Election Reflection 2006

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Election Reflection 2006

by Ari Armstrong, November 9, 2006

Beauprez and Referendum C

The standard big-paper account is that Beauprez hurt himself by opposing the net tax hike Referendum C along with the "business wing" of the Republican Party. That account is bogus. (Various accounts have included other defensible claims.)

The papers have relentlessly pushed the idea that "business leaders" favored the tax measure, but apparently these papers are referring to loudmouthed chambers-of-commerce bureaucratic ass-kissers who often grovel for political favors and handouts. If there has been a survey of actual business owners in this state regarding their views of Referendum C, I have not seen it. But, if such a survey were conducted, obviously it would show mixed results. I wager that a majority of actual business owners in Colorado voted against Referendum C. At least a large minority did. But this is of little interest to the mighty propaganda machines.

Does anyone remember that 48 percent of the voters disapproved of the measure, despite unrelenting "establishment" hysteria about it? Even though the total budget and the general fund would have steadily increased even without Referendum C, the proponents of the measure routinely referred to these budget increases as "budget cuts." According to an October 14, 2005, story in the Rocky Mountain News, 66 percent of people who responded to a poll said it's "likely" that "[g]overnment will waste much of the money." And, since Referendum C was passed, the anticipated size of its loot has ballooned.

Obviously, Beauprez did not lose the election because he sided with 48 percent of the voters on this issue.

However, the fact that Bill Owens and various other Republicans pushed mightily for Referendum C, and the fact that nobody actually believes that Beauprez is fiscally conservative, did undermine Beauprez's credibility on the matter.

Why did he lose? Here's a brief recap of the most important reasons:

* People are rightly outraged by the Republican congress's spending spree and gross irresponsibility. Congressman Beauprez was easy pickings.

* People are rightly outraged that the Republicans have botched the "war" in Iraq.

* Beauprez and his running mate continually pushed religion into politics.

* Beauprez faced a nasty primary in which his Republican opponent came up with the smear, "Both Ways Bob." Ritter skated through (ironically in part because nobody else wanted to face Beauprez).

* Beauprez alienated many business owners and skeptics of direct democracy by endorsing Amendment 38. Then he alienated the Doug-Bruce faction of the GOP by coming out against it. And he alienated independents by flip-flopping apparently for political reasons.

* Beauprez alienated African Americans and independents by botching a statistic about abortion.

* Beauprez alienated the liberty contingent of the GOP with his pork-barrel spending and gun-control efforts. This cost Beauprez money, volunteer effort, and votes.

* Beauprez didn't seriously attack Bill Ritter on any issue that matters.

* Beauprez's attempts to attack Ritter's record as a prosecutor totally backfired.

* The GOP is splitting at the seams, as detailed in Ryan Sager's book, The Elephant in the Room. Beauprez tried to appeal to the religious right and ended up alienating the limited-government faction. Yet an article for the November 9 Rocky Mountain News by Chris Barge and Lynn Bartels pretends that the fight is between "divisive candidates" and the "political center." Beauprez represented the union between centrist pragmatism and right-wing religion, and that's a major reason he got beat so badly.

* The Republican running for Beauprez's seat, Rick O'Donnell, advocated involuntary servitude for male youth, and he totally botched the issue of Social Security. He managed to pull only 42 percent of the vote, and he probably hurt Beauprez.

* Bill Ritter ran a positive, optimistic, sound campaign. All he had to do was sit back and watch Beauprez self-destruct.

And yet a headline for Alan Gathright's November 9 story for the Rocky Mountain News reads, "Ritter rode the Ref C turnpike to victory." There's a grain of truth to the claim, but no more than that. But attributing Ritter's win to Referendum C is easier than dealing with reality, and more in line with the papers' prejudices.

Minimum Rights

The biggest disappointment of the election is the passage of the rights-violating minimum-wage law. With most of the votes counted, the measure passed with 53 percent of the vote. People have the right to contract free from state coercion. Wage controls violate the rights of employers and employees, and therefore they distort the market and destroy wealth.

True, business interests who opposed the measure outspent the proponents. But the efforts of the organized opposition group were undercut by two facts. First, the group was seen as financially interested. Second, the group made weak arguments against the measure. For example, in a September 23 column for the Rocky Mountain News, Bill Artist, "campaign director of Respect Colorado's Constitution," stated, "Amendment 42 is the wrong way to raise the minimum wage." In other words, the campaign allegedly against the minimum wage granted its moral and practical validity and argued about less-important details. That's a sure way to lose.

