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Tom Lubnau

Tom Lubnau: No One Wants To Starve Children, Eat Humans, Or Steal Your Firearms

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By Tom Lubnau, guest columnist
Lubnau is former Speaker of the House in the Wyoming Legislature

Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to observe an election or two.  As this year’s primary season comes to an end, here are a few observations about Wyoming elections that were true years ago and are still true now.  These are general observations. My  opinions are not aimed at anyone in particular.   This column is not about endorsing one candidate or another.   You’ve already made up your minds who you are voting for this time.   The column is more about looking at the campaigning process.  Here are 15 observations:

1. Candidates who do not have a track record of public service are not running for office to serve the public.   Those people who are truly interested in public service have donated time and money to civic organizations, churches and local charities.   Folks who appear out of nowhere, with no record of public service, are not interested in providing public service.   They are interested something else – usually power.   

2. When we vote for someone, we are hiring them to do a job.  Each job has skills.  Being governor, for example, has less to do with setting public policy and more to do with managing a budget and hiring and firing staff.   Rarely is being a mouthpiece one of the job skills required.   Blabbermouths are skilled at blabbering, repeating buzz words and things other people told them to say, but often get little done when elected.   We need to look at the skills and experience the candidate brings to office – particularly a track record of success.   If we hire mouthpieces, we get excuses and lip service.

3. Wyoming voters generally react negatively to negative campaigns.   Candidates who speak positively about themselves have better track records than those who focus on tearing down their opponents.  Speaking negatively about the other candidate usually demeans the speaker and doesn’t affect the other candidate.   Perhaps in the era of COVID and post-Trump, that observation has changed, but I like to believe the folks in Wyoming generally believe in the Golden Rule.   Wyoming folks also understand that if a candidate is willing to throw opponents under the bus, he or she is also willing to throw constituents under the bus for political gain.

4. Rating websites usually don’t rate the full candidate performance.   Here’s why.   Since all politics at the Wyoming state level are local, it is impossible to evaluate a total candidate performance as liberal, middle-of-the-road, or conservative, when the true issue is whether the representatives represented the interests of their local constituents.   So, the rating services pick out particular bills upon which to do their rating.   Which bills to they pick?   You decide, but it is interesting that candidates who receive the support of the proponents of the websites receive the highest ratings.  One must wonder if the selection criteria make the candidates look good, or the candidates look good because the criteria was selected to make particular candidates Ilook good.

5. No member of the Wyoming legislature is coming to get your guns.   Interest groups and candidates know this is a sensitive voting issue, and they’ll tell you someone is a gun grabber to gain an advantage.  But no one from the Wyoming Legislature is coming to your house in the middle of the night to get your guns.   The debate on the issues, especially this one, has driven itself to an absurd level.  Soon, we’ll see bills to have the State of Wyoming issue a Colt 1910 to every newborn.  If a candidate opposes that bill, they’ll be called gun grabbers.

6. Labeling oneself as a “Patriot,” “True Conservative,” or “Bulletproof Superhuman” is no excuse for a lack of vision.   If a candidate cannot articulate a vision, and a series of tangible steps to achieve that vision, no amount of self-labeling is going to change the candidate’s ineptitude.  It appears we are on a race to the bottom about who can be the most conservative candidate who votes “NO” on every issue.   Wyoming has always been a conservative state – but a conservative state with a long-term vision.   It seems we are evolving away from that vision to who a state where our leaders can scream “NO” the loudest.   Our recent special legislative session was nothing more than an expensive fist shaking at the federal government.   In the process of this evolution, our new generation of leaders has shunned the very people whose leadership made Wyoming the conservative paradise it is.   “NO” is not always the answer.   We need to anticipate and plan for our future, and sometimes that means having a vision of the future.   Shaking fists, self-labeling and voting “NO” does not always position us for the future.       

