Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The dangerous trends before us somehow do not get us out to vote

Voter apathy.  In 2012, Utah’s favorite son Mitt Romney vied for U.S. President.  Even at that, the state of Utah achieved only a negligible bump in voter turnout.

Think about the state of our state, country and world.  Just recently, a 29-year-old outs the NSA, telling the press something the public should already know, but he gives details on the expansiveness of government surveillance.

Too, conservatives seem to be denouncing everyone but white males; including Latinos, the LGBT community, women, and even our voting rights.  They carved up and diluted anything-but-Republican citizen votes in 2011 through computer analyzed redistricting.  

Today America witnessed the U.S. Supreme Court remove critical nondiscrimination language from The Voting Rights Act of 1965.  Rather, how about broadening its scope to prevent voter abuse currently skirting the VRA law, such as preventing the reduction of voting hours in poor neighborhoods, and stopping redistricting bias against political ideology?

The U.S. House of Representatives slid one under the radar recently and easily passed a bill eliminating the publishing of CEO pay originally implemented in the Dodd-Frank Act to prevent another Great Recession.

In 2009, the Supreme Court decided corporations are people too.  

And the worst shredding of common sense?  Earth.  Let’s just siphon the guts out of the crust and insert tainted water through drilling and fracking, adding dangerous amounts of CO2 and methane into our finite atmosphere.  President Obama’s climate change speech today?  Fantastic, once again, one more time. The easy sound bite by many politicians “but oil is jobs” is a cop out; a “this is how we’ve always done it” approach.  It will not sustain our Earth and future generations.

Oil refining exacerbates the air along the Wasatch Front; a place with some of the worst pollution in our nation.  A recent study links a significantly increased per-capita rate of autism to cities with high pollution levels. 

I remember, as we all do, when the Great Recession hit, big banks asked taxpayers to bail them out.  They added,“But don’t ask us to give up our bonuses.  And don’t ask us to save your jobs.” 

So here it is. Our U.S. democracy ticks along, but ticks as a time bomb.  Indeed, we know democracy is slow and messy.  But right now, the slow moving scale is skewing against minorities and women, against our environment, and against voter participation.  It is moving toward a polluted Earth and atmosphere.  It moves toward oil wealth, Monsanto wealth, private prison wealth, etc., etc.  

Greed is being legislated into law.  It is used to get prisoners into privately-owned facilities, and to force farmers to use genetically altered products, among much more.  This completely opposes the free market ideology conservatives promote, and they know it.  Rather, markets are being purchased with laws.

Recently a Nestle CEO suggested placing a price on water and air.  Perhaps in reality, clean water and air will actually become luxury commodities.

We could try to stop the insanity, but where is support?  Too few citizens show up to vote.  A small number attend rallies and protests.  Too many are indifferent.

Media can only report actions and reactions.  If no one reacts to greed, if no one attends a rally, little is said in defense of democracy, humanity, and our planet.

In the 1960’s, America’s youth fought for democracy.  Women and minorities did too.  Young men protested against the Vietnam draft.  Women wanted equal rights. African Americans demanded civil rights.  In the sixties, we fought for what was right.  We voted too.

The dangerous trends before us somehow do not get us out to vote: the skew toward wealth and against the middle class, the crush on minority rights, the slap to the face of women’s rights, and the emergency of global warming with its implications for seven billion people. 

Utah’s 2012 voter participation rate--Republican, Democratic, and independent--was embarrassing.  We seem to only watch a dysfunctional government head in a bad direction.  Those who did vote re-elected mostly the same ineffective congressional incumbents, whom have the worst approval ratings in history.

Many of us do not even do something as simple as vote.  We are our own worst enemy.

By Kelli Lundgren

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Utah Republicans will be cleaning their fish tanks during tonight's State of the Union Address

By Kelli Lundgren

Utah’s 2013 Legislative Session could be defined as voting-rights-light, although plenty of other concerns are being argued, including the ever uphill battles of ethics and transparency.  Since Represent Me Utah focuses on issues that strengthen democracy, the bills we track are making few waves this session.

One bill, Elimination of the Straight Party Ticket Voting Option, Patrice Arent’s HB0258, positively made it through rules committee but failed in the House Government Operations Committee. 

At RMU, we believe that previewing and reviewing candidates for each political office, then voting for a candidate on individual merits is a better way to vote than by voting for political party ideology.  But then, many members of RMU are unaffiliated, and of course we tend to vote for individuals rather than political platforms.  

