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Dave Simpson: Why We Support Trump, In Four Words

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By Dave Simpson, Columnist for Cowboy State Daily

It’s not like we don’t see the humor in this.

And that’s what separates us from our liberal friends. (We have so many. And some seem so angry.)

Our liberal friends are mystified that we still like a president who sometimes rambles, who repeats himself, who often blusters, and who rips the hide off reporters. How could educated people like us, they wonder, like a president who has told us many times about that “perfect” call to the president of Ukraine?

At first, that one gave me pause. What is a “perfect” call? Did he get the phone number correct? Did he make all the points he wished to make? Were his parting words hopeful? What about that call was perfect?

I spent decades as an editor, and often wish I could fix something someone wrote. I cringe when a public official speaks awkwardly. I can almost always think of a better word or phrase. So supporting Donald Trump has been, well, a minefield. I avoid watching his press conferences, because I dread what his mortal enemies will make of every hyperbolic utterance, every awkward rejoinder, every word that seems an unfortunate choice.

“Oh gosh,” I think, “I wish he hadn’t said THAT! Imagine what Joe and Mika will make of THAT on ‘Morning Joe’ tomorrow.”

And they do, in full Trump Derangement Syndrome contempt.

After almost four years, however, we have decided that while we would almost always put things a bit differently, it was Donald Trump who was elected president, not us. And we have seen the humor in his hyperbolic interludes ever since.

“Did you call your brother back?” my wife will ask. I respond, “Yes. And it was a PERFECT call. Absolutely PERFECT. Couldn’t have been better in any way! One of the GREATEST CALLS ever made.” And we laugh at the oblique reference to our president, who often gets a little carried away, but whom we still like very much.

We have started to view people we don’t like as “TOTAL LOSERS, absolute DISASTERS,” who are probably “FAILING” and “CORRUPT.” We laugh at that, as well.

When I mow the lawn, I say I did a “TERRIFIC JOB, FANTASTIC! INCREDIBLE.” When I barbecue burgers, they are the GREATEST hamburgers ever barbecued in the HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSE.

We’ve gotten a lot of laughs out of this, even as our liberal friends meticulously dissect the utterances of our president, examining every word under an electron microscope. And they are uniformly appalled, horrified. When you hate a guy enough, if he says “good morning,” you can read it as shocking lack of empathy for those poor souls who are not having a good morning.

Our president gives them countless things to get their guts in a knot over, every day, and make them sputter in disbelief at the uncouthness of the man. How dare such a person be our president?

The other day, my wife – who has more advanced degrees than you can shake a stick at – summed it up in a mere four words. We still like the man, despite the disbelief of our liberal friends, for one reason:

“He’s got our back,” she said.

Bingo!

He talks about American greatness at every opportunity. He’s an optimist. He’s determined to restart our shuttered economy. He stands by those who have saved their money so they can live the American dream. Despite relentless opposition, he gets things done. He helped make a massive run-up of the stock market happen, and promises to do it again. He put solid justices on the Supreme Court.

And he has cut federal regulations. (Can our liberal friends justify government declaring a creek and stock pond in our state “navigable waters,” and defend suing a rancher into near oblivion? Even liberals have to admit that previous administrations got carried away with regulations.)

And despite all the people who hate everything about him, he still seems to like the job.

Just about every day he makes us laugh, saying something we wish he hadn’t. Something no other president would have said.

But, after almost four years we remain sure of that one thing:

He’s got our back.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

Dave Simpson: When Hunkering Down Isn’t Enough

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By Dave Simpson, Cowboy State Daily columnist

We’re a month into this Coronavirus imbroglio – probably the worst case of cabin fever we have ever suffered – and you have to wonder how long this can go on.

Some thoughts from solitary confinement:

– I live in one of the eight states that are not currently under “shelter in place” orders. The governor of Wyoming has urged us to stay home, but hasn’t ordered us to shelter in place. And he gets right testy when asked about it.

Reporters and many Democrats (they’ve got a lot in common) suspect we’re not doing our part. Why haven’t we joined the other 42 states, they ask, in issuing a shelter in place order? Our local paper ran a long editorial last Sunday, beseeching the governor to order us to shelter in place.

What are folks in those other states doing, however, that we’re not? Beats me.

Our schools are closed. The university is closed. Churches are closed. Restaurant dining areas are closed. Coffee shops are closed. Bars are closed. Exercise gyms are closed. The library is closed. Bank lobbies are closed. Barber shops are closed. Beauty shops are closed. You can’t even get a commemorative Coronavirus tattoo or piercing, because those joints are closed, too.

