We can all do better in 2019

In Blog, Capitol Review by Mark Hillman

It’s easy to be discouraged about the future of America, particularly if viewed through the lens of Facebook and Twitter or described by television talking heads who thrive on conflict apparently because doing so drives up ratings and online followers.

Ironically, Social media cultivates anti-social behavior because we all like to see ourselves as aspiring Rush Limbaughs or Rachel Maddows.  Incivility is rewarded by “likes” and “retweets.”  Reason and understanding, not so much.

Productive conversations do not take place on social media.  It’s difficult enough to have a reasoned online disagreement with someone you know, but the “audience factor” makes it worse because my “friends” disparage you and encourage me and vice versa.  Emboldened by cyber-separation, we throw spiteful jabs at each other using scornful rhetoric that most would recognize as unacceptable in polite society.

For 2019, let’s remember that each of us has an inherent right to his or her own thoughts and to express their opinions.  Our clever comeback probably isn’t so clever.

Proverbs reminds us, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

It’s encouraging that we still tend to behave cordially when we put down our devices and re-enter the real world of face-to-face interaction.  I am reminded of the goodness of my fellow Americans often when I simply hold the door open or show a small courtesy to someone at a store or on the sidewalk.  When meeting face-to-face, we still try to get along – and not only with people like ourselves.

Hundreds of miles away in cities where many doubtless hold opinions quite opposite of my own, people still appreciate courtesy and tend to respond in kind.  A sincere smile or “thank you” from a real person is far more valuable than a fleeting “like” from a “friend.”

We can all do better in 2019 if we put down our devices and re-engage with real, live humans.

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How Google invades our privacy & manipulates all of us

In Blog by Mark Hillman

Federalist Radio Hour podcast recently interviewed Robert Epstein, who talked about how Google manipulates public opinion with its search engine results.

That interview included a reference to Epstein’s Seven Simple Steps to Online Privacy, which is a quick, priceless read that may cause you to re-think the way you use your phone, tablets, and computer browser.  If you happen to have Google Assistant, you may think seriously about destroying it immediately!

Keep in mind the maxim of the internet:  You’re either the consumer or the product, so if you’re getting something “for free,” then you’re the product being sold.

Republicans in Colorado face tough choices

In Blog, Capitol Review by Mark Hillman

This post also ran on ColoradoPolitics.com on Nov. 27.

Colorado’s 2018 midterm election was an across-the-board smackdown to Republicans.  Democrats won every statewide office for the first time in 80 years and gained their largest legislative majority since 1958.

In several local elections, voters rejected Republicans and chose Democrats who were either manifestly unqualified or incredibly outside the mainstream.

Shell-shocked Republicans are asking, “Want went wrong?”  The answers may not be what Republicans want to hear.Read More

Media talking heads, get over yourselves!

In Blog, Capitol Review by Mark Hillman

If anyone in America has a bigger ego than President Trump, it’s surely someone in the media.

Maybe it’s CNN’s Jim Acosta, but he certainly gets a run for his money from MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough and the editorial boards of the Washington Post and New York Times.

A foreign correspondent once described the White House press corps as “the most arrogant, obnoxious group of people,” calling them “opportunistic, rude, really self-centered.”  And that was during the Obama administration when they were comparatively well-behaved.Read More

How I will vote on Colorado ballot questions

In Blog, Capitol Review by Mark Hillman

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS (need 55% to pass) 

Amendment V: Lower Age Requirement for State Legislature

NO.  Would lower the minimum age for state lawmakers from 25 to 21. I was 31 when first elected to the Colorado Senate.  I’m now 51 and recognize what I didn’t know 20 years ago.  The last thing we need is laws made by inexperienced kids freshly indoctrinated by college professors.Read More

We can agree: Yes on Amendments Y&Z

In Blog, Capitol Review by Mark Hillman

Every 10 years, Colorado must redraw the boundaries of congressional and state legislative district lines to ensure equal population.  And every 10 years, Republicans and Democrats wind up in a costly court battle asking a judge to settle their differences.

Our process for drawing maps is broken.  Amendments Y&Z would replace that broken process with a new 12-member commission that assures equal representation to Democrats, Republicans and independent voters.

I’ve been a part of both processes, and here’s what I know from experience:

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Polis’ health care promises don’t add up

In Blog, Capitol Review by Mark Hillman

Like so many Bernie Sanders Democrats, governor candidate Jared Polis keeps making promises about health care that aren’t backed up basic math.  Recall that the Boulder congressman wants to put all Coloradans on Medicare, except that wealthy Coloradans (like Polis) can always buy their way into a better, private system.

This is the mantra that today animates the progressive/socialist wing of the Democratic Party.  Never mind that Canada, where government provides “health care for all,” just set a new record for longest delays as sick patients die while waiting for treatment.

How does Polis propose to pay for this new entitlement which would more than double the cost of state government?  Unlike socialist darling Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, Polis knows better than to pretend that he can make the numbers add up because they don’t.

While Ocasio-Cortez pretends that $2 trillion in tax hikes will cover $40 trillion in new spending, Polis relies on platitudes, as if certain incantations will magically produce savings if repeated incessantly.

For example, look at what Polis told Westword on “How He’d Implement Universal Care in Colorado.”Read More

Let’s be honest with each other – and with ourselves

In Capitol Review by Mark Hillman

Public discourse is so polarized today that Americans can’t even agree on certain obvious facts for fear that they may discredit “us” or lend credibility to “them.”

Intellectual honesty is indispensable to self-government.  If we are honest with ourselves, we can determine what is true or factual.  However, that discernment is complicated by agenda-driven journalism that presents facts or allegations selectively and without context.

