Guest Blogs

Thursday
Oct152015

Jim Rubens - End Purple State Political Stalemate 

 

End Purple State Stalemate

 

FYI: I’ll be at the 603 Alliance GPS Caucus, this Saturday in Contoocook if you want to say hi or talk politics. The Caucus is open to all registered Republicans and Independents with the goal of unity around a single conservative candidate.
 
Here’s my dinner speech last Friday at the Republican Liberty Caucus convention in Nashua ...
 
Fed up watching New Hampshire’s hard won Republican seats constantly flip back to milquetoast Democrats? Last week, it was nothing-burger Maggie Hassan. Odds makers rank her so competitive that the entire US Senate is now at risk of falling back into Democrat hands. This purple state stalemate has been going on now for 20 years, and it’s a political dead end.
 
Here’s how the Republican establishment has tried and failed to cope with purple state stalemate:
 
Anoint a candidate whose vote is reliably for sale to the high bidder. Lightly season with some pro-life talk. Then blur differences with the Democrat, avoid controversy, do ribbon cuttings, and win over the last one percent of low-information voters with a pleasant smile or a macho jawline.
 
There are two massive problems with this strategy.
 
Number one, we’re left out in the cold if we want small government accountable to the people and not to the bought and paid for Washington party barons. Number two, we get endless talk and promises on what we want, but no action. And the country we love slides downhi
ll.
  • We’re six years into the so-called recovery built on a sugar high of zero percent interest rates and four trillion dollars of printed money. And the middle class is still being squeezed by rising living costs, stagnant wages and decent-paying jobs continue to evaporate.
  • 100 trillion dollars in debt andunfunded promises recklessly loaded on to our kids and grandkids and no end in sight. The bi-partisan Washington cabal won’t do a partial government shutdown to force long-term spending sanity and to save our currency. But showing their true colors and to show that they can do big things when they want to, look at this past December’s bi-partisan Cromnibus budget deal. Another $430 billion in debt. And they had no trouble inserting language written by Citicorp lobbyists sticking ordinary taxpayers with losses from big-bank derivatives trading.
  • Let me explain Donald Trump to the Republican establishment. A giant bloc of working Americans despise open borders, amnesty for illegal aliens, and the flood of excessive immigration that is driving down wages and threatening the social cohesion necessary for voluntary civil society. (Clarity point: immigration is great for America if its rate allows immigrants to absorb into our culture).
  • And Washington’s bi-partisan hawks. No victory/exit strategy, 15 years of lost wars, tens of thousands of dead and injured American soldiers, trillions in borrowed money, and constantly increasing chaos in the Middle East. Just over two years ago, these strategy-blind hawks had us funding, arming and training ISIS. Now they have us taking sides with Al Qaeda in proxy wars in Yemen and Syria. They’re dangerously close to getting us into a shooting war with Russia. They won’t say a cross word about our key Arab “ally”, Saudi Arabia, the world’s leading sponsor of jihadi ideology, funder of the 9-11 terrorists, brutal human rights violator, and over 200 beheadings so far this year. Years of bi-partisan talk about honoring our vets, yet VA bureaucrats are still killing our vets on waiting lists. (Here's my earlier post, how we can win the war on terror).
  • Another example. The bi-partisan drug war. A trillion dollars spent worldwide. In Nashua alone so far this year, 16 dead from drug overdose. Half of young black males likely to be locked up during their lifetimes. $8 billion spent last year to eradicate opium production in Afghanistan, now at record levels, supplying ¾ of global demand and major funding for the Taliban. (Here's my earlier post, Drug War Rethink).
  • Here’s another bi-partisan Washington cave in. Every member of Congress swears to defend the United States Constitution. Then why are they breaching the Fourth Amendment by allowing government to spy on hundreds of millions of innocent Americans with no evidence that our safety has been enhanced?
  • And the tax code. It’s impenetrably complex and riddled with special interest breaks that drive up rates for the rest of us. It severely distorts free market choices. The public hates it, but Washington politicians want it that way because Washington lobbyists want it that way.
  • And for my last example, the perfect illustration of the nose ring that crony capitalists have installed on the party barons in both parties, the Ex-Im Bank. Eighty percent of Ex-Im loan guarantees in 2012 went to one company, Boeing. They’ve corrupted the economy so that businesses are forced to hire lobbyists and fly to Washington to pay homage instead of shopping private lenders or guarantors to help export their products.
My point is, the bi-partisan establishment can get things done in Washington when they want to. Seventy-five percent of Republican voters do not trust Republican leadership because the Washington establishment is not advancing core conservative principles and is not working for average Americans.
 