You can still go to the grocery store, but try finding a bottle of hand sanitizer.

I don’t know how to shelter in place any more than I’m already sheltering in place. I’m as hunkered as I can hunker.

Even rock star doctor Anthony Fauci said last week that folks in our state are doing a good job avoiding each other. (It’s easy. We have tons of distance, and people are scarce as hen’s teeth.)

So, what’s all this “shelter in place” fuss about?

– Speaking of rock stars, if the barber shops stay closed for much longer, I’m going to look like Meatloaf.

My wife cut our son’s hair, but he wears his hair like a recruit at basic training. Cutting his hair is about as complicated as mowing the lawn. She wanted to cut my hair, but I said, “Uh, no thanks.”

My father cut my hair when I was a kid, and whatever directions you gave him, you always got a crew cut. Every time. One time I said I wanted sideburns like Elvis, and he laughed out loud.

The barbershops better reopen before a man bun becomes an option.

– I’m wearing a mask when I’m at the grocery store. I get a little dizzy if I wear it too long, and my glasses fog up. (In scuba diving, they teach you to spit in your mask to keep it from fogging, but that’s not an option here.)

Wearing a mask takes some getting used to, but an old saying comes to mind:

“Nobody’s going to get down off his horse” to notice that I’m wearing a mask.

It’s the least we can do.

– To stay busy, I’ve cleaned out the file cabinet, tossed out old magazines and newspapers, tested the sump pump (it works), serviced the lawn mower, cleaned off my workbench, made peanut butter cookies, read four books, made onion soup, finished watching “Breaking Bad,” and started watching “Making a Murderer.”

This is an amazing opportunity – time to get things done. I’ve even hung a tennis ball on a string from the ceiling of the garage, so I know exactly where to park my pickup.

You can’t get much more organized than that.

– Little things can become issues when cooped up like this.

My wife and son pick their favorite jelly beans out of the jar, leaving the rejects for me.

It’s starting to get on my nerves.

– President You Know Who caught a lot of flak for saying it, but didn’t we all want this to be over by Easter? Was that so crazy? And don’t we all hope that HCQ drug helps people with this disease? And don’t we all want businesses to reopen and everyone to get back to work? Don’t we?

Our politics, however, have become so hateful and deranged that expressing any optimism at all is politically incorrect.

Didn’t these folks once embrace “hope and change?”

I guess it depends on who’s president.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

Dave Simpson: Bored? Pick A Fight On Facebook!

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***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Dave Simpson, Cowboy State Daily columnist

It was getting a little boring here at Camp Quarantine the other day, so I decided to light things up on Facebook, posting this:

“Let’s just pray that Coronavirus isn’t as virulent and incurable as Trump Hate.”

Most of my Facebook pals thought Old Dave hit the nail on the head.

“It’s unbelievable, Dave,” a friend from Nebraska replied. “Absolutely unbelievable. And you can’t reason with it. It is hate at it’s lowest form!”

A Wyoming friend said, “It’s like flying in a plane and hoping the pilot fails.”

“They just can’t let it go,” replied a relative from Ohio, “even in a time of crisis.”

An editor friend from Nebraska said she just finished reading an article in “The Atlantic” magazine. She had “never read anything from there before, and I won’t waste my time doing it again. Just hate Trump junk.”

The jury, however, was by no means unanimous in its verdict. The loyal opposition was awake, and ready for a fight.

A former neighbor from Illinois accused Old Dave of “media hate,” to which, in some instances, I have to plead guilty. I have noticed that being a White House reporter these days doesn’t just involve asking tough questions, but also arguing with the president, interrupting him, and refusing to stop talking when he tries to move on to the next question. You’ve noticed that too, right?

One of the best publishers I ever worked for said it’s perfectly all right for reporters to be skeptical of those in power. In fact, it’s their job. But it isn’t all right for reporters to be cynical. There’s a difference.

I recall President Barack Obama telling a reporter who persisted with followup questions that, “I didn’t come here for a debate!” and maybe Trump should do that. (He won’t.) Press conferences these days sound more like episodes of “The Bickersons.”

My Illinois neighbor finished by calling Trump “the Hindenburg president,” full of gas, and prone to explosions.

Ouch. (But funny.)

Another Illinois friend questioned my use of  “Trump Hate,” asking if I begrudge those who merely ask questions. Does that make one a hater? he asked.

