The High Cost of Banning Dissent

The High Cost of Banning Dissent

By Dr. Thomas Patterson |

America’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic was possibly the most consequential public policy blunder in our history.

The enormous costs included $5 trillion or so in unproductive federal spending, inflation, reduction in our standard of living, and permanent economic damage that will be felt for generations to come.

There was massive learning loss and the specter of loved ones dying alone. The incidence of depression and drug addiction skyrocketed. Businesses were shuttered while many Americans seemingly lost their work ethic.

What happened? The short answer is that we panicked and listen to “experts” who vowed we could halt this virus if we were willing to sacrifice enough.

At first, with imperfect information around a deadly new phenomenon, projecting a worst-case scenario and drastic measures to prevent it made sense. However, more data and experience with the virus soon tended to support a strategy of containment (“stop the spread”).

Still the decision makers at the World Health Organization (WHO) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), doubled down on their zero-COVID based recommendations. Lockdowns ensued. We scoffed at cost-benefit analysis. “If only one life…” and “in an abundance of caution…” became the guiding standards of policymaking.

The American people mostly went along with it. Why wouldn’t they? They were provided little awareness of alternate approaches.

Once the narrative had been established that eradication was the only permissible strategy, opposing viewpoints were excluded to a degree any Third World dictator would have envied.

Dissenters were shamed and censored. Professional reputations were attacked. Dr. Fauci informed us that “I am the science” and thus all who disagreed were “science deniers.”

Consider the case of Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a Professor of Health Policy at Stanford. He also directs Stanford’s Center for Demography and Economics of Health and Aging and is a research associate at the National Bureau of Economics Research. So, the doc isn’t exactly an empty suit. He was also a co-author of the Great Barrington Declaration (GBD), signed now by thousands of medical scientists and practitioners, which advocated for “focused protection” against COVID.

Since COVID is dangerous only to a relatively small proportion of the population, it was argued that the greatest efforts should be in protecting people most at risk, the chronically ill and elderly. This would focus resources where they do the most good, saving lives and money.

Agree or not, there is nothing looney about this notion that one-size-fits-all doesn’t make sense for COVID-19. It was mainstream common sense, advocated by highly qualified, non-political scientists.

Yet the blogosphere and leading scientific opinion channels exploded with vitriolic denunciations. The authors were accused of promoting infections among the young to achieve a cruel herd immunity strategy. The claimed the GBD was promoting a wholesale return to our pre-pandemic lives—that they were encouraging fringe groups who distrust health officials and prioritizing individual preference above public good.

None of it was true, but to the social media tyrants, that didn’t mean that Dr. Bhattacharya should be vigorously debated. It meant that he must be threatened and silenced.

We just recently learned that he was indeed censored and intentionally shadowbanned by Twitter. His account was tagged with a label of “Trends Blacklist.” He was censored before he tweeted a single message.

He had violated no rules. He spread no “misinformation.” He only defied the approved consensus. He was silenced by the mob at Twitter, none of whom had anything like his knowledge or experience.

The GBD authors were right, of course. None of the isolations, lockdowns, or school closures affected the eventual course of the virus. We received virtually no benefit from the massive self-inflicted harm.

It’s ironic in our supposedly modern, enlightened age that dogma won out over science. That is, we based our societal decisions on knowledge rooted in deemed authority, not the open inquiry of the scientific method.

We paid a big price for listening to the Fauci’s of the world with their refusal to balance benefit with cost. Dr. Fauci bragged of not caring about the cost of his demands.

They convinced our leaders to spend money we don’t have in a vain attempt to achieve the impossible.

Bad idea. We can’t afford to let it happen again.

Dr. Thomas Patterson, former Chairman of the Goldwater Institute, is a retired emergency physician. He served as an Arizona State senator for 10 years in the 1990s, and as Majority Leader from 93-96. He is the author of Arizona’s original charter schools bill.

Five Tangible Pro-Liberty Goals for the 2023 Legislative Session

Five Tangible Pro-Liberty Goals for the 2023 Legislative Session

By Ben Beckhart |

In January, Arizona’s 55th legislature will convene with new challenges. Republicans managed to maintain slim majorities in both chambers, but what can we possibly accomplish with a Democratic Governor? It will certainly be more difficult to get pro-liberty legislation signed into law, but there are still tangible goals worth fighting for. We just have to be realistic and narrow down our agenda.

The Republican Liberty Caucus of Arizona has published its top five priorities for the 2023 legislative session. These are pragmatic ideas to advance the principles of individual rights, limited government, and free markets, even under a Democratic Governor. Several of these goals were included in Senate President Warren Petersen’s plan to help Arizonans combat rising prices, which we fully support.

The first priority is the same for every legislative session: kill the bad bills. Moderate legislators will be looking for ways to compromise with our new Governor by promoting legislation that will expand the size and scope of government. Our primary focus will be to fight these bills in the legislature, preventing them from reaching the Governor’s desk.