So, here’s how we can come to grips with our nation’s biggest political challenges. Here’s how we can end purple state stalemate.
 
It’s what Ronald Reagan did.  He brought millions of Reagan Democrats, average working Americans, into the Republican coalition. He led a durable political realignment.
 
Today, times are different, the issues and the demographics are different. But the dynamics are the same.  Let’s stop trying to compromise with Washington’s business-as-usual, pay to play, incumbent protection racketeers. Let’s stop working so hard to appeal to the last one percent who decide in the voting booth who has better hair. It’s time for a full-on political realignment to bring another ten percent to the small-government, of-by-for the people ticket.
 
We will win when grass roots activist leaders unite social conservatives, liberty Republicans, and populists.
 
The time is more right than in decades. The anti-establishment candidates for President are consistently out polling and out energizing the establishment.
 
But here’s the rub. The anti-establishment factions on the right must unite.  As I learned last year in my US Senate run, unity is difficult.  All of us are deeply committed to our core principles. But as we all learned, we either suck up and accept lesser-of-two-evils crumbs from the establishment, or we find big common purpose among ourselves.  United we stand, or divided we all fall.
 
Tactically, this means doing more of what the 603 Alliance is doing. This means uniting around one grass roots, small government, of, by, and for the people candidate in every primary. This is how Dave Brat took out Wall Street crony capitalist Eric Cantor.
 
What our unity candidate will look like and how we get united will be different in different states, races, and election cycles.  Sometimes our candidate will be a leading defender of life, sometimes a champion of liberty, sometimes a candidate single-minded about a private sector economy that works again for middle class American citizens.
 
When we win these primaries, if we’ve done our job at realignment coalition building, we’ll have candidates readily able to defeat Democrats. We will win, not by blurring differences, not by going purple, but by delivering solutions to our big challenges, solutions that end self-dealing and business as usual corruption in Washington.
 
It’s not nearly enough just to be against the establishment. Let’s get to work on working together to turn our great nation around. 
Monday
Sep142015

Jim Rubens - GPOs: Crony Capital Poster Child & How To Fix It 

Combined, Trump, Sanders and Carson now outpoll their establishment rivals, lopsidedly in New Hampshire. We are at the leading edge of a national political revolt, driven less by ideological litmus testing, far more an expression of open disgust for the Washington insider class who give lip service to average Americans and enrich and aggrandize themselves by selling power and economic privilege to the high bidder.
 
Into the weeds with a blatant case in point …
 
… which is the Group Purchasing Organization (GPO) safe harbor exemption, an obscure one-paragraph law written by medical industry lobbyists and snuck into a 1987 Medicare/Medicaid reform bill. The six dominant GPOs are middlemen, supplying most of the $300 billion in generic drugs and medical equipment and supplies used by U.S. hospitals.
 
The GPO safe harbor is unique in federal law, permitting GPOs to pay kickbacks to hospitals and hospital executives in return for sole-source contracts. This legalized banana republic corruption warps traditional free market incentives that give us continuously improving products and services at lower cost.
 
Combined with lax anti-trust enforcement, legalized GPO kickbacks have sharply suppressed competition, manufacturing capacity, and innovation in the generic drug and medical equipment and supply industries. Additionally, American healthcare costs are increased by at least $30 billion annually, $17 billion of this paid by taxpayers. Doctors are stuck with periodic shortages and price spikes for commodity anesthetics, antibiotics and even bagged sterile saline. Patients are subjected to unnecessary risk.
 