7. Calling someone a RINO or any other odd-toed ungulate doesn’t make up for the same lack of vision.   Name-calling is a flimsy excuse for not having a substantive argument about why one is better candidate.   Name-calling is intellectually dishonest and the last resort of scoundrels.   [irony intended]

8. If a candidate runs only negative ads about his or her opponent, it’s because that candidate has nothing good to say about his or her own capabilities.   A candidate should be able to stand on their own merits.   Candidates should be able to stand on their own merits.  Candidates who have no merits to call attention to spend their time chatting about all the things their opponent did wrong.  

9. If one is going to vote “NO” on everything, that person should just mail in “NO” votes and make fewer people angry.  Voting “NO” on everything, and not offering bills to fix the situation, only compounds the problem.   If one has a clear vision, and a plan to get there, one should be able to persuade others to follow.   We call this leadership.  If one is running on a record of “no” votes, it’s because that person didn’t advance anything that deserved a “yes” vote, even if it is a proposal to end an unnecessary program.   

10. If we receive a mailer from a group with a highfalutin emotional sounding name that we never heard of before, we should ask a few questions.  Who are these people?   Why haven’t we heard from them before?   What’s in it for them?   Where do they get their money?  Why didn’t they care about us six months ago?

11. If a message about an elected official sounds too bad to be true, it is.   No elected official wants to starve children, eat humans, or sneak into your house and purloin your firearms.   Remember the old Abraham Lincoln quote: “Eighty percent of what you read on the internet is not true.”

12. Folks who tell you about how horrible an opposing candidate is and then ask you for your money, want your money.

13. No one want to pay taxes.   We pay taxes to have firemen, police, schools, roads, prisons and healthcare.   Those who tell you that Wyoming has the highest per capita tax rates are partially telling you the truth.   Wyoming has high bills because we are a large state with a small population.   What they don’t tell you is who pays those taxes.   More than fifty percent of the state’s taxes are paid by the minerals industry.  Individual taxpayers in Wyoming pay only a fraction of the state’s bills.   When someone advocates for tax cuts, the bulk of those cuts are going to go to energy company executives and their stockholders.   Don’t expect much impact on the family budget from any candidate’s tax cut.  You should instead expect a cut in the services your family enjoys now.  In Wyoming’s budget, dollars mean people.

14. Blame of other elected officials is just an excuse for failure.   If one could not accomplish anything during his or her term in office, it was because that candidate, could not persuade other elected officials the plan was a good idea.   

15. Politics in Wyoming is local.   Very rarely do social issues or national issues appear on the legislative agenda here.   Local school boards oversee local schools.   So, when someone tells you that your school is teaching a “woke” agenda, you can call your local school board, because they are the responsible folks – not the Legislature, not the Governor, and not the Superintendent of Public Instruction.  Don’t let people tell you they will fix a problem that 1) doesn’t exist and 2) isn’t theirs to fix in the first place.   

These are my opinions.  Some will agree.   Many will disagree, but in the end, we should be glad we can have adult conversations campaigns, candidates, and the issues of the day.

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Lubnau, Gee: Biden Administration’s Plan To Seize Your Family’s Wealth

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By Tom Lubnau and Alison Gee, guest columnists

Most folks understand death taxes. When someone dies, the Federal Government takes a percentage of that person’s wealth in tax. The tax doesn’t apply to most people, because the federal government starts taxing wealth from someone’s estate for every dollar over $11.7 million dollars.

Now, the Biden Administration, and their friends in Congress, have concocted a plan, using the complexities of the tax code to seize your family’s wealth in just a couple of generations. Since the plan relies on complicated words and accounting concepts, overworked and underpaid reporters can’t explain the tax in a 30 second blurb on TV or social media. But, it is important we all understand these concepts, or our life savings will never be passed to our children.

For you to understand how the tax works, we have to take some time to understand some important accounting terms, and then we can understand how this nefarious tax works.

When you buy a piece of property, the amount you paid for the property is called its “basis.” If you bought property for $100,000, the amount you paid for the property is called its basis. In this example, the basis in the property is $100,000.