We’d like to see our country less divisive.  Also, if more voters voted by candidate rather than by party, they could have skipped over Attorney General Candidate John Swallow last November, benefitting all involved.  RMU members like to see candidates gain office on platforms that are more pragmatic and problem solving toward state and country, versus toward the benefit of a singular political platform or ideology.    

Interestingly, RMU was accused of being unethical, along with Alliance for a Better Utah and Utahns for Ethical Government, by Utah House Representative Mike Noel.  He said it was his reason for voting against Arent’s HB0258 bill.  Ironically I had just stated in testimony that “although Democrats and Republicans are fairly civil to each other in Utah, they are not in our Federal Government's current condition.”  Apparently I spoke too soon!

I perceive the overall theme for Utah's 2013 legislative session to be: anti-federal-government-anything.  Rants and grandstanding abound by Republicans in the Legislature.   Senator Curtis Bramble is running a bill that offers Utah’s support for “Israel’s God-given right to self-governance and self-defense,”  SCR4.   (Insert "Utah" where Sen. Bramble lists "Israel" in the bill and you will get the point.)

And of course Republicans are running a whole slew of bills on gun rights, and the protection thereof from the despicable Federal Government that dares to offer tighter gun control laws to prevent future tragedies such as Sandy Hook.  Forget that it's A-okay to have guns for hunting, collecting, target shooting, etc., the emotional point is "fury with the liberal President."

Also consistent with an anti-Fed theme, Utah is working toward freeing itself from its U.S. Government dependency using several incremental bills such as HB0131 by Representative Ken Ivory, and one forthright bill, SCR007 by Senator Aaron Osmond.  These moves in 2013 follow suit with Utah Republicans' 2012 attempt to tell the Federal Government it intends to takeover federal lands in Utah.  SCR007 also looks like it is setting up reasoning for Utah to raise state taxes.  And, another specific bill does just that: tries to reduce the Federal Government’s tax on gasoline so Utah may increase its gasoline tax.  (SCR006). 

I believe it’s somewhat ironic that Utah wants to reduce or even eliminate its dependency on the Federal Government.  I suppose there's always an apocalypse on the horizon; the latest fads are the federal deficit and walking zombies.  Yet, Utah is one of several red states that bring in more federal dollars than state residents give to the Federal Government.   Utah will have to do a lot of taxation rebalancing once it walls off its borders, even though Governor Herbert touts Utah as a well-managed state. 

Today I saw a tweet by a Republican legislator saying she plans to work on Utah legislation tonight instead of watching the State of the Union address by President Obama.  Fair enough.  I imagine many in Utah will turn off their televisions as well.   This is the overall theme in Utah right now and it’s pretty ugly.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Republicans: You should listen

By Kelli Lundgren

I will get to redistricting, but before I begin…

Utah Republicans, would you like some advice?  I know, I know, you don’t need any advice from someone that’s in “that other group,” the “everyone-but-Republicans-group,” that "you-must-be-a-Democrat-if-you're-not-a-Republican-group."  But I’m going to give you my advice anyway.

You need to go moderate. 

Republicans, you think good government groups during the redistricting process were “a front” for the Democratic Party.  Some were not.  Our group, Represent Me Utah!, was not a front for the Dems.  Before you start hemming and hawing about this, I will give you a concession.  Represent Me Utah! and the Democrats, along with many other voices, joined forces toward the middle of the process, and definitely in the end. We had exactly the same goals: fairness and transparency.  We weren’t fighting Republicans.  We were fighting for democracy. 

Democrats and media can rifle through 16,000 pages of redistricting correspondence, of tit for tat, of who did what to whom in the fight to grab conservative votes and dilute liberal votes, but you forgot to mention the biggest loser; our U. S. Constitution. 

Without elaborating much, redistricting needs to go independent in all states.  The same computer models used behind the scenes to dilute unwanted votes and suppress voters should be used to the contrary.  Computers should be used to create fairness instead of squash it.  They can be used to create compact boundaries; keeping cities, counties and communities together as much as possible.  Utah’s public overwhelmingly asked Utah’s legislators to keep communities together during the process, both urban and rural residents.  We were ignored.  

Redistricting by power to keep power is a huge slight on democracy.  And it has become a given in our nation; even in the media.   It's like gerrymandering is supposed to be part of democracy and accepted.  It should not be accepted. It's not democracy.  

