Freedom Updates: December 31, 2003

The Colorado Freedom Report:  A libertarian journal of politics and culture.

The Colorado Freedom

Freedom Updates: December 31, 2003

All Freedom Updates by Ari Armstrong unless otherwise noted.

Corporate-Welfare Coffman
Mike Coffman, the state's treasurer likely to run for governor in 2006, just can't get enough of corporate welfare (which should automatically disqualify him for the office of governor).

According to a December 20 article in the Denver Post, "Coffman is proposing to liquidate about $85 million in unclaimed stock certificates and mutual fund accounts and place the proceeds in a trust fund dedicated to the tourism industry. Interest income from the fund would go toward tourism promotion... Coffman said his proposal is intended to supplement the base funding, not replace it."

Another RINO Republican, Al White of Winter Park, fully supports Coffman's corporate-welfare proposal, according to the Post: "It's a wonderful way for tourism to find some minimal amount of permanent funding... This is at least an earmark and a start for that first critical piece of permanent funding that we have not had for a long, long time." The December 29 Rocky Mountain News notes State Senator Jack Taylor (R-Steamboat Springs) also favors Coffman's proposal.

Let us assume for a minute that the state should properly dispose of these unclaimed assets. If that's the case, then the proceeds should not go to benefit one particular industry, but should instead offset general taxes in as equitable a manner as possible. The tourism industry has no legitimate claim to these funds.

But the state should not even have a role here. The Post reports, "The unclaimed property program was created in 1987. It requires banks and other businesses to give assets ranging from stock certificates to checking accounts to jewelry that have been unclaimed for five years to the state treasury." The appropriate policy is to repeal that program and allow businesses to dispose of these resources as they see fit, according to deposit policies set up with clients.

Coffman advocates the forcible redistribution of funds not only to the tourism industry. A December 17 AP article reports, "Under Coffman's plan, proceeds from the elimination of the Certified Capital Company, or CAPCO, program would be redirected to the Cover Colorado program, providing $100 million for Colorado businesses and the [medically] uninsured over the next 10 years." The appropriate policy is simply to "redirect" the "proceeds" back to the people who earned the wealth in the first place.

But Colorado's big-government Republicans will hear nothing of free markets or restrained political power. At the national level, "When Rep. Bob Beauprez used 'gentle urging' to secure a financing program for a Lakewood mall, he also was helping campaign contributors," according to a November 19 article in the Denver Post.

On a brighter note, Republicans Tom Tancredo and Marilyn Musgrave voted against the massive medical entitlements expansion, and at the state level Shawn Mitchell is set run a bill to limit the power of municipalities to transfer private property to other owners by force.

Marijuana Bust for the Ages
An inter-agency drug task force announced the biggest marijuana drug bust of all time. Following up on an anonymous tip, agents from the DEA, FBI, and state and local police agencies worked dogedly for the last three years to make but a single arrest, but an arrest of a perpetrator believed to have produced more drugs than any person on Earth.

"This is the big one -- this should send a message to every marijuana producer in America that this scourge will not be tolerated by the United States government," said DEA Special Agent Lucy Feur.

Feur added, "The suspect is believed to have practically started the marijuana cultivation business. There is scarcely a joint smoked anywhere that cannot in some way be traced back to this alleged mastermind. It's almost as though he just snapped his fingers and brought marijuana springing forth from the Earth and into our nation."

Feur said the captured alleged drug kingpin has thus far refused to cooperate with the authorities, withholding even his real name. This shadowy figure has been known by many names, and practically every witness gave a different description, Feur said, which made tracking him down one of the most demanding tasks in the history of drug enforcement.

"Thankfully, the U.S. government is up to the task," Feur said. "Capturing those responsible for the production of drugs is a central battlefield in the war on terror, and not even the most elusive and powerful players can escape the authority of our security forces," she added.

The as-yet unidentified suspect is believed to be a member of a militia group, as anonymous inside sources report he refuses to acknowledge the jurisdiction of U.S. law.

Feur said, "This is part of a disturbing new trend of extremists who claim there is some higher law than the laws passed by the U.S. Congress, which is after all duly elected democratically by the people. These people don't care about law and order; they want only to sow strife and chaos."

Rumors of the suspect's mental instability have not been confirmed. One source, who spoke only on condition of anonymity, claimed the suspect kept saying that revealing his true name would kill the interrogators. The suspect's taped interview was described as cryptic and possibly delusional rantings. "The suspect kept saying something about camels, needles, and DEA agents -- I didn't know what to make of it," the source said.

Reports that a psychologist will be brought in to evaluate the suspect's competence to stand trial could not be confirmed.

