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Bill Sniffin: Only Trump Can Beat Cheney Out Here In Cowboy State

in Bill Sniffin/Column

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher

If you had asked me three weeks ago if U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney was beatable in her quest for reelection in 2022, I would have said “no way.”

Today, the landscape has shifted.

Former President Donald Trump has retaken charge of the national Republican Party.  He did that at the big CPAC meeting Sunday.

From that podium, he singled out Cheney as a “war-monger” and made it clear he is holding a world-class grudge against Wyoming’s sole U.S. Representative. Nobody holds a grudge better than Trump and he is putting Liz into a special category. Like a crazed pit bull, he says he is coming for her.

When the U. S. House voted to impeach Trump in January, just ten Republicans joined their 222 Democrat counterparts voting in favor. Cheney was the most prominent and has been vocal since then in defending her vote.

Trump is not alone in his disdain for Cheney. Almost half of Wyoming’s county Republican committees have censured Cheney (plus the state committee) and some even demanded she resign.

Trump wants to make an example out of his war with Cheney and Wyoming will be that battleground.

So, could the normally unbeatable Liz Cheney be defeated in 2022?  It all comes down to Trump.  First he would have to designate a single Wyoming candidate he wants to support early, perhaps in the next few months.  Then he would promote that single candidate and will come to Wyoming and hold a rally (or two) for that candidate.

He will also send in surrogates like Donald Trump Jr. and others to stump for this mystery candidate.

And, he will open the floodgates of campaign money to support this one, single Republican candidate for U.S. House in the Wyoming primary again Liz.

This strategy will see this mystery candidate’s popularity grow as he or she travels the state pressing the flesh and slamming Cheney over the next 16 months.  Much of that Trump money will be used to finance the best ground game the state has ever seen – this is where the campaign literally goes door-to-door convincing every Wyoming citizen one-on-one to support this person.

By the time August of 2022 comes around, the polls could show the race a dead heat.  Then Trump will fly back into Wyoming to administer the coup de grace. On election day, the mystery candidate will have defeated Liz with 43,000 votes to her 42,000 votes with a group of wannabes picking up the other 15,000 votes.

So, who will be the mystery candidate?

State Sen. Anthony Bouchard of Cheyenne has already picked up some national money as he is going full-bore into an anti-Cheney campaign at warp speed. As the founder of the WYGO (Wyoming Gun Owners) group, he has access to thousands of die-hard supporters, state-wide.

Rep. Chuck Gray of Casper has created a flashy TV ad on YouTube and is running full-tilt.

State Rep. Ocean Andrew was thought to be the beneficiary of U. S. Rep. Matt Gaetz’s (R-Florida) anti-Cheney visit to Cheyenne recently.  Not sure if he is running but do not count him out. Any Republican who can win a House seat in liberal Albany County has some pulling power.

Brian Miller of Sheridan touts his military credentials.  He ran a statewide primary campaign last year for U. S. Senate that was won by Cynthia Lummis in a landslide.  

Darin Smith of Cheyenne has run for U. S. House before and is popular statewide. He also was campaign manager for Foster Friess’ gubernatorial race in 2018, when Friess finished second to Mark Gordon in the GOP primary.

Jillian Balow has expressed some interest.  She has handled a difficult time as Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Two smart guys from Jackson with access to big campaign money would be Dave Dodson and Bob Grady. Dodson ran hard against John Barrasso for the U.S. Senate seat a few years ago and has that experience behind him. Grady is well-connected and savvy.

Without Trump singling out one of these guys or gals out or if another mystery candidate comes forward, all these candidates will engage in the oh-so-common Republican firing squad. They get in a circle and start shooting. And Liz would emerge as a big winner in the end.

Whoever runs, Trump will need to open up his treasure chest. Cheney spent over $3 million last year defeating Democrat Lynnette Grey Bull.  This was one of the highest amounts ever spent in a Wyoming race.  Would a 2022 race cost $5 million?  $10 million? 

We are seeing lots of anti-Cheney sentiment around the state but it will be to no avail without Donald Trump, himself, directing traffic.  Stay tuned, folks. This could be momentous.