Having worked in the news biz for a while, I do not think asking questions makes one a hater. However, when almost every action taken by a president is met, in many venues, with vociferous contempt – tune in “Morning Joe” if you doubt me –  I believe that cynicism and hate are rampant. When questions become heated arguments, the true leanings of the questioner become clear. I recall a reporter caught on tape, shortly after Trump was elected, hoping his plane would crash.

I see hate when the opposing party in Congress does everything possible to hold up cabinet appointments, when Maxine Waters urges Democrats to get in the faces of Trump supporters in stores and at gas stations, and when a guy wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat gets a soft drink dumped on his head. I see hate when, unbelievably, Nancy Pelosi petulantly, childishly rips up Trump’s State of the Union speech, for all to see.

And just last weekend, in a tweet, President Obama’s White House photographer Pete Souza reportedly called Trump “a pathetic human being,” and said, “(blank) you potus.” (Potus is the too-cool-for-school Washington term for president of the United States.) Nine thousand people reportedly re-tweeted his foul-mouthed tweet in agreement.

Yup. That’s hate. I may not be able to precisely define it, but know it when I see it.

A friend in Florida said it’s the “drumbeat” of criticism that makes this different. But a friend in Norway said calling it a drumbeat just makes us “numb” to Trump’s “lies.”

I replied, “It’s a matter of intensity. The level of opposition to this president is something we haven’t seen before.”

Overall, it was an action-packed way to spend a day of social distancing, with political distance often outdistancing the physical distance (even between Wyoming and Norway).

Lately, people keep saying “we’re all in this together,” but I have my doubts. Because I have no doubt at all that Trump Hate is alive and well.

I rest my case, Your Honor.

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Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

Dave Simpson: What Will You Do With Your $1,200?

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By Dave Simpson, Columnist

“Will you be taking the money?”

The question came in a Facebook thread, after I wrote this initial post:

“Don’t anyone tell them what comes after a trillion.”

That observation, as the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill had just passed in Congress, drew mostly friendly replies.

“McZillion sold,” one friend responded. “A Gazillion? Asking for a friend” another replied.

(The answer: A “quadrillion.” And I don’t even want to think about it.)

So the mood was light regarding a heavy subject: This country’s mountain of debt has grown over most of my life, and is growing much faster in recent years. It stood at $23 trillion before this latest stimulus bill. It will soon be $25 trillion. And Nancy Pelosi promises that more trillions will be needed before the coronavirus nightmare ends.

A friend of almost exactly 40 years asked if I will take the $1,200 that will soon be on its way to most Americans. This guy is about as far left on the political spectrum as I am to the right. He seemed to be asking if I would be a hypocrite, and take the money despite my national debt worries. The question had an edge.

I hadn’t given the matter much thought. Not taking the money hadn’t occurred to me. And turning it down would be a tough sell with my wife, who is twice as frugal as I am. (We crawl under doors to save wear and tear on the hinges.)

So I replied:

“I’m thinking of giving it to my grand daughter. It’s only fair. Her generation will get stuck with the debt. It’s stupid to give it to people like us. (We’re retired.) The people out of work need the help. What will you do?”

I added this: “And what on earth do the Kennedy Center and NPR have to do with this crisis? Why shower them with millions?”

Well, that last part must have struck a nerve, and my old friend replied that he would be giving his $1,200 to people in his family who are out of work, and to a young man he helped pay for college, “who now finds his whole world slipping away.” He added, “What did you think I would do?”

He agreed that showering the Kennedy Center and NPR with millions is crazy, but added that he also didn’t want to see money go to “huge corporations” that spent millions on stock buybacks last time we doled out borrowed stimulus billions.

Off to the races…

So I asked why he was picking this fight, when we both knew we would never change the other guy’s mind on anything political. He replied that he’s getting cabin fever being cooped up in his house, and just needed to vent. My post gave him the opportunity.

I replied, “I have lost a couple long-time friends over politics, and I don’t intend to lose you. Not gonna happen.”

Then I had a better idea. A couple weeks ago we were about to move my 95-year-old mother-in-law from assisted living to a nursing home. Then the coronavirus hit, and because we couldn’t visit her in the nursing home, we decided to bring her to our home instead. While moving her, on top of everything else, downed power lines knocked out electric service to our neighborhood.

We live outside of town, with a well, and a lift station for the downstairs plumbing. So nothing was working as we moved her in. And for a while, there was no power for her oxygen machine.

“That’s it,” I said. “We’re getting that standby generator we’ve been talking about.”

It’s the perfect solution. A good cause: Caring for an elderly family member. Money to a local electrician who has a passel of kids. And money to Home Depot, a business started by Ken Langone, who has given $200 million to the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York.

