Utah Politicians, Lobbyist Groups Put On Kabuki Show Over Driver License Data Exploitation (Updates)

Apparently politicians and some political groups are shocked, shocked, I say!

Utah DPS disputes driver’s license pics used in facial recognition mining, but lawmakers may hold hearings

This is rich. These are the same politicians who voted for sharing the driver’s license database with their cronies (see here too) and fought for increasing access for this and voter records (see here and here for example).

Available Jones Herbert and his Lt Governer Spencer Cox (Available Junior?) who’s in charge of voter records, by the way, can shove their whining where the sun don’t shine. They were mucho happy knowingly passing on your data well beyond the scope of core government functions.

Politicians and the other carping cohorts like the media, ACLU and Libertas either voted for or refused to join efforts to respect privacy and restrict the wholesale disclosure of various personal information.

The ACLU has the nerve to say “We plan to investigate how this breach of trust occurred and the steps Utah lawmakers need to take to protect the privacy of all Utahns from this widespread, open-ended surveillance program…”.

Oh really? Where were you last session when this was being voted on? Oh, right. You were too busy preparing a fund raising press release on some other unexpectedly unexpected outrage to siphon some dinero off the rubes.

Rather than carving out goodies for your cloistered buddies and yourselves, maybe next time you’ll think of the rest of us as people instead of a data resource to exploit (although Facebook would be proud!).

For the rest of us shlubs, there’s not much you can do on the driver license data but you can lock down your voter information: How To Make Your Utah Voter Registration Information Private

Ending on the positive, our political betters just earned the Captain Louis Renault award:

UPDATE: I read a few more articles on this issue. I noticed something I initially missed. It appears that the upset politcians and groups are most perturbed by ICE using the database. Interestingly, ICE may have the greatest justification for using it and we have swampy Curt Bramble to thank for it. See years ago, Bramble pushed through the Driver Privilege Card (DPC) to further Utah’s position as a defacto sanctuary state (also pleasing the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce). The DPC is only available to illegal immigrants (citizens and legal immigrants may only get a driver license). Thus, Bramble and his DPC inadvertently created a mechanism for ICE to have probable cause of a crime (illegal immigration at a minimum and likely employment-related identity theft and the other frauds/crimes that goes along with it) which could save law enforcement lives.

The ACLU also mentions the DPC in their whining. I have a feeling a lot of these politicians and organizations are more upset that their sanctuary vehicle* is being used than they care about citizen’s privacy given their tacit or overt approval of reckless personal data disclosure.

*Pun intended.

UPDATE II: The Salt Lake Tribune put up an official editorial decrying the privacy breech (and throwing in some divisive, race-baiting pap along the way). Huh. That’s funny, the Utah media (Tribune included) were all opposed to locking up voters’ personal information when that legislation was being pursued and didn’t give a rip about the Driver’s License data sharing bill when it was brought to their attention. But we should totes take their outrage seriously…That’s some nice kabuki outrage you have there.

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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!

Swamp Wing Of Utah Republican Party Takes Over: Tells Conservatives To Leave, Get Another Party

Fox13 reported on the Utah GOP convention (Utah GOP ‘civil war’ appears to be winding down as delegates pick new leadership). At the convention, conservatives were booted from some party positions as the establishment consolidated power. Entrenched politicians and political operatives who’ve bungled so many things over the years are now fully in charge of the party. The same folks who continue to cater to the Chamber of Commerce and like to socialize business cost/risk and inadvertently mentor our younger generation to view socialism as something familiar and worth looking into.

As the Party’s outgoing chairman (ethically challenged, Rob Anderson ironically with Curt Bramble in the background) makes perfectly clear in Fox’s report:

“Their voices are a minority now,” he said of the group of party hardliners, adding: “Maybe it’s time for a new party for that group.”

