Month: December 2017


When Senator Mike Crapo was campaigning for re-election last year one of his set talks was an eloquent plea for the nation returning to fiscal sanity and getting to balanced budgets so that we quit kicking the can of the spiraling upward unsustainable debt down the road to be be paid by future generations.

Crapo was one of the 18 members of the Simpson-Bowles Commission, a bipartisan effort by President Obama early in his first term and Congressional leadership whose purpose was to draw up a plan that through a combination of spending reductions and some modest tax hikes would over the next ten years pay down the deficit and get America on more solid economic footing.

Crapo received justifiably warranted praise for his constructive work and that work increased his reputation as a compassionate conservative deficit hawk. Unfortunately, the praise was premature for this past week the Senator succumbed to political expediency and endorsed the smoke and mirrors Republican purported tax cut plan that in reality is nothing less than a massive shift of further tax relief for the wealthiest one tenth of one percent at the expense of the middle class.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget office estimates that the plan will over ten years add $1.5 trillion to the national debt and seriously doubts the growth in the economy projections Crapo and his collegues cite as their reason for supporting this gift to the wealthy. It’s a classic “wish and a prayer” approach to public policy and ignores the consensus among the vast majority of economists that the GOP is living a pipe dream.

Senator Crapo also is ignoring the strongly expressed opinions of his former Senate colleague, Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson, and Erskine Bowles, the co-chairs of the Reform Commission.

In a joint op-ed to the Washington Post, the co-chairs wrote: “With debt already twice as high as the historical average, financing tax cuts with even more borrowing is reckless. And the actual bills in the House and Senate are even worse than the $1.5 trillion sticker price—-because both include about a half-trillion dollars in phony savings from artificial “sunsets” and other gimmicks. With interest that means these tax cuts could add $2.2 trillion to the debt.”

They went on to write further “If the tax cuts in the current bill are adopted, deficits would exceed one trillion dollars by 2020 and debt would exceed 99 per cent of GDP by 2027. Economic growth isn’t going to wash away this debt. Real tax reform can provide a boost to the economy but higher debt works in the opposite direction. This country cannot afford another debt-busting tax cut.”

Pretty straight talking, fact-based language. For someone like Senator Crapo it should have been cause for a pause and a thoughtful re-examination of the largely political position he was assuming despite holding the safest seat in the U.S. Senate.

So it comes down to who does one believe: former Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson or Senator Mike Crapo? Both are Republicans, both radiate sincerity, both believe they have the best interests of the nation at heart.

One of them though is hypocritical and expedient. And only one is still a sitting member of Congress. And only one of them is gambling that despite all odds this taxpayer give away to the rich won’t further add to the high probablity of a decreasing standard of living for his grandchildren stuck with paying the bill for his profligacy.

If Senator Crapo had a conscience he would recognize he has no skin in the game, and he has no risk because the bill will come due after he is out of office. He should go back to every one of the 200 cities and burgs he visited while campaigning last year and apologize for not being the fiscal deficit hawk he claimed to be.

It is also obvious that he will never rate a chapter in a new edition of Profiles in Courage.



There’s an old expression, “pride cometh before the fall.” Ancient Greek dramatists wrote great theatrics around this all too common human foible. In these tragedies they wrote about hubris, the excessive pride many people in power possess though they falter at fair exercising of this power.

The Greeks had another expression: “Those the gods rise up they then lay low.” It doesn’t take a fortune teller looking into a crystal ball to see that Tommy Ahlquist, the doctor/developer running for Idaho governor and pledging to spend whatever it takes for him to win, is headed for a classic fall.

Whether it happens soon enough for him to recover remains to be seen. As the one with the deepest pockets his recent announcement that he was launching an “attack website” is rather ironic. Its an attempt to pre-empt his opponents by attacking their records before they start attacking his non-record.

Its right out of the Republican advertising/media-spinning playbook that says first spend a lot of money giving your biographical story, preferably one which portrays you overcoming adversity and triumphing over obstacles placed in your way.

Ahlquist followed this to a tee during this past summer and fall, saturating the Boise television market with his “rags to riches” narrative. The game plan then in phase two calls for you to go negative with sometimes questionable charges that negatively define your opponent.

The goal is to put your opponent on the defensive and to keep him there always responding to you. Former President Lyndon Baines Johnson early in his political career was an aide to a Texas congressman. He once asked his boss why on the campaign trail he kept repeating a totally bogus negative charge. The congressman simply smiled and said “let him deny it.” In denying the charge he would have to repeat the negative. Think, for example, about the infamous headline in which Richard Nixon stated “I Am Not a Crook!” Johnson never forgot the lesson and it has become a staple of modern campaigning.

Phase three is when the candidate, about four to six weeks before the election, comes back with flight after flight of positive advertising emphasizing his personal characteristics and his positive policy agenda.The last flight just before the election usually has the candidate looking into the camera radiating sincerity and asking for your vote.

In modern times Idahoans have never voted into the governorship someone who has no previous political experience and has not been vetted by an electorate. They recognize the governorship is no place for on the job training.

When asked about this at a small town hall meeting in St. Maries Ahlquist was quick to dismiss it citing the fact that 13 current state governors had been elected with no prior elective experience.
He then let slip that he had stopped by a Republican governors meeting in Chicago in September to introduce himself to his (in his mind) future colleagues.

He indicated in particular he wanted to discuss the looming crisis in the nation’s health care challenges. Some may admire the chutzpah of such a presumption. Others might see it as an act of sheer arrogance and an egregious taking of the Idaho voters for granted. You can decide which.

Calls to the campaign office and to his campaign manager asking whether Ahlquist had also flown to Austin, Texas in November to attend the formal national meeting of the Republican Governor’s Association were not returned.

Over the weekend the three major Republican candidates for governor (Lt. Governor Brad Little, First District Congressman Raul Labrador and Ahlquist), all submitted statements to the Coeur d’Alene Press about their candidacy and why they each believe they can lead the state into a better future.

Only one though used the royal or imperial “we” – as in “we announced,” “we know better,” “we know it’s time,” and “we will get things done.” You want to guess which one?

Hubris, pure hubris and pure balderdash.

Caveat emptor.