Hillbilly Elegy, The Utah Republican Party And The Salt Lake Chamber Of Commerce

I wrote about political insiders effectively consolidating their take over of the Utah GOP. The outgoing party Chair then told conservatives and other grassroots folks they are not welcome and to get out and find another party. The GOP entrenched elites headed by Governor Gary Herbert have some fellow travelers, most prominent of which is the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce. These select groups have formed various policy front groups which they control and employ to provide a false veneer of neutral analysis to champion/justify their political goals/policies; a self-licking ice cream cone. The roll up of the GOP will certainly strengthen the local oligarchy they have formed.

They operate under the premise that what is good for business and GDP is good for everyone. They seem to believe in a one-size-fits-all silver bullet that stock values and business profits and growth equate to a healthy society. But that’s a lazy half truth that they (and many conservatives) fall for. To wit, with the power consolidation, we’ll likely see further business costs/risks being pushed onto the backs of of struggling families, onto low and middle income Utahns and onto small businesses — socializing the costs and privatizing profits. This will be done to improve the (big) business environment and to ensure the continued growth of government by broadening the tax base.

Certainly, having jobs is important to society but business success doesn’t always translate into jobs (e.g. automation and outsourcing) nor does it mean jobs are created where they’re needed (such as the rust belt and the vacating of rural Utah and especially where there is a seemingly blind focus on the Wasatch Front for government-assisted economic development measures). Nor can business success serve as a surrogate for the health of the foundational unit of society – the family and it certainly does not ensure a higher quality of life.

At the beginning of this year, Tucker Carlson gave a monologue on this issue which should be considered by everyone. I was going to quote part of his talk to capture his main point but decided against it because it is too important. It really must be considered at in full. Watch the segment or read the transcript here: Mitt Romney supports the status quo. But for everyone else, it’s infuriating.

I also just finished J.D. Vance’s book Hillbilly Elegy. I can’t recommend a better book. Just read it. It is a must for anyone who cares about their neighbors and community (and for those involved in politics/policy) or preparing for a church mission*.

Vance also took note of Carlson’s monologue (The Health Of Nations: Conservatives should heed Tucker Carlson’s advice. We shouldn’t assume that what is good for markets is good for all of us). He notes:

This raises a fundamental question with which so many of Tucker’s critics refuse to even engage: What happens when the companies that drive the market economy — and all of its benefits — don’t care about the American nation’s social fabric? What happens when, as in the case of a few massive narcotics sellers, they profit by destroying that fabric?

Surely our response can’t be: “Well, the market will take care of it.” The market is not a Platonic deity, floating in the sky and imposing goodness and prosperity from on high. It is the creation of our choices, our laws, and our democratic process. We know, for instance, that pornography has radically altered how young boys perceive their relationships with women and sex, and that the pornography industry has acquired a lot of wealth…

Again, please read the entire article (AND his book). It is true that both parties have rejected the social aspect of policy. National Republican economic elites have basically cast out and silenced social conservatives. We’re told the way to win elections is to limit ourselves to economic issues and definitely avoid anything about morality or “traditional family values”.

Meanwhile, in his book, JD Vance refers to family values with strong church and community support as part of the remedy to the situations he was faced as a youth:

…So I wasn’t surprised that Mormon Utah—with its strong church, integrated communities, and intact families—wiped the floor with Rust Belt Ohio.

When I read this, it was a source of pride. But it vanished quickly and I was chilled when I realized that I know kids and families much like JD’s in my own neighborhood and in our classrooms*. Utah is not immune. We all know someone or a family just like JD’s. It’s already here and we’re not talking about it. Nor is it helpful when local churches waver on foundational moral principles that give the stability cited by Vance to Utah and, most importantly, its families.

I hope we’ll wake to this and not continue to be lead by the nose by the Salt Lake Chamber and that we will recognize that gross economic growth does not ensure a thriving society and economy. As individuals, we don’t get absolution by blaming our oligarchs and doing nothing. We need to get ourselves together, inculcate religious values in our children, take political action, and reach out to those like JD.

*If you want to understand those near you and those you teach or will serve. Read Hillbilly Elegy. His was an Appalachian family but the experience, consequences, and ‘enduring monsters’ that JD faces transcend Appalachia and exist next door, sit in an elementary school, and can be found behind the door missionaries knock on as they proclaim Christ’s gospel. There’s plenty of swearing but it isn’t gratuitous – it’s the way they talk. Get passed it and look at the heart and lessons, and act!

