Printed on: February 01, 2013

Celebrating Otter's statism

CHEERS to Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter. The governor this week stepped up his effort to create a state-based health insurance exchange, a requirement of the Affordable Care Act. Otter's office introduced a bill in the Idaho Senate's Commerce and Human Resources Committee and issued a "call to action" that includes an online petition where Idahoans can voice their support.

An exchange is an online portal where consumers can shop for policies and see what subsidies they might qualify for under the new health care law. It's estimated state exchanges will lead as many as 15 million uninsured Americans to private plans. If Idaho doesn't act, the feds will create an exchange for us, resulting in lost jobs, higher premiums and increased federal regulations.

A slam dunk, right?


In order to get an exchange through this Legislature, Otter finds himself in an unusual position -- taking on his ideological allies. You know them, the pseudo-libertarian crowd, folks who refer to anyone who sees government as anything but the enemy as "statists" and long for the mythical Galt's Gulch depicted in Ayn Rand's novel "Atlas Shrugged."

Perhaps taking on the irrational right will be good for Otter. It'll give him a chance to experience their situational rigidness firsthand. For instance, there was Sen. Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, telling a radio show that support of a state-based exchange means you "believe in the principles of socialism."

There you go. Idaho's conservative governor has, in one fell swoop, become a statist who channels Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Well, whatever. Otter's mentor, the old Caldwell libertarian Ralph Smeed, might be spinning in his grave, but clearly the governor understands he's fighting for states' rights and the best possible outcome for his constituents. His effort is appreciated.

JEERS to Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood. As the adults in Boise debate the state exchange, Idaho's most oxygen-deprived legislator sent out a mass email and posted a message on Twitter comparing the role of insurance companies to "the Jews boarding the trains to concentration camps," according to reporting by the Spokesman-Review's Betsy Russell.

Perhaps it would do Nuxoll good to talk to a Jew who lived through the experience she has the gall to reference. Maybe then she would understand how rotten it is to even hint that people with honest philosophical differences are capable of genocide. Perhaps Nuxoll would realize that by using this analogy she reduces the slaughter of millions of innocents to a political scrum.

This must be what Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal was talking about when he advised Republicans to stop being the "stupid party."

JEERS to Senate President Brent Hill, R-Rexburg. Nuxoll's goofiness, sadly, is to be expected. This was the woman who found merit in the idea of denying the Electoral College a quorum, thereby costing President Obama his rightly earned second term and throwing the country into chaos.

Idahoans, however, should expect more from Hill than this tepid reaction to Nuxoll's asinine comparison: "This is a very emotional issue for a lot of people," Hill told Russell. "There's a lot of 'stuff' going around, a lot of information, a lot of viewpoints being expressed. As we get closer to making that decision, the rhetoric's going to get more dramatic."

That's exactly why Hill should have brought the hammer down. Nuxoll's comments called for a stern rebuke from Hill, to establish some ground rules for the coming debate and preserve the dignity of the Idaho Senate.

Hill is one of the nicest men you'll ever meet. Perhaps, in cases like this, a little too nice.

CHEERS to the folks who make up Concerned Citizens of District 55. This group, according to spokesman Rick Bigler, is looking to replace a Blackfoot School Board that authorized a $220,000 payment to its former superintendent in an illegal meeting and hid it in his personnel file. The group is attempting to recall Board Chairman Scott Reese and trustee Jenny Hong. It is also seeking candidates to run against the remaining three board members in the May election.

We wish them luck. This entire board should step down. Since it won't, it's up to the citizens in District 55 to do the work for them.

JEERS to Idaho Republicans James Risch and Mike Crapo, who were among 36 GOP senators to vote against a $50.5 billion Hurricane Sandy relief package.

The bill, as too often happens in D.C., was loaded with goodies -- funding for the Head Start program, environmental cleanup in Colorado and roof repairs to the Smithsonian. However, many of those Republicans, including Crapo, have sought emergency relief funding in the past. And you can't get around the fact that American citizens who need help would have been denied it had Crapo and Risch gotten their way. This was a close call, but Idaho's senators should have held their nose and voted yes. Someday, it might be Idahoans asking the nation for help.

JEERS to Rep. Pete Nielsen, R-Mountain Home. In an effort to gin up justification for the Idaho School Boards Association's decision to revive Proposition 1 with four new bills, Nielsen threw this question out during a House Education Committee meeting: "Throughout the state, was there districts or precincts or whatever you want to say that actually support Prop 1, so it wasn't a state that said no throughout the whole state in every area, there was some support, was there not?"

Just over 57 percent of the voters shot down Prop 1, including 36 of Idaho's 44 counties. Try as you might, there's no other way to interpret that than Idahoans don't want it and the ISBA shouldn't be pitching it.

CHEERS to the roughly 500 people who turned out in Rexburg on Saturday for a rally in support of the Second Amendment. We could not disagree more with the idea behind the rally; a discussion about gun control does not mean the Second Amendment is under siege. Neither is the Second Amendment absolute. Common sense, history and the law tell us that.

But, as we've said in the past about war protesters on the Broadway bridge and tea partiers at the Idaho Falls greenbelt, it's good to see American citizens willing to fight for what they believe in. There is no debate unless everyone is willing to participate. Next time, however, how about leaving the assault rifles at home?

Corey Taule