For fifteen years, doctors, healthcare entrepreneurs, muckraking journalists and a handful of Senators (Grassley, Coburn, Kohl and Leahy) have fruitlessly pressed Congress to end this corrupt, crony capitalist market distortion by simply repealing the GPO kickback safe harbor law.
 
Why no action by Congress? Leadership barons in bothparties get millions in campaign contributions from GPOs, hospitals, manufacturer cartels and their lobbyists. The Democrats’ lead handmaiden and recipient of GPO campaign money is Chuck Schumer, who went ballistic during a 2006 Senate hearing because GPO kickbacks were even being discussed in public.
 
What to do?
 
Repealing the GPO kickback safe harbor is but one of thousands of discrete and widely supportable reforms that would end crony capital corruption and restore government of, by, and for the people. But Congressional party barons use their hammerlock over procedure to block reform bills like these on behalf of their donors.
 
One simple solution is to break procedural gridlock by allowing every member of Congress to do what every member of the New Hampshire legislature can do: bring bills to the House or Senate floor for a straight up or down vote.
 
Under U.S. Senate rules and custom, only Senate majority leader McConnell can offer a motion to proceed to floor debate on a bill. I propose a change to Senate rules allowing a simple majority of 51 Senators to agree to allow floor debate and a vote on specific, single-subject bills. Under this special rule, debate time limits would be agreed to by sponsors in advance, only germane amendments permitted, and the right to filibuster retained. Specific, broadly-supported legislation could come directly and promptly to the Senate floor for open debate.
 
Subject to heightened public attention on open floor debate, wavering Senators would break from Chuck Schumer’s grip and be embarrassed into voting for a stand-alone bill to repeal the GPO kickback safe harbor.
 
As in the New Hampshire legislature, this procedural change would not grind Congress to a halt. It would force debate and votes on more issues. Senators would spend more time on our nation’s backlog of pressing and unresolved issues. They would stop spending half their time groveling for money from the crony capitalists who have corrupted Washington and stifled the general prosperity that would otherwise flow from free market competition.

Every citizen in our first in the nation primary state should be asking the candidates what they will do to break Washington gridlock and end crony capitalist corruption.
 
I’ll be speaking tomorrow in Rochester
 
How an Article V convention to propose constitutional amendments can save America from national bankruptcy and political corruption
Rochester 9-12 Group
Monday the 14th, 6:30 pm
Church of Christ, 336 Salmon Falls Road, East Rochester

Monday
Aug312015

NH Rep Max Abramson - New Hampshire's Dumbest Law

When we reuse or recycle old milk jugs to water our plants, we rarely think that we may find ourselves facing criminal charges and one year in corrections for each offense.  It's unlikely that this would actually happen, yet there are still many old laws on the books that were never repealed as technology, society, and our economy has changed.  Enacted in 1907, the legislature made only one modification in 1961, changing this to a misdemeanor.
 
Perusing the Revised Statutes Annotated at your local library or online, we find that it is illegal to hunt with ferrets or destroy a muskrat house.  It is perfectly lawful to collect seaweed in all 50 states, but in New Hampshire, you cannot do so at night.  If your GPS gives you a notice on the highway, you must now pull over to hit OK under the new hands free driving law.  StupidLaws.com warns of a $150 fine for ”maintaining the national forest without a permit.” DumbLaws.com (no relation) warns of RSA 353:10, which makes it a crime to check into a motel or inn under an assumed name.
 
While some of these laws may have made sense long ago, some are leaving more confusion and questions than answers.  School age kids from around the state are being invited to find the silliest, most outdated, nonsensical laws that they can find.  Interested students can get on the Internet and start putting words into the search field at:
 
gencourt.state.nh.us/rsa/html/indexes/search.html
 
They can then find the RSA number and post your suggestion to the Facebook page, New Hampshire's Dumbest Law before the September 15th deadline.  Students can also mail their suggestion to New Hampshire's Dumbest Law, PO Box 746, Seabrook, N.H. 03874.  A number of legislators will select from those suggestions and file a bill to repeal that law.  The winning class will get to come to the State House and argue before a House Committee to repeal this law and learn the legislative process in person.  This is a great learning experience for students, and should be a good chance for youngsters to affect the laws of our state.
 