Big Nanny Rises in Silverthorne
According to a December 17 article in Summit Daily, "Despite the new statewide gun control laws, Silverthorne passed a law last week prohibiting civilians from openly carrying guns onto town property." Of course, "Police officers are excluded from the ban." The ban doesn't impact concealed carry. It's unclear whether the ordinance violates state law, which allows open carry but also allows cities to post no-carry zones.

Big Nanny is alive and well in Silverthorne. Besides making fellow citizens less safe by disarming them, some local busy-bodies are also telling bar tenders how to run their businesses. Beverly Gmerek of the Summit Prevention Alliance doesn't like drink specials at bars, and she wants to use local government to force workers at bars and restaurants to be "educated" at special classes. Gmerek told The Vail Daily (November 26, 2003), "It's like when parents tell their children that good grades are important. If the commissioners don't tell you, how do you know how important it is?" Silverthorne requires such classes, the newspaper reports.

According to Gmerek, Big Nanny knows best, and our political rulers should think of us all as their children.

FIJA Efforts
Dan Verniero (Dan56*AT* sent in the following comments on December 18: "Hi Ari, yes, I distribute FIJA brochures and flyers everywhere I go anyway, but because of the Rick Stanley case, I have decided to focus a bit of effort on Adams County. It's a haul for me, as I live on the Western Slope, but some times you gotta DO something. I got about a thousand distributed in Brighton last week, and I'll be heading over there as much as I can during January and early February to spread as much of this information around as I can. I am no coordinator, and also because of the geography, I am suggesting that anyone who wants to help in this effort download the masters from the FIJA website, get them printed at their favorite local printshop, and have fun distributing them. I will keep track of where people distribute if they'll let me know, that way we can avoid duplicating efforts. I find that telling people that the Supremes aren't the final word on Constitutionality, juries are, well, it boggles their minds, and really opens some eyes. People everywhere have been very receptive to this info, and I've had a lot of fun handing it out."

FasTracks to Socialized Transit
The Regional Transportation District (RTD) wants to spend $4.7 billion (with a "B") of other people's money on a socialized transit system. Colorado voters in the district will likely decide the matter in the 2004 elections. Let's hope Jon Caldara and Randal O'Toole can successfully lead the opposition.

According to a December 26 article in the Rocky Mountain News, "A poll conducted for the Rocky Mountain News and News 4 on Dec. 15 and 16 found that the... FasTracks ballot measure is favored by 63 percent of registered Denver metro voters and opposed by 33 percent." As Caldara points out in the article, such proposals with large initial support often fail by the time of the vote.

This poll supports the view that somewhere between a fourth and a third of Colorado voters are vaguely libertarian. "Twenty-one percent said they would definitely vote no and 12 percent would probably vote no."

The poll includes some other interesting tidbits. "There was stronger support for FasTracks among college-educated respondents, at 67 percent, than among non-college graduates, at 57 percent support." Perhaps this has something to do with the pervasive socialist doctrines promoted on many campus. But I think there's a better explanation. "Forty-nine percent of minority respondents said they would vote yes, and 41 percent would vote no," the poll relates. It's reasonable to assume college graduates have, on average, higher incomes, whereas minority voters have, on average, lower incomes. FasTracks would be funded through a sales tax, which means it is non-progressive or even regressive, which means it would hurt the poor the most. Thus, it isn't surprising that less-wealthy people are less supportive of the proposal. (A poll that tracked income levels specifically would be interesting.)

Interestingly, socialized transit is supposed to help poor people the most, as such transit is greatly subsidized. Yet wealthy people are more likely to have reliable automobiles and less likely to use transit. This is illustrated by a couple quotes from the paper. "Danielle Schloffman of Thornton, a self-described independent," said, "I'm for anything that would improve the situation... Traffic is just getting worse and worse. It's frustrating. Even on weekends, it's bad. I think there should be a mix of highway and transit. My friends from Highlands Ranch who have taken light rail love it." Apparently, she herself doesn't use socialized transit: she just wants other people to use it. Similarly, "Dan Peters, an Aurora Republican questioned in the poll, said he would vote yes even though he won't use transit. 'At some point, you can only get so many cars on the road,' he said."

Yes, the roads are socialized already, and that is the primary reason they operate inefficiently. Nevertheless, at least roads are mostly self-supporting, with the gasoline tax serving as a proxy for a user's fee. The best solution would be to get the government totally out of the transportation business, and allow alternatives (roads, rails, etc.) to compete without subsidy. Short of that, at least dollars go a lot farther in terms of improving transportation when spent on socialized roads.

The Colorado Freedom