States’ Businesses, Way of Life Bolstered by Land & Wildlife

Posted on 05. Nov, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Economy, Energy/Environment, Social/Cultural

Nearly Half of Westerners Rely on Land & Wildlife for Recreation.

DENVER — A new state-by-state analysis by the Center for Western Priorities shows that abundant fish and wildlife on public lands are essential for the long-term health of Western economies.

In 2011, wildlife-related recreation contributed $3 billion into Colorado’s economy. Wildlife enthusiasts and sportsmen and women contributed nearly $1 billion to New Mexico’s economy, and in Montana, they contributed $1.4 billion.

Aside from the economic boon public lands provide, they are also part of our way of life. Regardless of industry, a considerable portion of Westerners participate in wildlife-based recreation.

Approximately 4 out of 10 New Mexicans Participate in Wildlife-Based Recreation
Approximately 4 out of 10 Montanans Participate in Wildlife-Based Recreation
Approximately 4 out of 10 Utahans Participate in Wildlife-Based Recreation
Approximately 5 out of 10 Coloradoans Participate in Wildlife-Based Recreation
Approximately 6 out of 10 Wyomingites Participate in Wildlife-Based Recreation

To view full analysis and interactive charts click here.

Maintaining abundant fish and wildlife is important for the long-term health of our Western economies. Westerners and visitors love to travel around our region, visit our public lands, and hunt, fish or merely observe our wildlife. Money spent by those hunters, anglers, and wildlife enthusiasts provides a critical source of revenue for local economies across the Rocky Mountain West.

A recent survey released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service illustrates the importance of protecting and enhancing wildlife habitat. Men, women and children throughout the Rockies spend their free time exploring our open spaces, viewing wildlife, hunting game and fishing in our streams, lakes and reservoirs.

In New Mexico, nearly 4 out of 10 residents partake in some form of wildlife-related recreation, be it hunting, fishing or wildlife viewing. In Colorado, 5 out of every 10 residents participate in wildlife-associated recreational activities.[i]

Approximately 4 out of 10 New Mexicans Participate in Wildlife-Based Recreation
Approximately 4 out of 10 Montanans Participate in Wildlife-Based Recreation
Approximately 4 out of 10 Utahans Participate in Wildlife-Based Recreation
Approximately 5 out of 10 Coloradoans Participate in Wildlife-Based Recreation
Approximately 6 out of 10 Wyomingites Participate in Wildlife-Based Recreation

In 2011, wildlife-related recreation contributed $3 billion into Colorado’s economy. Wildlife enthusiasts and sportsmen and women contributed nearly $1 billion to New Mexico’s economy, and in Montana, they contributed $1.4 billion. That money’s going to local retailers, community grocery stores, gas stations, hotels, and outfitters. [ii]

In order to protect these jobs and businesses that so many Western families depend on, we need responsible oil and gas development that accounts for wildlife’s importance to our Western way of life and our Western economies. That means ensuring energy development isn’t done in a way that damages our public lands and wildlife resources.

[i] 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation.
[ii] 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation.

This article was submitted by the Center for Western Priorities




























Can government and religion partner?

Posted on 01. Sep, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Politics, Social/Cultural

Every ten years the people counters of the U.S. Census Bureau descend on Americans with clipboards in hand to ask the nation a myriad of questions, the most important of which is: “How many people are really living here?”

If you’ve experienced an actual visit from one of the census bureau’s workers you know that their questions don’t stop with that one. They will ask you as many as you’re willing to answer. They’re a bit like Jehovah’s Witnesses, but with one big disadvantage. Unlike their door-knocking JW brethren, they don’t have the powerful back story of the Bible to aid them in pressing their case. What they DO have is the power of the government and an official ID on their side.

The Census Bureau’s information is very useful, and I relied on it while researching this article. I also looked at the Rasmussen and Gallup polling organizations in my quest to find the ‘big game’ in the political jungle – the Republicans and the Rinos (Republicans in Name Only), the Democrats and the Dinos (Democrats in Name Only) and the Swing Voters and Svinos (Swing voters in Name Only). Now that we got the terminology out of the way, how about some facts?