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Mentoring The Next Generation Of Socialists: The Salt Lake Chamber Of Commerce

I read this about a week ago and don’t have much to add (nor the time) so I’m wimping out and just posting a teaser excerpt. Read the piece in full – crony capitalism is the path to socialism and they don’t get it at all.

Salt Lake Chamber – Promoting Socialism by Socializing Costs and Privatizing Profits

Derek Miller, the president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber, recently expressed deep concern about “the assault on free enterprise from the far right and the far left, from the halls of government to the sidewalks of Main Street.” He then noted that while “Utah makes free market principles work better than almost anywhere else….We already see anti-growth, anti-job sentiments creeping in.” He concludes by commending Governor Herbert for “calling for financial literacy courses in high schools” in order to “combat fascination with socialism.”

In my opinion, what Miller fails to grasp is that the “fascination with socialism” is fueled, at least in part, by the U.S. and Salt Lake Chambers of Commerce as they go about socializing business costs while privatizing profits. In fact, the Salt Lake Chamber has actively worked to socialize costs while privatizing profits for decades…

Full disclosure: the author is my father.

Edit: Heh, I was in such a rush that I forgot to include a link to the article. I added it above and here for good measure.

Addendum: I just heard about this and it somewhat ties into this subject. Utah offers a Custom Fit Funding program to train a company’s employees in a specific field. Utah covers part of the training cost thus subsidizing “up to 40% of the training costs” per the pamphlet I got. I can see such a program helping entice companies to rural areas that are hurting and experiencing brain drain to the Wasatch Front etc. but the program is offered at SLCC and not limited to struggling areas or small companies. I have trouble subsidizing a big company when it could cover the cost of the training if the employee contracts to stay with a company for a certain amount of time (something that companies have done for a long time). This sure sounds like more corporate welfare to me.

2019 Legislative Lesson: Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, Swamp Consolidates Stranglehold On Utah

The general session of the Utah legislature ended on Thursday and it was a major win for the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce and the elite swamp.

Let’s start with some temporary good news. Outcry stopped, for now, the Chamber’s HB441 tax reform which would have further socialized costs and privatized profits. Again, this is temporary as the legislature is planning a special session to address tax reform. I expect they will basically run HB441 with a bit more lipstick and stick residents with a larger portion of government/infrastructure cost while minimizing big businesses’ contribution (businesses represented by the Chamber), thus maximizing their profits.

Teachers were also unhappy with HB441 and should be reminded that it was the Chamber’s past president, Lane Beattie, who screwed up school funding in the first place. Senator Howard Stephenson also picked up on this as well on his March 9th radio show where he called out those behind this mess.

Stephenson: I believe they created a crisis to then have a solution that was basically cooked up behind closed doors and sprung on the legislature with only two weeks left in the legislature.
Dougall: So when you say “they”, you don’t mean the legislature created the crisis, others created the crisis was responding to…
Stephenson: Well we know who was involved in it: The Salt Lake Chamber, the Kem Gardner Institute and Natalie Gochnour, and the uh Representative Quinn and some others, who, nobody really knows who was part of this brain trust and when they were meeting or anything…

Next, the Chamber and politicians made another big step in pulling political power from citizens and into the hands of political power brokers and political elites (“the swamp”). HB119 modifies the rules on citizen intiatives/referendum to greatly increase the logistics (and cost) by carving cities up into separate districts and requiring signatures come from 75% of those districts along with having to hold town hall meetings. The bill also lets cities spend money to fight such initiatives (thus, they get to use citizens’ tax money to fight citizen initiatives). The bill was sponsored by none other than Brad Daw and chief Utah swamp creature (imported from Chicago), Curt Bramble. This junk comes on the heels of SB54 which shifted candidate selection from the neighborhood caucus (advantageous to citizens) to big money political campaigns and lobbyists/consultants. SB54 also resulted in candidates being selected with less than a majority. Somewhere, Kurt Jowers, his Alta Club posse and his “California friend” are smiling…

The Chamber and Legislature (BIRM) also pushed more high density housing onto local cities. This will make the Chamber’s developers very happy and will not help housing affordability – likely the opposite (note: read the op-ed but then read the author’s (Justin S) comments in the comment section, they are key). The Chamber is also behind the propaganda ads on this issue and note that the Chamber cites the Kem Gardner Institute in the article (you’ll never guess who sits on the board of the Kem Gardner Center…).