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Dave Simpson: Old Retired Guys Wrestling With Pots

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By Dave Simpson, Cowboy State Daily columnist

There’s some swagger involved in being the “Pot Wrassler.”

Unless you’re really bad at it, folks don’t mess with you. Because, sure as God made little green apples, they don’t want to do it.

A Pot Wrassler was a chuck wagon cook and dishwasher out on the range. The job often fell to cowboys who were too old and beat up to do the rough stuff younger cowboys do.

The late cowboy poet Curley Fletcher wrote in the poem “Pot Wrassler,” “I got the rheumatics and my hands is all burned. My joints is all stiff and my belly is churned. Now I’m a pot wrassler, yure a hearing me shout. So come on and get it, fore I throws it out.”

When I retired I took over most of the cooking at our house. Seemed like the least I could do. For all those years I spent working, the chore of cooking fell on my wife. And it plum wore the old gal out. (She’s a lot older than I am – 24 days.)

It’s not hard to understand. She had been cooking since “home ec” in junior high – when I was busy making a curio shelf in “shop.” Coming up with “something for dinner” had long ago lost its allure, and she always said she’d eat road kill, or squirrel brains, if someone else would just cook it.

For me, however, after a career of listening to people complain about a wet newspaper, or with a bone to pick over an editorial, cooking dinner seemed like a day in the park. A little project every afternoon, with the payoff at dinner. Piece of cake.

I think a lot of retired guys are doing the cooking these days, guys like me with “the rheumatics” and stiff joints and churned bellies.

I see them at the grocery store, confused looks on their faces, wandering around, looking in vain for the Kitchen Bouquet (a teenager stocking shelves told me to go look in Floral), or trying to find the “broccolini” that TV star Joanna Gaines specifies in her baked chicken recipe. (Good luck finding broccolini in Flyover Country. I’ve looked high and low.)

The women in my family laugh that I even looked. “Leave it out of the recipe!” they say. “Are you crazy? Who cares?” But the retired guys I know want to be precise, as if they’re rebuilding a carburetor. We actually care if the salt is “sea salt,” or “kosher salt.” The wrong salt could mess everything up. The dinner could run rough.

Old guys who spent years reading “Popular Mechanics” and looking up to Bob Vila and Norm Abram are suddenly studying the Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book, and watching “The Pioneer Woman” on TV.  Tom Silva can rebuild your Victorian porch, but Ree Drummond makes a killer Green Bean Casserole. Times change, Pal. Better change with ’em.

We’re up to it. An old friend told me not long ago that he too does most of the cooking at his house. (That guy bakes a loaf of rye bread that will blow your hat in the creek.)

A young guy I know did such a good job on the Magnolia Table Classic Cheesecake that I had to give it a try myself. (Figuring out what a “springform pan” is, and trying to find one, burned up an afternoon.

I ultimately bailed, resorting to one of those preformed graham cracker crust pans. It was my maiden voyage baking in a “water bath.” Nobody drowned.)

My mother-in-law makes the best fried chicken in the world. During one visit, she got crosswise with my black Lab. “She says either the dog goes, or she goes,” my wife said. And I said, “I’m sure going to miss that fried chicken.” (Things calmed down and neither the dog nor my mother-in-law had to go.)

I’m working on my fried chicken, but it can’t match hers. I can go toe-to-toe with her, though, when it comes to green chili.

This pot wrassler deal is kind of fun. The family comes and gets it, “fore I throws it out.”

As Curley Fletcher wrote:

“So do yure old riding, you wild galoots. And I’ll wrassle pots, you can just bet your boots.”

Dave Simpson can be contacted at

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Dr. Seuss: And To Think That I Saw It On PC Street

in Column/Jim Angell

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Today, I found myself scouring the internet, looking for contraband of such an apparently appalling nature that I was actually hesitant to launch a search, worried the Google overlords might be tracking me.

After finding what I wanted, I still faced the daunting prospect of actually obtaining my purchase of socially questionable material.

But I set my jaw and proceeded to enter the number of my credit card, completing my purchase and throwing caution to the not insubstantial Wyoming wind.

I was not purchasing firearms, explosives, rock albums with explicit lyrics or porn.

I was looking for Dr. Seuss books. Specifically, six that Dr. Seuss Enterprises says will no longer be published.