Let’s consider some obvious facts:

FACT: Donald Trump’s campaign team was willing to find “dirt” on Hillary Clinton by consulting foreign sources, including Russians.

FACT: Hillary Clinton’s campaign team was willing to find “dirt” on Donald Trump by consulting foreign sources, including Russians.

FACT: President Obama and his administration knew that Russians were working to influence the 2016 presidential election but did nothing to stop them.

FACT: The disparity between the establishment media’s treatment of President Obama and of President Trump is undeniable.

FACT: When Obama asserted, with a straight face, “We are probably the first administration in modern history that hasn’t had a major scandal in the White House,” the establishment media repeated his claim as fact.  The “fact-checker” at the Washington Post merely said the statement “needs context.”

So, consider Obama’s non-scandals:

In each of these non-scandals, the establishment media simply reported and moved on without obsessing.  If you believe they would have reacted similarly had these events occurred under Trump’s watch, you’re not being intellectually honest.

Now contrast the current investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, whose mission is defined: “to ensure a full and thorough investigation of the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential elections.”

Thus far, the investigation has charged 26 Russians with various crimes related to interfering with the 2016 election.  Paul Manafort and his associates have been charged with financial crimes (unrelated to their work with the Trump campaign) and with lying to the FBI.  Separately, Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations, which experts argue weren’t even against the law.

None of these charges show any coordination between Trump’s campaign and the Russian government.  The worst that we know is that Donald Trump Jr. met with a Russian lawyer thinking she could provide damaging information about Hillary Clinton.

Yet the media breathlessly covers the Mueller investigation as if discovery of impeachable offenses is imminent.  Concluding that many in the media think it is their mission to overturn the 2016 election requires little imagination.

The Washington Post virtuously declares “democracy dies in darkness.”  But legitimate journalism dies when the media is so obviously biased that they can’t be trusted and Americans get their news only from selective sources that tell them what they want to hear.

Most Americans have very reasonable expectations of the media: to report the all of the facts, no matter which cause it may advance or harm.

Unfortunately, objective reporting is now an endangered species.

Polis’ health care hypocrisy

In Blog, Capitol Review by Mark Hillman

Just two years after Colorado voters overwhelmingly rejected a costly, unworkable universal health care ballot measure, Rep. Jared Polis, the Democrat candidate for governor, is sidling up with the same kooky progressives who brought us the failed ColoradoCare proposal by touting “Medicare for all.”

Coloradans should be skeptical that Polis, the $387 Million Man, really means, “Medicare for you – but not for me.”  After all, he can buy his way out of a lousy government health care system after he wrecks health care for the rest of us.

Amendment 69 was rejected 79% to 21% by Colorado voters who were wary of its enormous cost and outrageous expansion of government.  At $36 billion per year, ColoradoCare would have more than doubled the size of state government but offered no guarantee that health care would be any better.

While Polis publicly opposed Amendment 69 in 2016, he co-sponsored federal Medicare-for-all legislation (HR 676) which is even more costly than ColoradoCare.

In a campaign ad, Polis now parrots Amendment 69 propaganda that “Health care is a human right.”  That sounds noble and makes a nice bumper sticker, but health care is not a right – it’s an entitlement that must be paid for by someone.

If health care is a right, then what about food and housing?  Is everyone entitled to food and housing at taxpayer expense?

Progressive politicians like Polis are mimicking socialist countries where heavy-handed governments magically bestow “rights” on people to appease the masses.  But transforming an economic disparity into a government entitlement doesn’t solve the problem.

ColoradoCare’s cost-control provisions would have limited benefits (rationing), increased co-pays and deductibles (paid by consumers), and reduced payments to doctors and hospitals (resulting in fewer doctors and hospitals).  Everyone would equally share in rationing, higher costs and shortages.  Everyone except the ultra-wealthy, like Jared Polis.

That’s democratic socialism – equal distribution of misery.

Forty years ago, health care and insurance weren’t so costly.  People paid doctors and hospitals for their services and relied on insurance to cover high-cost procedures.  Then do-gooder politicians decided to mandate that insurance companies offer and consumers pay for certain coverages.  Government can mandate all the “goodies” it wants, but they still cost something, so the very consumers who receive these benefits, in turn, pay more for insurance.  Health “insurance” became a coerced system of financing our medical bills.

Economist Thomas Sowell reminds us, “The first law of economics is scarcity: There’s never enough of anything to go around.  The first law of politics is to ignore the first law of economics.”

In the last 10 years under two Democrat governors, the number of Coloradans who receive health care through Medicaid has nearly tripled to 1.4 million (almost one-fourth of us).  During that time, state spending on health care and human services programs has grown five times faster than spending on K-12 education and eight times faster than spending on transportation.

Now, progressive Democrats like Polis want to raise taxes for education and transportation, but those tax increases wouldn’t be necessary if previous Democrat governors hadn’t expanded social welfare entitlements in the belief that “health care is a right.”

Ten years ago, K-12 education received 43% of the general fund budget; health care and human services received 30%.  If today’s budget were allocated at the same rate, K-12 education would receive an additional $763 million.  That’s a 15% increase – enough to increase school funding by $803 per student and to entirely wipe out the erstwhile “negative factor” that siphons money away from public schools in order to pay for Medicaid spending.

This year, Colorado voters face a critical choice that will decide whether we take an irreversible step to become Little California by electing an out-of-touch Boulder progressive as governor and passing massive tax increases.

Instead, we should reject the fallacy that “health care is a right,” insist that our public schools be properly funded without raising taxes, and require government to live within its budget – just like we, the taxpayers, must do.