The principled opponents to the minimum-wage hike offered too little, too late. I've written about the issue several times. The Independence Institute published op-eds by Lin Zinser and me, and it also published papers by Linda Gorman and David Neumark (as borrowed from the Show-Me Institute). But none of this material had a very large audience, and little effort was made to create a larger audience.

Meanwhile, the absurdly named The Bell Policy Center published its anti-rights screed on August 29, and of course the "study" was covered by some as though it were something more than amateurish, pseudo-economic drivel.

Nevertheless, the measure was originally polling at 74 percent (according to a September 20 story in the Rocky Mountain News), so opponents shaved off over 20 percentage points. Yet that's little consolation as Colorado turns into California Light.

Zinser's piece is reproduced below.

Other Issues

I always thought that if proponents of Amendment 44, regarding marijuana, got votes into the 40 percent range, they'd be doing well. The measure earned just over 40 percent. For such a controversial measure with universal "establishment" opposition, that represents a strong step toward meaningful reform. (Read Mike Krause's op-ed below.)

After all the bluster in the media, Marilyn Musgrave beat her Democratic challenger without much trouble, despite a strong showing by a Reform Party candidate (who got over 11 percent). And Doug Lamborn trounced the Democrat in his race. With O'Donnell's loss, Colorado's congressional delegation turns 4-3 Democrat.

Ken Gordon ran a great campaign for secretary of state, but he got beat in part because Mike Coffman has earned enormous positive publicity, and in part because Gordon is so hard-core leftist. Gordon is a particularly vehement enemy of our fundamental human right of self-defense.

The only other real surprise is that Mark Hillman (barely) lost his race for state treasurer. I figured he was safer than John Suthers, who easily won his race for attorney general despite a relatively strong showing by the Libertarian (who got over 4 percent).

Conclusions

The passage of the wage control measure is a clear loss for liberty. Hopefully our side will get motivated to repeal it. Maybe the Republicans will learn that pandering to the religious right and alienating the advocates of individual rights will cost them elections. If Colorado Democrats are smart, they'll lay off of socialized medicine and gun control -- the next election is only two years away.

Minimum wage laws violate morality and rights

November 2, 2006

By Lin Zinser

Published by the Independence Institute.

While most economists agree that minimum wage laws cause unemployment and other economic ills, most ignore the more fundamental question: is a government-mandated minimum wage moral? Minimum wage laws are immoral because they violate the rights of both employers and employees to contract freely, and so can make criminals of decent, honest workers and employers.

For example, consider a just-married 18-year-old high school graduate with no office skills. After working as a part-time waitress in high school, she held a job at a factory, where she was laid off before developing any real skills. She meets a businessman ("Mr. B"), who employs two workers, one of whom is quitting. Mr. B needs to hire somebody, but he can't afford to pay an unskilled worker the legal minimum wage.

The young woman wants to learn office skills because she does not want to work in factories or as a waitress. She and Mr. B discuss the situation and agree that he will pay two-thirds of the minimum wage, and then renegotiate if she learns the necessary skills. Both understand that what they are doing is illegal, and that he is the one most at risk.

Immediately, the young woman realizes she is not worth even the reduced wage to her employer. At first she spends all day to complete a task she later learns to do in a couple of hours. On many days, she fills more than one trash container with her mistakes.

She's grateful that he offered her a chance to learn while getting paid. It never crosses her mind that Mr. B is somehow taking advantage of her; sometimes she thinks she's taking advantage of him. She certainly never thinks of Mr. B as a criminal. She would never dream of turning him over to the authorities, thereby subjecting him to legal penalties.

Over time, as she gains skills, Mr. B pays her more money. When she quits three years later to attend college, her wages are more than double the legal minimum, and she has learned valuable office skills. Mr. B hired her because he saw potential, but he could not afford to pay the legal minimum wage for that potential. Had she not been eager and willing to take less, he would have hired someone else with skills that could produce value immediately for the legal wage. The young woman was able to successfully compete with higher-skilled workers only by accepting a lower wage.

This is not just some fairy tale -- I was that 18 year-old unskilled newlywed. After that job, I worked in other offices and eventually completed college and law school. Taking that job for less than minimum wage was a critical point in my life. After I began working as a lawyer, I wrote to Mr. B to thank him for that first opportunity. He was willing to give me a chance to prove my worth. I earned that money. I was conspirator to his crime.