Our second priority is one of Senate President Petersen’s priorities: to repeal the municipal rental taxes on residential properties. These are taxes imposed on residential rental properties by cities and towns. The cost of housing has skyrocketed in recent years, especially in Arizona. As many municipalities sit on massive surpluses, they should be looking for ways to cut taxes and alleviate the cost of housing. Sadly, few cities have done this. It’s time for the legislature to change Arizona statute by revoking the cities’ authority to tax residential rental properties. Rep. Shawnna Bolick ran a bill last session to repeal this tax, and it passed the House with bipartisan support. With support from multiple Democratic lawmakers, this is something Governor Hobbs might sign.

Priority number three is also one of Senate President Petersen’s priorities: eliminate the food tax. One of the reasons why cities are seeing record high revenues is because inflation forces people to spend more. This means more sales tax revenue. Food is a necessity and a tax on food is a regressive tax that especially hurts the middle and lower class who are already struggling with inflation. Some Republicans might object to a repeal of food sales taxes because sales taxes are less invasive than income or property taxes. While we agree a reduction to income or property taxes would be preferable, we should be looking to cut any and all taxes wherever there is a consensus for it. By amending statute to prohibit municipalities from taxing food, we would compel local governments to address the rising cost of living by cutting an unnecessary, regressive tax. We can try to pass this as a normal bill, but if the Governor vetoes it, we could also pass it as a referral that goes to the ballot for the voters to decide, bypassing the Governor’s pen. High inflation has decreased the appetite for taxes, as seen by the rejection of Proposition 310 and many failed bonds and overrides. If placed on the ballot, a repeal of the food tax would likely pass.

Our fourth priority is to prohibit the Governor, or any state agency, from shutting down private businesses under the guise of an emergency declaration. Last session, Governor Ducey signed Sen. Warren Petersen and Rep. Leo Biasiucci’s bill to ban cities and counties from shutting down private businesses. Now we must ensure that the state government cannot impose lockdowns. The Governor would surely veto this bill, but the legislature can instead pass a measure to put this on the ballot in 2024. Once again, this would allow the legislature to go around the Governor. It’s unclear if the voters would pass this measure, but with a leftist Governor, we must do all we can to reign in the powers of the executive branch. We cannot allow our private businesses to be shut down by petty tyrants.

Finally, priority number five is a criminal justice reform that would allow simple drug possession offenses to remain undesignated, allowing the court to designate the offense a misdemeanor upon completion of probation. This is not soft on crime because it would only apply to first-time, victimless drug possession charges, and the offense would still be designated a felony if the individual fails to complete probation. By giving people a chance to avoid a permanent felony, this would be a huge incentive for first-time drug offenders to complete probation and become productive, law-abiding citizens. The end result would be reduced recidivism and less taxpayer spending. This bill was sponsored by Rep. Neal Carter last session, and it passed the House unanimously before getting stuck in the Senate. With new committee chairs and bipartisan support, this reform has a real chance at passing.

This is not an exhaustive list, but these are the top five priorities of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Arizona heading into 2023. This legislative session will look different, but there is always work to be done to advance liberty. We must remain vigilant as we fight to keep Arizona a free and prosperous state!

Ben Beckhart is the Vice-Chair for the Arizona chapter of the Republican Liberty Caucus and the Secretary for the national Republican Liberty Caucus board.

The Anti-Tax Mood Among the People of Arizona Is a Great Source of Hope

The Anti-Tax Mood Among the People of Arizona Is a Great Source of Hope

By the Arizona Free Enterprise Club |

Arizona taxpayers are tired. It’s bad enough that our state has been getting crushed by the highest inflation rate in the country, but during this past November’s election, the government tried to swoop in and take more of your hard-earned dollars out of your wallet. This time, Arizona voters said enough is enough. Not only did they reject several tax increases, but they ensured victory for one key protection against future tax increases.

Arizonans Reject Prop 310

Prop 310 aimed to increase the statewide sales tax by 0.1% to fund fire districts throughout Arizona, and its proponents used the oldest trick in the book. Just like we’ve seen with past education or transportation tax increases, they tried to convince voters that Prop 310 would only cost them a penny when they buy coffee or a dime when they buy dinner.

But Arizona voters saw through it…

>>> CONTINUE READING >>>

Higher Halloween Candy Prices Were Nothing Compared To Cost For Thanksgiving Dinner

Higher Halloween Candy Prices Were Nothing Compared To Cost For Thanksgiving Dinner

By Terri Jo Neff |

Anyone who bought Halloween candy likely noticed the higher prices and fewer sales. Yet it appears to be just a prelude of things to come heading into Thanksgiving.

Avian flu outbreaks across the country have led to the slaughter of more than 7 million turkeys, resulting in a shortage that has prompted souring supply and demand pricing (up 70 percent per pound from last year) that has been further worsened by inflation.