Heinous, I know. For a supporter of free speech to stockpile books that are declared racist by today’s standards … well, it’s almost as bad as reading “Huck Finn.”

But before you think too harshly of me and waggle a finger in my direction — as many enlightened people have chosen to do on the national stage — hear out my reasoning.

First, I love these books. I haven’t read all of the books on the list, but “If I Ran the Zoo” was one a beloved uncle read to me too many times to count. “Eggs Super Duper” was one of the first books I learned to read on my own.

And of course, “To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street,” the first of the children’s books published by Theodore Geisel under the pen name of Dr. Seuss, is a literary milestone.

And while these books are not being banned, stopping their publication amounts to the same thing. 

A search of book retailers large and small revealed that most are completely sold out of the “Mulberry” title — and with no more being printed, there will be no replacements on the market any time soon, save those collectible editions that are going for $900 and more.

So I want to save these books for my grandchildren. I want them to hear and enjoy the same hypnotic rhyme that I enjoyed as a child.

I want to save them for me. As a way to remember my childhood.

And I want to save them for a society that has become so sensitive it cannot realize that the same standards in place now were not in place 80, 40, 20, 10 or even five years ago.

My biggest concern over the whole fracas is this: These books are not being taken out of publication because they are racist or discuss issues of race.

The problem stems from images that were found on their pages. Images that would have been common in 1937, when “Mulberry” was written, but that many rightfully find objectionable now.

So a book is being pulled from publication not because of its words, but because of images. I just want to make sure everyone has that straight. A book pulled from the public view, but not for what it says.

But history can’t be changed by removing objectionable images. Those types of racially stereotypical images were used widely at the time and not only by Dr. Seuss. Removing them from public circulation just means future generations won’t know why they were objectionable.

We often learn far more from the mistakes of history than we do the successes. These were the mistakes of Dr. Seuss, a man who, by all accounts, made very few — almost none when these books are placed in proper historic context. 

Indeed, Seuss was known for the lessons of tolerance he passed on to children through his books (who can forget the lesson of the Sneeches?). 

Some have said Seuss himself would have supported this move, but I humbly disagree. I believe he was a man who would rather figure out a way to eliminate the objectionable images of his books than have his words disappear entirely.

So I will brave the glares of cashiers as I try to collect these memorials to my childhood. I will no doubt bow slightly under the judgmental pursed lips of those who will find my actions just a little less reprehensible than collecting Nazi memorabilia.

But I will not surrender Seuss’ words to the mob.

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Rusty Rogers: Rod Miller Is Wrong About Acquiring Federal Land

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By Rusty Rogers, guest columnist

Once again our state legislature is looking at the possibility of reclaiming the land the federal government laid claim to in 1890. One member of the Cowboy State Daily family (Rod Miller) has said that surrendering that land was wisdom. I am not sure why giving up millions of acres is wisdom.

Before placing the statehood committee on a pedestal, it would probably be a good idea to find out why they would do such a thing when even then it was clear there was a fortune under the land. Coal, oil and various other minerals some of which are only now being recognized as valuable.

I far as I can find out it was a compromise of sorts. It is clear if you look into the actions of the federal congress at the time that state hood was not going to happen unless the land was surrendered. Wisdom or coercion.

Once a territory becomes a state the federal government has no authority to retain land without their permission or release. Hence the request to surrender the untitled land prior to statehood.

Constitutionally the federal government may acquire and retain land for its enumerated powers. This includes parcels for military bases, post offices, and housing for federal employees engaged in enumerated functions. It grants no authority to retain acreage for non-enumerated purposes or to retain land once a territory becomes a state.  Research by Rob Natelson.

It cannot, however, just hand land back to the states willy nilly. There are methods and rules to be followed. It would in short be a mess.

More liberal writers and courts have taken a somewhat different view of the subject but none have disagreed with Rob’s findings. However disappointed they might be. Land is power and wealth and that’s why the federal government wants it. It’s also why Wyoming wants it back.

It should be in the hands of the states or the people. There are very good reasons our founders limited the ability of the government to own land. Though some of our more liberal brethren believe the feds to have the power to own and land for any reason, considering carefully the words of our founders it is quite clear they would not have wanted that at all.

