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Larson: The great cultural betrayal

Progressivism is the worst cultural thief ever.

Everywhere it goes, it stakes a claim. It takes words, and kipes entire genres of literature. It delineates bathroom use, swallows up school lunchroom autonomy, evaporates our history, and obliterates respect for innocent life. And now it’s hijacked our football teams and kidnapped our comedians. They are gonna take it all if we don’t stop them.

We have seen ESPN’s ratings tank in the course of a few months — most dramatically in recent weeks — after top brass at the network have dressed it up in drag to look like MSNBC with a sports bra. Compounded by an equally unwelcome injection of divisive race politics sparked by Colin Kaepernick’s knee, our professional sports infrastructure — traditionally a crucial portion of our escapist entertainment — no longer serves its purpose and is losing its luster.

It isn‘t just sports, as we all know. Superstar actress Jennifer Lawrence recently insinuated President Trump was to blame for Hurricane Harvey. I had no idea she was a climatologist. Gifted comedian Jimmy Kimmel is honeymooning as an unsolicited health care policy consultant, somehow leveraging audience sympathy for his sick child into a dangerous faux credibility on the issue.

America has been betrayed, because our secular avenues of refuge have been infiltrated by the very influences entertainment was designed to help us evade. Professional sports, late night comedians and other entertainers are simply no longer serving their original purpose: to take us to a place where we can put down our weapons and relax, even laugh, for a while. It’s hard to know where to go any more for a laugh without a lecture, or a game without a guilt trip.

All of this is not to say entertainers and athletes have no role in the political realm, but there’s a certain level of gravitas that must be earned, but it takes time and sustained effort. Richard Gere’s true activism in Tibet has earned him legitimate respect, similar to Angelina Jolie’s work on behalf of refugees. Even if I might disagree with them on the solutions to these real problems, I respect the devotion they exhibit. They’re not afraid to get their hands dirty. Taking a knee during the national anthem and wearing socks depicting police as pigs, then protesting the consequences? Or taking cheap nightly pot-shots at conservatives on a Hollywood stage? Well — sorry for the crass reference — that just pisses people off and builds nothing but angst.

This drive-by activism is hollow, but it’s worse than that. It’s a betrayal. We elevated them on one premise, and they ditched us for another. I want the old Jimmy Kimmel back. You know, the impossible-to-dislike Jimmy who told political jokes that poke, not bludgeon.

Reader Comment: Crapo: Time for comprehensive tax reform

Serious work on federal tax reform is encouraging, as the best way to strengthen families, support small business growth and job creation and boost our national economy is to enact pro-growth comprehensive tax reform. The tax code is weighing us down and in need of comprehensive reform to lower the burden on all Americans and make the tax code fairer, flatter and simpler.

We would be hard pressed to create a tax code that is more complex, more costly to comply with, unfair and anti-competitive for American businesses than what we have right now:

Complexity — The Taxpayer Advocate Service, an independent office within the Internal Revenue Service with the job of working to ensure that taxpayers know their rights, is required to submit a report to Congress annually that identifies the most serious problems encountered by taxpayers. In its 2016 report, TAS called on Congress to vastly simplify the tax code, finding that, “Congress has made more than 5,900 changes to the code — an average of more than one a day — just since 2001. The compliance burdens the tax code imposes on taxpayers and the IRS alike are overwhelming.”

Compliance Difficulty — The complexity is costing Americans considerable time and money in addition to their tax burden just to try to ensure that they file correctly. TAS reported that taxpayers and businesses spend about six billion hours a year complying with tax-filing requirements. TAS found that the complexity of the tax code is causing more than half of individual taxpayers to pay professionals to prepare their returns, and 40 percent of taxpayers use tax software.

Unfair and Anti-competitive — While virtually every other developed country has modernized its corporate tax code in the last 20 years in order to make their businesses more competitive in the international marketplace, the U.S. has stood back and allowed its corporate tax rate to become the highest rate in the industrialized world. Growing evidence shows this should not be considered just a problem for big corporations. Economic research and modeling, including by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation, has begun to conclude that a much greater share than previously thought of the burden of high corporate tax rates is borne not by the companies and their shareholders, but by the American workers in those companies, who face lower wages and fewer job opportunities as a result of higher corporate taxes. The CBO has cited analysis showing that workers carry as much as 70 percent of the burden of the corporate income tax.

