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Veteran lobbyist Trent Clark uses distortions to defend loss of freedom

Veteran lobbyist Trent Clark uses distortions to defend loss of freedom

Wayne Hoffman
April 13, 2022
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April 13, 2022

The Idaho Freedom Foundation reviews close to 300 bills per legislative session, more legislation than any organization in the country. Not only do we look at legislation from a conservative perspective, but we also publicly post our written analyses of bills before they’re voted on. Those analyses remain on our website long after the votes are taken. 

What we consistently look for is to answer this central question: Are we more or less free if this legislation were to pass? That’s it. People always make excuses for the loss of freedom. Our analyses aren’t interested in the bill sponsors' interesting reasons for taking people’s rights away. We’re only noting a bill’s impact on liberty. 

Witness how quickly people are willing to give up freedom for, uh, reasons. Trent Clark, a former chemical company lobbyist and member of the crony big government shill organization Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, exemplifies this in his recent commentary attacking the Idaho Freedom Foundation.  

Published on April 8 in the Idaho State Journal, Clark takes issue with our analysis, even ironically labeling our position as “libertarian tyranny.” Since he couldn’t be bothered to share the evidence for our positions with his readers, I will. 

“House Bill 509 — Increases the refund of grocery sales taxes to Idaho families, raising the credit to $120 per person, a $20 increase.” 

Clark notes correctly that this bill was rated a “zero” and attributes rating to our advocacy  for eliminating the grocery tax and the grocery tax credit. If Clark had bothered to read the analysis, he’d know the bill is not really a tax cut but a form of wealth redistribution, since some people receive more money than they pay in. At best, it barely combats inflation and does not advance nor limit freedom. 

“House Bill 548 — Keeps tax cheats and out-of-state residents from claiming the Idaho property tax homeowner’s exemption.” 

All that sounds well and good, but the real issue with the legislation, as explained in the analysis, is the creation of a statewide database that can only be viewed by certain elected officials. This makes it prone to abuse as with other government databases. There are a lot of conservative policies that can be deployed to go after tax cheats, but making a database of law-abiding citizens is not one of them.  

“House Bill 664 — Aligns certification (including fingerprinting and background checks) of Idaho audiologists and speech pathologists through an interstate agreement that allows treating patients in multiple states.” Clark goes after us for scoring this bill negatively because it will supposedly make it easier for out-of-state audiologists and speech pathologists to operate in Idaho. This might be true, but for the pleasure of having that right, Idaho practitioners are forced to be treated like criminals, for no reason whatsoever, being subjected to fingerprinting and background checks just to keep working. Again, it’s a net loss of freedom, which is exactly the type of policies conservatives should oppose. 

“House Bill 678 waives sales tax on building materials to expand semiconductor manufacturing in Idaho.”

Clark says we should fully support this crony tax deal designed specifically to benefit projects backed by the federal government, which means it would use more money borrowed from future generations. From our analysis: “In addition to shifting the tax burden from favored taxpayers to others, the bill has another problem. It rewards some companies that benefit from cronyism as practiced by the federal government. Idaho’s economic policies should not be based on which companies have the most successful lobbyists in Washington, D.C.” People are made less free when cronies make their taxes lower at someone else's expense.

“Senate Bill 1284 raised the age for purchasing and using tobacco and vape products, from 18 to 21.” 

Clark thinks this is just fine because, well, smoking is bad. Again, we don’t take a view on whether smoking is or isn’t good. It’s a question of the government taking away rights from adults because it can. We are purely measuring freedom. 

From our analysis: “This change limits the freedoms of people otherwise recognized by the law as adults. Specifically, it bars their ability to purchase or use tobacco products by retroactively reclassifying them as ‘minors’ and then penalizing both smokers and retailers for defying government edicts. There is nothing conservative about policy that denies adults their God-given rights to purchase a legal product.” 

It’s interesting to me that Clark takes exception to a mere five bills, which represent slightly more than 2 percent of the total bills we reviewed, and that he can’t make his case without resorting to half-truths and distortions.

We don’t just look at bills to see if it promises to have some good result. We look to see if it grows or shrinks government, and by extension, how it affects freedom. This makes the establishment Republicans and the big government Democrats very, very unhappy, thus producing a constant supply of attacks from the people who are determined to maintain the status quo that favors politically-connected industries. 

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