The project will cost more than the $2,400 my wife and I will be getting, maybe as much as $10,000.

But the government money will quickly be out there, stimulating up a storm. And everyone will be happy.

Maybe even my old liberal friend.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

Dave Simpson: Still Hunkering in Wyoming, After All These Days

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By Dave Simpson, columnist

We’ve been hunkered down for over a week now, which is longer than we’ve ever hunkered before.

“Social distancing” is starting to look like the mother of all cabin fevers. But, we’re soldiering on.

Let’s touch some bases:

– Watching Walmart handle shortages is like seeing an oil tanker turn around. It takes a while. For the time being, Sam Walton’s super store behemoth is at the mercy of folks for whom security is a closet full of toilet paper.

We’ve still got 19 rolls – I’m keeping track  –  which ought to be enough. But when supplies return to the shelves, I’ll pick up a 12-pack. As Buffalo Springfield once sang, “Paranoia strikes deep. Into your heart (and the toilet paper aisle) it will creep.”

Fresh meat comes and goes at our Walmart, and potatoes are back, but you have to be there at the right time. I scored a five-pound bag of spuds last weekend, and felt like I should  high-five someone. There has always been milk, but you have to shop early to get eggs.

Apparently the milk cows have stepped up to the challenge of keeping America safe for democracy, even in these trying times. (Next time you see a cow, thank her for her service.) The chickens, however, aren’t about to be pushed around by panicky, hoarding shoppers. The laying hens must have a stronger union, and membership is holding the line.

The good news is that asparagus is dirt cheap and plentiful. You can get lots of kale, but I don’t know anyone who eats that stuff. And someday soon, even toilet paper will be back on the shelves. So don’t get your innards in a knot.

– I stocked up on books at our library before it shut down on account of the virus.

“A Warning” by “Anonymous” is surprisingly devoid of things we haven’t already heard on the “We Hate Trump” cable news networks. The world is full of back-stabbers who want to dry gulch someone without having their name attached to the deed. Editors see them from time to time. But these days, anonymous attacks are much more frequent, as social media makes us all publishers. My advice: Don’t waste your time on “A Warning.”

“Start By Believing,” on the other hand, by Dan Murphy and John Barr, will keep you up late reading. It’s about that creepy Olympic gymnastics doctor from Michigan, Larry Nassar, and you can’t put it down. That guy’s lucky some dad didn’t kill him.

Around the house, I’ve taken this opportunity to thin out the filing cabinet, and finally put the silverware holder in the dishwasher for a good scrub. (It makes me happy now, every time I reach for a spoon.) And I’m not opening any envelopes regarding my Individual Retirement Account, firm in the belief that you don’t lose money if you don’t panic and sell at the bottom. I believe there will be a roaring comeback, and wish I had more cash on hand to pick up some incredible bargains.

My gym shut down, but lately I’m getting my exercise walking around the pond down at the park.

– I think most of us agree that people put out of work by all this, and industries on the brink like the airlines, need help from the federal government. But I get nervous when the words “massive,” “stimulus” and “bipartisan” appear in the same sentence.

Not to worry, however, says Greg Mankiw, who served on President George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers, and who teaches at Harvard.

 “There are times to worry about growing government debt,” Mankiw said. “This is not one of them.”

With a national debt of $23 trillion already, however, when do our great leaders in Washington EVER worry about debt? Aside from fighting wars and going to the moon, their main function these days is to provide access to the Magic Federal Checkbook, where you never have to deduct the amount of any check.

When self-serving lawmakers talk about “bipartisanship,” remember this quote from George Carlin:

“Bipartisan usually means that a larger-than-usual deception is being carried out.”

Bingo!

Keep on hunkering, folks. We’ll get through this.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

Dave Simpson: Picking the Walmart Carcass Clean

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By Dave Simpson, Cowboy State Daily columnist

A guy in a beard, work shirt and worn jeans smiled as he tilted the almost empty bin of potatoes back, so I could see the dozen or so spuds left in the bottom.

He was willing to share what was left, a touch of humanity in a week that sure looked like the beginnings of panic. (Ammo sales were twice to three times normal last week, according to news reports.) I smiled and shook my head no, figuring I needed a bag of potatoes, not a handful.


Make sure to check-out our Wyoming Coronavirus news blog.

One aisle over, however, the bagged potatoes were long gone, snapped up earlier by folks preparing – scared to the core by what they were seeing on TV – for whatever this Coronavirus deal will bring. There’s so much we still don’t know. A Wall Street Journal columnist likened the lack of reliable data to buying a house when you don’t know what you make, and you don’t know the price of the house. We’re barking in the dark.