Had I been able to work for nothing, there would have been no crime. I would have been an intern -- working to learn a skill -- or a volunteer donating time in return for non-financial benefit. Employers are allowed to take on employees if they pay them nothing. But because I needed income and was willing to take less than the arbitrary amount set by law, Mr. B and I engaged in an illegal act. Had somebody turned him in for allegedly "exploiting" me, Mr. B would have paid dearly, all for his willingness to pay someone to learn a skill.

A minimum wage is arbitrary. Today, Colorado's minimum wage, as under federal law, is $5.15 for most occupations. If Amendment 42 passes, the legal minimum wage becomes $6.85 on January 1, 2007, an increase of 33 percent, with annual increases. And this becomes part of the state's Constitution.

This Amendment allows voters to forcibly interfere in the employer-employee agreement, which violates the rights to contract. Wages that are legal today will be illegal on January 1.

Providing income to someone willing to work to learn a skill or trade is a decent, moral act. A minimum wage can make that mutually-beneficial act illegal. Such wage controls override the free agreements between employer and employee with arbitrary political force.

Amendment 44: Is treating grown-ups like children really a sound drug policy?

November 2, 2006

By Mike Krause

Published by the Independence Institute.

The strategy of opponents to Amendment 44, which would re-legalize marijuana possession for adults in Colorado, goes something like this: In order to protect children from marijuana, we must also treat grown-ups like children.

Writing in opposition to 44, Colorado Attorney General John Suthers makes the case for the state as a disciplinarian father figure to everyone, "We need to send a very clear message to our children, and that message is that the only safe alternative to intoxication is sobriety."

Actually, allowing adults to legally make personal lifestyle choices (even politically unpopular choices such as marijuana use) could go along way to lending some much needed credibility to anti-drug messages aimed at adolescents.

According to Mr. Suthers, "Between 1992 and 2002, there was a 162 percent increase in treatment admissions for marijuana use as the primary substance of abuse. Today, 62 percent of teens in drug treatment are there for marijuana use."

Yet a closer look at the data shows that the increase in treatment admissions may have more to do with the government's obsession with arresting people for marijuana than any actual increase in problem use among teenagers and young adults.

The recent book, An Analytical Assessment of U.S. Drug Policy, published by the Washington, D.C.-based American Enterprise Institute, analyzed data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) from 2002 and found that "although marijuana is a much smaller contributor to crime than heroin or crack, 58 percent of treatment admissions where the primary drug of abuse was marijuana were criminal justice system referrals."

At the same time, only 13 percent of heroin admissions and 26 percent of crack admissions were criminal justice system referrals.

According to the AEI authors, "The likely explanation for the higher marijuana figure is the large number of young individuals who enter treatment programs as part of a plea bargain or pretrial negotiations. The unfortunate irony is that many of these individuals do not have serious drug problems; at the same time, arrestees who abuse cocaine and heroin are less likely to be referred to treatment."

So the message to children is that even after becoming young adults, you may be needlessly forced into treatment for marijuana in order to avoid other criminal penalties.

In the 2006 report, "Wasted in the War on Drugs" the Washington, D.C.-based Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) note that: "Although numerous studies have revealed that marijuana does not serve as a gateway drug, it continues to be the primary focus of the federal government's war on drugs."

The report continues that the federal Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) has spent hundreds millions of tax dollars on commercials during prime time television (including the Super Bowl) that inaccurately claim, among other things, that marijuana use directly funds terrorism and leads to unwanted pregnancies.

A 2006 analysis of the ONDCP media campaign by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found, among other things, that there is "credible evidence that the campaign was not effective in reducing youth drug use, either during the entire period of the campaign or during the period from 2002-2004 when the campaign was redirected and focused on marijuana use." The GAO report specifically notes that "exposure to the advertisements generally did not lead youth to disapprove of using drugs and may have promoted perceptions among exposed youth that others' drug use was normal."

The CAGW study points to a 2006 Texas State University survey that found 18-19 year old college students were actually more likely to try marijuana after viewing the ONDCP ads.

The AEI authors make the point that government anti-drug programs might be more believable to adolescents following marijuana de-criminalization for adults, "These programs could make a clearer distinction between marijuana and other drugs in terms of their dangers and thus increase the credibility of their messages about more dangerous drugs."

Treating children like children is fine, but children are also adults-in-training who will someday expect their government to treat them as such. The opponents of Amendment 44 seem to have forgotten this.

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