Let’s take the most current national elections of 2010. In the actual elections, according to the Census Bureau, Hispanic voters accounted for 7% of the vote, Blacks 12% and Asians 2.5%.

The most common reason given for not voting was, “I was too busy” at 27%. 16% said, “My vote wouldn’t make any difference.” Fully 68% of the 72% registered homeowners did vote. Only 50% of the 61% registered renters voted. Finally, 61% of the voters were from families making $100K/yr. or more while only 30% came from families making $20K/yr. or lower.

Around the time of the 2010 election, a Gallup poll revealed that 31% self-identified as Democrats (a 22-year low), 29% as Republicans and 38% as Independents. Later in 2011 the company found that self-identified Independents rose to 40% (the largest in 60 years), Republicans dropped to 27% and the Democrats held steady at 31%.

Fast-forward to June 2012 and a Rasmussen poll showed that 35.4% of the people polled identified themselves as Republicans, 34.0% as Democrats and 30% as Independents. Comparing the 2011 numbers from Gallup with the 2012 numbers from Rasmussen and the results are: Republicans gained 7%, Democrats gained 3%, and Independents lost 10%.

The conclusions, based on these numbers, would be that both the Republicans and Democrats are gaining strength and that many previously self-identified  Independents and now moving towards the major parties.

This brings up several questions: do you trust people’s responses; to what do you attribute these shifts and can this information really be used to predict outcomes?

I would argue that the pollsters should have been asking different questions, as the electorate is really all over the map AND don’t always identify with the labels they’re given to choose from.

They should have asked: “Are you, a) a fiscal and social conservative, b) a fiscal and social liberal, c) a fiscal conservative and a social liberal or d) a fiscal liberal and a social conservative?”

There’s another aspect to all of this polling stuff. People lie, all the time, and for different reasons. These days it’s really hard to tell which political stripes are real and which ones are just painted on.

Personally, I think we need to streamline the questioning business. My solution is to give the census responsibility and all the political polling jobs to the Jehovah’s Witnesses. They’re always presentable and extremely polite, and who better suited to get the truth out of us than those who tell it for a living? Take that Rinos, Dinos and Svinos.

- Editor

Decline of the suburbs?

Posted on 25. Aug, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Economy, Social/Cultural

The suburbs are changing. Thanks to a re-invigoration of urban areas, as well as increasing poverty and crime rates in the suburbs, bedroom communities aren’t what they once were.

Has the national love affair with sprawl begun to decline? It would seem so. For prospective and current homeowners, knowledge of this trend is necessary, as is awareness of the impact it has on home prices, property values, and school districts.

40 years ago, the United States was called “a nation of suburbs.” Today, that prevailing notion is not true.

If you’re deciding when and where to buy a home, be aware: The 21st century has seen a decline in both quality and population of America’s suburbs.

In the first decade of the 21st century, the amount of Americans below the poverty line grew 23% in U.S. cities, but 53% in major suburbs.

In 2010, a record population of 15.4 million suburban residents were living in poverty. These are not your mother’s suburbs.

While the American dream of the picket fence and neatly mowed lawn may entice many homeowners to look to the suburbs, suburban jobs are also on a rapid decline.

In 2011, suburban businesses vacated 16 million square feet of office space. Gas prices have exploded in the past 10 years, with the average suburban driver’s gas expenditures increasing 109%.

With walking and public transportation available in urban areas, homeowners are looking more toward cities to settle down. And the days of the mortgage and foreclosure crisis are not behind us; in the next several years, more than 3 million homeowners are expected to become renters.

This article was submitted by Allison Morris. She can be reached at or you can contact for more information



























Road Scholar: Bringing the World to New Mexico

Posted on 25. Aug, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Social/Cultural

Speaking with Mary Ann Slattery (Regional Program Director for Road Scholar Programs in Santa Fe), is speaking with a true believer in the value of bringing people together.

Started in 1975, Road Scholar offers programs in all 50 states and in 150 countries in regional studies, archaeology, art, nature, music, literature, culinary arts and in many other areas. One of their newest and most popular programs is Tony Hillerman’s Landscape where participants visit many of the sites mentioned in the famous author’s books.