If you sold the property for $500,000, the difference between the basis ($100,000) and the sale price ($500,000) is called a gain ($500,000 – $100,000 = $400,000 gain). If you held the property for more than a year between when you bought it and when you sold it, the gain is called capital gain. While you are alive, if you sell your property, you get taxed on that gain. That tax is called the capital gains tax.

When you die, the current tax code does not tax the property moving from you to your children until the net value exceeds the exemption – currently $11.7M. This means your kids get to inherit your property, which you, by the way, already paid taxes on to acquire, with a basis “stepped up” to the value of the property on the date of death. This step up in basis would allow your kids to sell the property the day after you died without paying any tax on the sale. So, in our property example, if the value of the property on the date of death is $500,000, the basis of the property would be automatically “stepped up” to the fair market value. So, there would be no difference between the value of the property ($500,000) and the basis (stepped up from $100,000 to $500,000) and there would be no tax due ($500,000 – $500,000 = $0). Since there is no gain, not taxes are due.

The Biden Administration wants to take away the stepped-up basis, and make your children pay taxes on your property that you already paid tax to acquire. Senators Chris Van Hollen, the prime sponsor of the bill to take away your wealth called the Sensible Taxation and Equity Promotion (STEP) Act, says that the “stepped-up basis” is a loophole, and that taxes in 2021, alone, will be increased by $41.9 billion dollars if this passes.

There are a lot of exceptions and loopholes in the proposed tax, including a deduction for the first $1 million dollars of gain, and $500,000 for a residence. Everything over that is taxed.

But, as a kind gesture, the Federal Government will allow you to buy your property back from them with payments for fifteen years taxed at the current prevailing IRS rate. During the time the payments are made, the Federal Government puts a mortgage debt notice on your property called a lien.

So, if your parents have worked their whole life and acquired property in excess of $1 million dollars, the Federal Government will tax the appreciation of the property. Even if the property is not making any money, the value of the property will be taxed. And if you cannot pay the tax, the Federal Government will foreclose on the property and take it away from you.

Who is at risk? Every family farm, ranch, small business or big business is at risk. Stocks in companies, ownership interests and even interest in guns or precious metals are subject to this nefarious tax. The people who earned the money and acquired the wealth will not have to pay the tax. They already paid the taxes on the money used to acquire the property. Their kids and grandkids will have to pay the tax.

But, people will not be able to pass wealth to their children without cutting the federal government in on up to 50% of the pie.

This is all further complicated by the fact that a whole generation of people may not have been keeping all of the records that would be required to show what money has been contributed to improve their non-business property over their entire lifetime – as you pay money to improve property, your basis increases by the amount you contribute for the improvements. You will be taxed for not having records that you used to not have to keep prior to this tax law change.

The goal of the tax appears to be the end of family wealth. The American dream of leaving your children better off than you were is going to be taxed out of existence by the Biden Administration and this horrible tax.

Oh, and as an added insult, the tax bill as drafted makes the tax retroactive to January 1, 2021, so there is nothing you can do now to plan for the tax.

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Tom Lubnau: Alright, Wyoming, Let’s Cut The Franchise Quarterback For Throwing One Interception

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By Tom Lubnau, columnnist
Tom Lubnau, a Republican, is the former Speaker of the House in the Wyoming Legislature

Joe Biden has made it clear — he wants to destroy Wyoming businesses.   He is doing everything he can to stop the use of coal.  

Being the guy in charge of 75% of the minerals in our state, Biden has done everything in his power to shut down exploration for oil and gas.   Attacks on the agriculture industry will be next.

The effect of his actions is to deprive Wyoming of mineral royalties from those federal lands, which translates into reduced funding for the education of our children – reduced funding that amounts to tens of millions of dollars, not to mention the good jobs Wyoming’s people will lose. 

If Joe Biden has his way, Wyoming will be an empty park full of unemployed government dependents.  

Wyoming, being the least populated state, only has one United States Representative — out of four hundred thirty-five members.  

