Tax Vampires: Our Schools Now Is The Latest Political Elites’ Front Group

In December, I highlighted an article on front groups used by Utah political power brokers (with the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce as the typical hub). The latest front group they’ve come up with to raise you taxes is “Our Schools Now”.

With the legislative session, Our Schools Now has popped back up to make their push to convince you to raise everyone’s taxes. Don’t fall for it. This is a good time to review the article that traces all the connections and front groups used by the people you aim to benefit from this latest push:

WHO CONTROLS UTAH? An Investigative Report on Utah’s Elite Political Brokers

It’s not just the DC swamp that needs to be drained. We need the “drain the swamp” in Utah as well.

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.

Utah Business PAC On Education: Taxes For Thee But Not For Me

There’s nothing like calling for higher taxes on others.  I suppose it feels good knowing your doing something good…with other peoples’ money.  Yet again, the Salt Lake Chamber Of Commerce and aligned organizations are calling for more government spending so long as they get the benefit without the cost.

They want the legislature to spend more on public education to benefit the business community.  Great, right?  But guess what the prime area for the state legislature to increase revenue for such is…your income tax (100% of it goes to education in Utah).  Waddoups crunched the numbers on that:

Utah, a state with a large number of children, spends $6,062 per student per year, far below the national average of $10,441. Aligning Utah spending with the national average would cost nearly $2.4 billion, requiring an income tax increase from the current rate of 5 percent to 9.4 percent, according to Waddoups.

Don’t fall for the we spend less than other states red herring.  Local circumstances will affect spending levels (ie comparing apples to oranges here) and more spending certainly does not equate to better education (Washington DC spends a lot of money but their system stinks), nor does this look at whether the system is more efficient and producing quality students compared despite the lower cost (a business goal, no?).  They also don’t seem to look at other solutions other than the “just throw more money at it” mantra.

Anyway, raising taxes on families in a slow economy (or any economy, for that matter) is the implied desire.  Why not call for the corporate tax* to be raised as they see themselves as the beneficiary of the spending increase?  Call it a user fee.  Nope, they want you to pay for it. They also prefer to pool their money not for schools but to lobby to raise your taxes and “…groom candidates to run for vacant legislative seats…” (Shumway appears to be their man in the vacant Liljenquist seat right now).

Corporate welfare is live and well in Utah.  The Salt Lake Chamber remains an enemy of taxpayers. Glad to hear Senator Waddoups is pushing back, hope voters and other legislators won’t buy the spin.

*Note: the corporate tax rate does affect business as it increases product cost.  That also means that consumers (you) effectively pay the tax if you buy their product.  In other words, don’t buy liberal lines that we need to make business pay by increasing the corporate tax – consumers pay that tax and it does slow economic activity.

On To Plan C: Political Elites Next Option To Kill The Utah Neighborhood Caucus

In May, I relayed information on miffed political insiders’ first move to kill the caucus system which provides common citizens the advantage over big money interests and political elites.  In my May post, I included an annotated email from the political power brokers who, anointing themselves “Mainstream Republicans”, gathered at the Alta Club in an effort to retain their influence/power.  I noted several options that they would float and updated the post through October as new plans arose.

In August, LaVarr Webb and Kirk Jowers teamed up with the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce (fellow Alta Club meeting attendees) to further garner support for their cause (specifically catering to the Chamber’s select group in the “Capitol Club” – essentially the biggest business leaders and donors) .  At that point they were pushing for Plan B (lower caucus threshold to force a primary) or Plan C.

Now Mike Leavitt and his Leavitt Group (also Alta Club meeting attendees) with Webb and Jowers under the guise of “Alliance for Good Government” and the Utah Foundation (see the “aside” below) are shifting to Plan C:

The plan — formulated by Webb, Leavitt, Leavitt’s former chief of staff Rich McKeown, and Hinckley Institute of Politics director Kirk Jowers — would let candidates circumvent the party convention system by gathering enough signatures to go directly to the primary ballot.

First, remember that people can already be placed on the general election ballot by gathering signatures.  The primary ballot idea would do two things: lower the ultimate threshold required to get on the ballot and play right into the hands of big, organized, well-funded political interest groups and political insiders.  Gathering signatures is a labor intensive and expensive process.  For the general election it is even tough for large, well organized groups to get the required signatures, but lower the amount they need…and their money and organizational capabilities become far more focused and effective.

Let me close by reiterating my August warning:

Be on your best guard.  The best thing that could happen for high powered political players and big donors would be to push influence from citizens and their neighborhoods firmly into territory where their money and influence have a greater impact: primaries and general elections.  The best thing for the run-of-the mill political nobody is to preserve the ability to elect their neighbor or themselves to represent their values and neutralize the big players in the process.

Click here for all posts related to this issue.

An aside: The Tribune article also mentions a “Utah Foundation” study.  The Foundation board includes several SL Chamber of Commerce members and businesses that were represented at the Alta Club along with Lane Beattie (also purported to have attended the Alta Club meeting).  Besides the obvious conflict of interest on the caucus matter, it is worth noting that the foundation also produces various “quality of life” studies.  These tend to be used as justifications for tax increases, increases in government spending, and government programs that tend to benefit business (crony capitalism, in my book).  The Chamber is also the 2006 recipient of an ATR “Enemy of the Taxpayer” Award.  Succinctly stated, the “quality of life” buzzword is the local equivalent to the federal “general welfare” clause as a justification for any type of government spending and programs.