A multi-talented woman with a diverse background, Slattery and her staff have created some truly unique programs which bring nearly 2,000 visitors a year to New Mexico. Coming off a successful Great American Get-together (March in Santa Fe), Road Scholar hosted 280 participants from out-of-state and booked 1,400 room nights in the City Different, a welcome boost to the local economy.

She credits the organization’s success to the diversity of programs, the individual attention paid to the program participants and the organization’s efforts to constantly improve each participant’s overall experience.

While the average age of participants in Road Scholar programs is 72, there is no age restriction, except that every enrollee must be 21 years of age or older.

Quite a few are in their 80s and 90s, but a good number are in their mid-50s.  All programs have an activity level assigned to them so people can choose the ones that best match their capabilities, from very active outdoor programs to less physically demanding ones. Programs range from one-day to two weeks or more (the average program is typically 5-7 nights).  Almost all meals, housing, transportation and admission fees are included in the price.

Road Scholar’s close working relationship with local hoteliers and other businesses have kept the programs very affordable.

To hear Slattery tell it, “the future looks bright for us as more people are choosing Road Scholar because of our commitment to excellence and because we offer true value for the money, an important consideration in today’s economy. That’s also why we chose Richards Avenue Business Park, as they offer good service, fair costs and have a strong interest in working with all types of companies.”

For more information on their broad range of programs, contact: Mary Ann Slattery at the Santa Fe Road Scholar office at 505/983-0613, or by email at:  Their website is located at:

- Editor

Dr. Obama’s Amazing American Elixir

Posted on 19. Aug, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Economy, Politics, Social/Cultural

The fight for America’s soul and the debate on socialism is not new in America.

It’s just entered our orbit of consciousness with a vengeance since the election of a president who, in his own words in October of 2008, said, “We are five days from fundamentally transforming America.”

Pundits and parsers will probably say that was just a candidate being political, but those of us on terra firma will recognize it as a prophetic statement about a radical transformation of our economic and political system that would soon be made by a committed ideologue who was days away from doing it!

Either way, it was a clear marketing victory.

Those who say Mr. Obama didn’t live up to his central campaign promises weren’t paying attention. He told us, repeatedly, that he was a change agent. Knowing that, why wouldn’t we believe that he would change his positions once he was elected? Americans weren’t listening with their ears. They were in a shopping trance, wanting to buy something new that reflected their own self-image.

They were searching for a product that would cure all their ills. What they wanted was actually a miracle wonder product from an earlier century, routinely sold on street corners and at carnivals all over this land. It was commonly known as, ‘snake oil.’

They found exactly what they were looking for in Dr. Obama’s Amazing American Elixir.

By voting for him, they cleansed their consciences about America’s past racial transgressions. Younger voters got their cool guy who was slim, played basketball, had smoked cocaine and was only slightly removed from their generation.

The Black and Hispanic communities elected a man seemingly sympathetic to them. Barack Obama made the presidency attractive to first-time voters who were looking for transformational change.

The only problem was that many in these groups knew little about how America actually worked let alone how to transform it. They only knew how it looked to them and hadn’t a clue how Wall Street, Main Street and Capitol Hill fit together.

Ideologies have always needed memorable images, words, songs and symbols to sell their message, and secularism and socialism are no different.

Secularism sells itself on a simple premise: society is better served, more fair and easier to manage without all this religious nonsense. Socialism is not far behind with: the needs of the many outweigh the inconvenience of the few.

The truth is we’ve always had a dollop of secularism and socialism in America and seen its ebb and flow, especially during times of crisis when standing together made for a solid defense (in the Great Depression, during WWII, and now in the Age of Obama and the Great Recession).

The danger now is that we’ll jettison our traditional capitalistic system and adopt an unworkable government-managed economic model out of fear.

Pushing a social justice theme and espousing income redistribution with a “you didn’t build that” mantra, the 44th president continues to ride a populist wave of support on a surfboard of pointed rhetoric, rhetoric that has worked up until now.

Americans have always been suckers for a good slogan whether it’s where’s the beef or the pause that refreshes.