More cronyism is glaringly obvious with HB290 where the legislature decided to dish out your sensitive personal information (including SSN, mother’s maiden name, place and date of birth, physical characteristics, medical information, etc.) to the University of Utah (UofU) for their health and epidemiology studies. As I said when I highlighted this abuse of power:

I’ve been part of medical studies but voluntarily participated. The UofU is no better than any other university or other medical research group when it comes to this. They should adhere to the same standards as the rest. They should be ashamed for engaging in political cronyism and trying to get this type of preferential treatment to take our driver license information without asking. It’s another example of Bastiat’s “legal plunder”.

Our so-called elites continue their path of power consolidation and legal plunder. Unfortunately, we’ll be left holding the consequences these ignorant elites foist upon us.

Addendum: the Chamber also had limited success with their support of the irrigation water metering bill. They used the guise of water conservation for this bill but it was bunk – water operators stated it was easy to conserve water by simply limiting irrigation to certain days (turning of the system on ‘non-water’ days) etc. What they had attempted (pushing expensive water meters onto everyone) was likely to result in cheaper, smaller water operators being forced out and effectively creating water monopolies and to favor developers. That danger still exists and there’s a question if Utah’s aquifers will be harmed (irrigation water significantly replenishes the aquifer).

2018: Utah’s Tax And Spend Legislature, Governor, Our Schools Now and the Salt Lake Chamber Of Commerce

Next time someone wants to tell me Utah has a conservative legislature, they can shove it. They’re either GOP(e) party hacks or entirely clueless.

At the end of the legislative session, the GOP-Governor-Chamber of Commerce group managed to jack up your taxes and enable a flimflam scheme to trick people into raising them further…all during a year of budget surpluses (because it’s not your money and labor, it’s really their money to play with).

Here’s what they did: The Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce created yet another front group (Our Schools Now) led by a group of Utah’s wealthy elites. They started a ballot initiative pushing for another big tax increase on everyone but themselves. Then they could count on  their “Available Jones” (aka Governor Herbert) along with their shills in the legislature to cut a deal with them – much like the tactic used to begin to crush Utah’s neighborhood caucus system (in the form of SB54 a few years ago). Herbert is now out there on some dog-and-pony show about how he ‘saved’ everyone from some big tax increase. It’s total baloney.

What Herbert and the legislature did (again) is save the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce from spending their own money to run a ballot initiative that was likely to fail. Instead, they passed a couple of increases and will also use your money to fund a tax increase question for the next election. C’mon, when you’re a special interest group tied with the political elite, someone else pays for your initiatives.

So here’s the damage:

  1. They will encourage local governments to further raise the sales tax to dish more cash to the corrupt and fiscally irresponsible Utah Transit Authority (UTA) or its new name, the Transit District of Utah. UTA is (surprise!) promoted by the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce and politically well connected.
  2. They “froze” the rate of the state property tax dedicated to education for five years thereby exempting it from truth-in-taxation hearings . Sounds good, right? Nope. Normally counties drop the tax rate as your home valuation increases as they have a cap on how much they can collect each year. This ‘freeze’ holds the rate regardless of valuation which will result in a surplus (of your money) they will harvest.
    Tip: Be on guard for them extending the freeze in perpetuity and expanding it to other entities that take property taxes. Also watch for an increased tempo of home value evaluations to further boost their take. Face it, property taxes combined with spendthrift politicians mean you never really own you home.
  3. They will shove a question on the next election ballot asking for a 33% increase in the gas tax from $0.29/gallon to $0.39/gallon.
    Here’s the flimflam: A few actual conservative legislators asked that they phrase the ballot question to include the percent increase (33%) or the old/new rate (0.29-0.39/gallon), thus giving voters clarity and context. Niet! said our liberal GOPe legislators and blocked the motion. Now the Chamber et al. can try to pull the wool over naive voters and spin the increase as ‘just a small 10 cent increase’. It’s a significant increase ($2.00 per fill-up) and will impact family budgets. In addition, it will not add even one penny to road funds since the amount going to roads from the general fund will be reduced by the amount of the increased fuel tax.
  4. There’s no guarantee the Chamber/Our Schools Now won’t press for more tax increases…which their politicians can then again cave on to ‘save us all from a bigger tax increase’.

I will acknowledge that there was a small decrease in the income tax but overall the average citizen came out on the losing end since all this, along with the last few years of tax increases, is going to hit your family budget. But so long as our political betters and their buddies can continue to spend your cash like drunken sailors, we totally have the most fiscally conservative politicians….ever!