Utah’s Republican legislators during the redistricting process, but not exclusive of it, muffled the votes of moderates and liberals.  They acknowledge this.  But they turn around and say it is legal.  Utah Republicans say there is no proof that they violated the Voting Rights Act so we can’t sue; that is, Democrats and others can't sue.  Yes, others.  The middle ground is forgotten in this state; including independents such as myself, including the many Republicans who voted for reasonable. 

Why did Utah’s liberals, moderates and conservatives vote for Jim Matheson?  He’s reasonable. 

Why if Jon Huntsman won the Republican ticket for President of the United States, would he have most likely won the presidency over President Obama?   He’s reasonable.

Get reasonable Utah Republican leaders.  Stop stomping on votes you do not like.  Stop minimizing people not like you.   We’re shouting back.  You should listen.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Woman to Woman: Really, You’re Voting for Romney? Please think about this.

By Kelli Lundgren

I get it. We are so busy with life, who has time for politics?  We’re woman and many of us are finalizing our decision right now on who we will vote for for president.  And lately, it looks like many of us are leaning right, toward presidential candidate Mitt Romney, toward change.  I can see the enticement, especially if life just isn’t as good as we had hoped.

Yet, please think about these issues... 

Regarding health care, the Affordable Health Care Act, or rather Obamacare, it's scary, but guess what?  Our college age sons and daughters can now receive health care on our insurance plans versus being vulnerable to a catastrophe without insurance, without a hospital breathing down a family member's neck for payment.  If you are a small business owner, female or male, and have a self-employed insurance policy, you now won’t be dropped from insurance coverage when you get sick because of new rules.  It makes sense.   

And also, women, we have a pre-existing condition according to health insurance companies... we’re women.  This is discriminatory and our President is trying to fix this through his new plan.  And why shouldn’t insurance cover birth control pills?  Do women really exist in a world where decisions are made for us by men as had been touted by the Republican candidates in the primaries?  I think not.  Republican politicians cannot just suddenly shut off all the blather about what a woman can and cannot do and pretend it is an etch-a-sketch moment.

Health care costs are rising.  The root of this problem has not been addressed by either political party.  Yet I do not see Republicans going after the health care industry.  They keep touting “It’s a free market.”   I keep decoding it as, “If you want to live, pay.”  Why vote for this?

As far as the deficit goes, it’s a problem, and it could be another ledge like 2007 if we don’t address it.  However, women, did you know that when our country was led by Ronald Reagan, George Bush Sr., and G.W. Bush we had significant red ink, and with Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, black ink?  It's true.  See link.   Romney and Ryan's Republican supply-side economics philosophy (lower federal taxes to boost the economy) has proven to be an insufficient way of balancing the budget. 

President Obama inherited an economic disaster in 2008. President G.W. Bush had been spending in the red for years without a recession to stimulate.  Bush spent five trillion dollars off-the-books.  It honestly went on the books when President Obama came into office.  Now, instead of using deficit spending to bolster our country at the start of a recession, the red ink spending was already occurring years previously.   

Romney and Ryan, while running for president and vice president, are not telling us what they intend to do, except to lower taxes even further (lower than current record low rates), increase military spending, and decrease mysterious other expenditures.  Arithmetic says Republicans will not solve our deficit’s pending disaster.

I will tell you this, when Romney and Ryan elude questions on what expenditures they will cut, one that keeps cropping up is the mortgage tax deduction.  If Romney is really planning on eliminating the mortgage tax deduction, it is a slap to the face of the middle class and another potential downturn of our home values.  The very wealthy will be affected little by this, but almost every one of our working class homeowners will.  

I argue right now we are heading out of this recession.  The residential home value and construction world looks promising.  We pivoted into a healthy market finally last June with a shrinkage of homes available on the market, and with some markets turning into sellers' markets.  Demand has finally caught back up to what was excessive inventory, thanks in some part to the federal government offering low interest rates and mortgage bond purchases to free up credit.  Growth in home ownership equities is suddenly healthier.  The future is promising. 

And our jobs.  Well, any change looks great, including a change to Romney, simply because he’s a change.  But change isn’t always better.  We haven’t heard details of Romney’s plan. The plan he’s given to economists, in evaluation, does not calculate, does not balance the deficit.