Turkeys are not the only Thanksgiving staple subject to significantly higher prices this year.

Baking pumpkins are also much more expensive, up 24 percent from last year’s holiday season. And anyone who buys butter or margarine—a must-have for those potatoes and rolls—knows the shortage of sunflower oil (due to the war in Ukraine) and canola oil (due to droughts in Canada) have seen prices creep up all summer along with milk costs.

Add all of that to the recent inflation report which shows most other foods have gone up 15 to 20 percent, and it equals a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner that is going to be costly this year.

Meanwhile, grocery stores and restaurants which typically sell take-home Thanksgiving dinner packages are advising customers to order early, as quantities are limited.

And those trying to escape the higher grocery prices—and cooking time—by dining out won’t see much relief, according to the National Restaurant Association. Restaurants are seeing the same price squeezes, which when added to higher labor costs will translate to higher prices on the menu.

The higher prices for Thanksgiving staples is also expected to squeeze nonprofits across Arizona who count on food donations to provide thousands of free meals to the homeless and low-income families.

America Is Facing a Cycle of Doom but Nobody Seems to Care

America Is Facing a Cycle of Doom but Nobody Seems to Care

By Dr. Thomas Patterson |

America’s political class can no longer put off the inevitable. They soon will have to pay for their insanely reckless fiscal practices.

It’s not going to be pretty. America’s debt has reached an appalling $31 trillion. Annual interest payments will exceed $1 trillion this year. Debt service is well on its way to crowding out other priorities, a trend which will only accelerate.

Unfortunately, a steep rise in interest rates occurred near the end of the biggest spending binge ever. Economists are warning we are nearing the dreaded “doom loop” in which interest costs can be covered only by more borrowing which further drives up interest expense, creating a vicious cycle.

There is a weird, almost preternatural calm about our dire fiscal future during this campaign season. We’ve seen much consternation about inflation, public safety, the border, and other critical issues. Yet politicians and the media hardly mentioned the debt crisis, so the public seems to assume everything is under control.

It isn’t, not by a long shot. Uncle Sam issued $7 trillion in new debt to finance the recovery from the COVID pandemic and our panicked overreaction to the disease. It’s too bad we can’t take back that $7 trillion.

Much of it was stolen by fraud and bureaucratic bumbling. Funds went to school districts, that haven’t spent them so far, to finance the indolence of those who preferred not to work and to Democrat pet projects like “climate change.” Millions of voters in no distress whatsoever got checks, as did some illegal immigrants.

Many economists predicted that injecting that much cash into the economy would cause inflation, especially since supply was limited by weakness in the labor market, fuel shortages, and supply chain problems. They were mostly ignored but turned out to be absolutely correct. After decades of relative price stability, we are now experiencing 8% inflation with no end in sight.

Millions of non-economists are experiencing what that does to your standard of living. Suddenly, food, fuel, and shelter have become existential concerns to millions of Americans, and the economic future looks dim.

Inflation also increases government spending. Social Security benefits are inflation-adjusted, resulting in an 8%, $100 billion increase. Total government healthcare costs will grow from $710 billion last year to $915 billion.

Financial markets cannot ignore the cloud of government debt hanging over our economy. A serious recession will almost certainly soon be upon us. Already, declining stock and bond values over the past nine months assure a steep decline in capital gains tax revenue, another contributing factor to the deficit.

The Federal Reserve board is doing the only thing it can to address inflation, which is to raise core interest rates. That also directly adds to the national deficit, increasing the interest cost and driving up the balance, since no other source of funds is available.

So, to summarize, unnecessary COVID-related spending of $7 trillion has combined with chronic overspending, which caused inflation, which increased borrowing costs, which drove up the deficit, thus precipitating a recession which will deprive the government of revenues to pay down the surging debt load. Way to go, guys.

The principle response of the Biden administration has been denial. Our president claims the economy is thriving. A monthly .1% drop in the inflation rate was the pretext for claiming inflation was in decline. The national debt is never mentioned, nor are the untold trillions in future promises we have made to senior citizens and others.

Instead, Biden issued a probably unconstitutional executive order “canceling” unpaid college loans – i.e., transferring the liability to taxpayers. It was terrible public policy, penalizing those who had behaved responsibly and incentivizing student indebtedness in the future. It spent yet more money in a desperate attempt to bribe some votes for the midterm elections.

Yet there seems to be little taxpayer resentment. Why should they care? Their taxes aren’t going to increase. The obligation will be added to the great river of debt passed on to future generations—you know, those little people who don’t vote yet.

They will inherit an America feeble and impoverished, that will have forfeited its greatness because of our greed and selfishness. STOP THE SPENDING!

Dr. Thomas Patterson, former Chairman of the Goldwater Institute, is a retired emergency physician. He served as an Arizona State senator for 10 years in the 1990s, and as Majority Leader from 93-96. He is the author of Arizona’s original charter schools bill.