 

Don’t Be Fooled By OurSchoolsNow (AKA Salt Lake Chamber Of Commerce)

Elite political players (particularly the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce) is continuing to push their newest front group: “Our Schools Now”. I noted the Chamber’s newest tax-pushing alias in June along with the ‘fuzzy math’ they’re using to trick people into increasing burdens on Utah’s families (it’s actually big 18% tax increase).

The Chamber (via their alias) is continuing to push the tax hike they exempt themselves from and the coming new year is a good time to remind folks about their game. Click the above link for background on their math and the political insiders backing the increase. Also keep tabs on Libertas Institute as they are on top of the spin coming out from the Chamber as well. That includes reporting on budgetary misapplication (Another Education Ranking Shows Money Isn’t Everything):

…Our Schools Now has said previously, “Even 750 million [dollars] isn’t enough to solve the problems that we’re in.” In other words, no matter how much taxpayer money the Utah Legislature gives to the school system, it will never be enough—not only because funding has very little correlation to student outcomes, but because Utah’s $15+ billion budget looks very much like a leaky sieve when it comes to K-12 education spending. As the state adds taxpayer money to the general and education funds, a lot of it is siphoned off to transportation and higher education.

Utah doesn’t have a lack of funding problem, it has a budget prioritization problem. That is why, in the end, this tax increase initiative will do little to help teachers…

Chamber Of Commerce Front Group “OurSchoolsNow” Employs Math Spin For Tax Increase (Update)

I’ll keep this brief. First, OurSchoolsNow is yet another in the litanny of Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce political front groups bent on raising economic burdens on Utah families. The latest gambit will be yet another “why do you hate school children?” guilt trip against those opposed to the tax increase. They’ll couple this with a quiet bit of math spin on the actual percent tax increase and neglect to mention the increase doesn’t apply to them (surprise!). They spin it as a 7/8% increase on you. No it’s not:

The first shot in this effort to raise individual income taxes by a whopping 18% from 5% to 5.875% while leaving all business taxes, including the 5% corporate income tax, unchanged was fired when the elites formally announced a petition drive to raise the individual income tax…

The real math equates to: 5.875/5 = 18% increase in rate. Again, note that the Chamber was sure to exempt the business tax rates*. People caught on to that and now they’ve moved on to a “1/2% increase” on two taxes (sales and income) still exempting themselves from an increase. The 1/2% is, yet again, a misnomer. Here’s the breakdown:

Income tax rate increase: 5.5/5 = 10% increase
Sales tax increase (5.95% is the State base rate and 6.45% would be the new rate) = 6.45/5.95 = 8.4% increase

Interestingly, added together that’s about 18% again, however, the actual burden of the sales tax increase depends on how much you spend. Furthermore, besides exempting themselves from the tax, Parents for Choice in Education (PCE) caught on that the Chamber didn’t appear all that willing to get rid of tax subsidies they gorge on…funds that could’ve gone to schools (#ourschoolsnow stop campaigning to increase tax burden & focus on multiple subsidies robbing Ed budget”):

All this does is heap additional burdens on Utah families to keep the crony capital trough full, while virtue signalling they caaaare so much about children. The Utah swamp could use some draining.

UPDATE: Libertas is also calling out the Our Schools Now bunk and Libetas’ Connor Boyack also makes note of the “politically connected insiders” pushing this boondogle.

*FWIW: I’m not a big fan of raising corporate rates – those are essentially just passed on to consumers anyway via increased product cost which can reduces sales (hence why the Chamber of Crony Capitalists exempt themselves).

Kissing Cousins: Salt Lake Chamber Of Commerce – Utah Government Elite Interconnections Wag The Dog

The article is lengthy but ends up being an easy read as you delve into the various front groups used to create nifty confirmation bias for politicians to justify their tax and policy excesses favoring connected businesses.

The article (WHO CONTROLS UTAH? An Investigative Report on Utah’s Elite Political Brokers) starts with a key points summary but it is well worth the read for the details supporting the conclusion:

When discussing public policy in Utah, it is important to recognize that policy elites use every tool at their command to achieve the results they want. Any pretense of objectivity is just that – a pretense.

It’s fun to have your finger on the scales of government power. It’s a good time to be a crony capitalist in Utah.