So, do we take our land back or not. Yes we should own all the non-private titled land within the state boundaries excepting the national parks, military bases etc. Do we want to go through that right now? Probably not. Many Wyomingites are very much against the idea. Mainly those who make their living on the loosely regulated federal lands.

I personally think we should first fix our own land use laws. They are designed specifically for the protection of large agriculture and ranches also mining, drilling etc. But not for the public. That needs fixing first. Wyoming state public land use laws are not people friendly. Let’s fix that first.

The state of our country right now needs our attention far more than a renewal of the Sage Brush Rebellion. The state of Wyoming is under attack from the so-called democratic socialists now running things in DC. Our legislature need to be paying attention to defending the state’s rights and liberty.

Some of this year’s bills are in that direction. First things first.

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Rod Miller: Legislators Should Quit Wasting Our Time With Worthless Federal Land Bills

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By Rod Miller, columnist

They’re at it again! A bill, HB141, has been filed in the Wyoming legislature, intending to force the U.S. government to relinquish claim to federal lands in Wyoming.

This is the umpteenth time that this nonsense has raised its empty head. Past attempts have met with abject failure, and things won’t be a bit different this time.

We’ve all heard the indelicate expression, “Wish in one hand, defecate in the other and see which one fills up first.”

Permit me to spare the sponsors and supporters of this bill an embarrassingly fragrant and certain outcome. Wishing against reality is a futile exercise, so keep your hands in your pockets.

This feckless notion has been around a long time, since well before the Sagebrush Rebellion under Reagan.

It always fails to do anything but give boneheaded politicians a chance to strut around, pound their chests and cuss the feds. Sure, as a political move, its great theater and appeals to a certain base. But in the harsh reality of the world of law, its a waste of time.

Here’s why. The State of Wyoming’s sovereignty documents, our Constitution and Act of Admission, clearly say that Wyoming permanently forswears any claim to federal lands within our borders, other than those lands already granted for the benefit of our common institutions. Wyoming’s founders and Congress left a paper trail that bodes ill for HB141.

To wit: Article 21, Section 26 of the Wyoming Constitution, “. The people inhabiting this state do agree and declare that they forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within the boundaries thereof…”.

And Section 12 of Wyoming’s Act of Admission, “The state of Wyoming shall not be entitled to any further or other grants of land for any purpose than as expressly provided in this act; and the lands granted by this section shall be held, appropriated, and disposed of exclusively for the purposes herein mentioned, in such manner as the legislature of the state may provide.”

So, to the sponsors of HB141 and to anyone who salivates over the prospect, I’ll suggest that they forget their pie-in-the-sky dreams of a Wyoming without federal land ownership.

Stop counting all the money that will never accrue to our coffers when we pull off this land grab. Give up any notion that your wishes trump the wisdom of Wyoming’s founders. Quit beating this poor, dead horse.

There are other valid arguments against transferring federal land to Wyoming. Such a move would extinguish our great public lands culture of hunting, fishing and recreating on federal land. That culture is part and parcel of our self-identity as Wyomingites, and if it were to disappear, we would be diminished.

If federal land was transferred to the state and then subsequently sold to improve Wyoming’s fiscal situation, we would encounter barbwire fences where we once found open land as the new owners enclosed their own little bit o’ heaven. We would sacrifice our independence to our bottom line, and that’s not a bargain I’m willing to make.

But in the clear, harsh light of the law, Wyoming can NOT legally take ownership of federal land within our borders, no matter how fervently sponsors of this bill wish otherwise.

So, I guess my advice to those legislators would be to enjoy the cheap headlines while you can, suck up all the beer folks will buy you for being a hardass fed basher, and score political points while the issue is hot. Then get back to your desks and do the real work that your constituents expect of you. Ride for the Brand, dammit!

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Sam Lightner: Project Boredom Buster: Here’s a Shameless Plug!

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By Sam Lightner Jr. 

OK, you can’t take the bad out of driving Interstate 80 across Wyoming.  I understand that. 

It seems like nine out of 10 times we do that trek the wind is blowing like a tempest and it’s snowing horizontally. There are semi-trucks in the left lane, barely in control as they ignore the ever-present ice. And when you’re not dodging them you are punching the steering wheel in frustration at some slow semi passing another slightly slower semi, again in the left lane. 