Once in a generation, we elect someone to represent us who has the experience, connections and fund-raising ability to rise to the level of leadership in the House.  

Currently, our representative, Liz Cheney, is the number 3 person in the Republican caucus.   She carries more influence and power than just being one of four hundred thirty-five. 

And for four years, she has made tens of thousands of decisions that have helped Wyoming.  She is our franchise quarterback.

I do not agree with her decision to support impeachment, and I don’t like how she handled it.   She made a mistake, and she deserves to hear from us.  

But, I urge my friends and neighbors to be slow to toss her to the sidelines.   Out of  tens of thousands of decisions, we don’t like one.   So, we want to throw her out?  What do we get in return?

Before we make the decision to toss her, we should evaluate the choices for her replacement.  

Fancy-pants hard line conservatives, who spout political rallying cries will not rise in leadership.   Those pettifoggers will serve as ineffective blabbermouths who spew out magical words of political incantation, but get nothing done.  

In a time of crisis in Wyoming, where the President wants to destroy our state and many of the people in it, we have to carefully evaluate who has the skills necessary to protect our interests.  

Is it the smooth talker who tells us what we want to hear, or the person who has to courage to stand on her convictions, we need?  Who can best represent our interests?  

In full disclosure, I did not support Liz Cheney when she first ran.   I worked hard for my friend Tim Stubson.  

In the four years she has been in D.C., she has risen to a position of influence to help stave off the attacks from our own government and earned my trust.  

Before we put our all-star on the sidelines, we should weigh the alternatives. (The football thing is a metaphor.  I am not encouraging any pro football teams to cut anyone for throwing one interception.) 

Do any of the blabbermouths, opportunists or other farraginous candidates who have announced for Rep. Cheney’s seat have the chutzpah to get the job done in a time of crisis for this state?  

Or, are we dumping or our franchise quarterback for one misstep teach Liz a lesson, while flushing our opportunity to have an effective voice in D.C. down the drain?

One also has to wonder why a fancy-pants legislator from Florida came to Wyoming to interfere in our election.  What are the real motives in wanting to remove a Wyoming representative from leadership? 

I suspect it has nothing to do with Wyoming or her people.   His three hours in Cheyenne hardly gave him a chance to really know anyone here. 

Before we hurt ourselves in the name of one bad decision, let’s evaluate whether anyone else can help our state the way she has in the Congress in this time of crisis.  

We’ll have to search long and hard before we find someone with the political influence to defend us from the attacks of the east-coast liberal big-city commander in chief, who has no idea about the west and the people who live there. 

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Book Review: “Never Leaving Laramie, Travels in a Restless World” by John W. Haines

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By Tom Lubnau II

John Haines does a great job of taking you with him to the oxygen deprived bicycle trip through Tibet, dodging hippos while being one of a handful of people to kayak the entire length of the Niger River, and serving as an election supervisor in Bosnia after the former Yugoslavia fractured from war.

Descriptive, insightful and sometime bittersweet,  Haines does more than paint a word picture of his adventures, he shares the emotional and philosophical musings of a traveler from Laramie who had lived his life to the fullest, and continues to do so.

“Never Leaving Laramie” is an inspirational tale of a Laramie boy’s Wyoming roots leading him to a life of adventure.

John, a fourth generation Wyomingite, grew up in Laramie, Wyoming, graduated from the University of Wyoming and began a life of adventures.   He attributes his spirit of adventure to being raised on the high plains of the Cowboy State.  

In Never Leaving Laramie, he details a few of his lifelong adventures.   His prose flows easily, describing his many trips.  One feels him shiver from the cold and his lungs ache from the altitude when he, and a friend from Laramie, bicycle to North Mt. Everest base camp. 

One feels the terror and helplessness when their kayak expedition encounters an enraged hippopotamus.  One feels the guilt and regret of a war-torn Serbian people, but their hope of a new future when Haines serves as an election supervisor for their first democratic elections.

