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Alaska Moves Closer to End Raw Milk Ban Statewide

in Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Victimless Crime by Alice Salles Comments are off

Alaska Moves Closer to End Raw Milk Ban Statewide

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Like drugs, raw milk has become the stuff of mad regulators. “It’s bad for you,” therefore, it needs to go — whether you like it or not.

CowBut raw milk is what it is: raw. It isn’t for for everyone — just like fried food, vegetables, or drugs. Why try to set a standard that isn’t universal and can’t be met by all?

Over the years, brave lawmakers like former congressman Dr. Ron Paul as well as current Kentucky Representative Thomas Massie attempted to put an end to the raw milk ban madness. But despite their best efforts, little was accomplished on the federal level.

That’s where state lawmakers enter the picture.

In Alaska, for instance, state lawmaker Geran Tarr is fighting the federal raw milk ban by pushing a bill through the House that would legalize the sale of raw milk across the Last Frontier state. The bill, known as House Bill 46 was introduced in the House on January 13. It stipulates that individuals across the state are free to sell raw milk to consumers.

This bill would render the federal ban on the sale of the “dangerous” product useless, while allowing Alaskans to make their own decision for themselves.

According to the bill, raw milk sellers would only be required to add a warning to the product’s label stating that the contents are not pasteurized and that they may cause health concerns.

Currently, the sale of raw milk is prohibited in Alaska. But individuals are allowed to purchase cow shares if they want to consume unpasteurized milk. This legal option makes it difficult for the common consumer to have access to the product.

With this bill, this requirement would be lifted, allowing raw milk producers to sell directly to the final consumer.

HB46 should soon be referred to a committee and once it receives a committee assignment, it needs to pass by a majority vote before it moves to the House and Senate for a vote.

If signed into law, the ban upheld by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would be nullified in practice.

To this day, the FDA maintains the ban by claiming that raw milk poses a health risk due to the susceptibility to contamination tied to cow manure. They claim that the possibility milk may be contaminated with E. coli is enough reason to keep consumers from making their own choices.

In 1987, with the implementation of 21 CFR 1240.61(a), the sale and consumption of unpasteurized milk was effectively banned federally by putting an end to the transportation of raw milk across borders or even within borders. If Alaska wins this battle, it would be a victory for liberty.

What is a Libertarian Win? Part 2

in From Me To You, Liberator Online by Brett Bittner Comments are off

What is a Libertarian Win? Part 2

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

**Note: This is the second part of an article focused on wins for libertarians. You can find the first part, focused on electoral politics, here.**

Outside of winning your election as a candidate or some of the other wins we shared in Part 1, libertarians can win in other ways as well.

  • winWinning a voter referendum. Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon re-legalized the possession and use of marijuana recreationally. About half of the states that legalized marijuana for medical use did so through ballot measures. These popular votes increased freedom for everyone in their respective states and pressured nearby states to “keep up with the Joneses.” These referendums gave libertarians an opportunity to share a message about the freedom to choose what goes into your body. Statewide ballot measures are not the only opportunities to share a freedom-oriented position on an issue. Local tax referendums take place across the country, and are a great opportunity for a win for libertarians. We can highlight wasteful spending, cronyism, and the proper role of government in opposition to the proposed tax. Who votes to tax themselves? 
  • Lobbying for legislative action. Referendums are not the only avenue for libertarian legislative wins. Strong working relationships with legislators and their staff can yield positive results for liberty if you work with them to pass freedom-oriented bills. This can be a difficult route, even if you have legislators friendly to the issue you’re working on. This will also require some coalescing with other groups with a similar interest and potentially compromising to get some of what you seek. This is easier with the more populist beliefs we hold.
  • Disruptive innovation. Almost entirely outside of politics, free market innovations that revolutionize industries and change the way we do things disrupt the status quo and offer another win for libertarians. Innovations like Uber, Airbnb, and Amazon transformed transportation, travel lodging, and retail sales. Until your innovation affects Big Government and their cronies, this won’t become a political issue. As Uber, Airbnb, and Amazon can tell you, the politicization of innovation will get you interested in politics, no matter the level of interest you held before.

Can you think of any other ways a libertarian can win?

Your Favorite Distilled Beverage May Get a Little Cheaper

in Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Taxes by Jackson Jones Comments are off

Your Favorite Distilled Beverage May Get a Little Cheaper

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

A bipartisan bill was introduced recently that would lower the per gallon excise tax on distilled drinks, including whiskey and rum.

The Distillery Innovation and Excise Tax Reform Act, introduced by Rep. Todd Young (R-Ind.), would relieve distilleries, especially newer ones, of some of the burdens they face when bringing products to market.