Yo! Just keep your Peterbilt out of the left lane (unless carrying my Amazon Prime order, then hurry up). 

We can’t get rid of the frustrations, but we could make them more interesting. That was the inspiration for Project Boredom Buster.

Boredom Buster would be an audio book sharing Wyoming’s most interesting historic stories as you drove the interstate. Tales of the debauchery at “Hell on Wheels” towns, the Wild Bunch accidentally blowing up a rail car, then doing it again, wild parties thrown by mountain men in the form of a Rendezvous, and what inspired the name of Killpecker Sand Dunes could make that drive into an Equality State fiesta. 

I contacted TravelStorysGPS in Jackson, and they had the app for it. The narratives just play from your phone when you get near a given site. I just needed to write some of the content.  

So, I did. I recorded it too, with a fancy-shmancy new microphone delivered by Amazon Prime. On time. 

So, I found myself back in paragraph one … I’d have to drive I-80 in January to be sure the program was working correctly. 

In these COVID-times, we around the Lightner household don’t get too many outings, so a trip would have been nice,  but driving from Nebraska to Utah was not the vacation I was looking for. But beggars can’t be vacationers, I guess. 

I consulted Dasher, my 19 pound fuzzy son, and he was game for a big “bye-bye.” We loaded the truck, kissed the wife, and aimed the windshield toward Pine Bluffs. 

One only has to get close to I-80 to have the weather set in. About 10 miles north of Rawlins the crosswinds started grabbing the truck. Dasher had to get out and mark some stuff, so we pulled over near the famed Rawlins Red Paint mines. Yep. 50-plus mph. Dasher got back in the truck, shivering in both cold and fear of the gale.

We hit the big road, formerly the Lincoln Highway, and the app kicked in. There I was, yapping about Sinclair (formerly Parco), Fort Steele (formerly Fremont’s camp site), and Walcott, which should not be confused with Wolcott. All played well. 

Then of course it was Elk Mountain. We weren’t in Lander any more…. they had snow, and waves of it were matching our speed. Trucks in all four lanes, that being left, right, the left barrow pit and the right barrow pit. Par for January.  

You ever notice how stuck trucks seem to never have an associated truck driver? It’s odd. Maybe there’s a sci-fi book in that. 

Anyway, we passed through Laramie, and then up to Vedauwoo, my voice commenting on such things as the bronze bust of Lincoln and the Ames Brothers monument. Dasher said he need to mark again. 

“Here, buddy? We’re going east at 80 mph and I have the truck in neutral!” 

There was that look: when you gotta go, you gotta go. 

We pulled over near the Lone Pine and I angled the truck so the door was protected, then opened it. Dasher stepped onto my lap and looked outside. 

“Nope, I can hold it.”

Ninety minutes later we were doing an illegal U-turn in Nebraska. I figure I can say this here cuz everyone knows the Nebraska Highway Patrol can’t read. Dasher took advantage of a dusty corn field, and we sped back west. Talk of Fort Laramie, Frontier Days, the former town of Sherman, and Curt Gowdy flowed correctly. The truck did not. Way too much headwind kept us moving slow. 

By the time we reached Elk Mountain the road had a nice shine. Not that white ice you get when its snowed a lot, but that almost clear, glazed donut-stuff that forms when old snowflakes have been tumbled across it all day. It’s a Wyoming thing… Krispy Kreme invented the Glazed Donut, WYDOT the Glazed Pavement. 

Dash and I spent the night in Rawlins, elevation 6,834, population 9,260, wind chill -46. We had a great Larb Gai from Anong’s, and spent the night dreaming of Big Nose Parrott and his taxidermist-doctor. 

The next morning the headwind had abated to some degree… probably no more than an 8 on the Beaufort Scale. We then followed the Cherokee Trail, saw Wamsutter turn from Washakie and the site of that silly Wild Bunch blowing up another rail car. How many times can you make that mistake? 

