desirable unpaid internships of all located?
White House Internships are unpaid positions. Applicants are encouraged to contact educational and other non-profit organizations to apply for funding or housing assistance, but note that any outside income, funding or housing assistance you may receive as a White House intern must be pre-approved by the White House Counsel’s Office. If you are selected as an intern, we will be in contact with you to review any outside funds you intend to receive.
In Colorado, many of our local candidates and elected officials hire talented young people and pay them something as close to a living wage as state-level candidates can afford while making what can hardly be called a “living wage” themselves.
Nationally, however, political firms and politicians are quite prone to offer the standard “experience and college credit” as compensation for hard work that may or may not qualify as a legal unpaid position under federal law.
Essentially, and most importantly, the employer should “derive no immediate advantage” from the intern’s work. That’s hardly a criterion I’ve seen applied to internships advertised to students in any collegiate institution I’ve attended! The above described White House internships might qualify–barely–but what of the numerous unpaid internships that have students fetching coffee, updating Twitter, arranging events, and more?
Students are hardly equipped to report these internships to enforcement agencies at a time when many in-demand entry level jobs are completely inaccessible to applicants without internship experience. Yet, unpaid internships are not an effective method of identifying and developing the best talent among passionate students. Rather, they identify and develop any talent that happens to be present among the students of a socioeconomic background enabling them to pursue a period of unpaid work.
All the while, a digital class divide appears to be widening throughout the social networking communities once heralded as a great equalizer. Sure, on the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog:
But does it matter if you know whether or not your conversational partner is a dog, if she’s overwhelmingly statistically predisposed to be not only human, but also college educated and affluent?
“For the children” is perhaps the most frequently repeated of all contemporary political canards. (Or, perhaps second to questioning one’s opponent’s patriotism.)
Most recently, Rep. Walsh crashed and burned when nobly declaring his intention to heap “not one more dollar” of debt upon his kids or grandkids, all the while dodging his own child support obligation.
Is it any less egregious when a person or organization claims to have the best interests of the young at heart in offering a “prestigious internship opportunity,” but fails to pay students for work that does, indeed, provide an immediate benefit to the employer?
When young people earn, we save, invest, and spend. When we do those things, we secure our futures and stimulate the economy. By paying young people for their hard work, political employers can extend opportunity to students who otherwise would be forced to use their advanced studies to inform their work behind a fast food counter, rather than in the fast-paced and challenging world of politics.
By paying interns, employers can also free themselves to demand a high standard of work, and demand that interns’ work provide a tangible benefit to the employer. Furthermore, already competitive internships (and politicians are fond of reminding us of the benefits of competition in the marketplace!) would be made still more competitive by opening them up to students unable to accept unpaid work. Your most talented future intern may be a young person on her own, with no familial support to help her eat while working for free.
As a young professional and current college student, I call upon each and every politician who has ever claimed, or will ever claim, to work on behalf of the “next generation” or “our children” to commit to paying his or her interns. It’s a small investment in a brighter future for us all.
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Political news followers may recall a story from ’09 about a Colorado mental patient named Rick Strandlof who pretended to be a decorated Veteran named Rick Duncan, rose to the top in the Veteran’s advocacy community, and made political allies with many of the state’s top legislators and candidates, on both sides of the aisle. Later, after the national news picked up the story and he was interviewed by Anderson Cooper, Rick Strandlof was tried for impersonating military personnel under the “Stolen Valor Act”. The case was dismissed by a federal judge who ruled that the Stolen Valor Act violates free speech protections.
As the story unfolded, it became clear Rick Strandlof had a long history of posing as people he was not, networking with leaders in each of his fake identities. In his latest incarnation, Rick Strandlof has become Oil and Gas Attorney Rick Gold, an observant and active member of Denver’s young Jewish professionals community.
I remember when I met Rick Duncan (Strandlof) at a political event in 2009. I talked to him for a good while about his endorsement of Colorado Congressman Mike Coffman in ’08, when he (as Duncan) was the Chair of the Colorado Veterans Alliance, a group he said represented 32,000 veteran members. We were at a meet-and-greet for a Democratic candidate for Congress in ’09, and I recognized him from across the room. Our conversation went something like this:
“Hey, I recognize you!” I said.
“You do?” he says, almost choking on his mimosa.
“Yeah, you’re the guy in the photos posing with Congressman Mike Coffman last year. You’re a head of a Veteran’s group in Colorado, aren’t you? I’ve been trying to reach you through your website to find out more about veteran’s concerns.”
“Yes, yes, I am. I am Rick Duncan”, he lies. Nice to meet you in person” .
I continue, “I can’t believe you’re here. I thought you were a Republican?” I pry.