Currently, distilled drinks are taxed at $13.50 per proof gallon. Young’s bill seeks to lower the tax to $2.70 per proof gallon on the first 100,000 gallons produced by a distillery and $9 per proof thereafter.

Barrel

Rep. John Yarmuth (R-Ky.) has cosponsored the bill, which was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee on May 21. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) chairs the powerful tax-writing committee.

“All around southern Indiana, many new craft distilleries are popping up, creating jobs and adding to the tax base,” Young said in a release on Wednesday. “But there’s a lot of red tape involved in getting a new distillery off the ground, and this bill helps reduce that burden. In addition, we have many large, established distilleries in our region of the country, and this bill will help them, too.”

The bill has support from the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) and the American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA). “It is significant that the distillers of all sizes are united behind this important hospitality industry legislation,” Peter Cressy, CEO of DISCUS, said in a joint release with ACSA. “We thank the sponsors for recognizing the economic impact passage of this bill will have for our industry.”

Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) introduced a companion bill in the Senate. Sens. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) have signed on as cosponsors of the bill. Although the members represent states with a number of distilleries, the popularity of craft spirits has risen significantly and virtually every state now has distillery.

For the producers, the savings can mean expansion of their operations and more jobs for local communities.

“I started my distillery eight years ago to support Michigan jobs and prove that high quality spirits could be made right here in Michigan,” Rifino Valentine, founder of Valentine Distilling, said in a press release from Peters’ office. “While I’m proud to say we are expanding our facility, so many small distilleries are at a unique disadvantage as a result of the high federal excise tax.”

The bill may be common sense, but similar efforts to lower the excise tax on distilled spirits didn’t move out of committee in the previous Congress.

Supposedly Sick Coast Guard Members Took Taxpayer-Funded Trips to Vacation Hot Spots

in Economic Liberty, Issues, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Taxes by Jackson Jones Comments are off

Supposedly Sick Coast Guard Members Took Taxpayer-Funded Trips to Vacation Hot Spots

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Every fall, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) publishes an annual report, known as the Wastebook, highlighting dozens of the worst examples of wasteful spending by federal agencies.

Some of the items in the report may sound unbelievable, but this is the federal government, and one should never underestimate bureaucrats with tax dollars at their disposal. More ridiculous examples from the 2014 version of the report include the $387,000 the National Institutes of Health spent on Swedish massages for rabbits (yes, seriously) and the $200,000 the Department of Agriculture spent to help a New York-based brewer build a beer farm.

Coburn, who earned a reputation as a hardcore fiscal hawk, resigned from Congress last year after a second cancer diagnosis, leaving a need for transparency in federal spending. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is stepping up to fill the void left by Coburn’s departure.

On Wednesday, Paul rolled out a new feature on his official Senate homepage, dubbed The Waste Report. According to a press statement, the periodical report “will identify egregious examples of wasteful spending throughout the U.S. government.”

The inaugural edition of The Waste Report focuses on medical waste, specifically a little-known U.S. Coast Guard program that costs taxpayers $1.2 million each year. The Travel to Obtain Health Care Program pays for Coast Guard members stationed in locations where there are no providers to seek medical care elsewhere. The program is available to members in Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico, though the latter two account for 7 percent of cases.

The Inspector General (IG) of the Department of Homeland Security released an audit in February detailing the inefficiency and lack of oversight in the Travel to Obtain Health Care Program, which costs taxpayers $1.2 million annually.

“[T]he IG uncovered trips from Alaska to Vail, Colorado; Orlando, FL; Scottsdale, AZ; and Savannah, GA,” Paul’s report notes.

“Though a doctor’s referral is supposed to be required before travel is approved, only twelve percent of records had such notes. “

“In total, 94 percent of all records were missing key elements including travel requests, approval forms, cost estimates, and/or doctor’s notes,” the report continues. “This lack of basic documentation prevented the IG from substantiating whistleblower claims that trips – even to Anchorage – were more for shopping than medical care, while also preventing the IG from affirming the need for accompanying spouses (who also traveled at taxpayer expense) to assist patients.”

The Inspector General made three recommendations aimed at improving accountability and oversight in the program, including greater documentation requirements and training. But as The Waste Report explains, “one should not need special training to know that taxpayer funded medical travel should not be approved without a doctor’s note, especially if that travel is for couples’ trips to vacation hot spots.”