All audio was working as we passed the site of the Chinese Race Riots and that naughty Killpecker business, then Wesley Powell’s launching point in Green River, the worlds largest trona reserves, followed by tanking up with the Little America penguin.  Just Jim Bridger’s haunt, mountain man partying, and a brief bit on that little thing we call the Mormon Civil War, and we were in Utah. It had worked.

Dash saluted the Beehive State, as he likes to do, and we turned for Lander. I can say now that I am quite proud of this project. Our state has an interesting history, and a good bit of it can be learned while driving I-80, even in winter.

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Jimmy Orr: TV Station Reminds Viewers Not To Explore Bear Dens or Feed Bears

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Jimmy Orr
Jimmy Orr

By Jimmy Orr, Executive Editor

Sometimes you have to wonder if people really need to be reminded about how to act around wildlife or if reporters are really stupid.

Probably both.

Then again, in North Carolina where people may not be exposed to tourists who try to ride buffalos or pet grizzlies, warnings are probably needed.

Thus, a TV report from WRAL in Raleigh, North Carolina where a reporter found it necessary to remind viewers that “if you see a bear or bear den, leave it alone.”

Do we really need this reminder?

Maybe so. The old Gary Larsen “Far Side” comic comes to mind where this exact scenario played out.

In Wyoming, of course, we know the stories.

We saw the video earlier this month of the tourists from Tennessee who blocked the path of the bison herd. Ultimately, one woman was thrown off her snowmobile when two of the animals had enough.

The more egregious of the videos (now taken down) showed the tourists screaming and laughing as they gunned their snowmobiles directly at the herd causing a stampede. Somehow no one was hurt.

To be fair, it’s not always the tourists. 

There was the guy last summer in Choteau, Montana who heard that a grizzly was around his property so he snuck-up to an abandoned barn and peered inside.

Public Service Announcement. Grizzlies do not like to be surprised.

The surprised bear then attempted to rip his head off. And if it wasn’t for his quick-thinking wife who tried to run over the bear in her truck, he may not be alive today.

Occasionally, however — every now and then — reporters who are new to the area can be smarter than all of us.

Case in point: Deion Broxton. He was the reporter who worked in Bozeman last year (now he’s in Iowa) who was doing a report from Yellowstone and saw a bison herd.

He gave the herd some serious side-eye before quickly exiting the scene but gave a great play-by-play as he packed up.

“Oh my God,” he muttered while carefully observing the approaching herd.

“I ain’t messing with you,” he said moments later, while walking off-camera and to his car.

“Oh, no,” he continued while packing his car with his gear. “Oh no, I ain’t messing with you.”

The official social media accounts at Yellowstone National Park praised him and his video was viewed millions of times.

Lesson? We all can’t be Deion Broxton. There are people who need to hear warnings — like in that news report on WRAL.

The last bit of advice from their reporter: “Never approach a bear or try to feed it.”

Ok. We’ll try our best.

And our hope is that we have zero mauling stories to report this year. Fingers crossed.

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Bill Sniffin: Modern Wyoming Parable: Who Moved My Severance Tax Cheese?

in Bill Sniffin/Column

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher

Wyoming’s current economic situation reminds me of the famous business book Who Moved My Cheese?

After living off severance taxes from the energy industry for half a century, the Cowboy State is enduring a time when the state is trying to maintain services without the money to pay for them. As fossil fuels decline, severance taxes paid by energy companies for coal, oil, and natural gas extracted from Wyoming are diminishing rapidly.

In a few short words, we are trying to pay for a champagne lifestyle on a beer budget.

That famous Cheese book by Spencer Johnson is about how people react to unpleasant change. It stars some mice and what happens when their regular supply of cheese suddenly disappears. It’s a lot more interesting than that, but the book is helpful in showing how people cope with loss of something they were used to counting upon.

Here in Wyoming, our economy had been based on fossil fuels for decades before we even became a state. Ever since the wagon trains used oil from the Dallas Dome oil field south of Lander in the mid-19th century until the present.

Some estimates have pegged our economy as based on 60 percent on fossil fuels.  Alaska, North Dakota, and Texas all have a similar reliance on fossil fuels, but no state earns as much severance tax percentage-wise as Wyoming does. Or did.

Wyoming is in a statewide bust when it comes to tax revenue. And since decades ago we chose to funnel all local and school money through the state, this means local communities and school districts are just as financially strapped as the state government is short.