So, panicky/prudent folks stock up on groceries. Lots of groceries. The head of Walmart said sales last week were way ahead of Christmas season levels, as worried folks streamed in, on a mission to get prepared.

I do a lot of the shopping at our house. So I was at the big Walmart down the road on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday of last week. The change, day by day, was remarkable, and from what I’ve seen in the news, it happened everywhere.

On Tuesday afternoon, most of the aisles looked pretty normal, but shopper traffic was noticeably high. (I didn’t get my usual lucky close-in parking space.) Two things, however, were already sold out: Toilet paper and hand sanitizer. The early birds of semi-panic had already come and gone, carrying off one entire aisle of every kind of toilet paper you can imagine. Same thing in the hand sanitizer shelves. As they say out here in Wyoming (I’m not sure why), “Gone Johnson.”

“Who needs that much toilet paper?” I wondered.

Luckily, I bought some the week before, and when I got home I counted 20 rolls. That ought to be enough for three people, right?

On Thursday, the toilet paper was still sold out, and half of the paper towels on the other side of the aisle were gone as well. (God help our municipal sewer system.) The real action, however, was over in the canned soup aisle, where serious folks were loading their carts, not caring that they were blocking traffic. (Some didn’t look like soup eaters to me.)

Same thing over in canned goods, as pinto beans and diced tomatoes were going fast. Something about a crisis makes folks want to make soup, I guess, and that’s probably a good thing. The dry packets of Lipton Chicken Soup were sold out, but they had plenty of dry onion soup packets left. (Folks want soup, not dip, in an emergency.)

The big change was apparent Friday afternoon. Both sides of the toilet paper/hand towel aisle were completely empty. A fresh box of towels never made it to the shelf, as folks grabbed them from the stock person. Not much left in canned goods. Potatoes: Pretty much gone. The display of packaged deli meats was picked clean.

The near-panic had spread to the dairy section, where there wasn’t a carton of eggs to be had. Plenty of milk, though.

Folks had finally found their way to the fresh meat display. No hamburger. A few of the more expensive steaks were left, but not many. The only things left in the chicken display were packages of bright green marinated chicken breasts, which didn’t interest a virus-conscious crowd. The big bags of frozen chicken were still available, but going fast.

The only thing left in plenty of supply was bratwurst. Plenty of brats, and I wondered if the same could be said at Wisconsin Walmarts.

My most enduring image of the week was the roaming computerized stock monitoring robot named “Bossanova” (we can’t blame it on him), parked forlornly in the empty toilet paper/hand towel aisle, blinking sadly.

We’ll get through this, folks. And we’ll have well-stocked freezers when we come out the other end.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

Dave Simpson: Voting for the Youngster in the Race

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By Dave Simpson, Cowboy State Daily columnist

Some swell thoughts and observations as the process of selecting the leader of the free world careens through the primary election stage:

– The fresh young face, the guy full of pep and get-up-and-go, this election year is now President Donald J. Trump, at a callow 73 years old.

Our go-go president, whipping up big crowds at the drop of a Make America Great Again hat, has now dislodged Mayor Pete Buttigieg as the only viable youngster in the race, no doubt attracting the support of woke young people everywhere.

“We don’t want some old guy,” young people are no doubt saying. “We want the guy who’s only 73!”

This comes as Joe Biden, who is 77, has established himself as the Comeback Septuagenarian, launching into angry, finger-pointing screeds at those who dare doubt his inevitability, like an old guy yelling at kids to get off his lawn. Let him talk long enough, and he’ll get to the word salad stage, sputtering random, disconnected words, and it becomes a do-it-yourself project figuring out what the ding-dong heck Joe is trying to say this time.

(Don’t believe me? Here’s what Biden said in Texas: “We hold these truths to be self evident. All men and women created by, you know, you know, the thing.” If Joe is elected, all we can do is pray and put our fate in the hands of “you know, you know, The Thing.”)

And then, at 78, we have Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders, who gesticulates wildly like Elizabeth Warren, shooting out his arms when giving a speech, then wiggling his hands like he’s writing a big check in the air. (We don’t have to make payment on Bernie’s big air checks, at least for now.)

Bernie keeps pointing out what’s right about Cuba and Fidel, making folks out here in Flyover Country ask, “What’s THAT all about?”

Biden and Sanders would be octogenarians by the time they finished the term of office they now seek. Which makes a late-term sexagenarian (not as sexy as it sounds) like me wonder if they haven’t pondered the joys of a senior-discount morning coffee group at McDonalds, with a bunch of retired guys their own age. Why deprive yourself of retirement into your 80s? Who needs the stress of being leader of the free world?