Rep. Max Abramson
Rockingham 20
Tuesday
Aug182015

Jim Rubens - Drug War Rethink Overdue 

 

Drug War Rethink Long Overdue


Illegal drug overdose deaths have rocketed into a crisis policy challenge, claiming a staggering 325 New Hampshire lives last year, three times our traffic fatalities. Unfortunately, we are hearing same-same from most of our political leaders: tinker around the edges with good ideas that will help (but not nearly enough) and toughen up on the drug war.
 
The global 50-year, $1 trillion war on drugs is a flagrant policy failure in urgent need of a thorough, evidence-based rethink. Here are the facts: 
 
  • Supply interdiction drives up violence and drug supplier profits.
    • Global illegal drug demand is now $320 billion annually.
    • Since 2006, drug trade violence stemming largely from U.S. demand has killed over 100,000 people in Mexico alone.
    • U.S. taxpayers spent $7.5 billion last year attempting to eradicate production of opium (the raw material for heroin) in Afghanistan, yet cultivation there has reached record levels, supplying ¾ of global demand and occupying a cultivated land area the size of Rhode Island, and providing a major source of funding for the Taliban.
       
  • Drug addiction and abuse is pervasive and massively damaging.
    • Nationally, illegal drug use costs almost $200 billion annually in crime, lost work productivity and healthcare.
    • 9.4 percent of Americans are past-year users of illegal drugs, 7.5 percent for marijuana. 39 percent of 12th graders are past-year illegal drug users, 35 percent for marijuana. At my local high school, MJ can be had free for the asking every day and is easier to obtain than alcohol.
    • Only 11 percent of 23 million Americans needing treatment for illegal drug or alcohol use are getting such treatment.
    • New Hampshire is #12 among the states at 11.2 percent of 12+ population using illegal drugs or abusing pharmaceuticals.
    • Substance abuse costs New Hampshire $1.84 billion annually, nearly 3 percent of state GDP.
    • U.S. prisons are filled with non-violent drug offenders. With 5 percent of world population, the U.S. has 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. Illegal drugs are readily available even in prisons with many drug offenders leaving prison as hardened criminals and more addicted.
    • Drug law enforcement is racially discriminatory. Six in ten drug crime prisoners are black or Latino, though proportions of drug suppliers and users are similar for whites.
Here’s how I’d change policy, specifically for heroin and marijuana.
 
For heroin, we can learn from the eight European nations and Canada which operate “heroin assisted treatment” programs. Generally, heroin addicts who have failed methadone or other forms of drug treatment are given access 2-3 times per day to clinical healthcare facilities where they receive controlled doses of pharmacological grade heroin in addition to medical care, drug treatment counseling and social services. The measured outcomes include sharp reductions in illegal drug use, drug crimes, disease, overdose deaths and major increases in addiction treatment retention. In Switzerland, property crimes among enrolled heroin addicts dropped by 90 percent.
 
In 2001, Portugal became first in the world to decriminalize all drugs and to make drug treatment services fully accessible. In Portugal as generally in the 24 other nations adopting drug decriminalization, use rates did not increase. Drug violators are referred to treatment providers, but not compelled to accept services. Drug-related deaths since 2001 have declined by 80 percent. Rates of past-year drug use have decreased. New AIDS cases among drug injectors resulting from dirty needle sharing declined by 93 percent. In most of the U.S., sterile needles are illegal to possess and one-third of all new AIDS cases result from dirty needle sharing.
 
For marijuana, Washington should grant states the power to legalize and regulate like alcohol. For New Hampshire, I’d allow sale at state liquor stores if locally approved. Require child-proof packaging and labels disclosing potency and health effects, including the fact that MJ use involves performance and brain developmental effects (though far less in the aggregate than tobacco or alcohol). Prohibit advertising and public use. License in-state wholesale producers and allow personal production in limited quantities. Extend DUI laws to cover marijuana metabolite blood levels.
 