Our country simply cannot balance a deficit by increased military spending and further reduced taxes; Romney’s plan.  It was the G.W. Bush plan in the 2000’s and it simply did not work, as we all painfully know.  The Republican way of "cut, cut, cut," "deregulate, deregulate, deregulate" and "stir up wars" finally ran amuck and out of control.  Our economy was artificially over-stimulated in 2007 by this Republican method and it will be again if Romney has his way.

America is growing out of the Great Recession, slowly but surely. My industry--residential construction--sees a lot of light at the end of the tunnel right now.  And when my industry grows, jobs grow, and the economy grows through free market, the better choice rather than “cut taxes and increase military spending.”  Increased private construction means many people on food stamps will go back to work.  States will enjoy an even greater tax revenue because of increased consumer spending and increased property taxes on homes and buildings, which are appreciating in value versus depreciating.  We’re in an upward cycle of a win/win under President Obama’s care.  Please don’t risk this.

A balanced approach to a balanced budget makes sense; stir the economy then start cutting back on expenses, including military.  Raise revenues once our economy can sustain itself in its housing recovery; maybe back to the tax rates in our economic glory years of President Clinton.  

Don’t place the fox back in charge of the hen house.  Romney and company, including Karl Rove, are the fox.  We will risk any strides we have made pulling out of the 2007 tragedy by putting supply-siders in charge once again.    

Women, you’re now looking at these candidates and deciding.  Great.  But choose the promising future, and ride a decent wave with President Obama. We’re heading in the right direction; a balanced direction, a sensible approach.

(This is an opinion of Kelli Lundgren and does not necessarily represent the views of all members of Represent Me Utah!)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A 120-Day Sign of Recovery? By Kelli Lundgren

Would you like to hear something positive rather than slanderous this election year?  How about this: I predict a notable increase in residential construction jobs in the next twelve months to help pull the U.S. further out of this recession.   I’m not an economist yet I follow real estate closely and am a real estate developer.

Here’s what’s happening: Most U.S. recessions historically start their recovery by an increased demand for new home construction.   We have been waiting a long time for this to occur, longer than usual.  

Yet in the last 120 days, just this summer, supplies of existing homes in the U.S. have shrunk dramatically, remarkably.  I witnessed availability shrink significantly in Utah and Hawaii where I track the markets closely. U.S. housing demand has caught up with supply, even when including foreclosed homes.  This means my friends in residential real estate development; general contractors, drywall, framing, foundation, window, paint, and electrical laborers, light fixture retailers, all, will see a pickup in labor and material demand for both new home construction and existing home improvements.

Confidence is back.  Demand for growth is back.  Record low interest rates finally kicked in while pent up demand acted, while supply and demand balanced out, while homeowners now have fewer reasons to sell, keeping their homes off the immediate market.

From my perspective, the 2008 economic crash was an adjustment.  Our economy had been artificially inflated by greed and a government looking the other way; over-built real estate, incredibly easy credit, and inorganic demand… all were ready to burst.  And they did.  I need not have to remind anyone.  

Americans borrowed from far into their futures while Wall Street profited. (First, second and third mortgages, depleted home equities, high credit card debt, exponentially increasing student loan debt, government debt and deficits off and on the books).  We were working in an economy that couldn’t sustain itself, thus it was and still is to a good extent an artificial economy.  
Economists remain skeptical, but I do not.  Experts say we’re growing too slowly to make a real estate recovery stick.  It’s possible they are right.  However, growing slowly may be good.  If Americans are cutting back on credit purchases and buying homes only because they need to and not to flip homes over speculation, we have a more realistic-growth economy, not one that is borrowing exponentially from the future. 

America, we can do this if we do it right.  We can grow based on current consumption dollars rather than future dollars.  New construction jobs can pull people off welfare.  More tax revenue comes in. Government can then cut back on expenditures that would have otherwise sideswiped a weaker economy.  And the cycle begins.

No matter who is elected president in November, he needs to oversee this key new trend carefully, and not neglect regulations, inflation, etc. as was done before 2008.  Almost nothing better can help pull our nation out of a recession than a healthy housing market.  

True, outside variables could possibly hinder residential construction expansion: a European recession or depression, world conflict, climate change, more droughts, the budget deficit, oil price gouging, an obstructionist Congress, or an unpredicted event.  But I am too optimistic right now in my own home building industry to buy into the bickering this election year. 

This comes from the entrepreneurial side of this independent voter.  My liberal side says only build highly-energy efficient homes, starting now.  And create a plan to wean our world off of oil.  This seems an ideal new starting point where we can be proactive.

