Around Colorado: March 10, 2009

Massachusetts Again

Apparently the advocates of socialized medicine will never give up, no matter how many times a variant of their schemes fails, no matter how many times their premises are defeated.

Michael Salem, president and CEO of National Jewish Health, argues — no “argues” is not quite the right word, since he doesn’t actually offer any argument — that “Colorado should look at various models (such as Massachusetts)” in designing political controls of medicine.

To learn why that would be a disaster, and why we need liberty in medicine rather than more political controls, read the article of Paul Hsieh, MD, “Mandatory Health Insurance: Wrong for Massachusetts, Wrong for America.”

Brian Schwartz also has out a good op-ed on health policy, published by Colorado Daily.

Keep Electoral College

Here’s another one for the “Why Are We Still Talking About This” file: “If lawmakers ultimately approve House Bill 1299, Colorado will join a still-small coalition of states that vow to cast their electoral votes for the presidential candidate who wins the most votes nationwide, regardless of whether that candidate won in their state.”

I’ve explained over and again why doing away with the electoral college would be very stupid and bad for Colorado.

Unfortunately, the Denver Post has sacrificed clarity for cuteness with its headline: “Bill ‘popular’ enough to get 1st panel’s OK.” Very funny word play; I’m rolling. Nevertheless, the measure lost in a popular vote in 2004 by nearly two to one.

I am tempted to mention how idiotic the Democrats are for pushing this sort of nonsense, but then I remember the Republicans…

Keep Asset Forfeiture Reforms

I’ve collected some of the key information about a bill that would gut the asset forfeiture reforms of 2002. (See also the update.)

Now Ed Quillen of the Denver Post has weighed in:

[T]he government could also attempt to take the house in civil court… even if [the criminal suspect] was acquitted. That’s “civil asset forfeiture.” …

Obviously, this procedure is ripe for abuse, and in 2002 Colorado adopted a law to prevent such abuses. It requires a criminal conviction before forfeiture, and protects innocent property owners whose tenants commit crimes. It requires forfeiture proceeds to go through the regular budget process, rather than to the policing agency. It has reporting requirements.

In other words, our current law allows asset forfeiture as a legitimate tool of law enforcement, but makes the process fair and open.

But apparently, it doesn’t bring in enough money, and thus House Bill 1238, sponsored by Joe Rice, a Littleton Democrat, would repeal the requirement for a conviction as well as the reporting requirement. In other words, it allows cops to seize property on mere suspicion and auction it off, with a big chunk of the profits going to the “seizing agency.”

Hey, why pay taxes to support police departments when they can finance themselves this way? And why bother with the burdens of convicting someone in criminal court when you can just grab his assets through a civil procedure, where there’s no right to counsel and no protection against self-incrimination?

Applied vigorously, HB 1238 could enhance revenues without raising taxes, and I can’t think of any other reason that this legislature would even consider such an assault on a quaint, old-fashioned concept like “No person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”

Jerry Kopel has also blasted the measure in an article for the Pueblo Chieftain: “We should not go back to a system that made police and district attorneys look like pirates out for loot instead of providing enforcement of criminal justice standards.”

Energy Crisis Looms

The Obama administration, along with Democratic leaders in Colorado, seem determined to forcibly restrict the production of real energy (coal, oil, natural gas) while lathering fantasy energy (windmills, solar panels) with corporate welfare. If these trends continue, the result will be phenomenally more expensive energy for our homes and cars and a “fantasy energy economy” essentially controlled by politicians. (I’m all for alternative sources of energy, provided that people adopt them voluntarily in a free market.)

Nancy Lofholm begins her recent article for The Denver Post: “The number of rigs drilling for natural gas and oil in Colorado has plunged 46 percent in the past year — one of the steepest declines in the country.” Obviously broader economic trends are a factor.

Meanwhile, Vincent Carroll points out, “At the very moment Obama is poised to direct waves of subsidies into forms of renewable energy that account for a minuscule slice of the nation’s electricity, he would strip oil and natural gas producers of incentives to drill.”

But, again, a huge part of the problem is that the federal and state governments own most of the land from which energy is drawn. And so decisions are made not by private land holders, environmental groups that buy up conservation lands, and civil courts defending real property rights: decisions are made by politicians and bureaucrats.

The Denver Business Journal reports:

Colorado lawmakers Friday heard testimony on proposed oil and gas rules that energy leaders say are turning the screws on one of Colorado’s largest industries.

The regulations are intended to reduce the environmental impact from drilling by requiring oil and gas operators to keep compliance checklists and confer with the Colorado Division of Wildlife on minimizing the effect of drilling on wildlife. The regulations also set stricter standards on crude oil storage.

On a free market, land owners would have the incentive to balance land uses. Typically oil firms would look for side revenues from recreational use, and environmental groups would look for side revenues from energy production. But today we have a system in which wildlife rules are twisted to environmental ends in order to force down energy production.

Ah, but might not the environmental rules make Colorado more desirable for tourists? Sure, we’ll make up the revenues by catering to hunters and the like. Right. Leaving aside the fact that there’s limited inherent conflict between energy production and recreation use. Of course, if people can’t afford to travel here due to high energy prices…

End Beer Protectionism

As I’ve argued, current law that restricts grocery store sales of beer are protectionist, and they are wrong. But now the “Baptists” have trotted out another ludicrous argument for protectionism:

One contention they have is that the bill would allow grocery store workers and convenience store workers who are under the age of 21 to be able to sell full-strength beer.

Clerks at liquor stores must be at least 21, they point out.

“The bill weakens rules aimed at keeping alcohol out of the hands of underage drinkers,” said Sen. Lois Tochtrop, an Adams County Democrat.

“This will double the number of outlets selling full strength beer,” said Kory Nelson, a Denver city attorney who prosecutes stores that sell to underage customers. Emphasizing that he was speaking only for himself, he said in the press release: “There will be beer sliding out the back door and slipping through the cash registers. It will mean kids selling beer to kids.”

I cannot offer the most apt description of these protectionist claims, as I have a policy against swearing. So let me say only that the cited arguments are stupid.

Grocery stores already sell 3.2 beer; why would sales of other types of beer pose any greater problems? Other states already allow grocery store sales, and apparently the sky has not fallen there.

Nelson’s argument seems to be that grocery store employees will steal beer from the stores in order to sell it black market. And yet, for some reason, grocery stores are willing to take that risk, perhaps because they realize that Nelson’s claims are moronic. What a stooge.

Grocery store employees are just as likely to steal 3.2 beer, cigarettes, and cold medicine (which can be used to produce methamphetamine). Yet we don’t outlaw grocery store sales of those items.

I agree that the government plays a legitimate role in keeping stores from selling certain dangerous items to minors, on the grounds that minors are still under the care of a guardian and have not acquired the maturity to engage in certain transactions. But such police actions can never justify violating the rights of stores to sell lawful products to adults.

Protectionism “for the children” just doesn’t fly.