Tear down walls to make a better Utah

Originally published in the Deseret News.

Jack Gallivan, the former publisher of the Salt Lake Tribune, once challenged community leaders with this statement:

“Our task is to make all of Utah as beautiful in man-made additions as it is in God-given wonders; beautiful in the maintenance of the good life; beautiful in social equality and justice; beautiful in the brotherhood of mankind.”

We live in a great place that can become even greater. Greatness starts by tearing down the invisible walls that separate our community and contribute to inequality, unequal opportunity and human hardship.

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Hillbilly Elegy: A deep, compelling look at poverty in America, with implications close to home

Originally published in Utah Business.

I’ll never forget the first time I came face to face with squalor. My car broke down as I was driving home from Capitol Reef National Park. I walked a half-mile or so in the dark to a home just off the highway. A man opened the door, hesitated, and then let me in to use his phone.

Inside the home I saw filth, dirty dishes and food scraps. I saw several children sleeping on the floor, two of whom seemed too old to be wearing diapers. Over in the corner I saw the mother staring at a TV set, barely noticing I was there. I made my phone call and left, never forgetting the sadness I felt. The home bore no resemblance to the order and comfort of my wholesome, middle-class upbringing.

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Health care reformed needs the votes of both Republicans and Democrats

Originally published in the Deseret News.

The game of history is usually played by the best and the worst over the heads of the majority in the middle.” — Eric Hoffer

Eric Hoffer received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Ronald Reagan in 1983. Hoffer — the son of immigrant parents and a man who worked as a migrant farm worker and a longshoreman — received our nation’s highest civilian honor because of his insightful analysis about human affairs. Lacking a formal education, he studied history through reading and observation. One of his most important insights concerned the human tendency towards extremism. I thought of Hoffer last week as the American Health Care Act, otherwise known as “repeal and replace,” went down in flames.

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Restore the sales tax on food and implement an earned income tax credit

Originally published in the Deseret News.

A lot has been written on these pages about the problems with Utah increasing the sales tax on food. I would like to offer a different perspective. I think there are far better ways to help low-income Utahns. Legislators would be wise to tax unprepared food at the same rate as other commodities and find a much more tailored way to help Utahns in need.

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Truth and Consequences

Originally published in Utah Business.

America’s best immigration policy is a prosperous Mexico

I’ve always admired Condoleezza Rice. I first met the former National Security Advisor and later U.S. Secretary of State during the 2002 Olympic Winter Games when she attended Opening Ceremony. A year later, in Washington, D.C., I was fortunate to visit with her at the White House. And while I admire her grace and stature, what I prize most is her well-informed insights.

I have a vivid memory of an interview she gave on the topic of illegal immigration. She explained to the reporter that the best way to stem the tide of illegal immigration from Mexico was to foster a healthy, growing, and strong Mexican economy. This sensible comment struck a chord with me. We can talk about deportations, walls, the war on drugs, visa reform, and import taxes, but what we really need is a prosperous Mexico.

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Invest in rural Utah to help with public land disagreements

Originally published in the Deseret News.

I revere the people of rural Utah. Eighteen years of public service in the Utah governor’s office afforded me many opportunities to travel to rural communities, meet the hardworking people, and appreciate the important economic and cultural contributions they make to the Beehive State.

I also love outdoor recreation. I’ve backpacked in the canyons of the Escalante, camped in the San Rafael Swell, and experienced the whitewater in Cataract Canyon. I view a large portion of the Colorado Plateau as sacred land that needs protection.

I share this background because the rancor between Utah’s outdoor products industry and many of Utah’s elected leaders troubles me. Amid the talk of boycotts and lawsuits, I think an important element is missing from the conversation. In addition to preservation of Utah’s precious wild lands, we need to talk about the economic reality facing rural Utah.

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Predictions for 2017

Originally published in Utah Business.

I love the start of a new year and am typically filled with optimism as I contemplate local and world events. This year the realist in me takes center stage as I look forward with more trepidation and uncertainty, particularly concerning global affairs. While my crystal ball is foggy and blurred, here are a handful of predictions for the new year.

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Writings and Reflections