Never mind that we have over $20 billion in the bank.  We are not destitute like we once were when Gov. Stan Hathaway looked around in 1967 and found the bank accounts empty.  Or when Gov. Mike Sullivan saw the state going broke in 1990 until a wealthy Jackson woman died, leaving millions to the state in taxes.  Now those were two very desolate times. 

We are not broke.

Like thousands of Wyoming ranchers, farmers, and small business people, we have lots of assets. We just do not have enough cash.

The federal government acts a lot like the caricature ditzy person who claims as long as he or she has checks in the checkbook, he or she can keep spending.

But our state constitution requires us to have a balanced  budget.  We cannot go into debt without violating state law.

Thus, our elected representatives in Cheyenne are digging in their heels and proposing draconian cuts to programs all across government.  Outside of paying for the highway patrol and plowing the roads, just about everything else is on the table.

Some legislators are so serious they signed pledges to oppose ANY new taxes.  I am against new taxes, too, but this seems a little extreme. But I digress.

Perhaps the simple solution is to diversify the economy and find new ways to pay for state government, right?

 Or why not just increase property taxes, fuel taxes, sales taxes, and other taxes.  But wait.  Can’t do that.  Too many legislators signed that pesky pledge. 

So, the only way out of this mess is to cut expenses.  Cut programs, cut services, and lay off state employees.  Cancel projects that both make sense and do not make sense. It may not matter.  We have to balance the budget.

Just like any middle class household in Wyoming, there are only two ways to make it work.  You increase your income.  Or you cut your expenses.

I predict this legislature will be brutal with its cuts. There will be no new taxes levied this time around.  Education will get hit the hardest. The various school associations have already sent to the trustees of all districts in the state a blueprint of where and how to cut.  Lobbyists will try to save programs, but get ready.

During Wyoming’s 1980s bust, the legislature had to cut its way to a balanced budget.  It pretty much worked but state government was a fraction of what it has become. During the go-go decade of 2002 to 2012, Wyoming was rolling in dough.  The money that energy companies paid in severance taxes provided for spectacular new schools across the state, plus huge new buildings at the University of Wyoming, the Hathaway Scholarship program, and many other forward-thinking programs. We also put a boatload of money away in mineral trust funds and rainy day funds.

In today’s bust, there could always be opportunities to be creative but, alas, the mood of this year’s legislature is just too dour. 

Our severance tax cheese may have been permanently diminished. Many of our leaders are in a state of shock over how to replace it.

One legislator told me that when it comes to reducing costs of programs, the fat is gone. Most of the muscle has been gnawed away. And now they are chewing on the bones.  That is a spectacularly accurate way to describe what our legislators are dealing with in Cheyenne during the 2021 session.

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Dennis Sun: Coal is Still King

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By Dennis Sun, Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Hopefully we won’t have any more storms this year like the storm we endured this past week, which was one for the books. It made us further appreciate coal and natural gas, and we wish Washington D.C. would as well.

If we look back in the records or listen to Weatherman Don Day, the years of a strong La Niña always produce a polar vortex weather event such as the one we saw the week of Feb. 8. The last strong La Niña was in the winter of 2011-12, and records show we had the same type of storm across the nation around this time. Weather patterns tend to repeat themselves.

This past storm was ranked as the second worst storm to ever happen in the country. The main reason for this is the storm covered 70 percent of the nation. It was the fourth time Houston had snow, and we saw pictures of icicles on South Padre Island, Texas. In Louisiana, the cold shut down Mardi Gras celebrations – that is cold.

One time, my family and I were in San Antonio, Texas during an early Easter. When we left Wyoming, the temperature was 30 degrees below zero. Two days later, it hit southern Texas and froze everything up.

The fountains at the Alamo looked like ice sculptures, and most of the houses had frozen water pipes as the main water pipes came out of the ground and up the outside of the houses. What a novel idea. Let’s face it, the south can’t deal with cold. Some parts of southern Texas have had no electricity for over 30 to 40 hours.

Many of us have heard about wind turbines freezing up, and it’s true. But, according to news reports, the polar vortex weather has not only shut down electrical generation from wind and solar energy sources, but also other conventional energy sources – especially in the energy-rich state of Texas.

