By Fred Birnbaum and Lindsay Russell Dexter | Idaho Freedom Foundation
Richard Larsen’s commentary on the Idaho Freedom Foundation’s Freedom Index is another attempt to protect liberal (mostly Republican) politicians from accountability. By criticizing IFF’s Freedom Index, Larsen hopes to protect legislators who grow government, raise taxes and impose new regulations — while claiming they’re conservatives.
Let’s set the record straight. The Freedom Index reviews legislation using a consistent set of conservative criteria. Bills are reviewed as to whether they raises taxes or fees, impose a new regulation or restrict the free market. Legislation is reviewed for being consistent with the state and federal constitutions. Those are values many politicians claim to support, but abandon. They caved to special interests willing to write campaign checks.
Americans are tired of politicians who say one thing and do another. Day in, day out, we watch our freedoms erode, our Constitution ignored, and local, state and federal governments trample us.
Who gets hurt when conservative principles are abandoned? Real people like Josh Phillips and his family, from Salmon. Josh has debilitating seizures caused by a unique medical condition. In 2015, a bill to help give Josh access to a new treatment option was before the Legislature. Big pharmaceutical companies fought to keep Josh from accessing new medicine. The Freedom Index analyzed and rated that bill positively. IFF educated legislators on the issue. If not for groups like ours, Josh’s voice would have been drowned in a sea of political operatives and moneyed interests.
Who else does IFF defend? People like George and Mary Gersema, who started their Idaho business from scratch more than 30 years ago, but who are now at a disadvantage because Idaho lawmakers gave a crony tax deal to Gersema’s competitors. In 2014, the Freedom Index negatively rated the bill that made this crony tax deal possible.
And yes, IFF opposed the 2016 bill that banned powdered alcohol. Why? Because the state liquor board already possesses the power to block alcohol-based products, in any form, from sale and distribution. The true purpose of the legislation was to protect incumbent alcohol makers from a product that might make it to market. The bill wasn’t about public safety, it was about using government to protect market share.
Larsen is dishonest in attempting to suggest that IFF supports anarchy. IFF clearly does not. Government plays a role in our lives, but we’d like to reduce that role and protect Idahoans’ agency.
Simply stated, IFF focuses on fiscal and free-market principles that produce real Idaho solutions.
It is important to note, IFF reviews hundreds of bills when it compiles the Freedom Index. In comparison, the American Conservative Union looks at a dozen. And, though IFF appreciates the ACU, it neglects to review major pieces of legislation, including the 2015 tax increase that cost Idahoans $95 million.
IFF publishes its Freedom Index for Idahoans, like Josh Phillips, and George and Mary Gersema, whose lives and livelihoods depend on liberty. Even in the face of dishonest attacks, the Freedom Foundation will continue to defend freedom for all.
Fred Birnbaum is vice president of the Idaho Freedom Foundation and Lindsay Russell Dexter is senior policy director of IFF.