So, it’s clear they don’t want you around. It’s been obvious for years that the establishment folks just saw conservatives as votes and people to use for the in the trenches grunt work they don’t like to do. They consider party grassroots and conservatives outside their cloistered circle as rubes that they must tolerate (but not respect) to retain power and have been plotting to get rid of grass roots and conservatives influence for years (click here for more). They’ve blocked all but the politically entrenched and certain wealthy folks from running for office by destroying the caucus system and rendered primaries virtually inaccessible for the average person (see the linked article). There’s no longer any use for participating in the party if you’re not an elite. Even the wealthy need to be cautious if they’re not acceptable to party elites as they will use tactics of personal destruction if you rock the boat.

They got their wish. The mask is now off the Utah Kabuki GOP Dance and they’re explicitly telling you they don’t like you and to just shut up and leave.

I’ll take them at their word. After decades as a Republican, I just changed my affiliation to Unaffiliated. It’s a piece of cake (takes about two minutes):

  • Go to the Utah Voter Registration site and click Update Registration (or direct link).
  • Plug in your info (House #, driver license #, birth date).
  • Scroll down to  the “Political Party” section and select “Unaffiliated” from the drop down.
  • Scroll down to the final three sections (Private Voter Record, Applicant Declaration, Signature).
    Be sure to select Yes on the Private Voter Record section to protect yourself from ID theft (otherwise the Lt. Gov’s office discloses and/or sells your personal voter info).
  • Confirm the applicant declaration and signature and you’re done.

Sayonara.

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).

HB290 (2019): Utah Legislature To Expose Your Sensitive Personal Information, Force You To Participate In UofU Medical Studies

Representative Lee Perry, a law enforcement officer ought to know better but I guess he doesn’t care. He’s sponsored a bill that exposes your sensitive personal information and gives it out to medical studies without your consent.

Perry is sponsoring HB290. The third substitute which already passed the House and is now in the State Senate (sponsored by Lyle Hillyard). It gives out your personal information found in Driver’s License records which includes social security number. This also includes your children if they have their license. Here’s where they do it in the bill under a section on who can access driver license personal identifying information:

(v) to the University of Utah for data collection in relation to genetic and epidemiologic research; or
(vi) to a government entity, including any court or law enforcement agency, to fulfill the government entity’s functions, or to a private person acting on behalf of a government entity to fulfil the government entity’s functions, if the division determines disclosure of the information is in the interest of public safety.

First, the University of Utah really refers to the Huntsman Cancer Institute but the wording certainly doesn’t limit disclosure to Huntsman, the information will go to the entire university as long as they’re conducting an epidemiological study. The UofU and Huntsman do important research but so do plenty of other universities as well as private research outfits. However, they have absolutely no right to take and use anyone’s personal information without getting their permission first.

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 information without asking. It’s another example of Bastiat’s “legal plunder”.

Second, the “or to a private person acting on behalf of a government entity to fulfill the government entity’s functions” is extremely vague. Any government ‘entity’ or contractor can get extremely sensitive personal information. The bill doesn’t restrict the disclosure to those directly related to public safety and licensing nor limit what it discloses to the scope of their needs/program. There is also no prohibition on thereafter selling or sharing the information with another person/company. Thus, they will spread your information all over the place to who knows how many databases, computers and thumb drives. This greatly increases your exposure to identity theft.

Contact your Senator and ask them to oppose this bill. It is disrespectful to Utah residents and their youth drivers as well. It is simply unacceptable.

 

Socialist Capitalism and Utah’s HB441 Tax Reform

As you may have heard, the Utah House of Representatives rushed out a sweeping tax bill (HB 441) that was developed behind closed doors and slammed it through its first committee hearing. It is unlikely that the bill will be able to be thoroughly vetted as the session is coming to an end.

I’m trying to get time to fully delve into the 260 page, 8,023 line bill but probably just won’t be able to before the legislature votes (with the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce running things up there, it will likely pass). However, even if this bill were good, I would oppose it because it is something that should’ve been developed in the open and given plenty of time to be reviewed and tweaked if/when unintended consequences etc. are found. The last minute, behind-closed-doors nature of this bill is a non starter. They can hold it and deal with it via interim committees until the next session.

I’m sure they’ll squawk about the bill fixing the penalty they knowingly applied to Utah’s families last session but that is something they could fix with a small bill rather than using it as a fig leaf to try to ram sweeping legislation through that hasn’t been publicly vetted. Don’t fall for this snake oil salesman line if they trot it out.