Washington State is one of four to have legalized and taxed the sale of cannabis products.  Over its first year in full effect, Washington saved most of the $20 million previously spent on minor MJ law enforcement and collected $83 million in tax revenues, with revenues used to fund prevention, treatment, research and education programs. Early data show that traffic fatalities and youth marijuana use have not increased.
 
To sharply reduce human suffering, violence and death, political leaders must confront the fact that the drug war is an abject failure. Real solutions must sharply increase public funding for substance abuse and addiction treatment, which can be more than paid for via reduced drug interdiction and non-violent drug user imprisonment. By dropping rigid thinking about drug policy, we can increase racial harmony and defund criminal drug empires and Afghan terrorists.
 
Jim Rubens is former GOP state senator and past President of Headrest, a Lebanon-based substance abuse and suicide prevention and counseling center. 
Tuesday
Jul282015

George Landrift - Postal Service shortfalls impact rural areas

By GEORGE LANDRITH

Before the United States was a country, even before it declared its independence, the United States maintained a letter delivery service. In fact, the very first “long distance” route went between no other than Williamsburg, Va., and Portsmouth. Though the makeup of the service, which employs 600,000 workers nationwide, including almost 3,100 in New Hampshire, has changed greatly between then and now, its core function has remained the same – to provide a letter mail delivery service to every American, no matter where they live, at a reasonable rate.

Yet due to constantly evolving technologies and lack of effective leadership from the U.S. Postal Service, the quasi-government agency continues to stray far from that function. While this ultimately hurts all Americans, it especially threatens states with large rural populations, such as New Hampshire.

Today, we have other means to share information. But rural America lags behind more urban areas in internet use, which only makes the USPS that much more important in many areas of the country.

“Federal law requires the Postal Service to provide ‘a maximum degree of effective and regular postal services’ to rural areas and small towns,” the Washington Post reports.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Postal Service seems to be increasing service and product offerings in metropolitan centers like San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and New York, while they are shutting down mail processing facilities and decreasing service in other areas.

This past January, the U.S. Postal Service announced its intention to close 82 mail processing facilities across the country, reducing post office hours, and increasing delivery times. From this proposal, the areas that would be hurt most by these closures are small towns and rural areas. “Some of the nation’s poorest communities, many of them with spotty broadband Internet coverage, stand to suffer most,” the Post analysis found in 2012 when closures were only rumored.

Because of these closures, mail sometimes travels 90 miles out of the way before it reaches its intended recipient on the other side of town. Many have questioned the strategy to close the processing facilities in light of the resulting decline in service standards, which have steadily deteriorated over the last three years. “The postmaster general doesn’t have a clue about what’s going on in rural America, and it shows,” Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of the very rural state of Montana recently said.

Examples are the elimination of overnight delivery for local first class mail that would arrive the very next day and the lagging delivery times for first class mail. According to the USPS, first class mail, which is supposed to reach its recipient within 3-5 days, failed to meet that standard for over one-third of all mail delivered in the first seven weeks of 2015.

While service is languishing throughout most of the country, urban areas are seeing a bump in services from the USPS. Recently they expanded a service called Metro Post to other cities even though it earned $1 for every $10 invested – a 90 percent financial loss. Add this to other new ventures like grocery delivery – now expanding in New York City – as well as a potential move into banking services, and it’s clear that the trend has been to cut back on standard mail service, which everyone relies on, in order to move into other business ventures in big city markets.

All told, customers may not be getting what they pay for. Considering the stamp price increases, we can’t help but wonder if we are subsidizing their ill-fated experiments.

While the USPS will fail to elicit attention from the 2016 Presidential field, the issue is still important. The tentacles of the USPS touches too many corners of this nation to ignore its problems. Now is the time for the USPS to refocus its mission and remember its rural customers.

(George Landrith is the president of Frontiers of Freedom, a think tank in Fairfax, Va.)