We bought big cars with shark fins, hula hoops and pet rocks, spiked our hair, wore dog collars and suffered high colonics. With all that consumer history, why would anyone think that we couldn’t be sold and re-sold a president and that he would ride in on a messianic message of hope?

Ad men were proud of candidate Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. It was masterful, right down to the use of the new social media which became the message.

Young people self-identified with the media Mr. Obama used and the bond was forged. They bought the T-shirt, the new world decals for their back packs AND the message.

It was change we could believe in…at first sight and any thinking person had to be thinking Obama. The others were just unenlightened.

It wasn’t a hostile takeover that America experienced on January 20, 2009.  We got a taste of the classic leveraged buy-out. The financial sponsor (the candidate) acquired the controlling interest (our votes) in our equity (the running of the country) and then financed his operation through leveraged borrowing (increased national debt), trillions of dollars of it, in record time.

That was then, but in eleven short weeks Americans will have a choice: sign on to four more years of the same or turn around, go back to the place where we left our values and start anew.

We may have to face facts, however…that we have become mere consumers of promises and have lost our taste for critical thought. If that is the case, we should all be investing our money in the media, because that is where the battle for the hearts, minds, pocketbooks and votes of Americans will be fought, at least until November. Caveat emptor.

- Editor








Flights from fancy

Posted on 18. Aug, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Economy, Social/Cultural

There was a time when flying was downright exciting, even romantic. I’m not talking about the 1950s here, but just 30 or 40 years ago.

That was when we still thought it was proper to dress for the occasion instead of donning jogging suits and looking like fugitives from a Richard Simmons exercise video. Men wore suits and ties and ladies, dresses. My how times have changed.

I took my very first flight in an experimental airplane in Rockford, Illinois at the first Experimental Aircraft Association fly-in in 1959.  The plane was a home-made two-seater, just big enough for a pilot and a passenger that sat immediately behind him. I wore a Milwaukee Braves baseball jacket, cap and my favorite P.F. Flyer tennis shoes.

When the engine turned over I was immediately struck with a feeling of enormous excitement and total fear. Hearing the rapid whoosh of the propeller blades and feeling the whole plane shake as if it were a ride in the fun house we taxied down the runway. It made quite an impression on this lad whose bedroom ceiling was festooned with model airplanes. At last I was an aviator!

Well not quite, but I was an aviator’s passenger at least. That was the beginning of my true love of flying which is why it’s so sad to reflect on my love/hate relationship with it today.

Like many businesspeople, flying became part of my job. For 30 years I flew to the world’s capitals on at least a dozen different carriers. Two stick out in my mind: Pan Am and Aeroflot for two very different reasons. Pan Am was America’s gold standard and never failed to live up to its advertising.

I once turned down a ticket on the British/French supersonic Concorde and instead opted for a first-class ticket from Paris to New York on old Pan Am. The service was just that great!  It just so happened I was seated next to a fellow with Rastafarian dreadlocks. A few minutes later I learned he was a member of the reggae band, Bob Marley and the Wailers, who were on their way to NYC for a concert.

I remember my fellow first class passengers being a bit squeamish when the band, dressed in camouflage clothes and wearing dark sunglasses, boarded the plane in Charles De Gaulle Airport (this was when skyjacking was at its peak).  After admitting I didn’t know a thing about his band, he began to sing a few of their best-known songs with a strong Jamaican accent. The time passed all too quickly and so did the champagne.

This was not the case a few years later when I boarded an Aeroflot jet in Moscow bound for Europe. It was a surreal experience. After what seemed like an eternity we reached cruising altitude. The German gentleman next to me wanted a whiskey and pressed the stewardess’ call button. At the forward galley, the curtains parted and a stout-looking Russian flight attendant peered out looking very irritated.

With an almost olympian stride she arrived at our row, and just as the German was about to give her his order she reached up and shut off the call button and in one motion sprinted back to the galley.

Astonished, the man looked at me and then decided to press the button again, thinking it must have been a mistake. The whole process was repeated and afterwards the German looked mortified. I remember snickering under my breath and thinking that would never ever happen on an American airline. How wrong I was.

Thirty years later, Americans were shelling out $15 for a checked bag, forced to buy overpriced sandwiches to stave off their hunger, paying a surcharge for a little more legroom and were subjected to the third degree by the TSA even before they got on board!