To do tax reform right, we must go beyond the simple traditional tax cut debate and instead comprehensively address each one of these problems within the tax code. For years, I have worked, through my committee assignments, the Bowles Simpson Commission and the Gang of Six, to craft solutions for comprehensive tax reform. While lowering rates is important, it must not be the sole focus for Congress in its tax reform deliberations, and must not be the sole measure taxpayers use for evaluating what tax reform means for them. We must address each one of these problems with the current tax code and present to the American taxpayer a reformed code with an emphasis on lower rates, broadening the base, reducing complexity and eliminating anti-competitive provisions.

I will continue to press for these objectives as tax reform in debated in Congress. Tax policy should not be so complex that it requires such strain and expense on Americans. This is your money, and you deserve to have a clear tax code that respects that.Mike Crapo, a Republican, represents Idaho in the U.S. Senate.

Letter: Social media use creates groupthink as reality

As a retired director for the world's largest defense contractor, I spent over 30 years in support of our nation's security. I am proud of that. Much of my agency work was information security and vulnerability analysis. Recent efforts have been focused on social media security, or rather lack thereof. I do not use social media accounts such as Facebook, Twitter or others. The reason being, these apps provide zero security for real-time usage and are easily used for propaganda and infiltration into personal accounts for the purpose of exfiltration. That is, getting whatever info is necessary to inflict your personal vulnerability.

This is not paranoia; it is real. There is no room for "truth" on the internet, because fallacious facts are what you will be given based upon your profile. And, have no doubt, your profile is known. My advice is do not use social media. There are other ways to accomplish your needs. Twin Falls has now made the national news due to Russian targeting, Breitbart (scum) and conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones and Steve Bannon (scum and scum). Get a life. Delete social media apps on your phone and computers or you will be identified.

Keith Winnovich


A Republican Perspective: JFAC leads budget oversight

I have had the privilege of serving on the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee since my second term as your representative. JFAC meets each morning during the legislative session in the Capitol’s most beautiful rooms between the House and Senate chambers, originally the chamber of the Supreme Court. The rooms were restored to their historic grandeur during the Capitol renovation with two important exceptions. We no longer use gas lamps and happily for all citizens, PBS now streams all the legislative action into our homes.

JFAC has the responsibility to review spending requests and balance the abundance of these requests against available revenues. When the gavel drops on the yearly legislative session, about 350 bills will be passed by both houses. JFAC accounts for a little over 100 of these appropriation bills.

Ten members from each the House and Senate sit on JFAC. This is unique to our state, allowing the House and Senate to jointly hear all parts of the JFAC budget.

State agencies must submit their budget requests to the governor by Sept. 1 and present their requests to JFAC in October. The governor’s staff works closely with our staff to assure our committee has all the important background information needed on every bill under consideration. We’re proud of our bright and dedicated JFAC support staff that then compiles all appropriation requests into a budget book of about 850 pages addressing everything about the use of tax revenues.

Before a final decision is made by JFAC, there is tremendous input and discussion during public hearings and meetings with chairmen from legislative policy committees.

While it’s challenging to look 18 months into the future and match revenues with spending, it could be more expensive to our citizens to get it wrong! Fortunately, we have a legislative committee that looks at the economy and gives us an estimate of long-term revenue. The Idaho Constitution is the guiding star that keeps us from spending monies we do not have.

Value to the taxpayer is the overriding goal of each budget. The $2-plus billion budget for public schools receives the same attention as a request to replace a small agency’s aging automobile. Locally, the important College of Southern Idaho budget is in the capable hands of Janet Jessup, a Jerome graduate. We are blessed that she has returned to Idaho after working for the state of South Dakota.

Some years ago, the state prison requested a very large riding mower. My first thought was of all those locked behind bars; some might benefit from some fresh air and exercise with a small push mower like the one I use. The riding mower request was not supported. A year or so later, the prison requested a new locking system. Locks in one building were unexpectedly opening and closing. Approving that request was an easy decision.

Idaho has seen tremendous growth in valid demands including the need for more state police to improve safety, and more and better paid teachers and related equipment for our schools.

There is always concern to have the resources available to cover unplanned needs like forest fire costs — which costs I have seen can range from $6 million and $60 million. This past severe winter created emergency situations in many counties. These unknowns are why it’s always prudent to have money in savings. This past session, we were fortunate to have state revenues exceed expectation. With the guidance of the House speaker, Senate pro tem, and Gov. Otter, we were able to fund $50 million to the Division of Disaster Control to cover emergency flooding expenses.

Finally, it is always reasonable to keep money in your pocket. Hence, we also carefully look at proposed adjustments to the tax structure.

Those good Senate and House members who are willing to work on JFAC not only enjoy working in a beautiful room, they never forget whose important dollars they are spending. Yours.