Let’s keep moving forward on this slow-growing path out of this recession.  New construction jobs stimulated by free market rather than federal stimulus are fantastic.  And real-time (not artificial) economic growth based on new jobs and less consumer debt is even better.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Predictions for America if Romney Wins, if Obama Wins

By Kelli Lundgren

If Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney is elected in November:
  • A change of president will foster increased consumer confidence, stimulating the economy. Hope of change for someone "better" no matter his actual effectiveness produces a renewed enthusiasm in those that voted for him.
  • The stock market will spike up in value in November, especially for the Fortune 100 companies, although values will eventually adjust back to reality.
  • Wall Street may ease credit.  Combined with historically low interest rates, this will further spur an already stabilizing real estate market creating more construction jobs.  Wall Street will have its president of choice in office; one that offers deregulation.  This is good for the short-term, possibly bad for the long, especially if big banks are still too big to fail.
  • The extreme right wing will likely relax protests and moral attacks on women, contraceptives, minorities, health care reform and federal government overspending.  But they will strongly pursue prayer in public schools and co-mingling religion with government, hoping that Romney is on board.
  • The budget deficit will continue to grow for years, perhaps at an even a greater rate under Romney’s Republican supply-side economic watch. (The deficit historically has grown at a greater rate under Republican presidents rather than Democratic).  Republicans will keep budget deficit growth quieter, less transparent; similar to what was done in the G.W. Bush administration.
  • The economy will be business as usual under Romney and will continue to grow slowly with unemployment shrinking gradually in spite of Romney’s claims Obama didn’t do it right.  Our country is having to pull out of one of the most devastating economic crashes in American history; over-stimulated, self-corrected, or more accurately, federal government sustained.
  • U.S. oil, gas and mining ventures have been expanding significantly under Obama's watch. They will continue to do so under Romney, possibly expanding at an even greater rate under the guise that the U.S. should be self-sufficient, even though more of our energy production is exported rather than used at home. 
  • Utah’s Republican distain for federal government will reduce to a simmer, as it did during the G.W. Bush Presidency.
  • I’ve never met Mitt Romney.  He seems nice, yet Americans don’t appear to be getting to know him in his campaign.  He is in “tell people what they want to hear” mode.  It would be refreshing to know the person under the pretense.  We may never get to know who he truly is.  If president, people may quickly start to distrust Romney if the economy does not grow or he pushes us into another war.
  • Once the vitriol of the presidential campaign is over, and if Romney wins, Republicans will soften up on Obama and forget they ever had such despise for our first black president.

If President Obama is re-elected in November:
  • Americans left and right will feel a psychological let down.  Obama is a moderate.  Liberals will vote for him in November but don’t believe he is doing justice to important causes.  The right has painted him bad no matter what he does right or wrong. The right will feel they were slighted if Obama wins.
  • Obama seems fairly transparent.  If you want to know what he thinks about America, about the Constitution, about life, about long-term vision, read the books he wrote before he became president.  Education, self-responsibility, and self-esteem are critical issues to him.  Also, he isn’t hiding his past or his tax returns.   His motives are consistent and open for debate.  This is good for a country’s long-term.  He is a likeable person only if individuals are open to liking him.
  • Obama will do more daring things in his lame duck presidency; cut back on military spending, push for more education, and hopefully create a long-term plan to wean us off of oil and coal; the plans he desired before he inherited a falling economy.  Congress will still push back; Republicans in Congress will still throw a temper tantrum even over good ideas.
  • Tea Partyers will rise again and rally if Obama gets a second term. 
  • The economy will still grow under Obama's watch, slowly.  Maybe this is not so bad.  With Obama, Wall Street will continue to attempt to find ways to lend almost-free money to people, and the Federal Reserve will keep interest rates low.  It will further stir the awakening real estate market, which historically helps an economic recovery.  Perhaps slow growth is better than run-amuck greed that lead us to the edge of a cliff in 2007.

Lastly, seriously, and for our future, this year's elected U.S. President should lead the world in addressing and fixing CO2 levels in our atmosphere.  We should have started 20 years ago.  It's time to get serious.  It's time for politicians to stop denying the data.

As climate change continues, drought ridden states will look to the federal government for subsistence, flood ridden shores will too, and too many people world-wide will be looking to the U.S. to help in famine, extreme heat, and unexpected cold.  There will not be enough federal and state dollars to deal with this, nor familiar environments to produce usual crops, etc., if we do not start now reversing this course.