In terms of the bill itself, here’s what I understand so far:

  • It will reduce taxes some companies pay to avoid multiple taxation. For example, I buy raw material and pay sales tax, then sell my product to another company and charge them tax, they make something else with my product and charge the next producer tax and so on until the consumer finally pays the last sales tax.Sounds fair, right? On the face yes, that would be good BUT it depends on how that’s implemented and from what I can tell, it’s implemented very poorly and only benefits the crony capitalists while leaving small businesses unprotected. More on that in a moment.
  • Lowers the corporate income tax rate to 4.75%
  • It will “fix” the increased tax penalty on Utah families. Again, that can easily be done with a small, self-standing bill (see above).
  • It will increase the sales tax on everyone by taxing services although we are told that the drop in the sales tax rate and income tax rates will be revenue neutral (at least for the next 15 minutes or so).

The first bullet point notes cleaning up the multiple layers of tax placed on an item before it get’s to the consumer. They botched it and probably intentionally at the behest of the Salt Lake Chamber of Crony Capitalists. They have it set up so that Utah taxpayers subsidize certain politically-connected businesses.

First, it will reduce the cost of a product (no tax built into the cost) by passing that cost to consumers who buy the product. That’s totally fine if the product/material is bought by a Utah consumer. However, if the product is shipped out of state to California, Mexico, Europe or Asia etc., then those purchasing consumers or businesses don’t pay the tax while Utah consumers do.

For example:

Acme Beauty in Utah produces for nail clear coat and charges $10/gallon (price includes corporate tax costs). I buy it in Utah and I have to pay about $10.70 (paying both the reduced corporate tax portion and sales tax). Meanwhile, if I buy it in France, I pay $10 and have only paid the reduced corporate tax in the product. Thus, the business reaps the profit while Utahns shoulder a large part of  taxes that paid for the infrastructure, environmental, educational etc. ‘overhead’ costs that made it possible for the company to ship the product and have employees here. Folks in France only paid the reduced corporate tax portion and transferred the rest of overhead costs incurred by the state to taxpayers.

Furthermore, if you are a business offering a service you are still hit with multiple layers of taxation. Using the above example, if I run a nail salon and buy the clear coat, I pay $10.70/gallon and incorporate that in my cost of my manicure service ($5/nail). With new tax on services, I must then charge sales tax raising the price to about $5.35/nail. I have thus double collected tax on the final cost a Utah resident pays (once for the clear coat and then for the service).

Ultimately, the way the tax reform appears to be set up is designed to socialize the costs while privatizing the profits. Utah consumers pay much more into the overhead when certain privileged businesses reduce their tax burdens and reap additional profits from lower costs. On top of that, nonresidents reap the benefits of purchasing goods that were exempt from sales taxes on their inputs.

This whole things sure sounds like ‘socialist capitalism’ to me.

The tax scheme appears to benefit big business (which is more likely to produce materials and do business outside of Utah) and disproportionately impact small business (such as mom & pop services within the state) and Utah taxpayers. This type of scheme is right in line with the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce which has a history of looking for ways to push costs onto others and spinning it like they care about the particular vehicle they’ve decided to employ in that endeavor.

I suppose the legislature could remedy this by requiring a tax be paid on items purchased by nonresident addresses but that too would need to be studied and there isn’t enough time for it. The more I type and think about this, the more it really sounds like another Chamber of Commerce crony capitalist gambit to slam something through before anyone can figure out the full effects.

Further reading: The Salt Lake Chamber also  directly supports Medicaid expansion as well as indirectly through the United Way. The Chamber likes expansion as it pushes healthcare costs from business onto taxpayers. Click the link and look at the sections on the “Health Systems Tax Force” and the United Way. UPDATE: Speaking of Medicaid expansion, I forgot to mention that it is funded with a sales tax increase. That is how the Chamber made sure they would push the cost onto residents and, by running through this tax reform bill, they further shift the cost onto residents as they further reduce their remaining exposure to sales tax.