Ironically enough, the article misses the most recently created Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce front group:

Our Schools Now

Gee, I have no idea why Zions Bank would want to run a group that seeks more bond money. Oh and the address for Our Schools Now? It’s co-located with the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce.

And these folks still wonder what produced Trump.

A Herbert-Salt Lake Chamber Merger?

Just a quick blurb on an emerging pattern with Governor Herbert’s administration. Governor Herbert is known to be cozy with the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce. Now we’re moving to a full-on love affair.

Over the course of the past few months, Gov. Herbert has hired the Salt Lake Chamber’s Marty Carpenter as his spokesman and, now, Wesley Smith as his Washington DC liaison. Both were big advocates of Utah’s critically flawed amnesty legislation (HB116) while with the Chamber as well.

The choices should please US House GOP leadership, however, since they are virtually acting as a subsidiary of the US Chamber of Commerce on this issue. Their money seems to be behind Boehner et al disregarding warnings and focusing something very few consider a priority, with a president willing to unilaterally block established laws, and pulling attention away from the disaster that is Obamacare.

Exit questions:
The Salt Lake Chamber, like the US Chamber, is pushing House GOP leadership ram through their amnesty-light bill. Will Wesley Smith (with a tax paid salary) be lobbying the House to pass this new shinola (ie filling in for Mark Shurtleff)?

Are both Carpenter and Smith retaining jobs at the Salt Lake Chamber when they end their terms with Gov. Herbert?

Bedfellows: The Salt Lake Chamber, Herbert And The Attorney Suing To Force In-State Tuition For Illegal Immigrants

Georgia has a law that prohibits illegal aliens inhabiting the state from tapping into taxpayer-subsidized in-state tuition. Nay, nay says attorney Charles Kuck. Illegal immigrants have a right to in-state tuition that non-state residents and legal immigrants are, for Kuck, seemingly justly denied. What’s a lawyer to do when such an absurd proposition comes to mind? Why, sue to force taxpayers to pay for a new entitlement, of course – [Illegal] Immigrant students seek Georgia’s in-state tuition rates.

This is a Utah blog, however, so what’s the connection? The Kuck firm is the go-to firm for the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce. Members of the Kuck firm serve on their Immigration Task Force and Kuck touts their involvement with their “Utah’s Next Steps on Immigration” video (which is also on the Chamber’s blog site.

Kuck also get’s the nod from Governor Herbert who appointed their representative to the Utah Commission On Immigration as well as from Mark Shrutleff when he was still Utah’s AG and found the time to host a conference with the firm. Shurtleff was also quite satisfied heralding Obama’s “Deferred Action” Constitution-undermining executive order (one of many) that is the basis for Kuck’s case.

The takeaway here is that the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, the current Governor and another (former) high-level executive branch member appear perfectly fine with a firm that wants to shakedown another state’s taxpayers to benefit a select group that demands entitlement (despite their lack of legal presence). Unless you benefit from this type of corporate cronyism, it might be something worth remembering when any of the above come out with flashy ads and soundbites about having your best financial interest in mind.

Salt Lake Chamber’s Dream: Obama’s Immigration Policy

If you have followed the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce’s immigration policy (contained in HB116), you would have to anticipate that they are giddy over Obama’s latest immigration policy.  The Chamber and their supporters such as Mark Shurtleff, Sutherland Institute, and LDS Church Public Affairs are well aware of the identity theft, among other crimes, linked to illegal immigration as well as the victims of these crimes.  They’ve done well casting  blind eye to the victims (even to the point of laughing) and cavalierly dismissing the crime.

Some leaked documents indicate that Shurtleff (who is being invited to White House functions) and the Salt Lake Chamber have their wish (emphasis added):

Fox News has obtained an internal document detailing how the Department of Homeland Security plans to implement what critics say amounts to an amnesty policy for what could be more than one million illegal immigrants.

According to the documents, illegal immigrants convicted of felonies or misdemeanors under “state immigration laws” may be granted deferred action. Those who have repeatedly entered the United States illegally will also be eligible. And traffic violations would not be considered a misdemeanor…

…Sessions told Fox News that according to his understanding of the implementation documents, illegal immigrants who are using stolen or fraudulent Social Security numbers in order to gain employment will not be charged with a crime.

The Daily Caller has also reported on this earlier in the week: Obama immigration policy opens work permit door to ID thieves, jailed illegals, uninsured drivers

Heh.  No wonder the Salt Lake Chamber fell over themselves to declare immigration policy off-limits to states.