Haven’t they ever walked into a room and forgotten what they came there to get? Of course, if you’re president, the guy with the nuclear launch codes follows you around, and he could remind you what you came there to get. So, there’s that. And you have plenty of doctors and nurses around, in case a rotator cuff or knee goes bad on you.

I’m going with young and energetic Donald Trump. I don’t want to hear about the virtues of Cuba from Bernie, or seek guidance from “The Thing” to figure out what Joe Biden is saying this time.

I look at this as a youth movement.

– Farmers everywhere in our great country, who grow the food on our tables, are no doubt having a good laugh now that Michael “Call me Mike” Bloomberg dropped out of the presidential race after spending $500 million to secure a grand total of four delegate votes (from American Samoa).

You’ll recall that Bloomberg told a gathering a few years back that it doesn’t take much “gray matter” to be a farmer. All you do is make a hole, put a seed in it, cover it up, water it, and you get corn.

Well, I spent some years in the fabulously fertile farm country of Central Illinois – home of the best soil on planet Earth – and I could have told Michael/Mike that he was seriously underestimating the gray matter of farmers. They have to be mechanics, biologists, chemists, truck drivers, money managers, economists, savvy gamblers, and more, to succeed in a brutal business in which a late spring, bugs, lack of rain, too much rain, low prices, or a long list of other factors can spell disaster.

Michael/Mike thinks he’s smarter than a farmer. But I know of no farmer who ever spent $500 million and only managed to get four plants to sprout.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

Dave Simpson: The ‘Children’ Who Oppose Higher Taxes

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By Dave Simpson, Cowboy State Daily columnist

Our local paper – I live east of Cheyenne – wrote this in an editorial Sunday:

“We hate to treat our elected leaders like children, but…”

Children? That’s not the half of it, as the legislature lumbers into the final days of the budget session, and the wailing and gnashing of teeth from the For God’s Sake Raise Taxes Crowd is at full wail/gnash.

It isn’t enough to simply propose a state income tax. No, proponents must insist that anyone who disagrees is a child, a hopeless case, a denier of reality. Oppose Medicaid expansion? How could anyone be so stupid and heartless, they ask, as to oppose free money from Washington?

A corporate income tax? Anyone who disagrees, they suggest, is greedy, oblivious, ignorant, hoodwinked by distant corporate interests.

The beating from the raise taxes contingent – particularly evident here in Cheyenne – is unrelenting, and reliably disparaging to our legislative majority. They’re “children,” as our local paper suggests.

Well, not so fast.

I moved a lot back when I was in the newspaper business. Three towns in Wyoming. One in Colorado. Two towns in Illinois. One in Nebraska.

(When I finally retired from the daily newspaper biz, we scurried back to Wyoming.)

The great thing about Illinois was the neat old houses that were available for not much money. In 1995, we bought a big old Victorian house that was great for raising kids, for $125,000. We worked like the dickens on it, before selling it six years later for $175,000.

When it came to taxes, however, Illinois was not a great deal. Every year we paid around $3,700 in property taxes. And we paid state income taxes – we both worked – of 3 percent.

Nebraska was just as bad, maybe worse. We bought a beautiful brick house, walking distance from the newspaper, right across the street from a city park, for $165,000. Beautiful lawn. Great garage. Big trees. Nice neighbors.

Once again, however, the property taxes were enough to make a grown man cry – around $3,600. The state income tax, graduated, was 6 percent.

I wrote an editorial about high taxes depressing housing values, and it was one of the rare times I got some real pushback from the movers and shakers in that town, especially the real estate people.

(I found Nebraskans to be incredibly patient with the high taxes, and chalked it up to the fact that average guy is too busy rooting for the Cornhuskers to care about taxes.)

So then, daily journalism darn near ran the wheels off me, and we finally moved back to Wyoming. It took a lot of work, three houses, and three basements that I finished myself, but we ended up in a nice house and some land (a “ranchette,” making me a ranchetter) that the county assessor says is worth well over $400,000.

And our property tax bill – GET THIS – is $2,700 a year.

That’s $1,000 less than on the $125,000 house in Illinois. Nine hundred less than the $165,000 house in Nebraska. And we pay no state income tax. We saved $10,000 the first year, and wondered why we hadn’t moved back to Wyoming far sooner.

And yet, according to our friends in the media, any lawmaker who doesn’t support higher taxes and Medicaid expansion is a “child.”  Lawmakers must be “brave” enough to raise taxes, according to most editorial pages. (Why are editors such fans of tax increases? Beats me.)

