Private Property Keeps Power in the Hands of Citizens

While some politicians try to bring more lands under the control of government and others want states to retrieve federal lands for state authority, and still others suggest selling public lands to help reduce the national debt — what are the pros and cons of publicly owned lands?

One of the most important principles recognized in the founding of the US was the absolute critical need of private property rights to leverage individual freedom. Unless individuals have the right to own property they can never experience freedom. Private property is far more important to securing liberty than are democratic elections.

Read more: Private Property Keeps Power in the Hands of Citizens

Ohio Governor Speaks to Montana Legislature

 

Ohio Gov. John Kasich accused Montana lawmakers of letting poor Montanans die by rejecting Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.

Kasich’s meeting with state legislators in Helena marked the second Balanced Budget Forever event in as many days where the Republican governor promoted Medicaid expansion and bashed its critics.

Asked about Obamacare after he gave a speech bemoaning out-of-control federal debt, Kasich defended his decision to take billions in new federal spending to extend Medicaid coverage to working-age, able-bodied adults with no dependent children.

Read more: Ohio Governor Speaks to Montana Legislature

The Emperor-Elect

I have served in the Montana Legislature in four different decades. As the sun sets on my legislative career and rises for the start of the 2015 legislature, I am aghast at a new House rule proposal that would wrest power from individual members of the Legislature and consolidate it in the hands of the Speaker of the House. Already the Speaker is very powerful, with unilateral authority to constitute committees, appoint chairmanships, and assign bills to particular committees.

In past sessions, the Speaker's decision to assign a bill to a particular committee could be overturned by a simple majority vote of all members of the House of Representatives. This 'check' discouraged assigning bills to 'kill committees' comprised of handpicked legislators willing to follow the Speaker's bidding. Once assigned to these committees, popular legislation that is out of favor with the Speaker can be 'executed' quietly - out of sight of the public.

Read more: The Emperor-Elect

Millions of Tax Dollars Vaporized

The FBI's Most Wanted list is iconic—the subject of films, TV series, and docudramas. But there's another Most Wanted list unknown to most Americans.

The Office of Inspector General at the US Dept. of Health and Human Services has a Most Wanted list. Individuals on the list were either convicted of or charged with crimes such as money laundering, filing fraudulent medical claims, overcharging or not providing services they charged the government for, and even posing as legitimate health care workers in order to steal information about vulnerable patients who needed critical wound care.

Read more: Millions of Tax Dollars Vaporized

Another Bureau Out of Control

Costly building renovations at the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau are raising more congressional concerns that the agency is out of control.

A government report pegs the price of the work at $210 million — $120 million more than initial estimates, with off-site leasing costs included.

"That's more per square foot than the Bellagio hotel-casino in Las Vegas," said John Berlau, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Read more: Another Bureau Out of Control

Coal Ash Recycling Meets New Regulations

Environmental groups are expected to be disappointed with a coming Environmental Protection Agency regulation for coal ash, a waste produced when coal is burned for electricity and which is used in many building materials.

The EPA appears poised to label the ash a solid waste, rather than "hazardous," in the new rule. Environmental groups have pushed for the more stringent definition because they're concerned about "shoddy oversight" at the state level playing a role in the toxics-laden waste leaking into waterways.

Read more: Coal Ash Recycling Meets New Regulations

Raising Gas Taxes -- Bad Idea

Gas prices have been falling rapidly as of late, giving some economic relief to those who have seen their wages remain stagnant despite recent job growth. But that relief could come to an end if the federal gas tax is raised.

According to the Energy Department, the average price of gasoline the week of Jan. 5 was $2.21 per gallon, which is over one dollar less than it was a year ago. With as much driving as Americans do, that can be pretty significant savings for families.

Read more: Raising Gas Taxes -- Bad Idea

The Historical Role of "Dark Money"

Jon Cassidy, Watchdog.org

If you wanted to keep the black man down, you needed to know who was uppity, whose lawn to burn a cross on, whose church to hit with a firebomb.

You needed names.

In the 1950s, the state of Alabama wanted the names of members belonging to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The NAACP fought harassment and heavy fines all the way to the Supreme Court to defend the right of a private political group to keep its membership information private.

Read more: The Historical Role of "Dark Money"

Cheap Oil -- Cheap Anything -- Happens with Free Markets

The Washington Examiner points out that cheap oil is what happens when the free market is allowed to work. What greater evidence is needed to demonstrate that markets work? What more is needed to show that free markets keep prices low? asks the Washington Examiner. (Is anyone extrapolating the lesson to health care?)

"...OPEC's aim in letting production continue is not to stop the U.S., but to slow its growth, so that oil prices (they hope) will rebound. It's a risky bet. Many shale producers can remain profitable, at least on an operating basis, with oil as low as $40 a barrel, but no oil-dependent OPEC government can balance its budget selling oil at prices anywhere near that low.

Read more: Cheap Oil -- Cheap Anything -- Happens with Free Markets

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