“I’m committed to veteran’s issues — veteran’s rights. I think this candidate is right on the issues, so I am going to back him .”
Intrigued, I could not leave it alone.
“Really! How has Mike Coffman disappointed you –disappointed veterans? I want to hear all about it! I’d love to see him out of office, and I think we need veterans to stand up and tell their story about how the GOP is using them for votes, then not delivering, especially after they’ve been injured. It’s so obvious!”
Rick knew his stuff. He told me details about votes, and was disgusted that the troops were not getting the necessary supplies they needed to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a wounded veteran, he said, he had opinions about the Veteran’s Administration, as well.
Strandlof appeared charming, knowledgeable, and articulate. Still, there was something almost-too-good-to-be-true about him. I called the campaign manager for the candidate who held the meet-and-greet, and asked, “How well do you know Rick Duncan?”
“He is one of my best friends”, he said. Later, I learned this was not true, but that the young campaign worker (whose identity I will never reveal) was trying to impress the volunteers with his grass-top’s connections.
Not long after, I got a call from another campaign volunteer warning me not to ever talk to Rick Duncan again, and to make sure I never link his name with any candidate. “Delete whatever photos you may have of him with any candidates, legislators, or campaign staff, okay? This guy is a fake, and is being investigated by the FBI.”
Immediately, I went back to Coffman’s website. I couldn’t understand how someone could pretend to be the President of a group with 32,000 veterans, and my Congressman, a proud veteran, did not know he was a fake. Apparently, Coffman’s office learned Strandlof’s true identity before we did. Photos and mentions of Rick Duncan (Strandlof) had already been deleted. Any references to the Colorado Veteran’s Alliance endorsement were also deleted. Hours later, former CO GOP leader Dick Wadhams’ posse was all over the news saying Strandlof was associated with Democrats like Congressman Jared Polis and Senator Mark Udall.
The next time I saw Rick Duncan/Strandlof/Gold, he was being interviewed by Anderson Cooper on CNN. Despite the ocean of legal trouble he was in, he eagerly answered questions, admitting who he really was. Clearly, the man appears seriously mentally ill.
As the story unfolded, many newspapers and television programs told the rest of Strandlof’s bizaree story. In 1997, he was Richard Glenn Pierson, charged with forgery and bad-check charges and sent to prison for five years in Montana. Later, he started a foundation in Reno, Nevada to advocate for open-wheel racing and children’s charities. His Linked-In profile as Rick Strandlof still lists him as the owner of the Reno Tahoe Grand Prix. Strandlof then spent nine months in Washoe County jail for stealing a car. Numerous other stories about Strandlof also emerged, each more colorful and interesting than the last. Apparently, he had hoodwinked hundreds of people, over many years.
Fast forward to today. An article appearing in Denver’s main daily rag is titled “Man unmasked as fake military hero in Springs reappears as “lawyer” in the Highlands“. The article tells of Strandlof posing as a young Jewish lawyer from the trendy Highlands neighborhood, who was able to hide the fact that he is bipolar, schizophrenic, homeless, and none of the things he pretended to be.
I immediately looked up Rick Gold on Linked-In. Sure enough, there is Strandlof, posing with one of Colorado’s members of Congress. Listed on the resume portion of his Linked In account, it says this:
Knowledgeable in 1031 exchanges, Section 29 credits, tax partnership agreements, unrelated business taxable income issues, mineral titles, leases, leasing, seismic agreements, exploration agreements, drilling contracts (IADC and custom), joint operating agreements (AAPL and AIPN), farmouts and farmins, gas balancing, oil and gas sales contracts, natural gas transportation agreements, gas processing agreements, dedication contracts, crude oil processing and exchange agreements, LNG contracts, pooling and unitization, and indemnification and anti-indemnification statutes.
Various types of badassery.
According to today’s newspaper story, Senator Udall’s office also confirms the identity of the man in the photo as Rick Standlof.
On social networking site Plancast, Strandlof is listed as Rick Gold with a bi-line of “G-d, Country, Baseball. Not necessarily in that order”. It also indicates he is planning to attend a future event with Tom Tancredo.
I urge the Obama administration and all legislators and candidates to google this man’s story and images and beware. He is a master chameleon, one who researches and absorbs details of professional positions he pretends to hold. He is able to convince people of his falsely important standing, and gains access at high-level political events. Until now, he has been non-violent, but his interest in politics, the military, and community leaders shows he cannot be trusted.
(Author’s note: Sadly for the Denver Post, I cannot link to their articles due to their history of legally harrassing Colorado Pols. A number of them contain great investigative research into Strandlof’s long career of lies. My sources for this blog diary are from my own on-line investigation.)