And, of course, the pressure to expand Medicaid is huge, with hospitals and health care groups banging the drum to accept free money from a federal government that is already $23 trillion in the red. “Free money?” From Washington? Now there’s a horse laugh.

Some among us are determined to give up a significant competitive advantage and make us just like Colorado, Nebraska, even Illinois, with their high taxes, spending, and taste for more free money from the federal government. And they call those who disagree “children.”

Folks like my wife and I appreciate common sense Wyoming lawmakers who are doggedly preserving a tax climate that is one more thing making this state so attractive.

We may be a voice in the wilderness, but they have our thanks.

Dave Simpson — Splitsville: States Head for the Exits

in Dave Simpson
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By Dave Simpson, Cowboy State Daily columnist

BAILING OUT: I see on the news that some folks in Virginia, upset over gun control, want to secede from their state and join up with West Virginia.

In Oregon, saner residents want to pull up stakes in that nutty liberal state and saddle up with Idaho, giving Idaho some swell new Pacific coastline.

There’s always talk in Illinois of the rural areas of my home state splitting the sheets with Chicago, and forming their own state. Forming a new state, some feel, would be preferable to moving to get away from Illinois’ precarious state finances, high taxes, and corrupt politicians.

In Colorado, several years ago Moffat County, on the Western Slope, and Weld County, in eastern Colorado, expressed interest in bailing out and joining Wyoming. Lately, folks in Weld County want to try it again.

It’s not easy getting out of one state and joining another, or forming a new state. Nobody has done it since West Virginia became it’s own state. Everybody and their brother, including Congress, has to agree, making it virtually impossible.

Back in the 1980s, I was a reporter at the Wyoming Legislature when a group from western Nebraska showed up, saying they wanted to secede from Nebraska, and attach themselves to Wyoming, like a big Cornhusker carbuncle on the eastern border. Their complaint: It was 400 miles to their state capital in Lincoln. (Apparently, they had just figured that out.)

I find it reassuring that parts of two of our neighboring states wanted to attach themselves to Wyoming. And no part of Wyoming, to my knowledge, wants to leave our state and join some other state. (We’ve got it good out here, with fresh air, awesome vistas and low taxes. But, don’t tell anybody.)

I’ll always remember the advice one Wyoming lawmaker gave to the delegation from western Nebraska:

“Sober up.”

HALF FULL: Who says there’s no good news in the paper these days?

According to recent news reports, an unspecified number of personnel at Warren Air Force Base, who provide security for 150 Minuteman missiles buried in silos north and east of Cheyenne, have been smoking marijuana on the job.

(Marijuana, as you know, is legal a mere nine miles away in Colorado.)

Living cheek by jowl with one leg of our nuclear triad is no big deal out here. We’ve done it since the 1960s. On Interstate-80 and I-25, you see armored cars with gun turrets, dark blue government Suburbans and crew-cab pickups transporting missile crews to and from the underground launch control facilities that each control 10 missiles. Periodically, you see convoys of well-armed vehicles, with two helicopters circling above, going to swap out nuclear warheads or missiles at the silos that dot our landscape.

Way back in the 1980s, in a Cheyenne bar, I talked to an airman who worked in an underground launch control facility. Does it get boring? He replied, “Have you ever read every word in a Playboy magazine? That’s how boring it gets.”

I asked if he could turn the key to launch missiles. He said by the time he would get the order to launch, he figured his girlfriend and his stereo would already be incinerated by the enemy, so yes, he could turn that key.

But Dave, you’re wondering, how could the fact that airmen are suspected of smoking marijuana on the job possibly be good news?

Well, as we all know, we need to see the glass as half full instead of half empty, and always look for the pony hidden in the pile of manure.

The good news is that four years ago, they caught a small number of missile security personnel taking LSD.

We’re making progress here, people.

Give it another four years and they’ll be drinking Near Beer.

NO WINNEBAGO:  I was disappointed to see that Andrew Yang gave up his run for the presidency.

You’ll recall that the Democrat businessman, who is rich, proposed giving every American $1,000 a month, even though we’re already $23 trillion in debt.

I was holding out for Andrew to throw in a free Winnebago RV for senior citizens like me. I think seniors have a RIGHT to a free Winnebago.

Don’t you?

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

Dave Simpson:An Old Reporter Checks Out the New Capitol

in Column/Dave Simpson
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By Dave Simpson, Cowboy State Daily columnist

My, how things have changed at the Wyoming State Capitol over the 38 years since I spent time there.