They Said It… With John Kerry and Rand Paul

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the They Said It section in Volume 20, No. 8 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

LIBERTARIANS HELP WIN LEGAL POT IN ALASKA: “Smoking, growing and possessing marijuana becomes legal in America’s wildest state Tuesday, thanks to a voter initiative aimed at clearing away 40 years of conflicting laws and court rulings. Making Alaska the third state to legalize recreational marijuana was the goal of a coalition including libertarians, rugged individualists and small-government Republicans who prize the privacy rights enshrined in the state’s constitution.” — journalist Molly Dischner, Associated Press, “Alaska Becomes 3rd State With Legal Marijuana,” Feb. 23, 2015.

HOW GOV’T SPIES HACKED VIRTUALLY EVERY CELL PHONE IN THE WORLD: “With the help of the NSA, British intelligence broke into the world’s leading manufacturer of SIM cards and stole millions of keys that encrypt cell phone communications, including what you say. … U.S. and British spies hacked into Gemalto, which makes SIM cards for AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint, and hundreds of other wireless networks. With Gemalto’s encryption keys in hand, the intelligence agencies gained ‘the potential to secretly monitor a large portion of the world’s cellular communications, including both voice and data’ without having to get a single warrant or tell a telephone company.” — the Daily Beast website, summarizing “The Great SIM Heist: How Spies Stole the Keys to the Encryption Castle” by Jeremy Scahill and Josh Begley (based on files from Edward Snowden), The Intercept, Feb. 19, 2014. Ajit Pai

GOV’T AT WORK: “[Net Neutrality] is a solution that won’t work to a problem that doesn’t exist.” — Ajit Pai, a commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

UBER REDUCES DRUNK DRIVING, SAVES LIVES: “In May 2014, Uber set out to answer a simple but important question: what, if any, effect did the availability of safe, reliable rides on the Uber ridesharing platform have on drunk driving in Seattle, where prior to Uber’s arrival in 2013, approximately 7.6 people per day — or 2,750 per year — were arrested for driving under the influence. Using publicly available data and a simple econometric model, we discovered Uber’s entry into the Emerald City was associated with a 10% decrease in DUI arrests. The results were robust and statistically significant, providing meaningful evidence of the power Uber’s network of safe, reliable rides has on drunk driving in major metropolitan cities. … And the pattern is the same in cities across America. … [W]e believe there is a direct relationship between the presence of uberX in a city and the amount of drunk driving crashes involving younger populations.” —Uber and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) from their new study, “More Options. Shifting Mindsets. Driving Better Choices.”

FOOLS:
“American foreign policy is controlled by fools. What else can one conclude from the Doug Bandowbipartisan demand that the U.S. intervene everywhere all the time, irrespective of consequence? … Not only has virtually every bombing, invasion, occupation, and other interference made problems worse. Almost every new intervention is an attempt to redress problems created by previous U.S. actions. And every new military step is likely, indeed, almost guaranteed, to create even bigger problems.” —Doug Bandow, Cato Institute, “Washington’s Foolish Foreign Policy: American People Must Say No to More Wars,” Forbes.com, Feb. 21, 2015.

WAR, WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR: “So just what did several thousand dead Americans, and at least tens of thousands of civilian casualties, plus a couple of trillion dollars get us? … Are we living in a safer world with a more peaceful and prosperous Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya? Isn’t there, as some experts have posited, a possible casual link between the way we prosecuted the war on terror so far, and the proliferation of violence so much of the world is still living with today? … We are on a ‘wars of the future’ conveyor belt where we will keep spending mindlessly, without pausing to see what the trillions we have already spent have actually bought us and the planet.” — Robert Hennelly, “What did thousands of dead Americans get us? Before granting war powers, let’s see where the last two got us,” Slate.com, Feb 22, 2015.

EXCELLENT QUESTION: “Remember there was this [federal government] shutdown about a year ago, and in Washington everyone was clamoring, everyone was worried. I went home to Kentucky and you know what they said: ‘Why in the hell did you open it back up?’” — Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) speaking in Montgomery, Alabama, Feb. 20, 2015, quoted by Breitbart.com.

John KerryKERRY SWIFTBOATS NETANYAHU: “The prime minister was profoundly forward-leaning and outspoken about the importance of invading Iraq under George W. Bush. We all know what happened with that decision.” — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Feb. 25, 2015, attacking Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the grounds that Netanyahu’s support for the U.S. invasion of Iraq shows his judgment on Iran can’t be trusted. Yes, this is the same John Kerry who himself voted for the war in Iraq in 2002 and touted that support while running for president in 2004.

RULE OF THUMB: “Here’s a good rule of thumb: Any time a president says new tech laws are to protect ‘our kids,’ you know something bad is on the way.” — tech culture journalist Xeni Jardin on anti-privacy laws being considered by the Obama administration, “President Obama’s tech-centered State of the Union,” Boing Boing, Jan. 20, 2015.