During the ongoing cold, coal and natural gas saved the day, providing over one-half of the electricity on the power grid which serves Texas and its neighboring states. Those southern states also learned even with adequate power sources, the current power grid in most states is not able to keep up with demand of a polar vortex.

The big issues are the severe cold, lack of adequate infrastructure, the large area of the storm and not planning for all of the above.

The best way to plan for these issues, besides building more and better infrastructure, is to have diverse outlets of energy production. The current administration and others in Washington, D.C. want to eliminate oil, natural gas and coal production.

We learned this past week solar and wind energy alone are not going to cut it.  During a normal summer, wind can provide around 60 percent of the power for the state of Texas, but during a harsh winter, it’s a different matter.

Utilities are going north and using coal powered electricity to power up the Southern Plains states. It’s a mess. I’ve been visiting with people from the South. They’re going to remember this storm for a long time, and it’s not even over yet. A coal train from Wyoming looks really good right now.

And, as one person put it yesterday, “There’s not many Texans supporting the Green New Deal this week.”

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Rod Miller: I Am Nate Champion

in Column/Rod Miller

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By Rod Miller, columnist

There is no more fitting allegory for Wyoming and her history than the Johnson County War. If there is one event that should instruct us as Wyomingites, it is that conflict. And yet, we have ignored that lesson for nearly a hundred and thirty years. We continue to ignore it today.

In 1892, bigshot cattlemen, mostly from Great Britain and backed by east-coast and foreign capital, sought to drive small homesteaders and ranchers out of Wyoming. They wanted all the grass and water to themselves, even though it was public domain.

To this end, the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, representing that foreign money, hired fifty or so mercenary thugs from Texas to invade Johnson County. The invaders carried with them a hit list of names of small ranchers that were to be killed “for the good of the country”. They also intended to assassinate elected officials in Johnson County and to establish a county government more favorable to their interests.

Maybe we’ll talk more about Nate Champion later. But suffice it to say that he almost single handedly prevented the Stock Growers and their gunslingers from accomplishing their goals. That is why, in my presence, hats will be doffed when Champion’s name is mentioned.

“Invasion” is an apt term for what happened then, and it also applies today when Wyoming invites foreign capital to usurp our resources and control our lives. From the Union Pacific, through the cattle boom, the oil boom, the uranium boom and the coal boom, Wyoming has been content to allow ourselves to be colonized by outside interests.

Why we continue to describe ourselves as ruggedly independent, while kow-towing to outside money, is an unfathomable mystery to me.

Two of our founders, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton, presented diametrically different views of how our new country should look. Jefferson favored a country populated by the “yeoman farmer”, a man and his family supporting themselves by the sweat of their brow and their individual initiative. Hamilton’s vision was a country expanding through corporate debt, foreign capital and strong central banking.

In Wyoming, we pay constant lip service to Jefferson, but enthusiastically embrace Hamilton. That’s how we ended up where we are today.

When we are faced, like we are now, with the decline of an industry that has kept us afloat, we look around for replacement industry to come in and save us. We cast about for an Elon Musk, or a bicoin mogul to ride in like a white knight to pull our chestnuts our of the fire; to pave our roads and to educate out kids. We always look outward, instead of inward, for our salvation.

“Rugged individuals”, my Aunt Fanny!! Hamilton must be so proud of us.

If we can break this cycle of depending on outsiders, then we can, with a straight face, call ourselves the “Cowboy State”. If we can find within ourselves the initiative and courage to try new things, to invent, to risk, to stand up on our own hind legs and take control of our future on our own terms, then we will make of ourselves Jeffersonian yeomen, rather than Hamiltonian serfs.

Such a sea change in our collective attitude won’t be easy. We’ll have to overcome more then a century of being babysat. There will be no guarantees of success. But there will be pride in it, and a justifiable pride. If we can do it together, and pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps, and grip the reins in our own sweaty and calloused hands, then outside corporate interests will think twice before trying to take advantage of us ever again.

And we can all proclaim, with a loud and collective voice, shouted into that big, blue sky over Wyoming, “I am Nate Champion”.

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