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Brugger: Resist partisanship and propaganda

I have been having an interesting discussion on Idaho Politics Weekly with Secretary of State Denney and some others. It concerns the Trump administration’s request for a goldmine of voter data to study in D.C. to ferret out the truth (or fiction) of “massive” voter fraud. I suggested that his vigorous defense of his actions as having nothing at all to do with the Idaho Democrat’s suit to block giving out the information was disingenuous. He was anxious to prove me wrong, and posted another op-ed on the subject Monday.

The battle of the Republicans to repeal or take ownership (replace) of the Affordable Care Act has also been interesting. Polling data since the attempt has substantially shown that a near majority of Americans do not want it repealed at all. If given an outline of the act without the label Obamacare, an overwhelming majority of Americans favored it. Senate Republicans, including Mike Crapo, who has 5-plus years until his next election challenge, are distancing themselves from Democrats who want to fix the ACA’s problems. The Senate was designed to be the chamber where partisanship is toned down.

It is very discouraging to see the amount of partisanship in Congress. The executive branch was designed to be the most partisan branch of government. Congress was designed to be the place where local interests melded into national policy. The Supreme Court was designed to ensure that government didn’t stray from the intent of the founding documents. It is my belief that the intentional use of propaganda techniques has led to our governmental impasse. The Idaho Republicans are not only partisan, they are engaged with ideological infighting.

In Europe and elsewhere, there are multiple parties. They, more or less, represent the passionate interests of some of the electorate. In a parliamentary system, they form alliances to appoint a prime minister who then forms a cabinet. The cabinet, by agreement, includes leaders of the various interest groups that formed the government. In France, the president is elected by a popular vote that usually includes endorsement by the various smaller parties. We are stuck with two parties to fit all.

The election of Ronald Reagan and the rise of the Moral Majority seemed to me to usher in the beginning of extreme partisanship. The triumph of conservative ideas embodied by Reagan added to the pushback on the easing of social strictures which had been thought to be “God given” started a new gathering of interests into the Republican party. This was not really an unheard-of coalescence of ideas in one party, but then the propaganda started.

Rush Limbaugh and his imitators started dividing the political world into the wacky, weirdo, hypocritical liberals and libitards against the conservatives. He made his fame by attacking Bill Clinton at every chance, and along the way, he savaged Hillary with misogynist language. In fact, every Democratic woman received some type of put down. The most frequent was “femiNazi.” Rush continued the same propaganda tactics when George Bush was elected. However, by the end of the Bush presidency and through the Obama years, the propaganda became so perverse that moderate Republicans, including Bush allies, put themselves at great distance.

Social media has scaled up the spread of propaganda. It is now possible for a propagandist to send it only to people who will be excited enough by the information to share it with their world. This leads to the “bubble effect.” That is taking in only the new ideas that reinforce already-held beliefs. It has given both sides a new label to use to demean an opponent. Sadly, some Democrats have become subverted by the allure of steadfast “truth,” which is only propaganda.

If we are to save the democracy we all love, we must learn to recognize the information provided to us using the techniques of propaganda. Google them. Propaganda presents itself as justification to support a cause, narrative or group against another cause, narrative or group. Unfortunately, some of it is portrayed as science.

We cannot all become experts on everything. We need to identify multiple sources of information we can trust. Our major duty as participants in our extraordinary form of government is to not become a victim of those who would force us into totalitarian thought.

Letter: Real milk matters

You walk into the grocery store hoping to accomplish a simple task, buying a gallon of milk. You drive your cart to the dairy section and reach into the fridge. In front of you stands a vast array of "milks:" soy milk, almond milk, rice milk, cashew milk! Certainly all of these products aren't dairy, so why are they being labeled as milk?

The FDA’s legal definition of “milk” explains that it is a product which comes “from a mammary gland.” When consumers see this label on beverages that are made from plants, it causes confusion. Many consumers believe that plant-based products offer equivalent nutrition to real milk, which is not true. Real milk contains eight grams of protein per eight-ounce serving, while almond or rice milk only has one gram.

Beyond the nutritional concerns, plant-based milks are causing economic problems for the dairy industry. U.S. dairy milk sales decreased 7 percent in 2015 to $17.8 billion. U.S. sales of non-dairy milks continue to grow strongly, gaining 9 percent in 2015 to $1.9 billion.

The Defending Against Imitators of Yogurt, milk, and cheese to Promote Regular Intake of Dairy Everyday Act (DAIRY PRIDE Act) is a bill co-sponsored by Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and Jim Risch, R-Idaho. The bill has been introduced in the Senate, read twice, and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. Its purpose is to enforce the proper labeling of plant-based products. Plant-based products are not bad, their labeling is simply confusing.

The DAIRY PRIDE Act would assess consequences against the manufacturers of these misbranded products. The mislabeled plant-based beverages that are taking up space in the dairy section are misleading consumers and are harmful to the dairy industry. Real milk matters. Support DAIRY PRIDE.

Kaitlin Mirkin


Other View: Trump signs on to a dead-end immigration proposal

The following editorial appears on Bloomberg View:

Leave aside the other features of the immigration-reform proposal President Donald Trump endorsed on Wednesday and focus on its main idea: Reducing immigration by half over a decade. It’s the wrong goal, and it subverts the rest of the plan.

There’s no doubt the U.S. immigration system is broken — or that a shift to a merit-based immigration system, which the proposal advocates, is long overdue. But admitting far fewer immigrants would do enormous damage to the U.S. economy and the federal government’s fiscal stability.

The legislation Trump embraced, proposed by Republican Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia, would not increase skills-based immigration. Indeed, the number of skilled immigrants granted legal residency annually would remain roughly what it is now, 140,000, while family visas would be slashed and the 50,000 so-called diversity visas (for applicants from countries that are otherwise underrepresented) would be eliminated altogether.

With typical hyperbole, Trump said the new system “will reduce poverty, increase wages and save taxpayers billions and billions of dollars.” How exactly this would happen is something of a mystery. Perhaps he’s referring to the possibility that the most unskilled native workers might command modestly higher wages.

The sharp reduction in immigrant workers in the years ahead would also reduce tax receipts for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, the tripod supporting the nation’s rapidly aging baby boomers — 10,000 of whom retire daily. Immigrants paid about $328 billion in taxes in 2014, according to one estimate.

In effect, the plan would take the demographic headwinds the U.S. faces already and transform them into a gale.

To counter those winds, the nation needs higher productivity. As it happens, one way to boost productivity is to welcome skilled immigrants. On average, every foreign-born student who gets a master’s degree in a U.S. university and works in science, technology, engineering or math creates 2 1/2 American jobs. Almost 6 million people work at immigrant-owned companies in the U.S.

Trump claims to admire the immigration systems of Canada and Australia, and both are good role models. But those nations also admit far more immigrants, as a percentage of population, than the U.S. does. This plan is not a skills-based system akin to Australia and Canada. What the president and senators are proposing is a dead end.