Oh, to return to the days of PanAm and civility! At this point I’d even take Aeroflot.

- Editor

Senator Vernon Asbill Presented With 2012 “Katie’s Hero” Award

Posted on 14. Aug, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Social/Cultural

Chicago, Illinois. (August 8, 2012)  - The parents of murder victim Katie Sepich were joined by abduction survivor Elizabeth Smart in presenting New Mexico State Senator Vernon Asbill with the “Katie’s Hero Award”.

The Katie’s Hero Award is an honor bestowed by the Sepich’s non-profit advocacy group DNA Saves on individuals for leadership in solving and preventing crime by supporting legislation to expand the use of forensic DNA technology.

According to the certificate of award, Senator Asbill was selected for his strong support of SB365 in 2011 to require DNA upon felony arrest in New Mexico, to ensure law enforcement is not unwittingly releasing repeat offenders back into the community.

Jayann Sepich, co-founder and president of DNA Saves, introduced the award and 2012 recipients at a Forensic DNA Luncheon event held concurrently during the annual meeting of the National Conference of State Legislators (held this year in Chicago).

In presenting the award, Ms. Sepich said, “The enactment of SB365 will have a profound and lasting impact on public safety in New Mexico.  Senator Asbill’s leadership on this issue will result in getting many rapists and other violent criminals off the streets, and will prevent additional New Mexico residents from being needlessly victimized.”

The keynote speaker at the luncheon was Elizabeth Smart, who was kidnapped at knife point from her own bedroom at the age of 14.

For nine months she was the captive of Brian David Mitchell until she was finally rescued.  In 2010, Mitchell was convicted of Smart’s abduction and was sentenced to life in prison.  Ms. Smart addressed the crowd of 100 legislators and their guests, representing twenty-six states.  She stated, “Arrestee DNA legislation is needed in every state to make our communities safer places to live.”

DNA Saves is a non-profit association organized to educate policy makers and the public about the value of forensic DNA.

The association was formed by Jayann and David Sepich in late 2008, marking the five year anniversary of the senseless murder of their daughter. DNA Saves is committed to working with every state to pass laws allowing DNA to be taken upon arrest, and to provide meaningful funding for DNA programs.

Had a DNA sample been taken from Katie’s murderer, Gabriel Avilla, upon arrest for an unrelated crime, the Sepichs would have discovered who killed their daughter only three months after her death. Instead, Avilla remained free to victimize more unsuspecting daughters, while the Sepichs waited for answers.  The Sepichs hope that by advocating for better DNA testing laws they can prevent another mother and father from asking “why?”

This release was submitted by Diane Kinderwater of

Fowling Opponents of Free Speech

Posted on 06. Aug, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Politics, Social/Cultural

Who would have thought that a few comments on traditional marriage by a usually quiet COO would have lit the fuse on a feud between proponents and opponents of homosexual marriage and between free-speechers and limited speechers?

And who would have thought that this battle would be waged on the politically non-partisan floors of fast food restaurants around the USA?

In case you’ve been deep-sea diving in Fiji or backpacking up the Blue Mountains of Australia and haven’t been near a TV, the family-owned Chick fil-A company has become the new ground zero for American free speech.

After expressing his opinion on preserving traditional marriage, complete with a few bible references, COO Dan Cathy unleashed what might be the first salvo in a new economic range war pitting the American public against its own businesses!

If this were not so potentially dangerous for an already fragile economy (think of millions of consumers protesting in front of businesses intimidating customers or organized boycotts that could bankrupt companies) it would be comical, but it’s not.

While many are classifying this as a free speech issue – the right of a business owner to speak his mind – it may actually be the next logical step following the Citizens United case that redefines corporations as individuals.

The Citizens United case was adjudicated in the Supreme Court in 2010. The Court ruled that corporations had the right to exercise their free speech under the First Amendment on a par with individuals when it came to making political contributions.

In a recent ruling in June, the Court refused a request to revisit the initial ruling, saying: “Political speech does not lose First Amendment protection simply because its source is a corporation.”  Political speech or politically correct speech does not come without risk, however.