But the book is more than a travel log.   Haines introduces us to his traveling companions – folks he met in Laramie — who share his yearning for adventure.  

John introduces us the Japanese film crew he met at the Everest Base Camp.    We feel the relief of the Japanese when they find out Haines and his traveling partner, Rick Smith, made it to base camp on bicycles.  

The Japanese were there to set a high-altitude record for motorcycles, and were concerned the American duo had beat them to the punch.   Haines introduces us to tribal leaders in Mali, who were willing to share their food with kayakers traveling downriver. 

We understand their confusion at why someone would want to leave their rivers at home, and come travel a river in West Africa.   His descriptions are more than caricatures.   We meet the folks, see through their eyes and feel their lust for life.   

We feel Haines’ pain and confusion, when he steps off a train in the Czech Republic , and wakes up a quadriplegic in a hospital.   Haines talks about his struggles adapting to his new reality.  

And then, Haines describes his post-accident work giving the poor a hand-up through his work through Mercy Corps.    All the while, we come to understand that Haines’ life well-lived was a natural consequence of his youth and ties to Laramie, Wyoming.  

Haines’ work is an inspiring, sometimes bittersweet tale of a life of adventure, and the consequences, good and bad, of his choices.  

I found myself wondering what-if I had Haines’ courage, what if I could cut off my golden handcuffs and truly experience life, what if I had the spirit of adventure to take those risks myself.  Haines details a lust for living every minute – a lust that ties back to a life in Laramie.

Never Leaving Laramie can be found at OSU Press http://osupress.oregonstate.edu/book/never-leaving-laramie , Amazon.com and at other major booksellers, or ordered from your local bookstore.

Tom Lubnau II is a recovering politician and former Speaker of the House who practices law in Gillette, Wyoming.

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Tom Lubnau: Wyoming’s Savings Are Nearly Gone; Get Prepared For Serious Changes

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By Tom Lubnau, guest columnist

I fought fire for the Campbell County Fire Department for 21 years.   While there, we developed a saying: “When perception meets reality, reality always wins.”  

Wyoming finds itself at those crossroads. 

For a generation, we have been the most conservative socialist state in the nation.  We have lived off of the tax dollars paid by other people.  We have developed Cadillac tastes while paying for a bicycle. 

According to the Wyoming Division of Economic analysis, on average, a family of 3 pays $3,180 in taxes while receiving $27,050 in government services. 

The rest of the government expenditures were paid by utility consumers from other states using Wyoming minerals. 

The market has shifted away from Wyoming minerals to other energy sources.  Whether those choices are wise or not does not matter.   Fewer folks are buying our minerals.  

As a result, we in Wyoming have a choice:  pay for the services we receive, or cut those services.   The potential amount of those cuts is staggering:  $1.5 billion dollars per biennium – or about $3,000 for every man, woman and child in the state. 

The governor has started to make cuts required by our Wyoming Constitution, because our income is far below our budget. 

Given our voters’ distaste for new taxes, be prepared for new cuts.  At this stage, dollars cut equal people cut.  

We should be prepared for unemployed contractors due to no new construction, cuts to education meaning educator layoffs, cuts to city and county budgets meaning cuts to law enforcement and emergency services, and cuts to maintenance budgets meaning less snow removal and more potholes.   

It also means less help for our elderly and our children. For six years, we have been balancing our budget with savings.   Our savings is nearly gone.  

We need to be prepared to change our Cadillac tastes to bicycle tastes, to tax ourselves some more or look to a combination of both.  

The reality is we are spending way beyond what we are now collecting in taxes.  No amount of magical thinking changes that reality.  

We need to be prepared to face the consequences of our choices.   Wherever our Legislature chooses to guide us, our lives will be vastly different.  

The Governor’s recent cuts are a minor scratch on the surface.  Be prepared for some serious changes.  The corollary to “when perception meets reality, reality always wins” is that when perception meets reality, it usually hurts.

Tom Lubnau II is a recovering politician and former Speaker of the House who practices law in Gillette, Wyoming.

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