For four years in the early 1980s, I was part of the Casper Star-Tribune team that helped our Cheyenne bureau chief (the truly amazing Joan Barron)  cover the bases during legislative sessions. It was a fun opportunity for editors to be reporters again.

These days, reporters are covering the news from up in the balconies surrounding the House and Senate. Back in the old days, we got to sit down on the floor, close to the lawmakers. In the House, there was a table to the left of the Speaker’s desk. In the Senate, our table was to the right of the Senate President’s desk.

There we were, right in the thick of things. (Lawmakers got a little ringy toward the end of sessions, and one year a senator from Casper hit me with a piece of Jolly Rancher candy as I sat at the reporter’s table on the final evening. Funny stuff. Everyone was tired and ready to go home.)

The great access began to unravel while I was there. A radio reporter from Cheyenne insisted on filling his coffee mug – about the size of a Big Gulp – from the urns in the doughnut room, draining them dry. Some reporters may have been chowing down on too many doughnuts. (Not me.) We were summarily banned from the doughnut room, and reimbursed for the money we had paid into the doughnut fund.

I also heard that the Cheyenne radio reporter was ambushing lawmakers as they came out of the bathrooms off the House and Senate floors, sticking a microphone in their faces for surprise interviews. Not good.

Not long after that, our access to the floor was limited to the press tables, and we had to be invited to visit lawmakers at their desks. Today, I noticed a couple of young reporters doing their work right beside me in the House gallery. No more press tables on the floor.

Another big difference today is that everyone, EVERYONE, has a computer.

Lawmakers all have laptop computers, which they peruse as the process of introducing, amending and deciding the fate of bills drones on. Up in the gallery, the reporters sitting next to me took their notes on laptops as well. And folks in the gallery could be seen peering into their cell phones every few minutes.

It wasn’t that way in the ’80s. For the first couple years, it was all taking notes in reporter’s notebooks, then scurrying up to the third-floor press room to write our stories on clunky, unreliable desk-top terminals.

When you finished a story, you took your life in your hands and hit the “send” button to send your work to the office in Casper. One Saturday I wrote four stories, and every one of them was lost in transmission. (I think they disappeared somewhere between Wheatland and Glendo.)  An entire day’s work, gone, and I was wastebasket-kicking mad.

In 1983, however, along came the Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 100. The paper equipped us with the $1,000 early laptops, and suddenly we were able to listen to the debates in the House and Senate, and write our stories right at the press table. And you still had a copy of your story if something went haywire in the transmission process.

The TRS-80, while revolutionary, was primitive. It had 8 kilobytes of memory. (My computer-savvy son laughs at the notion of 8 kilobytes.)

Our “Trash-80s,” as we called them, were so primitive that much of the software was written by a guy named Bill Gates.

“Part of my nostalgia about this machine,” Gates said in an article I Googled, “is this was the last machine where I wrote most of the percentage of the code.”

When we started using our TRS-80s, suddenly the lawmakers were coming up to our press table to see what we were doing. (They didn’t need an invitation to visit our desk.) Our equipment was that new, and ground-breaking.

Today, all that has changed, and everyone has at least one computer on their desk, and a cell phone in their pocket. And I’m guessing that news stories don’t disappear between Wheatland and Glendo anymore.

They say that if you get an old reporter talking, he or she will talk longer than you want to listen. So, I’ll end with this.

In an age when national politicians call folks “lying, dog-faced pony soldiers,” a visit to the Wyoming Legislature will lift your spirits. I highly recommend it. All the lawmakers seemed to be at their desks and paying attention to the process. Good humor was evident, as even the opposing parties seemed to be getting along, at least for the moment.

And there’s this. The newly-renovated Wyoming State Capitol building is, in a word, spectacular. The old Supreme Court Chambers are fully restored. The House and Senate chambers are stunning, faithfully brought back to their original grandeur.

The entire renovation process was first class in every way. (I think Esther Hobart Morris belongs out front, where she used to be, but the statue still looks great in the lower-level concourse.)

You hear a lot of talk in legislative sessions about living up to the ideals and virtues of our forefathers. Wyoming’s restored Capitol building is a true testament to our state’s amazing brick-and-mortar commitment to our roots.

Every Wyoming resident can be proud of our beautifully-restored Capitol.

Dave Simpson

Dave Simpson began his journalism career at the Laramie Boomerang in
1973. He has worked as a reporter, editor, publisher and columnist at
newspapers in Wyoming, Colorado, Illinois and Nebraska. He lives in
Cheyenne.

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