For businesses, this may be a further redefinition of their status and it could get a bit uncomfortable if people really start focusing on businesses as people.

Think about this way. It’s a little like a man giving up his bachelor status when he gets married. There are certain advantages, but certain disadvantages, too. No more Wednesday nights with the guys hanging around Hooters. No more drying your clothes in the microwave. No more expletives filling the air, either, especially when the in-laws are visiting.

Like our bachelor friend, corporations can’t have it both ways. If the CEOs, COOs, CFOs or anybody in positions of corporate power want to spout off on social issues, they have to be ready to reap the whirlwind and pay the price for it. That’s the double edged sword of free speech, but to deny them their right to do so is unacceptable and illegal.

The mayors of Chicago, Boston and Washington, DC might want to read their job descriptions more carefully. I doubt if their mayoral rights include creating a single overarching value system for their cities. That’s what their constituents do, individually.

If mayors get into the moralizing business, they may find fewer companies beating their way to their borders, and if they choose to go that route, they, too, must pay the price for THEIR free speech with dwindling tax bases and fewer jobs for the people who voted them into office!

As for Chick fil-A, I drove to their restaurant on San Mateo at Montgomery the other day (the same day of the proposed kiss-out or kiss-off) only to find the place mobbed with ordinary folks chowing down on delicious chicken sandwiches.

I looked everywhere for kissing couples but without success. All I saw was a successful company doing a land office business with order takers going from car to car in the drive in lane smiling and having a good time enjoying their 15 minutes of fame.

I’m sure that if Finger lickin’ good Colonel Sanders and Frank it takes a tough man to make a tender chicken Perdue were alive today they would have been dancing the chicken polka in the parking lot, excited to see so many people supporting free speech while downing heaping portions of the food that made them both famous.

It’s amazing what a little free speech and few chicken nuggets will do to soothe the savage beast in all of us.

- Editor

Send your problems on vacation

Posted on 05. Aug, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Social/Cultural

America is bleeding from serious economic wounds. Millions have no jobs and no prospects for finding one.

Many homes are under water and credit is maxed out. Families are cutting back and consumer spending is flat or headed south while our most productive companies are sitting on the sidelines and hoarding their cash, waiting to see what happens in the presidential election.

But worst of all, we’ve lost confidence in ourselves and have come to believe that goodness is as extinct as the Dodo Bird.

The good news news stories seem nowhere to be found, so it’s no surprise that there’s a heavy cloud of negativism hanging above us all, so heavy that it’s nearly impossible to see the tiniest sliver of a silver lining.

Last week, I had to pick up a passenger at the airport. Before taking the escalator up to the arrivals area, I passed a diorama with some locally-produced art, and since I was there early I decided to check it out.

Some of the pieces were whimsical and made me smile and also made me realize that there are still people out there who do something other than rail against politics and politicians!

Alone in my thoughts, I rode the escalator to the arrivals hall where hundreds of disembarked passengers were scurrying past me on their way to collect their luggage at the baggage claim below.

A few more steps past the restaurant and gift shops and my gaze narrowed as I searched the faces of the travelers moving at different speeds all around me.

Amid the clatter of luggage wheels I heard the gleeful laughter of children and saw people of all ages and backgrounds: men dressed in ranchers’ garb, teenagers in fashionably torn blue jeans and everything in between.

This was not the concentrated mass of humanity that characterizes mega-airports like Hartsfield, Kennedy or O’Hare. This was my airport where the tempo is slower and more personal and where the scenes of everyday life are played out at a pace that would make a New Yorker think he was living in a slow motion movie.

Then it hit me. I was thoroughly caught up in watching people connect with their loved ones as they ran, skipped or walked into each other’s embrace, planting wet kisses on cheeks and lips and even on bald heads!

Something wonderful happens when people let their guard down and this goes double for those times when they welcome a loved one home. All of us have seen the tearful reunions of servicemen and women as they burst through the arrival doors and explode with emotion as they catch a glimpse of their families after a long dangerous tour overseas.

I confess to lingering at the sidelines watching these human dramas play out. It took my mind off the mindless political advertising that was showing on TV monitors, creating what was easily the most bizarre contradiction of my week.

