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John Livingston

The Smell of Money

My wife and I passed the Capitol on State Street yesterday on our way up to Table rock to look at the Elk herd wintering on the Boise front. There was little going on at the Capitol inside or outside four days before Inauguration Day. We didn’t see any Elk, but we did see a large open meadow with several steaming piles of Elk dung. Lots of hot steam—no Elk. As the legislative session gets going, maybe a similar trip to the State Capitol next week will look very much like what we saw in the meadow.

I am always optimistic before each legislative session that this one will “be different”. I can promise all my readers that at the end of the session the Lt. Governor, the Governor, the Speaker Pro Temp, and the Speaker of the House will stand before the assembled media in the rotunda to pat each other on their collective backs. The only thing missing will be a fawning Betsy Russell—unless she becomes the new press secretary for the Governor. Thank you, Betsy, for your service not to your readers, but in supporting the political narrative of your publisher. For me this “Sine Die” ritual is exhausting. It takes a lot of energy to fake not being bored!

Today is too early to write about specific legislation, but rather I want to briefly discuss the context by which each piece of legislation should be judged:

  1. Does it help families—education and health care and personal security?
  2. Does it confront corruption in State government? Audits for the Departments of Health and Welfare (DHW) where Medicaid fraud runs rampant, and the Department of Education where the money still doesn’t follow the student.
  3. Does it decrease the size and cost of government? Does it facilitate the symbiotic relationship between lobbyists and government bureaucrats? Do those that have a vested interest in making regulations as complex as possible have more of an influence than everyday citizens? When government employees leave their jobs and bounce back and forth between the private and public sector providing themselves with an ever-increasing access to a higher salary—paid either directly by citizens via taxes or indirectly by citizens with increasing costs for services (rising health insurance premiums for example that help pay $18million/2yr salaries for CEOs of non-profit hospital systems), are they really being servants? Or what about lobbyists who sit on a Governor’s Executive panel and recommend for the implementation and continuation of public health policies that result in increased revenues for the organizations they represent. Legal—probably yes. Corrupt? Ethical?

An agent of government (legislator or member of the executive branch or the bureaucracy) must always be cognizant of the fact that there is an implicit tension in their service. Do you serve your constituents or an industry who may take care of you—lunch today at the Arid Club, or maybe a job or paid entrance to The Governor’s Cup in the years to come? Having a “Citizen’s Legislature” should minimize aberrant “skin in the game” and issues of agency and symmetry—but does it? Maybe it makes it easier for lobbyists to covertly influence the game and alter the rules of engagement. I hope not.

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As I drive by the State Capitol in the weeks to come let’s hope I don’t see any steam rising or must hold my nose. Forty years ago, when my children were young every time, we drove by a feedlot they would yell out gleefully—THE SMELL OF MONEY. In the case of our State government, it is citizens’ money. Let’s hope it is spent wisely and not as Rudyard Kipling warned —”toward promotion and pay”

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4 replies on “The Smell of Money”

What would happen if we just went a year with out any legislation? Or sessions? Is our government operations, state and federal, not able to continue without new laws? Or have we given way to many bureaucrats carte Blanche to run amuck without doing what is best for the peoples money?

All I know is: This is not the Boise, ID I moved into 18 years ago. It has changed little by little until we now have transgenders on floats, our police shuffled around or forced into retirement, and blue states able to do their bidding in our RED state. I thought I had moved away from all that nonsense only to find this state is going in the wrong direction along with our representatives.

If you are disillusioned with what is going on you can become an American on the Land and soil; become an Idaho state citizen and join The Idaho Assembly. https://states.americanstatenationals.org/idaho/

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