For those of us who are at our breaking point from all the ridiculousness of the political campaigns and are just about ready to take what Eskimos call, the long walk (a one-way trip on the ice floes), stop.

Instead, pack a lunch. Fire up the jalopy and drive to the airport and head up to the arrivals hall. Send your cares and woes on an extended vacation by watching real humanity in action. Then go home and hug your spouse or children or even your dog or cat like they’ve been away for a year. If that doesn’t change your outlook, nothing will.

- Editor

The halves and the will nots

Posted on 18. Jul, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Politics, Social/Cultural

Our legislative branch is deadlocked, at a monumental impasse, split along ideological lines.

Americans have been divided for a decade or more into two almost equal halves – one wanting more government assistance for the people of this nation and the other perennially chanting a Garbo-like wail, “I want to be left alone.”

Any scientist will tell you that when two forces of equal strength collide there is usually considerable energy released (and dissipated), friction generated and matter destroyed as a result. Any political scientist will tell you that the same is true in politics.

If our Congressional confrontations were all political theatre and had no real impact on our lives we could sell tickets and make some money from them. Unfortunately, their inability to listen to each other’s views and pass legislation that tracks with our avowed goals of living life, protecting liberty and pursuing happiness has gone well beyond the fail-safe point.

It now threatens our very survival as a nation.  Something’s got to give.

Crisis should never be the decider

In the recent past, the only way our elected representatives could be moved off their respective philosophical positions was a crisis like 9/11 or the threat of an economic disaster. Crises, however, should never be the catalyst or rationale for making enduring change, though they can serve as agents for finding short-term stop-gap solutions.

How can we ever hope to find real common ground in a country where there are two polar opposite views on wealth (and the taxation and distribution of it), health (its quality, cost and coverage) and our collective responsibility for one another ?

It seems bewildering until you drill down into the bedrock of the American psyche. Then you begin to understand that at our core, we Americans believe in the inherent goodness of our fellow human beings; the desire of all people to be free; the preservation of our Constitutional freedoms (speech, expression, assembly, religion, etc.); and even the right to be left alone.

But then we’re forced to ask ourselves, “if that’s the case, how do these beliefs square with the actions of our elected representatives?”

The one-step forward two-steps march backwards

Americans have shown they’ll march for civil rights, against war, for ending apartheid in foreign countries and the abolition of nuclear weapons.

Why then are we unwilling to elect representatives to Congress and even presidents that are capable of putting their egos aside, sitting down with the loyal opposition (the ultimate oxymoron) and letting their dedication to the greater good of our society guide their actions?

Could it be that we’ve given up or lost our motivation and resigned ourselves to bad governance? Maybe we’ve been living under the illusion that a middle way would magically appear as an alternative to gridlock.

It’s been said that if you keep to the middle of the road you’ll get run over, and given the state of our modern-day politics, that is probably the truest statement that can be made about our current political environment.

Political extremism

It may be that we’re no longer a nation that values moderation or compromise…that we’re an all or nothing society that feels it’s not how you play the game but whether you can win using any means possible that counts.

Unfortunately, ‘any means possible’ usually creates collateral damage to those who can least afford it and whose only crime was being in the way. America’s needy cannot be almost rescued from drowning. Any new political direction we decide to take must focus on ways to bring them back from the water’s edge and keep them from re-entering the currents that could swallow them up forever.

On the other side of the coin, America’s wealthy should not be vilified for working their way up an economic ladder that was placed within their reach by a system that favors enterprise and industry, nor should they be expected to agree to a wholesale confiscation of their wealth to pay for government’s mistakes.

Just as surely as the poor didn’t choose to be poor, the wealthy got where they are largely because the system rewarded their ingenuity and creativity.

There’s only left and right left

America’s long political odyssey has brought it to a T-intersection in the road. There’s no viable third way forward.

We must choose to go left or right of center, and we must also be ready to stand by our choices. Our country’s future is too important to be decided by the apathy of either the know-nothings or the do-nothings among us.

Those who choose neutrality, ignorance or inertia and who don’t vote in November are guilty of being enablers of the very parochialism that characterizes our political class today.

- Editor

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